Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Meeting with journalists

After some fantastic birding at Jæren, I made my way hastily to the town of Brusand to get ahead of an approaching bout of windy and wet weather. The terrain was relatively flat which made the cycling easier. I arrived in the early evening and camped next to a soccer field on the outskirts of town. The next morning I managed a few hours of relaxed birding in the area while exploring some of the roads leading into the hilly and wooded countryside. Though I did not see any new bird species, I was pleased to see a Golden Eagle soaring over the hills. 

The hilly countryside at Brusand.
My next stop was a little further south at the harbour at Sirevåg, where another Iceland Gull had been sighted. I arrived an hour or so before sunset, and scanned all the Herring Gulls in the hope of finding one with white primaries, the most characteristic feature of an Iceland Gull. With only around 40 gulls in the harbour, I suspected my chances of finding the Iceland Gull were slim. According to a local whom I met in the harbour, most of the gulls were not around as the weather was inappropriate. I set up camp in a small valley on the edge of town in an attempt to take shelter from the wind that had started up. Next morning the rain had joined forces with the wind, as predicted by the weather forecast, making birding somewhat challenging. After searching the harbour fruitlessly for a couple of hours I eventually decided to move on. I was getting drenched and still had a way to go to Egersund, the next milestone.

The rain had set in for good and did not abate for a minute the entire day. It was well after dark when I eventually pulled off the road south of Egersund to set up camp. The terrain was not ideal but I had decided I had had enough for the day. The rain was still pouring when I rigged the tent and crawled inside. The next morning, I was dismayed to find that a rodent had eaten a few big holes through the ground sheet of my tent to get at the foam mattress! Oh well, normal wear and tear! I pushed on through the hilly countryside to a town called Hauge, where I spent a few midday hours drying camping gear and birding in a picturesque valley. Jays seemed to be everywhere while Waxwings regularly flew by in small flocks, though there seemed to be little else around.

Outside Hauge, drying camping gear for the umpteenth time!
Just out of town I encountered the first of three steep climbs; I had hoped for a flatter road but it was not to be. As I started the climb, two journalists in a car pulled up next to me and asked for an interview! I clearly looked out of place with a touring bike in early winter! After a brief chat at the top of the hill, I got some tips on the road ahead before enjoying the downhill. As recommended by the journalists, I stopped at a cultural heritage site called Helleren at the bottom of the hill. Here two wooden houses estimated to be around 200 years old stand protected from the rain by a large rock overhang. It’s amazing that generations of people lived in these houses, making a living from fish caught in the sea and hardy sheep that could survive on the limited fodder available.   

A tunnel on the downhill to Helleren cultural site.

One of two houses at Helleren that has stood the test of time.

At Flekkefjord I had a chance to dry out my sleeping bag properly thanks to the helpful staff at the information centre. There’s almost nothing worse than being greeted by a moist sleeping bag after a day in the rain, except perhaps for slipping on wet socks and boots in the morning! The next day I arrived at a small town called Kvinesdal, and headed straight for the nearest source of free internet. While working in the reception area of the town hall, I was approached by an elderly gentleman who was interested to know about my travels.  He could not resist informing the local journalist about the new stranger in town and it was not long before I was interviewed by Andy and Tor. When they heard that I was heading out of town that afternoon in the rain, they made a call to the owner of the Kvinesdal Guesthouse. Soon I had a free room for the night at the guesthouse, thanks to Tor, Andy, and the generous guesthouse owner. I was treated well in Kvinesdal; even the staff at the town hall chipped–in to replace my worn-out safety vest! That evening it was great to be able to unsaddle the bike without having to pitch a tent, knowing that everything would be dry and ready for another day on the road. The next morning I met with Andy, who kindly bought me breakfast at a nearby cafeteria. From our discussions I learnt that Andy had a project going in East Africa that involved financial contributions towards the construction of a school in a rural village. The knowledge that there are dedicated people making a positive contribution to the lives of less-privileged individuals made me again realise that there is a lot of good in this world.

A pedestrian bridge by night in Kvinesdal.
With much anticipation I headed out of Kvinesdal towards my next birding destination on the coast, namely Lista. I had four days to spare before ending the Norwegian leg of my trip and wanted to spend the time getting to know another of Norway’s best birding sites. Not even the drenching rain could dampen my spirits as I took to the road. 

On the road from Kvinesdal to Lista.