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From Bodo to Lom

From Fjord to Mountain

semi-overcast

The wind was still in the morning, but the rain was a downpour. I was booked to take the ferry to Bodø in the early morning and navigated the steep gravel road from the camping ground to the ferry. I huddled in the warm, but steamy waiting room for 2 1/2 hours with dozens of other travelers – most being backpackers.

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The ferry crossed the mouth of Vestfjorden and the Moskenstraumen maelstrom, the world’s most powerful tidal current, and what a crossing it turned out to be. We travelled through open ocean, the wind whipping up near 2 m waves making the ride very lumpy bumpy. Rain slashed the windows at full pelt, the ship roiled with the waves and we were shrouded in mist. There was no middle or far distance – I could not see much past the orange lifesaving buoy hanging on the railing. A great number of people were seasick holding on to their sickie bags with clenched fists close to their chests as if hoarding their bags of gold.

I spent three days in Bodø luxuriating in hot showers and a comfortable bed as I needed to rest and regain my get-up-and-go. As with so many other towns in northern Norway, Bodø had been completely bombed and levelled in WWII. It was rebuilt with functional architecture so the town was not enthralling nor imaginative and there was not a lot to do. Tim, the American hiker I met on the Nusfjord ferry, was coincidently staying at the same hotel so we spent breakfasts and dinners sorting out the world and figuring out our next moves until he put on his backpack and continued on his walk south. In between dodging persistent rain showers while seeing the limited sights, I puttered and indulged in kanalbolles and cappuccinos in the warmth of the only café in town for another day.

Kanalbolle and cappa

Kanalbolle and cappa

I had planned on cycling down the coastal Kystriksveien route from Bodø to Brønnoysund but squelched that plan when I saw the 10-day weather forecast. I did not have the fortitude to tackle narrow roads, heavy traffic and more rain. Bodø is the northern most terminus of Norway’s railway system so I decided to move inland where the weather was better and view the scenery to Trondheim from the comfort of a seat on the Arctic Nordland Line.

My only serious accommodation challenge during my entire trip occurred in Trondheim. The Arctic Bike Race was being held and I could not find one available room. I had no idea where I was going to sleep as the train slipped past fjords, dense pine forests, alpine meadows, mountains with dashings of snow and crossing the metal orb marking the Arctic Circle.

I reached Trondheim at 10:15 at night. This was mid- August so the Midnight Sun was past its prime: the sun had set by 9 pm and it was dark by the time I disembarked the train. I initially kipped out in a dark cranny in the train station waiting room, but was kicked out at midnight by some very apologetic security guards who told me nicely, but not helpfully, ‘the station opens again at 6 in the morning.' Pushing my bike, I roamed around the dock area where the train and bus stations were located, peering nervously over my shoulder at shadows. I finally found a small, hidden nook in between a trailer holding temporary fencing and a loading bay in a corner of the open bus terminal. This spot was out of the mainstay of the bus terminal so I felt it would hide me and my bike, and where I would be safe for the night.

I did manage some sleep, but it was not a restful night. I laid down on my sleeping pad and although cold, I only wrapped myself in my down jacket for a degree of warmth and to make a quick getaway, if necessary. Occasionally a group of rather loud people would saunter through the terminal and I would watch, peering around the corner of the trailer, but I was noticed by no one. I packed my bike when there was just enough light to see and made my way to the train station where I thawed out and had a bad, but reviving cup of coffee and fruit bun when it finally opened.

Trondheim

Trondheim

Negotiating my way out of Trondheim was a challenge as there was no direct route out of the city. I had to wind my way through the university grounds and a number of major construction sites for a new road and a new tunnel.

But once outside the city, cycling to Støren was sheer bliss. The sun was out, it was warm verging on hot and I slathered on sunscreen for the first time in weeks. The old E6 had been kept as a bike path so I did not have to worry about traffic for about 50 km. The hills surrounding the valley of the Gaula River were manageable, and I passed through forest, a tableau of fields of ripening wheat and green grass ready for mowing.

