Thursday, July 27, 2017

Catching the wind

6am, E6 north from Eysteinkyrkja
6th June – 4.45am, wake to a clear early morning sky, clear because it never seems to go dark, clear because there is no clear distinction between night fall and sun rise. The simple act of stepping outside, every sense seems instantly ignited by the wide angle beauty of the landscape to the south, and strangely awakened by the stillness of the morning air.

Shower, clothes change, bike check, light breakfast, bottle fill and then the difficult task of one last look round, to take it all in one last time, you convince yourself that you will be back but you know how these things tend to work out, one last glance back is probably the last, but you remain convinced that there will be a reason or opportunity to return in the future, such a wonderful place. Door closed, but not locked, the door to the Pilgrim’s cabin remains unlocked, always open, to the next traveller.

Roll down the gravel road to the 1km track that leads back up to the E6, eerily deserted of any movement or sound, solo again, one last final look round, the last.

The road ahead is eased by a tailwind and long gentle descent, twenty-five miles of what feels like freefall, you unfurl your imaginary sails to catch the wind, spin the pedals without the grinding, debilitating effort of yesterday’s headwind punished ascents. The road continues to unfold into wide open valleys, far off mountain horizons cloaked again by the richest blue sky, this is heaven in the form of cycling, the weight of the back-pack seems to be lifted by the ease of forward movement, you count your good fortune as it arrives and as it lasts.
Oppdal came sooner than expected, leaving the E6 into town, a recently modified section of by-pass, not open to cyclists or pedestrians, the old road into town, a modern service station for three strong black coffee’s and rosinboller & chocolate, surprising how service station food seems so much better when your need is greater, map check, bike check, back to the E6.

Fifty, sixty, seventy miles clicked by, the Garmin seeming to also move more effortlessly along gently rolling wide open roads, the odd long climb becoming a welcome interruption to the gentle road, a contrast to yesterday, with the idea of now riding directly north to Trondheim, instead of the original plan to loop out west, direct to Trondheim for the opportunity to reduce the weight of the back-pack for something smaller, and to complete what was now more familiarly understood to be the St Olav Pilgrim Route, Oslo to Trondheim, either walking across country for three weeks, or crossing by road in three days, you make your own roads without comparison, you make your own Pilgrimage. Facing into the challenge ahead, taking whatever support is offered along, the main thing is to just keep moving forward [movemeant !] in whatever way you can, just keep moving forward.     

Another service station, outskirts of Soknedal, bread, salami, apples, nuts, two strong black coffee’s, sitting outside at the bench-table, two young boys on the opposite side of the road lying in the grass verge taking photos of every oncoming passing truck, reciprocated by a blast on the horn from the truck driver, maybe a ritual of what has gone before, the two boys dance high-fives and return their appreciation, there seems a genuine and positive connection. 

You study the details of the road ahead, the peculiarities of the route, you understand the risk of the tunnels, the permissible and non-permissible tunnels, forty miles out of Trondheim the first two tunnels are passed, short in length at 300m, but enough to unsettle and unnerve you, knowing worse may lie ahead, doubt becomes the curse of the road. Five more miles before a secondary road appears, parallel to the E6, there is no decision to make, across the verge to follow whatever route arrives. I ask an elderly lady in front of her house if the road leads to Trondheim, she smiles and gestures kindly, I sense not knowing the question. Good fortune comes in so many ways, the road proves to be a cycle route, what was once, in parts, the old road to Trondheim, over thirty miles of protected road all the way Trondheim, if only other countries and other cities could recognise such simplicity in a fast moving world.
Rolling into the blue, towards Oppdal

Miles tick by with small uplifting moments coming from the 'road junctions' of progress marked out by the short underpasses as the cycle route weaves its way along the E6, the early-afternoon sun warming the remaining miles ever closer to the city, by now, shrouded by the sharp ridge of low lying mountains, one last effort it seems before reaching sea level for the first time.

Fifteen miles from the city the road rears up to a sharp gradient, the sting in the tail to what has been an otherwise long, gently rolling day, starting in remote landscapes, finishing in populated streets. Into the suburbs with many quick stops with passers-by to check, and double check, the route ever closer to the city the general response seems to always be ‘find your best way’ through the cycle paths. It works, past the station, through the hospital complex, the green spire of the Cathedral provides a compass-destination point, one final short stretch of city road before crossing over to ride into the Cathedral Square. Bathed in sunlight, packed with tourists, or residents, or Pilgrims, the entrance is magical, to arrive is also to begin, but the next day can wait, now is to fully appreciate a special moment, to follow the instruction from the kind elderly lady in Eysteinkyrkja, to check in with the people at the café outside the Cathedral, freedom 'ticket' of the Cathedral granted, a strong black coffee, two pastries and a seat in the sun, you take that moment for everything it brings, something magical in just soaking up the atmosphere, a thousand different personal circumstances from everyone in the square, I get asked by several people where I’ve ridden from, with the expectation being another part of the city, I explain the route, which seems lost or mis-understood in translation, I quite like this, Eysteinkyrkja remains the distant place that it is.

The door is opened to the House behind the Cathedral, the warmest of all welcome’s, the lady from Eysteinkyrkja calling ahead as promised to let them know of my arrival, a welcome warmed further by more coffee and more cake, and being asked to pin on a map where I’d come from in the UK, just East of London, and where I’d started in Norway, just north of Oslo, there was a genuine affection and caring in this house, the other guests as welcoming and seemingly as appreciative to be in such an idyllic place.

Shown to the room, soft bed, white sheets, open window to rear looking out to the Cathedral, open window to front looking out to the river, unpack, warm shower, change of clothes, map check, route check, head out into the evening sun, thinking about the experiences of the day, one single beautiful day, the things that provoke the things you value most, and that make you feel truly alive. 

9pm, if there’s a sun rise then there should be a sun fall, but the light remains through the night, this is far north, the day light continues, room lights out to an immediate sleep, losing yourself in an instant to the long day.
Day 3 - 110 miles.

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