The second update from our bikepacking trip across Norway sees us through the scenic Ryfylke route and over the Western Mountains.
Before this trip, we were told that picking the weather in Norway was like a lottery– and if the prize was rain, then we hit the jackpot.
This week, we pushed over our first 500 km milestone and climbed close to 9000 meters in the process. It was a tough week, with the wet weather and steep hills testing our resilience. Nevertheless, Norway’s beautiful fjords and rugged highlands made the effort well worth it.
We also hit $5,000 raised, and we are very grateful for the amazing support everyone is showing for our project and the Fred Hollow’s Foundation!
Preikestolen Camping to Årdal
Setting up our tents at 2 am in the rain following a long and slightly silly mission climbing Preikestolen with a bicycle, we finally got some well-earned shuteye– that was until I woke up with a completely flooded tent.
It wasn’t the best start to the week, but there was more hardship to come. This coming section was set to be one of the most difficult of the entire journey from Stavanger to Tromsø, especially when it comes to elevation.
Setting off from Preikestolen campground, we donned our waterproof membrane jackets kindly provided to us by Wild Earth and pedalled northward into the rain.
Even with the terrible weather and rude awakening, the ride to Årdal was very enjoyable, starting along the coast through Jørpeland and crossing into the countryside and along the scenic Bjørheimsvatnet and Tysdalsvatnet.
Eventually after about 45 km, we called it an early day at Årdal, where we found a small camping area by the water in front of a small house. Here we were shown an example of the famous Norwegian hospitality when we were invited into the basement to dry our gear and charge our phones.
Scenic Ryfylke: Årdal to Ropeid
It’d already been a week in Norway, but it was only day 3 of our big “riding days”. And this one would prove to be one of the biggest by far.
From Årdal we continued up the rolling countryside hills towards Hjelmeland, where we took another ferry. This was our first “Fjord 1” ferry, which runs on a very consistent schedule and best of all, is free for bicycle and foot passengers!
Next, we rode along the incredibly scenic Boknafjorden before taking the rolling scenic Ryfylke route north. This road featured many tunnels which was a little sketchy, but well worth it for the epic views along the route.
Again, the weather wasn’t on our side, and after camping in the rain for the past week, everything we owned was soaked, including my camera, which suffered a mechanic issue with the shutter. While inconveniences like this are materialistic in nature, when you are wet, cold, tired, and hungry, little things like this can really wear you down mentally.
We were feeling it but encouraged each other to push on and stay positive. With spirits high, we did just that, and eventually found a small flat section in the forest just below the road. Here, we climbed down with our bikes, with the tall pines offering a short window of rest from the beating rain.
Westland High Mountains
Stuff the sleeping bag, roll up the mat, pack the panniers, down a quick coffee and some oats from chef Ryan, load the bike, and go.
By now, we had a solid morning routine, and considering the length of the journey ahead, the quicker we could settle into it, the better. Bikes packed, we carried them up and over the guard rail and back onto the road, ready for another massive day with close to 1,500 meters of elevation in front of us.
This day would have us climbing up to the Western Mountains, a mountainous region with an altitude of over 1,000 meters above sea level.
The rain had slowed a little, which meant we could enjoy the grueling slog of a climb. While the going was tough, the green rugged peaks, clear mountain tarns, and speckles of snow created a magical scene that beckoned us on as we climbed.
Eventually, we found a small patch of flat grassland on a hill by a lake at the top of the climb. This was my favorite campsite so far. We shared an evening meal here as usual while taking in the incredible scenes around us.
The Long Descent to Odda
Yesterday, we’d climbed to over 1,000 meters. So today, it was time to drop that elevation! We hardly pedaled for kilometers as we descended down the mountains along Roldalsvatnet fjord towards the turn-off at Håra.
Here, we had another 600-meter climb in front of us. However, thankfully, the sun came out for the first time on the ride as we began to climb. Although challenging, the sun gave us a newfound source of energy that allowed us to push on again back up to 1,000 meters of elevation before dropping down all the way to Odda, near sea level, on a constant descent for over 30 kilometers!
When we arrived, we pulled up at the Trolltunga campsite, where I bought some rice to try to soak the moisture from my camera and got to enjoy a long, well-earned shower.
Trolltunga Hike & a Broken Spoke
Instead of lazing by the lake, we decided to wake up at 4 am and have a crack at the famous Trolltunga hike. Luckily, we were offered a lift by a very friendly Belgian couple, which meant we didn’t have to ride all the way to Tysedal to reach the trailhead.
There’s a reason why Trolltunga is so famous– it’s easily one of the most beautiful hiking trails in Europe, if not the world.
Change of Plans – We’re Heading to Bergen
After getting back to camp after hiking the 27 km Trolltunga trail, we decided it was time to wash the bikes– that’s when we discovered the first mechanical breakdown of the trip. Jessy had busted a spoke!
These kinds of things happen on bike tours and backpacking trips, and we knew we’d have to deal with something like it eventually. So, the following day we hobbled our bikes into Odda, where unfortunately the store was unable to do a spoke repair on a tubeless tire.
The direction was to continue to Voss, where there “might” be a bike shop that could do it. By now, Ryan’s knee was also starting to worry him a little. After much deliberation over many $2 hotdogs, we decided it was better to head to the coast early. Bergen was 180 kilometers away, with not “too much” elevation involved.
While this detour added a fair bit of distance to the trip overall, it seemed crazy to tackle a week in the mountains with a broken spoke in case we weren’t able to get it fixed out here. Plus, it was a Sunday, so even if we did find a bike shop, we’d have to wait around. It also meant that it would hopefully give Ryan’s knee a little bit of rest, especially considering that if we were to continue through the mountains instead, it would have been very, very tough going.
So, we pedalled on towards Bergen, following the beautiful Hardanger Fjord, the sun finally shining some light on us. We passed some of the most beautiful farmlands I’ve ever seen and even stopped to try some fresh local apple juice.
The road to Bergen took us two days and was much easier going than the mountainous regions we’d just covered, yet just as beautiful.
When we arrived in Bergen, we celebrated in town with a huge kebab pizza and the following morning rode straight to Trek Bergen, where the owners helped us tune our bikes and fixed Jessy’s spoke.
By now, I’d confirmed that my rice trick did fix my shutter, so my camera was back in action. I decided while I had the chance that I’d buy some more waterproof bags for my bike– hopefully, that would avoid any more issues down the line.
That afternoon, with clean chains, fresh bags, and positive moods, we rolled into Bergen and spent the afternoon exploring the Bryggen area and eating ice cream.
Next, we pushed on north, officially starting the Atlantic Coast route or, Norway’s Eurovelo 1. We rode a couple dozen kilometers north before pulling up at a random nature strip area tucked away on a back street, where we ate our ration packs and had a good chat about the long journey to come!