The Scandinavian Adventure: Flåm – Gamle Aurlandsveien – Leikanger

The Scandinavian Adventure: Flåm – Gamle Aurlandsveien – Leikanger

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Today’s plan was to make it over the mountain on the Bjørgavegen, also known as Gamle Aurlandsveien toward Lærdal. Before the European Roads tunnels were build in the early 1990th all traffic toward Flåm had to either go by boat or use the mountain road from Lærdal to Aurland. Today we would use this road to get from Flåm to Lærdal and from there take the bus to Øvre Årdal at 3:30 p.m. to be able to cross another mountain and reach Turtagro the next day.

But would we be able to make that?

I had taken the very same mountain road on my bike before but with less luggage. So I knew from experience that we would have a rather flat road to follow from Flåm to Aurland before we would have to make an almost 17-kilometer long continuous climb to get from sea level up to 1313 meters. After that climb, we would reach a plateau to follow for another 10 kilometers before getting into the steep downhill for about 18 kilometers before we would reach the first target of the day in Lærdal.
We left Flåm soon after breakfast at around 10 a.m. hoping to be fast enough to catch the bus.

Over the mountain…on the Gamle Aurlandsveien

The first part to Aurland was easy. But the climbing road from Aurland was narrow and we had to share it with cars, caravans and motor cyclists. Most of the drivers were patient though, and since years ago even the lorries and busses had made this trip you still find little pockets to be able to let two vehicles pass in opposite directions. This time, though, I used those pockets whenever I could find them to let the queue of faster vehicles, that had built up behind me, pass and to take some necessary breaks on my way toward the top of the mountain.
Some caravans passed us on the narrow street without waiting for such a pocket to arrive, often forcing us to ride our bikes on the edge of the road, leaving only a few centimeters between our bikes and their vehicle. Solo was riding his bike ahead of me, so I had a look how small the room was between him and the passing caravan. It looked scary, to say the least.

As we got further up the mountain, almost reaching the viewpoint called Stegastein, some of the passengers and drivers going down the hill gave me an encouraging thumbs up when they saw me fighting my way up the mountain.
From the viewing platform Stegasteinen — in good weather conditions — you have a good view across the Aurlandsfjorden as well as parts of the Sognefjorden to which the first belongs. 
It is located 648 meters above sea level, around 8 kilometers into the climb.
But today we had thick clouds and only 10˚C (about 50˚ F) at the Stegasteinen, so once we stopped at the viewing platform we both got cold and pulled out our last layer of warmer cycling clothes.
After I had changed clothes Solo looked at me and told me that we would not have a chance to make it over the mountain to Lærdal this day. Not only was it already 12:45 p.m., but we both wore all we had in cycling clothes. Going further up the mountain would mean to sweat through all of these and after that, we would for certain get really cold with no chance to get warm again, yet the downhill and the downhill wind still ahead of us. Going ahead with this ride as we had planned would mean to risk serious hypothermia…Nothing worth risking if you have other options available.
While Solo considered just going back and attempting it again the next day, I told him that in this case, we should go for plan B.
He just looked at me amazed asking was plan B might be. So I told him that we should hurry a little bit so that we would be able to catch the ferry that would leave Flåm at 3:30 p.m. and take it to Leikanger. That earned me another look of amazement since I just right out of my head was able to tell him what options we had and when the ferry would leave.

And around the mountains…

If we had been able to go on with our planned ride we would have gone to Øvre Årdal today to then get over the mountain and get to Turtagro. From there we would have taken our bikes via Urnes and its famous stave church to Leikanger.
So taking the ferry from Flåm to Leikanger meant, in this case, to save two days of our schedule instead. So far we had been behind schedule, now we were able to gain a few days, which might even help us later on during the ride.

We went back to Flåm immediately, not losing any more time freezing on the viewing platform. Once we arrived back in Flåm we already could see the ferry, the MS Vingtor, which would take us within less than an hour to Leikanger. Yet we still had two hours left before it was to leave again. Thankfully the ferry crew allowed us to get our bikes on board right away so that we were able to walk around in Flåm and to have lunch with only a little luggage and no worries.

Arriving in Leikanger on a Sunday evening without a pre-booked room could have easy gone wrong during the summer season. But we were lucky to find a campground with cabins of which we were able to hire one for the night.
Now in the evening, there was only one problem left: we hadn’t taken any food for dinner with us. So we had to find some kind of a restaurant. That turned out to be more challenging than we both could have imagined by forehand. We walked for 3.5 kilometers along the main street, but all cafes or restaurants that we could find had closed before we found a gas station where we finally decided to have dinner instead.
Good to know there was at least a comfortable bed in it for us this night.

For tomorrow we will have to wait and see. Depending on the weather we might stay another night in this cabin and explore the area or take the early boat — leaving already at 7:30 a.m. — toward Bergen.

If you liked this post, you might also like the other stories from my Scandinavian Adventure:

You can find more photos from Norway on my website.

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