Camping on a hill south of Maløy on the coast of Western Norway, I awoke to something that sounded like rain pelting down on the tent. A quick look outside confirmed my suspicion – ice! I had one episode before that involved cycling through ice and snow on a mountain top, and I was not planning on going through a second so soon, or so close to sea level. The evening before seemed so perfect, so still, with the promise of a clear day ahead.
|The view from a ferry ride; not such a clear day after all.|
I was now a little more anxious about getting to Bergen, considering that my bike was not fitted with steel-studded wheels for ice conditions. I took to the road nice and easy at first, but since the ice and snow was fresh, it was relatively safe to travel at normal speed. As I made my way south towards Førde, I noticed how the depth of the snow increased, and how my speed steadily diminished. I was not going to make it to Førde in one day. I was struggling up the long inclines, while a snapped gear cable kept me from maintaining a reasonable speed on level ground.
|Looking back during a long steady climb. Got to watch the road!|
I reached the small town of Eikefjord before sunset, and decided to follow the signs to the local campsite rather than attempt to camp off the road as I usually did. My inflatable mattress had packed up ages ago, but somehow I had managed to get away with sleeping ‘close to the ground’. I was just not sure how comfortable it would be to sleep on a few inches of snow without any insulation. Not sure whether I was still going in the right direction towards the campsite, I asked two ladies for directions. Fortunately they knew of a campsite 5 km further down the road at Storebru. Even better, they knew the brother of the campsite owner, who happened to live just a few meters from where we were standing. So after a phone call and clear directions to the location thanks to the gentleman and his iPad, I knew where I was going to spend the night. I was extremely grateful to the three locals for assisting me; I felt relaxed for the first time that day.
|Passing through Eikefjord in the early evening.|
The owner of the campsite, Hans, was extremely helpful and resourceful. He very kindly offered me a cabin, instead of a camping spot, at a rate I could not refuse. Hans also offered to give me a lift through the tunnel I would encounter the next day, as it was closed to cyclists. He pointed out that the alternative road over the mountain was not used by motorists and would therefore not have been treated with salt, making it a treacherous path to cross by bicycle. Further, he also arranged a specialist in Førde to take a look at my infected toe the next day. Somehow, probably while walking barefoot through a flooded marshland to reach a bird hide, I must have lacerated my toe without knowing (my feet were numb from the cold water!).
|Comfortable cabins at Endestad Camping (www.endestad-camping.no) .|
Thanks to Hans I was able to spend a warm and dry night indoors, and fully appreciate the snow and white-coated surroundings outside. I also took the opportunity to replace the broken gear cable and service the bike. Next morning, as promised, Hans not only took me through the tunnel, but the whole 30 km to Førde. Though I was prepared to cycle the distance, I was relieved not to have to deal with the blizzard that was passing through the area. After getting the toe treated in town, I was off south again. For the next couple days I traveled through snow-covered landscapes to Bergen. With my eyes fixed to the road, I did very little birding. I did however notice the usual species such as Ravens, Hooded Crows, Blackbirds, Great and Blue Tits, Fieldfares, and Redwings.
|A view over the river at Endestad Camping.|
Keeping my eyes on the road did not always help. I soon discovered what ‘black ice’ refers too, the hard way, literally! It was around sunset, after a rapid drop in the ambient temperature, that I first noticed the rear wheel slip a little. Surprised, but not concerned, I continued further down the road. The next time the rear wheel moved sideways there was no stopping it, and I came down rather rapidly on my right side, ending with a short slide. A loaded touring bike has a lot of momentum! That was the first time I had fallen while cycling, the second time was five minutes later and this time on the left side. For some reason I found this amusing, probably because I had just considered the odds of exactly what had happened. Needless to say, I decided it was time to call it a day and pitch the tent!
|Getting ready to for another day on the icy roads.|
In Bergen I met up with Oscar, a student whom I met at Moskenes in Lofoten. At the time he was catching the ferry to Bodø, while I hopped off early at Vaerøy Island. There was just enough time on the joint ferry ride to get acquainted and exchange email addresses. Oscar kindly accommodated me for two nights at his student digs, for which I was grateful as I had a number of errands to run in town. Oscar’s fellow dorm mates were also most accommodating; I enjoyed our discussions around the kitchen table though I think I did most of the talking! It certainly beats talking to oneself while on the road.