Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Ferry to Bergen axed - last voyage 01 Sept 2008

The Titanic, sinking
Top story on the UK BBC website today concerns the closure by DFDS of my route back to the UK, just a week or so after I was planning to use it to get home. This is going to be a disaster for people wanting to make a similar trip in the future, particularly since the Shetland-Faroe-Bergen route closed last autumn, and the UK-Gothenburg route closed in the spring of 2007.

This basically seems to make the journey to Norway with my bike this summer a swansong, unless I can find a way next year to get from Holland to Norway by public transport, or by Smart car with the bike strapped to the back.

What a disaster!

Sunday, 25 May 2008

My best mate

At Uvershula, 2005
This entry is dedicated to my best cycling buddy ever, who has pedalled our bike-trailerbike combination up many a hill in Norway, and who has never complained about a thing, even when we've been wet, cold, and a bit hungry together in freezing conditions at the top of mountain passes.

He can't come on this journey because he's got a summer term to finish at school, but he'll be in my thoughts always on this trip, and I won't pass any of our old haunts without belting out one of our songs for him.

It's going to be damned difficult to get up the last few kilometers of each climb without him doing his famous all-out lung-busting SuperPedalling behind me.

The photo was taken at Uvershula, a little beachhut built by a local schoolteacher for his children, and stocked with care for passers-by, near Teigan in the Vesterålen Islands.

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Mobile broadband works out of the box

I owe a big thank-you to Dale Lane tonight, since his blog entry on "Using a 3 mobile broadband dongle with the EEE PC" proved to be all I need to write my first entry on Blogspot using the Huawei E220 USB modem.

The dongle arrived in the post yesterday, sent recorded delivery and perfectly packaged from eBay seller 3g-fever, and despite my doubts (it's branded as a Three USB modem, but sold unlocked), it worked out of the box with my Windows XP laptop and Vodafone SIM card first thing this morning. And it is blindingly fast too, at least here in an urban setting using HSDPA - loads the BBC homepage in around four seconds with images.

I moved it to the Asus eee this evening and set about following some instructions on the Ubuntu forums for configuring it to work with wvdial - not a good idea, since within 10 minutes I'd managed to get the Xandros install on the laptop recklessly modified to the point where I could no longer log in, and the only option open was a complete restore from the original image on the machine using the F10 on boot. Yikes! Fortunately the restore was a five minute job, and everything is fine now (I was able to recover my home directory contents after the restore from a back-up made on my USB-connected 30Gb iPod).

Anyway, if you are in the same position as you read this, the good news is that Dale's instructions and the work done already on the out-of-the-box Xandros distro make installing the USB dongle a doddle - there's a wizard, you need to know your network provider, and if that happens to be Vodafone, everything works first time.

I think that's enough excitement for one day, I'm off to bed.

Friday, 23 May 2008

Bad dreams

Clothes horse
I've been sleeping fine. Janet woke up from a dream this morning where she was desperately stuffing clothes into bags because she'd overslept and the tour bus she should have been on was sitting with its engine running, getting ready to pull out of the yard. This time she seems to be carrying the burden of anxiety about missed connections for me. Basically I haven't planned the journey to Newcastle yet, I'm still staring at bags and clothes...

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Bike nomadics the Steve Roberts way

Steve Roberts on Winnebiko 2
Being a somewhat reserved Brit, I personally would not want to make eye contact with people by peering at them around a helmet-mounted head-up display, but Steve Roberts captured my imagination twenty years ago when I came across a magazine article on his futuristic trip around the USA on a recumbent bike with 105 gears, pneumatic retractable prop-stand, and a wireless Internet connection.

All ultimate über-geek stuff, but I was inspired at the time by the idea of working whilst traveling, and of sending emails from a bike trip - while riding along in fact. In the mid-1980's few other cyclists could take credit card payments at the roadside, or run a Sun server from solar panels - or operate a ham radio from their bike trailer, for that matter.

He's been pretty quiet lately but his website is still valuable for nomadic tips; he's branched out into boats rather than bikes, but still travels and apparently lives off writing and consulting on the technologies associated with his unusual lifestyle. Tonight I've been looking at his tips on how to prepare for living a nomadic lifestyle effectively on the road.

Monday, 19 May 2008

Tent mods ready - two weeks to go

tentipi varrie light - photo courtesy
I finally finished the time-consuming task of building a hat for the tentipi that can be adjusted from inside the tent - from my sleeping bag, in fact. This involved a week of late nights on the sewing machine and a greater appreciation for why these tents are so expensive: there's a lot of work in running one up.

The original hat for this basic tentipi model is a simple wrap-around cone with a cut in the side and four one-metre lengths of 2mm bungie cord to hold it to the outer tent - so adjustment is done by unclipping a bungie at the bottom and walking around the tent to clip it on further around if you're trying to close the vent in the hat, or to open it on the lee side so that the breeze sucks smoke out of the tent.

