The Viking Experience 2017
I’m a world away from the sunny mountains of Spain, where I was last riding. The skies are full of grey clouds, slowly moving along, the landscape doesn’t contain a single tree, just rocks, moss and grass with patches of snow in between. The dashboard of the Ducati I’m riding lights up: “!ICE WARNING!” appears in bright flashing yellow, but the cold doesn’t bother me much as we speed across the highlands. Norway is beautiful, but summer here is at times not far away from what we know as winter!
Edelweiss Bike Travel runs a lot of tours in Norway and I’m here for two iterations of what they call “The Viking Experience”. It runs from Oslo to Alesund, and then in reverse for the second one. I’d been to Norway before, but had really only seen a very small part of the country, spending most time working on a farm. My colleague for both tours is Domenico, a cheerful Italian who was voted to be one of Edelweiss’ best.
The experiences during these tours were quite diverse, but contrary to what the first paragraph suggested, we really didn’t have that bad of a weather, nor was it all that cold most of the time. There were only a few days out of 3 weeks with rain, one I ended up doing a Fjord cruise down the Sogne fjord with some customers. Poor Domenico got dragged into doing a hike up to Pulpit Rock (which you can totally not see up in the mist on the middle photo). He got back completely soaked, drying his boots and gear for 2 days straight.
A big highlight were some of the crazy roads we rode on. With names like “The Troll’s Stairs”, “Eagle’s Road” or “Old Stryn Highland road” these definitely lived up to the names. You just had to be on your toes for the odd tourbus sweeping across an entire corner at times.
The coastal area with the fjords is for sure the most impressive area of Norway. Inland areas are nice too, but the sights really do pale in comparison.
There were some quirky stops and sights that didn’t include jawdropping mountains and cliffs. Heddal Stave Church was quite impressive and they gave an excellent presentation about it. One customer, an ex-Navy engineer really wanted to see the Fjell fortress near Bergen, that once housed a battleship cannon; it turned out a nice little half-day trip. Bergen itself was quite good too, the Bryggen area is a must-see even though it was overrun with tourists from the cruiseships in the harbor.
Out of all the places we stayed, there was a quiet little town called Fjaerland, that stuck with me the most. The hotel was simpler than the others, but you just felt so much more at peace there then in some big town or hotel. The owner even told us he recently saw some killer whales, orca’s swim past the hotel in the Fjord, imagine that!
The Ducati motorcycle used as the tourguide motorcycle was quite nice, compared to the much more boring BMW 1200RT we had the week before. I had been on an older version of the Ducati briefly, but this newer version of the Multistrada was a very fun bike. Almost too fast and exciting for Norway and it’s strict speedlimits…
Having been on quite a few tours by now, I’ve seen a wide variety of customers. The first run of the tour we had a public tour with mostly American customers, which as always went quite well and everybody went home happy. The second version was with 4 Brazilian couples, which at first sounded like a bit more of a challenge, but turned out absolutely wonderful, very much like my scooter tour in Italy last year. Even though I didn’t speak any Portuguese like Domenico does, there were still a lot of laughs to be had, and just like the other group they all went home extremely happy, already talking about their next tour and how they would like me and Domenico to come along. There’s no better compliment than that!
And so, after the tour had ended, I headed back towards my van, which I had parked outside of Oslo on an old farm. Jolien thought it was really funny to scare me that giving a spare key to the owner was a bad idea, and my van wouldn’t be there anymore. So as I walked down that dust road i was glad to see it still there. The plan is then to pick up Jolien from the airport, and go for another 2 or more weeks of Norway. This time in the van, on the cheap, much slower and taking in the sights in a very different way!
I look forward to your reports Laurens. Enjoy your adventures and “Happy travels”.