Saturday, 9 June 2018

On the Road Again



Current Location: Halden, Norway 

Distance Cycled This Trip: 158k

“My nose just skidded in my yoghurt,” I told Judy and waited for her reaction. She laughed, and continued licking her plate. I wiped the blob of yoghurt off the end of my nose with a grubby finger and licked that. Every mouthful counts when you are cycling touring, and day one would be no different from the others that follow.


After three days we are slipping back into our old ways - getting up, breakfast, ablutions, packing the tent and sleeping bags and loading the bike. It’s a familiar routine although we haven’t toured with a tent since 2015.

Some things are different though. We are surprised at how hard the cycling is - especially when we are no more than 200 metres above sea level and it would be exaggerating to say the countryside is  anything more difficult than rolling.

On day three, from Utne to the fortress town of Halden in southern Norway we had a fresh headwind and the temperature was around the mid 20s, which seemed hot after our few days inside the Arctic Circle. After 54k we were exhausted as we struggled into town and pushed the bike uphill to a campground which lies nestled in a 17th century fortress built to repulse the Swedes. The fortress worked and today it is a treasured monument to when the Swedes were the “enemy”. 

Some excellent cycle paths in Norway, but for the first few days we struggled
to get back into the old routine. 


Bridge under a bridge. A clip on for
 the exclusive use of cyclists and
pedestrians. 















We called for a rest day and discussed why the cycling was so tough. Was it because we are that much older? Should we have trained more? Is it the winding nature of the cycle ways and their intersections which prevent us from building up speed. Could it just have been that headwind which made itself felt on two of the three days? Are we carrying too much luggage? It’s probably a combination of several factors and we can only hope things get better or this is going to be a tough trip.

There have been a couple of other issues as well. The bike's old clicking noise returned at the very onset of the trip and we can’t trace its source. It's irritating, and I worry that that something is about to fail on the bike. It only happens when we pedal - downhill coasting is fine - so I suspect the transmission. I tried oiling the brand new chains in the unlikely event there was a stiff link. I tightened the bolts that adjust the chain tensions. There was no excess play or rumblings in the pedals and no noise from the bottom brackets that might suggest a problem there. All good, so the search widened. At Judy’s suggestion I let some air out of the tyres. Still no difference. Finally I fiddled with the couplings that enable the bike's frame to be separated in two for transport.  All to no avail. The exasperating clicking sound continues and we have no idea how to stop it. If it is still with us in Germany we might throw ourselves at the mercy of a bike mechanic. Maybe they have an expert on strange clicking noises.

We are also having some navigation issues. The cycling here in Norway is wonderful in a sense. Cycle paths are everywhere, and on the odd occasion they are not, cyclists are allowed to ride on the footpaths. There are so many options with paths crisscrossing each other, going through tunnels under the roads and on bridges over motorways and railway lines. And signposts to places we have never heard of. 

George the GPS - in his more wilful moments referred to as the Bastard Child - has worked pretty well guiding us through this labyrinth but the routes I designed on Map My Ride back in NZ are about to run out. The planning was just to get us started. Now with Garmin’s idiosyncrasies, erratic wifi and only an iPad it is going to be difficult to keep on top of the navigation. We don’t really want to use paper maps at this stage, we know they won’t have the detail we need and are likely to be out of date as more cycle routes are developed. All we can do is take it one day at a time and avoid riding on the M6 motorway which is often not far away from us as we head south from Oslo.
The border town of Halden, Norway. Best known for its fortress, infamous for its scraps between local politicians and home to one of Norway's two nuclear reactors.

Fredriksten Fortress offers views over Halden and some
nice walking - once you are up the hill.


Handel in Halden                                      

As we rode into Halden yesterday we spotted a couple of notices posted in the outskirts. “Handel in Halden” they said with today’s date underneath.

“Fancy a bit of culture", asked Judy. We agreed a concert - perhaps even an outdoor one held at the fortress - could be fun if the tickets weren’t outrageously expensive.

This morning we promenaded along the waterfront with lots of happy Norwegians enjoying another fine, sunny day, all the time keeping an eye open for any more of the posters and a clue to where and when today’s performance was to be held. No sign. And the Tourist Information Office wasn’t open. 

We came across a busy Saturday market, selling the usual knick knacks, food and drink and hardly cheap clothing. Still nothing. 

In desperation Judy contemplated going into a pharmacy to ask, then asked herself,”why would they know”.

I spotted what looked like a ticket office - it said something like biticklrts on a sign. As we came closer we saw it wasn't a booking agent. It was a fast food joint selling pizzas and kebabs. 

Judy tried a bookshop - “they’re the sort of people who might know.” But she emerged saying there was a sale underway and the staff were far to busy to interrupt them.

Back in the street market we thought our luck had changed when we stumbled across a  stall selling festival tickets for next month. If anyone would know, they would.

Judy explained. “We are cyclists. As we rode into town we saw signs for Handel in Halden, but we can’t find out anything more. Can you help us?”

“You’re here,” someone responded at once. “Handel means um... shopping. This is the shopping market on a Saturday.”

“So has Handel in Halden got anything to do with Handel, you know, the classical composer guy?" 

Laughter.

Public performance on the Halden waterfront.

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