The Scandinavian Adventure: Noresund – Flå – Flåm

The Scandinavian Adventure: Noresund – Flå – Flåm

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Two days behind schedule and we woke up to a rainy grey sky. Our best option now was to wait for some time to see if the weather was improving while enjoying our nice room.
But even after a late breakfast there was no sign of improvement.
So the options that we are left with are:

  1. Lose yet another day of our schedule and stay at this hotel for another night
  2. See if there is a train which can get us where we want to go
  3. Get over it and get on our bikes

Yes, we considered option (1) for quite some time before I started investigating if there was a train connection from Noresund. There was none. The next railway station on our route would be Flå, the nearest back in Vikersund, forcing us to go through the gravel one more time. 
But while I was looking for other ways out of our misery the rain at least decreased. So we decided to go to Flå on our bikes after all.
But going to a place with a railway station opened up for another alternative. If we could make it in time for the 2:20p.m. train and if the conductor would be so nice to let us on, despite the fact that we had no reservation for our bikes, we could make up for lost time and take the train…
Still we had around 44 km ahead of us and „only“ 5 hours to make it — we spent more time on a shorter route the day before…
Well if we wouldn’t make it we could still spend the night in Flå and take the train the day after…

For the first eleven kilometers we followed the paved road on the western side of Lake Krøderen. Forest and holiday homes on one side of the road, the Lake on the other side.



The never ending gravel on the way to Flå

As expected on pavement we made good progress too. But then it came what had to come: Gravel again. For another 12 kilometers we had to follow a gravel path of which we had to push our bikes for at least 2 kilometers up the hill, as the gravel was too deep and the hill too steep to ride on them.
There we had lost another 30 minutes just to cover 2 kilometers. If the road conditions weren’t to improve very soon we had no chance to catch the train. I didn’t have much hope that we would make it in time and that we would additionally be allowed on it.

Eventually after 2.5 hours and 23 kilometers we were back on pavement. But if there was any longer gravel path ahead of us — which we did not know — we would not stand a chance to make it in time for our train.
7.5 kilometers later and we were exhausted and ready for a break. Some bus stop provided some shelter for us while we took our lunch break. But this was also where we had to go for around 2 kilometers onto the European Road 7 or Riksvei 7. Sharing the road — you might guess it — without a shoulder for bicycles, with the motor traffic. Until we found our junction onto the path for cyclists. But warned by the experiences of the past two days we expected more gravel paths. 
Neither of us was looking forward to do more gravel. But we were also forbidden to continue for any longer on the European Road on our bikes.
So back onto the bike path. I cannot say that it came as a big surprise when we found a gravel path again. But we were lucky, the worst unrideable part was only 300 meters long. After that we could ride on, even though for a while on gravel, before we were back on pavement for the final kilometers.

Will our plan work out? Will we be allowed on the train?

20 minutes before the train was to arrive we arrived in Flå. Now all we had to do was to find the train station, which after asking someone in Flå we did.
Still some minutes to spare before the train would arrive and we would finally get to know if we would be allowed to board it with our bikes. We discovered another nice invention of the Norwegian Rail-service: a Venteroom or Waiting-room. A heated small room with a bench, sheltered from the elements. Yes, if you live in Norway you appreciate it. If you cycle in Norway you love it too, at least if the outdoor temperature is no more than 13˚C and you are sweat through from cycling.

The train eventually arrived and yes — we were lucky again — the conductor kindly allowed us to board it with our bikes. Once we were on board the train the conductor told me to relax, because now I was on the train and nothing could happen anymore. But he also told us that it was good for us that we did chose the train rather than cycling — as we had planned — along the Rallarveien toward Flåm, because on the Rallarveien we would have encountered not only gravel, but snow which hadn’t yet melted. Fourteen larger patches of snow were left to melt…

Rallarvegen from the train

I had wanted to cycle the Rallarveien, which is the supporting route for the builders of the Bergensbanen. When the tracks between Bergen and Oslo — the Bergensbanen — were laid down in 1909 the workers moved along and the material was transported on the path next to it, the so called Rallarveien. The supporting route still exists today and for some part of it in its original condition. For Norwegians it is common to ride it on their bikes during the summer once the snow had melted and the path is free.

But if you cannot do it by bike, the train route is stunning as well. Especially a connecting part from the high mountains of Myrdal — located 866 meters above sea level — down to Flåm on the Aurlandsfjorden, which you travel on with the Flåmsbana. Since Flåm now was our day’s goal we had to switch trains in Myrdal and had a chance to enjoy that route as well. The Flåmsbana is known as one of the most spectacular train rides in the world. Not only is it one of the world’s steepest railway line on normal gauge tracks, but also it is a witness of Norwegian engineering with its twisting tunnel that spirals in and out of the mountain.

Kjosfossen and the Huldra

The train stops a few minutes at the Kjosfossen, a 93 m tall hour-glass shaped waterfall, to allow passengers to take photographs.

Sometimes you might get to see the Huldra dancing and singing on the little island in the riverbed, but be careful after all she is not human but a seductive forest-spirit…
It is possible to follow a gravel path down the hill from Myrdal until you hit a paved road in the valley of Flåm to cover the 21 km from Myrdal to Flåm by foot or on a bike. But with our heavy packed bikes the downhill serpentine gravel path would not have been ride-able or even enjoyable. So the train was a more comfortable solution.

Eventually we made it to Flåm — which meant that we had made up for the two lost days of our schedule by using the train — where we pitched tent again at the campground. This time though I should be careful to put some of my clothes as insulation under the sleeping bag before going to sleep…

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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