Welsh C2C Cycle Tour

The inspiration for this ride was the Wales in a Day Sportive / Challenge ride. I modified the route a little to take in Builth Wells, which was the town Mrs W was working in when I first met her. This took the total distance up to 210 miles. For me it was not the distance which was the challenge, because I covered the route over 4 ½ days rather than one, it was the 4500 m of height gain. In summary, it was a fabulous route but I’ve no idea how anyone has the combination of speed and stamina to do it all in less than 24 hours.

Day 1 – Chepstow to Gospel Pass :: 43 miles

There did not seem to be an iconic start point for the route, and the most convenient place I could find to start was a Tesco Car Park!

IMG_0571.JPG

I delayed the start of the day until the heavy rain had passed and I had only drizzle to contend with, I thus started at 1100. By 1145 the drizzle had stopped and the sun became increasingly evident through the afternoon. The highlight of the day (as expected) was cycling along the Llanthony Valley, flanked by the Black Mountains, and then up Gospel Pass. Just before the big climb I took the opportunity to get a pint of knee oil from the slightly tired looking but very friendly and welcoming Half Moon Inn.  At this point I shared the climb with a retired group of cyclists who passed me each time I stopped for a breather and vice versa. Both in theory and in practice this was the toughest individual climb of the ride. The Sportive runs North to South, I was doing the route in reverse as this seemed to make a lot more sense after looking at the elevation profile. Furthermore that normally puts the wind at your back.

Welsh C2C height profile.gif

It was very satisfying to reach the top and once through the saddle the views were extremely rewarding. For me this was to be the end of my day because I had the pleasure of Mrs W and Junior as my support crew in our VW camper who joined me at the car park just below the top.   We’ve stayed in some great wild-camping spots in the past but this surpassed them all.

Day 2 – Gospel Pass to Builth Wells :: 41 miles

Day 2 covered the heart of Mid-Wales and was, despite never reaching great altitudes, the hardest day of the tour. The reward was the scenery and the weather. The day started with a two mile descent to the river Wye.

IMG_0593.JPG

The rolling hills of this area are beautiful and covered with quiet roads. Perfect cycling country in many ways but unrelenting ascent and decent. The highlight was the section from Painscastle to Hundred House which reminded me of the hill above Llanddewi i Cwn where my wife-to-be first taught me to ride a horse.  I had hoped to reach Llandrindod Wells by lunchtime, but just two miles out I found that my tank was empty and I simply could not pedal another revolution without stopping for food. I was peddling up yet another hill, saw that it was due to get steeper, saw a lovely view over my right shoulder and simply stopped to sit in a gateway by the road.

IMG_0596

Not a bad lunch spot

Lunch was the equivalent of getting £10 of fuel from an expensive petrol station, just enough to get you to somewhere you are happy to really fill up. I knew there was a great chippy in Llandod and headed there for a second lunch! Now with a full tank I discovered that Mrs W and Junior were enjoying some Fine Dining in the Tesco car park just 0.2 miles from my chippy, so a peddled to join them, say hello and help them eat their strawberries. In distance I was now ¾ of the way through my day (perhaps that’s why I ended up with an empty tank at lunch time?) and the rest of the ride was sadly unremarkable but did lead me to Builth Wells, a welcome pint of knee oil and dinner with some old friends.

IMG_0598

Welsh Black – in the home-town of the Royal Welsh Show

Day 3 – Llandrindod Wells to Bryn Penarth (Nr. Llanfair Caereinion) :: 37 miles

The forecast was for rain for most of the morning and my route looked fairly flat, so I opted to join the family at Mrs W’s old church in Llandod and then fit my shorter (37 mile) day into the afternoon. New Life Church had grown and moved to a new building. Ironically they had converted offices in a former Methodist church back into a church once again. After a quick lunch I set off along the A438 which was to be over half my route today. I was glad it was a Sunday and thus the traffic light. I’d like to say I planned it this way but…  Whilst this section was mostly scenically unspectacular I did enjoy being on shallow gradients and being able to enjoy to get my head down and cycle at a very good speed for the 26 miles to Newtown. I am getting on really well with my new handlebars (link to blog), the aptly titled Crazy Bars from Velo Orange. On the front ‘aero’ position you can be both comfortable and use the combined power of your legs and arms. Both comfortable and very satisfying. This has proved an excellent change which has worked out just as I had hoped. 20 miles out of Llandod there was a beautiful sweeping descent with a truly fabulous view of the low ground stretching to Newtown (on Severn) and the rolling hills beyond.

