South Dartmoor CTC

Page    



Sunday 25 May 2003
1015-1635
Day ride: Fingle Bridge (46 mi)Dry, turning sunny by afternoon
3 present: Tao Burgess, Michael Jones, Gavin Pearson
We took the fast route to Chudleigh and then the scenic Teign Valley road to Steps Bridge. Woodland tracks quickly brought us to a lunch spot by the river Teign from where Gavin had to return home by the same route in order to get back for a 3pm meeting.

The track continued through immense glades of bluebells that carpeted the whole woodland floor and then brought us quickly to a short section of tarmac. It wasn't long before we were back on the tracks again, following the river on the south bank for what seemed like miles of often rocky terrain - Tao really wished for his off-road tyres. Fingle Bridge was busy with tourists so we pressed on to the path that took us high up the side of the valley, where extensive woodlands could be seen for miles and Castle Drogo dominated the distant horizon. The twisty track descent over the next few miles was as much fun as it always was, but all good things have to end sometime.

Chagford offered hospitality in the form of the refurbished Old Forge Tea Rooms. The food was reasonable, but £2.25 for a very medium-sized hot chocolate was even more expensive than the Primrose at Lustleigh! The policy for all Dartmoor cafes seems to be to charge the highest price that the market will stand. The proprietor kept us entertained by watering his hanging baskets with a very small watering can, having to climb his steps three times for every pot!

With the sun coming out we sped home past Hound Tor with a tailwind that made us all feel on top of the world. Oliver, who had failed to get up in time for the start of the ride, came down to meet us to finalise our plans for the summer tour. Now it seems we are going to Norway on 4 July, so Michael had better get the bookings sorted out in double quick time.

Friday 30 May 2003
1900-2200
Evening ride: Avon Dam (13 mi)Hot and sunny
13 present: Louis Burgess, Tao Burgess, Will Burgess, Jake Chilcott, Ben Collins (II), Josh Ham, Dave Humphreys, Michael Jones, Sean Nicholson, Gavin Pearson, Giles Quinney, Daniel Smith II, Joe Venables
This was a perfect summer's evening, and several youngsters had come out with swimming gear in the hope of a ride to the Avon Dam. They were not disappointed! The long climb past Nurston was tough payment for our new riders, but the rewards came with a fun half hour dipping into the deep rocky pools of the River Avon and enjoying slippery green rock-slides. Some went in fully clothed, but tonight it was so warm that it really didn't matter.

With the threat of dusk pressing ever nearer we pushed on to the reservoir itself. Here we discovered an oasis of beauty bathed in a magical peace, a feint summer haze blurring the distant hills. It really was a perfect moment, and we all savoured it in our own individual ways. The final pleasures of this adventurous ride came after we had picked our way along the edge of the reservoir and climbed the final hill along the Abbot's Way. The downhill ride across the moor was action-packed in the fast-disappearing light, leaving happy memories to enrich our midnight dreams.

Sunday 1 June 2003
1015-1650
Day ride (Car-assisted): Morwellham Quay (34 mi)Sunny and warm
2 present: Tao Burgess, Michael Jones
Fortunately we didn't pay too much attention to the poor weather forecast and set out on a car-assisted journey to Morwellham Quay in West Devon. We left the car at the Coypool car park in Plympton and took the excellent Plym Valley cycleway towards Clearbrook. At the half way point we were surprised to see that tarmac had been laid for around a mile of the path - certainly very smooth, but it somehow seemed out of place in this peaceful wooded valley.

We explored many new country lanes through Denham Bridge and arrived at our destination at around 1.15. The Pasty Restaurant looked an inviting place for lunch, but the serving hatch was closed and two tourists told us that the proprietor had just gone. We nipped round the front and caught him trying to escape. Under interrogation he admitted that he was closing up and that he did know the time was 1.20. On further questioning about the logic of closing a pasty restaurant at lunchtime he argued that he had been open since 10am and hardly anybody had bothered to buy anything! We didn't see this as particularly surprising, so just asked him if he wanted to serve us. Grudgingly he returned to his shop and dig out a few pasties for us and another tourist who had happened along. He charged £2.25 for each pasty, and before we had chance to discover that they were 50% pastry, he was gone. We spent the next 20 minutes explaining to five separate groups of hungry tourists why the proprietor would soon be out of business.

