Norway 2018

In progress

By Joern:

Getting there

Growing up in Denmark, Norway was a common destination for family vacations, so for me nothing exotic or special, but then again, I was not old enough to drive back then.
Apart from family visits in Denmark Lorraine had never been to the other Scandinavian countries and really wanted to go. Experiencing the midnight sun happened to be on my bucket list, so a decision was made.

It was time to (re)discover Norway.

In order to maximize our time up north we decided to put the bikes on the train from Lörrach to Hamburg.

Not the cheapest solution, but very practical. 800km less on the motorway and a sleepover included.

Bikes strapped down we brought our sleepover bags in our compartments as the sun got low in the sky. Bear in mind you cannot get to your bikes once the train is rolling. Bring what you need with you.
Hence we always pack a sleepover bag. Toiletries, a clean set of clothes, the phone charger and whatever you feel is needed. It is either strapped on seperately or lives on top of one of the panniers. You don´t want to stand in the rain and rummage through your entire luggage for a clean pair of underwear and a toothbrush

I love the atmosphere of departure terminals. Everyone is excited to either get home or start their vacation. Bags being dragged, parents trying to keep kids from not running off, the metallic clank of railcars being connected and cars and bikes still being loaded. There is somehow comfort in the chaos, as it means we are soon on our way.

As bedtime approched I headed off for a nightcab in the bar wagon. Not surprisingly I found most of the other bikers present and headed off to bed a few hours later with two addresses in Sweden where we can stay if we come by stored in my phone. That is just how bikers work and part of why I love it.

From Hamburg it was straight on the motorway up through Denmark to Hirsthals where another overnight transport waited. This time the ferry to Bergen.

On the way we swung by my older brothers house for some tips on routes. He rides as well and has visited Norway several times. He also introduced us to Bunk-A-Biker. A Facebook group where bikers offer other bikers free accommodation. Sometimes a proper room in the house, sometimes a lawn to camp on.

We went over the maps (both my brother and I love old-school printed maps) had a cold drink on the patio and it was time to hit the road again.

Waiting for the ferry in Hirtshals

Onboard the ferry we found our cabin and got a pleasant surprise. We had made a last minute rebooking and was not sure what they had put us in. Turns out it was an upgrade to a “captains view” cabin with a big panoramic front facing window, where we could sit in two comfortable chairs and look at the sunset. A sunset. Something so everyday common you don´t even think about it, but it would become kind of a novelty for the next two weeks. We were not yet in the zone of midnight sun, but the sun set so late we were usually asleep.

Leaving Denmark behind
Sunset over the ocean. It would be two weeks before we saw another one

The next morning we went on deck to enjoy the scenic route through the coastal islands before docking in Bergen.

Bergen is known for being one of the rainiest places in Europe, so we had our worries, but mother nature greeted us with a blue sky and 24C. Perfect conditions and a perfect start to another adventure. The bikes suspensions compressed slightly as we rode off the ramp onto solid ground.

We were in Norway.

Heading North

There is a saying, that the key to happiness is good health and a bad memory. I must be happy then. As we rode along the coastline of one of the countless fjords less than 30 minutes later I realized just how wrong my childhood memories of Norway were.

The road carves through the landscape in a string of tunnels in between which stunning views of the ocean and the mountains make for a scenic ride. And on top we had perfect weather and little traffic.

Yep. Norway is definitely ok.

We arrive at the Lunde Camping by the Aurlandsfjord late in the afternoon and get a little cabin. I prefer them over a tent. The only thing that bugs me with camping is, that I sleep bad on an air mattress and need a big pillow. These simple cabins are basically just a sturdy tent, but they have proper beds.

Our comfy cabin at Lunde Camping

As we unpack and prepare for the night we have a giggle. No matter how good you are at planning you always end up dragging one useless item along with you. Lorraine holds up the headmount LED torch she packed so she can find her way to the toilets at night. “Good thing I packed this”

It´s after 2200 and I look out at the sun, low in the sky, but still shining in through the window. It will set, but basically just dip below the horizon for a few hours before rising again. It never gets really dark. And we are heading north.

“Good thinking babe”

One of my brothers recommendations was to skip the 25km long Lærdalstunnel that connects to the other side of the mountains and instead take the still open old road over the mountain. The tunnel is the longest road tunnel in the world and a marvel of engineering. It is also boring.

The road over the mountain turns out to be a highlight. This is what I am talking about. 44km through wild rugged nature. There is hardly a house along the way, just perfect tarmac with sweeping bends like pearls on a string.

Just what the doctor ordered.

I pass a marker saying “scenic road”. Definitely not false marketing.

