Bergen. A place that feels a little bit like home to Armand though he only stayed there for 4 months in 2013. It’s already dark when our train arrives at the central station and we immediately head to the hotel. In the morning, we enjoy a delicious breakfast at the hotel’s shared kitchen. As we both visited Bergen before, we don’t feel the urge to visit extensively during our rest day. We still take a small walk in the city center and along the wharves at Bryggen which is a UNESCO site. We notice that, so close to the sea, the temperatures are much more pleasant than in the mountains with 8°C at night and 18°C during the day.
On Friday the 28th of August, we almost feel sad to leave Bergen that soon. We really enjoy the atmosphere of this small city of 280 000 inhabitants, which is the second largest in Norway after Oslo. We are now planning to follow Norway’s National Cycle Route 1 which coincides with the “EuroVelo 1” and roughly follows the western (Atlantic) coast all the way to North Cape. Though parts of this route are signposted, many segments still require proper navigation tools. We sometimes also take the liberty to take shortcuts whenever the itinerary seems to follow unnecessarily long detours. To get to Ålesund, we have to cross a number of fjords and mountain passes. The road network is equipped with countless bridges, tunnels and ferries. Bicycles are not allowed in some tunnels but alternatives are often provided, therefore planning ahead is a good idea to avoid bad surprises. Ferries on the other hand are frequent and generally free for bicycles.
After changing our brake pads, we finally leave Bergen and it takes some time before we reach more rural areas again. Indeed, the itinerary follows relatively important roads with traffic across several towns to start with. We spend our first night wild camping along a small lake nearby Sletta.
The next morning, we take our first ferry across the Fensfjorden. We then have a very nice ride in bright sunshine along the Eidsfjorden on a small rural road with almost no traffic, surrounded by steep mountains. It’s still pretty though with a lot of up and down and a 270m pass to cross. We reach the Sognefjord in Rutledal and take the 4pm ferry towards Leirvik. We pitch the tent on a pebble beach a few kilometers further along that fjord, and enjoy a great sunset. Today we covered 86km including 13km of ferry rides.
The Sognefjord or Sognefjorden, nicknamed the King of the Fjords, is the largest and deepest fjord in Norway. Located in Vestland county in Western Norway, it stretches 205 kilometres (127 mi) inland from the ocean to the small village of Skjolden in the municipality of Luster.
The weather is still great on Sunday but the beach is invaded by midges so we get started quickly. We decide to escape from the EuroVelo for a while by following the Sognefjord towards Vadheim. At this point, we are on the scenic E39 which is the main road between Bergen and Ålesund, but fortunately the traffic is reasonable. We leave the fjord and climb a 350m pass then go down to Førde. In Førde’s Circle K (previously Statoil) gas station, we invest in our “koppen” which are mugs that can be re-filled with coffee at any Circle K station for no extra charge than the mug itself. A concept Armand was familiar with thanks to his student exchange in Norway. We pitch the tent next to a lake a little bit further, just about 80km away from our point of departure this morning.
It’s rather cold, wet and foggy when we leave our camp in the morning, but the sun is shining again when we reach the Jølstravatnet lake after a climb of 250m over 10km. We follow this huge lake for 25km and enjoy a lakeside lunch with distant views on the Jostedalsbreen, which is the largest glacier in continental Europe. We continue our day with a very gentle downhill in the gorgeous Votedalen valley. In Byrkjelo, we start our highest climb of the week on Utvikfjellet, which offers rewarding views on the valley and surrounding glaciers. We pitch the tent at the summit of this pass, at an elevation of around 650m, and a few hundreds meters away from the main road. We enjoy another great dinner and sunset over the snowy peaks.
It’s very satisfying to start the day with a long and sunny downhill towards the Innvikfjorden. We cycle to Olden and decide to make a return trip without the bags to the Briksdalsbreen, a famous tongue of the Jostedalsbreen glacier. We simply leave the bags half hidden on a roadside. After the 22km ride in a beautiful and relatively flat valley, there’s a short but steep hike along a waterfall that leads to the view to the glacier. The least we can say is that the glacier itself has dramatically declined compared to the pictures from 2003, which makes it much less impressive. Still, it was a really cool hike and we feel very small in this narrow valley. We cycle down to the fjord again, pick our bags and cycle a few more kilometers to pitch the tent next to the fjord. We treat ourselves with tortellini ricotta-spinach with fresh leek and delicious salmon cooked on the stove.
The days go by and the magnificient landscapes too. We’re incredibly lucky with the weather. It’s funny how the more we progress, the more we feel like the mountains never stop. Often, when we cycle towards a mountain that looks more like a hill, we think to ourselves “OK this must be the end of the crazy rugged landscapes”, and then once we pass it we realize the next one is even more impressive.
Wednesday the 2nd of September should be the last sunny day according to the forecast so we intend to make the most of it. We cross two smaller passes towards Folkestad and go down the Bjørkedalen valley, which we hadn’t heard of before but turned out to be a highlight of this day. We take the ferry from Folkestad to Volda across the Voldsfjorden and go pitch the tent a few kilometers further, at a very nice spot along the Hovdevatnet lake.
We witness an incredibly beautiful sunrise from our wild camp, get breakfast and then get started. It quickly starts raining but at least we have strong tailwind. We take our 4th and final (before the next break) ferry across the Hjørundfjorden, then keep going in the rain towards Ålesund. We reach Ålesund with our shoes wet slightly before 1pm. We directly go to our Airbnb where we’ll spend our first night inside after 6 nights wild camping. We have 1824 kilometres in our legs since Brussels, excluding of course the ferries and trains.
See more photos in the gallery.