Friday, 13 June 2014

Hirtshals, Denmark - Blood, sweat and gears

It's been hot. It's been sweaty and southern Norway has thrown up some very stiff climbs. But we've completed our bicycle journey through this beautiful and diverse country from the North Cape at the top of its polar regions to Larvik, where it dips its foot in the North Sea.

We left the west coast soon after Sjoasen and cycled south down the central spine of Norway's mountains. It's been mostly sunny as we've pedalled through landscapes of forested hills dotted with patches of green pastures and small farms that form charming clusters of red-painted outbuildings or the older style farms with grass roofs and raised barns. Norway is one of the least populated countries in Europe but it seems that each of its 5 million inhabitants has a holiday cabin in the hills as they often cover the slopes and encircle the lakes, making it difficult for us to find a wild camp spot.

The sun was briefly absent as we made our highest climb of the trip over Valdresflyi at 1393m in the Jotunheim National Park which contains most of Norway's biggest mountains. Here the landscape was still gripped in the old snow of winter and cross-country skiers glided along beside the road in heavy rain. We stayed that night in a campground and overheard a Dutch tourist phoning home to tell the folks that the toilets were amazing. It's strange the different things that make an impression on people. I'd be more likely to mention the park's snow-covered peaks and sapphire lakes that we enjoyed on a short walk in the park during an afternoon of sunshine. As we've cycled south summer has arrived and the temperature has crept up, causing us to sweat under a hot sun as we've made long, winding climbs on small back roads that finally brought us to a ferry to Denmark.

It's a sad moment as it's here that our routes separate as Bart cycles back to Belgium to catch up with work and family commitments. It's been a wonderful journey cycling with Bart and a bit of challenge keeping up with him. l'Il really miss his company, his crazy antics on the bike, bad singing and his strange use of microwaves for drying socks!

And what of the blood in the title of this blog? Well, it's not a crash as you might imagine but the annoying insects of summer - mosquitoes, midges, horseflies and numerous ticks that I've removed from various parts of Bart - that have drawn from us their fair share of blood.

 Fact File
Daylight - 19 hours
Distance - 4039 miles/6500 kms
Days - 74
Route - south via Trondheim area, picking up quiet back roads roughly in line with Highway E6 which is busier in southern Norway. Then route 51 to Gol and a short section on Highway 7 before using small back roads to Larvik from where there are two ferries per day to Denmark.

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