The extent of how expensive things are in Norway becomes apparent when you go to use a cash point. As normal it offers you set amounts of money however the smallest is 400 Nkr Which is about £40 the largest a staggering 7000 Nkr so about £700! This is probably over the withdrawal limit for most UK cards. Some things like meat and cheese are very expensive i.e bacon costs about 30 quid a kilo and even small packets of meat are 4 or 5 pounds. Alcohol is really expensive, so much so that i haven't really drunk since i have been here. To give you an idea a can of Heineken from a super market might be about 2.70 - 3 quid and in a bar maybe about 6 or more!!!!! I have managed to find the cheapest beer which is nothing special, even for this a small stubby (33cl) cost over a pound! The reason is that tax is set at 25% for most things (possibly more for alcohol), this means that education and health services are free and very good and if you live and work in Norway the wages are higher so the extra cost isn't so bad
. If however you don't it comes as a bit of a shock the first time you enter a supermarket! I got very annoyed at the first campsite I went to, it cost me 21 quid for a tiny tent and then i still had to pay 50p for a very short shower! The campsites are very good and i guess they would be quite expensive in the UK as well however its pretty steep here especially as my hostel in the middle of Oslo costs the same price!Missed opportunities
People often comment and say how lucky I am to happen across events, festivals etc when I travel. I was reminded today however that for every lucky break you get, where you happen to be in town at exactly the right time, there are twice as many things you miss by a day or so. Whilst riding through southern Norway I missed out on world cup power boat racing (they were just preparing the boats and grandstand ready for a weekend of racing) but I wasn't too disappointed as I happened across world cup power boat racing in Wellington on another trip. The next thing I missed out on by a week was the Red Bull cliff diving championships as we rode past we saw them building platforms on the cliffs. Finally I passed by a bluegrass festival in the middle of nowhere, the headline act was a really cool American bluegrass rock band called Hayseed Dixie who do cover versions of classic rock songs in a bluegrass style (I have seen them in Manchester and they were great) but typically being Norway the ticket prices were suitably steep so I decided to give it a miss. It made me realise how good your trip could be if you always happened to be in the right place at the right time! There are other Brits on bikes too!
The Norwegian cycle route was quite unusual as it Incorporated a number of ferries
. The first of these ferries left from a small town called Risør. The ferry was supposedly a car ferry although there was only space for two cars, most of the people on board were holiday makers getting a ride to the beach. Although the ferry was only very small both captain and ticket inspector were both dressed in very smart uniforms. The trouble with ferries is that you end up cutting out a lot of riding which saves both time and effort however most of the time saved is then lost waiting for the ferry to arrive. They are small services and most only run about 4 crossings a day. It was whilst waiting for the second ferry of the day that I saw a couple on bikes arrive and start trying to make sense if the confusing time table which i had been staring at half an hour earlier in the same baffled manner. I knew straight away that they were British as they had a on one bike frame, this is a pretty small British company and I happen to have a couple of their frames myself. I went up and said hello and soon discovered that we were heading the same way, initially north up the Norwegian coast following route 1 however they were also travelling across to Stockholm and then Helsinki and then down through Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. We were soon busy chatting away comparing notes. I had met very few Brits travelling and none cycling so it was great to have a good old natter. After catching the ferry we were all heading the same way so they asked if I wanted tag along. It was great having some company whilst riding, the kilometres disappear so quickly when you have conversation to distract you from staring at your cycle computer. I had thought there were only two ferries on the route however I was told they had met some Dutch women who said there was another ferry which cut off 40 hilly kilometres and was a really scenic ferry ride. We thought that it sounded like a good idea so we would try and catch it. We were slightly unsure about where the cycle route went due to the sporadic manner in which they place signs (there are 5 signs in 200m when leaving town then no sign for 20km) we saw another cycle tourer coming the other way and I managed to flag him down
. His nationality was unknown (possibly Italian?) but one thing was for sure, he was knackered! Apparently the route was very hilly his actual words were "I'm finished, I ride no more, I need sleep now" He had caught the ferry we were hoping to catch so I noted down the ferry times and we were set. It soon became obvious we would be too late to catch the last ferry so we got some food and found a campsite just as the heavens opened. It was interesting as we set up camp and discovered we had a lot of identical gear (we practically had the same tent) and identical practices which we had developed over time through trial and error. One thing they had been doing which I hadn't picked up on was panting. This is not what you think (although Noway is pretty hilly so that does happen from time to time as well) it's actually something i have mentioned previously in my blog however I said it was done only by tramps and bums it turns out that British cycle tourers do it too. A pant is the extra money you pay for a bottle or can so panting is the act of collecting cans a bottles from the side of the road in a womble like fashion (there may be a proper word but panting sounds good!) Its easy when cycling as you often see discarded cans by the side of the road. They were managing to collect enough most days to get a few quid off their shopping bill or buy a beer or two. I had not cottoned on to this as the pants are very small in Germany and Denmark (no not those ones, although they maybe) so I would have needed a bin bag fully to make a decent saving
Pitching a tent and cooking in the rain is not the most fun of experiences. Luckily this campsite had a small undercover area by the washing basins which we commandeered, leading to many baffled looks from the other campers as we tried to put our tents up under it to avoid getting the inners wet. Unfortunately my spoke gremlins were back and I had another one break on the way to the campsite so the rest if my evening was spent wrestling with a wheel, one thing was for sure, I was definitely getting my rear wheel rebuilt in Oslo. The next day we had a nice down hill ride to catch the final ferry we had the ferry times and were on time its a nice feeling when you know you are on top of things. The feeling didn't last long however we arrived at the ferry terminal to find it closed. We asked a local if the ferry was running today (it was the weekend) we were a bit surprised when his reply was "the ferry is closed down". We were now faced with a 40km ride some of which would be going back up the hill we just came down. Luckily we didn't give up and Stu and Izzy found a tourist office who confirmed that there was actually a little passenger ferry. The boat was small so our bikes were wedged (literally) into the bow. The ferry ride was more like a small cruise down the fjord at one point we came to a very narrow gap in the rock. I was unsure if the boat would even fit until we were in between the two large rock faces, there were no scraping sounds and we appeared to continue moving
. I left Stu and Izzy later that afternoon as they were boarding a ferry over to Sweden (they had decided to miss out Oslo). We said farewell although there is a good chance we may be able to catch up over a (hopefully) much cheaper beer in StockholmI was unsure about Oslo......
