25th June South of Stavanger: Norway on another Sunday

Sunday 25th June: In the evening. Its ten past nine though it doesn’t feel that late. I’m in my tent in a campsite just north of Stavanger. I don’t know where exactly I am. But I do know that this campsite is right next to the E39. Its next to an embankment that goes up to the main road. The road goes over a bridge over a fjord and I can see a little bit further is a ferry that crosses the fjord. Again, today was beautiful riding with a couple of ferries and on one of them two Norwegian guys riding motorcycles and chatting to them which was nice. After the ferry we went our separate ways with some really long tunnels going down towards Stavanger in fact I got a recommendation from Thomas Hansen for some places to buy food on a Sunday near Bergen. He had some good recommendations, but I had already found somewhere which was by a small harbour with lots of children jumping in to the water on a warm sunny Sunday morning. I had to wait there for quite a while for this small shop to open.

No beer to be bought on a Sunday

In the end what I bought there was not bad. Riding: It got to 3.30 or twenty to 4 and I thought I might as well stop somewhere rather than run out of road to enjoy for the rest of these few days. But I know that tomorrow there is rain forecast and in fact one of the bikers told me that torrential rain is forecast with thunder and lightning.  And it makes my heart freeze the thought of it tomorrow. Its forecast to start raining at 9am and rain until 2 in the afternoon. So that has put me in an anxious mood. On the way here I rode into one campsite, very slopy and gravelly which just did not feel right. It was packed full of families in caravans (it felt more like a holiday camp than a campsite for travellers) so I rode on and have ended up in this place. Even before I got off the bike in the parking area here at Austre Bokn Camping, I was looking at my Norcamp app for places that had huts because I could see that this place does not and I could not see any sites nearby that had huts. So here I am. It is one of those in transition places that was quite traditional but the new owners who have owned it since 2021 (I know that because they have written their biography and their ‘vision’ for the site in many languages and posted it up around the site) and are making the place slightly swanky so you have to pay for everything: you have to pay for a shower; you pay to use the kitchen; to use the washing machine and the prices are up on the walls everywhere. It’s a nice place but it has got some disadvantages: its really windy which obviously you can’t blame on the campsite but its unsettling – and being right next to the traffic (the sound of a truck going by on my recording). Tonight will be another night of wearing earplugs. Not only all day but all night! Looking back I remember how odd it felt trying to sleep in broad daylight a few yards a way from a traffic embankment.

The view is beautiful – in that direction at least

But now I am really nervous about tomorrow. I really want to get packed up tomorrow before 9am when its forecast to start raining. I have an alarm set for 7am.

Camping in a windy corner

I have been looking on the map and found what looks like a good campsite. I did start looking for hotels. They were either really expensive or there was a cheap one but I realised it was cheap because you shared – it looked pretty crappy actually. So I am going to head off to this place called Steinsnes NAF camping in Egarsund. I can see from Google maps that they have cabins and I just pray that they have a cabin that I can stay in tonight and possibly tomorrow night and I was also looking on the map for places that I could shelter on the way – get off the bike, park at a shopping centre and hang out inside for an hour or so if its pouring in Stavanger, or a petrol station… somewhere just to shelter from the rain, just stand there under shelter for an hour or even two, I really don’t mind. So I have lots of nervousness about tomorrow because of the rain. The dread is nearly always much worse than doing it – but I do want to get off before it rains. Its windy tonight here. I’ve got a lovely view over the fjord. I’m on a high piece of land here on this very slopy campsite but it is pretty windy. I am sure it will be fine. Worse things have happened at sea. I got very drenched three or four days ago but its just a memory now. In fact there is something about that kind of adversity that makes you really focussed on the moment. When you are riding along and the weather is fine, my mind is going all over the place but when things are tough you are really there. So I am hoping that I sleep well. Apart from the noisy traffic the place is quiet, very quiet. There’s no noise from other people at all – just the birds, the wind and the traffic. The traffic is getting quieter too… So, this anxiety about stuff its so – its not the end of the world. Its easy to get clenched up and hunker down, look inward. Its crazy. It doesn’t help but I have made a few plans which is good. Lets see what the next instalment brings.