We had seen several people wandering around dressed in period costume, but we hadn't been wondering whether they got paid for it for more than a few minutes when we noticed what looked like a little girl from Victorian England running past with a slightly ungainly gait. The pair of jeans visible through the rear of the skirt revealed that this was a little boy who had been enjoying the site's dressing up room. Needless to say, Tao couldn't be stopped from trying on everything, from bowler hats to a delightful dress and shawl number!

Eventually we decided that we'd better be heading for home. Because of the nature of the terrain we retraced most of our outward route to bring us, for the first time ever, riding down the Plym Valley cycleway. We really do recommend it!

Friday 6 June 2003
1900-2130
Evening ride: Hembury Woods (8 mi)Spells of light drizzle, turning to rain
8 present: Tao Burgess, Jake Chilcott, Josh Ham, Michael Jones, Jamie Mason, Gavin Pearson, Keir Purdie, Joe Venables
Keir, whose own bike was way too small for him, tried Michael's spare bike this week, but a few more swaps were required on the ride before he and Jamie found just the right bikes. Hembury Woods was an ideal destination in such uncertain weather conditions. After what seemed like miles of tracks through glades and woodland, and some riverside fun involving a rope swing, we finally emerged at Buckfast to find increasingly heavy rain for the final mile.

Sunday 8 June 2003
1015-1400
Day ride: Haytor (20 mi)Sunny with showers
4 present: Louis Burgess, Tao Burgess, Will Burgess, Michael Jones
Warm sunshine accompanied our ride from Bickington to Hayor as Louis and Will demonstrated that they possess every bit of their brother's cycling prowess. A very dark cloud gathered on the final climb to the rock, unleashing an unseasonal hailstorm just as we reached the summit. The refreshments van provided useful shelter from the bitter wind in addition to numerous cups of soup and hot chocolate, but when the sun returned we decided to return home so that the youngsters could defrost and learn the importance of bringing wet-weather clothing on future cycle rides!

Friday 13 June 2003
1900-2130
Evening ride: Chalk Ford (10 mi)Overcast & warm with some spots of rain
6 present: Jake Chilcott, Michael Jones, Jamie Mason, Gavin Pearson, Keir Purdie, Joe Venables
A hot and sunny day had given way to an overcast evening with the threat of thunder showers, but we were determined to visit a moorland river again. We climbed Wallaford Road as quickly as Keir's little legs would carry him (which was actually quicker than usual for him!), bringing us eventually to the track past Hayford Hall to Lud Gate. The subsequent descent across open moorland was interrupted only by the observation of a dead sheep, which seemed to fascinate the younger riders.

There was time for Joe and Keir to get their feet wet in the river, but a few heavy raindrops prompted us to head homewards without further delay. In fact it turned largely dry again, and our return past Hawson Court was augmented with the fabulous smells of damp grassland wafting over the hedgerows.

Sunday 15 June 2003
1015-1130
Day ride: Gidleigh BridgeHot & sunny
1 present: Michael Jones
With all the other fast riders otherwise occupied Michael (who hates solo riding) made the best he could of the superb weather with a short ride to Gidleigh Bridge. All Sunday rides will be half-day morning rides from next week, to encourage our many younger riders.

Friday 20 June 2003
1900-2145
Evening ride: Spitchwick (12 mi)Hot & sunny
10 present: Louis Burgess, Tao Burgess, Will Burgess, Daniel Houghton, Michael Jones, Phillip Oakley, Ben Parker, Gavin Pearson, Joe Venables, Sam W (Unknown) (12, Devon)
New rider Sam did well on the tough climb through Hembury Woods, so we were soon speeding around the grassy banks that divide New Bridge car park, eagerly awaiting our arrival at Spitchwick. Unfortunately, Daniel underestimated the final steep track descent through the woods and performed a spectacular somersault that left him with a few unpleasant bruises and cuts.

The river looked extremely tempting on this hot midsummer evening. More than half the group went in, although the numerous midges ensured that our stay was brief. While the swimmers were drying off, Louis managed to entangle the Aerobie ring on the highest branches of a nearby tree - fortunately he was an acrobatic little monkey and managed to retrieve the ring in no time.

