Cycling along fjords and lakes. Up the mountains and over the plateaus. A great challenge for a first cycling holiday abroad!
Yes, you read that right. We chose Norway for our first cycling holiday abroad. After six days in Limburg and some short trips, we are ready for a real cycling holiday. We hesitate for a long time about the destination. The Canal Route does attract us, if Corona doesn’t allow it, it will be Brittany or maybe the Velodysee. But we doubt we find that boring. We want the rugged nature around us! And there is plenty of it in Norway.
I immerse myself in the routes that are available in Norway. I watch some inspiring videos about the Rallarvegen and I am quickly sold. I want to cycle there! I search the internet and eventually come to a three quarter round.
We start west of Oslo, in Kongsberg. Follow the Numedal route to Geilo. From Geilo we drive west to Haugostol. That’s where the Rallarvegen starts. It ends in Flam (or you cycle on to Myrdal and then Voss). I’m figuring out how to get out of Flam, via a ferry to Gudvangen. Then we drive from Gudvangen to Voss, via the Hardangerfjord to Bergen. The North Sea Cycle Route heading south starts in Bergen. We want to end up in Stavanger. There we can take the train to Kongsberg.
It is still a puzzle which ferries we should take along the many islands south of Bergen. There is little information. In particular, the last leg from Nedstrand to Stavanger is unclear. The North Sea Cycle Route is not finished there either. After a long search I come to the website of Kolumbus and it shows the ferries and times of, among other things, an express boat to Stavanger.
Campsites and supplies
I look for a number of campsites, which are about 50 to 70 km away. I don’t know if that’s realistic yet, but I like to have some idea where we can go. On the islands south of Bergen (The North Sea Cycle Route), the campsites are not so plentiful. This is a less touristy area. In an emergency we can always camp wild, because that is allowed in Norway. Although I doubt whether it is possible, since we will also drive a lot through populated areas.
As far as supplies are concerned, I have Lapland in mind and I am afraid that there will be few shops, but that soon turns out to be nonsense. Southern Norway is so densely populated, there is a supermarket in every town. So supply is not a problem
A detailed story about our adventures follows here.
We leave Roosendaal at about nine o’clock. In one day we drive by car to Frederikshaven, Denmark. There we take the night ferry to Oslo. The alternative would be to go by train, but that takes much more time. Due to Corona we like to go by car. If something changes, we can go back easier and faster.
We arrive in Frederikshaven around half past ten, the journey has taken us more time than we thought. There is a lot of roadwork in Hamburg, this leads to long traffic jams.
With a lovely sun we arrive in Oslo. Norway has strict requirements regarding vaccinations. It is still exciting at the check because my CoronaCheck app has not uploaded my second vaccination. Fortunately, we still manage to do that, waiting in line, and we are quickly inside.
We drive smoothly to Kongsberg. There we look for a suitable place to leave our car for two weeks. Finally, with permission, we park at the museum.
We prepare the bicycles for departure. At first it’s one big explosion of stuff, but we soon get there. We are looking for the Numedal route. First on cycle paths, but then we drive along the busy E40. That’s less nice! Occasionally we can cycle along the other side of the river. The route then follows quieter roads, but these ascend and descend much more. In any case, the ascent and descent is disappointing, it is really nowhere flat. And I still thought ‘the route goes along the river, so it will be not too bad’. It’s not easy….
At the end of the day we are at Holman Camping. We cycled about 60 km. At the picnic table we make a tasty salad. We only put up the tent after that, but by that time dark clouds have gathered.
A huge thunderstorm breaks out moments later! The tent is soon soaked and stands in one large pond on the field. When it gets a bit dryer we move the tent and hang clothes to dry in the kitchen. We forgot to buy shower tokens so unfortunately we can’t shower.
Fortunately, the next morning it is dry and we can have breakfast. Once we cycle, we go from downpour to downpour. We keep smiling! But meanwhile…. We take shelter in garages and have lunch in a container shed…..
We drive a lot along the E40, luckily most drivers take us into account. We even get a thumbs up from a couple of Dutch people! Still, cycling is tough today.
After 40 km we are done with it and we stop at Fjordglott camping, just before Rodberg. Not far enough, but the weather is really disastrous. Unfortunately, there are no facilities to dry anything at the campsite. There is a nice hot shower!
It continues to rain continuously. Everything is wet, even the inner tent is starting to leak a bit! Packing is not so easy. Our towels are wet, we shower and dry ourselves with paper towels!
