A Travellerspoint blog

From Lom to Stavanger

Mountains, fjords and tunnels seen mainly by bus

sunny

After two days enjoying blue sky and the warmth of the sun, the next stretch of my adventure was to cycle on Route 55 from Lom to the town of Skjolden on the northern tip of Lustrafjord passing through Jotunheimen National Park.

cc4ebb20-cb99-11ed-9a37-81a0d104f21e.jpg

8fba4440-cecd-11ed-8ab9-59ae23ae6011.jpg

Had I not by chance read before I left Lom that Jotunheimen meant ‘Home of the Giants’ and that the highest pass in Northern Europe (1,434 m) was located along this road, I would have happily whizzed my way towards the national park in pure ignorant bliss. Instead, I took the local bus further south to the town of Sogndalsfjøra and discovered how badly tested and totally exhausted I would have been had I cycled to Skjolden.

Eric was my more mature than young bus driver and I was the only passenger. Catching the bus when I did was good timing as the bus was running only for another four days when it was scheduled to stop service for the winter. I sat in the seat opposite Eric while he gave me a very enjoyable running history of many of the farms in the valley.

Passing a red farmhouse, I was informed that ‘this was the farm that once belonged to the King. It is now a very large dairy farm with lots of cows.’

‘And that monument' Eric pointing to a tall slab of brown granite, ‘was commissioned by the government but the artist had collaborated with the Germans so the government didn’t want it. The owner of the resort liked it, bought it and here it now stands.’

‘Ah – here we have a rock that fell off the mountain three years ago, but difficult to move, so they, how do you say, chip away so traffic can get around it’ as we sidestep a megalith of pure granite about four metres in diameter and height lying on the road.

Eric chatted away happily until we started the uphill climb along Sognefjellet Road (Route 55) into the national park. This was when I made a note to myself: there are some things you should not bother to do and bike-packing through Jotunheimen National Park in this lifetime was one of them.

Once we started the ascent to the summit at Sognefjell, Eric stopped talking. The road was constructed 1939 and provided an important link between the coast and inland areas. Salt and fish were transported to the east, butter, pitch and leather were transported to the west. Now, it is an artery used by a lot of tourists.

The expansive alpine meadows, lakes and craggy mountains piercing the cloud streaked sky as we moved ever upwards were stunning yet bleak. There are over 60 glaciers in the national park and 275 reach over 2,000 m.

Jotuheimen National Park

Jotuheimen National Park

906f8a80-cecd-11ed-825d-a77f7267bbfe.jpg8e1ebcb0-cecd-11ed-8ab9-59ae23ae6011.jpg

The higher we climbed, the road increasingly became a narrow, single lane strip of bitumen with no centre line. It was as if the engineers dropped a string of spaghetti and decided that how it fell was to be the route of the road resulting in hairpin bends and more winds than a ball of wool. It was not a road for the fainthearted. Buses, trucks, cars, motorhomes had to pull over, sometimes backing up, as the road was not wide enough for two vehicles to pass each other. I would have had to push my bike up for kilometres contending with traffic and cope with cramped hands, worrying whether my brakes would hold, on the way down.

Road out of Jotunheimen National Park

Road out of Jotunheimen National Park

Eric and I made a rest stop at Sognefjellshytta Mountain Lodge located at the highest point of the road. While sipping a hot chocolate, I crunched along the gravel floor viewing an art exhibition marvelling at the contemporary architecture of the new entrance building which had been constructed between two existing buildings. It was an exquisite creation made of triangular sections of laminated timber and glass giving a kaleidoscope view of the mountains and sky.

Sognefjellshytta Lodge

Sognefjellshytta Lodge

Taking the bus from Sognadalsfjøra was the most practical way to get to Bergen purely because of the number of tunnels between the two places, most of which I was banned from travelling through on bicycle. I had a short two hour wait for my bus which gave me more than enough time to wander around the town. Docked in the Sogndalsfjorden was a cruise ship that held some 6,000 passengers who descended into the town of 4,000 people for a two hour lark. Sogndalsfjorden is an offshoot of Sognefjord, known as the King of Fjords because at 4,291 feet it is one of the deepest fjords in the world and is very popular with the cruise set.

