Oslo to Bodø - Fjords and the Midnight Sun - CycleBlaze

June 7, 2009

Oslo to Bodø

18-hour train trip to the Lofoton Islands

One of the world's most scenic countries, Norway is also one of the least densely populated. There are some 2,000 kilometers to pedal from its top to the very bottom and who knows how many around the dramatic coastline... yet there are fewer than 5 million people there! It has deep fjords and snowy summits. Oh, and very expensive beer.

This tour had been a long time coming. Around 1970, when I was 19-ish, I went to southern Spain and met a gorgeous Norwegian girl one night: blond, blue-eyed and svelte. It was an experience that made me want to visit the country. To actually live there! I tried to learn the language and find out what I could about what to me at that time was a mysterious Scandinavian country. This was ages before my cycle touring days kicked off and it was some 15 years later when I managed to get my act together (so I thought - what a dreamer!) and have a go at riding around Norway's incredible fjords and its wild, storm-torn west coast. That escapade only got me as far as the bottom shores before I ran out of time and had to start cycling south back through Denmark to catch my return ferry to England. You live and learn.

Almost twenty years on from that failed attempt, I've wised up a little bit (debatable) and better know how to gauge distances (more or less) and plan a tour route that just might be doable (sort of). This time the fjords wouldn't elude me. Nope... starting right up north in the Lofoten Islands and riding south, cherry picking the places that look best. There's a lot of them in Norway. In fact, I was to find out there's more than I realized. Like I said, you live and learn. Hopefully.

Ryan Air laughingly bills Torp Airport as 'Oslo', but it's a long way south of the capital - over 110km. That's too far for me to ride today, thank you very much. 

Instead, I cycle 10km to a train station south of Torp - Sandefjord - and get a midday train up to Oslo proper, where I hang around until 11pm for the 18-hour, 1,300-krone (about 130 euros) train trip north to Bodø. 

Heart 0 Comment 0

It would have been much cheaper to pre-book a seat online 24 hours before, but I wasn't sure I'd be able to make it here today, so hadn't done that. Plus I didn't expect the local airline would ask that much. Note: those pre-booked train tickets are not transferable.

Oslo Station's cafes have wi-fi, so I use my Eee PC at one place after having explored the city center for a few hours. It seems a long wait. Eventually 11:00pm comes and my bike gets loaded into the goods wagon and I find myself a reclining seat. The train is quite empty. On each seat is a sealed pack like the ones you get on planes. Inside is a blanket and a blindfold that will keep out the evening sunlight. We depart. I try to sleep, but its's not easy. 

A few hours later the landscape outside looks super. It's still fairly light, even this far south in Norway at this late hour. It's got more rugged when I really wake at around 6:00AM. There's snow everywhere. We seem to be high. Far below the rails is a road, wiggling along with no cars on it. I think of what it'd be like to be on the bike, riding along in chilly, fresh air, feeling my legs working.

The train has a 40-minute stop in Trondheim, where I have to change trains for Bodø. There's just enough time to get breakfast at the station cafe and I opt for the all-you-can-eat deal. The rest of the day is spent sat gazing out of the carriage window at snowy terrain and flicking through my Lonely Planet guide. 

Looking for the camp site on the edge of Bodø
Heart 2 Comment 0

We arrive in one-street Bodø in the early evening and I ride to the town's tourism office. The ferry to Moskenes over on the Lofoten Islands has already left: I wonder why the two services aren't coordinated. The tourism officer tells me all the local rooms are full, but shows me on a map where there's a camp site - at Geitvågen - a 12km-ride north, a place she says is good to watch the midnight sun. I put on my leg-warmers and set off along the deserted coast road.

A view of the midnight sun from the camp site
Heart 2 Comment 0

Once at the camp site, a 20-something attendant takes my cash, lets me plug in my camera battery charger to an outlet before directing me to the grassy tent area where the only other people camping are two Dutch guys who are on a long drive from home up to Nordcap. Sweet. 

They offer me some of their red wine and we sit overlooking the calm sea and watch the sun hover above the flat horizon that's pierced by a few jagged islands as we chat about travels and life and so on. We keep expecting the sun to disappear, but it never does. This is weird, a little disconcerting and unnatural.

We call it a night at gone 12 and I'm glad I kept the blindfold from the train ride. My three-season bag isn't quite enough though, and I wake feeling cold at around 2:00am, after which I drift in and out clad in my fleece top, wondering about tomorrow - which is actually today - and the ferry ride from Bodø to the Lofoten Islands. 

By now, after some pained facial expressions from locals, I've learned 'Lof-O-ten' is pronounced 'loo-foo-tun' and that 'Bo-do' is actually 'Boo-da'... like 'Buddha'.

The view from Geitvågen
Heart 1 Comment 0

Today's ride: 12 km (7 miles)
Total: 12 km (7 miles)

Rate this entry's writing Heart 2
Comment on this entry Comment 0