North South Cycle Challenge - Update 1

North South Cycle Challenge - Update 1

Having had a day off to relax and fix the bikes, we continued cycling inland towards Oslo. Although we were now south of the Arctic Circle, it was almost always light, apart from half an hour of twilight in the early morning. Norway’s inland terrain is as varied as its coastal terrain and conscious of this, we decided to avoid the mountainous west and continue closer to the Swedish/Norwegian border, where it seemed that the route would be flatter. 

The valley opened up to follow a river which ran all the way south to the North Sea. This meant that from that point on, Oslo was downhill. Laughing with relief that we weren’t "burning out", we felt like Oslo was almost in sight!

Robert _Adlemann _6

Leaving Trondheim, we were surprised at how difficult it was to make any progress. After one day’s cycling, our legs were very sore and we were surprisingly out of breath, even though the terrain seemed flat. Worried that we were burning out we sat down on the verge of the road to think. But then we realised that we had to go on or we’d never get anywhere, so we climbed back on our bikes and continued. Less than 1 km later, to our great relief, we arrived at a sign saying we had reached the top of a mountain. Somehow, over a day and a half, without realising that we were climbing at all, we had managed to climb 778m from sea level! We named the mountain “stealth hill”.

From then on we entered the world’s largest coniferous forest, the Taiga or Boreal Forest, which stretches all the way across Europe to Russia’s western seaboard.  The beautiful views were gone and replaced with close, dense trees – great for camping, but very boring. It was hard to keep awake. It was also very hot which is bad for your appetite, so it’s hard to take in enough calories: chocolate also melts into its wrapper which was quite an inconvenience when you are trying to average 4 large Snickers a day and don’t want to stop pedalling. 

21 days after leaving Nordkapp, we finally made it to Oslo…coinciding with a major Norway-wide bomb threat as it was the anniversary of the Breivik shootings! Undeterred, we stopped for a rest, and a congratulatory beer! 

Heading south along the coast again, it wasn’t long before we crossed out of Norway. Another huge sense of achievement. Norway had had so many low moments where things were more difficult or different from what we had planned that, in combination with our lack of experience and fitness (at least to start with), there had been moments when we doubted that we would actually get far enough to see the border with Sweden!

This leg to Amsterdam was interesting because, after spending so long in one country, we crossed the next 4 or 5 in such rapid succession. From the Swedish border we followed the coastal roads south to the city of Gothenburg. A quick ferry ride across the 100 km Kattegat to Denmark marked the start of our third country and of mainland Europe, hooray! 

Although Denmark had been described as “a pancake”, we had some difficult days of cycling due to the strong headwinds. Europe’s prevailing winds are almost always from the south and so have been against us most of the way, but the strength of the wind at this stage of the trip was surprising. 25 days of cycling in, we were starting to feel the effects of serious fatigue. Our morning starts were lethargic and even Denmark’s small hills were tough at times.

Moving south along the eastern coast, we entered Germany and then Holland. Holland is famous for its cycling culture and it was easy to see why (there was even some time for our first kebab)! Although quite breezy, Holland is completely flat and has some fantastic cycling routes. Another upside of being in central Europe now was that we were able to get into contact with the real world via occasional wi-fi connections – great for morale! We made quick work of Holland’s dykes and wind farms, arriving in Amsterdam less than 24 hours after crossing the border from Germany.

31 days in, 3,000 km to go!

Check back next week for another update! 

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