Viking Ship Sognaldalfjord

Viking Ship Sognaldalfjord

As good luck or bad luck would have it, there had been a major traffic accident in one of the tunnels on the main highway to Bergen. After a discussion between the driver and the main office of the bus company, a decision was made to divert the bus along a different route rather than wait. The bus trip took an extra two hours but the major detour took us through hamlets, small towns, small hydropower plants, over the plateau of Hallingskarvet National Park, skirting Hardangerfjord, and through innumerable tunnels that I would not have otherwise seen.

This route was also my introduction to an engineering feat I had never encountered before. After entering a tunnel, hewn in rock, we came to a large roundabout in the tunnel itself, made a left turn, popped out of the cliff on the sheer cliff edge of a fjord passing over a suspension bridge, popped back into the cliff on the other side of the fjord, came to another roundabout, hung a left turn and finally exited into blue sky again. Impressive.

Because of the delay, I arrived in Bergen after midnight and having no sense of direction in the dark and not being able to hear Google's map directions because of the din of traffic, I cycled in circles for a while until I found the rail line and followed it to my hotel.

Bergen provided me with a respite from cycling for three days while I strolled the streets, visited the shops in historical Bryggen, hiked up the hill behind the city and indulged in freshly made fishcakes on the waterfront. It was then time to enjoy a pleasant and relaxing bus ride to Stavanger as tunnel restrictions would have again made the cycle a long and dangerous one.

806dc3b0-ced0-11ed-89f8-23887524d455.jpg813bc210-ced0-11ed-89f8-23887524d455.jpg8186adc0-ced0-11ed-89f8-23887524d455.jpg

I was born in Stavanger and my parents worked in StavangerFlint A/S, a Norwegian company that produced ceramic tableware. The company developed a flint - clay mixture using a recipe invented in England around 1750 by Josiah Wedgwood. They merged with their competitor, Figgjo Fajanse A/S in 1968. By the 1970s Stavanger Flint no longer existed as production was completely taken over by Figgjo who later moved their factory to the town of Figgjo, south of Stavanger.

We lived in company housing in Hillevåg, a borough located to south-west of Stavanger city centre adjacent to a natural habour. The area was a light industrial area since the early 18th century with a diverse array of activities occurring including shipyards, mills grinding grain into flour and sailing ships transporting barrels of salted herring.

My brother had located a map of the original site of the company and I walked to the area which was still a light industrial area with port facilities and modern factories. My parents must have greatly enjoyed the million dollar view to the east overlooking the offshore islands of Amoyfjorden, the mouth of Lysefjorden peeping out from the northeast.

Stavanger was teaming with tourists and their smartphones as two humungous, smoke belching cruise ships had disgorged their passengers and a running marathon through the city was being held. Jostling other visitors, I strolled along Fargegata Street resplendent with brightly painted buildings and flower pots brimming over with colourful flowers. The sun persevered over cloudy sky so sunglasses were needed to reduce the glare of the rows of brilliantly white, historical houses in Gamle (Old) Stavanger.

Stavanger

Stavanger

Street in Gamle

Street in Gamle

Stavanger cat

Stavanger cat

Stavanger letterbox

Stavanger letterbox

Stavanger letterboxes

Stavanger letterboxes


Before Norway became a powerhouse of oil and gas, half of Norway’s sardine factories were in Stavanger. I rather like sardines, particularly if they are smoked and infused with chili, but, as with cod, I learned more about processing sardines in the Canning Museum than I really needed.

On my way back to my hotel, I walked up the hill to Vålberg Tower, the former watchman’s tower, built between 1850 and 1853. The tower was used to warn of fires in the town by the tolling of bells and firing of cannons. The last watch was carried out in 1922 but the site is still the highest point in Stavanger proffering panoramic views of the old town, and the offshore islands and mountains.

Valberg Tower

Valberg Tower

Stavanger

Stavanger


View from Valberg Tower

View from Valberg Tower

Part 6: From Stavanger to Kristiansand

Posted by IvaS 10:46 Archived in Norway Tagged cycling

Email this entryFacebookStumbleUpon

Table of contents

Be the first to comment on this entry.

This blog requires you to be a logged in member of Travellerspoint to place comments.

Login