Monday, August 26, 2013

Finding Peace and Inner Balance

Started the day in Tveit near Valle burried in our blankets.  The mountains were in the same mood, blanketed with a  thick fog which didn't lift whilst we ate our breakfast.

We headed into Valle to do the day's shopping in the co-op which had a small bike shop attached.  Andrew found the tourist info which had a knitting shop attached and doubled-up as a hairdressers.  We visited the jewellery store which was very tempting but I didn't.

After a little deliberation around the tourist info-guide that we picked up for the valley, we headed south, stopping off at Bygfjord museum (closed) to eat our lunch, goggle at the glass-blowers and have a swim in the lake which was much more fun than expected.  TSK got in up to his neck once and I swam  about a bit before resolutely heading to shore.

We stopped at Ose for a nosey at the knitting museum and a chat to the owner then continued to Evsjad, passing my intended mountain bike trails along the way.  With every intention of returning to them.  Town looked more like a town and less like a gaggle of multi-purpose buildings so we continued to the campsite.  Three campsites later and we found just what we were looking for.  Lake shore, 150 per night and plush facilities.

We hunkered down on the beach in the sunshine and I left Andrew to read his book whilst I got the slackline out, had a swim and then went out on my mountain bike. 

Again I found myself relieved that I was wearing a distinct (and peaceful "Canada") cycling jersey as I cycled past the Norwegian Army doing practise fire with live munitions.  I randomly hurled myself down fire-roads and over a few mountain trails (which petered out) until I finally took another circuit through Evsjed.  At the end I followed signposts to some historic sights.  One of which turned out to be the path to mine workings.  I followed a water-wheel sign but it just kept going up at around 1:4 and after the first section of pushing my bike over boulders, only to find myself faced with another 1:4 slope I decided to give it a miss.

The ride back down was fun though.  All the way out of town, ducking and diving across the bike lanes along highway 9, I ended up at the public works yard and had to retrace my steps.  I finally got back to Andrew 1.5 hours and 25km later. 

We had dinner and a glass of wine and I discovered that slack-lining is a lot easier after a glass of wine.  I also discovered the technique to get me going which is to focus on the single foot balance, only making steps through a series of short transfers from one foot to the other.  Keeping balance on one foot is nigh-on impossible - or maybe it's just me.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Trepid Explorer & TSK 1st Wedding Anniversary 25th August 2013

After long deliberations about Lysboten the night before, we decided to see if the Vanu could make it up the mountainside to get us out of the valley.  The Lysfjord just didn't have enough to offer us at sea level that we could both enjoy on our anniversary.

After much worry, we were awake early, fed and on the road before most Norwegians were out of bed.  The Vanu was fine (if a  little noisy) on the climb but there were no eventful moments.  We didn't even stop at the rest-stop on the way up but pushed on the extra 750m to the traditionally expensive parking lot.

Since we'd actually managed to get there (and put so much effort into doing so) we weren't too phased about paying the 100Kr to park in the official car park for the day.   Besides, we'd saved at the Priekstolen.

We made and packed lunch and headed out with the already amounting crowds.  The only people walking anywhere near as quickly and confidently as ourselves were a group of Norwegian youths who also ambled up at a fair pace.  Tall, blonde and beautiful (three women, two men).  I'm not being big headed, it's just most of the other walkers were people you'd normally see down the park with the (grand)kids on a Saturday, not on a mountainside.  If the 60 degree rock faces were scaring me in my Saucony Peregrine fell-running shoes, I'd hate to think what it was doing to their heads.  At least I could make it without using the fixed chains, though there were times I made sure I walked quite close to the chains in case I did lose my footing. 

When we reached the top of the third steep (scramble) I intimated I would like to stop for lunch soon.  Andrew spotted the perfect place - already taken by the Norwegian youths, they quickly moved on, not wanting, "to be passed by a man who climbs mountains like a French goat-herder" (his words, not mine).

Most people go out for dinner to celebrate their anniversary.  Me, I'm content with a peanut butter sarnie - so long as I'm on a mountain-top.
 The third climb really is the last.  After that, there's a long hike across a lunar landscape.  All lava flows and gritstone shelves as far as the eye can see - except for the 4000ft drops into the Lysfjord of course.  

The identifying features of the Kjerag stone are a chain of people heading in the vague direction.  I'd hate to be up there trying to find it when there's no-one else around.  I don't think there's ever no-one else around though.  There were two tents pitched nearby which were the dead giveaway.  However, it still took us some time to find it was we followed the wrong people from time to time and then finally retraced our steps to join the masses waiting to go out on the rock.

