My arrival in Germany was rewarded with a huge punnet of Strawberry’s, perhaps not as good as the Norwegian variety, but succulent nonetheless. The landscape had barely changed, the same sheep tracks, gates and sheep droppings I had been cycling through for days. On occasion, the track was on the seaward side. The view of the Nordfriessische Inseln (islands) was ethereal, a mirage of sea, sky and man-made navigational towers.
I waited at a railway crossing to see a surreal sight of a train, transporting cars, with the drivers and passengers still seated within – reading the days papers. Their destination was Sylt, the aspirational holiday destination which can only be reached by train.
I cross a huge tidal barrier, which guards the entrance to the River Eider. full of day tourists enjoying the endless North Sea views. Continue reading →
I crossed the Svinesund into Sweden missing Norway within minutes. It is not to say that Sweden was that different, but I knew that I had been very fortunate to have good weather and perfect ferry crossings. Not to mention the Norwegian people, who made me feel very welcome.
The road signs have changed colour and the cycle posts unreadable, but the roads are clear through the forests towards Strömstad, a beautiful seaside port. I eat most of my food reserves for lunch before extracting Swedish Krona in a country which is rapidly becoming cashless.
A long slog against the wind eventually brings me to Tanumshede and an ICA Supermarket which would embarrass Waitrose for the quality of food. Last time I was in Sweden you could only buy flour and yeast; you were expected to make your bread.
I stock up with all sort of goodies and head out to a coastal campsite. When I arrive, the site is full. I have to ask very nicely to find a pitch as it is full-on Midsummer festival time. I also need to buy a Camping Card, which is mandatory, but this gets good use later.
Friday night is for families, but Saturday night is for the unattached generations, with no holds barred. Most of the rowdy songs are in English. What a party. The toilet blocks are a scene of devastation, and everyone is asleep. Continue reading →
Flying from London Heathrow to Norway was easier than I expected, once I could negotiate Terminal 5 with a bike box. Unpacking and reassembling my Thorn Sherpa in the baggage lounge drew stares, but not as many as I exited Customs dressed and prepared for the next 4,000km of my journey back to London. A surreal scene.
I had no idea where I would stay that night, but the first task was to find the Hanseatic quayside at Bryggen. This set of buildings marks the start of the North Sea Cycle Route, continuing south and around the coast of Norway towards the Oslofjord. Encouraged by the quality of the cycle paths and roads, I pedalled all the way to the Hahljem and caught the ferry.
It was then only a few miles to Fitjar and a deserted campsite, apart from a French cycle tourist. The midges were swarming, so I spent a few hours chatting in the communal kitchen about cycle touring and the route south. Cycling 100km in half a day bodes well for the task ahead. Continue reading →
Distance is nothing – only the first step is difficult, well pedal rotation for this journey – to cycle around the North Sea starting in London heading north to Norwick in Shetland and then on to Bergen and the coast route home via Sweden, Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium and France.
This journey will be the longest extended trip away from home. I estimate 60-80 days according to the detailed plans I had been making over the winter. A few short trips on a new Thorn Sherpa, as yet unnamed, confirmed riding comfort and carrying capacity. To keep costs down, I set out to camp every night and do as much cooking myself.
I booked a flight from Sumburgh airport in Shetland to Bergen and would worry about packing the bike when I got there. The flights departed every Saturday, so I timed my departure three weeks beforehand. I joined the National Cycle Route 1 at Hoddesdon, after cycling along the NSC 6 and 61 from Slough. This route would guide me all the way to Shetland.
After 55 days, of which 50 nights in a tent, 2 in B&Bs, 2 in Youth Hostels and 1 in a Prison (converted into a Youth Hostel I’ll add quickly) – I have completed the North Sea Cycle Route, also known as Eurovelo 12. My Garmin tells me I have covered just over 6,000km, which is consistent with gpx estimates, given I avoided the G20 conference in Hamburg and did not cycle follow all the options in Shetland and Orkney, having done those on a bike a few years ago.
Cycling in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium and France has been a revelation for me. The cycle paths are wonderful. The ferries have been wonderful (a total of about 25) and most of all, the people I have met have been wonderful. Apart from a loose bottom bracket (fixed at 8PM in Stavanger by Plamen), my Thorn Sherpa has performed superbly, although I now need to replace a few of the components (another chain, sprockets, bottom bracket) and give it a good going over. I am feeling much fitter and weigh something approaching my 30 year old self. I took my 2 man Terra Nova tent, which was ideal for the hot weather and stood up to the occasional downpour.
After 20 days of cycling mostly into a North Easterly wind, I reached the end of National Cycle Route 1 in Norwick, Unst, Shetland. Then guess what happened? The wind changed direction 😦
I was surprised at the quality of the cycle route. I would estimate that from Hertfordshire, approximately 40% is completely traffic free, another 50% is very quiet country roads, the remainder is normal traffic conditions. Who would believe you could cycle safely the length of Britain, thanks to Sustrans. Apart a wet cinder track leading into Whitby eating a pair of front brake blocks, the Thorn Sherpa has been perfection, carrying me and 25kg of gear without fuss.
The next task is to fly to Bergen in Norway for the 4,000km journey to Dover. I have gone through my panniers and shaved off 3kg of unnecessary gear, not to mention the almost 5kg I have lost in weight! Must eat more. My 20 year old MacPac Microlite tent needs replacement as the inner looks like a pair of grannies apple catchers. Everyone I met said spend the money on a Hilleberg, but which one?
Thank you for the encouragement, support and help from so many on the route. Notably, Berwick Cycles; Velocity in Inverness and Dr. Sprockets in Whitby.
I have been having fun with Google Maps. Now the whole of the North Sea Cycle Route has been mapped out as I plan the route and decide how how I am going to navigate. I have a few paper maps, but Google Maps, MyMaps, ViewRanger and BackCountry Navigator provide too many options. I have also used OpenCycleMaps too, downloading custom routable maps for each section that I can just about squeeze into my Garmin GPS. See http://garmin.openstreetmaps.nlfor more info and perhaps donate a few Euros to this project.
My Android Nexus 5X is more than up to the job of storing the maps, and the UK section is adequately covered by the Ordnance Survey offline 1:50k maps. Plus, at last, OS have re-released the Road Map series at 1:250k, which is nigh-on perfect for cycle touring, other than it doesn’t show cycle tracks, but it does cover the whole of the UK in 8 maps.
Now to overlay campsites, points of interest, ferries and find a means of attaching photos as I progress, as I mean to use this Blog in real time, with weekly updates. Just add StreetView and I can start now with a virtual tour.