Michael was certainly pushing the younger riders by taking the Buckland return route: carrots and sticks were required on the steep woodland climb to achieve acceptable performance. Once on the descent to Ashburton, however, there were plenty of happy sounds - except for the one made by Will as he accidentally steered himself into the nettles, and then the one made by Ben as he crashed into Will! All part of the fun I suppose!

Sunday 22 June 2003
1015-1345
Morning ride: Avon Dam (12 mi)Hot with thundery clouds gathering
3 present: Tao Burgess, Michael Jones, Ben Parker
There were just three of us out for the first of our new Sunday morning rides. The heat prompted us all to head for water, so Avon Dam became the assumed destination. A variation on our usual route took us via Harbourneford to Bloody Pool. It was on the final descent to Shipley Bridge that Tao tried to outdo Daniel's Friday Night Spectacular with a tumble of his own. He ended up with a nasty graze on his nether regions that kept him suitably smarting for at least an hour.

After a little watery fun on the Avon we sat on the grassy bank overlooking the reservoir for a few minutes, watching the thundery clouds gathering in the distance and trying to catch sight of the fish that must have been responsible for the various splashes that we heard from time to time. Moving on swiftly, we managed to get home before the afternoon's rain set in.

Friday 27 June 2003
1900-2145
Evening ride: Avonwick (12 mi)Warm & sunny
10 present: Louis Burgess, Tao Burgess, Will Burgess, Jake Chilcott, Daniel Houghton, Michael Jones, Oliver Lindley, Jamie Mason, Keir Purdie, Joe Venables
Another warm evening prompted us to set off in search of more water. The River Avon near the site of the old Avonwick station proved quite acceptable, although we didn't have as much time to enjoy it as we might have liked.

We thought the only noteworthy buildings in Diptford were the church and primary school - until we noticed a Post Office sign above one of the houses on the other side of the village. Keeping up a good pace we were soon climbing the hill from Rattery on our way to Pennywell Farm and home. Once again, all the younger riders performed excellently, except perhaps Keir who was much less energetic than usual.

Sunday 29 June 2003
1015-1315
Morning ride: Ipplepen (15 mi)Hot and sunny
2 present: Richard Gunter (Junior, Devon), Michael Jones
Our new rider Richard was much fitter than he had led us to believe. We sped through Staverton, and our mad dash to Fermoys cafe was only interrupted by two groups of somewhat frisky horses. Conversation was enhanced by the excellent drinks and the wonderful summer morning atmosphere in the Fermoy garden.

The all-different return route through Broadhempston prompted Richard to get his map out when he got home.

Friday 4 July 2003
0800-2300
Tour: South West Norway Day 1 Home to to Røyksund guest house (13 mi)Sunny with strong winds
4 present: Tao Burgess, Michael Jones, Oliver Lindley, Gavin Pearson
Gavin on the train from Exeter to Bristol
Tao arrives just in time at Exeter rail station (8:09)
Flight FR2254 from Stansted to Haugesund, Norway
Arriving at Stansted Airport (13:10)
Gavin has no intention of rushing his bike reassembly at Haugesund airport (18:32)
First views of Norway from the plane (Rott island) (17:05)
View from our B&B - darkness never falls properly in Norway during the summer (23:45)
Supper at our Røyksund B&B
Original DVD video footage from today's ride
Extended remastered video footage from today's ride (2017)
Approximate map of today's route
Tao waited patiently by his father's car outside his Kingsteignton home. It was Friday 4 July 2003, the first day of South Dartmoor's adventurous tour to a new area of Norway. Tao had to meet the other three members of the group at Exeter in time to catch the 0812 train to London. This year we were travelling by plane from Stansted, and Tao knew that he had to catch this train with the others if he was going to make the plane. His father appeared to be ready, but then he set off to walk the dog! Tao could not believe it. Time pressed on, and when his father returned they had barely 25 minutes to get to the station.

The ride to Exeter was high speed, and Tao kept turning over in his mind what he would do if he missed this train. Could he chase the train to Bristol and meet us there? The change at Bristol was only 10 minutes, so not much chance of that. Could he drive all the way to Stansted? London traffic would probably dash all hopes of that. After several nerve-tingling traffic jams he rushed onto the station platform just in time to see Oliver putting the finishing touches to a puncture repair and the train pulling in to the station. He'd never been in such a panic, and he spent the first hour of the train journey recovering! As for why Oliver was fixing a puncture at the station before he'd ridden anywhere at all, that remains a mystery.