Having spent all my time so far on cycle route 1 up the coast I was unsure what I was going to do when I got to Horton. Here the cycle route boards a ferry across the Oslo fjord and heads back down the Swedish coast. It looked from the atlas I had that there might be a ferry to Oslo however no one could confirm this. I was unsure if it was possible to cycle into Oslo because all roads on the map were pretty huge and I didn't know if there were any tunnels. So all in all I was a bit uncertain about where I was heading as I packed my tent up whilst eating my breakfast. I was running late as usual, I had gotten up late as it appears I was so tired the night before I fell asleep mid planning (my head torch was still on and I had not manage to set an alarm). It was at this point that one if the guys camping next to me stood staring at my bike. I said hi and asked if he spoke English. It turned out (not surprisingly) he did and we started talking about my trip. He asked where I was going and I said Oslo, but i was unsure if it was possible to cycle there
. He said he lived in Oslo and was pretty sure you could ride in, this was good news. I then somehow mentioned I was spending a few days because I wanted to get my rear wheel rebuilt. "I give you name of guy" he said " I use him, his shop is like, how do you say.... Like shit with loads of old bikes outside" "he is an odd guy with tattoos, but he is really good" I was quite interested as this was sounding like exactly the kind of place that would be able to rebuild a wheel quickly and cheaply and do a good job (never trust someone with a clean workshop they spend too much time cleaning, not enough time working and therefore are generally not as good). He got the map of Oslo (which or some reason I had meant to throw away but forgotten to, must have been fate) and started drawing things on. His wife (turned out to be ex wife, It appeared the wife, husband, ex husband and kids were all on holiday, I think, it was all a bit confusing) had overheard our conversation and invited me over for coffee. Soon I was being introduced to all the kids and shown the tee-pee they were camping in (they seem to be really common over here but instead or the traditional reindeer skin ones they use canvas). When I eventually left I had a plan and a destination not a bad start to the day. Not far down the road I saw a couple coming the other way. I stopped and said hi and asked if they had come from Oslo, it turned out they had and we were soon swapping advice on the different parts we had cycled. They explained the lack of signage after Horton and I left with an even better idea of where I was heading, a very good start to the day
. It was a really nice and hot perfect for cycling. I was going along well and decided I would try and make it all the way to Oslo. There was a big hill on the way and it was the first proper climb I have done so far. I had reached the top and was just beginning to freewheel down when a guy on a racing bike pulled up along side me and said "hi" we soon got chatting as we continued to ride down, I told him about my trip, where I had been, where I was going and of course the tour De France! It was ideal as we were about 30km away from Oslo so as we chatted Dag (as i later found out he was called) showed me the best way into town. I had gone from being unsure If I could ride in to Oslo to having a local escort. After about 20 minutes he asked me where I was staying, I said I would find a hostel or campsite when I got into Oslo. "I am staying at my girlfriends house tonight" he said "so if you want you can stay in my house" I said it was very kind and asked if he was sure "I don't think I would have offered if I wasn't" he said "It happened to me when I was travelling, and I always used to tell myself people wouldn't offer if they didn't mean it". So soon I found myself heading through the streets of an Oslo suburb to his house. He had to rush off but he gave me a quick tour, made me try his favourite beer, gave me a key, said make yourself at home and left. This is one of the best moments as a traveller, you always feel privileged when someone who you have only just met feels happy to let you stay in their home
. It was a nice change from a wet tent or noisy hostel and i loved just sitting down with a beer and food (still eating pasta though) in a comfy chair and watching some TV (something I haven't done in ages). I got a reminder of home when I went into his sons room where I was sleeping. He was a massive Manchester united fan so I was confronted with united pattern curtains and duvet cover with posters of players all over the wall. To anyone who hasn't travelled it seems quite bizarre that you can meet a stranger in the street and have them offer you a place to stay. People in other countries seem much more willing to make offers like this, in fact I doubt if it would happen at all in the UK, I just don't think we are trusting enough as a nation. I really hope that some day when I have a house and money I'm in a position where I am able pass on the all the kindness people have shown me and invite people to stay on a whim!