The temptation to paddle and climb snow, all in one walk in August.
First I went, it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.  Ok if you don't look down and don't look at all the other people worrying about going.

Me, blisfully unaware that some bitch is photo bombing me on a slackline behind
I gave the lady in front of me a hand down then got out there, did my thing and ran back again as fast as I could.  TSK was next.  I waited to take his photo - which was more fun - looking at other's expressions as they walked out onto "the rock".

We had our second first anniversary lunch then descended back to base.  I was tiring towards the end - wondering just what the attrition rate is of those who attempt to walk the route and those who don't make it.  It's well marked and easy for us but we saw many unfit people heading out at 3pm wearing nothing but deck-shoes and carrying only a bottle of water.  It was a 4h:16 trip for us in total.

Back at the visitor centre we drank a very expensive cup of machine coffee and looked / took pictures of the road down the mountain - then drove off in the opposite direction, waving goodbye to the Lysfjord, our 200Kr for the night and a quite depressing out-of-season town.

We made the 1 hour drive across country to the next region on our list.   Navigation was easy, driving less so with the average motorist choosing not to stop for the oncoming vanu but merely to squeeze as close to the grass verge as possible.  The biggest laugh of the day was reserved for the woman who gritted her teeth and squinted and pulled in her shoulder blades as she came by as if to try and make her car thinner.

Most places we passed through on the way were disused ski resorts - the same sort of dire atmosphere one gets in Folkestone in November in the UK so we decided against it.  Eventually in the Sandnes region, we found a campsite half way up the valley side which also doubled up as a farming museum. 

There was one other vanu on the site and we were later joined by a Volvo with three lads camping.  It was perfect.  The perfect end to our anniversary day.   Pasta, wine, cliffs, privacy, an ability to clean our teeth together like we have done nearly every day since we've been together and a chill, clear evening huddled under a blanket and sleeping bags with the love of your life.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Driving to the Lysfjord

A little achey from the previous day's exploits, we retraced our tyre tracks to the ferry crossing from the Preikstollen.  Back over the ferry and otherwise an uneventful road, except for finding cheap fuel to get us there.

Finally the turn off for Lysfjord (the other end), complete with the warning signs indicating that the road is 29km long, twisty and don't be stupid with your caravan.  It didn't really sink in that the vanu was so old and unreliable and we'd broken the clutch before so it's probably time for a new one again already. 

The road went up and up for quite some time and gradually became steeper and more twisty.  Just as we were worrying our pretty little heads about the curves on the climb, a utility vehicle came down the hill towards us, its flashy lights flashing & warnings about convoi exceptionel (ok, not italy but that kind of thing) blazened on the front.  "Oh my", we said, "what beast is to become us?"  "What is following you?"

A club run!  A fucking club run!  The ones who weren't fast enough up the climb even got dropped by the support vehicle bringing up the rear!

After hours of toottling about on the plateau with all its lumps and bumps, we finally reached the car park for the Kjerag - the vanu's resting point for the day we leave the valley.

As we passed it, we didn't really have the chance to think twice.  Before we knew it, the road ahead was 200ft below us having already gone through three hairpin turns to get there.  Holy fuck.  This was my Alpe d'Huez.

All I could do was drive it to the best of my ability - making the most of the brakes (cos bits of those are new) and trying my best not to use the clutch too much to slow the engine.  There was a rest stop (finally).  

We pulled in.  My head needed a rest, my feet were hot and needed a rest and the vanu stank of clutch and needed a rest.  We all rested - me with my feet in the waterfall, Andrew foraging for wild raspberries.  I couldn't put it off any longer.  We set off again - same plan.  Finally, there was a sign for a tunnel.  We both breathed a sigh of relief.  That has to be two-way, right?  It's probably straight too, right?


Single track road (with passing places), badly lit, 1:3 and two bends tighter than a right angle… oh, and a double decker bus coming the other way.  I only just had time to adapt my thought patterns to the situation and find a passing place.  Thankfully, the rest of the tunnel was a clear run at least.  No more scary bends and on to the campsite.

The disappointment of the day was the village - no shops open, tourist info shut for the season.  We got bread from the man in the ferry kiosk - that was it.  Four hot-dog style white buns out of the freezer.  We returned to the campsite shop - no ice cream left.

The footpath past the hydro-power station was not the most inspiring
We went for a walk.  I was pissy because I was too tired from Priekstolen to do anything.  I sat on a rock in the middle of the field with my shirt over my head for cover from the heat and felt rubbish that I hadn't done any exercise on the "nicest" day of our week together.  Still, the settings were nice.  I just couldn't climb any hills.  TSK was the same as his knee was hurting from his ride.

