Norway keeps amazing. So far we have stuck to the tarmac and the touristy sites but we start craving some gravel again, So Jo starts mapping out some routes more inland. From Laerdal we go southeast to Geilo and together with awesome views, we do get some nice gravel roads now. This is clearly the quiet part of the Norwegian countryside. The weather is nice again so we really enjoy our time away from the tourists.
We have a picknick lunch in Uvdal, next to the Stavkirke. You can find these iconic wooden churches all over Norway, but this is the first one we get to observe up close. It’s a really beautiful construction.
From Uvdal, we turn away from the tarmac again. Jo has pointed out a beautiful stretch of off-road riding through the hills towards Rjukan. The scenery is just incredible.
We pass numerous signs indicating that road is not going through to Rjukan but we decide to ignore this. Like the signs we ignored going up the Iseran pass in the Alps years ago… In the end that road was blocked by recent snowfall. This time, it’s a very dangerous and steep downhill. So dangerous and steep that even cyclists are warned not to ride down but to walk.
We have no choice but to turn around and ride the entire stretch back. How annoying… not! Backtracking, the views are the same but completely different and riding through such incredible scenery is hardly a punishment.
It’s already late when we arrive at a campsite just before Rjukan. This town is especially known for the hydro plant capable of producing heavy water which the Nazis were planning to use in their nuclear energy project. The site was sabotaged by the resistance during the Second World War, putting an end to the heavy water production. The hydro-electricity plant still exists and is an impressive sight up on the hillside.
By the time we have put up the tent, it’s already getting dark, so after a quick dinner, we hit the hot showers and then off to bed. It’s been a very long day.
The next morning we wake up to a frost-bitten world. We were nice, warm and cosy in our tent and sleeping bags but it seems that our two mascotte friends had a bit of a cold night. Once the sun reaches over the mountain tops, it quickly heats up though. Today we are aiming for the coast again, for the last time. There is still one more fjord on our wishlist: Lysebotn!
From Rjukan we ride towards Hjelmeland, some 200km south of Bergen. The road towards the coast takes us through some incredible moon landscapes. We also learn that we can bypass the bypass tunnels by taking the old small roads over the mountains. These narrow roads wind their way through the landscape which is much more fun than a straight dark tunnel cutting through the mountain.
In Hjelmeland we find a nice campsite and we are joined by 2 Belgian girls who are travelling in a rented car. When we start looking for the schedule of the ferry to Lysebotn, we learn that it no longer runs. It’s already the first week of September and the tourist season has ended 3 weeks ago! Bummer! That means we have to take a detour of about 120kms.
This was our last day at the coast and Lysebotn was the last fjord on the wishlist so we decide to ride there anyway. The weather has turned again and we arrive wet and cold at the bottom of the fjord, which turns out to be a bit disappointing. This is one of those iconic fjords that you really have to experience from the water. Lysebotn itself is just deserted. There’s nothing to see and there’s not even a cafe where we can have some lunch. Cold and wet, we have to backtrack to get to the main road heading east.