All the trains were on time and we reached Liverpool Street station with enough time in hand to dismantle the bikes on the station concourse and pack them into the bike bags that we had brought with us. With a huge effort we dragged everything onto the Stansted Express for the final journey to the airport, arriving well over an hour before the scheduled departure time.

On our two previous tours to Norway we travelled by ferry from Newcastle, but with the advent of Ryanair we could now fly to Norway in just 2 hours for a ticket price that was a fraction of the ferry fare. Perhaps the government should tax flights to more accurately reflect the damage to the environment, but for this tour it made no sense to even consider the ferry. The necessity for bike bags was a distinct downside to the arrangement, but all in all the experience was highly enjoyable - and we got an extra two days in Norway as a result.

Michael was perhaps a little apprehensive about his first ever flight, but as the cloud in London gave way to bright sunshine over the North Sea he settled down to enjoy the ride along with the rest of the group. The mountains of Norway came into view remarkably quickly and it wasn't long before we were touching down on the relatively short runway at Haugesund - we all felt sure the plane would overshoot the end of the runway, but the brakes cut in just in time!

We reassembled our bikes outside the quiet airport in brilliant sunshine. Gavin, as usual, took ages and needed everyone else to lend a hand. We only had a few miles to cover to the self-catering flat we had booked for the night, and the first part of the journey involved following the North Sea cycle route that passed close to the airport. We quickly found the route and followed it northwards across the island of Karmøy, stopping at a local store to buy our first Norwegian food. Continuing onwards along the well-signed network of paths and rural roads we soon reached the 60m high bridge across the Karmsund sound at Norheim. We'd noticed the breeze when we arrived, but as we climbed the bridge it got so strong that we had to dismount our bikes and almost cling to the railing for safety! We were all relieved when we finally reached the shelter of the mainland.

A little more navigation took us through the village of Vormedal to Røyksund guest house, where our welcome was as warm as we could possibly have hoped. We each received a handshake from the kind lady and were shown to our ground floor apartment with amazing views across the Karmsund sound. This was the cheapest accommodation of the tour at around £9 per person, so we didn't complain about two of us sleeping on settees with no duvets. Nevertheless it was very private and comfortable. As we settled down for our first night in Norway we were startled by the effect of our northern latitude: there was no real night until well after midnight, and even then it was quite light compared with the UK.

It was so warm that we didn't really need duvets anyway!

Saturday 5 July 2003
0800-2300
Tour: South West Norway Day 2 Røyksund to Stavanger YH (49 mi)Hot & sunny
4 present: Tao Burgess, Michael Jones, Oliver Lindley, Gavin Pearson
View from our Guest House (9:21)
Our Guest House at Røyksund (9:23)
Ferkingstad harbour (12:53)
The Karmsund Bridge, Rossabø, leading to the island of Karmøy
A short ferry stop at Kvitsøy (14:40)
Lunch on the Mekjarvik ferry at Skudeneshavn (13:52)
A boat in the harbour near Vistehola, Randaberg
Starting out on the North Sea Cycle Route from Mekjarvik (15:30)
Stora Stokkavatnet, Stavanger
The Alexander Kielland memorial near Kvernavik
Beach Volleyball in the temporary stadium at Vaagen harbour, Stavanger (20:30)
A black headed gull on Mosvatnet, Stavanger, near the youth hostel
Mosvatnet, Stavanger, from near the youth hostel
Beach Volleyball at Vaagen harbour, Stavanger
Original DVD video footage from today's ride
Extended remastered video footage from today's ride (2017)
Approximate map of today's morning route
Approximate map of today's afternoon route
On Saturday morning we really knew we were in Norway. Sunshine flooded into our lounge as we ate a hearty breakfast against a backdrop of Norwegian children's television and tranquil sea views. We had to retrace our steps to the big bridge where the wind made the crossing just as treacherous. It was during the descent that Michael realised he had left his expensive grapes and Norwegian goats cheese in the fridge at the guest house. There was no way he was going back for it now, so he hoped the owner might find it in time to enjoy it.

