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Natural Nuggets in Norway

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I entered Norway in great spirits cycling across the border on a glorious ride to the town of Halden with my Swedish guest rider Carina. After our sad departure I hoped a train with the destination of a town 25km from Oslo called Ski. I had plans to ride with a guy Magnus, who is a friend of my Danish soul sister Mette, from Ski to Oslo where I would stay with him and Bente at their flat for the weekend. The rains had cleared and the sun was peeking out on a warm Friday afternoon and I was so excited for my first ride in Norway.

Now I normally share just about everything with you readers out there but, after some discussions with some close friends, you’ll have to wait to hear about some personal challenges that happened between Halden and Oslo. I’ll share it in my book one day but for now just know I had a VERY challenging afternoon in southern Norway. So I’ll fast forward from the afternoon to the evening when I arrived in Oslo just to leave you hanging ;)

Due to this mysterious personal challenge I had to cancel my ride with Magnus from Ski to Oslo take a train directly to the capital. Magnus was busy preparing a big welcome feast for me so he sent his friend Lynn to meet me at the station and ride with me through Oslo to his flat. The sun was casting a soft glow on the unique buildings, which ranged from very modern to historic, and Lynn guided me through the calm streets of Oslo. For a capital city on a Friday evening I was amazed how few cars and people there out and about. Like many cities in Scandinavia, the people prefer bikes and public transportation.

Lynn and I were given a warm welcome from Magnus and his buddies who were over for the welcome dinner and party. He cooked up a huge feast of pasta with homemade pesto and plenty of red wine and cold beers brought over for the event by his super cool buddies Jon and Thomas. I got along with this entire crew right from the beginning and we spent the early evening eating, drinking, telling stories, laughing and having a blast of an evening. From dinner we hit the town and proceeded to dance like mad, mingle and just about everyone got a bit drunker than we had planned. It may be hazy, but that Friday evening in Oslo was full of big smiles, laughter and tons of celebrating.

Saturday morning was spent in bed after our wild night out and Magnus and I got up about noon to get ourselves ready for a huge music festival that was going on that day. If you didn’t know it already, Norway is one of the most expensive countries in the world. So just a day pass to this music festival was going to cost me about 600 Kroner, or a whopping $120! Yikes! But I love music festivals and Magnus’ entire crew of friends was going to be there so I could not resist. We found some scalped tickets and were soon amongst thousands of grooving Norwegians at a cool outdoor venue outside of Oslo with a view of the city.

The weather was threatening to rain when we arrived but we were blessed with several hours of sunshine right at midday. We sipped $10 beers in the sun, had great chats with tons of new friends and danced to some wildly eclectic music ranging from Norwegian punk, to Portuguese hip hop to electronic fusion from the USA and more. It was a great full day and evening out which led to yet more live music after the concert including some of Norway’s famous death metal music.

Sunday came way too fast for me and my spirits were not in such good shape. Although I was having fun on the surface, I still had some lingering frustration and negativity in my head from my mystery incident that kept me from truly being at peace and enjoying myself fully. Since the “incident” I had not really ever bounced back to full Binks mojo status (if you know me, you would know this means my happy, fun-loving, cheerful self…). I was not really giving many genuine invitations to come out pedaling with me to people so by Sunday I really had no takers to ride the next day south on a three-day ride to meet my Norwegian friends Finn and Auslaug down south.

I spent Sunday washing clothes, doing some admin and planning work, setting up hosts to stay with in Scotland and Ireland, fixing up my gear and getting ready for a solo ride in Norway. Something was telling me that I needed some solo time to reflect and some time to let some negative thoughts and emotions settle before I connected with any more people.

Magnus and Bente were gracious hosts and were very considerate and understanding of the horrible exchange rate of the US dollar. They were cool cooking me meals and letting me have go at some basic staples in the house. They were kind, courteous and gave me the space I needed to process a few things in the ole ticker while there. They cooked me up a last supper on Sunday night of fresh homemade pizza and we were all off to bed early since they had to work the next day and I was hitting the road.

Monday was my departure day and I was in good spirits. I took the advice from my hosts and hopped a train to get out of the lengthy industrial areas of Oslo directly into the delicious natural wonders of oceans, lakes and forests that Norway is famous for and I was craving. I started my ride from the town of Larvik and once I was on the bike pedaling I immediately felt better. Getting back to nature and some challenging riding into the wind and on the hills was what my body and mind needed.

