A Trip To Norway

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East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices

(Ride to The Arctic Circle)

by Jim Truscott

Towards the end of last year, Rob Booth, from Newcastle, enquired in a motorbike forum on the Internet whether anybody could please advise him of the do’s and don’ts of riding in Norway. Unable to help on this, he was asked if he would like a riding companion for the trip. He welcomed the suggestion as he had never ridden on “the wrong side of the road”. The arrangement was that Rob would do all planning and yours truly would just follow.

During early April 07 the trip was being discussed with a neighbour, over a cup of coffee. Dave’s four year old grandson sadly suffers from cerebral palsy. He has to spend a great deal of time in the care of East Anglia’s Children’s Hospice (EACH) in Ipswich. The decision was made to make the ride to Norway something special, and, in so doing, raise some much needed funds for EACH, who provide all their essential services free of any charge. The Nord Kap (most northerly town in Europe) was suggested. After mentioning this to Rob, it was diluted to the Arctic Circle as there would not be enough time available to embark on such an epic journey. Even so, the Arctic Circle would be some challenge.

Rob did a grand job organising ferry tickets and route. Whilst waiting to embark, on the dockside in Newcastle, a crowd, pushing canoes on trolleys, arrived. They told us the snows had just started melting and they were off to enjoy the white water rapids. An uneventful 36 hour crossing brought the Princess of Skandanavia into a rainy Bergen. This was no surprise. Bergen has about 265 days of rain a year. Apparently, it is due to the configuration of mountains surrounding the town.

Off the ferry and, in a roundabout way, head north on the E16. Pitched tent for the first night near Lærdel, shortly after traveling through a 25km (+/-15 miles) long tunnel. Next day, we were assured the small road to Turtagrø would be open. It was the start of the hair pin bends. Up, up, and up the road climbed. Most of the way was first gear riding with the coolant temperature gauge also creeping up, up and up. There was soon snow by the side of the road. It got deeper and deeper. The narrow road remained clear and dry. Whilst negotiating a steep incline, the back wheel suddenly decided to overtake the front wheel. Instinct took over. The bike was laid down to slide along the ice and imbed itself as far as the headlamp in the snow wall by the side of the road. Everything worked at it should. The fall protector did its job, the tilt cut out switch stopped the engine and the jacket padding prevented bruising, or worse. Robin stopped, got off and started sliding down the slope. He had no option but to ground his bike. It too adopted a horizontal position on the ground. Two bikes and one rider on the ground were far from encouraging.

Whilst struggling to get ship-shape again, a group of German riders appeared at the top of the hill, on foot. They shuffled down to us and were a great help in lifting the bikes and helping turn them around. They had come up “from the other side” and mentioned there was only about 50m of ice. They decided to return the way they came. A little later a car came up the hill. “. . . just wait a while and I’ll get the snow plough to clear the road for you . . .” the driver said. Off he went, up the hill and around the bend.

The luggage was reloaded and after drinking some water (see picture), and generally getting organised, the sun was much higher in the blue sky. It had melted a track where the car wheels go. The bikes were tight-roped in the ice free left car wheel track around the bend to the top. There, surprise, surprise, was a clear dry road and a toll booth with a motor cycle leaning against it. Paid the monies and off down the mountain to meet the snow plough guy coming up ejecting snow from the road edge well into the drift.

Eventually the E6 was picked up for the long trek north. Camp sites are plentiful in Norway – until one is needed. After 324 miles a site was found, north of Trondheim, next to a fjord, the main road and a railway line, all squeezed in the narrow valley between the mountains.

Next day was through some barren, isolated, scenic country for a further 329 miles to the Arctic Circle. The temperature was over 20 degrees C and snow was all around.

After taking the obligatory photographs, the return journey south was started. Half an hour or so later a camp site providing “huts” was stopped at. A “hut”, is a must in Norway. Every camp site offers “huts”. It was a four berth wooden “hut” with two bunk beds, an electric cooking plate and electric heating. It was next to a raging stream of bubbling melted snow water rushing down from the mountains into the fjord.

