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Chapter four. “I feel the West in you”. Stavanger – Preikestolen.

June 19, 2013

A rainy day spent on the south of Norway was quite enough to understand that I did not want to spend another minute out in the rain spinning the pedals till the last breath. I wanted to have fun riding my bike, get adventures, meet the locals, not watching saddest damp hills and asphalt just to avoid the rain getting into my eyes. That’s why I bought a ticket straight to Stavanger, to the west seaside.

I decided that the weather would be more treacherous by the sea. And I was right. Stavanger met me with September coolness and blazing sun.
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“The sun!” – thought I, putting some warmer clothes. I niggled with the bike for a little while trying to attach the front wing, but I gave up and put it in the ground pad in my backpack. Then I went to find breakfast. Despite the fact my trip budget was cut up by a stay in the Kongsberg hotel, I decided that my body needed coffee anyway. So I ended up having most delicious newly-baked rolls for the breakfast.

Then I met Sadan, a couchsurfer who himself has lived and worked here for a couple of weeks only. We had to climb up quite a steep hill from the station to his house. The landscape reminded me of Vladivostok. I unloaded the bike, took my backpack with camera, passport and cash. I poured some water in the bottle and wend for a ride around. As for Sadan, we left for work, we agreed to meet in the evening.
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First I descended downtown and found Tourist information, where they gave me a map and said where I could exchange cash. All the streets in the downtown lead to the sea, so I rode down to the embankment. I stopped by the port to find out how I could get to Preikestolen. They pointed towards a pier from where ferries went to Tau and gave me a commercial of bus tours on Preikestolen. There I found ferry schedule. I counted how much time I needed to get there and decided to leave the next morning and stay on the top overnight.

In the meantime I went to peep into Stavanger daily life and its few citizens, as it seemed to me.
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I went to the nearest islands, took a sun bath on a private pier, lost a one-liter bottle of Cola (my Norwegian energizer). Had an incredible bagel stuffed like a sandwich. Fast food here in Norway is absolutely delicious.

I finished riding in “Bøker & Børst” (“Books and booze”). Given all my love to cozy places, I could not help stopping there. They serve coffee and tea for quite a reasonable price – 25 NOK. There is a cozy hall, an internal and external yard and a restroom of my dreams equipped with book shelves. Since they had some problem with Wi-Fi I gave away some Russian treat – barbariski (I had an entire bag of them with me) and sit there for a while working on the photos.
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For quite a few hours a dark-skinned guy was standing at the entrance of the coffee shop. He had huge earphones. He was swinging back and forth in time with music, not paying any attention to anyone around. He was too standing out to assume he was normal. However, neither personnel nor guests gave any attention to him. “A local sight of interest,” – I thought, but didn’t dare to take a picture of him.

Then I got a text from Sadan and we agreed to meet at home. At home I had shower (yay!), washed my clothes, had a luxurious dinner with salmon and sider and eternal kind talking about this and that. Now and then we went to smoke on the porch. A little bit drunk, I shared with Sadan how wonderful it was to make your childhood dreams come true. I had a terribly sentimental mood when everything around you seems marvelous, as if from a fairy-tale. I don’t even have other decent words to describe that feeling. Up to now I have not learned how to express that feeling, as if the space around you is alive and its only aim is to make you happy.
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I set an alarm for 6 AM to get to the port for the first ferry to Tau, but, of course, I could not wake up this early. I kept being lucky with weather, the morning was even hotter than the day before. I took all the baggage with me as I was not sure if I was going to come back to Stavanger. I got used to 20 extra kilograms on my pannier, so I could easily jump on the roads and outride the locals.
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I got to Tau on a ferry reminding of our weekend trips to Russkiy island in Vladivostok, only this was freshly-painted and clean in a Scandinavian manner. I parked my bike among cars and went up to check out the view. It’s there where I was caught by an inspector, so I had to buy a ticket after all, costing, by the way, as much as a delicious sandwich (44 NOK).

40 minutes later I was in Tau. It was very hot, so I had to lose all the warm clothing and leave shorts and a vest only. It’s there where I met two Serbian guys riding two huge motorbikes. They were following the same route. For the first time in the trip I wished I had had a company. But we were moving at different speeds, well and good. Especially since they were already going back to Stavanger from Preikestolen. So we exchanged contact details and agreed I would come visit them in Serbia one day. They gave me their map, explained how to get to the mountain foot and what road I had to expect. According to them, I was about to ride 10 km of flat seashore and then walk up a very steep hill about 5 km just to get to the foot.
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It smelled like sea unbearably. Sea, hot asphalt and grass, a whole bunch of feelings bringing me to my childhood. On my way I called by a supermarket named Rema100 (quite a low-cost one, by the way) to buy some canned fish food, bread and cola. Then I turned on the music and dashed away.

