Travel Journal – Norway, Day Five (aka The Bike Ride of Death)

After a traditional breakfast of cold meats and cheese on crackers with sliced cucumbers and tomatoes along with the prerequisite smoked salmon (I have also been trying gravlax which I was looking forward to after reading about it in Marcus Samuelsson’s Yes Chef but have to admit it’s an acquired taste I haven’t, well, acquired yet), we set about booking our fjord ferry trip!

We decided to take the late-morning ferry which would allow us to bring our car on board as we decided we didn’t want the hassle of looking up the bus back from Flam later in the evening.

Fjord cruise

It was a nice change actually getting out on the water and cruising through the fjord itself as opposed to just checking out the fjords from the side of the road. We passed by tall mountains looming overhead, lots of waterfalls and charming little villages on the banks complete with the prerequisite stave church.

Fjord Cruise 3

Fjord Cruise 2

Fjord Cruise 1

I overheard a couple of the cafeteria staff on the ferry tell another woman that heritage authorities (maybe UNESCO? I can’t remember now) pays people to live in these villages during peak tourist season or something to help maintain these heritage houses. I thought that would be a job I wouldn’t mind getting paid for!

Lots of people stayed outside, including yours truly, running back and forth to get the best snaps as the view was amazing every which way you looked. However, the cold eventually drove many of us into the main cabin.

When we got to Flam, we set about renting bicycles and booking our passage for the train to the mountain station of Myrdal.

While we waited for the train, we checked out Flam’s souvenir shops.

Viking Josh

Viking J! : )

Although there was what seemed like a huge crowd vying to get onto the train, we were sufficiently spaced out in the carriages that there was plenty of room for us to run back and forth to the windows on either side of the train to catch the view as we climbed higher and higher to Myrdal.

Flam Train

The trains themselves were adorable, putting in mind those old fashion passenger trains in the glory days of the railway and the Orient Express! (That would be another one of my dream trips, to go onto the Orient Express a la Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express!)

Flam Rail

Every now and then, a pre-recorded audio would play over the loudspeakers, telling us about the various destinations we were passing. Once, as we slowed through a tunnel, the voice told us about the huldra, a mythical forest creature which has the power to seduce men. I instantly remembered Neil Gaiman’s short storyThe Monarch of the Glen, where Shadow, the protagonist of American Gods, meets a huldra! (Or I think it’s called a hulder in the book?)

Just as the recording fades out, we emerge from the tunnel to see a waterfall on the left. Everyone cries out as a woman dressed in red runs out a rock before the waterfall and turns a circle before waving to the train – a purported huldra!

Huldra

It was a nice little touch!

We finally got to Myrdal and proceeded to get on our bikes and set off down the Rallarvegen bike road. Or, as I liked to call the first part of it, the Bike Ride of Death.

The guys who had rented us the bikes had advised us to walk our bikes for the first two kilometres of the road and I can see why! The road was loose gravel and followed several hairpin bends which are pretty scary to traverse if you haven’t been on a bike for years like me. I was seriously worried each time I got to one of those corners that I would lose control of my bike and go flying over the edge.

A few other cyclists and I finally ended up hopping off our bikes and walking the first two kms instead. J did pretty well though he ended up pausing to wait for me every now and then.

When we finally got the hairpin bends out of the way, I was ready to hop on my bike and start peddling!

There were plenty of other cyclists who had taken the train up to Myrdal with us but most of them soon left us behind. It was almost as if it was a race for them, which I didn’t understand because I’d rather cycle a little slower and take in the scenery around us. We passed by the same countryside we had seen from the train earlier – green forests (in which the huldra might be hiding!), small waterfalls, little bridges, beautiful rivers and, on one occasion, a gorgeous jewel-like pool which was an amazing shade of emerald green I had never seen before.

We also encountered a large herd of goats blocking our path at one point! We stopped our bikes to take a picture of two goats fighting it out but I got distracted midway through because another goat was nibbling (or trying to) on the back of my bike and I was worried it was going to go for my butt next!

Goat Alert!

Goat fight

We also had another scary point once when we sped through a short tunnel that was absolutely pitch-black. You couldn’t see a thing and I was so sure that at any moment, my bike would hit a rock or something and send me flying through the air. Thankfully, we got through the tunnel with nothing more than a couple of heart-racing moments!

We finally rode back into the town as dusk was falling. After returning our bikes, we were ready to drive back to Gudvangen Fjordtell for some Norwegian beer and a well-earned Viking-sized dinner!

Viking Bar

Check out the Viking-esque reception/bar! They even had a Viking-esque fireplace going on!

Viking Fireplace

All in all, it was a great end to a great day, scary bike rides and marauding goats and all!

 

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