Monday, 20 May 2013

New places, old places

We'll it's taken a while but finally I'm settled in my new apartment and have (nearly) all my belongings around me. Living a car-free lifestyle is great, until you actually need a car. Huge thanks to my friends who came through to move/store/move my shit, and to Mark who gave me a roof over my head for a month. The last stuff to show up was all my camping gear so it was with great delight that I loaded up my bike on the same weekend that summer descended on the west coast of Norway.

I headed south, along the fjords, but not before stopping less than a kilometre from my home with some major crank/pedal issues that I needed to 'unfuck'. I discovered a not-insignificant hill with a ribbon of tarmac draped across it. Odd Arild knew about this, as did all the local lycra-clad road weenies. They also seemed to know something about which direction to ride it because they were all going one way while I went the other. I didn't see the difference, on 2.2inch rubber and a full touring road it looked a bitch in both directions. I may have walked a bit of it...

Over the hill, and not so far away, are the ruins of an abbey, Lyse Kloster. In a grassy courtyard I laid on my back for a while, recovering and soaking up the rays. Lunch break. Summer's advance was everywhere. Flowers and shoots abound. Children let ice cream melt down their fingers and the tarmac was littered with the desiccated carcasses of worms.

I took a road across the hills and into the more familiar Hausdalen valley. Some off-roading and pushing across the bog took me to a regular camp site. The sun was relentless. It took a few hours of drinking fresh stream water, fruit teas and sitting in the shade to get me cooled down and rehydrated.

As well as forgetting to bring a spoon (again) I also didn't bring my fishing gear, which was a shame because the lake was looking sublime and I had a few hours to kill before the sun went down. 20.00 and the temperature in the shade was still 26C. I passed some of the time fashioning an eating 'scoop' from a twig with my knife. I won't offend spoons by calling it such, as my shaped twig was nothing so technically brilliant.

When the sun finally dipped below the forest ridge I got to play with the firewood I'd spent time collecting. Not a lot comes close to the sense of achievement of lighting a fire with a spark and the sense of communion with nature and our ancestors. Hot chocolate supper then I turned in for a night under the fully opened tent fly. Darkness never really visited before dawn was back. Head-torches are redundant in the northern summer.

It was warm already when my alarm reverberated deep inside a dry bag somewhere. I don't have my alarm set for weekends but it was a national holiday and my phone wasn't smart enough to understand this fact. Ah well, better get the coffee going.

Packing is always easy on dry mornings with minimal gear. I found myself back on two wheels by 07.00 and pedaling around the lake on the 'beaches', bogs and finally jeep track. I was home soon enough, had a second breakfast and hit the local trails with a weighted rucksack. Backpacking trips on the horizon!

Gear notes

Finally got try try out my first 'real' tent since my Laser Comp. I bought the Unna second-hand (practically unused) from someone on the Norwegian trekking forum. I didn't try it in it's traditional double-skin configuration. Fly only, wide open to the breeze and views due to the unbelievably hot weather and paired with an Oookworks tub groundsheet. I like the Unna for bikepacking. No trekking poles, low profile for near-road camp sites, masses of usable space and a reasonable weight for a pitch-anywhere shelter. Lighter bug inner required but I'll have to wait until Sean is less busy.

The newer version of Revelate Design's Harness is a winner already. Simpler set-up, doesn't interfere with the cables on drop bars as much, more room for your digits and rock solid, both in mounting on the bike and in holding the dry bag.

Lastly I got to play with my Light My Fire Swedish FireKnife. Total impulse buy from a local supermarket. Plenty of bushcrafty smiles. May not make it on gram-weenie trips but playing with it in the woods was ace. I doubt I would have carved my eating 'scoop' with my teeny Victorinox Classic so easily. And it got this fire started :)

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