I can only describe Newtown as an ugly town in a beautiful area. It has suffered from a major expansion in the late 60’s, that low-point of domestic architecture. After a rest stop it was a steep climb out of the Severn Valley and less than an hour to that night’s campsite. We had this view to ourselves.

IMG_0600

Day 4 – Bryn Penarth to Bala :: 41 miles

A gentle morning, through attractively names places such as Llanfihangel brought me to Lake Vyrnwy. Built as a reservoir to serve the people of Liverpool the dam is a wonderful example of Victorian utility architecture. Not only does it serve it’s purpose but it does so with beauty. Today when we build such things the design is purely based on function and a two year payback. The Victorians took pride in what they built. It’s worth remembering that it is down to the positive attitude of the Victorians that we have sewer systems and railways that still serve us to today.

IMG_0602

I decided to supplement my lunch with a hot baguette from the café next to the dam. You never know how this will turn out. What I’d say is that next time I’d try the Old Barn Café around the corner. However I had a nice rest and hid from a shower before setting off along the lake. You don’t get to see much of the lake because of the trees on the shoreline, but the draw-off house is amazing.

IMG_0604

Five miles of level riding meant my legs were warm and ready for the climb out of the valley. It’s an odd road which combines steep sections with gentle gradients in between which enable you to recover. If you decide to pedal this route take heart, the climb gets much easier after the first half mile. The first two steep sections made me fear it would be a killer climb, but with this part behind me it was wholly reasonable and allowed me to enjoy the woods I was passing through, a stream next to the road and then the heather and views higher up. Having got to the top I can say it was a lovely climb overall. At the top you officially enter the Snowdonia National Park and are afforded with a glorious heather clad valley to enjoy. A pleasure for the eyes and a rest for the legs.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It was then pretty much downhill all the way into Bala. A very memorable day with the perfect balance of challenge, easier sections (to get the miles in) and views. I stumbled into Mrs W in Bala buying Welsh Cakes, which were promised once I’d completed the last three miles to our campsite. Quiet, level, tree lined and friendly, I’d highly recommend the Tyn Cornel campsite.

Day 5 – Bala to Caernarfon (51 miles)

What I expected to be the most difficult day, physically, turned out to be modest in comparison with Day 2. In short I would rate it as one of the top five days riding I’ve ever known in the UK, and top ten anywhere in Europe! Whilst I’d like to say that the cloud was ‘just kissing the top of the peaks’ as you’ll see below, it was more of a full on embrace!

IMG_0625

Whilst the climbs over three passes took me to good heights (around 500 m each time) the gradients were kind. The scenery is what I always dream of cycling though. Narrow roads in good condition bisecting a wild empty landscape. It was a breezy day which offered a tailwind for an hour, before a combination and it and my route found it in my face. I normally stop for a short break every 10 miles, but had to cover 15 miles before I found anywhere which constituted shelter. A small copse of trees next to the road. A small amount more climbing took me to the hills above Penmancho and then sweeping down into Cwm Penmacho and the village itself.

IMG_0626.jpg

With only myself for company I toyed with renaming it Pen-Macho – for you would have to be a real man to climb the route in reverse. Once again I was glad to have reviewed the elevation profile and ridden the route South to North. It was then only a short distance to the A5 and the Conwy Falls Café. Now this is a café I’d heartily recommend. For £8 I had a giant fish finger sandwich, salad, chips and a pot of Earl Grey. All this lounging in a sofa, the ideal cycling lunch stop.

The next section along the A5 had little to recommend it, but was an unavoidable and essential link to Capel Curig. Once well outside Betwys Coed the mountainscape came back into view. Turning off onto the A4086 was a blessing and took me down a gorgeous valley with the Glyders to my right and Pen-Y-Pass and Snowdon in front of me (the latter hiding its modesty in the cloud).

IMG_0633.JPG

It was an easy ride despite the headwind, and whilst rain threatened it never actually fell. Then came Pen-Y-Pass which was neither steep nor felt as high as I imagined and I was soon at the top and having fond memories of the times I’ve climbed Snowdon.

