Robert Seeney Photography Touring Motorbike » Photography Biking Nottingham East Midlands

Europe Part 24 – Norway Part 2

‘If you want to see the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain’  – D.Parton

Breathtaking, Canon 5d2, 16-35L

Cesar, espero que estés bien, este post es para ti mi amigo, buenos tiempos

It was light when my eyes closed and light when I opened them again. A 30 minute early morning ride to the ferry terminal at Stavanger and I parked up the bike and sat on the floor in a small waiting room with a single (broken) coffee machine and no chairs. I don’t remember her name which is appalling of me so let’s call her Grethe, but she rode in on a heavily laden 125 with a humongous backpack on. She wanted coffee too but no joy. With a 5 hour ferry ride, up the coast and through the fjords, we passed the time talking about all things Norwegian, bikes and jobs. Grethe was returning home to be with her family for the summer after working in Stavanger as a trainee helicopter technician. With several more years to go before passing her full Apprenticeship, she was receiving financial support from her employer to meet basic living costs (and costs are super super high) and items such as restaurants, even with a job, are out of the reach of most Norwegians except for very special occasions.

The route over the next few days, Stavanger to Bergen to Eidfjord to Skjolden

My funds were running low at this point but I paid £4 I think for a slush puppy for her. It had to be a mix of the red, the yellow and the blue one. For a land that contains the arctic circle, ice seemed very expensive to me…but it’s always seemed to be the thing to do to me, buy a stranger a drink in the hopes that one day they ‘pay it back’ to someone else. To give an idea of the economy, her salary (once through the training) would be 1 million kroner. Yup, 1 million. With no car and just the 125, she routinely moved all her gear on the bike. Grethe talked through how the bike would be loaded up to her head, with bags hanging off everywhere as she made the trip back home to her parents. Them came the bombshell, as if the salary and moving house on a 125 wasn’t enough. I talked about how Pulpit rock (see previous post) had been tough and it had taken me ages to climb. She looked at me straight faced and then told me she runs it regularly. Runs. In an hour. Runs. I didn’t even know what to say but I did consider throwing her off the side of the ferry.

Grey, cool and drizzle summed up the journey with some nice but not spectacular views of the fjords. It was raining as we docked in Bergen, we bid our farewells and rode out into heavy rain.

Grethe, Bergen, Canon 5d2, 16-35L

The only place I could remotely afford to stay in Bergen was the hostel. This was easy enough to find and having parked the bike outside the entrance, I got my room key and sat on the couch watching the various backpackers scurry back and forth. I felt old, the average age was about 20. My brief respite over, I found my 4 bunk room and headed in. Throwing my stuff on the top bunk I introduced myself to the guy in the bottom bunk who was full of cold. He rolled back over and pulled the sheet over his head. Imagine filling a room with underpants, walking boots and trousers and goretex jackets. Then throw a hand grenade into the room and that gives you a picture of the place. Boiling hot too, no one wanted the window open and so I was dreading sleep since I’m a naturally warm sleeper. I headed back to the reception area, found a washing machine, threw my one pair of clothes in and sat back on the couch with a plastic cup of water watching the rain fall. I would find out later that Bergen is renowned for rainfall. As I stared out, the headlights of a bike appeared – a 1200RT – and it pulled up next to my bike. I must admit to some relief that perhaps this might be someone more of my ilk. Cesar was.

Cesar, Bergen, Phone grab

Its interesting how conversations start up – Cesar dropped onto the couch and was struggling to make calls to book his bike in for a service. His English was better than my Spanish but trying to book in a service in Norway and explain times and dates was always going tone difficult. SO with a three way conversation we rang a few dealers, none of whom had space available. Eventually, a few emails and calls later, Cesar found a friend in Berlin who could get his bike serviced on his route back through Europe – he was returning from Nordkapp and had started in Tenerife, his home.

