Norway, Norway, Norway. What a place and by far the best scenery and biking roads yet. Not that you can burn the Tarmac up or anything as they are very strict on enforcing speed limits which are 80 kmh on open roads (50 mph), 70 kmh around junctions and 50 kph in towns – sometimes 40. Anyway, there’s so much to see that you’re very happy just meandering along anyway.
One thing’s for certain: the Norweigan’s love a tunnel and a bridge.
First the tunnels.
Now there’s a good story about a young girl, Marte, who 300 years ago, was lured into a mountain and imprisoned by trolls. She explained herself in front of 8 jurors and was believed. Why am I telling you this? Well, I’m not one to believe all folk lore (except the Giants of West Cornwall, they’re definitely real) but they are meant to have been prolific mountain dwellers and tunnellers and I reckon they’re alive and well in these parts. There are over 900 road tunnels in Norway totalling some 750 km and I reckon we’ve done a fair chunk of them. They’re immense – some well over 5km long – and they go through mountains, under water and under cities – it’s gobsmacking. They go a fair way down too with quite deep descents and ascents which at times feels like you’re on some type of Disney ride. They can seem quite disorientating at first – especially the longer ones – as they are usually pretty dark and fixing your sights firmly on the road in front can be quite entrancing – must be the Trolls again. Probably the most impressive ones were the underground tunnels under Oslo – like the tube but on your own bike – and the underwater one on the way to Kristiansund which is called the Friefjord tunnel and which is 5km (3.2 miles) long. It starts on the island of Frei and goes into the Kristiansund Municipality and it’s the longest undersea tunnel in Norway. The government doesn’t want people to know that there are actually Trolls in Norway – they clearly want to keep the tunnel technology in-house – and there are roadside warning triangle signs with pictures of Trolls so you can watch your speed even more and keep them safe…
And then there’s bridges
But if that isn’t impressive enough, there’s some amazing bridges too that, together with tunnels and ferries, help to link all the many different islands together. The best and most unique of all we’ve encountered has to be those on the Atlantic Ocean Road. This road, which was named construction of the century in 2005 and hailed as the world’s best road trip by The Guardian in 2006 contains 8 bridges in total costing 122 million NOK. The most famous is the Atlantic Ocean bridge looks like a corkscrew and is quite a daunting sight when you approach it – a combination of looking like it comes to a dead end at the peak and so much off centre that you feel certain that, if you don’t fall off the end, you’ll just slide off sideways! Add a feisty bit of wind in the mix and it’s a bit like going on a roller coaster. There are tourist information points at either side and you half expect to see a sign suggesting if you don’t fancy it, best to get off here. Anyway, once actually on the bridge itself it all seems quite normal and stable but you still feel quite elated to get over in one piece – so much so that we did it 3 times! It’s not difficult to see why it has received such world-wide acclaim.
If Carling did roads, these might be the best ones yet
Even Tim feels that these have been maybe the best ones he’s ridden – largely because they are surrounded by gorgeous scenery and are virtually empty – bliss. But there was a day when we went from Bygdin to Alesund which was just breathtaking. Following route 51 through the Jotumheimen National Park to Lom was stunning – sweeping roads, expansive views, ice blue rivers made for white water rafting – was then followed by a trip across route 15 through the Geiranger mountain pass to Trollstigen. There was still deep snow at the sides of the road at the top and it that wasn’t enough we then zig-zagged our way down around tight bends and steep drops until we reached Geiranger which was host to 3 mahoosive cruise liners. Such was the height of the mountains surrounding the fjord that they didn’t look as large as they might. Then another corkscrew road up the other side – 48 km in total – to get the ferry from Eidsdal to Linge before a well-earned beer at Alesund. What a day.
After all that excitement, a rest day in Trondheim has been just what the doctor ordered. What a great place it is too. Something for everyone and we managed to coincide with the festival of St. Olaf and a regional food and beer festival – happy days. Lovely old town buildings in the Bakklandet area plus original waterside warehouses, museums and the world’s northernmost gothic cathedral and you could say we were well sorted.
Thanks Norway, it’s been a blast!