Living the dream
I did not have a camera back then, I am afraid. So no pictures from that tour. But click on the button below to open up Google Maps.
Enter "Oslo" in the search field & Google Earth for xtra pictures
I have always wanted to cycle from my home near Drammen to Sogndal where my grandparents live (until they died some months ago). It was always on the top of my wish-list of cycling-tours. I was training hard for it back in 1986, but my parents thought I was too young and inexperienced. They were right. I am glad I did not do this tour back in 1986.
After some other long tours between 1988 and 1993, the possibility presented itself again in 1994. It was a part of a longer tour around Norway. That was the intention, but a cycle crash one week after I completed Drammen-Sogndal ended the tour. More about that in another tour report. I had got a lot of routine and a lot of new equipment. The new equipment included a proper cycling short and cycling shirt which greatly helped me during this tour. A good cycling short cannot be underestimated when you are spending 12-16 hours on the bike. A cycling computer was also an important part of the great experience this tour became. I was also on the top of my game on this tour. I have probably never ever been better prepared, mentally and physically, for a long tour. Everything fell into place on this tour. Even the weather.
The first 175 km of this tour was the same as the Bergen tour back in 1991 (see http://www.toroddfuglesteg.com/bergen.html ). Back then, I started around 1000 in the morning and paid a heavy price for that. This time, I bid my parents farewell at 0600 in the morning with the aim to be at the big lake of Krøderen at midday, the hottest time of the day. A very wise strategy, indeed. The tempo up the Lier valley and over a small hill towards the Tyrifjorden lake was pretty high. I soon discovered that I was at my peak and the day would be a very nice day. It was a sunny day, but not too hot. Perfect conditions, in other words. I was keeping a close eye on the speed on my brand new cycle computer. I did not want to go over 30 km an hour as average speed in fear of running out of steam at the end of the day. I had no problems on the small hills I normally had problems with on my training runs on that road. I felt great.
I covered the 60 km over to Vikersund (called Modum on the map) at the end of the Tyrifjorden lake in less than three hours. That was a new personal record and I still had 120 km left of the day, according to my plans.
The hills from Vikersund towards the farm-fields and forests towards the great lake Krøderen was OK and gave me no problems at all. I kept an eye on the computer and I drank water from my water bottles on regular intervals. Another great success which I have repeated on all my subsequent tours. I soon reached this great lake at the village of Krøderen after a short and sharp descent. The cycling was pretty flat along the lake from this village and the next 100 km. I managed to wake up a sleeping badger on my way out of the village. I guess the badger was not pleased (sorry !). It was almost midday and my early start had paid off big time. I continued past the village of Noresund and up and incline to a hardly noticeable, but a kilometre long descent along this long, big lake. I continued up to the northern end of this lake where I took a half an hour rest with a small bath in the lake and by filling up my water bottles from a fresh stream. This time, there was no shortage of water. I was feeling very fine and fresh. I soon arrived at the end of Krøderen, this lake who had caused me so much trouble three years earlier on my way to Bergen. The contrast could not had been bigger ! I was now flying while I back in 1991 was crawling. I started on the 60 km long Hallingdalen valley. This valley is divided into three equally long parts. Before the canyon, the canyon and the part after the canyon. There was some hills just in the beginning of the valley. But I was steadily climbing them and I got a small descent down to the valley floor and the river again at Flå. The road was very flat, with some small undulations keeping me awake. I knew this road as the back of my hand from 50 x tours by car up this valley.
I soon reached the canyon and the pretty flat road up there. The traffic was not too bad and I made steady progress up the canyon. The nature was pretty spectacular though. I rather do this valley by bike than car. I was now trying to keep an average speed of 27 km an hour. Just after the canyon, I got some bad headwind. In particular at the open fields just before and through the Nesbyen village. I also encountered some bad tarmac on the road. I was struggling. But this was only a minor blip. I continued up the flat valley to Gol at the beginning of the Hemsedalen climb.
I was very pleased with myself and I felt like I could cycle through the night to Sogndal. The climb up towards Hemsedal soon put an end to that delusion. The first five km of the climb from Gol is steep and very brutal. The hot evening sun did not help my cause at all. But I still felt fine when I reached the top of the climb at Robru, five km further up and ten km from Gol. Some small climbs took me up to a water reservoir where I stopped for five minutes when contemplating the night on the bike for a quick dash over the mountain to Sogndal. I felt that fine. Those thoughts was dashed two minutes later when I started to cycle again. I had no strengths left in my body. It was just a matter of cycle the final 10 km to my intended overnight stay at a campsite at Ulsaak just before the Hemsedal village. I was so tired that I cannot remember putting up my tent and falling asleep in my sleeping bag. This was indeed one of my finest hours and I was totally exhausted. I slept very well that night.
I woke up early that morning and I felt a bit sore after beating my longest distance in a day record the day before. But I was still surprisingly OK when I took down my tent for what I thought was going to be one of the hardest days on the bike in my life. It turned out to be a hard, but still a lovely day. It was not as hard as I thought when I planned this tour. We will come to that later.
The weather was perfect that day. Not too cold for the mountain and not too hot. Perfect !