My new hat is much closer to the hat that comes with the top-of-the-range Varrie Light - in other words, you don't have to leave the tent to adjust the hat, instead you pull a cord with a toggle on it in a narrow sleeve secured to the inside of the tent at waist level: four cords run up to rings at the top of the pole and down to the four corners of the hat, where they are sewn to an anchor point and join bungie cords permanently attached to the outer tent. So you pull a cord on the sleeve, and the corresponding side of the hat rises at the top of the tent a metre or so above you.

There are two more cords to control the smaller "top hat" - visible in the picture above - which sits over a cone made of mosquito netting to provide ventilation when the main hat has to be closed to keep insects out.

The tent material came mail order from PointNorth in Hollyhead - 2 metres of ripstop nylon tent material, and a metre of mosquito netting, plus sundry toggles, rings, and 2mm bungie cord. Once you've worked out the angles involved in making conic sections of the tent, it's fairly easy to come up with the patterns required.

Friday, 16 May 2008

A virtual tour of the M/S Vesterålen

Hmmm, now that I've seen a virtual tour of the M/S Vesterålen I'm glad I booked a cabin; unlike the panoramic lounges of her bigger sister ships, this one doesn't seem to offer long bench seats in dark corners that one can sleep on. There's no sheltered observation deck at the back to roll out a Thermarest mattress on either.

Have you been on this ship? I think the earlier and smaller ships are used to cover the route while their big sisters are on voyages to Antarctica outside the main summer season in Norway.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Booked a place on M/S Vesterålen

Took the plunge just now with my credit card and committed to a cabin for the Hurtigruten journey from Bergen to Molde, thus ending a four-week debate on whether I should book to avoid disappointment (no cabins left) or wait until arriving in Bergen to assess the snow situation on the Rallarvegen and the possibility of cycling from Haugastol and Geilo towards Trondheim.

This'll be the first time I've traveled with the luxury of a cabin on the coastal steamer - cost for the trip is 2770 Kr (UKP 279) as a result. But the cabin is necessary for journeys longer than one day, and I anticipate that sleeping as usual on the deckchairs on the rear deck may not be an option from Bergen as it is when the ships are almost half-empty on the port-to-port legs above Bødo.

The booking resolves the problem of getting my bike onto a train from Bergen with the possible complication of it having a trailer attached. We went to dinner last week with Margaretha and John and they made a strong case for taking the BoB trailer too if food self-sufficiency is a priority in the wilder parts of Finmark. Now I'm looking at the trailer and thinking "hmmm, now I can carry a proper sized axe AND a stove on the bike..."

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Where To?

The trip starts in Bergen, which I reach by ferry from Newcastle in the UK (a day and a night on the ship).

The itinerary is flexible, I aim to cycle 40 to 50 miles per day, but I feel I need to get North as fast as possible to make the most of the incredible light in June above the Arctic Circle (where there is 24-hour daylight).

The ultimate destination is Finnmark and the North Cape - when I've gone as far North as I can, I'll swing down through Sweden and back into Norway to finish the journey either with a ferry from Bergen to the UK, or from Denmark to the UK.

To get to the start of the "proper" leg of the tour, I'll probably catch the Hurtigruten up the coast from Bergen to Bødo, which I know well from previous trips.

To avoid the monotony of spending days at a time on the coastal steamer, and to guard against the risk of arriving at the start of the trip with something missing from my gear, the first cycling leg of the trip will start a bit up the coast from Bergen at Molde.

I plan to follow the coast road from Molde to Kristiansund, including the famous Atlanterhavsvegen - a distance of around 200 km with fairly gentle terrain, but recently ranked first on The Guardian's list of the world's best road trips.

I arrive in Bergen on June 04, and plan to leave for Molde the following night.

I'll see how the first month goes before making firm plans for the second and third.

Any tips and comments you may have on cycling this route are very welcome - add a comment below or email them to the address on the homepage at sister-site and I'll respond as soon as I pick them up.


This is a blog about a three-month cycling tour in Norway that begins in a couple of weeks' time and should end with me reaching a ferry back to the UK in late August 2008 (not booked yet, anything could happen).

Why the blog then?

If you've come here from, you'll be aware that apart from rising tax bills, house price stagnation, and the threat of the worst recession since the 1980's we've got another pressing problem: we could take that mobile broadband data card to Norway but at £14 per MB (or roughly 10 web pages) we'd better leave it behind and use Blogger instead from
an internet cafe or public library. That way, it's just 10kr for twenty minutes' struggling with a Norwegian keyboard (which looks nothing like its UK equivalent), plus the price of a cup of coffee.

So here's the blog, and the countdown to the trip has begun in earnest - three weeks to go and a long checklist to work through.