Norway: 24th June Saturday Alesund and Bergen

24th June Saturday

Last night, I stayed in a campsite in Alesund. Its probably the worst place I have stayed in so far on this trip. And that’s because, for a start, it was really crowded. It was urban and it was really noisy. There was a group of people partying really loudly. I’m not sure what time they finished maybe after 11.30 (which is late in a campsite because people tend to hit the sack quite early). Added to that, people arrived late at night, after I’d gone to sleep (or rather while I was trying to sleep) and a couple of groups put up tents next to mine.

On the other hand, some of the campers were very friendly. I remember talking to a Dutch man who with his wife was touring using a beautiful tepee type tent on the same small field as me and a couple of young French cyclists who were cycling all around Europe. There was another single woman on a bicycle with a super-light Nemo tent which I had seen on the internet (that make of tent – not her). It was a small group of guys on motorcycles who made the noise. I wasn’t that close to them, mercifully, but they must have disturbed the whole site. I remember I said hello to one of them when they parked their bikes next to mine. I got one response but the other one just scowled awkwardly at me. The people that run the site (young slightly fed up with the punters’ questions) didn’t seem to consider it worth their intervention. So, I have decided that urban campsites are definitely to be avoided in the future. I camped in my little tent which on this occasion was fine because it was dry.

So, today, Saturday: I set off south on the route to Bergen which I put into the GPS. It was seven hours, a big journey. I’ve been riding down the E39 and am probably about 100k from Bergen, still north of the city. I crossed with two ferries today, I think. Maybe it was three. I can’t remember. I will have to look it up! It was fun.

A ferry going somewhere

It is super easy.

For the last ferry I remember riding really fast after a car that was clearly in a hurry. I thought I’m going to keep up with them as a challenge (I usually ride in an unhurried way). I thought that maybe they are heading for the same ferry as me only they know when it leaves. But actually they weren’t and when I got to the ferry terminal, the boat had just left. But the next one was in about ten minutes. I stopped in another beautiful lay-by and had something to eat. It was so nice to have a break as last night, as you can imagine, I did not sleep well.

So I wanted a definitely rural setting to camp again and I wanted a cabin. (For the reasons I’ve already set out – more than once…). I kept riding down the E39 and found a campsite called Botnen, not far from Oppedal by a small harbour. The site is on terraces that slope down toward a fjord. Its on lots of levels and there’s a variety of accommodation. I really like it. The slightly fusty couple running it don’t speak much English, if any. And when I asked if they sell beer in their little shop they had no idea what I was asking about – or at least they made out that they didn’t. (its as if Norway becomes some old-fashioned religious country when it comes to drinking alcohol or going shopping on a Sunday) Anyway, I am in my cabin now and if I look down I can see the fjord. It’s a beautiful evening, a long evening as all evenings are here of course. Interestingly, there’s a bit of accommodation down there by the water with four motorbikes parked outside with Swedish plates. So, thinking about last night’s campsite I’m wondering ‘are these going to be four guys making a lot of noise late into the night?’

Oh no more Harleys

I am so pleased to have got here. It was a long day riding. I got here after 6 and I had set off at about 10am. It was a big day of riding without much stopping. Now, I must relate a story about petrol. I got really worried about running out of petrol. (I had thought that the KTM790 can do 200 miles on a tank – but actually it is quite a lot more but exactly how much more I have never tested.) Of course I needn’t have. I found a rather shabby looking couple of pumps, certainly not a large brightly lit chain like Shell. And there is no one working there of course. I just could not get the petrol pumps to work. I moved my bike from one side of the pump to the other then back again. Then I discovered, of course, that there is a little machine that you put your credit card in. I’ve been doing that from day 1, but for some reason I had been so wound up about running out of petrol that I didn’t see it. Then when I did, the machine said that there was an error – which had never happened before. The error was in Norwegian of course. And there was a hand written sign taped up to one side of the pump that I could not understand, of course. When I looked at my bank app on my phone I saw that it had been charged 110 pounds or Euros for absolutely no petrol and then I repeated the process and I did manage to get petrol and then another £110 seemed to be charged to my card plus the cost of the petrol separately. Hopefully that just disappears after a short while (it did).

