‘Adventure is just hardship with an inflated sense of self’ – OITNB
Rainbow over the Fjord, Canon 5d2, 16-35L
Standing in just a pair of underpants in the rain on the lawn of a plush hotel is a wonderfully liberating experience. It also adds considerably to the panoramic view being enjoyed by diners at breakfast to see a hairy, overweight (slightly) English man run across the said lawn with a camera bag and love spuds a jigglin’
I’d been standing at the window of my room watching the light morning rain fall gently across the Fjord. My gear, including my leggings and tops were still soaking wet as I had decided to wash them in the shower when I woke up. Of course, that’s when the rainbow appeared. A rainbow, straight across a stunning fjord and I just knew it was only going to last a few minutes. It’s a moment in life you can’t waste however and so after the briefest of thoughts, i grabbed the camera, long zoom and ran out of the room in my pants. I saw no one on the way down, did a scooby doo ‘quiet’ run across the reception area and launched myself across the lawn. A careful manoeuvre to straddle the wire fence and I was at the jetty, hastily adjusting camera settings. I got off 3 shots before the rainbow disappeared – If i had stopped to put on shoes, I’d never have got the shot.
The plan for the day, green dot to the number 2
With a sheen of rain all over me, I stood there, marvelling at what I had just seen. I turned around, negotiated the wire fence again and walked briskly back up to the hotel. It was at the moment I saw the diners in the breakfast area. I think one of them was pointing. I must admit that when I went down for breakfast, I felt slightly awkward but breakfast was included in the price and with the prospect of tuna and haribo for the next week, I wanted to make the most of it.
In a week I’d gone from Kristiansand to the number 2
Looking at maps the previous night was an eye opener. Having been in Norway a week, I looked at how far I’d gone and I felt my eyes go wide. 7 days and about 15% of the mileage done was a sobering reminder that I needed to push on a little and that was the plan for the day. With a route that took in the Jotunheimen national park, Geiranger fjord, Trollstigen and then island hopping to get to Molde by the evening. The scenery on this run is other-worldly and just a constant barrage of fjords, mountains and panoramas that you cannot believe are real. In effect, a full day of pulpit rock experiences.
Jotunheimen National Park, Canon 5d2, 16-35L
With a complete lack of planning or reading ahead, I ambled into the Jotunheimen park. After stopping for photos about 5 times in half an hour it was obvious that I needed to be more selective. You could spend a year there and not even begin to document that magical place. With a single main road running through it and plenty of space to overtake the inevitable RV’s, it was a hell of a ride. As the scenery rushed past, I could see waterfalls, fast flowing streams, snow capped mountains reaching for the sun, lush green valleys and the clouds that seemed to hang precariously from the ocean like sky.
That’s where I’m heading, Jotunheimen national park, Canon 5d2, 16-35L
there were a lot of road races in the park. Cyclists and people on roller blades with ski sticks (you might guess that I’m not a skier). Threading my way through was tricky at times when I caught up with a pack of them. I always find cyclists to be courteous, mindful of the rules of the road and a general pleasure to share the highway with. As an aside, I still can’t believe the tooth fairy hasn’t been for years and that Santa didn’t eat his mince pie this year either. Whilst we’re on the subject, whats with the whole fashion thing of looking like a cross between an 80’s dance teacher and a Portuguese fisherman with all the lycra and little caps. I digress.
Peaks in the Jotunheimen, Canon 5d2, 70-300L
Even though I’d set out early, time had not only marched on but was now over the hills and far away. Lunchtime and I’d covered all of 60 miles but had tons of helmet cam footage and cards full of images. I munched lazily on a pack of tangy haribo, feeling the underside of my tongue pop with the acidity and followed it up with a can of tuna, managing to spill most of the juice down my jacket. I would smell like a fishery for days and it wouldn’t be until I got to the Loftoten islands that I would smell something even more fishy.
Beginning of Geiranger Fjord approach, Canon 5d2, 16-35L
As you exit the park, you begin the approach to Geiranger fjord – possibly the most famous fjord in the world and certainly the most photographed. This is the inland fjord where the cruise ships sail to and dock as they wind their way up the coast laden with tourists.
The run through to Geiranger is a really pleasant ride, plenty of room to overtake and great visibility as the road slowly meanders left and right through mountains and valleys until you climb a final brow of a hill and see the pull-in with a dozen tourist coaches and a huge crowd of tourists. I parked up right in the middle of the crowd, blipping the throttle repeatedly and flicking my head. Loosely translated, a casual onlooker might have thought I was saying ‘excuse me, would you kindly move slightly out of the way old chap’. After a morning in the wild, being back with the throng immediately raised the hassle level.
