During my first year in Norway, studying friluftsliv (outdoor life) at Hardanger Folk High School, I made more than 60 Norwegian friends, from all over the country. I asked them where they lived, and if they were interested in me visiting them during the summer.
The summer of 2007 was the best crash course in Norwegian nature and culture I could ask for. During two months, I cycled 2,667 km, crisscross through ‘the belly of Norway’ – the fat part south of Trondheim. The route I cycled does not make sense on a map, but it was designed to include as many mountain passes, regions I had not visited before, and the homes of eight great Norwegian friends.
Norwegians are not only super hospitable, they are also very proud, though humble at the same time. They opened their houses and even second homes for me, made local dishes like moose and reindeer stew, washed my clothes, took me on the best local hikes, let me help them milk cows, organized private city sightseeing tours, and even went partying and bungee jumping with me! I learned about local dialects and traditions and felt more included in Norwegian society than ever.
In between these great visits, I biked Hallingdal valley, the Geiteryggen mountain pass over and down to the Sognefjord, the Sognefjellet and Gamle Strynefjellsveien passes, through Norangsdalen valley, down to to Hjørundtfjorden, the spectacular Atlanterhavsveien coastal route from Ålesund, via Kristiansund to Trondheim, south again to the historic UNESCO Heritage village of Røros, through Østerdalen valley, over Venabygdsfjellet mountain pass, through the mountainous national parks of Rondane, and Jotunheimen, over Valdresflya mountain pass, through the Hemsedal and Hallingdal valleys to the Hallingskarvet mountain range, over Tinnsvegen mountain pass to historic Rjukan, a loop on the most south-eastern part of the Hardangervidda mountain plateau, through Telemark and the valley of Setesdal, over the Haukali and Røldal mountain passes, down to Odda and the Hardangerfjord, to finish again at Hardanger Folk High School. Wow!
In my trailer, I also carried mountain boots, as I now had become a serious Norwegian hiker too. The hikes at Hjørundtfjorden (Sæbø), Kvikne (Østerdalen), Besseggen (Jotunheimen), Prestholtskarvet (Geilo | Hallingskarvet) and Gaustatoppen (Rjukan | Telemark) were the most spectacular.
The thing I learned the most on this epic bike adventure, was that you get even more out of a bike expedition if you mix in social visits and activities, as well as some hiking along the way. I can highly recommend people to design a less typical and more chaotic itinerary, full of surprises and spontaneous detours.