I enter Norway just one day before a compulsory Covid19 quarantine for travelers from Denmark is announced. Talk about good luck...! For lack of time (it's already late in the Summer) I've decided against following the coastal route and instead will use the national cycling route 5 going inland from Larvik to Geilo.

The ferry arrives in the late afternoon and a few hours later I find myself my first scenic camping spot in the Viking country -- not bad, I'm already hooked!

And it will continue like so: almost every day is another highlight. Not having to worry too much about being camping "illegally" makes finding a good spot, in theory, much easier.

In reality however it is not always quite so: easy: a lot of the land is not very accessible, for a number of reasons:

  1. Cycling along the fjords, the slope is often too steep to put up a tent. That is, unless you enjoy sleeping with all your blood being pumped either to your head or to your feet (I do not).
  2. Rocks! Unless you're set up between 4 huge boulders you usually want to stake out your tent in case the wind picks up (and it really likes to, oh yes). However a lot of the available surface is rocky (hello, Rallarvegen). Securing the tent here gets tricky. Camping on rocks? Naaaw, I don't like it so much.
  3. Wind: oh my! I've always had issues trusting my MSR Hubba Hubba in the wind, after a few sleepless nights in Turkey and I was really hesitant bringing it with me to Scandinavia. So unless the weather forecast shows little to now wind for my day's destination I'm making damn sure my tent is placed in a rather wind safe spot
  4. "Oh, this lawn looks comfy!" You think so? Well then it's probably marsh land! Step on it and you'll get wet feet within 5 seconds. Camp on it and... I actually don't know, because I haven't tried. I really don't feel the desire to turn my tent into a swimming pool anyways.
  5. "No camping" signs. Especially in the touristy parts of Norway (which there are a lot of), land owners have put up signs to deter people from camping.

Having said that, camping in Norway is still fucking great and easier than in many other places. Don't believe it? Check out the photos!

Some of my camp sites in Norway

Mallorca in the wind

On the road however there's no way of fighting a certain feeling of familiarity: German tourists are everywhere! Whenever you see a car in Norway carrying foreign license plates, it's probably a German camper van (and if it's not a camper van, it's a mini bus)

In Germany it's a running gag to refer to the Spanish island of Mallorca as "Germany's 17th federal state" (because of the influx of German tourists there). Well if that was the case, Norway might as well be the 18th. And not everybody is too happy about that:

At one of the hidden camp sites there's a guest book (containing entries in mostly German language). A Norwegian visitor writes (also in German language): "There are too many Germans here. And they are shitting everywhere!". Which is... partly true, I guess: the toilet discipline in the woods is not too great in some areas, as you can tell from the many tissues laying around in the forest.

However I personally wouldn't dare to assume the nationality of the tissue spreader!

Day of the angry farmer

I wouldn't have expected to have my "worst" wild camping experience in Norway. (Still, I'm putting "worst" in in quotation marks because in the end, all turned out well). What happened was this:

The next day I was supposed to take a short ferry ride across a fjord. Guessing there wouldn't be any space in the small village I would have to descend to in order to board the ferry the next morning I decided to stay on a large, freshly cut lawn. Uphill and far away from the village with no buildings or animals around. My tent isn't too exposed, but still visible if someone passing by takes a good look.

The next morning I take my time to get the cold out of my bones. And sure enough, at 11 am while I'm still packing up, I hear a tractor going by. Only it isn't going by but instead turns into the field and heads straight towards me. Hmmmmmmmh!

The farmer is not amused.

"You have to pay money!", he shouts at me when I ask him if he minds me staying on the grass last night.

The fact that I don't have any Norwegian currency (in fact I've been going completely cash-less in Norway) does not deter him in the least.

"I will take your bag, until you give me money", he exclaims, "or I will call the police!". Speaking those words the farmer (who, going by pure optics, might have had a prior career as sumo wrestler) grabs one of my bags and moves his body back onto the tractor.

"Well I guess you'll have to call the police then", I reply. I'm still quite sure I haven't done anything wrong. Only quite, though. Not 100%. I just hope the police would by too busy to deal with trivial things like that. And after all, I'm not so sure if it's allowed to just take someone else's belongings...

Meanwhile, the farmer has gotten a phone call and I continue packing up my things. When he is finished, we continue our argument. But slowly it turns into a conversation and before I know it I'm listening to the farmer's life story: How he accidentally joined a dinner with Obama in Azerbaijan, how he helped building a juice factory in Ethiopia, that he worked as a bus driver in Switzerland and as a lorry driver in Germany. Also he had just had a surgery weeks ago. I also learn that French tourists are the best, because they are very kind. And Italians are the worst, because they leave wine bottles everywhere. Apparently the farmer also runs a small camp site business.

"People say it's a very nice camp site. Some come back after a year or two. You should come and take a look", he says. "I will give you some tomatoes!"

And so it happens. I take possession of my bag again and minutes later I meet the farmer at his house where he hands me not only a bag of homegrown tomatoes but also organic apple juice and a sausage that is as big as my forearm*

Now, that is what I call an adequate compensation for a very disagreeable first encounter (and listening to a 30 minutes long monologue...).

* Not to take away from the sausage but at this point I should admit that unlike my legs, my forearms are neither particularly large nor muscular

My Rallarvegen nightmare

I'll spare you the details of my ride through Norway. The roads are great, traffic is low, views are scenic. You kind of get used to it. One chapter though deserves special mentioning: my encounter with Norway's "Rallarvegen"

A merely 84ish km long road and -- as the tale goes -- Norway's most scenic (and definitely most popular) cycling path is an unpaved service road once used to build the railway track it runs along with, peaking at a very manageable altitude of only 1300 m.

I decide to take it easy (as usual, during my time in Norway) and will allow myself 2 days to complete ride. Piece of cake (or so I think...)!

The first day I'm not too ambitious and stop at Graskallen, maybe 30 km in. Easy riding until now!

When I leave the next day in the afternoon to complete the remaining 55 km however I have no idea yet that this will become in fact one of the toughest parts of my 20.000 km journey until now.

Partly because of the weather conditions (it's getting quite cold, bordering freezing temperature, there is rain and headwinds throughout) but also and mostly due to quite a few snowfields I have to cross, none of which are cyclable with a heavily loaded touring bike.

Even pushing through the snow sometimes isn't possible because of gaps in the track. The only solution: unloading the bike, walking the same way through the snow multiple times to carry over bicycle and luggage separately. At one point, the path is even overflowing with water and I can choose whether to get just wet feet, or to get wet feet and wet shoes.

To sum it up: Neither in the barren deserts of Kazakhstan nor at the oxygen-deprived altitudes of Tajikistan did I curse as much as on that day, and it takes me until well after 8 pm until I finally escape from the mess and find a place to camp near Flam.

The next day is almost exclusively spent drying my gear near a fire place: there's almost no piece of clothing that is not wet.

Sognefjord cruise

After the strenuous travel to Flam, I deserve a treat. A fjord cruise is in order and after a quiet night at Flam's beach the next morning a bus will carry my Westward through some 20 km of tunnels to the point of the ferry's departure in Gudvangen, from where the 2.5 hour long boat ride will take me to Kaupanger, approximately 45 km up North.

Cruise impressions

By now I've become tired of writing. The rest is only photos. See you next time! 👋

Aaaand more Norway photos