IMG_0638

Again I was greeted with a beautiful gulley descent, but with something of a mean headwind at the top. Having to peddle to may headway downhill never seems fair. I, however, didn’t mind, as I now had just 12 miles left to complete my Welsh C2C and from what I could see it was very nearly downhill all the way. As I lost altitude I also lost the wind and could enjoy sweeping down the river valley towards the coast. Upon my approach to Caernarfon the castle was clear to see and for a cyclist it was far better to navigate by eye that follow the signs which take you via a short section of elevated dual carriageway. Awaiting me in the car park was my support crew, enjoying tea and biscuits in the van.

I’d crossed Wales and achieved 4500 m of height gain with only one hill (end of Day 3) beating me. I simply cannot imagine how people could ride the whole route in 20 hours. I had underestimated my fitness (how often can you say that!) and think I could have done the route in three days. It is certainly a route I’d recommend and I certainly plan to go back and repeat day five at some point in the future, ideally when the cloud is restraining itself from embracing the mountain tops. I can see a long weekend in Snowdonia coming up in 2019 if my support crew are willing.

My/our day ended well, catching crabs with Junior off of the quay, followed by dinner in the only Italian restaurant* I’ve ever know to offer the option of gluten free pasta which was great news for me, less so for the clams in my sauce.

IMG_0651

*Villa Marina

Self-employed on two wheels

It has been a busy few months, with other activities taking president over blogging, and little cycling to report because of the ceaseless rain. One thing this gestation period has yielded is a subtle change to my employment. Now whilst I remain with my original (and very agreeable) employer I do so just three days a week (a long story, but one with a happy ending). The other two days I now work for myself as a Powder Science Consultant. And like moving to a new school is a great excuse for a new school bag, so is a new job. And what better that one that can move seamlessly from the office to the bike. (With credit to Rob at Darkerside).

DSC_0669

To Arncliffe & back – a micro adventure.

DSC_0309

Mrs W and Junior were planning to spend a few days with her parents, whilst I had to be at work. They were to be away for a good chunk of the weekend also, so what was I to do with my freedom from responsibility? How about a micro adventure? Cycling to the Dales, going at my pace and thriving on the hills rather than cycling around them (as I would if I had Junior in tow)? Living in East Lancashire is a blessing with so much beautiful countryside on our doorstep and yet more no great distance away. So a plan was hatched to take in my favourite road in the Forest of Bowland along with along the lesser known routes in and out of Littondale.

Day 1 – The day started heavily overcast, but the forecast promised that the cloud would lift and the sun make an appearance by late morning (and indeed it did). My route was as follows:

July Day 1 for Blog

First of all I took a new route over Grindleton Fell which I’d not ridden before, following NCN Route 90 from Holden. This route is further down the flank of the fell than the one I would normally take and proved to be a steadier gradient, to a lesser height but with views and as least as attractive as my usual route. New views are always a delight.

DSC_0309

By the time I reached Slaidburn the sun was firmly in evidence and yet the day was not to hot. Ideal cycling weather. Now it was time to climb to the head of the Hodder Valley and up to the Yorkshire border.   The ‘Trough of Bowland’ is the famous route through the Bowland Fells, my route being the only other North-South route in an area blessedly low in roads (I really must walk out into the middle of this wild space some time, but given it’s size and I think would be another micro-adventure in itself as a tent would be needed mid-way between access points.)

Arrival at the Yorkshire border yielded a glorious view of Pen-y-Ghent and Whernside.

DSC_0312My route then took me through very pleasant fields and woods to the New Inn at Clapham. Never one to turn down a special offer I tried a pint of their ‘special’ ale at a price even a true blooded Yorkshireman would have been happy with (more than could be said for their regular beers). This washed down my butties nicely and then it was time to make my way to the foot of my final climb of the day. Up Silverdale and along the flank of Pen-y-Ghent and Plover Hill themselves. My previous attempt at this route had been my first proper ride on the Metabike in traffic. Back then this climb had defeated me in two places where I had to get off and push. Would I be able to make it to the summit this time? Was I still ‘race fit’ after our tour of Norway in May? The answer was yes and yes – I was delighted to peddle all the way to the summit without any stretch really testing me to the limit. I must be stronger than two years ago, which when you are in your 40’s is a great boost to the self esteem. I rewarded myself with a rest break on the summit and the geek-treat of emailing a selfie to Mrs W.

