Sunday 30/07/2006 - Ride to Sjøåsen
Before the holiday I wrote:
The ride today begins with a short section on the (fast) E6 back to the junction with the RV17. Depending on the food situation, we either turn onto the route or ride back to Steinkjer to stock up on perishables. The first part of the route after the junction looks to be fairly flat through farming country (mostly cattle and crops). The small village of Vellamelen saw flocks of up to 5,000 pink-footed geese during April last year.
After Vellamelen, the road skirts Hjellbotn lake for three or four kilometers, then turns north along the Namdal river that feeds it. The town of Namdalseid is located about two-thirds of the way along the valley. It has its own Wikipedia entry and Kommune website (with local weather reports). The Wikipedia entry explains that the Vikings used to drag boats for some distance here to bridge the gap from one fjord to the other.
The Mølnåa hut seems to be about 40km from the previous one. Their website says “You find us by following road 17 to Sjøåsen, turn to road 776 to Flatanger. After 500 meters you will see a sign to Mølnåa. When you stay here you can go fishing salmon or trout in some lakes nearby. Very nice walking area and 2,5 km away you find a cultural trail by Aasnæs Glasværk.”
A laser-beam like ray of sunshine climbs down the wall and hits me in the face at 4 AM. A gorgeous day, barometer up at 1009, not a cloud in the early morning sky. Outside a breeze is gently shaking the leaves on the linden trees fringing the water. There’s a chorus of snores coming from the tall grey luhar (Lapp-style tipi) pitched between our hut and the lake. This site is maybe a little impersonal due to its size, but it is immaculately clean and very well run - the washblock looks brand new, and they’ve thoughtfully provided a big trampoline for kids and a boating area on the lake.
After sleeping for another couple of hours, we all wake up more or less at 8:30. Our first consideration today has to be food, because it is Sunday so everything is shut, and we have precious little with us. We’ll ride back to Steinkjer and see if we can find a shop or petrol station before we head off into the wild. We munch on rolls and cheese provided as the smorbrod in the campsite’s dining room, and then start on the protracted process of re-assembling the travel-wrapped bikes and moving everything from the two huge black nylon kitbags we use into the panniers each item travels in. My bike took a couple of heavy knocks yesterday and has a buckle in the front wheel, and the new scuff marks on my darling Brooks saddle suggest that it has been dragged upside down along the concrete for quite a distance.
Packing up, Day 1
We are all sorted out and moving off at 12:10, which is probably not too surprising for the first day. We follow the cycle way beside the E6 for about 5 km, then onto the main road itself. It is busy, but not worryingly so, and the drivers are sensible, slowing down to a crawl behind us if it is unsafe to pass, then giving us a wide berth. The road climbs and falls moderately too, gradients somewhat surprising for the E6 given that it is such a major road.
At about 3 km from the campsite we pulled up at a roadside burger bar for lunch and made my first attempt at sorting out the buckle in the front wheel, which is slowing me down - I can’t loosen off the brake too much because I’ll never be able to stop the bike with P.’s trailer bike attached and 26 kilos of luggage in my panniers. It is hot hot hot! Two bottles of Coke from the stand are emptied in seconds.
After twenty minutes, twinges of guilt about our slow progress have us climbing back on the bikes and saying goodbye to the motorists at the truck stop. We have perhaps half an hour of riding in front of us to the turn-off for the start of the RV17.
Good news! A petrol station appears on the left at the top of a stiff climb just beyond the E6/RV17 junction. This saves us a 20 km detour into Steinkjer, since it sells spaghetti, cheese, milk, pasta sauce, and packets of hotdogs (the ubiquitous warmpolse). We are soon packing enough into our panniers for two days in the wilderness. After ice creams all round, we freewheel back down the hill and onto the RV17 at its starting point, ready for our big adventure.
The scenery hereabouts is dominated by blue skies with white fluffy clouds, green fields, and brightly painted farm buildings.
Farmland at the start of the RV17
Soon we are climbing hard in the heat, then flying down the lip of the next valley into Vellamelen (which has a large Co-Op store open during the week). We pull up here for a breather. Feels like we have cycled about 15 miles, but unfortunately we have covered about 8! There is a lovely stretch of road along the lake after the town, then a tough unrelenting climb to Korsen, which is pretty much at the top of the valley again and heralds the start of the freewheel down into the next valley and Namdalseid. To my surprise, the latter is located about half-way down to the valley floor - we stop here to try and get some of the jelly-like feeling out of our legs with a further round of giant Cokes and ice creams at a well-stocked Esso station (more food on offer on a Sunday).
Brief respite from the heat and the climbing at Namdalseid Esso station
Fortunately the road drops further down the side of the valley after the town and the going gets much easier as it follows the river steadily towards Sjøåsen. Just as we leave the petrol station we see and hail another cyclist who is going our way. Tom has been riding for two or three weeks already and has a further five weeks in Scandinavia. He’s riding an awesome Patria touring bike from Germany with front suspension, and Rohloff hub gears - the chain is sealed in a plastic chaincase - and he’s carrying an impressive amount of luggage, including a square glass bottle of olive oil for basting fish he can catch (this is excellent fishing country, some of the best). He’s having a tough time with the hills though. We ride together for several kilometres before he spots a possible free camping spot and peels off to try it out.
Riding the last few kilometres to Sjøåsen
At Sjøåsen I correctly identify the 766 and we cross an elegant girder bridge to a side road signposted to Mølnåa. The surface is gravel, but fortunately the dry weather means I can ride along it without the wheels skidding out from underneath me due to the effect of the trailer bike. Just as well, because we are soon being found by horseflies (“clegg” in Norwegian) with a voracious appetite for blood - they settle whenever our speed drops! After ten minutes of anxious sprinting the hut appears on the right, next to a large old barn. There’s no-one else for miles, but Monica the owner has pinned her leaflet to the door so I give her a ring. She’s very cheery, says she’ll be with us shortly, and arrives by car in a cloud of dust five minutes later which is very good of her, since I was expecting to have to pedal back to Sjoasen for the key, leaving the others at the mercy of the horseflies.
The hut is lovely, very bright and cheerful, and a fair old size, old wood stove inside with a large pile of chopped birch wood outside. It costs 500 kr to rent per night, and comes with a good supply of hot water for the shower and a well-stocked kitchen.
It has been a very demanding first day’s ride, despite the distance being a relatively short 44 km. I cook a big meal of spaghetti with hotdogs and pastasauce which we wolf down at 10 pm - we are all tucked up in bed at 11:50 pm. There are two rooms upstairs in the A-shaped roof space, one beyond the other, the furthest with a large fly-screened window which lets in something of a through breeze. All asleep within seconds of climbing into our sleeping bags.
Relaxing after dinner