Our Ride Across Scandanavia August 4-10th

Our Ride Across Scandanavia August 4-10th

Written By: Art&Heidi

Our Return to Bergen

Our luck and fortune on this trip were never so evident as our visit to Bergen Norway. Having been introduced to new friends before our cruise, we were invited to overnight with Sten, Veronica and family before resuming our journey. Not only did they store our bike for the duration of the cruise we also accepted their gracious offer to stay the night and were treated to a wonderful evening, including a sumptuous Norwegian shrimp dinner (bowls of fresh shrimp that you peel yourself, and then placed on open faced sandwiches with a variety of toppings and dips), and an introduction to even more Norwegian friends, Kjetil and Jaspreet.

We are hopeful to see all these amazing people and their families in Vancouver sometime soon. During dinner Heidi stepped out to take a picture of the magnificent sunset from the deck of Sten and Veronica’s beautiful home and, as if by divine intervention, the old girl of the Hurtigruten fleet, the MS Lofoten on which we sailed, cruised right through the middle of the sunset for a once in a lifetime photo.

The Norwegian Mediterranean

As we waived goodbye to Bergen we resumed our motorcycle journey in Norway. Heidi and I had grown to love the uncrowded roads and magnificent scenery as we meandered south on the west coast. The Norwegian government must spend billions to create and maintain the connections between the endless series of archipelagos that make up the west coast of the country. We experienced just a sliver of this on our southern journey, but rode high, low, short and long bridges and of course Heidi's favorite, tunnels! The tarmac on the roads is equal to or better than that in Germany so riding was a joy and the sections we travelled were winding and varied.

As we came to the south coast, the terrain changed drastically into rocky coastline and granite mountains that made for spectacular views, but technical driving, not Heidi's favorite, and had my heart racing. This was just what I bought this bike for and we snaked our way through hundreds of miles of sweeping downhill grades and sharp hairpins that rivalled the Eidfjord we had ridden earlier in the month. I give her credit, Heidi held on tight and for the most part was pretty quiet, but every once and a while a whimper would come through my headset that signalled my need to slow right down! We had a long first day riding and stopped when the rain began, just in time.

We stayed at what had become our go-to favorite spots, camper cabins. In all the campsites, they rent fully equipped cabins that have kitchens and bathrooms but are free standing, ideal for wet motorcyclist. Our next door neighbours that night were a couple of Norwegian brothers on a 1500 km circle tour on crotch rockets, the favorite of the European riders. They set off in the morning in the rain but Heidi and I held off until 11:30 and missed the worst of it and rode forward into good weather.

The second day was uneventful but enjoyable: working our way toward Kristiansand on the southernmost tip of Norway. The second night we stayed at an interesting hostel: an equestrian center that offered rooms, it took a little effort finding but was very clean and well appointed.  Here we met a delightful young man who lived in Oslo but was originally from the Congo in Africa. He inspired us with the story of his escape from his war-torn country, his three years in a refugee camp in Tanzania and his ultimate escape to Norway as a refugee.

Norway offers all people a free education and he and his wife had availed themselves of this and he is presently in the midst of his master’s thesis on how the Norwegian government could streamline the medical system to better support the refugee population. He was so appreciative for what Norway had given him and this was his way of giving back: amazing. These populist politicians should sit down for one hour and listen to these amazing stories and they would see these people are not criminals: they are ordinary hard working people doing heroic things to make their families safe. Our third day was a straight drive on the motorway to Sandefjord to catch the ferry to Sweden.

Into and Across Sweden

The ferry system in Scandinavia is incredible and seemingly full all the time. There is a reason for that: Scandinavians, like Canadians, enjoy their alcohol (might be the climate?) but Norwegians are punished by the cost of booze. These ferries between countries offer duty-free alcohol and I swear it's the reason most of them are on the ferry in the first place. When it came time to disembark in Stromstad Sweden, I witnessed nearly every adult wheeling off their limit in beer, wine and/or spirits.

Upon arrival in Stromstad we checked into our camper cabin and met Inger Haalas, our dear friend from Friedrikstad Norway. She had also booked a cabin (saying she would nip in and stock up on wine as Sweden is much cheaper than Norway), so after greetings and drinks we went back into Stromstad for our last dinner together. We owe Inger a great debt of gratitude for her guidance and introductions, which resulted in our Norwegian experience being first class and unforgettable.

After waving goodbye to Inger in the morning we chose a route to Stockholm that would require two nights and take us through the central lake district of Sweden. This area is beautiful and the roads are unhurried and devoid of trucks, as we again chose the secondary roads vs the motorways. Both nights we had fun exploring Karlstad and Eskilstuna, trying our best to blend in and live like locals. 

We planned to arrive in Stockholm in time to park the bike and board our Helsinki overnight ferry. These sleeper ferries are like cruise ships and are a great way of travelling, as you continue to move toward your destination while at the same time saving a night's hotel stay by sleeping on board. We divested ourselves of the bike because we had an action-packed itinerary for Helsinki, ferries to St Petersburg, Russia and Tallin, Estonia and the bike would have just sat unused.  So we saved the cost of the ferry fare for the bike from Stockholm to Helsinki and parked it at a secure parking lot at the airport in Stockholm. Remember that point for a future posting!

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