The ‘Coffee and Waffles’ sign in front of a cluster of red farm buildings stopped me quick smart. I’m sure the place had a name but I could not see a sign. But I do know that it is an historical site where you can roam in and out of the buildings built in the late 1800s for a few hours on Sundays. I was invited in by the host for tongue numbing black coffee and traditional waffles with jam. I smiled more than chatted with an elderly gentleman who lived nearby and knew very limited English. ‘English was not taught in my day. Now they start learning in grade one’.

Cycle path to Støren

Cycle path to Støren

The coffee was discretely poured onto the ground - hoping it did not burn the lawn – and I toured the farmhouses getting a small insight into the ways of living and farming before electricity and diesel, and continued up the valley to Støren and Fagerhaug.

Once past the town of Støren I visited some historical churches and faced some tough cycling over the next three days. The incline was a continuous up as I ventured deeper into the valley to a final altitude of some 886 m. I made a bad mistake at one point by taking a side road to get out of the traffic on the E6. The road started as asphalt but turned into a very steep gravel road up which I had to push my bike. The hill was so steep that I could get very little traction and I and my bike kept sliding. It took all my strength to get the bike up the hill. I had to keep going up as it would have been dangerous and a nightmare to go back down the hill. The chain of my bike slipped off twice and my bike fell over once. I passed through an area totally devoid of trees due to logging and was very happy when I finally descended into Fagerhaug. In hindsight, I would rather have chanced the traffic.

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I did not get a reprieve from the unceasing incline and was headbutted by a strong headwind as I moved up the valley. Flat stretches were rare, my face throbbed from the exertion and there were few places where I could stop to rest. It was not a cycle friendly stretch of road.

The valley changed from agricultural land to heavily forested hills dotted with houses to stark alpine meadows as I progressed higher into the valley. I was entering a region where traditional wood houses had garden meadows and trees on the roof. It was mountain troll land.

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Torvtak, sod roofs on wooden houses, have been a feature in Norway for millennium as people used whatever material was locally available. Most houses were made of logs so a sod roof compressed the logs making the walls more draught proof and provided insulation against the cold. Several layers of waterproof birch bark were first laid down on gently sloping wood roof boards. Sod was cut from the pasture and placed on top of the birch. Whatever was growing in the sod ended up on the roof so it was a veritable hodgepodge of grass, flowers, moss and even small trees sprouting skywards. No two roofs were alike.

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On day three, after pumping my pedals for some 45 km in intermittent rain and descending fog, I decided to try my luck getting a room in the historical cluster of buildings called Kongsvold Fjeldstue.

Kongsvold Fjeldstue

Kongsvold Fjeldstue

I must have looked destitute and terribly bedraggled as the clerk kindly shifted people around and found me a single room in which I was able to stay for three nights. The weather forecast for the next day was solid rain but clearing the following day. This would give me the opportunity rest, go mindless watching YouTube videos, read, do some laundry and, having never seen a musk ox, go on a Musk Oxen safari in Dovrefjell-Sunndalsfjell National Park.

Musk ox are known for their bulky build, thick fur and pungent musk smell, the adult males weighing in at some 450 kg. Although now native only to the Arctic, they were first introduced into the Douvrefjell Mountains in 1932 but became extinct during WWII. They were reintroduced in 1947 and the musk ox we were seeking, Norway’s only population, were descendants of these individuals.

Kim was our guide, the group consisting of 25 people. I rather dislike groups but Kim was the only person who had an inkling of where the musk ox were so we religiously followed her up into the mountains through alpine vegetation, getting our feet wet when she inadvertently led us into some bogs. We hiked cross-country for about three kilometres when we finally saw a small herd of musk ox consisting of two males, five females and a calf. The herd were at least one kilometre away on the other side of a ravine, so the best way to view it was through binoculars or they would just have been brown blobs.

