Lofthus to Haugastol (via Eidfjord)
Haugastol to Flam (Rallarvegen north)
Flam to Haugastol (Rallarvegen south)
Meters climbed in the last 72 hours: over 3,000
A full day of sunshine! I departed Lofthus, and felt the warm sun on my back. Now that the clouds have temporarily departed I can see the top of the mountains. I got to Eidfjord in a few hours, and ran into a few other cyclists at the visitor center. One cyclist, probably a Spaniard, rudely demanded where I was from then responded by saying that he was from the best country. Obviously it is not that good if you are cycling in Norway. I admired the turquoise blue harbor while preparing for the step climb. From Eidfjord there is a 5,000 feet accent to the top of mountain. Most of the time there was a bike path, but at one point the path was completely washed out leaving no option other than to ride through a 15 km tunnel! Once inside the tunnel I had about 45 minutes of pure fear. It was almost completely dark inside except for the headlights of passing vehicles, and if it weren’t for my headlight it would be almost completely dark. I thought of my friend Jacob Thompson who once passed out while a train he was hopping passed through a tunnel. These thoughts did not bring me much hope as I continued through the darkness and carbon monoxide.
I made it to Haugastol (the official starting place of the Rallarvegen) by late evening. No food stores, no gas station, only an bike shop with hundreds of rental bikes prepped for the busy weekend. With 4 pieces of bread and some macaroni noodles I took the dirt road out of Haugastol and on to the Rallarvegen. 86 km of rocky dirt roads descending down 5,000 feet to a small fishing called Flam. Within the first 10 km I found a vacant hut and pitched my tent near a large lake.
I awoke to a cloudy sky and decided to go back to sleep, bad idea. When I awoke the second time it was pouring rain and a new hole in my tent started dripping water on to my warm dry sleeping bag. Shit! I quickly got everything together, and put all my soaked gear into my panniers. My first thought, due to the rain was to cycle half the Rallarvegen, and turn around at Finse. However after talking to some local diehard cyclists at the bike shop, I decided to ride all the way back down to sea level and see the beautiful city of Flam.
Although the climb back up is one of the steepest grades in Norway the ride down was breath-taking. I am very proud to say that the Rallarvegen has made it to my top 3 most beautiful places cycled. (The other two places are Dempster Hwy, Yukon and Hana, Maui). Glaciers, water falls, mountain sheep, goats, and jagged mountains. The road from Finse to Flam was mostly downhill, passing lakes and streams, and small villages. At about 20 km from Flam the road has a very step switch back section that descends 800 meters in 3 km!
I arrived in Flam just in time for the rain to start again. I cycled through the small village a found a nice flat spot to pitch my tent near the water. Although chemistry is not the most interdisciplinary science, I have used my later education from construction to keep the leak in my tent from becoming too troublesome, this technique I call the “tent plunger”. It is standard procedure when pulling a toilet to drain the bowl than shove a rag inside to keep the water from pouring out. The tent plunge follows the same principle, shoving all my clothes into the corners of my tent to keep the water out. I have used half a roll of guerrilla tape, and it still leaks, using the tent plunger not a drop.
Flam was full of tourists! Many wealthy Chinese, French and German leaving lots of extra food on their plates at meal time. I contemplated buying a train ticket (just to the top of the mtn) but the price including bicycle was over 350 kr (more than $50) for 20 km! I would ride the steepest hills if someone paid me $2.5 a km, so I rode back up. This was my second time climbing the mountain, in some areas the road was so steep and rocky that I had push. Up, up and up! The reception alone made the trip worth while, I must have posed for 3-4 pictures, as it is uncommon to ride the Rallarvegen in the other direction.
That night I camped near the glacier at the top of the mountain and shivered in the late evening wind. All night I could hear the sound of the bells from the grazing sheep.
I awoke to the warm sun, again! Shining through the tent, giving me the opportunity to dry out a few of my things. I cycled back into Haugastol and while writing this I met a very nice couple in the café. We talked for a few hours and they bought me pizza!! I am now heading back into Rallarvegen in the rain to check out an epic trail recommended by my new friends. I wish you all a good day!