We first drive to Rodberg. That’s only a few kilometers but with a big slope! In Rodberg we do some shopping and decide to book a hotel for tonight about 16 km before Geilo. But first a bike ride.
It’s pouring rain today. We drive and walk…. The path in Rodberg goes up steeply, we plod our way out of the village and look for the Numedal route again. Every now and then I’m close to the breakdown, but we push on! The Numedal route turns out to be a gravel road! Soon we have to take shelter again because it really raining cats and dogs. Then eat another snicker and continue in good spirits.
We drive through a beautiful area. We cycle in the nature reserve, part of the Hardangervidda, between Rodberg and Soere. Initially it rains continuously, but in the afternoon it becomes dry. Cycling is tough, but we also enjoy the beautiful surroundings. When we are back on the E40 we still have to cross a big mountain with slopes of more than 7%. We cycle about 60 km.
Fjellhotel Lia also appears to be a ‘little bit’ from the road, 700 meters further on and of course uphill. We are received very friendly, it is a nice and friendly hotel. We get a big room, where we can dry all our stuff. I’m really tired, but a hot shower and a buffet do wonders.
We greatly enjoy the extensive and tasty breakfast buffet. We haven’t recovered yet, soreness here and there. But the stuff is dry! Hurray! When we leave it is raining.
The road is busy and Geilo has a tough climb. We cycle (only) about 16 km to Geilo today. There we will stand behind a fence at the (abominable) campsite. It’s another rainy day. That afternoon we do some shopping and enjoy a nice hot drink at Kafe Mocca.
We eat under the shelter tarp at the campsite and enjoy a nice shower. Tomorrow is another day!
It’s dry and the sun is shining! Wonderful! At 9 o’clock we set off. We drive back to Geilo and then to Haugostol. The cycle path ends quickly and the road is quite tough again. This is taking longer than expected. And with that heat it’s different again. We change and are still warm! Joost’s chain comes off and later mine too. Fortunately, we quickly fixed that.
The environment is getting more and more beautiful! Lots of holiday cottages here, with beautiful views of the Hardangervidda and Hallingsverket National Parks.
Start of the Rallervegen
We are at Haugostol (25 km) at about half past one. Hurray, the start of the Rallarvegen! We have lunch and leave at 14:10. It’s beautiful! We stop every now and then and at about 5:30 we have a bite to eat. Everything hurts and I’m tired of climbing and descending.
At Finse, 7 km further, it is amazing. Beautiful lakes! But also threatening skies. Luckily we keep it dry. We cycle a few km past Finse (because you are not allowed to camp there), but then we find a flat spot, next to the route. There is also fresh water, so that’s handy. It’s cold. We set up the tent and have another cup of tea, but then we quickly roll into our sleeping bags. We cycled 56 km.
After a cold night, about 5 degrees but the perceived temperature is lower, everything feels damp. Despite the clear weather, there is also a kind of fog. We’re cold as we pack. When we have breakfast, the sun peeps over the mountain, which is nice.
The ride is then tough, especially to the highest point we climb a lot. The gravel road has a poor quality on this part with many loose boulders and potholes. But the environment is really beautiful! Beautiful rocks, lakes and ice fields. Truly arctic environment. It just gets rougher and more beautiful!
After the high mountains, there are rugged gorges with huge waterfalls! We’re going down. There are several areas with warnings.
Our fellow road users don’t care much about it. Groups of young men and women drive down at full speed, parents with trailers with children and dogs and older but fit sixties and many children anyway. Special!
The path goes precariously along the abyss at the gorges!
We have lunch at a beach and are scared because my derailleur is stuck in the spokes! Luckily Joost gets it loose…pfff
We continue to the junction with Myrdal.
The trains from Flam, full of tourists, arrive here. There is also a zipline for bicycles, luggage and people, which is widely used. Impressive.
Here we also see the 21 hairpin bends. But after everything we’ve done, they’re not that bad! We then drive another 17 km to Flam through a beautiful valley.
And suddenly there is asphalt again! That drives smoothly!
We camp at the full, but good, campsite in Flam. With nice sanitary facilities and a kitchen. We do the shopping and make pizza.
Cycled 53 km.
This morning we took the very luxurious ferry from Flam to Gudvangen. It is a beautiful boat, nice and quiet too. There are almost no tourists in the normally busy Flam.
