|Towards the roof of Norway|
Shower, tea, dried crackers (thanks to the previous guests) bike check, clothes check, final pack hit the road, last look round at the mirror-still lake before slowly rolling down to the edge of town, no more than 250 metres, to the start of highway 51, heading directly north with the early morning sun strong enough to share its warmth, edging along a route edged in a green shadow on the map, to denote a route of naturally beautiful distinction, rolling out under that ceiling of a deep blue splendour, this was surely a grande departe of a grand tour, yet of its own, different kind of splendour.
Five miles of winding flat-to-rolling road, clearing the mind and loosening the legs, following the course of the river flowing down from Oyangen, at times widening into still lakes before disappearing to the west as the road continued north. Twenty miles of continuous climbing, the weight of the back pack seeming to pull down heavier with every mile that passed, further on into the blue, edging closer to breakfast in Beitostolen, a small winter resort that hugged either side of the road, beyond this just a beautifully abstract landscape.
You can check everything, you think you can check everything, all the main things, all the things you consider to be the big risks, you can ask advice, you can go prepared, but there are always things to catch you out, things you can't plan for, things you just don't consider, but should. As the road ascended into town the first supermarket appeared on the left, Co Op Prix opening at 9am, now ten minutes past, the second supermarket the same, the penny starts to drop, rolling 1km back down the road to a bakery-cafe, the only place in town seemingly open, to confirm that today is a Public Holiday, Monday 5th June, you can plan everything, but you can forget to check the calendar. Two large strong black coffees and 'rosinboller' Norwegian fruit buns, with cheese and yogurt, with four cheese and ham 'loaves' for the long road ahead, added weight but necessary.
The road continued to climb, into the strong headwinds, climbing continuously without respite, without any forgiveness other than the growing splendour of a vast mountain landscape to the west, the road arcing round for one last panoramic glimpse of the road travelled. You can check Garmin, you can read a map, you can understand a route profile, but sometimes the constant reality of the ascent, the headwinds, the invisible pull of the back pack can drain your resolve in a short time.
Cresting the pass, between two stone monoliths, a gateway that entrances Bygdin, a silver, mountain-top lake that seemed a vast ocean atop the widest most desolate yet beautiful territory. Descending fast into a vast open bowl through swirling crosswinds, bringing back memories of the 'Glass Elevator' descent into the Californian desert on RAAM, swirling crosswinds that seem to take hold of you, descending into the desert bringing confusing thoughts of approaching an ocean, tricked by the hazy green-tinged ripples of the desert, this time approaching the silver clear ocean in the mountains, how can an ocean exist in the mountains, your mind too tired to make sense of it, too focused to think through it. Headwinds can destroy your thoughts, the worst of all feelings on the road, yet crosswinds in the mountains seem worse, playing vicious games, unbalancing and unsettling you, casting uncertainty in the mind and challenging your self-control to remain balanced, you ride with your greatest resolve, and endurance.
|Crossing the roof of Norway|
Leaving the E6, a right turn to roll freely for 1km along road 29, passing under a white church standing guard over the road, overlooking another vast landscape. Left onto the gravel road to the reception of a large white building, fingers crossed, because there are no other options this late in the day, in this vast remote wilderness. Bike outside, back-pack now welded to a tired body, standing behind an American couple quizzing the elderly lady behind the reception table about the cost of accommodation and lack of restaurant facilities, they take their dilemma to the outside and a large four wheel drive.
"I am looking for a room for the night, just to sleep, I take to the road at 5am in the morning, so it's just to sleep" - the kind helpful, elderly lady offers an 'apartment' for 1200 Krona (£120)
"Just a room to sleep" I just need to sleep.
"Are you a Pilgrim"
Not sure about the question here, but there's a reason for it, there must be, can't think through a response so "yes, I may be"
"Where are you heading"
"Tomorrow, Trondheim, I am leaving early, 5am on the road north"
"Then you are a Pilgrim, you can take the Pilgrim's cabin, it's open, you can shower and rest, there is a restaurant 4km along the track through the woods over there, pointing to the vast expanse of landscape"
|'Aiden's' little green wrist band|
|Heading back from dinner|
Day 2 - 137 miles - one of the hardest & most magical days ever on a bike, when you have no idea of what the day really holds or where you will end up, but through the kindness of people and perseverance, good fortune finds its way to you....