Sunday, 16 June 2013

Two W/Heel Drive

Bicycle-accessed backpacking. Not bikepacking, but accessing quality backpacking terrain by bike. I had some car-lift credits to spend (part payment for some house painting that includes beer and grilled meat products) but I decided not to cash those chips in this weekend as my friend was already busy helping another friend move.

I chose Frankenbike, my single-speed commute/shopping/bodged-together bicycle for this venture. Perished tires, BMX pedals and grips, bargain-bin tandem stoker bars. She wouldn't be as efficient as my Fargo but her tired demeanor and unflashy simpleness would make her easy to ride the 20-or-so kms into the hills and leave overnight, unattended, chained to a tree. 

Hiking up Hausdalen in the muggy evening air and insect life was rife. Dozens of beetles, from jet black, through creamy Ribeana, to iridescent blue, toiled uphill. All of them going uphill, like me. Criss-crossing the river, then above the trees. Pretty much as soon as I needed to stop for water I spotted the first signs of sheep. I was thankful for bringing some Aqua Mira but couldn't remember the correct dosage so I gambled. Time will tell if I got it right...

Out of Hausdalen, swing left passed Redningshytta and up the side of Austefjellet. The incline slackened and the trail dried. The sun was shimmering off the fjords and sea across the hills. It didn't stay summery for long. No sooner did I have the tent up than a cold northerly wind sprang up and buffeted the back of the rain fly and surrounding cotton grass. Clouds roiled and the wind increased. Pretty soon I was enjoying my summit beer dressed in nearly every stitch of clothing I was carrying.

The wind increased as the day slipped unnoticeably into night. The sun doesn't really set here. 23.00 and I was still watching an epic sunset, now wrapped in everything I had, including my rain gear to fend off the wind. The fire across the northern sky couldn't warm me up. Spots of rain fell. I slipped into my tent, stuffed the earplugs in and tried my best to sleep.

It was a long night. Unlike last time I didn't sleep so good. The increasing wind had the tent flapping, twisting and deforming like a bucking bronco. I couldn't believe the structure was being held onto the top of this hill by slips of metal, dug into the soil, and string. At times the sides of the tent deformed enough to touch me and, despite the ear buds, the noise was disturbing. I tossed and turned until the early hours when the rain started and the wind quietened.

Finally able to sleep I missed any light show dawn had planned. My alarm call in the morning was the pewing of some plovers and the grumbling growl of grouse who were undecided between their winter and summer wardrobes. By the time I was up and drinking coffee the morning was fully developed but thankfully the chilled northern wind of last night was replaced with a warmer breeze from the west.

Packing up is a breeze when you travel lightly and simply and I was heading down soon enough. A couple of people resting at Redningshytta were the only people I saw. Dropping into Hausdalen the temperature cranked back up again and the sun returned. I stopped and rested on one of the giant erratics, either a relic of the ice age or the final resting place after a fall from the valley walls. Warblers darted up and down the stream and my back started to dry in the sun as I treated the lovely clear spring water with chemicals. My camp spot from a few weeks ago peered down from the top of Sveningen opposite.

Thankfully my bike was still nestled in the spruce forest. Either no-one noticed her or no-one wanted her. I decided not to discuss it with her and keep her mind on the task in hand, namely expediting my tired legs home. We rolled the valley road home together, passing buttercups and dandelions, shining gold in the sun. This was the way to travel, especially after the brutal 8km walk down this road back to civilisation last time. Next time I might cash-in my car lift chips but it was good to discover my bike can still take me places, even if that place is somewhere where my feet can take me further.

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