Category: Ride to the Arctic


Stage 2: Stavanger to Trondheim (via Bergen)

This is the part of the journey that I have been the most excited about since I learnt of the fjords and it doesn’t disappoint. Everything that has been said of Norway, whether it’s ‘Motorcyclist’s Paradise’ or ‘Heaven on two wheels’ or ‘Breathtaking’, well it’s all of that and a lot, lot more. I just hope that my description and photos do the splendour some justice…

On arrival in Stavanger I picked up François where I left him and continued on my journey making a b-line straight for Bergen. My schedule being tight, remember I am time poor after all, I would not stop until I had made the first ferry crossing at Mortavika approximately 30kms north of Stavanger.

The ferry crossing at Mortavika epitomises coastal Norway

The ferry crossing at Mortavika epitomises coastal Norway

I really enjoy the abundance of ferry crossings as it gives me the time to absorb the amazing scenery, take some photos and check the map before jumping back on François and continuing the superb ride through fjords, over mountain passes and island hopping across coastal Norway.

Continuing north in the direction of Bergen in order to make my overnight ferry, the renown Hurtigruten, I ride through tunnels, over bridges and onto ferries, so many in fact that I stopped counting. Interestingly, the tunnels dive down at a gradient of 10% to pass under the inlets and various channels of water. Dug deep into bedrock, they are impressive feats of engineering unto themselves. This to me is the hidden sophistication of Norway, they have pioneered many aspects of engineering from gas and oil to tunnels and let’s not forget the humble cheese slicer! One example of such a tunnel is the world’s longest tunnel Lærdal, and Norway is the only place in the world where I’ve seen an underground round-a-bout, yes that’s right, a round-a-bout in a tunnel with carved stone pillars like a civil engineering sculpture, the round-a-bout does actually serve a purpose, it is an intersection where two tunnels meet (I hope to be able to share a photo with you, as it is truly something out of the ordinary).

Although the weather was undecided, arriving in Bergen, the sun came out and Norway pulled out all its glory of the harbour and the Bryggen (old port). I had just enough time to do a little tourism and take in the beauty of Bergen before checking in for my overnight voyage on the Hurtigruten.

Arrival at the port of Bergen with the old port "Bryggen" in the background

Arrival at the port of Bergen with the old port “Bryggen” in the background

The Hurtigruten is undoubtedly the most well known cruise in Norway, but it’s more than just a cruise ship that does the whole coast of Norway from Bergen in the south to Kirkenes in the North, bordering Russia. The Hurtigruten is a transport ship, it’s also a ferry, it’s a tourist boat, a luxury cruise and an iconic experience. I met many people including other Swiss and Australians onboard. But I needed my rest so an hour of route planning writing pace notes and then I was off with the trolls and valkyries.

The next day on arrival in Torvik, somewhere south of Alesund, which I still can’t find on the map, I left the Hurtigruten. The only person to get off at the stop, I had no idea where I was or which direction to take. So as I have the habit of doing, I turned left. Don’t ask why but whenever I’m unsure I (apparently) always turn left. My instinct was right, but I should’ve listened to it again, as presented with another choice, this time I went straight ahead, it was the wrong choice. Some 10kms further down the road, I turned around and came back. Once on the main road, it didn’t take long to find my bearings and make way towards Sæbø and the fjord of Hjorundfjorden.

Boarding the Hjorundfjorden ferry at Saebo

Boarding the Hjorundfjorden ferry at Saebo

The road was slow going, and as it’s not the main E39 highway, which coincidentally has a maximum speed limit of 80km/h there were no frequent ferries crossing the fjord, so I waited almost an hour and a half to get to Leknes. From Leknes the change in scenery was marked by higher alpine, moving away from the fjords and up into the mountains. The architecture changes almost as dramatically, from the coastal fishing shacks and farm houses to the mountain hytte with grass roofs.

The grass roofed mountain huts or hytte blend so well into the landscape, one blink and you miss them.

The grass roofed mountain huts or hytte blend so well into the landscape, one blink and you miss them.

Over to Hellesylt, and a short wait for the ferry up Geiranger fjord and with that a much higher density of tourists. The sheer scale is very difficult to appreciate when you’re on a ferry and the fjords reach upwards, seemingly never ending until they touch the sky. The next image I took was of another ferry boat coming back the same way, and from a distance it looked very much like a toy, as we approached, I could gradually make out different levels, five in all and closer still, I could see dozens of people aboard on the top deck. When I stood back, the boat, the size of a small office block paled in comparison to the towering cliff face it was passing.

A five level ferry boat pales in comparison to the towering fjord cliffs, like a toy boat such is the scale and magnitude of the surrounding landscape

A five level ferry boat pales in comparison to the towering fjord cliffs, like a toy boat such is the scale and magnitude of the surrounding landscape

The highlight of my day was yet to come, after the Geiranger fjord, I couldn’t imaging anything that could out do, at least not on such a scale, the awe factor, but once again, I was wrong. And for the record I’ve never been more content to be wrong!