There was no drastic elevation changes, but it was so hot I was roasting. By the way, I am not far from heat lover. I finished 10 promised kilometers, then continued on the bonus 5 kilometers and got to the foot of the foot of Preikestolen. That’s where I was going to start crawling up 5 km of a serpentine road, then roll down to the very foot, and that’s where the climbing was to get started.
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Those last 5 kilometers are pretty steep. I was drinking and washing up in a mountain stream, a biker rode by on a road bike waving at me. Yeah, sure – I thought, you just add 20 kg baggage to your bike, then we could do some racing.

So I continued on dragging up my bike. I literally dragged it up fanning away pretty impudent mountain flies. I was quite vigorous at that encouraged by the fact that the way back down would be a just piece of cake. I washed up a couple of times in small waterfalls putting my head under the cold flow of ice water. I drank this water till I felt sick, poured it to all the possible containers and kept on crawling up. In this mode I had to drink water every 5-10 minutes.
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On the map, the route looks more epic than it is in reality.

Here is the mountain foot. Here’s where I left my iron horse, took with me only bare essentials, which are warm clothes, a tent, a sleeping bag, a ground pad and some snack. I left my bike at a parking area with gigantic motorbikes similar to those of the Serbian guys. They are quite popular in Europe, as I noticed. I locked the bike to a pole, covered the baggage with the case in the event it started raining and took off. I tied the bike with a locker mostly for the balance. I left all the valuable things in the baggage including my laptop. Nothing would have made me drag all the belongings all the way up to the mountain. I did not even care about all those tourists hanging around. I just wished the bike was still there when I returned the next morning, the bike is all I needed, nothing else mattered.

I dropped by a souvenir shop the first and the last time for the entire trip. I bought a nice souvenir, tacked it on to my backpack and set off.

Many people were already descending, but I did not care, I was going to spend the night on the summit after all. Some people stopped to ask if I really was going to put a tent there on top. As if it was some kind of an incredibly inordinate and goofy whim. As I see it, this is a regular weekend activity.
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I liked it that there were people of different ages climbing up the mountain. There were some pretty old people climbing carefully every rock. As for me, I found it really easy to hop all the cobbles, although I lost my breath a little bit in the end.

I ran into two French girls with huge backpacks on the way up. Haw-haw, I said, so after all I’m not the only nut here to plan an overnight stop on the top. So we decided to arrange a common camp. But we still had a lot of time left till the night.

It took an hour or an hour and a half of walking up picturesque man-made trails to reach the final destination.
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On the “cathedra” itself, there was an atmosphere of unity and universal picnic. People were taking pictures of each other, smiling and speaking in various languages. A great place for meditation and letting go any old reflections, even despite the fact there were no room for privacy (although it came with the sunset). You sit at the edge of the cliff turning your back on everyone, and before you, as far as the eye can see, lies Lysefjord and the mountains. The mountains and Lusefjord. A fantastic performance. At that point this was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen in my life.
Still, something was missing.

And then they came, and everything clicked into place.
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These guys are amazing. These are BJelle, a music band from Lithuania. They were singing and playing taking my breath away. As if there was a fantastic mosaic of luck – and all the pleasures of the world (except the shower, perhaps) gathered in one place, and all of this was for me.

They sang their songs in Lithuanian and some old hits in English. The second they finished, the entire “tribune” burst into applause and jubilance. The guys really tuned up the place.
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The sun hid behind a rock behind my back and everyone began to trickle away. Only the toughest stayed. For dinner we had French instant soup, French cheese and that strange Norwegian canned fish I’d bought in the supermarket.

Curiously enough, it was not windy at all on the summit, almost a dead calm. However, I had already changed into my warmest clothes – it was way colder there on the summit than 600 meters below. We did not care to leave. But it turned very chilly, so we went down the trail to the plateau just below and put up a camp by the mountain lake.

There was somebody else putting up a tent a hundred meters from us, all the other tourists have already left. I fell off to sleep when the sun was still shining, about 10PM. Here in Norway, I fall asleep in less than no time and in any condition – an overabundance of impressions, the load and the fresh air do a very good job.
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Early in the morning I said goodbye to the girls and left before anyone else – I could not wait to get down to my bike. And that’s when I got my five kilometers of earned bliss down the serpentine road.
It was as hot as yesterday on my way back to Tau. I wanted to get back to Stavanger and take a shower.

I spent the rest of the day working in «Bøker & Børst». In the evening I crashed at Sadan’s again doing my farewell laundry – I was leaving to Bergen the next morning.
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This post is also available in: Russian