We couldn’t have had a warmer welcome when we stepped off the ferry at Oslo. Just through customs, Anne stood holding a card with our names and after introductions, she whisked us off on a whistle stop introduction to Oslo.
Anne is the cousin of some Scottish friends and, after hearing about our adventure, she and her husband, Ole, had invited us to stay for a few days at their home. The ride to their house in the suburbs was uphill. It was the most uphill we had done for over a month and should have given us some idea of the gradients waiting ahead on our journey. It’s a strange thing, when you look at a road map, everything looks flat and easy cycling!
The next day, Anne took us to the phone shop, the bank, the outdoor shop and the map shop. The fastest we have ever got up and running in a country! We opted for a road atlas of Norway to navigate as there are less roads here and so they are, more or less, all shown on this map. We bought a small MSR fuel bottle for our stove, to add to our 900ml one, as recommended by Anna, a kiwi cycle tourist we bumped into in Denmark. And we started to get our heads around Norwegian prices. En route to Norway we had been told about how expensive Norway is by almost everyone we met and advised to stock up before arriving. This is not really possible on a touring bike with small panniers especially as we planned to be cycling here for a month.
Luckily, there are currently 12 NOK to the pound, so we are doing a bit better here than a few years ago when there were only 8 NOK.
Chores completed we set off to enjoy the city. We had lunch in the royal palace gardens, and then walked down Karl Johans Gate, the main street in Oslo, past the statue of Gunnar Sønsteby, a resistance fighter in World War 2.
We are lacking any history of resistance in the UK as we were never invaded so it was fascinating later to hear more about this from Ole who, through his work in the National Norwegian Archive, had met Sønsteby. The resistance performed acts of sabotage such as smuggling out plates for the printing of Norwegian krone from the Norwegian Central Bank and blowing up the office for forced labour. The latter stopped the Nazis’ plan of sending Norwegian men to the Eastern Front. Sønsteby was high on the Gestapo list of wanted men and became a master of disguise, with over 30 different names and identities. In fact, the Germans did not acquire his real name until after the end of the war and they never captured him.
The next day we visited the Vigeland Park. This is the world’s largest sculpture park made by a single artist, Gustav Vigeland.
It is his lifework, with more than 200 sculptures in bronze, granite and wrought iron. He specialised in the human form as well as designing the park and its architectural layout.
Being children of the 1970s Blue Peter era, we had to visit the Kon Tiki museum, where Thor Heyerdahl’s famous balsa wood raft is conserved and interpreted. The Kon Tiki expedition took place in the 1940s and I think we found out about it through his later Tigris expeditions, when he was building reed boats and sailing them down the Nile. It was amazing to see the small vessel that he and his seven companions had sailed across the pacific. Following this expedition he did a lot of archaeological work on Easter Island including using the oral history of the island to chisel a replica stone ‘man’ and use ropes and poles to move it across the island from the quarry and erect it near the originals. Just opposite the Kon Tiki exhibition was another a museum celebrating the exploits of another famous Norwegian, Ronald Amundsen. Best known in Britain for beating Captain Scott to the South Pole, he was a skilled leader and highly experienced explorer of the polar regions. Due to our budget constraints we decided just to take in the notice board on the outside.
On our last evening in Oslo we cooked Crofters Pie for Anne and Ole and made a Norwegian version of Cranachan. Unfortunately, I proved that I have still not mastered the knack of making shortbread and it was rather crispy. Still tasty though! We chatted into the evening over a couple of drams.
The next morning, following some Norwegian lessons from our hosts, we were ready for the road. To help us escape Oslo (getting out of cities easily is not our strong point), Anne cycled with us as far as the cycle path alongside the E51 and then we were on our own. We planned to cycle north to Trondheim on Norway’s west coast following Sykkelrute 7, the Pilgrim’s route to St Olav’s relics. First we had to find it. The first hour, at least, was uphill out of Oslo. Then the next couple were steep up and down as we turned eastwards and cycled across several spurs and valleys to Kløfta and the appropriately named Trondheimsvegen. Here, we spotted our first Rute 7 sign and took a photo to celebrate.