Musk ox from afar

Musk ox from afar

We got no sniff of the musk smell, and despite being told to stand still if threatened or attacked we watched the musk ox do nothing for about ½ hour. The wind and cold finally defeated me and I headed back to the warmth of the lodge. Going back down, I stayed on the trail rather than go cross country. I was quite surprised that we were guided through sensitive alpine vegetation in a national park rather than following the well-marked trails.

Dovrefjell alpine area

Dovrefjell alpine area

Kongsvoll is said to be the cradle of Norwegian mountain botany. Georg Christian Oeder first studied the alpine plant life of the Douvrefjell Mountain range in 1756. Others followed and in more recent time, the botanist Thekla Resvoll laid out a botanical garden in 1924. Although moved from the original site at the Kongsvoll Railway Station to the current site on the hill behind Kongsvoll Fjeldstue, it was an opportunity for me to wander along the marked paths and observe some of the 250 species of alpine plants in the botanical wonderland of Kongsvoll Botaniske Fjellhage (botanical garden).

There were only a few fluffy clouds prancing across the sky when I loaded up Bobik the next morning and headed for the town of Dombås. The receptionist warned me about wind, but I thought nothing of it. I had been battling a headwind too many other times so it was nothing new in my brain. But there is a headwind and there is a gale force headwind.

Highway E6 followed a broad, open valley dotted with farmhouses which first ran parallel to the Svone River. While cycling past Vålåsjøen and Ausjåen lakes at an altitude of 936 m, I was buffeted by winds recorded at 11 m/sec (39.6 km/hour or 24.6 miles per hour) – according to the electronic wind warning sign on the side of the road – that hit me at a cross angle. The wind blew continuously but often a strong gust would blow and I would wobble when the wind hit the solid, broad side of me and my panniers. I had to cycle very slowly, stop often to regain my nerves and really concentrate so as to not lose my balance or go skittering across the road into the lake. It was eyes only on the road. Caravans, buses and big trucks passing by at great speed creating their own drafts of wind did not help.

When I reached the lookout at Fokstumyra, I was warmed by the sun and rewarded with an arresting view of the edge of the Dovrefjell Sunndalsfjella National Park plateau, the Dombås valley and the road snaking some eight kilometres down into the valley.

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I very much liked Dombås. I was able to score a small, comfortable single room cabin at Midskog Camping. The fertile valley was a luxuriant green with houses dotted hither and thither amongst crops of cereal, grass and potatoes, and snow-capped mountains rising in the south. There is little in Dombås itself except for a couple of petrol stations and small shopping centre. It’s really no more than a stopping place for people traveling through to Oslo or engaging in adventure activities in the Gudbrandsdalslågen River valley and surrounding mountains.

The cycle to the town of Lom was a total contrast to the cycle from Kongsvold. I followed the Gudbrandsdalslågen River inhaling the sweet smell of the pine forests as I cruised mainly downhill and along relatively extensive stretches of flat road to the town of Otta.

I arrived in Otta on a Sunday and everything was closed. I was fortunate that the owner of Killi Pensjonat was in the yard when I passed by and I was able to stay in a warm room overlooking the fast flowing Otta River. I was told that ‘many pilgrims stay here’ and I figured that these were mainly the backpackers who were trekking the St Olav’s Trail.

Otta River

Otta River

I was very much looking forward to visiting Lom as this was the town where one of Norway’s largest Norman style stave church was located. Examination of the wood in the oldest part of the church showed that it was probably built in the late 1150s. Various extensions and re-buildings, mainly in the Middle Ages, have expanded the size of the church from a small nave with round windows and bell tower to nearly double its original size. Today I roam through the church in awe with its wood staves and medieval murals adorning the walls, wondering how its construction and workmanship was possible without the aid of our modern tools.

Lom Stave Church

Lom Stave Church

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Part 5: From Lom to Stavanger

Posted by IvaS 05:47 Archived in Norway Tagged cycling

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