Geiranger Fjord, Canon 5d2, 16-35L
It is a very special view though and despite there being just the single viewing point (for this side) it does take a while to take it all in. I watched the coaches unload, people had their 10 minutes photo break and then they got back on. I stayed for half an hour and as I did in all of my travels I took a mental picture. Slowly closing my eyes after staring at the view, you breathe deeply and listen to the sounds. It really works, there are so many places I have visited which I can recall as though I am actually there.
Geiranger Fjord, other side, Canon 5d2, 16-35L
I rode through Geiranger itself and then began the steep and hair pinned climb on the other side. Nasty switchbacks on a steep gradient need full concentration but this was a nightmare as the road was completely log jammed with coaches stopping wherever they pleased and throwing out their cargo all over the road. I’m not ashamed to admit I was sweating like mad, making little progress and constantly having to use my feet to keep the bike upright. I pulled into a layby which was full of coaches, cars and a thousand people who weren’t paying attention to anything. It’s amazing what people will take photos of – here is the main Fjord and yet they are by the side of the coach, pulling v signs and logging on to Facebook. The black and white shot above was taken whilst standing on a bench. Completing the shot, I looked down to see an elderly guy picking up one of my lenses that I had put down at my feet. I dropped down, said ‘excuse me’ and opened my arms wide with palms facing up and frowned at him’. In basic english he explained to me that he thought someone had left it there and he was going to take it. I raised my eyebrows, he put the lens back down carefully.
Geiranger Fjord, Canon 5d2, 16-35L
The antics of the little lens thief were just the prelude however. As I returned to the bike, I saw a crowd gathered around her. A dozen chinese tourists, all taking photos of the bike and posing by her, leaning against her. This is just not done. My strides got longer and quicker but as they moved back looking at me, I saw a guy with his hands in my tank bag. he jumped back with a start. ‘What are you doing?’. His explanation was that he was interested to see what I kept in there. With a swift movement upwards of my thumb and the use of two one-syllable words, he beat a retreat. This was the only occasion all trip long that I had any risk of theft.
With liberal use of the horn and the throttle, I made it out of the crowd and back onto the hairpins and 10 minutes later freedom as I hit the top and the road flattened out. It was already late afternoon, not that you could really tell as the sun was still high in the sky. I stopped in a quiet side track, checked for phone signal and booked a cheap hotel in Molde. I still had a lot of ground to cover but it was the cheapest place I could find. The only problem was that I ended to take a ferry to get to the place and the last one was in 2 hours. It was going to be tight.
Trollstigen, Canon 5d2, 16-35L
Trollstigen is a small set of hairpins North of Geiranger. I didn’t find it that impressive and was expecting much more given the reputation it had. Perhaps it was the steady flow of RV’s and camper vans who had to take every corner wide and at about 5 mph. This ruins the experience of course and even though I waited for some time, there was never anything approaching even a vaguely clear run at it and in the end I moved on. That familiar feeling of aching muscles, a rumbling stomach and heavy eyes began to appear. I had now been out on the road for over 12 hours and was starting to feel it. Back on the bike, pushing on where I could and overtaking where visibility allowed I made reasonable progress through scenery which, whilst still fantastic was not in the same league as earlier in the day. As I reached into the tank bag after I stopped for a pee, I realised I had no more haribo. When survivalists talk about that rush when instinct kicks in and your mind and body work even harder to survive, I think I felt that when i pulled the empty wrapper out.
I missed the ferry. The rain started. The rain became torrential. So I had to detour around to a bridge – another 40 minutes in the driving rain and I was soaked as I pulled into Moldefjord. The bike aquaplaned a few times as the roads became rivers and reflected the neon lights of petrol stations and shops back into my visor. I filled up, found the hotel and they gave me use of a small garage round the back of the hotel which was filled with paint pots, broken furniture and for some reason, several dozen coat stands. The garage had a concrete lip about 6 inches high – presumably to stop water ingress. This lip would become very important in the morning.
Just another average view, canon 5d2, 16-35L
The room was nice and after a shower and a cup of tea it was after 10pm. I hung my gear out to dry, headed for the town centre and found 2 places to eat. I ate at neither. At £28 for a 4 slice pizza and £12 for a beer I decided to pass much to the consternation of my rumbling guts. The rain still poured and I played the age old game of hopping down the street from one piece of cover to another. I finally found a shop, went in and bought some dinner and headed back to the hotel. Free coffee in reception so i downed 3 cups and juggled 3 more cups in the lift along with my bag of goodies.
The bathroom floor was covered in water as my gear dripped dry. The room smelt of of sweat. I flicked my camera on, sprawled on the bed and flicked back through the images of the day. I smiled, hooked up the cards to the laptop and started to back them up. Rain continued to lash at the window – it was a miserable night, still daylight of course despite it being close to midnight but the clouds were black and brooding as they raced across the sky. Lots of photos means lots of time to wait for them to back up so I emptied the bag from the shop, opened the can of tuna and packet of crisps. Im pretty sure I dreamt of pizza that night.