We would spend the next two days together – visiting Bergen by foot and then sharing part of the Eastwards ride out of Bergen together before he headed South and I headed North. Cesar was without pretence and a genuinely warm hearted soul. Not all those who travel do so for the same reasons and fewer still have the same mindset or view of the world. For me, solo travel is the best and is enriched when we meet people like Cesar. It isn’t about nationality, its not even about bikes, its about sharing a similar view which rarely happens in our day to day lives. When you’re out on the road, they’re still a rare breed but there’s more of a chance of meeting one!

We ate salad that night and Cesar gave me loads of tips about the route North, where to stay and where to eat. With an amazing grasp of technology, he linked me to roads, sights and much more. I had no plan other than ‘Nordkapp’ and so this was a real help.

Bergen, Canon 5d2, 16-35L

We agreed to explore Bergen by foot the day after and so I headed back into the abyss of the dorm. The other three were already asleep and so I clambered onto the bunk, pulled the sheet over me and felt the sweat already begin to form on my brow. I swear it was warmer than Sardinia in that room. Now, I suffer with my sinuses on occasion and especially in heat. I was shaken awake and opened my eyes to see a face about 12 inches from mine. ‘You are snoring!’…I shook my head muttered ‘sorry’ and he jumped back to the ground, clattering noisily through the debris on the floor and crashed onto the bottom bunk. I lay there for a second, my heart still racing as I remembered the ferry to Sicily. The light of a phone was filtering through the gap between the bunk and the wall – it seemed that the ill guy below me was listening to some tunes or watching a video. I fell back to sleep, desperately trying to stifle any snore. Turning onto my side and then shifting when I felt that first start of a snore in that half asleep/half awake phase of drifting off. I was shaken awake again. ‘Sorry; I said as I rolled on to my side, I can’t help it, its so hot’. What followed was the most ridiculous request I had all trip. ‘You must stop snoring, you must try harder’. I didn’t waste a second before replying which was along the lines of  ‘..and how exactly the &*^% do I do that’. It was 1am. The rest of the night passed uneventfully. For me anyway, I was fast asleep, I can’t really comment on the other three. Still, character building for them.

I left the room early, snuck out with my gear and had a word with reception who found me a single occupancy room for the following night.

Fish wood thing, Bergen, Canon 5d2, 16-35L

Cesar and I spent the day wandering around Bergen. There really isn’t much there and with torrential rain, we spent time sheltering more than anything else. A trip up the funicular to get a view of the Fjord was the highlight of the day and my official appointment as a language tutor 🙂 Cesar had told me that he had a tutor back at home who was welsh. I did try and educate him about Wales and encouraged him to share his findings with his tutor. I’m not sure whether he ever did 🙂

Another evening meal, talking bikes and Tenerife and life events and yet more recommendations of routes followed. A jazz and blues band played in the hostel that night and damn were they good, seriously good! With great company, great food and great music I retired to my sole occupancy room and snored to my hearts content.

Bergen Fjord, Canon 5d2, 16-35L

Cesar was heading South the following day and I rode with him some distance to a waterfall in Eidfjord – I would have to double back but the waterfall was supposed to be impressive. I remember it being cold and drizzly that day with grey skies. We rode past fjords, through mountains and as we approached Eidfjord, the most amazing set of tunnels cut through the mountains. The lighting in them is surreal – blues and reds which arc around roundabouts. I’ve never been on a roundabout at the same time as being under a mountain. At one point, the road goes round and round like you are ascending a heater skelter – the bike is on half lock for several minutes as you go round and round and up and up before bursting out into the light and straight onto a suspension bridge hundreds of metres above a fjord. Damned impressive. No photos I am afraid – most of these days were dull, grey and rain filled.

The waterfall at Eidfjord was ok, nowhere near as impressive as I had been led to believe. We grabbed a coffee, bid our farewells and Cesar disappeared Southwards. I turned the bike around and headed back over the suspension bridge and into what I imagined as Moria. It took some time to retrace my steps, mainly due to driving rain and a bitter wind. I think it was the first time all trip that the heated grips went on along with a fleece under the jacket.

