June 19, 2013
Oslo met me with a great deal of dignity as effeirs to a capital.
Katya met me on her bike, I assembled mine and we flied up 10 kilometers. I met Katya thanks to livejournal.com where I had told about my trip. She offered her company for a cup of coffee, and I wangled an invitation to stay overnight. Fortunately, she did not refuse, so I got a chance to make acquaintance with Oslo in a relaxed manner. It’s always hard to step outside your comfort zone, so I really appreciated that I had some kind of support in the beginning.
Anyway, it’s an overstatement to say that we “flied up”, I was not used to riding uphill, so I had to walk some of it as the baggage was pulling me back. I was served with a traditional Norwegian dinner and got a warm bed in a separate room, which was a real joy after rambling about ferries and Sweden country houses. Yes, I had already got tired of this traveling uncertainty and I couldn’t get used to enjoying it yet.
Katya was fishing out what I was planning to do for a month in Norway, and I struggled to find a reason for not wanting to plan, something that would sound convincing. Her incredulous looks made me realize what a folly my uncertainty must have seemed. However, Katya helped me a lot by giving valuable tips on some general rules concerning mobile connection, possible routes and peculiarities of Norwegian lifestyle. I took a shower (hooray!) and very soon I was sleeping like a log. I love nothing more than getting into a clean bed smelled like washing and drying, just after shower feeling warm and comfortable. I noticed that since I left Saint Petersburg I didn’t just fall asleep, I literally passed out into a deep dreamless sleep.
Next morning gave us a traditional Norwegian weekday rain, but we still went out for a ride and a cup of coffee with Alla, a friend of Katya. Here we are working out a plan of conquering the world, for example.
After the plan was approved, and the rain stopped, Katya left for a work outing. Alla and I took a walk on Aker Brygge, a popular area for shopping, dining, and entertainment (I’d tied my bike to the coffee shop). As we were walking down the freshly washed embankment of the most beautiful capital in the world, we shared our stories – how and why each of us got here.
Then Alla left to run some errands, and I took my bike, rolled up my sleeves, turned on music and rode away. My Oslo turned out to be rainy, crowdless, but friendly as everything here in Norway. I stopped by at Frogner park to take a turn among sculptures, tourists and exuberant greenery. But parks made me bored. I preferred a residential district right behind it, spattered with cozy little houses. I did not stop by any diner because Katya had given me those coolest sandwiches with red fish and Norwegian cheese resembling in taste and color the Russian baked condensed milk.
About nightfall I returned to the station, the initial point, trying to restore the route we had followed the day before. Under the bridge, along the river split covered with thick leafage, the booth, the lake, this I remember, this I saw. But one moment later I mixed up a turn and found myself in a completely unfamiliar area. There, in the middle empty streets with nice little houses, I met my first Norwegian cat. I rolled out a map right on the asphalt. Drivers passing by were throwing puzzled looks at me. After going round for a little while I finally found Katya’s place. Tired out from riding, I fell asleep right after taking a shower. I had a big ride planned for the next morning.
However, I hanged out at Katya’s till afternoon repacking and trying to write down some notes, prepare and post at least some of the photos. I didn’t know where my next stop would be, where and when I would shower, use Internet and have a chance to smarten up. So I spent a while pulling myself together until the reluctance to waste another day outshone the bad weather waiting for me outside this cozy place. Katya gave me a raincoat and waterproof pants, which was just what I wanted. I put my gear and belongings on scales, turned out to weigh about 18 kg.
I had to go to downtown, cross Aker Brygge again and move north-west using E18 till Drammen. Then I should go west along E134 heading for Lusefyord, where I was going to climb up Preikestolen. My challenging cocky plans.
I managed to get to Drammen by twilight. The road seemed average in difficulty, there were no dramatic level difference, it rained strongly only once, the other time it was just drizzling, but I’d already got used to permanent moist veiling in the air and almost stopped noticing it anymore. I followed the signs, red traffic signs marked with “1” with bicycles and green little squares on them – apparently, it represented the national bike route №1, or something else. Nevertheless, it led me in the right direction along picturesque villages, avoiding autobahns, sometimes quite far from them. I took paths of seaboard villages, passing by houses with canonic trampolines in overwhelmingly cozy yards.