I was frazzled but I unwound as I rode. The weather was beautiful, ideal, 23 degrees, hazy sun, bright sun sometimes, lovely road, a bit of traffic but really lovely riding. What I did not do was find a supermarket open to stock up on beers and other things because tomorrow is the dreaded Sunday which shows that I have been here for one week. Supermarkets are not open on Sunday so it is harder to buy food and drink but I think I have enough to get by… I hope I have. So, I am feeling huge relief, tired but very pleased to be in this cabin and looking forward to getting a proper night’s sleep tonight.

Norway going south: June 22nd

Thursday 22nd June: Its Thursday and I am staying at a campsite called Hogkjolen Fjel Fannrem. Its located on the E39 to the west of Trondheim on the way to Alesund which is where I want to end up tomorrow night. Last night up on the E6 in a town just south of a town called Mosfjelt(?) was my first night of hiring a hytte – a cabin – which cost Kr400 – about £40. It was a cute little place. It had a fridge which I didn’t expect. It had lights. It had a mattress on the bed and a small cooker and a kettle. All in all it was fantastic. As I wrote earlier, it was the perfect space between staying in a swanky hotel and camping in my small tent which is the other extreme. I’ve been buying smaller and smaller tents in order to be lighter – because ‘light is right’ – right? Have I already said this but, being in a (small) tent is alright when the weather is dry but as soon as you add in rain, the whole thing becomes almost untenable (maybe a slight overstatement but it becomes extremely awkward) as you squeeze round and try to take off motorcycling clothes and boots in this small space. When the weather is questionable, staying in these huts is the perfect answer. Its almost an answer made in heaven. For example – no, lets start from today. I knew when I stayed in that hut last night that it was going to be raining in the morning and that it was going to start raining at about 8am. So, the bike was outside, of course, I was safely dry inside. The bike was covered up with the Oxford cover I will now always take with me travelling. And it rained right on cue at 8 o’clock. I dithered, eventually packed up. The rain was not heavy but it was more than a drizzle and I left though I wondered about leaving a little later. I think I got on the road by about 9.50 in the end. It was raining but I was in wet weather gear and it was OK. I rode for an hour, maybe more like two hours. What made things start to go downhill was when big trucks came thundering in the other direction. They cause so much spray and splash. Usually I can move over when I see them coming to the side of the carriageway to get away from the worst of it but one particular truck – maybe I didn’t move fast enough or maybe there was a particularly deep puddle but I got drenched and from that point my legs felt wet. Somehow they had got wet. I thought that this good quality wet weather gear (made by Klim) is fine but it has its limits or perhaps is starting to weaken. An hour later I stopped at a roadside diner – not a fantastic place but fine for the purpose and had a coffee and a strange cake. I sat at a table by the window and looked out rather despondent at the rain falling heavily by now. And in the end I just had to go back out and get back on the bike in this heavy rain. I headed off, continuing south on the E6 and I was thinking things like (the Buddhist mantra) ‘everything is impermanent’ and ‘it can’t rain all the time’ (after the song by Jane Siberry) and for a flicker of thought I thought: this is a privileged moment to be in the middle of suffering and to have this opportunity to think through these things. And I rode and maybe an hour later the rain stopped. I was going south and then eventually as I got further south, the sun came out! So I stopped at a roadside picnic spot and had a roll and some orange juice sitting on their benches. I think I kept the wet weather gear on – I can’t remember but I certainly felt a huge relief. Then I continued south, riding around Trondheim where they are doing huge roadworks and it was the kind of time that people are leaving work: lots of traffic, queues of traffic, lots of tunnels. Eventually I got around Trondheim and took the turnoff from the E6 to the E39 which is the road that goes right around the coast on this west part of Norway. This is a beautiful part of Norway. I gave myself a cheer in the helmet for getting on to this new road: having gone up the E6 and then back down the E6 and now I was doing something different.