Time was marching on and I took a wrong turn – the sat-nav couldn’t even locate me and so I ploughed on through the countryside with little traffic and nowhere to stop to ask just exactly where I was. The rain came in fits and starts, alternating between heavy downpours and then annoying light rain that is impossible to wipe from your visor. There’s times on trips like these when you find somewhere purely by accident and it makes the whole day doubly special. I was driving along a dead straight section of road and ahead of me was a large hill but with no obvious signs of a road…I was really hoping that I hadn’t come down a dead end! As I closed on the hill, I could see the road winding upwards over the hill in a series of 8 hairpins. Great fun and some of the hairpins were so tight I almost had to put a foot down. I cheered at the top and the road flattened and up ahead was a pull in with a small cafe. I needed a drink and I was so focussed on getting into the gravel car park  that I didn’t see the view until I came to a rest. The view is the main photo on this page. I was only planning to grab a drink but I stayed an hour, even in the rain, to enjoy that amazing view.

On the way to Eidfjord, Canon 5d2, 16-35L

It was late in the afternoon, maybe 4pm when I descended the hill and started the final push to the hotel I had booked that morning. It was completely out of my budget range but it was the only place I could find and it offered half board. After a week of tuna, I wanted something more! I took a couple of ferries across fjords, rode the edges of several other fjords and had the roads to myself. The sun came out and even a damp set of love spuds couldn’t detract from yet another late afternoon with just me, the bike and amazing roads through amazing scenery. I realised that it was the best time to ride because most people had gone home and were eating or putting children to bed whether in Germany, Spain or Norway. I pulled up at the hotel and my jaw dropped. The hotel was at the head of a Fjord with views right across it. I looked down at my bike – covered in mud. I looked down at me – covered in mud and soaked through. I hung the helmet on the mirrors, threw my gloves down on the tops of the panniers and stretched my back out.

View from the Hotel, wait until the next post for the morning shot 🙂

As I stood there, unbuckling my bags and checking the bike over, 2 other GS’s pulled up. Pristine and brand new with both riders decked out in full BMW gear. They waved, got off the bikes and asked me how my ride had been. I smiled wearily, told them I had had a good day and asked them about theirs. They’d ridden from Germany and had covered a short distance today and told me how wonderful the food was here and that I should try a certain wine. I nodded politely figuring that I could hardly afford Haribo at this stage. They asked me where I had ridden from and I said well, from England but via Spain and Italy and…etc. Their first response was to ask me how I had so much money. I told them I had recently finished work and before I could explain they asked me if I was an investment banker. Not one to ruin a good opportunity, I told them I had recently sold my dot com businesses, given all the money to charities and set off to find myself. They nodded, lost interest and headed into the hotel. I sat looking at the Fjord before heading in. To say I felt like a duck out of water would be an understatement. The people in there were seriously rich, downing wines and beers at god knows what expense. It turned out that the hotel had made a mistake with their pricing on the site I had used. After some aggressive haggling and threats of complaints, they honoured the price. Good job, theres no way I could have afforded it otherwise.

That fjord was perhaps the most beautiful sight of the whole trip, up there with the sunset over the Pyrenees. It is a truly remarkable place. Clouds caress the mountains, the light varies from minute to minute and there is just complete silence. If it was impressive in the late evening, it was even more impressive the next morning. That’s a tale for the next post but in 20 years of photography, the photo I took the next morning was one of the best I have ever taken. It will be the cover shot on the next part of the tale but did involve me running across that lawn in my underpants in the rain.

As I think I said before, the mountains give the solace, they refresh the mind and body and the soul. That’s the cake, but the icing is provided by the wonderful souls we meet along the way. It’s not about bikes or travel, it’s about a state of mind and an understanding.

Cesar, Canon 5d2, 16-35L

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