Sunday, July 30, 2017

When good fortune comes your way

7th June - 4.30am, wake into daylight, near silence and solitude, silence other than the sound of the river, open window to the river, open window to the Cathedral, idyllic in every way other than replaying yesterday, the sense of knowing you're soon to leave somewhere special, Eysteinkyrkja the moment of leaving somewhere that already as a hold on you. Five more minutes of solitude and peace, that’s all you need before you kick start the day, five minutes, warm shower, move in silence, other residents, early morning, clothes change, back pack check, smaller back from the day before, around one third of the volume and weight, from here on in virtually free style, no surplus anything.

Trondheim, sun rays over breakfast
Breakfast by the river & route check
Tread quietly downstairs, into the dining room one & half hours before the normal start to the day, bread, cheese, salami, black coffee, bread, jam, more black coffee, taken outside, again in the solitude, of the early morning sun, tables arranged to face the day rising over the river, you count your good fortune. This is a place of tranquility and peace, overlooking the river, no sound from the city, the final hour before the world kicks in.   
Heavy back pack jettisoned to the cloak room until a return in a few days time, not sure exactly when, now more lightly packed, a unplanned purchase the evening before of a lighter back pack, now more lightly loaded than the days before. Leave the house through the garden, back gate to the track through the Cathedral grounds next to the river, right turn across the old bridge to the foot of an impossible 25% short ascent, aided by a slick mechanical lift for every day cyclists, but too early this morning, a heart wakening five minute climb to the ‘summit’ before crossing to the old fort and on to crest the ridge that scarfs the city, and then out into the open road once again, heading out north, always north. 

Before the world kicked in
Back out over the ridge that wraps itself around the city, legs burning heart racing, early morning sun warming the road again, head-wind again in all of its full force. Road out of the city clings to the right of the mighty Trondheimsfjorden and the more immediate Stjordalsfjorden, to the left of white, grey and orange wooden clad houses, red barns, seemingly the rule, white houses and red barns, all moulded into the landscape, without fences, without borders, without gates and without boundaries, the land seems to flow seamlessly through the way people live, without borders, land and roads without borders. 

The miles tick slowly by, passing through Hell, no way to find out why a town set so pleasantly set into the landscape commands such an incongruous title, the road sweeps around the coast to head north and inland roads heading north that will form the day, this is the last of the relative kindness of the cross-wind, from here on, the constant force of the head-wind, you withdrawn your sails and face into the wind.  

Rolling to further north to Levanger and onto the more industrial town of Steinkjer, the headwind seems stronger than ever, debilitating as much in the mind as on the body, you try to remind yourself of good fortune, you press on, no other options to consider. Stop at a service station on the fast descent into the edge of town, the road narrowing to a single fast lane, the gentleman that joins the table points to the side road through town, the old road is your only option, no cycling on the by-pass, the road through town provides a temporary respite from the wind, only to serve a steep climb back to the main road on the north side of town, back in the fast lane!

By now, feel pretty depleted, energy low, provisions low, arrive at a restaurant just before Vegset, premises that have seen better days but another welcome respite from the wind, a welcome array of food, steaming hot dishes, pointing to the two truck drivers in front the lady offers the same, possibly drawn to the added need of the cyclist, the plate is presented with a more generous offering, meat steaks, potatoes, cabbage, strong black coffee, taken at the table in the glass-framed annexe that hangs over the side of Snasvatnet lake.

Hit the road again, refuelled and refreshed, rolling through to Grong by now early-afternoon, into town for
another quick café stop. The ladies opposite are a delight, friendly, caring and truly bothered about my well-being, this is Norway, a social conscience in so many ways.

Open road north
Ronnaug Stjernen and her close friend are returning from Trondheim, two days in the city, they ask questions about my travels, about my family, they tell me about their travels, I learn a lot about Ronnaug and her family, they lived for many years in Northern Spain, in the mountains, she tells me tales of her husband sitting on the roof of the house with other villagers, singing laments to the setting sun. I am invited to call at her home the next day, the town of Bjerka just south of Mo i Rana the last main town before the ascent to the Arctic Circle. I take up the offer promising to visit, Ronnaug and her friend buy me coffee and rossinboller, before I leave Ronnaug confirms that she will call her brother Oyvind, an artisan silversmith near Dunderland, just south of the Arctic Circle, she says that I am to find his house and stay with his family on my way down, she draws directions on the map together with contact details, the beauty of carrying & using a map, something that unfolds to cover your whole journey and something that is easily shared with new found friends, something computer aided gadgets will never achieve, the social and communal benefit of the paper map. We say our goodbyes, until tomorrow, Ronnaug tells me to look for the house painted yellow, like sunflowers.

Hit the road again, slow grinding miles, slow rolling road, early evening before rolling into Tomasvatyn, a cabin on the side of the lake, a repeat of the first day, a small and rather deserted town, food at the café, shower, clothes change, bike check, clothes hung out, scribbled notes about the day, about meeting Ronnaug and her friend, notes about the head-wind, written in bold copy as if to emphasise the suffering! Then head straight to sleep, early evening, blue sky, but straight to sleep, the best & only form of full recovery. You count your good fortune and chance meeting with strangers, the kindest of all people.

Day 4 - 133 miles

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