North of Trondheim, one does not have much of a choice of routes. It is basically one road up and the same road down. Once south of Trondheim, a site was found for the night alongside a popular salmon fishing river.

Next day, a westerly route, into the mountains and fjords was taken. Whilst alongside a vehicle crawling up hill behind a tractor, the driver swerved left to pass the tractor. The first known of a collision was the right hand mirror cowling disintegrating. Eventually the vehicle was stopped. The driver was amazed to learn she had hit the bike. A small tell tale maroon indent in her vehicle’s paneling gave the game away. Fortunately, the weight of the loaded bike, and rider, withstood the glancing blow. It was possible to stay on two wheels. After she called her son to the scene, and some discussion, she was persuaded to hand over 400Kr to pay for a replacement mirror cowling. Her son was followed home where he kindly carried out a temporary repair.

The Trolstigen pass is worth a detour. Twelve first gear hair pin bends. Right hair pins are a nightmare. One has to approach them on the wrong side of the road, tackle the bend on the wrong side of the road and finish the manoeuvre on the wrong side of the road. This avoids the non-negotiable steep rise and acute angle at the apex of the curve. Fortunately, descending traffic always gives way. The Trolstigen is littered with many waterfalls created by the melting snow.

Slowly working generally south, often in clouds along dry roads with snow “walls” either side, some 3 – 4m high, and ferries over fjords, we kept coming across a Thompson’s cruise ship tied up in small towns along the fjords. There was a busy stream of people, like worker ants, scurrying between the boat and the souvenir shop. The more adventurous amongst them went a little further to take video pictures of the wonderful scenery. When they come to look at their pictures, they will probably be surprised to see two hinged-at-elbow-regal-waving motorcyclists passing through the picture.

The weather for the whole trip was good. Only Thursday gave rain. This was, the first of two days spent in Voss. A ride to the popular tourist town of Flåm was made on Thursday. Moose burger was enjoyed for lunch.

Before the Saturday evening ferry departure from Bergen, the day was spent enjoying the picturesque town. The bikes were parked up for a stroll around the attractive wooden buildings, bustling centre, the market, all of which have a unique attraction. There were bands playing, people acting and loads of tourists. An appropriately clad smiling individual on a fish-selling stall insisted a sample of whale meat be tried. It was not disappointing

With a population of around only 4.7m, one could be forgiven for thinking all Norwegians speak perfect English. Norway is costly. Norwegians enjoy a high standard of living. It is based largely on the discovery of large offshore oil and gas deposits in the late 60s. The country is sparsely populated – only about 14 people/sq km. The UK is probably the largest importer of Norwegian exports, taking over 25%. Tourism is a big industry in Norway. Interestingly, one felt secure in Norway. One never gave any thought to leaving the loaded bike, and the erected tent, completely unattended. It was often done, without any hesitation.

The further north one travels in Norway, the lighter it is at night. It never got completely dark. Eye shields, ear plugs, warm woolly hat and sleeping bag liner now belong to the standard camping gear.

The crossing back to Newcastle was uneventful – until about two hours before docking. All DFDS guests were thrown out of their cabins. They were sitting around on stairways, the floor, and their luggage, generally littering the ship’s communal areas. It probably resembled the Sangatte camp near Calais. There was much discontent on board. On the brighter side, a few passengers reacted favourably to the EACH T-shirt which being worn and kindly contributed to the cause. Thanks to them.

For Robin’s first overseas trip on his bike, he did exceptionally well – particularly on encounters with the many challenging hazardous hairpin bends.

All in all, a very enjoyable, but mentally tiring, week away after a round trip of just under 3000 miles. Thanks to all who have so far helped reach the present wonderful total in excess £900.00 for EACH. It would be a great achievement to bring the final sum to four figures.

Jim Truscott (C19)
PS
For those with internet access, you too can experience a ride on the Trolstigen pass at www.youtube.com/watch?v=IvyoJhcfaDw

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