We concluded that we didn't want to be separate on our anniversary but that we also didn't want to sit around in Lysboten doing nothing all day and the vanu wouldn't be capable of two trips up the hill (never mind back down again).  So the only option was to up and leave the next day and head for the big walk to the Kjerag. 

I went to go swimming in the sea which I couldn't quite bring myself to do without my wetsuit due to the minor threat of jellyfish (I saw one) and the icy chill of sea water.  So I set off upstream along the river to a place I'd noticed earlier.  Some kids were trying to get into the water but I was already wet.  I pretty much got straight in and once I had, so did they.  It was the perfect perpetual swimming pool - just enough flow to resist my stroke.  If I'd had my wetsuit on I could've been in for longer but it was incredibly exhilarating to swim in the chilly water in just my shorts and bikini top.  The final brother jumped into the pond and ran out screaming but I shook his hand nevertheless and he hunkered under a big beach towel in his mothers arms.

We had dinner shaking our heads at the yeeaha base-jumpers who were going to be up partying all night and still up and looking beautiful in the morning - bastards   

Concluding there really was little else to do in Lysfjord, we watched the sun set behind the cliffs before we went to bed, looking forwards to our first anniversary, though with me still worrying slightly about the clutch on the vanu for the grand depart in the morning.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Preikstolen - not to be confused with nobcake

The Stavanger start was early-ish to get ourselves somewhere good whilst the weather was still behaving.  Norway's roads are strictly speed controlled to the tune of hefty fines so we knew it would take us a while to make progress.  We stopped and dined at a convenient parking lot.  Fresh bread, cheese, tomatoes, ham.  Heaven... and just as Andrew was starting to nod off.

There were tunnels and the fjords below the bridges became deeper and deeper.  The vanu used its full range of gears as the mountains got steeper and then we knew, when we got to the Lysfjord ferry that it was going to be special.

The crossing was brief and within 40 minutes of driving off the ferry we were winding our way up towards the Preikstolen.  We did cheat and drive 600m up the mountain in the Vanu to the car park at the start of the path but being dedicated Yorkshire folk now, we baulked at the £10 parking fee and headed back down the mountain to park in a layby and recover the bikes to retrace our steps, locking to the armaco with other dedicated (tight) folk.
The walk to the Priekstolen reminded me of the trail up to Steill Falls in Glencoe with plenty of points available for unsuitable footwear and clothing.  Still, most Norwegians are used to doing excercise and were better equipped than many UK tourists for this kind of thing... and it *was* a bloody nice day so I wore my Accellerate running shoes and we bunnyhopped around slow walkers almost all the way to the top.

And the top was just like Ben Nevis on a nice day - packed with people - except the Priekstolen drops vertically 3000ft to the sea below.

All ambition of summiting was lost into the vicious wind as my hair whipped my eyeballs and we retreated to the safety of the descent where, I am impressed, TSK ran down the hill along side me all the way back to the bikes.  Sure, we weren't running... running but we passed a steady stream of huffers and puffers and whooshed down the hill, first on foot, then on the bikes then in the Vanu to the happy refuge of the campsite to be handed a notice saying,

"If you're staying here then you're probably planning on doing the Priekstollen hike tomorrow.  If you do, you will not be back in time to check out before 11am.  If you plan to do the Priekstolen hike, please book another night to avoid additional charges."

We settled in to enjoy the sunset and the sound of sheep bells.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Leaving the City

We returned to Stavanger for another day of Gormley hunting and with every intention of going to see the painting in the art gallery described in the guide book as, "One of Edvard Munch's happier works".  Sadly, the museum was completely closed for the new installation and we left rather disappointed that we had neither Munched nor Gormed.

We spent the rest of the day looking for maps for the coming days and thinking about exchanging some money - only to return to the camper van and find out we were richer than we thought!

We felt fully rested with a complete plan of what to do the next day.  Dinner from the fish shop was delightful again & we got some laundry done.  No more hauling sweaty super-brevet clothing around with us.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Stavanger Photo Post

The pulpit at Stavanger Cathederal

Shouldda been born Norwegian

Street Art

You're gorgeous, but what's with the hair?

The Stavanger offshore museum

Mr Gormley carpark esq.

Get your own starfish! 
Looking for another Gormley
Found him

Piggy back

EmVee and Dragon Bike on a roundabout for bikes

No I'm taller.


Stavanger City

Just another bloody tourist taking pictures of the Gormley

Colourful Street