Day 6-2. Røldal to Lofthus contd.
Whilst enjoying our refreshments Damae tried to see where the road went and spotted traffic coming down the hill and followed a car and caravan up the hill. First a Spanish couple, with car and caravan, asked if we knew what the old road above us was like. We showed them what maps we had but could not answer their question. They had been standing in front of their car, bonnet open since they arrived. We wondered if it made any sense to go up the old road with a caravan in tow given that they already seemed to be experiencing problems. Then a black BMW with Dutch plates turned up with a youngish man and two boys in it. We didn't seek contact but ended up in conversation. It turned out that he was a Canadian living in Almere (where I spent my first year in the Netherlands) touring Norway with his two sons. We chuckled at the fact that two Canadians both living in Holland would meet whilst touring in the same part of Norway.
As I was packing the teapot away we started considering the challenge ahead. Then Damae spotted a lone mountain-biker heading down the hill. We waited for him to arrive and on seeing us he came over. He was from Russia and was working in the IT in Norway. His back was covered in what seemed to be a rather large rucksack, but he said that this was his small rucksack. The big one he'd posted back to Oslo the day before and was trying to cover the three hundred or so kilometres back there in twenty four hours. We were rather impressed. We asked him briefly what he thought of Norway as a place to live. Perspectives from other immigrants are interesting to us. His dry dark comment was 'It's not good place to live, but where is better?'. This was to make us smile every time we thought about it. Rather than looking at the good things of here, you look at all the bad things in other places.
We wished each other well and he headed down the hill in the direction of Rĝldal and his turning. We took one last look at the view, then at the road ahead of us and started off. Once again the further we climbed away from the main road the quieter things got. As usual I 'raced' off ahead of Damae and for the first section through several hairpin bends. I stopped to photograph the view and looked down and saw her toiling away. It is always a bit strange to be in the sun, so hot and yet see snow-dusted mountains in the distance. Within fifteen minutes Damae was but a speck in the distance and a couple of minutes later she zoomed in with her camera and picked me out, just before I disappeared out of sight. Luckily, by now the sun had disappeared behind low cloud cover giving us our ideal climbing weather.
This was really hard work. Even with the lower first gear on the Rohloffs and less luggage we were still having to push hard. The old bikes had a big jump from first to second so once in first it would have to flatten out a fair bit to be able to pull second. However on this hill with the equally spaced Rohloff gearing it was not possible to pull second either. I tried every now and again to vary my cadence for a bit of relief but after about twenty metres would have to change back down to first. The road surface was also rather lumpy. This has a surprisingly large effect when strugging up a hill at five kilometres per hour. You start to feel each bigger bump as you hit it, the gradient effectively steepening momentarily. On the short sections of smooth asphalt things got easier and we could back off a little garnering our strength for the next bumpy bit. We tried our best to avoid even small potholes as this resulted in a noticeable increase in effort to climb out of them.
About five minutes before I reached the highest point of the road I noticed a peak with a cairn on top of it. When I looked at the map later it turned out to be the highest peak on Røldalfjellet at 1065 metres. If I had just driven up here then, like the other tourists, I would have found the climb from the road to the cairn a bit of fun. I actually considered it as Damae was a long way behind me but looking more carefully I realised it was a further away than it seemed. I contented myself with just looking at the bump and photographing the river flowing down our side of Røldafjellet before pushing on.
Somewhere around an hour after our tea break, I reached the top of the pass and parked my bike up. Next to the small car park was a small bump with a nice view so I decided to brew up some tea. The landscape had changed again now consisting of barren pile of rock, grass and moss, with ice fields all around. Having grown up with similarly shaped landscapes in the UK it was wonderful for me to just look at the masses of rock around me, the cliffs and the fallen boulders. It was a surprise to realise just how much I missed such things in the Netherlands, how much I wanted to have hills and rocks in my daily life and why.