DSC_0320Now I could swoop down into Halton Gill and then enjoy the longest strength of flat road I’d seen all day, taking me down the valley to Arncliffe. I was booked into The Falcon that night, not somewhere I’d even had a beer in before – but they had space available at the last minute and no single person supplement. (Now who sounds like a Yorkshireman?). Stepping into the pub was like stepping back in time, but also enabled me to encounter the warmest hospitality I think I’ve ever known in any overnight hostelry. The family who run the Falcon were warm, generous and helpful and even lent me a laptop to download the GPS route file for Day 2 which I’d prepared but forgotten to upload onto the Garmin. I had a backup on paper, but this would have been something of a hassle on a ‘bent. They are not built to hold maps and having a GPS strapped to the tiller is not only a great option, but really the only practical navigating option you have.

48 miles and 4243 feet of height gain got me the chance to sit back on a sofa, pint in one hand and novel in the other – bliss.

July Day 1 Elevation for BlogDay 2 – Breakfast was at 0830, by which time the overnight rain had cleared and whilst overcast the day looked promising – it looked like the forecast of the cloud lifting and clearing was a credible prediction. I’d treated myself to a pair of 25 litre panniers for weekends such as this, as with this volume you can carry enough for a weekend. Just the size that Frank Burns would approve of.  I draped these over the seat of the Metabike (panniers on a ‘bent are often hung just as they would be on a horse, rather than clamped to a rack.) and set off in the direction of Malham. I’d been warned by locals that the road was steep and “I’d never get up it on one of those sleeping bikes!” Well I think I would have proven them wrong had I not had to get off to let a car past on a section of 1 in 5. But once at the top of this I found no need to dismount again. The elevated sections of this road towards Malham tarn were gorgeous. It felt like a special achievement to be peddling up at this level as I remember the magnitude of the walk to get there from the other side.

tarnHowever as I peddled across I mused on the tiredness of my legs. I considered too if after another 35 miles I’d be OK to ride to the summit of Slack Top (925 feet) and thought better of this. Just then Mrs W texted that she would be home by 1400 and that was my mind made up. I’d head to the River Ribble and take a flat route back home. The river valley was a scenic contrast to the Fells as well as being an easier ride. I was home in 31 miles and in time for lunch. Achieving this distance by lunchtime seemed ‘none too shabby’ and I was then able to take Junior to the playground to enjoy his own micro adventure on the slide and the swings.

DSC_0281

Fjords Tour (SfSS) – 7th (final) day

Day 7: Nr. Nordfjordied to Nr. Maloy – 37 miles (plus 5 miles the following morning)

DAy7

Around five years ago I / we stopped going on holidays for a fortnight and went instead for week blocks but more often.  Days like today exemplify why we changed our approach.  After a week, even the most fabulous scenery starts to become routine and you lose the awe and wonder that a place really merits.  When carrying out our research it suggested that the ‘must see’ fjords of the region we were visiting were Sognefiord and Nordfjord.  The former was certainly fabulous as had been the expected gems we had seen since then when we had been further inland.  So I’m sorry but whilst Nordfjord was ‘pleasant’,  today it failed to impress until the very end of the day.

Light rain was falling as we set of from our campsite, but having stayed in a cabin at least we did not have a wet tent to put away.  Also, my front light had dried out enough to start working again.  Five years on the front of my bike in Lancashire was clearly peanuts to a week of standing out on wet nights in Western Norway.  We headed back into Nordfjordeid but took the E39 on the way back in as it was a quiet Saturday morning.  This did afford views of the lovely rapid filled river which was feeding from the fjord down into Hornindalsvatnet.  Once into the town the headwind became obvious and was our constant companion all morning.  Counting our blessings though, this was only second period when it was a case of ‘getting your head down’ (not that in fact you physically actually do this on a recumbent) and getting the miles behind you.  Mrs W benefited from travelling in my wake as we made our way up the Northern shore of the fjord.

Fortunately we found a bus shelter with a very pleasant view for our lunch spot and during lunch the rain decided to stop.  As I said before, never did we suffer a whole day of rain.  Here is our lunchtime view once the sun came out:

IMG_7007

The afternoon was dry but next highlight was the end of the day.  Our campsite was right down on the fjord side.  There was only one other tent on site so we had the freedom to pitch where we liked.  The site looked to have been hewn from rock and then topsoil added back to make flat pitches.  We found a semi-circular cleft in the rock with the fjord lapping at its base.  A nice sheltered place to cook…

IMG_7022

…and a fabulous view of the fjord and passing cargo ships.

