As I was about to leave Bergen it occurred to me that the small, slightly broken umbrella we had been using might come in handy on a bicycle tour. I took it with me, and I was glad I did. I don't know why I'd never thought of it before. It's not much help on those days of solid rain where you just have to get on with it, but in a sudden downpour it's possible to deploy the umbrella rapidly, wait a few minutes and then carry on, completely dry. Also very useful on campsites, and very occasionally as a sunshade.
From Bergen the North Sea Cycle Route goes south on cycle tracks at first and then, just when you are thinking that Norway is going to have cycle tracks everywhere, it dumps you onto a road just in time to climb a steep hill. It doesn't matter much because Norwegian drivers are the most considerate to cyclists that I have seen anywhere, and in any case there isn't much traffic. The road ran through pine woods carpeted with moss and wood anemones, then through a small town, Osøyro, where I found a woman hacking down Japanese Knotweed by the side of the path. She told me that the seeds came in with the gravel used to make the new paths, and I saw Japanese Knotweed everywhere in Norway thrusting up beside, and through, the new roads and paths. She said she felt like Sisyphus, because the Knotweed just kept coming back.
From Halhjem, just south of Osøyro, a ferry goes south to Sandvikvåg on the island of Stord. The ferry is just like a seaborne continuation of the E39 and I spent the hour on the boat talking to a Londoner with a road bike who was planning to cycle in just a few hours a distance that would take me several days. He had a bagful of bananas to keep him going. I watched him shoot off into the distance and then I set off slowly into a landscape of gneiss hills, lochans, and occasional green meadows that looked like low altitude Swiss alps, full of cuckoo flower and buttercup. Eventually I reached the port of Leirvik and found the campsite, which was very small and kind of half-open, owing to it still being winter. As I was to find out, a lot of campsites in Norway don't really get going until the schools break up for the summer towards the end of June.
Still, I camped in a spot with a great view across to the mountains of the Hardangervidda and settled down to enjoy the sound of rain beating on the tent. The map of the day is here.
- Take a small umbrella
- Shopping malls in Norway may not look like shopping malls to English eyes.
- You can use a foreign credit or debit card almost everywhere for almost anything in Norway.
- If you go to western Norway in May don't expect summer weather. Do expect many people to tell you that last year it was gloriously hot.