I left the camp-site and started to cycle the seven kilometres up to the Hemsedal village. I stocked up with some bananas here before I started on the climb up to the Hemsedal Mountain at 1150 meters above sea level. The climb started just outside the village. I had estimated five hours on these 35 kilometres to the top of the mountain. The first part of the climb was very gentle past the Tuv villae and I kept a good pace in the third and the second gear and an average speed of 15 kilometres an hour. There was a steep hill through a canyon after 10 kilometres. But that hill only lasted for a couple of kilometres before the road became pretty flat up a valley to a new short canyon which was leading up to a small lake. The trees was thinning out and I was entering the bare mountain. I still kept up a high tempo and I was very surprised how flat this climb was. This part of the road seems more steep in a car than on a bike. Nice !
The road rose a bit steeper from this lake until it then settled down to a flattish part. I ate a couple of bananas at the end of this flattish part and filled my water bottles with clean, crisp water from a small river. The road now went into a steep hill for the final five kilometres past the Bjoberg hill-farm and up to the top of the Hemsedal Mountain at 1150 meters above sea level. I reached that mountain two and a half hours after leaving Hemsedal village. This climb was superb, funny and much easier than I had expected. These two and a half hours is among my best ever memories of cycling in Norway and I cannot recommend it highly enough. The hardest part of the Hemsedalen Mountain is actually the five kilometres after Gol, which I did the night before. The main 600 meters high climb from Hemsedal village is probably the easiest mountain climb in Norway.
It goes without saying that I was very pleased with myself. Even delirious with joy, it can be argued. But I still had well over 100 kilometres left on the bike that day, including a couple of nasty climbs. I took the road past a water reservoir at the top of this windswept mountain. The road started to descend at the end of this water reservoir towards a hotel. The road then descended pretty rapidly in some zig-zag turns down a valley towards the flat Lærdalsdalen at Borlaug. With a canyon to the left and a sure death if I crashed, I took it pretty easy down this road. I did not have a deathwish. I was also pretty hungry when arriving at the valley floor at Borlaug. I bypassed the shop there in the belief that there was another, bigger shop 10 kilometres down the road. I was wrong and I wonder where I got that stupid idea from. That was the only mistake I did on that tour, but it was only a minor mistake.
Anyway, I continued the pretty narrow and winding road down the flattish valley to Borgund and the famous Borgund Stavkirke. I have always hated this valley when sitting in the back of a car on the way to Sogndal. On a bike, both this road and the valley was highly entertaining. The cycling was somewhat technical with twists and accelerations out of these turns. This road has now been replaced with a more straight road and with good reasons. It is an excellent road for cycling.
There was a small climb after Borgund Stavkirke to the beginning of a very narrow canyon. This too has been replaced with long tunnels and has now become a cycle-path. Back then, this canyon was the main road between Oslo and Bergen; the two main cities in Norway. The cycling was funny down the canyon. But the heavy traffic made it a bit scary and I had to act like a traffic warden by telling (with hand signals) the cars behind me when to pass me. There was not enough road for both me and the cars. I was glad when I left the canyon behind me and got down to some good road with room enough for two lanes of cars and myself.
I finally found a shop at the end of this long canyon and I stopped for half an hour. I was now heading for the fjord at Lærdal. First, I had to cycle a very flattish 15 kilometres long road along the valley floor. I eventually reached Lærdal and went straight through the small town to the 20 kilometres long road along the Lærdalsfjord to the Revsnes ferry port. This road is thankfully now closed down and replaced with altogether 10 kilometres of long tunnels. The reason is that it was a very dangerous road with frequent stone-falls and avalanches from the 1500 meters high mountains above. I always hated this road with passion and I do not mourn it's closure. I was cycling pretty hard to reach a ferry. But some fatigue was creeping in and my lungs was burning quite badly. I reached the ferry pretty much without having to wait. I was glad to be on the ferry and leaving this dangerous road behind.
The 20 minutes long ferry took me over to Kaupanger and a two kilometres long and pretty steep climb up to a forest approx 150 meters above sea level. The road was flat for some hundred meters before it gently descended down to the small town of Sogndal. I was pretty happy to reach Sogndal, but I still had 20 kilometres and a 450 meters high hill-climb left. I took the now old road up the Sogndalsdalen valley. The climb was pretty unrelenting steep in the first five kilometres before it flattened out and then climbed gently to the top of the valley. It then descended down to the river again and to a lake. The road was OK and I was both very glad and tired now. Two long days on the bike and a far easier tour than I expected played it's part in me slowing down. But I sprinted a bit for the last kilometres to my destination and some days of rest. I was met with my now sadly deceased uncle and I got his recognition for this long tour. That meant a lot to me. For the record; I was there at 1800 in the evening after almost two full days of cycling.
This tour was a tour I always wanted to do since I first started cycling back in the 1970s. At least twice a year, my family did this six hours long tour in a cramped car (sorry !). I spent the hours daydreaming about doing the tour on a bike. So I lived the dream during these two days and the reality was as good as the dream. Hemsedalsfjellet was easier than I thought. The whole tour was easier than I thought. This despite of being pretty tired after an average of 180 kilometres a day on the bike and a total climb of almost 2000 meters.
The Lærdal to Kaupanger road (with ferry) I used back in 1994 has now closed and been replaced with either a bus journey or a ferry journey twice a day. The nicest part of the route from Borlaug to Lærdal has been made into cycle paths, free of any cars. Both my uncle and my grand parents has died too and I no longer have any connections to Sogndal. This tour can therefore never be repeated by me. But I have no wish to do it either. During those two magic days at the end of June 1994, I fully lived the dream. But I would still recommend this tour to anyone who may be interested.