IMG_7029

The day may have been mediocre, but the evening made up for this.  The sun came out and we reflected on a tour we had both really enjoyed.  Glorious and massive scenery yet a route (carefully planned I might add) that only saw two big steep climbs in all ca. 300 miles.

The following morning required a very early start as our return transport was on a Hurtigruten ferry back down the coast to Bergen.  There is only one boat a day, so one dare not miss it – the only snag was the 0545 departure time.  Thankfully everything went like clockwork in the morning and we arrived at the port in plenty of time to allow us to hunt around and find which mooring that was used by Hurtigruten.  In the end a single A4 timetable in an office window as the only clue.  Lucky for us that taxi drivers are always around and one pointed us in the right direction.  The best of Nordfjord was to be seen from the water, so we enjoyed that as we made our way out to a coastline dotted with islands.  In reality, once through the islands this was the end of the good views that the boat provided – apparently the speed ferry offers better views as it goes into many more fjord entrances to smaller jetties.  We looked at it this way – we could tie up the bikes without need to pack or wedge them in anywhere and we could look at the view from the warm and between chapters of our respective books.

IMG_7033

Epilogue:  Western Norway offers awesome countryside, massive scenery great campsites (and cabins), smooth roads and is inhabited by warm, generous and wonderful people.  It was a great place to tour by bike is certainly somewhere we’d like to visit again one day…

Fjords Tour (SfSS) – Day 6

Day 6 – Byrkjelo to near Nordfjordeid – 42 miles

Day 6 Route Map

Part 1 – From the start to the ferry

Day 6 - Route Map

Part 2 – From the ferry to the end of the day.

A dry start to the day and also a mostly downhill route along the E39 to the shore of Briemsvetnet which afforded glorious views of the 1000 metre peaks on the opposite shore.

IMG_6985

We enjoyed riding along the lake shore and then dropped still further into Sandane to buy food for lunch.  Then half of the height we lost had to be gained again as we followed a road high above Gloppenfjorden heading for our ferry crossing.  A few miles later we saw blocks of cars coming the other way, followed by periods of empty road – this tells you that you are getting close to a ferry port.  A sign saying 2 km to the Ferry coinciding with a glut of traffic, so we exchanged a few words and decided to up the pace and race to catch the ferry which had clearly just discharged its load.  A slight syncline helped and we raced down to and onto the ferry.  It was lunchtime but the crossing too short to enable us to dine on board.

IMG_6988As we landed some drizzle started and it felt pretty chilly.  We hoped that there would be a waiting room for foot passengers that we could use as a lunch shelter but, probably because it was only a very short crossing, there was none.  However there were some lovely clean toilets with underfloor heating!  The disabled toilet was big enough to get our bikes into, so we moved in to get out of the cold.  Being Norway, it was both warm and spotlessly clean – clean enough to eat your lunch out of you might say, so we did.

After lunch we started with a climb up the fjord wall to our last ‘long’ tunnel of the tour – which would take us from Innvikfjorden across to Nordfjord.  Even though it was raining as we were about to enter the tunnel, the view back across Innvikfjorden was something to behold.

Hundvikfjorden Pano 1c

After exiting the tunnel it was downhill all the way into Nordfjordeid, an attractive town but one without a campsite.  As we were raiding the supermarket the intensity of the rain upped a gear and our final 5 miles out to the campsite at Neajartun was easily the least pleasant part of the day.  We had picked up a weather forecast when in Byrkjelo that suggested that the following day was to have heavy rain from dawn to dust without respite.  We thus hired a cabin at Neajartun with the idea that if the forecast turned out to be accurate that we could sit the day out in comfort and simply watch the rain through the window rather than experience it first-hand.  Our plan had included a contingency day for just such an occurrence so we were relaxed about spending a day reading and playing cards.

IMG_7006

Fjords Tour (SfSS) – Day 5

Day 5 –Forde to Byrkjelo– 30 miles (rain shortened play!)