And it would only get better.

Lorraine enjoying the view
44km of this or 24km of tunnel. Easy choice.
Bikes posing as always

We arrive at Sognefjorden which is almost 100m long. We are 80km from the Atlantic, yet have seawater right in front of us. Instead of ruining the beautiful nature with bridges there are several ferries to transport travelers across the water. Takes only 15 minutes and runs most of the day.

Crossing the Fjord. Pretty isn´t it

At the other side we connect with Route 55 running north-east. The road this morning was good. This is sublime. As it starts to climb we are surrounded by mountain peaks, lakes and patches of snow on the ground. It does not feel cold though and the road itself is dry. We enjoy every kilometer and stop several times to just take in the scenery or take photos.

Halfway down the east ramp we pass the Bøvertonvatnet mountain lake with its mirror like surface. Looks like the set for a fantasy movie. I am just waiting for unicorns and hobbits to cross the road.
Route 66 might have the heritage, but in terms of scenery Norways Route 55 just ate it for breakfast. We are properly impressed, and we live in Switzerland!!

Bikers paradise
Bøvertonvatnet lake
Ride this road

In Lom we turn right and head for Geiranger and our first night camping out in the tent.

The LED torch may be dead weight, but the face masks for sleeping on a plane definitely come in handy when you are in a tent. As Lorraine prepares for bed I decide to go and do a little artsy photography. If you are interested in photography you know that the best time for capturing landscape photos is  the “golden hour” That period of time before sunset where the sun is low in the sky, but not yet below the horizon. It is like activating color enhancement on your camera except it is all natural and makes everything look more vibrant. Not only does Norway offer an abundance of photo opportunities, it also offers longer than normal golden hours as the sun sets at a very acute angle. In the zone where there is midnight sun it is golden hour half the day.

No wonder many professional landscape photographers mention Norway as one of their favorite places.

Getting used to the whole sleeping in daylight thing

I get a few good shots of the stream flowing through the camp site before I head off for bed.

Next morning we get a couple of croissants and some apple juice at the camp site bakery before heading off. Geirangerfjord is Norways most famous fjord and a Unesco World Heritage Site. It is truly postcard picturesque or rather would be if it wasn´t for the two large cruise ships in the middle of the fjord dominating the view. Like most of the fjords it is quite deep despite being narrow, enabling even very large ships to be unusually close to shore. At the end, which is where we are, the fjord is only just wide enough for the ships to turn around. Combined with the clear water and stunning cliffs lining the shores it makes for a unique experience drawing a regular crowd of cruise ships.

“Beautiful” Geirangerfjord

Good for tourism I am sure, but from where we are standing, eeew.

Do a picture search on Geirangerfjord and try to find a photo without a ship on it.

We move on.

My “waiting for the ferry” patented dance moves

Another quick ferry ride and we are on the road towards another famous destination. Trollstigen (The Trolls Ladder)

Norways version of the fabled Stelvio Pass. 11 hairpin turns that take you down from the plateau to the valley below (or up). Very scenic and very well known in both motorcycle and sportscar circles, which explains the significant increase in the concentration of Porsches, Corvettes, Ferraris and……… get the idea.

Maybe it is just me being spoiled for choice, but I actually find it quite a boring ride. It is stretches of straight followed by a hairpin, repeat. And the narrow road makes it difficult to pass any slow moving vehicle (bus, motorhome)

I prefer roads where I can get what I call a flow going. Sweeping third or fourth gear bends with the odd second gear tight turn. Just rolling on and off on the throttle doing most of the braking with the engine and only adding small taps on the front brake when needed. It´s almost meditative. The road over the tunnel and Route 55 were perfect for it. This not so much.

Spectacular scenery, yes. The ride itself not really.

We stop at the bottom for some photos and listen to the roar of sportscars climbing the ladder.

Todays destination is Ler just south of Trondheim, where we are staying with Marianne from Bunk-a Biker. A website for bikers offering accommodation to others bikers, that my brother introduced us to.

It is almost 300km so we need to get going, but there is one more stop to make. The Trollwall which is on the backside of the mountain where we just came down the Trolls Ladder.

Trollwall is Europes highest vertical cliff face with a drop of just over 1000m. Vertical, straight down. Not surprisingly the holy grail for climbers and base jumpers. I get my kicks on the ground, but wouldn´t mind watching a few jumps. I am denied the opportunity though. Base jumping is legal in Norway, but not from the Trollwall after too many fatalities and a complex and expensive rescue for those that get it wrong.

Still a good photo opportunity so the bikes pose a bit before we head off.