The riding was stellar and I spent several hours hammering the pedals into a mean headwind before finally turning the other direction into the hills and forests where I found a small road leading into the woods. Unlike Sweden, camping is not legal outside campsites so I was breaking the law looking for free camping technically. This small road led to a gentle stream, reasonable flat miniature meadow and endless shades of green ferns, plants and trees that became my home for the night. I was perfect but the mosquitoes were ferocious so I spent most of the time in my tent watching the final light dim through the trees.

Just before I stopped for the night I went to a supermarket for sandwich supplies for dinner and muesli for breakfast. I was looking for mustard but could not ready the labels and ended up buying some mysterious fish paste that looked appalling at first. But I was one hungry boy after 3 hours of headwind pedaling so it actually was delicious. I slept like a baby that night with crumbs in my sleeping bag and remnants of fish paste on my hands, and no rain or wind fell so I it was a good nights sleep. But when I went to get up I just felt uninspired and kept hitting the snooze button on my phone. I still had some chaos in the ticker and it was making me slightly depressed. And when I’m depressed I generally sleep more, hence my 12 noon wakeup this day.

But after all that sleep I did feel much better and the next day was truly bliss. This would be the day I vowed to brake through my mental challenges. The bike has a magical way of putting messy thought patterns, undeserved fears and needless negativity to rest and day two in Norway was going to be the ticket. From the wakeup ride through the forest, to the afternoon by the sea, to the evening through the lakes I was loving the ride. My Ipod was cranking out some epic tunes, the locals were friendly, the scenery spectacular and the roads perfect.

After about 90km of solo riding into the wind and on the hills I was pretty spent as darkness was setting in. My goal was to make it to the small town of Kjorvik where I would meet my friend Finn and Auslaug for a ride the following day. But as I made my way along the sea the hills became downright brutal. It was steep and long uphill climbs followed by rapid descents back to the sea, over and over again. Yes, it was beautiful, but it was painful. And, just as I was running out of steam, the first drops of rain began to fall.

I looked for some wild camping but struck out so decided to pull into a caravan park where I met two Swiss cyclists that had also just pulled in as well. They were also exhausted from the hills. We could not find anyone working at the park so decided to just ride on in and pitch our tent before this apparent storm came in and dumped a lot of rain. We managed to find to lovely tent spots reasonably sheltered from the howling wind that had started to pick up in a big way.

Just as I was setting up my tent in the rain I got a call from Finn telling me that a serious storm was heading our way with very heavy rain and strong winds. He asked if I wanted him to pick me up but I had the tent already set up and told him to meet me at the campsite the next day for our ride together back to his house on Sandoya Islaand. “I’m used to camping in the rain”, I told him. But boy can it rain in Norway!

That evening his prediction came to fruition as the winds came howling and rain a non-stop downpour, almost as heavy as the storm in Malmo, Sweden, making it a bit difficult to get good nights sleep. I woke up the next morning pretty groggy and tired, with a soaking tent and several bits of my kit dripping wet from the wind and rain penetrating even the best tents. The Swiss couple also woke up drowsy and drenched, but our spirits were high as we bid farwell and I went out to the road to meet Finn and Auslaug for our ride.

I met Finn and Auslaug in Zanzibar Island in Tanzania, East Africa and they had been tracking my progress. We had kept in touch and they were spending time at their holiday home on Sandoya Island so invited me to do a day of riding to the house and stay the night. The rain was falling non-stop and I was not feeling too excited about riding in the pouring rain. But I was willing to do it if my guests for the day were keen for some wet riding. The plan was to ditch some gear in their car and each person would ride a bit while the other drove the support vehicle. The moment they drove up the skies opened up with vengeance with a huge downpour and no discussion was necessary; we disassembled the bike and packed up the car as fast as we could.

So the new plan was to drive to the island and do some riding around their house and let the storm hopefully pass and let up. After all the rain I just went through I was more than happy to go along with that plan. Finn said that sometimes the rain gets stuck on the mainland and the islands can be quite pleasant. We kept our hopes high as we drove in their station wagon through the monsoon with the wipers on turbo mode. Once we hit Tvedestrand we decided to load with food and drinks from the market and Finn went all out treating us to huge crabs, shrimp, fresh meats, veggies and plenty of cold beers.

