In the beginning of August I received this message:
“Hello Lars. My name is Abhishek and I am from India. I leave for my bicycle tour of Norway in 2 weeks and I am currently going through your website, extensively. Thank you for putting this together. Do you think I could speak to you over a few minutes so I come better prepared from India? I'd appreciate any amount of time that you can give me with this.”
An indian biking in Norway? Cool, not many of them, I thought. As we spoke I learned that Abhishek Ayer is a 30 year old guy living in Pune, a city about 150 kilometer east of Mumbai. He works as a marine engineer on ships. His schedule is being away on a ship for several months followed by some months off to do whatever he wants. And what is better then than doing some real bicycle adventures?
Abhishek had tons of questions, both about Norway and bicycle touring in general. I realized he was looking for a real challenge and encouraged him to go for it. A few weeks later, in the end of August, he made it to the start line, ready for two months on the bike.
Riding in Norway in autumn can be rough. I know that out of own experience. His journey has probably become even harder than both he and I imagined, with lots of rain and wind and temperatures just above zero, sometimes even less.
From the dry and warm comfort of my sofa it has been exciting to follow his trip on his Facebook page with nice photos and thoughtful reflections about life on the road. Now and then Abhishek has sent me personal updates. Sometimes he has sounded happy and excited, other times downhearted and discouraged.
Then I thought, maybe more people than me would find his trip interesting. So I sent him a bunch of questions. Fortunately he was more than positive to contribute. The rest of this story is his tale. He has now been on the road for about six weeks with three more weeks to go.
Can you describe your route through Norway?
My initial plan was to go from south to north, from Oslo to North Cape or Kirkenes. Arriving in Norway and speaking to locals I realized that travelling in the north of Norway at the end of October was not the wisest idea, so I changed the plan. So I am riding from Kirkenes to Bergen, along the coast.
Did you have any experience from similar trips?
This is my third bike trip. The first was a 20 days trip along the west coast of India from Mumbai to the southernmost point of India and the second trip was 40 days across Nepal and in addition doing the Annapurna circuit in Himalaya.
How did the idea for this trip emerge?
When thinking about a new trip i wanted to challenge myself more than travel actually. I wanted to do something in the mountains and far away from India. And I wanted to do something new, and this would be camping. On my previous trips I did not have to carry a tent and sleeping bag since there were overnight options every few kilometer. I therefore had no experience with camping.
I would guess not many indians know much about Norway. Why did you choose to go to Norway?
Someone randomly suggested Norway while I was on the ship. I started looking it up, partly by visiting your blog, and I decided Norway was doable and a good idea. Norway is a land I knew very little about. When you google on the internet you find amazing pictures and stunning scenery. It gave me a sense of being far away from my motherland, hence the feeling of unfamiliarity. Something completely new, refreshing and fascinating. Rugged riding. Camping is legal everywhere in the nature. Norway seemed to be unique. And perhaps a more interesting story to tell family and friends than other countries in Europe.
Autumn in Norway can be both mild and rough. Why did you choose to go in autumn?
I had free space of time to go in September and October. Autumn in Norway is completely different from summer after what I read on blogs and on the internet. Then it felt like a good move.
What kind of preparations did you do before the trip?
I did no physical training. I do have physical work on the ships. I guess that makes me a little bit active and in shape. At home I play basket and go for small bike rides. I have also completed a few triatlons.
But I did do tons of research on the internet about Norway and cycling here and what to expect, including reaching out to people I did not know. They have been extremely kind and generous to take time to chat and speak with me, giving me so much helpful and relevant information. Without them I would not have been prepared or maybe would not have gone to Norway at all.
Two thirds into your trip, what is your strongest impressions so far?
I do not have to think twice about it. It is the people, Norwegians or immigrants og expats I have been interacting with during the days. Everyone I met and interacted with have been so nice and instrumental and influential in a positive manner to my trip. It made this journey so much more interesting and eventful. I think it would have been a dull trip without all these meetings.
Another impression is that this is a really tough country to live in and to do a bicycle road trip in. The weather dictates everything, the mood of the people and their plans.
The nature is absolutely stunning. This is nothing like I have seen in real life anywhere else before. And i have seen quite a few places since I work on ships. When I sit at my tent in the evenings and try to picture myself by zooming out, imagining this planet, where Norway is and the exact small place I am at that particular moment, and I am so many thousand miles away from my home country, and every thing I know in life is so far away from this.
What do you think you will remember from this trip when you are 70?
As of now, I feel I might say “Oh my god, I cannot believe i had the courage and enthusiasm to do this trip when I was 30 years old, and that was one crazy decision”. I think I would feel extremely proud of myself.
Are there some particular incidents you regard as especially memorable?
I cannot say there has been just one. And that is a good thing. It is hard to quantify and put a sign on metrics on events that have occured on this trip. There have been funny things like dealing with uninvited foxes trying to steal food. Or having a chat with a stranger and through that stranger finding connections and then ending up staying with that other person who I have never met, and nice experiences coming out of that. There is so much going on every day, so it is hard to point at special moments.
What has been the biggest challenges so far?
Clearly the weather. I had not had any problems with the language or breaking the ice and start conversations or finding places to live. The weather dictates my day and my mood. I am well equipped and the gear is nice. The rain has been the challenge, especially in the morning when I am packing up and leaving because you want to wait it out or delay it. I have been biking with wet shoes and wet socks not knowing where to dry them for days and eventually knocking on someone's door asking “I have wet socks. Can you please put them on the drier for me as I leave tomorrow morning?”.
What has been the most rewarding?
The views. It has been rewarding to be able to see all those views after you have physically exerted yourself and having biked. That view every single night or day is so well earned, it has not just happened overnight by staying at a hotel and taking a bus. That view is based in a series of conscious decisions, and executing them have got me to that point. I feel that has been the most rewarding whether it is on a beach, on the coast or in the mountains, it could be anything at all. In the evening in my tent, relaxing, admiring the place and thinking about my journey so far and what have got me to that place, that is rewarding.
This blog is mainly in Norwegian. However, there are a few articles in English about cycle touring in Norway.