Tuesday, July 28, 2009

2000km Cycling Trip Along the Norwegien Coastline

I have been an avid cyclist for quite some time now but have never gone on a long tour before let alone even a short one. When Kim and I recently did a five day trip in Fosen, it definitely got me hooked though and I knew then that I wanted to do more. While neither Kim or I have proper touring bikes, our old converted mountain bikes just keep going, are quite bomber and gave us not a hint of problems; just spin or hammer and you'll go.

We got a one way train ticket from Trondheim to Bodo and had 10 days together to explore the area; while our main goal was to check out the Lofoten Islands, we weren't sure where else we would go and also, how Kim would return home. The problem was that the train doesn't go further North than Bodo so we either had to return there, or take a flight from another destination. My intention was to continue riding the Kystriksveien (coastal route) from Bodo back down to Trondheim.

We took a ferry over to the Lofotens to a place called Moskenes and were immediately floored with just how amazing this place was shaping up to be.

For someone to claim that the Lofotens and, in particular, the Moskensoya and Flaskstadoya Islands are the most beautiful places on the entire planet, I don't think that I would argue with them. On a nice day, this rugged coastal terrain with steep, nearly vertical mountains pointing out of the ocean toward the sky is simply magical.

Kim and I made a last minute decision to bring two small Salomon backpacks in case a light backpacking trip was in order. It was a great decision as on the second day of our trip, we decided to head up to a cabin called 'Munkebu'.

We then decided that we might as well hike up to the highest peak in the Lofotens. It was completely spontaneous and so worth it as we were having steller weather and could just not pass up the opportunity. The hike did not disappoint.

The hike up and the respective summit was simply more than words could describe.

Kim and I at the summit

The midnight sun at Monkebu cabin!

After finishing the hike, we came back down to the sea and continued our bike journey northeastward toward Tromso. Kim ended up finding a cheap flight from there so that is where we would head, and that is where my journey southward would start.

Reine - The most beautiful coastal village you'll ever find.

Kayakers enjoying heaven on earth

The beaches here were tropical with white sand, deep blue-green water and even better vistas. The water, however, was not so warm!

Sculpture Landscape
Kim and I reached Tromso, where her plane would await and my journey would continue. As we ended up heading northward together, I now had over 1400km of road to travel to get home. I was feeling good and was ready to put in some long days in the saddle. I stopped at many places and have so many amazing memories and photos of Norway's gorgeous mid coast line. They claim that it is the most beautiful coastal route in the world... again, I would not argue.
Small farming villages in paradise

The hole all the way THROUGH Torgotten Mountain

The end of the road on Vikna Island.
I'm not really sure what my longest ride has ever been but I know for sure that I far surpassed it a couple days before making it home. 214km with a geared up mountain bike! Average speed was 22.4 km/hour. Estimated cumulative elevation gain for the day was around 7000m.

What amazes me most about all this is that I actually got stronger and felt better as the trip got longer. I started out doing 130km days then worked up to 214km, followed by a 189km day. The crazy thing is, I still felt like I could have continued on! I guess when you cycle that much, as long as you don't push over into the anaerobic threshold much or at all, you just become dialled in and can keep going until you fall over from a lack of sleep! That's how I felt anyway.

While I had steller weather most of the trip, I did get rained on especially over the last day which had me soaked from head to foot. My spirits remained relatively high though as I knew that home was just ahead where a hot shower, clean dry clothes and a nice bed awaited... ok, and Kim too!

I've learned a lot of things from this trip. One of which is that weather or not you are going for 5 days or 20 days, you don't need any more gear. Thus, we both kept it simple and light carrying everything in two Ortleib panniers with the tent and a pair of hikers bungied onto the rack. Without food, my setup was probably around 22-25 kilos (including the bike) which, as we later found out, was probably the lightest of any of the many many bike tourers we encountered. The full Ortleib setup seemed to be standard (front rack panniers, rear rack panniers, handlebar bag, tent and gear bungied to the rear rack and yes, even a backpack with stuff. I didn't see any kitchen sinks on the rack but it seemed like everyone tried to bring at least everything else. Not sure what you need with 50kg of stuff but if you want to be slow and bring it, be my guest.

This was truly an amazing experience that I will never ever forget. Norway is truly a world class cycle tourer's dream come true. During 21 days of cycling, I paid for two nights of accommodation; one at a mountain cabin, and one at a campground that had laundry facilities. You can camp anywhere as long as you're not close to private residences and if you're fine with cold water bathing in the ocean, rivers or lakes (warm), you can stay clean and comfortable.
Would I do it all over again if I could...
In a second!
To check out more amazing photos, click here (should be updated soon).

Baltic Sea Tour

As I write this, I just noticed that this is in fact my 100th blog posting. Never thought I'd get this far but I guess if you just keep putting one foot in front of the other, you eventually make it there!

I have been away on trips for virtually the past 5 weeks and this is going to continue next week as well since Shane and Sonja from Victoria are coming for a visit and Norway tour! Cannot wait!

As Kim had some fellow collegues and friends from Victoria over in Helsinki recently, we decided a spontaneous trip over to Finland which ended up being a whirlwind tour of four new Countries and their respective Capital Cities in five days! Our trip essentially went like this:

Fly into Riga, Latvia (cheap flights in and cheap to stay),
Take a bus up to Tallinn, Estonia
Take a ferry over to Helsinki, Finland,
Take a ferry over to Stockholm, Sweden,
Fly back to Trondheim, Norway

This was really a City tour which we have never really done before but we really wanted to experience some older Cities, all of which have lots of culture and time built into them. It is amazing at how short a distance you can travel in Europe and have a completely different cultural experience. In Canada, you can travel 5000km and everything is still pretty much the same in terms of language and overall culture. On this trip, we found ourselves on the second day in three different Countries and Cities, all with their own unique background and of course, different languages. Kim and I have learned a bit of Norwegian but trust me, this does not help you out at all when it comes to Finnish; it's a entirely different beast!
Helsinki, Finland

We had amazing weather over the entire time period with high 20 to low 30 degree temperatures. You just don't get shorts and sandels everyday over here in Trondheim although you don't normally either in Helsinki or Stockholm... we just completely lucked out. The whole trip was just a great journey and experience. We made the best of it as well be renting bikes in Helsinki and becoming a member in the City Bike program in Stockholm which was super fun (there are racks of bikes all over the City which you can take and return at your will).
City Bike Tour in Stockholm
The bikes really allowed us to see more of the City besides the downtown. And besides, who doesn't like to rip around on some cruisers!
Rock'n out the Singlespeeds in Helsinki

We did the whole trip with budget conscious in mind staying in hostels and trying to eat on the cheaper side. Even so, like Norway, the Scandinavian Countries are not cheap so if you decide to go, plan on getting your booze fix in Riga or Tallinn before heading up to Helsinki!

I would highly recommend anyone who is over visiting Europe to do a similar trip to this as the sights and travel between Cities was just superb.
We have sooooo many good photos from this trip that you can check out here.


Saturday, July 04, 2009

Back From The Baltic... To Loften Land

I've been away much more than home in the past couple weeks and am just heading out now for a 1000+ km bike tour in the Lofoten Islands here in the Norway. Last week, Kim and I did a Baltic Sea tour by flying to Riga, Latvia, taking the bus up to Tallinn, Estonia, taking the ferry over to Helsinki, Finland, another ferry over to Stockholm, Sweden, and then a short flight back to Trondheim. It was nothing short of an amazing trip and now we are in for another one. Will post up picks as soon as I get back. Promise :)