There is a strong wind blowing and it is (unfortunately) cloudy. Beautiful skies and beautiful fjords! Nice to see the houses on the side, really small villages, small campsites.
At half past eleven we are in Gudvangen, where we have a nice lunch on a bench in the sun. We leave at 12 noon. We follow the E16, a busy road to Voss. After 10 km we arrive at Stalheimsklava. This is the steepest part, if we read the signs, it turns out to be the steepest road in all of Norway. I had already understood in preparation that we had to go through hairpin bends to avoid the tunnel.
Now the road appears to be closed and even forbidden! We think we can still get past the barrier, but have no idea how the road is higher up. Can we get by at all? The alternative doesn’t appeal to us at all! Then we have to go through two tunnels of 1.1 and 1.2 km. Anyway, we can’t go back.
Joost is going to take a look at the tunnels, to see if we can actually go through them. There are no signs. We decide to go through the tunnels. It is very intense because there is absolutely no place for cyclists! We all turn on our lights and hit the road. Cycling is not possible, because it is also steep. So we walk on the road and shoot the side when cars come. The side is rough gravel, stones, rubble. It’s hot in the tunnel. Sweat runs down my back. All in all a scary intention. There are many cars.
By the time we get out of tunnel 1, I’m already done. But then we need one more!
At half past two we are finally out. We have lunch and catch our breath. After that, the route goes fairly smoothly. Except the last 7 km. Then the route goes through a natural and rural area, with many short climbs!
We arrive late in Voss. The shops are now closed and the campsite is full! We book a much too expensive and ugly hotel. Then we eat expensive, but very tasty fries with hamburger! We cycled 56 km.
We enjoy a nice breakfast. We decided not to cycle along the Hardangerfjord, but to take the train to Bergen. Just build in some rest and we hope that the North Sea Cycle Route rides a little easier and doesn’t go too much along busy roads.
We take the train at half past ten and are in Bergen just over an hour later. Here we have booked a nice hotel where we can already store our stuff. Joost has a flat rear tire and we fix that first (in the basement of the hotel). In the afternoon we go into town.
Bergen is a lovely city with a nice atmosphere. Many beautiful buildings. We walk along Bryggen. The old houses along the harbor and delve a little into the history. On the quay we come across a storage that was used by several people to store grain, beer and fish and also served as a toilet. Each group of tenants had its own storage. The colorful houses belonged to merchants.
Bergen was already a Hanseatic city in the Middle Ages and traded in stockfish, among other things. The whole is UNESCO World Heritage. At the museum we see old photos of how people lived and worked in Bryggen around 1900. The neighborhood behind Bryggen is also worth a look. There are many white wooden houses here. It is not touristy and a nice place to wander around. We then also arrive at the medieval fortification of Bergenhus with the Hakonshallen.
There is plenty to see and do here! We end with an (expensive!) white beer at the Irish pub.
After breakfast the bikes are ready again and on the road. Feel like cycling! The North Sea Cycle Route starts in Bergen. It is the international North Sea route of almost 6000 km. The route mainly runs on quiet roads, cycle paths and gravel roads.
Many cycling paths in Bergen. Nice! The first part mainly descends, but we soon encounter some climbs again. Most are doable. Except just before Nordvik. We have a banana and toilet break at an English looking church and then there is a tedious and long climb to the top. I can’t make it and walk. Joost takes my bike and cycles it up, then he goes to get his own bike. Very nice!
At lunch in a small harbor a family tells that the largest Norwegian sailing ship the Statsrad Lehmkuhl is passing by. The Statsrad sails along the entire Norwegian coast with a TV crew on board. Every day they broadcast on national TV to promote the importance of the oceans. So we wait for a while until the ship has passed, before we get back on the bike….
At Haljem we take the (free!) ferry to the island of Stord. Stord is a beautiful island, it immediately treats us to some steep climbs! We are passed by Norwegian ladies who think we are crazy that we have no electrical support…. At Fitjar we suddenly see signs for a campsite. We didn’t expect that here. We find a nice spot! Cycled almost 60 km.
Wake up fresh and fruity. We enjoy the island of Stord for a while. Via three bridges we drive to the equally beautiful Bomlo. Little traffic and beautiful roads. We eat a delicious salad for lunch on the roadside (for lack of a picnic table).
About 11 km before the ferry we go wild camping. We find a good spot in Sagvagnetnatureservat. A lovely spot with unfortunately a lot of midges. That’s why we make a campfire. We enjoy the absolute tranquility. We cycled 57 km.