Day5

Some days on a cycle tour are about getting from A to B, with the ride from B to C what you are really looking forward to. This should have been one of those days but the afternoon turned out to be an unexpected delight. The day started out dry and remained so until our mid-morning break at Vassenden. Here we went into a Spar shop to get some fruit and were invited to sit down in the warm, have some complimentary coffee and use the loo if we needed it. All we bought was two apples and we go this service. This level of courtesy seemed common amongst all the people we met – what a great people the Norwegians are! At very least all those we met. On the way we saw a big waterfall just away from the main road so decided to go and take a look.

IMG_6957

Shortly after that it started to rain and the ride became a real slog. We were cycling along next to a large lake with no variation in view and on an almost straight road. It was a case of watching the miles click by and trying to go as fast as possible so as to get to the next stop as soon as possible It was lunchtime when we arrived in Skei and after a little hunt around we managed to find a café whose prices were only ‘very expensive’ and not ‘eye-watering’. It was warm and dry, something that could not be said for life outside. We stretched out lunch, then mooched around the supermarket buying dinner, hoping that by waiting it out that the rain would slow down. It did so we set off again.

We noticed that we were starting to have a revised perspective about the weather from this point onwards. Light rain was fine, if it was not heavy enough to sting your eyes on a descent then we considered ourselves to be just fine and got on with enjoying the view/ride. In fact because we were fortunate to have good Gore-Tex gear and the weather was a little cooler, being fully clad in waterproofs was in fact totally comfortable. Not too warm, and totally dry. When you look at it like that, what’s not to like? At this point I must give a plug for Vaude ‘short gaiters’, simple waterproof shoe covers that do just want you want, keep your shoes and feet bone dry. Affectionately known by us as our ‘booties’, we love them.

Then came the delight of the day and one of the most significant highlights of the whole tour. The valley formed by the river Våtedalselva, whose name translates as ‘Wet Valley’. It certainly lived up to it’s name but it was absolutely stunning none the less. For those who know Glen Coe it was very much like this but with the mountainsides stretching another 200 meters higher. For those not familiar it is a rare example of a v-shaped valley where the mountains climb steeply from the very valley floor, the base of which is totally flat. To add to this, Wet Valley was also 9 miles long (much longer than the impressive section of Glen Coe) and running gently downhill in the direction we were heading. Truly an extended pleasure. We placated ourselves with the truth that you can enjoy somewhere without photographing it, but for those who cannot read my memory, what you see below is an image taken by Tore Larson of the Wet Valley and after that a view showing the context looking back from the end of the valley / the start of day 6.

wet valley

Votedalen_from_Utvikfjellet

Campsite on night 5 - looking back towards Wet Valley

Campsite on night 5 – looking back towards Wet Valley

The campsite and warden in Byrkjelo were excellent and the little kitchen just the place to make toast to enjoy with the remainder of yesterdays smoked salmon.

Fjords Tour (SfSS) – Day 4

Day 4 –Ortnevik to Forde– 33 miles

day4

Packing up was quick and easy after a night in a cabin, and the ride to the Ferry was all downhill. The morning started dry, but seemed very windy. Just how much so became obvious when we reached the shore and saw the white horses out on the Fjord, showing it was blowing at force 6. Thankfully the ferry was a hydrofoil which not only meant it was fast but also meant a totally smooth crossing over to Nordeide on the North shore. We passed a hamlet on other shore which could only be reached by boat.  Fascinating.

IMG_6945

The rain started on the way over and was our companion until our mid morning shopping stop at Vadheim. Mrs W slipstreamed me all the way, which brings me to mention something odd. On a suitably laid back recumbent (even at my modest 33 degrees, rather than the radical 22 degrees of others, of which the Metabike is also capable) headwinds do not seem to make any noticeable difference. But still someone can ride behind me and benefit from my slipstream. Somehow this feels like getting ‘one up’ on nature with both of us winning.

IMG_7014

Vadheim saw us turn onto the busier E39 and start the climb up to Ykslandsvatnet. There were extensive roadworks on the way up, with the road due to be straightened and having a tunnel added, seemingly to allow some dual carriageway. The road alongside the lake was very attractive, those going through the new tunnel will have drawn the short straw. Lunchtime in Sande was chilly but dry. I have no photos of the climb, but the ride was on a easy gradient and graced with very pleasant countryside. We continued to climb to Langelandsvatnet, which is apparently a popular swimming lake the summer. You would have needed a hammer and chisel to break the ice to get in though! Now at ca. 650 m we were exactly on the snow line.

