Sunday, 22 January 2017

Farsund and Mandal

The headland west of Lomesanden

The campsite at Lomesanden is hidden away behind a giant industrial site making aluminium castings. There is a wide, curving sandy beach sheltered to the west by a headland crowned by WWII German gun emplacements, so it’s very safe! The site was about 3km from the town of Farsund and when I cycled into town I found a huge new roundabout on the edge hosting two large supermarkets.  This proved to be a pattern in Norway, as I suppose it is in the UK. Sometimes three supermarkets shared a roundabout.  They were all a little different in price and range of goods available, but I wouldn’t want to spoil any traveller’s fun by telling them which was which.

On Monday I took a day off from cycling - and cycled into Farsund.  It was mostly closed – partly because it was still winter and partly, I think, because it was Monday.  It’s quite a small town with a population that clearly grows a lot in the summer when the holiday people and the cruise ships arrive. I was surprised to see the first black faces I’d seen in Norway, quite a few of them too. I passed one young boy walking out towards the supermarkets, and when I went in later on I found him wandering the aisles gazing  a dazed way at the products on the shelves, as if he was wondering what all the things were. I guessed that he had only recently arrived, but I never found out if this was true.

Another surprising thing happened in Farsund.  I was looking for a café to have my soon-to-become ritual morning coffee and pastry, but the only place open was a small bar.  I went inside and there were three people at the bar - a woman serving behind the counter, an elderly man with a beer, and a young boy wearing a Norwich City football shirt. As I’m a Norwich City supporter myself this counts as a considerable coincidence.  It turned out the whole family were dyed-in-the-wool City fans and had been at Wembley the previous weekend watching Norwich defeat Ipswich in the Championship play-off finals. Before I’d finished my coffee Dad arrived too, (summoned, I suspect) and we had a few minutes of intensive Norwich City chat before he had to get back to work.

I spent the evening in the company of a couple of young Norwegian men who had come down to install some new decking outside the family caravan. One of them had plenty of opinions and the other was quiet. The quiet one was the farmer from Hå who told me I should ask farmers for places to camp. I mentioned the litter I’d seen in the road verges – not quite as bad as the UK, but getting there. They immediately blamed all the German camper vans! I also asked them about the road, and tunnel, and bridge building that was going on everywhere. Among other things, I learned that they blast and drill the tunnels through solid rock at a rate of about 50 metres a day, which seemed pretty fast to me.

Good gravel track on the way to Mandal

Heartsease covering a turf roof

Near Mandal
The following day I cycled on towards Mandal, the southernmost point in Norway.  It was an enjoyable ride, sometimes on main roads, sometimes on gravel tracks.  There were turquoise fjords, woods, blue sea, and plenty of marinas and summer houses everywhere.  I ended the day at Sandnes campsite where the nightingales woke me at 3AM.  There were dozens of them! But it was still the best, and cheapest, campsite I stayed on in Norway. Have a listen!

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