We were following the North Sea cycle route southwards for the next few days guided by a 1:100 000 map book with English descriptions. Our 33 mile route across the long island of Karmøy was quiet, interesting and well-signed on the whole, taking us along interesting cycle paths and unspoilt scenery. There were only two suitable ferries from the southern tip of the island, leaving Skudeneshavn at either 1350 or 1820, and a good few miles to do at the other end of the ferry, so we had to make good speed in order to catch the lunchtime departure. This meant we had to bypass Kopervik, although we did detour briefly to visit Ferkingstad harbour. As it turned out we would have done better to spend the extra time at Skudeneshavn which was alive and bustling with a busy market and live Norwegian music in the square. We ended up with 20 seconds to take it all in before we had to scoot off to the ferry terminal, arriving with just a minute to spare. Was the whole of the tour going to be characterised by such fine timing?

The crossing to the mainland at Mekjarvik took an hour and 20 minutes, calling briefly at the island of Kvitsøy on the way. Tao has never been excited about ferries but he found this one pleasantly stable and enjoyable. From Mekjarvik the cycle route took us along rough tracks and paths along the coast. On the coastland near Kvernevik we investigated a huge sculpture of a chain link that was big enough to climb, a memorial to the oil platform Alexander Kielland which capsized in 1980 drowning 123 people.

As we entered Stavanger our route took us past enormous lakes complete with wild birds, making it hard to believe we were in one of Norway's large settlements. The youth hostel was situated near one of the lakes in a quiet woodland setting. We had a dormitory to ourselves, and after visiting the nearby shop and cooking a good meal we rode down to the quayside to see the finish of the World Beach Volleyball championship finals. The entire length of one side of the quay had been converted to accommodate a large stadium and numerous smaller beach volleyball courts complete with sand. There were cheer leaders in the main stadium and the whole area was bustling with life. It really was a fun atmosphere that we were loath to leave.

Today's ride included a total climb of 422m.

Sunday 6 July 2003Tour: South West Norway Day 3 Stavanger to Preikestolen YH (43 mi)Hot & sunny
4 present: Tao Burgess, Michael Jones, Oliver Lindley, Gavin Pearson
Stavanger youth hostel
Stavanger youth hostel
Leaving Stavanger at Mariero, on the North Sea Cycle Route
The fountain in Breiavatnet, near Stavanger cathedral
View from Roald Amundsens gate, Somaneset towards Stronda (12:15)
Stasjonsveien, Vaulen, Stavanger
The harbour, Sandnes
Lunch at Havnegata, Sandnes
Swimming in Lutsivatnet, Ryfylkeveien 53
Oliver adjusts his rear brakes at Ryfylkeveien 107, on the banks of Lutsivatnet
Tao on the banks of Eikelivatnet, our afternoon refreshment stop (15:15)
Swimming in Lutsivatnet
Eikelivatnet (15:15)
Eikelivatnet (15:15)
View from the 15:45 ferry from Lauvvik to Oanes (15:50)
View to Lysefjord from Ims (15:21)
View from the terrace of the Lysefjord Centre, Oanes
Approaching Oanes on the 15:45 ferry from Lauvvik (15:55)
The Høllesli tunnel, our first real tunnel of the tour
Tao on the Lysefjord bridge, completed in 1997, 1 mile from the Fjord Centre
Preikestolen youth hostel
A refreshment stop, mainly for Michael's benefit, at Preikestolen Camping
Tao tries to shake off the midges on the shores of Revsvatnet near the youth hostel
Revsvatnet, from Preikestolen youth hostel
Oliver and Gavin being pestered by midges at Revsvatnet
Original DVD video footage from today's ride
Extended remastered video footage from today's ride (2017)
Approximate map of today's morning route
Approximate map of today's afternoon route
After a rather leisurely start we detoured back to the centre of Stavanger to look again at Stavanger cathedral. Nearby was the delightful main lake, Breiavatnet, complete with fountain and wild birds.

The North Sea cycle route continued southwards for 15 miles along the edge of the Gands fjord, passing through quiet residential areas and frequently crossing the railway line that it followed. By late morning we had arrived at Sandnes and were enjoying lunch in the sun on the upmarket wooden-planked harbour area. Nearby was the concert hall and library, designed in tasteful modern style. Sandnes has been promoting itself as Norway's cycling town since 1990 so we were not surprised to see cycle routes marked everywhere and bicycles available for hire complete with keys. But today was Sunday, and not even the tourist information office was open.