When we finally made it to the port where we would now take a boat to their island as the rain had let up and the sun was peeking out of the clouds. They have their own boat to go from the mainland to the island, which was not really big, so we opted to leave the drenched tandem in the car and use their bikes on the island to do our own Peace Pedaling. Who says you have to have a tandem to connect with bikes anyhow? We loaded up the gear and food, hoped on the boat and were soon off to the island of Sandoya.

Finn wrote me about Sandoya saying it was a delightful island that did not allow cars, just bikes. When we arrived I immediately fell in love with it. It was incredibly beautiful with charming old wooden houses perfectly painted in naturally bright colors. We lugged up our gear and all the goodies up to the house where we proceeded to start the drying and washing operation of my gear from the last few days of my Norwegian adventures. It seemed that everything I had contained some level of moisture so the wind and scattered sunshine were used to dry the tent while the nice washing machine got stuffed up with smelly sour goods from various sections of my bike.

It felt good to just relax with Finn and Auslaug. Just being in the company of warm, friendly people is one of my favorite past times. Yeah, I love to ride with them too, but this was a darn close second. Finn taught me the art of eating full crabs that included biting down on the legs in various sections and sucking out the meat in a quick vacuum action. The body of the crab was not my favorite process but there are indeed some yummy parts amongst the horror of it all. I took a much needed nap after lunch and after that we decided to take their bikes out for a spin around the island. Finn and I took the bikes out and we met up with Auslaug and some friends at the local market and pub for an afternoon drink and snack.

They were right about the weather. On the island we had scattered sun and a few small showers but if you looked at the mainland it was socked in with the dark clouds and likely still raining heavy. The island was only a few kilometers long so their cute single bikes were perfect for exploring the small coves, precious houses and gardens, rolling hills and natural wonders. Finn was dying to take me out fishing for mackerel so when we came back to the house we decided to hit the boat and do some fishing. Just as we arrived the skies opened up once again and we got drenched. Fortunately we both had some nice rain gear so we proceeded to drop some lines and bring in a few fish.

The sea was pretty wild from the storm so we stayed in a few protected coves. Normally you can catch a dozen fish or more in a few hours, but that’s out in the open ocean. We still managed to pull in three fish and just the experience of being out in the rain, searching for fish, having some great chats and building our friendship was worth it all. Finn is very easy going and has a cool demeanor that I have liked since day one. I was so grateful and thrilled to be out fishing with him!

We came back way later than we told Auslaug but she did not stay mad for long. They have been married for a long time and watching them as husband and wife those two days I can see why. They are a lovely couple and are still deeply in love. We had another delicious meal, frolicked around with the 2-year old Alexander, had some great conversations over some drinks and finally hit the sheets for the last time in Scandinavia. I was heading to Scotland the next day.

The next morning we had a lovely breakfast before Finn took me to the train station. Finn even treated me to a train ticket to Stavenger, his home town, where I would catch my boat to the UK. From the moment I met Finn in Africa to our adventures in his home country I have respected Finn for his grounded yet laid back demeanor. I think we have a mutual respect for each other that opens the doors for solid friendships in a pretty short period of time. I gave him a Peace Pedalers Aussie hat that looked so perfect on him and that last memory I have of him is on the train tracks where we hugged goodbye and tossed my gear on the train to Stavenger. I’ll never forget those few days in Norway with him and Auslaug.

I got on the train feeling happy, peaceful and even the big “negative incident” that happened at the beginning of my adventure in Norway had now lost significance. When I hit Stavenger I met up with a group of Polish cyclists that were also going on the same boat to the UK so I had great company for the short ride to the boat where I said goodbye to Scandinavia, knowing I will be back again one day.

My memories of Norway are sweet. From the smiling greeting at the station from Lynn, to the amazing weekend with Magnus and Bente and friends, to my solo ride and connection with Norway’s spectacular nature to the days on the island of Sandoya with Finn and Auslaug I’m filled with gratitude for it all. Thanks to everyone who helped make my trip to Norway so special!

Over n out from a tent in Ireland!

Jamie ;

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