Distance: 331.4 kilometres / 206 miles
Elevation: 2,761 metres / 9,058.4 feet
We now understand how Denmark can power itself with mostly wind energy – it’s so bloody windy there. Despite battling strong headwinds for the full six days we travelled through the country, it’s become a surprising contender for ‘Best Country So Far’. This is due to the incredible sunshine we had, fantastic cycling infrastructure and free camping - yes free camping! Okay, so when I say free camping, I just mean places where you can legally wild camp. Mostly, these are forests, but in some cases – as we found out – they’re bits of land farmer’s offer up for the cause.
If you read last week’s blog post, you’ll remember that we set ourselves a challenge to get through the whole of Denmark using only these free camp spots. Well thanks to this great website (open with Chrome to auto translate), we managed to do it. And yup, that also meant we went five days without a shower… Dan did brave a nudie forest shower using one of our ten litre water bags (I was under strict instructions not to take pictures), and we went for a wild swim in a lake – although I’m sure we smelt worse after that.
Over the five nights, our camp spots got better and better. The last two nights of the challenge, we ended up staying in free huts. We did turn up to one to find it was on a farmer’s field and closed, so we had to cycle another 12km – breaking our daily 80km target – to find another, which also happened to be on a farmer’s field!
We made it to Hirtshals, stocked up on beers, boarded the overnight ferry to Bergen, Norway – and finally took a shower. We were actually quite sad to leave Denmark, as everything had just worked, but we were keen to climb some mountains again. And we could see these beastly heights a mile off as the ferry coasted along the edge of Norway towards the port of Bergen; it was quite a sight.
In Bergen, we stay with our first Warm Showers host, Sasha and her flatmates Rik and Krishna. For those that haven’t heard of Warm Showers, it’s basically Couch Surfing for cyclists. People offer anything from just a shower to accommodation for multiple nights, for free. We did it in London for fellow cyclists. We had a lovely evening eating some delicious veggie food and chatting about life in the UK, Russia, The Netherlands and Columbia – their home countries. The next day, we began our journey towards Oslo. We only got 45km before we ran into a spot of bother...
Now I like to think we’ve done enough research on each country to at least know the basics. We clearly haven’t, as we would have known that the west coast of Norway is riddled with tunnels. Some are open to cyclists, some are not. They can be as long as 24km, super fast and have a mixture of inclines, no lights and tight lanes.
Initially our route seemed to be diverting around the tunnels, but then we were thrown into a 2.8km, downhill, super tight one. Needless to say, it was terrifying. Out the other side, we pulled in a lay-by to gather ourselves. A car pulled up behind us and the driver – who had been driving behind us in the tunnel – got out to offer us some advice. He said the E16, the road we were on, was nicknamed the Death Road and had some of the worse tunnels in the country. He urged us not to cycle through them. We sat at the side of the road, stuck between these dangerous tunnels trying to hatch a plan, while oil tankers and trucks whizzed by. The best idea we could come up with was to hitch hike to the next town, where the route left the E16.
We tried to flag a lift at the side of the road, to no avail. Then Dan went to try our luck in a little village up the hill, while I waited with the bikes. A lovely Swedish woman called Eda agreed the tunnels were too dangerous and kindly offered to take us to the next town. Not only that, she also invited us to camp in her garden – as it was 8pm by this point – and she even plated us up some Mexican food. We spent the evening playing bowls with her and her two children, Liam and Ella. Again, we were just blown away with kindness and generosity.
After our garden camp and breakfast, we strapped the Surlys to Eda’s car and she dropped us to a much safer place to start cycling. As we were driving through the tunnels, we were so glad that we weren’t on bikes! We've since found this website, which tells you which ones you can cycle through.
After a rocky start, we were back on track and made it to Voss in one piece, or as much in one piece as you can be after 920 metres of climbing. So now we’re just enjoying a day’s rest on a surprisingly cheap campsite – it was only £16.60 per night – before we climb 1,300 metres up Hardangerjokulen mountain tomorrow. We’ve also done some long-overdue laundry, and since there's a fire ban in Norway right now – due to the unusually hot weather – we've cooked a few days' worth of pasta and couscous for our (cold) evening meals. I have no idea how we'll get our coffee fix in the forest yet with a ban on stoves/fires...