Forced to leave the North Sea cycle route we turned inland with nothing more to guide us than a 1:335000 Cappelens map. It was not easy to find route 13 that avoided the motorway, but once we were on the right road the traffic gradually became lighter. We were crossing a land mass from one fjord to another, and halfway across we found the most perfect bathing beach by the side of Lake Lutsi, washed with sunshine and immersed in tranquillity. There were several Norwegian families there making the most of their short summer season so we pressed on to a quieter spot overlooking another lake, Eikelivatnet, for our refreshment stop. Even here we were not totally alone, discovering a father and son enjoying some idyllic fishing beyond a high bank.

Continuing to Lauvik we arrived just in time to catch the earlier ferry across the beautiful Høgs fjord, bringing us to Oanes by late afternoon. We were in no particular hurry to start the big climb so we bought ice creams and looked in the Lysefjord centre, Norway's one and only fjord centre. The restaurant looked very inviting and the art gallery was fascinating, but we really needed to get on with the climb.

We were now climbing the side of the Lysefjord, probably one of the most beautiful fjords in Norway. After a short climb we reached the recently completed Lysefjord suspension bridge, a masterpiece of Norwegian design providing a span of 446m and a lengthy tunnel through solid rock on the far side. After an enjoyable descent to Idsefjord we started on the final, hard climb of the day, to Preikestolen youth hostel. Michael ran out of energy in the excessive heat so we stopped for refreshments at the camp site half way up, making our final arrival at the hostel somewhat later than we had planned.

And we really should have arrived earlier. This was a magnificent building with a grass-covered roof set in idyllic surroundings overlooking a mountain lake. There was even a cafe on the ground floor. After a good shower and meal we explored the path down to the lake, but every paradise has its flaws and here the midges were so aggressive that we were forced to run for the hostel after just five minutes on the lakeside.

Monday 7 July 2003Tour: South West Norway Day 4 Preikestolen to Hjelmeland guest house (40 mi)Hot & sunny
4 present: Tao Burgess, Michael Jones, Oliver Lindley, Gavin Pearson
Re-mastered video from today's ride
Approximate map of today's route
The main reason for visiting the Lysefjord area was to walk to the pulpit rock known as Preikestolen, one of the most famous places in all of Norway. The sun was bright as we parked our bikes near the hostel and set off through the woods on a walk that took around 1½ hours. The final approach to the rock took us along the edge of terrifying drops, but this was nothing to the danger of the rock itself. It was a flat table of rock around 25m square that dropped almost vertically for 604m to the Lysefjord far below. The views up and down the fjord were breath-taking, large boats appearing as tiny dots on the water. And of course there were some people sitting on the edge of the rock, dangling their feet over the edge and apparently quite relaxed. The problem was, could they really trust that none of the other hikers would get too close and accidentally nudge them off?

The descent took nearly as long as the climb so it was well past 1pm when we began our 40 mile ride to the next guest house. A flat coastal road brought us quickly to the town of Tau, where Tao felt very much at home. The supermarket provided food for lunch but we had to ride several more miles along the lakeside before we finally settled by a river beyond Tysdal to eat it.

Another couple of climbs and descents brought us eventually to Hjelmeland, a quiet ferry village situated on the Garsundfjord. Our accommodation for the night was in a small hotel where we had a choice of a room in the main house or a chalet in the grounds. We chose the inside room, mainly for the luxury of soft beds and fresh sheets (Oliver had substantial input here) but used one of the chalets to prepare our meal. Light drizzle fell as we walked to the edge of the silent fjord, but this turned to heavy rain overnight.

Tuesday 8 July 2003Tour: South West Norway Day 5 Hjelmeland to Hellandsbygd B&b (56 mi)Sunny periods & showers
4 present: Tao Burgess, Michael Jones, Oliver Lindley, Gavin Pearson
Re-mastered video from today's ride
Oliver was despatched to purchase additional milk for breakfast as continuing heavy rain dampened our spirits at the beginning of our longest cycling day. Racing for the early ferry to Nesvik we were pleasantly surprised to find that the rain had stopped. We set a good pace along the Jøsenfjord then followed the road up and down a couple of climbs and through a tunnel to the long descent to the ferry town of Sand. A particularly heavy and prolonged shower on the final descent made British showers look like a sunny day - these Norwegians certainly know a thing or two about rain! A restaurant in the town centre provided shelter and food, although there was nothing vegetarian for Michael - even the pizza was meat!