On the road early in the morning. Drive over beautiful Bomlo to the south. We miss the boat at Langevag… we just see it sailing away! As a result, an hour delay. We drink a cup of tea.
We doubt whether we will drive further than Haugesund so that the last stage (56 km) will be shorter tomorrow or whether we will stop at the campsite there. We check the ferry times from Nedstrand again. It turns out that the boat only leaves at 6.15 pm on Friday. We decide to cycle to Haugesund today and stay there.
Haraldshaugen camping is a nice camping site, with good facilities and friendly owners. We find a nice spot against the rocks. Lots of campers here. We enjoy a beautiful sunset and walk along the Haraldshaugen monument. King Harald I fought for the unification of Norway.
Today the last 55 km, of about 600 km. We left early. It’s a tough stage and we don’t want to miss the ferry.
After a banana break at the local football club, lunch by the fjord at Sandvikcamping. A horribly ugly campsite with again only mobile homes.
Beautiful surroundings and there it is, the sign ‘Nedstrand’! It’s four o’clock and we’re here! Hurray!
We are not yet sure how to pay for these ferries. There is a short ferry to Foldoy and an express boat to Stavanger. It turns out that if you have paid, the system and therefore the skipper knows that you want to come along. In the end Joost manages to pay. We enjoy a well-deserved ice cream while waiting.
When the ferry arrives we are somewhat relieved. We sail and at the first stop we get off… we think we are in Foldoy. Oh dear! Soon I find out that we are in Hebnes and not in Foldoy. Panic! Because from Foldoy the express boat goes to Stavanger. Fortunately we can call and it is passed on that the expressboat also has to stop at Hebnes .. Pfff.
The ferry that comes to pick us up is indeed super fast. We will be in Stavanger in no time. Here we have a hostel, St Svithun, booked at the hospital. That takes some searching, but in the end a great place!
This hostel has a practical kitchen, so we have breakfast there. We load the bikes again and drive to the station. We are here in plenty of time.
The bicycles have to be put in a separate wagon and all bags have to be removed, so that is a bit of a hassle. In 20 stops and 6 1/2 hours we drive to Kongsberg through beautiful scenery.
Arrived at Kongsberg, it feels crazy after our cycling adventure. How do we proceed with the car now? We would like to enjoy the south of Norway even more. We decide to take a short road trip. We first drive to a campsite in Dalen and then towards Odda. We book a cottage near Geilo so that we can also cross the Hardangervidda.
Woke up this morning with a warm sun. Yummy! Did the laundry and had breakfast. As a result, leave late. We drive to Odda and enjoy the beautiful scenery along the way. We will hike at Buarbreen to a side arm of the glaciers of NP Folgefonna.
A nice and varied hike but tough. A lot of climbing. And climb about 400 meters. Still, it’s a nice hike! When we are half way back, Joost bruises his ankle. Very annoying and painful! We stumble down and are not at the car until a quarter past seven.
Then we drive to our house. During the sunset we drive over the Hardangervidda. It’s beautiful!
We arrive at the house at a quarter past ten.
We have a nice breakfast in the sun. Later it closes and it starts to rain. Nice not to have to do anything. We rest. Insta, photos, games. Heat up, snuggle!
We decide to go to Denmark, where the weather forecast is better. We rebook our flexible ferry ticket from Larvik to Hirsthals and drive to Larvik tomorrow.
Woke up with clouds around us. We drive to Larvik. Via the Numedal route. Crazy to see we’ve all cycled that. We are proud!
Along the way we do some shopping and try to get some presents. Luckily we got to the boat in time.
Was it naive to choose Norway as the first cycling holiday destination? Yes, it was a bit. We assumed that there would be flat areas and there are none. This made it very difficult to cycle there.
In addition, there are few separate bicycle paths, you cycle along busy roads almost all the time. That makes cycling less relaxing. As a result, you can enjoy too little of the beautiful landscape.
Yet we do not regret our adventure. Norway is beautiful and offers a lot of challenge. It’s good that we changed our plan and took the train for a while. That gave some relief.
The country has a very varied nature and that makes cycling interesting. The Rallervegen was definitely a highlight of our trip. Despite the difficult paths, you can really enjoy the rugged environment here. And it is very nice to camp here in the wild. It gave me the feeling I had during our trekking in Lapland. In addition, it is clear that the North Sea Cycle Route is easier and more pleasant to cycle than, for example, the Numedal Route.