Francois high above Geiranger fjord, overlooking Geiranger village, now a tourist mecca

Francois high above Geiranger fjord, overlooking Geiranger village, now a tourist mecca

Words can’t begin to describe the Trollstigen.

What can I say about the Trollstigen that hasn't already been said - it's just breathtaking!

What can I say about the Trollstigen that hasn’t already been said – it’s just breathtaking!

Well the reality is that there is not point coming here on a busy day in the month of July or August if you actually want to take pleasure in riding the road. For the simple reason that with all the tourist coaches, they create a real mess of the road as a good portion of the twisty road winding up the mountain side (like a Troll’s ladder as its name suggests) is single lane and impossible to pass two cars let alone two coaches! That said, having François, I made short work of the traffic jam and continued on my way, north, north, north to the Arctic circle.

Atlantic Ocean Road

Perhaps there was too much to take in after such a full day, or perhaps the road leading up to it was too long, but after all I had read and seen, the Atlantic Ocean Road seems like an anti-climax when on the road. It’s only when I stopped and took the time to absorb the scenery properly that the true wow factor hit me. It’s not so much about the ride as it is about the architecture and engineering. Seeing this road get pummelled by waves in bad weather would truly be an incredible sight.

View from the top of the bridge on the Atlantic Ocean Road

View from the top of the bridge on the Atlantic Ocean Road

 

The renown Atlanterhavsvegen that skips across island after island winding over coastal Norway

The renown Atlanterhavsvegen that skips across island after island winding over coastal Norway

 

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Stage 1: Geneva to Stavanger

The first stage of my journey takes me from Lake Geneva region through Germany to Denmark and over the Baltic sea to southern Norway.

In brief here are a few stats:

  1. Over 2,000kms covered in 48 hours
  2. 995kms by motorcycle
  3. Overnight train and ferry
  4. Ride the Lysebotn (Lysevegen Road) with its 27 hairpin bends

And in pictures…

Packed and ready to leave on the first leg.

Packed and ready to leave on the first leg.

Checkin for the overnight train from Lörrach to Hamburg.

Checkin for the overnight train from Lörrach to Hamburg.

After a long hot night on the sleeper train, we arrived in Hamburg, Germany.

After a long hot night on the sleeper train, we arrived in Hamburg, Germany.

After long hot ride over 500kms through Denmark, we reach the port town of Hirshals.

After long hot ride over 500kms through Denmark, we reach the port town of Hirshals.

Preparing to board the Lysefjord ferry near Stavanger, Norway.

Preparing to board the Lysefjord ferry near Stavanger, Norway.

Under the towering cliffs you feel less than an ant, dwarfed by the sheer scale of the surrounding scenary.

Under the towering cliffs you feel less than an ant, dwarfed by the sheer scale of the surrounding scenary.

Hanging precariously 800m above the fjord, the Preikestolen is hard to miss. Renown as the most famous lookout point in Norway.

Hanging precariously 800m above the fjord, the Preikestolen is hard to miss. Renown as the most famous lookout point in Norway.

At the end of the Lysefjord is the Lysevegen Road with its 27 hairpin bends it snakes its way up the 900m ascent above Lysebotn.

At the end of the Lysefjord is the Lysevegen Road with its 27 hairpin bends it snakes its way up the 900m ascent above Lysebotn.

This year sees the return to motorcycle travel after a few years break looking after the newest additions to our family. We’ve not been planning this extensively but more intensively as the time frame for the opportunity to go traveling again by motorcycle only really came to head a few weeks ago when I floated the idea to my wife, Arja. At that stage we were about to book in flights to go on our annual family holiday, as most families do over summer when another thought, a second thought came to mind. Other people may have just dismissed it as absurd or too expensive or selfish. But I know that it would meet with neither a cold reception nor be rejected off the cuff. Instead we sat down looked at a map and then started to research the idea of traveling to the arctic over several weekends, returning to work during the week and continuing the following weekend. And so came about the concept of the time poor traveler only traveling over the weekends and working as usual during the week.

Further research and several days later we had a loose itinerary that would make the most of overnight travel by train and ferry and make the important connections by plane to get me back down to Switzerland ready for work on Monday morning. I’d just have to figure out how to iron my shirts on the road.

Switzerland to the Arctic Circle via Denmark and southern Norway

Switzerland to the Arctic Circle via Denmark and southern Norway

Now all that remains is to put the plan into action.

 

I have to say that this trip is something that I’ve been looking forward to since we first made it to Norway in 2009. At that stage our ambition to ride all the way to Nordkap was cut short by the onset of very cold weather and ice. We instead turned around and headed to Switzerland. Now this new era of motorcycling hearlds a new opportunity, traveling in stages and combining the traveling with family holidays, essentially getting feeding our travel bug piece-meal.

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