Things were brighter when we left the restaurant. We spent a little time buying provisions in the supermarket and buying delicious fresh strawberries from the traders market by the quay, then boarded the early afternoon ferry to Ropeid across the majestic Sandsfjord. One tends to get used to fjords when in Norway, but in reality every fjord is a unique and beautiful creation.

For the next hour or two we followed another fjord - the Saudafjord - to the town of Sauda. We arrived just too late to find anything open except the supermarket, as most traders in Norway close mid-afternoon, so we made the best of chocolate milkshakes and then set off for the final big climb into the mountains.

In winter this road leads to skiing and snowboarding locations, but today there was no snow to be seen. The verge, however, was home to thousands of wild strawberry plants that were laden with fruit fatter and juicier than we had ever seen, so our climb was punctuated with frequent stops. Halfway through a gorge we were amazed to see a huge pipe crossing the road over our heads, coming out of one rock face and going into the other side. We discovered later that it was a gas pipeline, but it seemed large enough to take a car!

Hellandsbygd is a small hamlet high in the mountains, covered with snow for many months of the year but today open wide to anyone curious enough to venture so far from civilisation. Our cottage was easy to find, situated a short distance down the rough driveway of the main farmhouse. The owners, like many in Norway, are subsidised by the government to farm the land in the traditional manner, but many in the village need employment from Sauda to supplement their earnings.

Our room was cosily situated in the attic, with access only by a steep ladder - it really was quite a task to lug our panniers up the steps. We had a kitchen with large dining table and a shower with underfloor heating - in fact, we had the whole cottage to ourselves. We concluded one of our most enjoyable evenings of the tour with a short adventure game.

Wednesday 9 July 2003Tour: South West Norway Day 6 Hellandsbygd to Odda guest house (39 mi)Hot & sunny
4 present: Tao Burgess, Michael Jones, Oliver Lindley, Gavin Pearson
Re-mastered video from today's ride
Report to follow, based on the following notes made at the time.

Long climb ahead, but still time for leisurely chat with the landlady. They run a small farm, and they recently visited Plymouth! For nine months of the year there is snow all around and the high road is closed. That was our route today, climbing to 1200m. Passed woman watching her goats. Snow more visible as we climbed. Group photo near the top. Soon reached the plateau, where generally up and down. First snow near the road was Oliver's cue to make a snowball, but we soon found more and more snow. Several banks of snow provided much entertainment as we took it in turns to slide down on our rear ends. Then there was the mini iceberg in a small pool - just right for Oliver and Tao to take a ride to the centre.

Then a huge descent opened out in front of us, with Roldal in the distance. Great fun, but another small climb to the entrance to the first of two long tunnels brought us back to reality. Cyclists were not barred from these tunnels as there was a good path on the side, but the air inside became a little stale to say the least and we were grateful when it started to descend after about 2km. Short break, then the next tunnel was all downhill, and the road after that was downhill for miles and miles. Stopped at Skare for refreshments as the sun shone, then again at Latefossen waterfall - highly spectacular. Soon reached Odda in bright sunshine.

Guest house was near the edge of the fjord - comfortable apartment with two bedrooms and a kitchen, although bathroom was somewhat cramped. Gavin and Michael enjoyed a meal at the Peppe's pizza restaurant while Tao and Oliver prepared their own meal. Beautiful sunny evening. Tried to arrange glacier walking for the next day, but the timing and duration didn't fit well with our plans.

Thursday 10 July 2003Tour: South West Norway Day 7 Odda to Lofthus YH (21 mi)Hot & sunny
4 present: Tao Burgess, Michael Jones, Oliver Lindley, Gavin Pearson
Re-mastered video from today's ride
Report to follow, based on the following notes made at the time.

Late start, looking around the shops of Odda - Michael bought a T-shirt, the others just looked. Obtained info at tourist centre, then enjoyed a coffee stop at a cafe overlooking the fjord.

There were a few tunnels on this route but most had cycle paths around the outside that offered superior views and quiet cycling. Could see the glaciers on the top of the nearby mountain ranges. Views were outstanding, so we stopped at a layby to enjoy lunch at a picnic table - really very hot by now. This was the Hardanger area of Norway, famous for its fruit. We knew it as soon as we left Odda: you couldn't fail to notice the acres of cherry trees all heavily laden with delicious-looking fruit. And every few km there was a stall (or sometimes groups of stalls) all selling fruit direct from the farm. We stopped for black cherries and strawberries on various occasions and were stunned by the taste.