One thing you notice a lot when you are cycling every day is all the other cyclists. In Norway its quite unusual, they like to have things which are really good quality and obviously have the money to buy the best. This means that there are a crazy number of really (when i say really i mean REALLY, ie 2-5 grand) expensive carbon mountain bikes which people (normally clad from head to toe in Lycra) just ride on the roads so they don't even have a spec of dirt on them. Apparently its only in the last few years that you see any road bikes at all. Its very strange and gives the impression that many Norwegians have more money than sense! The other thing which is unusual that often i get passed or pass people who are skiing! As you probably know cross country skiing is huge here in the winter however the really keen skiers don't let the lack of snow put them off. The have special ski´s like really long roller blades (some just use roller blades) and ski poles (they are also normally clad in Lycra and a cycle helmet) and they just ski around town and down the cycle paths, its very disconcerting!!
Due to the fact that i broke yet another spoke i decided that i would have to get my wheel rebuilt in Oslo (which me nor my bank manager were looking forward to). The bike shop i had been recommended could build the wheel for me however the guy didn't have any of the parts that were needed. I spent the rest of the day going round loads of bike shops in search of a rim and spokes. Everyone was very helpful and i met some really interesting people. I finally found a shop with a really helpful guy, he had some rims which he was busy showing me but then he said he had and idea. He had a friend who builds wheels. He disappeared off to make a phone call, he came back a little later with a phone number and address. He said he had spoken to his friend and he would be able to do it for me so i should give him a call. I phoned later that day and arranged to meet him next day at his house. The next morning i pedalled out through the Oslo suburbs blindly following my sat nav (I'm so glad I've got it) I got some great views over Oslo but it was up hill all the way so i was getting pretty knackered. When i arrived at the address i had typed into my sat nav i found myself confronted with a massive apartment complex with 6 or so apartments lumped under each address. Cleverly i had changed my jacket so didn't have the apartment letter. After a little fretting my memory came up trumps and I got to the right address
. It turned out that the guy was really nice. He took me up to his workshop (which was supposed to be an office and was so small you could only just fit two people in). The wall was covered in wheels and there were loads boxes of high class parts stacked up. He had all the parts and from talking to him it was obvious he was really good, luckily he said he would be able to do it, he said he would do it as fast as possible but he was looking after his son (normally it would take about a week). I was just getting ready for a 5km walk back into town when he asked if I wanted to borrow a bike. The bike in question was an interesting ride, a 20 year old mountain bike he used for picking his kids up. "I don't normally take it far but it should managed the ride back to Oslo". As I left a few quick pointers were given to me "the brakes work ok, you really have to force the gears.... Oh and don't stop pedaling because sometimes the chain comes off". It was an interesting ride back down the hill into town I didn't dare change gear or stop pedalling. To my surprise later that evening I got a message saying my wheel was ready and I could come and pick it up straight away if I wanted. I couldn't believe it had been done so fast, it was really amazing as he obviously had other things to deal with but went out of his way to get it done quickly as he knew I needed it to keep going with my trip. The next day I went to pick my wheel up and it appears that once again I had got lucky, he had done a great job and I'm sure the wheel will be fine for at least the next 10000 km. After a bit more of a natter I set off for a much more relaxing ride back into Oslo. Later that afternoon I decided I would leave nothing to chance and get beefier tyre's as well. I managed once again very luckily to stumble across a shop that had the exact tyre's I wanted for a not too outrageous price. After all this I didn't have a massive amount of time to actually look round Oslo. I visited a few of the main sites and pedalled round a bit
. I went to the opera house and took way too many photos (it's a pretty cool building with some glass Walls and you can walk up on the roof and get views over Oslo it's basically like a massive playground for adults). I was all set and back on the road and now had my sights set on Stockholm my next main destination!
P.S. I realise there are lots of mistakes as well as bad spelling and grammar in my posts. I really hate writing, I'm dyslexic and I write these on my iPod late at night then transfer them via free wireless (usually from outside a McDonald's). There is a spell checker on the website but when I get to a computer to upload the photos it usually costs a few quid an hour (5 or 6 in Norway!!!) and the Internet is usually sooo slow all my time is used up just uploading the photos so I don't have time to do a spel1ing chek (see what I did there) so I apologise but it really is a bit of a mission doing these updates, don't get me wrong I love doing it but I don't really have much time and searching out Internet when you live in a tent is troublesome!Key Facts
Distance covered - Approx 2180km (1355 miles)
Number of days - 30
Countries visited - 5
Currencies used - 4
Max speed - 60.4 km
Longest day - 147.5 km
Punctures - 1
Spokes broken - 4
Things broken / worn out (given my luck in the recent past this could increase rapidly) - 3
Different beers tried - 29
Languages spoken (well attempted) - 5
Proper mountains climbed - 0
Ferry Crossings - 6
Stamps in passport - 0
Holes mysteriously appeared in my tent - 2