Cycling In Norway, 2007

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Updated 24 September, 2007

Day Five : Balestrand to Hov

We can't keep putting it off. Today we will climb the notorious Gualarfjell, leaving the gentle rolling fjordside RV55 for the tough, skyward RV13. The RV13 will follow the Sognefjord for the first couple of hours of riding, and then will climb steeply upwards for ten or eleven kilometres through thirteen or fourteen hairpin bends to the top of the pass, at little lake Nystølen.

Today is breezy and cool, but the sun is out and we are anxious to be off. We pack the bikes at the rear fire exit of the hostel. Leaning mine against a waist-high garden light with a delicate frosted glass dome on top works fine until just before we set off, when the dome shatters with a bang, showering me with small pieces of glass. Janet carefully carries the shattered shade down to reception to apologise and pay for the damage, but the girl at the desk will hear none of it, and is soon on the 'phone to hunt down a replacement. We carefully wheel our bikes around the building, and then at ten o'clock sharp we swing ourselves into our respective saddles and set off.

It's a big relief to be underway. My bike feels good. The flat handlebars and MTB brake levers give me better control over the heavy trailer on the back, and for the first time in four or five years I can use all three front chainrings - I couldn't use the top ring with the Shimano 105 combined drop brakes and shifters. On the new trailer, P. has six gears of his own to choose from and a new more ergonomic saddle.

The road is fairly wide and completely empty; we are screened from the wind as we pedal quietly along beside the majestic fjord on our right, so we have a very enjoyable first hour. We soon catch up and pass another family we met at the hostel at Balestrand, who are out cycling on their own bicycles, but Dragsvik turns out to be up a steep hill that climbs away from the side of the fjord, so we don't have it all our own way.


Looking back to Janet on our first climb at Dragsvik

I've got the very detailed walking map of the area in a map case on my handlebar bag, and am trying to calculate where best to stop for lunch and how long it will take to reach the start of the big climb of the day. After Dragsvik, the road obligingly returns us to the side of the fjord for a very pleasant flat section to the little hamlet of Sværen, where we stop for an ice cream each at the last shop before the fjell proper...

We pile into the Joker store for ice creams at Sværen

Old barn, Sværen

P. is relishing the experience of being back on his bike on holiday; toys have been stashed carefully in the side pockets of the panniers he's pulling, and he's already reaching deep into last year's stock of questionable lyrics for songs to bellow while bicycling. The fjord is very pleasant to pedal along, but we could do without this weather; the cloud is already thickening over the mountains in front of us.

We stop for lunch

The first spots of rain come pattering down at lunchtime, so we take shelter in a handy bus stop at the turn off for Ulvastad. Salami and Throstrup cheese on good Norwegian granary bread for lunch, with cucumber and sultanas, and the rest of a carton of orange juice to drink. When we remount, we have turned away from the fjord for good, and our route takes us up the initially gentle climb of the Vetlfjorddalen. To keep P. pedalling, I recount the story of Askeladden and his eating contest with a troll, and then make up a tale about the long feud between the two farming families in the valley. By the time I've finished the latter, there's no mistaking the fact that we've got a major climb on our hands. And there's also our first real rain of the day, which falls finely at first but with increasing determination within the hour.

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