Arrived early at Lofthus in brilliant sunshine to stay at the youth hostel, a sports school for most of the year. Immediately made enquiries about hiring the hostel's boat, and after an hour delay trying the campsite's boat because they couldn't find 4 lifejackets we eventually decided to take the boat out on two trips. Gavin and Michael went first and enjoyed more than an hour where they were virtually the only boat on the huge fjord - apart from the ferry at the far end that showed itself from time to time. Oliver and Tao went round in circles for their fun! Comfortable night.

Friday 11 July 2003Tour: South West Norway Day 8 Lofthus to Haugastøl tourist centre (30 mi)Sunny periods, some showers
4 present: Tao Burgess, Michael Jones, Oliver Lindley, Gavin Pearson
Re-mastered video from today's ride
Report to follow, based on the following notes made at the time.

Awoke to sound of heavy rain, but it had stopped by the time we left with bright sunshine once again. Breakfast provided, Norwegian style. Sad to leave this excellent hostel.

This was supposed to be the longest ride of the tour, but in view of the possibility of rain we had decided to consider the option of taking the bus for the final section. There was more fruit to be purchased along the fjord.

We rode all the way to Eidefjord where we bought lunch and enjoyed it in the village park complete with sculptures. Gavin paid money to use the lavatory, then realised he had left with his wallet still inside: as he had no more money to re-enter and he was a good walk away from the rest of us, he waited outside for a man to come along, looking very dodgy!

Proceeded to Upper Eidefjord where we found the brand new Nature Centre. The cafe not only had grass growing on its roof, but there were several goats grazing it as well! Cafe was in castle style, very pleasant stop, but with rain on the way we took the bus for the long mountain climb.

The driver was very accommodating, stowing our bikes in the luggage area and even stopping near Norway's best waterfall so we could go and have a look! There was time for refreshments at Dyranut, although Oliver and Tao were so tired they just dozed on the bus. Scenery up here was desolate, with scattered lakes and pools interrupting the rocky terrain at regular intervals.

Arrived at Haugastol early enough to browse the single shop and enjoy our very comfortable (and expensive) apartment to the full – en-suite kitchen and bathroom, excellent view over the lake. Slept well as usual.

Saturday 12 July 2003Tour: South West Norway Day 9 Haugastøl to Flåm YH (51 mi)Sunny periods
4 present: Tao Burgess, Michael Jones, Oliver Lindley, Gavin Pearson
Re-mastered video from today's ride
Report to follow, based on the following notes made at the time.

Today was going to be off-road nearly all day. Weather was not the best, but at least it wasn't raining. The Rallarvegan cycle path was originally built as the service road for the construction of the railway line between Oslo and Bergen. This section of the line passes through the high mountain ranges, and so required some very clever engineering.

The path was slightly uphill for the first 15 miles, but it was quite rideable. The snow cover increased gradually as we proceeded, and the whole area was remote and desolate. We would have enjoyed it more if the wind had not been so bitingly cold. Trains passed from time to time. As we approached Finse, with its glacier nearby, the snow was obvious, but a shower forced us to take welcome refuge in the cafe by the station. They told us that during winter the temperature dropped last year to 53 degrees Celsius below zero! They don't see many tourists in the winter.

On again for the last part of the climb, and now there were snow drifts across the path at regular intervals that required some care to negotiate. The icebergs in the large lakes were much larger than we had seen before - the whole scene looked like arctic winter rather than mid-summer. Then came the long descent that seemed to go on for miles. More lakes, more incredible scenery, waterfalls, enormous rivers.

An isolated house was offering refreshments so we stopped there for a few moments before proceeding to Myrdal and the hair-raising descent to Flam with its numerous hairpins. Oliver and Tao, who planned to ride it quite quickly in spite of Michael's warnings, ended up with three punctures to fix and kept Michael and Gavin waiting at the bottom for more than 20 minutes!

Final run down to Flam was all downhill on tarmac, with more spectacular views. Hostel was on a campsite, comfortable and very scenic.

If you have enjoyed reading these reports please send us a comment using the form on our Contact page

Page