At this point I put a random campsite into the GPS because I wanted it to route me round Trondheim to the right place to get onto this particular road. Then, maybe it wasn’t the same campsite that I put in but I stopped by a wide gravel drive off the main road towards a big site – where I am now. You could not call this place pretty but it is sprawling with gravel tracks everywhere. There’s even a mechanic’s garage just at the end of the drive where my cabin is planted where people are working on interesting looking vintage cars. The man that runs the site in the office is an older man who was interested in my motorcycle travel and showed me maps and some nice routes that he recommended, all of which I have forgotten and he showed me down to this hut. (That’s what I like about these old school campsites – that the people who run them seem genuinely interested in your travels.)

Drying in the sunshine

This is hut number two in my travels. This hut has four beds in it – two bunk beds. It has a small kitchen with basic equipment and a veranda with a small table and chairs. The sun has been shining in making it beautiful and warm. I have all my wet clothes spread out, drying in the sun. The only thing that has not dried yet is the sheepskin (on the seat) which was soaking.


Why do I like this campsite? I think its partly because it has a variety of people staying. There are people who are travellers. There is a German couple in the cabin next door who are travelling on two GSs, then there’s another German couple on one GS over in a tent (interestingly they had packed up and left before I event ventured out the next morning). There’s also some interesting looking vehicles around. Its definitely not one of those sites where all you see are Dutch families sitting around all day outside their huge white motorhomes. It seems much more to cater for people who have a different idea of travel. Interesting. I like it. I’d come back. And (I keep saying this) I really like the hut formula. I’ve been to two sites now and they have had huts available. I haven’t been turned away. 

Here’s a quick gear review: the bike is doing fine. A lot of riders are on big GSs here – which, of course, I don’t have any more. However, what my bike does not have is fantastic weather protection because I fitted a rally style front end and screen onto the bike. The original screen was actually better at keeping the wind and rain off so it is self-inflicted. I wonder whether a clip on screen extension would work, though perhaps it would look out of place. The helmet is fantastic. It is definitely water tight. I would know it by now if it wasn’t. Water runs off the visor quite nicely. Now that I no longer need to wear glasses, I’ve not been wearing sunglasses but have been using the drop down sun visor which I can, with a struggle, put up when I go into a dark tunnel and some of them are very dark and then down again when I emerge back into the sunshine. That works very nicely. The GoPro Hero 11 seems to work well though it runs out of battery at unexpected moments. It’s the same with my ‘B-roll’ camera, my Sony FDR – the batteries seem to suddenly go from ¾ full to being flat. Tomorrow my route is over to Alesund to pick up the rest of the route of the Motorrad tour and perhaps I will follow that round to Stavanger. Its Thursday and I don’t need to be in Kristiansand until next Wednesday. I did not realise I had so long so I can really take my time on this. It seems like there is a bit of rain coming but its not continuous – unlike when I looked on my iPhone app: the weather in the place that I left this morning is currently rain and its going to rain all night, all Friday, all Saturday and stop early Sunday morning. Whereas down here it’s a much more mixed picture. So, obviously, you have got to be prepared for rain in Norway and I think you have got to be flexible enough to do some dodging and diving in your route to avoid it.

Arriving at the Arctic Circle and discovering cabin life

21st June 2023. Today is the longest day. Its been a really good day. I didn’t sleep all that well in the hotel. I did have a lovely soft bed but it was very light in the room. The curtains were not good at keeping the sun out. I woke at 7, had breakfast and got away by 8.50. My objective was to get to the polar centre which was about 2 and ½ or 2 and ¾ hours away north on the E6. First I rode through Mo I Rana, the place I had expected to be staying and then continued north. It seemed to take an age to get up there. It seemed that everything was in slow motion, like a hangover. As I rode further north the scenery became more dramatic, more rocky, more snow-capped and more snow by the side of the road. Eventually the Polar Centre came into sight, and I turned off. It was quite busy but was a large area. Lots of motorbikes parked, lots of motorhomes and lots of nicely customised jeeps. Of course I took lots of photographs and had something to eat.