IMG_6947

Langelandsvatnet – A bit chilly for a dip.

The sun was now out and as we whizzed down the long and exhilarating downhill into Forde, our final destination for the day, the temperature started to climb again. Forde sat inside a bowl of hills, so it was clear how tomorrow ride would start.  It was a surprise to be in such a busy town with so much traffic. After failing to find signs to the campsite a little playing with the Garmin allowed us to navigate to the street on which the campsite was located. Once again we were the only tent on the site, so we could pitch where we liked. What I should point out now is that this was my birthday. Being in a large town meant access to a large supermarket – just a very short walk from the campsite which was handy. This meant the luxury of deciding what we wanted for dinner and buying the ingredients rather than seeing what was available and deciding what we could make from it.

Smoked salmon, cheese, broccoli, pasta and milk were obtained and over a starter of green olives dinner was prepared. This was my first time trying this truly one pan recipe and it worked out really well. In short the pasta was cooked in 1/3 milk, 2/3 water and then the liquor used as the basis of the sauce. Fine dining in the sunshine.

IMG_6954

Continue to Day 5

Fjords Tour (SfSS) – Day 2

Day 2 – Manger to Botn – 46 miles

Today was about covering ground to get us to the shore of Sognefjord, but proved a pleasant ride nonetheless. It was Sunday and the roads were really quiet – although another reason for this was that this was, Norway’s ‘Constitution Day’.

Route - part 1

Route – From Start to Ferry

IMG_6895

Route - part 2

Route – from Ferry to Sognefjord

There were many flags in evidence and groups of people in traditional dress taking part in celebrations in all the villages we passed through. By lunchtime we had reached the ferry port at Slovag. It was not warm so we enjoyed the heated waiting room for the short time before the ferry arrived. It was a 30 minute crossing, so an excellent time for lunch especially as it had just started to rain. From the main road out of Leirvag we caught occasional glimpses of Eidesfjorden and the mountains on the far side and then it was time to peel off onto a side road to take us up one of only two big climbs of the tour, to get us into the neighbouring ‘valley’ of Sognefjord. As we descended the other side of the rain started in earnest but we were soon in the reception building of Botnen campsite. The sun did emerge again later that evening and revealed a truly magnificent view across the fjord. A foretaste of what we were to enjoy the next day.

IMG_6897

Continue to Day 3

Searching for Slartibartfasts Signature – A seven day cycle tour of the Norwegian Fjords

Day 1  – Bergen to Nr. Manger – 35 miles

A long long time ago, in a sixth form college far far away a friend of mine introduced me the writing of Douglas Adams. Those familiar with the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (five book) trilogy will know of Slartibartfast. In the story he was part of the team that designed the Earth. Utter fantasy I know, but fun and part of some very thought provoking writing none-the-less. Since I read Slartibartfast’s description of his design for Norway I’ve wanted to go and see the Fjords. This has been a dream over 20 years in the making, in part due to the ultra high cost of almost everything in Norway – two years ago we started planning to make this possible and what better way to see a country but from a bike. To make it affordable we opted to camp along the way. In hindsight however, for anyone that follows after us, we might also have rented a cabin at any of the campsites we stayed at. These cost between £35-65 per night and for this you got four beds. Even for just a couple this would have been OK and provided cooking facilities – another big aid to the budget conscious by avoiding eye watering restaurant / café prices.

Route Day 1

Our tour started in Bergen, Noway’s second city and headed North along the coast. The city roads were busy but cycle routes plentiful and where they were absent the drivers the most courteous I known anywhere in the world. The morning was wet, something which turned out the true of all but two mornings of the tour – but we were both physically and mentally prepared for this. It was the West Coast after all. After we cleared the city we crossed a number of rivers and sounds.

IMG_6884 The rain stopped shortly after lunch and we were able to enjoy quiet roads through rolling countryside.

IMG_6894We peddled through bucolic countryside serenaded by the sounds of bells hanging from the necks of all the grazing sheep and ended our day in the Vagenes campsite five miles outside of the small town of Manger. Our plot overlooked an island studded sea and was very conducive to a good nights sleep….

IMG_6891Continue to Day 2…