Friday June 22 : Lillehammer – Shushøn (23 km – 920D+)
As expected, this ride was a real “calf biter”, although its distance was hardly 23 km. Two long climbs interrupted by a descent of a few kilometers. The second climb was by far the heaviest due to the strong north west headwind I had to cope with. Twice I even had to walk to push my “cykkel” uphill.
That was enough for my legs, so I decided I would spend the night at a campsite in Shushøn, a small ski village, and cover the remaining 50 km the next day.
On my arrival in Shushøn it was only about 5°C. Even according to Norwegian summer standards this was unusually cold. Strong north wind… I pitched my tent next to a hut which protected me from the wind. When I went to the toilet at 5 o’clock, it was only 2°C according to Accuweather. It didn’t feel that cold to me and inside my tent it really wasn’t cold at all. Nevertheless there was still a pack of frozen snow on the campsite.
Saturday June 23: Shushøn – Koppang through mountains and plateau (62 km – 820D+)
A very heavy but stunning ride up to the Norwegian tree line (+1100 meters). The first 5km I forgot to start the Strava app, so they were not registered. The ride started with a climb of 100D+ up to the mountain top above the village.
This was not easy as my legs weren’t warmed up yet. Once I reached the top, a gradual descent on a gravel road began with a few short, manageable climbs in between. At a wooden house I saw a number of sheep lying behind each other in a line of shade.
Even if the outside temperature is only 12°C, the sun is already too hot for Norwegian sheep. I wanted to take a picture and they seemed to like this very much, because they all came to me and started inspecting my bicycle and the Bubaque flags with great interest …
With my fully packed city bike I did not dare to go downhill too fast on the gravel road, possibly with some holes and stones sticking out, so I had to slow down and regularly use my rear brake. When I almost reached the valley, I noticed the brake lever was too tight. It would not take long before it would start rubbing against the rear wheel. Some tinkering at the screws to tighten or loosen the brake didn’t help, so I decided to continue my way more slowly and use the front brake a little more, which is not really a good idea when you’re going downhill. Fortunately, I had almost reached the lowest point.
At the barrier where cars had to pay 110 Norwegian crowns to enter the area, there were some houses and a counter occupied by a woman to whom I explained my problem and asked if she knew someone in the hamlet who could help me out. I didn’t want to get down that long slope to Imsroa with only my front brake functioning. Much too dangerous.
This friendly lady called her brother-in-law who lived one klilometer higher up. She said he was waiting for me. Big relief! But then instantly, another problem arose. As the road went steeply uphill directly after the barrier, I had to switch to the smallest gear, but then suddenly my bike’s chain came off! Fortunately, I quickly got it back on, with the expected pitch-black greasy fingers as a result.
After climbing for one kilometer, I met Frank, his wife and grandchildren who were waiting for me. He rapidly fixed the brake and showed me which screw had caused the problem, something very tiny at the front of the brake lever. After thanking them with a treat on chocolate and some pictures, I could continue my way, although my courage had slipped a bit when Frank told me I first had to cover another 10 km uphill, but after that it went downhill for 20 km. I did not expect the last climb I had seen on GoogleMaps track profile would be 10 km …
After quite some “suffering” I reached the top. On very steep parts where I really had to stand on my pedals to go forward, my rear wheel sometimes patinated on the gravel, and then of course I had to step off and push my bike up to a less steep part of the road. Exactly like the day before, the last kilometer was too much: a steady, rather steep climb with, in addition, a nasty headwind. I decided not to exhaust myself unnecessarily and just pushed my bicycle for the last part, while enjoying the desolate landscape. I really love this loneliness and vastness. The visibility was very good, in the distance I even saw some snow peaks.
When I reached the top and as I was about to post a Facebook selfie – in Norway you still have mobile data connection in the middle of nowhere! – I met Hege Woelner and her husband who drove by in a van. We had a nice conversation. Hege’s husband, who chose not to be named on social media, worked as a technician for Norway’s national cycling team and had recently cycled from Trondheim to Oslo in one go on a 7 kg racing bike. He inspected my “Recycling shop”-bike and established that it was a solid bike that would be able to handle the trip to the North Cape.
When he lifted my rear wheel with the two panniers, he was rather surprised when he realised which weight I was carrying. When they heard why I made this long trip to the North Cape, Hege suggested going live on Facebook with an interview. She has an interior design store and many followers on Facebook, so she expected to reach many people. Takk takk (thank you), I was ever so happy she wanted to do this.
After that, a very long descent started, going from +1100 to 280m above sea level, during which I only had to pedal about eight times. The second-longest descent in my life. When I did the Kardung La track in Ladakh (5600m, starting from Leh at 3400m), I dropped from 4400 to 3400m, also over a distance slightly over 20 km. The highest part of the track, from 5600m to 4400m, I covered being squeezed between 2 soldiers on the front seat of a truck. A shift of soldiers guarding the track (only one valley away from Pakistan) went down to their base at 4400 m. That was very convenient, because the highest part of the track was not asphalted and was very bumpy with lots of big boulders sticking out. I had left at 5 o’clock in the morning at dawn and only returned to Leh at 21:30. The longest and heaviest cycling day in my life … When I sometimes find this North Cape trip is difficult, I think back of the Kardung La track and it instantly makes me feel better again.
When I arrived down, I had the same problem as before with the rear brake, but at least I knew which screw I had to twist to solve the problem myself. Learning by traveling …
In Imsroa there wasn’t any camping site, although there was one on the map. Meaning I had to ride another 9 km via the A3, up to nearby Koppang. A fairly quiet national road next to a wide, slow-flowing river. The road was almost flat, which never occurred anymore since Germany! It was very beneficial for my legs to be able to cycle in a normal gear with a normal pedalling intensity!
Just before the campsite I met three ladies who invited me for a free concert in a large house nearby. However, this started at 7 pm, and it was already 6:30 pm, but as I was all sweaty, I could not make it to check in, pitch my tent and take a shower in less than half an hour. So I had to miss the concert. Pity.
Camping Trya was very nice: no extra charges for hot water or internet and a Norwegian daily price: 150 KR, about 16 €. Very spacious and well-kept bathroom.