I made it

I didn’t buy any of their ridiculous things in the gift shop but it felt really good to have achieved getting there and I found myself thinking that having a concrete objective on a holiday, or when travelling, is much better than just having the vague objective of riding around and having fun. This is something that you know you have done and it seemed to work because I eventually I packed everything and turned round and came back heading back south. I felt – mostly – more relaxed. I could stop whenever I needed to, I didn’t have a punishing schedule. I stopped and had coffee and a roll at a petrol station which feels more natural every time I do it. Then I plugged in the campsites into the GPS. The nearest was campsite Haugen. It was only half an hour down the E6, though I was tempted to try and get further but it was beautiful weather today, glorious sun all day, sometimes a bit too warm – up to 28 degrees, cold in the tunnels. Some of them were really long where the temperature fell to 13 degrees. I arrived here and a woman came out and I said I had a tent and she offered me a cabin and because I had been looking at the weather forecast so often which showed there was an unavoidable band of rain coming across tomorrow; some places get it earlier than others but around here it should come about 8am – I said yes to the offer. And that rain seems to last all Thursday, all Friday and all Saturday. According to the forecast there seemed no way of avoiding it. So a hut/ cabin or hytte seemed a fantastic idea, so much nicer than being in my super-cramped tent. So I’m in the hut now. It’s got a mattress – really nice, It’s got a fridge, it’s got a little stove top, its got lights, its got sockets for me to charge everything up. Its like a mini hotel but it’s a log cabin. It smells like being in a sauna.

My home for the night
Like a mini hotel
Fast flowing river

It cost only Kr400 instead of Kr1100 that last night’s hotel cost. The washroom and the shower is a bit old school; you have to put Kr10 in the slot to get hot water but that is fine by me and I can really do without the swankiness of the hotel. This really suits me well. The tent is fine when its dry and warm but it’s really cramped so to be in a place like this is amazing for really not much more money. It makes such a huge difference. So, this site is beside the E6 but there is also a river behind it, quite a long way down. You would have to take a steep path to get down there. As I am writing this the sun is – well it won’t set tonight probably. It is a beautiful evening, still warm and the river is rushing down there happily. There are a few other bikers staying but they are a safe distance away. Staying in a cabin is such a good solution and if the next few days are going to be rainy this is  a much better option than going for a hotel, I think, unless it is really horrible.  I’ve covered up the bike but it seems unimaginable that such a sunny evening will turn into a rainy dawn and then rain all day.

Two other things: my GPS – Garmin Zumo XT – when it goes into tunnels it goes into night mode dimming and then lighting up again when you come out. But earlier today it got stuck in the dark mode and I could not see the screen. I tried restarting it in a lay-by but this didn’t help. Eventually, after restarting again and making an adjustment it got back to normal, but it gave me a real moment mainly because I rely on it to see whether I am exceeding the speed limit (everyone warns that speeding fines are very expensive here). Thing number 2: I’ve got my big map of this part of Norway spread out here on the table and I was going to put a town Rorvik into the GPS. I’ve looked at it before – its one of the places where the ferry goes on the Motorrad tour but there are two Rorviks and now I’ve found the real Rorvik which is a much smaller place near Trondheim and this is one of the first ferries that they catch on that particular day. Luckily I didn’t put the wrong Rorvik in which is further north but close enough to be a plausible place that you might think you were heading to. I am planning to head to Trondheim and then peel off the E6 to the West, the coast road, the E39. So that’s my plan for tomorrow. I’m expecting it to be wet but I have good wet weather gear and I can hunker down and get going, so lets see how the next days go. The 28th is the day I catch the ferry. In summary, it took 3 ½ days for me to get to the arctic circle from the bottom of Norway and I have 7 days to wind the way back down. I’m really happy with this place and let’s hope I can find other places like it on my journey down south. Using cabins transforms motorcycle travel in Norway.