I developed some sort of a rhythm, having a halt every 30, 40 or 50 km. Have a sandwich, sit by the side of the road or on a pier, smoke a cigarette as a reward. A 15-minutes halt is quite enough to regain strength, stretch the back and lie on the ground for a little bit. It’s so nice just to place your butt on the soft asphalt of some 20 times secondary highway with almost absent traffic, watching the sea from the top of a hill, little houses with Norwegian flags, gloomy sky.
In one of those villages I met a strange red-bearded guy riding a unicycle. He seemed quite a character for that place in the middle of nowhere. We had been riding side by side for a while, he got interested in me, I told him who I was and where I was going.
– Tromso? Haw-haw, are you insane?
– Look who is talking!
But I lost the way after Drammen.
The usual red little square told me to go to an autobahn. Completely at a loss, I was standing at an intersection sadly watching cars driving by, then I returned to the village close to the autobahn. I decided to go along the damned E134 highway, but very soon it drew me to Hokksund, a small town I will always see in my nightmares. I was running in circles around it trying to find a cycle way, but traffic signs kept driving me to some abandoned country paths. Once I even saw a fox who boggled at my bike torch. The rainstorm began. I didn’t want to put up a tent there, the ground was damp. For half an hour I was hiding under the roof of a bus stop and almost fell asleep there. But the penetrating cold and humidity whipped me away in the rain again.
Going round about the hills I made it to a gas station, the only working place in the night time with living people there. I bought coffee and asked how to get to Kongsberg, which, according to my map, was the next relatively big locality. The gas station guy was a tedious clingy immigrant, so I warmed up a little bit while he was making me coffee, and went out in the street to drink my coffee by the bike under the gas station roof. I had a quick word with a postman who came here for coffee and fuel before his shift. He also told me the direction I should follow.
Damn you, E134, I wish you were washed off. I never found a bikeway (it might not exist at all), turned on Google maps and at the fifth attempt I finally got away from Hokksund by autobahn. What was I thinking there in the night out in the open? I was angry. I felt a little bit of pity for myself, but mostly I was just angry, aimlessly in large part, that was my response to all the discomfort. However, a small part of me was angry at myself. What was I thinking refusing to stay overnight in the Drammen camping site just because I wanted to take another turn on the bike? So I ended up lost in the rainy night in the middle of nowhere, got wet through, rode about 140 km and strained my back. That was inconsistent, stupid, incautious. Surely, now I can smile at the memory of that night, laugh ironically at my inexperience. But then, when I was hiding under the roof of a bus stop, without a dry stitch on, with my fingers turned blue, trembling, that was a complete failure.
I was constantly on and off of my bike, my back was aching intolerably, it seemed the persistent annoying drizzle would never stop. Cars were driving by, thank God the darkness broke away. By Kongsberg I raved against my fate. When I almost got to the destination I saw a closed diner with terrace, I got off, tied the bike to the fence and passed out for about 30 minutes. A unbearable cold woke me up, so I pulled myself together on my last leg and drove down to the Central Station of Kongsberg, where I bought a night ticket to Stavanger with my trembling hands. The train was to leave at 00.30. For some reason the day train ticket would cost three times more, so I bought the night ticket for 399 krones telling all that south to get lost.
I didn’t have any energy left to stand on my legs, so I ended up at the first hotel I was advised to go by a tubby shopkeeper. One night cost me inconceivably a lot – 740 Norwegian krones, if my memory doesn’t fail me. I took a shower and slept like a log for about five hours. I had ridden about 140 km, so when I woke up in the morning, my legs were trembling traitorously.
I checked out all my belongings, set up roaming on my Petersburg phone number, took another shower and left about an hour and a half before the train to have a ride around the town. Kongsberg was beautiful after the rain at twilight and I even regretted I had to be there in such a bad mood. But anyway, I wanted to see the sea in Stavanger.
I met a guy from London at the station. He cadged for a smoke. I still had reserves from Sweden on me hoping I would not have to buy Norwegian cigarettes costing like hell. But still, I assumed it was nice to give a treat to the afflicted, even if I was running out of cigarettes and cigarettes had not been included in the trip budget.
I disassembled the bike in advance and put it in the case. The train was going to stop for a few minutes only, it was going from Oslo to Stavanger with short stops. The train arrived, the grabber raced to help me to drag the bike to the rail car, where I handed it over to one of his coworkers. Everybody was sleeping in the car. I got a plaid, a blinder and an inflatable neck rest pillow. I rolled myself in all of that and switched off till the very Stavanger, for about 7 hours.
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