Travelling north through Lillehammer

19th June: I slept pretty well in the end and woke up around 7.30 and tried to move as fast as I could although I took the trouble to make a filter coffee and ate a cereal bar–that was breakfast. The tent was wet, the bike cover was wet but thankfully everything inside was dry. I had to pack everything up before it had properly dried out. Amazingly, even though I woke up at 7.30 I didn’t actually leave until 9.45. I took ages to pack everything away, particularly when I was waiting as long as I could for things to dry out a little.  I headed off via Honnefoss and it was raining, drizzling, wet. I stopped twice to put on more waterproof gear and warmer clothes but once I had got everything right, I was very comfortable despite the cold and rain. I was thinking that when its super-hot (as it was in Portugal last year) you can take off as many layers as you want and open as many vents on jackets as you can but you still suffer with the heat. But when its cold and wet you can actually keep it out pretty effectively with the right gear. Perhaps that’s the impact of global warming on how I am approaching motorcycle travelling. I stopped in Lillehammer at a petrol station and had a welcome coffee and a roll. There was a bunch of six or seven bikers from Poland. I knew they were from Poland because they had it written on the back of their jackets (I just can’t imagine British bike riders doing that).

I headed off from there with a full tank of petrol and maybe about half an hour later, travelling north on the E6 (the E4 seemed to turn to the E6) the traffic thinned out and the weather even got better. I had looked at my weather app and I could see that where I was heading, Trondheim, was 25 degrees and in full sun. Where I was, was raining and about 14 degrees so that motivated me to get going. Gradually as I rode north the weather did get better and the traffic changed to only big trucks and travellers in camper vans – or at least that’s how it seemed. And lots of bikers. I went through a national park and it felt as though I could keep riding for ever. The road was really good, not too tricky; the weather was good, not too hot or too cold by this time, not too much traffic; the bike was running well. Everything was comfortable. I stopped about 30 miles south of Trondheim – in Støren I think is the place, found a supermarket and a campsite which is good enough. It’s a bit noisy because its close to the E6 but its also close to a river. I like the place. Its relaxed. A lot of people come here to fish. You need 10Kr for the shower so maybe I won’t bother because I don’t have it. I just had dinner: noodles, smoked salmon (again), and red peppers with a garlic olive oil dressing. With a beer I found in the supermarket and yoghurt and a couple of sweet things.

Storen campsite near Trondheim
Tablecloth stapled to the table

My entry here was so much more poised than yesterday because it was 22 degrees and just about sunny. There’s a lot of space and thankfully no mosquitoes. In fact I think I have brought here one or two mosquitoes that were squashed in my tent and somehow survived the day. So much nicer. The weather app is telling me that on Thursday it will rain all day but in the south it is sunny again. So I am trying to plan a route and a timing to avoid as much of the rain as I can. I won’t linger but if I travel back sound on Wednesday I might avoid some of the rain. I have promised myself that if its dry I will camp but if its wet I will look for hotels to stay in. That seems a good simple approach to travelling in Norway (I had not discovered cabins at that point).

Norway 2023 Route Summary

My aim was to visit the Arctic Circle relatively directly and then journey back to the south, where the ferry arrives and leaves from, in a slightly more relaxed way, down the west coast through tunnels and many short ferry trips.

The trip was 2,812 miles in total. I went out through Holland close to the north coast, which I thought might be more scenic (it wasn’t) and came back a more direct (though much busier) way. The main ferries were Stenna’s line from my old favourite Harwich to Hook of Holland and the new HNL, Holland Norway Line from the port of Emden just over the border into Germany to Kristiansand at the southern tip of Norway. Both are overnight journeys. Stenna cost £360 and HNL £714. I’m really supportive of a new venture in this complicated and costly sector. HNL’s offices at Emden were a series of tents.

This is looking down from the boat when everyone had boarded and the customs and other people were packing up and going home. But Stenna have a much more oiled operation and their boat and the cabins are noticeably nicer. HNL kindly changed my cabin when I complained that I was just under the performers on the sundeck.