Friday, 12 August 2016

GS ScandoBaltic Tour 2016 Round Up

Distance - 4,170km(MC), 775km(Ferry)
Duration - 20 days, 
Riding days - 18
Rainy days - 95%
Average speed Norway - 53km/h
Average speed remainder - 86km/h
Ferries - Lost count, may be 10
Memories - Shitloads
Nights Camping - 1 (see rain)

Best Bits
  • Hardanggervida
  • Geiranger Approach
  • Trollstein
  • Dash across Sweeden and Umeå
  • Helsinki and Suomenlinna
  • KGB Museum Tallin
  • Riga
  • Vilnius
Not so great Bits
  • Speed limits in Norway
  • Rain
The Route and Stops

Thursday, 11 August 2016

GS.dk Day 20 Broen "The Bridge" and Kolding (416km) via the Danish pipeshop

Ever whatched the Scandi drama the bridge? Its namesake and beginning scene is the 8km long Bridge from Mamo Sweden to Near Copenhagen Denmark. I loved this series and have been wanting to see and cross this engineering marvel for a while.  So bugger it, we did.

Broen (The Bridge)  was completed in Aug 1999. The project consisted on constructing and Island a tunnel and the bridge containing a cable-stayed main span of 490m, which is the longest cable-stayed span in the world carrying both road and rail traffic. It costs 48euro ($71AUD) for a car and 26euro ($38 AUD) for a motorcycle. So whilst it was fun its not the cheapest thrill one can have. I understand that if you commute for work you can apply for a %75 discount.

Stock Photo
The project built the bridge, an island and a tunnel
Said Bridge, Island and tunnel

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

GS.se Day 19 Klaipedia and on to Sweden (308km

Fairwell Vilnius. We rode the 4.5 hours to our departure port Klaipedia. Luckily this is realy close to the National  park we wanted to see so we took a 50k round trip detoured. Another UNESCO site this lon thin strip of land is split down the center one half Russian and Lithuainian. The Russians apparently negotiated a small bit of land between Lithuainia and Poland so as to maintain another Baltic port. At 21:00 we were bound for Karlsham in Sweden.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

GS.li Day 18 Lithuainia and Vilnius (292km)

A slow ride to Vilnius. One lane 90kph highway with heaps of trucks and the odd tractor delivering grain or hay at snails pace. No stops bare benzine. Approaching Vilnius the road became a freeway two lanes divided and 130kph so the last 80ks was fast. That is until the traffic jam entering the city. It seems that there is so much infrastructure work in the Baltic capitals that the locals have been enduring crap traffic for years.

We checked I to Artis hotel in the old town and headed out for a curry. Why all the currys I hear you ask. Well two reasons. One Baltic food is pretty much the same across country's and heavy on potatoes (which I try to limit). Second there is not a decent curry place in Kolding and we have yet to find one elsewhere in Denmark.

After a brilliant curry we walked the streets of the old town. All thre states have UNESCO old towns but this is by far the biggest and most used as a normal part of the city rather than just a theme park. It is a very open feel with wider streets, parks and plazas. But there are little streets alcoves every where two riddle with bars and  restraunts all lively and frequented by locals. We headed up the Gediminas tower, a ruined fort on a hill in town, to get a view of the town. Sorry no pictures. As it started pissing down the minute we arrived at the top. It proceeded to piss down the whole walk home so we were drenched and rash for a shower and bed.

I must apologise for the lack of photos in general I will up old some she I get home. It's just that this old iPad has great difficulty white anything at the moment and loading photos via wifi from the camera just about kills it. You may like to revisit once I've processed and added them. Also taking good photos when your not alone and rushed and at the mercy of the weather leaves you only with holiday snaps.

Monday, 8 August 2016

GS.lv Day 17 Latvia and Riga (300km)

We left Tallin for a very windy ride to Latvia. We are running out of time due to a customer services debacle perpetrated by DFDS ferry company in booking our return to Sweden.


<Rant on>Basically this company's web site will not allow a two motorcycle booking for two and cabin. So after a chat session we were advised to ring the call centre and book. The agent could not see our rout onto system so promised to book the passage and call us back. He never called back and we made several calls to remedy only to find that there was now no space available for motorcycles. Asking for escalation recovering apologies etc etc but no head way untill centre manger Amy was engaged and she went to work freeing cargo space. Three hours later we received the original booking confirmation from Aron (the first Agent) for a passage in the wrong direction FFS. Amy was extremely helpful getting all but one motorcycle book and tried everything but in the end she couldn't make it happen. This really pisses me off they stuffed our beooking so rather than having a hard conversation with the person that booked after us the take the easy route and shaft us. 

Aron and team leader I hope your CSAT and NPS and variable component plummet 
Amy and Rebecca thank you
<Rant off>

Amy did have a booking reserved early in case so that's what we are doing cutting a few days off the trip. Unfortunately this means less time in The UNESCO sites of Vilnius and the national park.

Back to the ride. We took the direct main road to Riga. We had read that the EU has funded this road so those horror stories of dirt won't be an issue. The road was only two lanes but we'll serviced and no one gave a shit about speeding. I must say that the books read that Lativia is a poor cousin of our experience was the road in Latvia was just that little bit better with wide shoulders good surface and good markings. On markings. These appear purely open to interpretation in Latvia as we learnt to lane split one lane each way and shoulder as if it were a four lane hwy. everyone was well behaved and the trip was thrilling and fast.

We arrived in Riga about 5pm and checked in the Tallink Hotel. Brilliant cheap hotel with super Se use parking in the basement. In fact the vehicles have to go down on an elevator accompanied by a hotel employee.

Riga is very calming compared to Tallin. Less people, less ye olde theme park and very beautiful. It's not as defined a walled city as Tallin and architecture not as old but still it's relaxing. At least it would have been if the restraunt experience had not been so frustrating. Faults on both sides due to language, miscommunication by us due to fatigue (did I mention the wind, you know the type on minute your fine the next minute the front wheel lurches a foot aides way). The steak was beautiful and the cheapest I've had since Australia, but it was one of those travel fatigue moments for Gerty and I so we were fighting to remain civil to others and each other.



Sunday, 7 August 2016

GS.ee Day16 Tallinn

Today wa spent exploring the old own in Tallin. The highlights were the maritime museum situated in "Big Margret" the fortified tower guarding the main port gates of the city and the KGB meuseum.

The KGB meuseum is situated on the top floor of a hotel. This hotel was the first hotel for foreigners and the first high rise in Estonia. The USSR had decided that they needed money from outside so commissioned the building of a luxury hotel for foreigners. Unfortunately the first attemp was a failure as the soviet culture had bread a lazy, couldn't give a shit work ethic and no builder had experience in anything higher than a few stories. So the government commissioned a Finnish person to run the hotel and they imported finish workers to build it. The hotel was a place many wel to do visitors stayed. It was totally self contained with doctors mechanics chemists shops etc etc so the visitor did not have to leave the building and see the real soviet Tallin. Of course the hotel was visited by influential people fro the west so the hotel had an extra floor housing a two room KGB office that bugged 60 of the 300 rooms and monitored all staff to prevent defection and or marriage to foreigners. The me suit is small but the story is brought to life by the tour guide, Ana. She had lived through the era and had a health sarcastic sense of humor about the whole thing. This is so worth a visit, spy cameras, microphones in saucers, exploding dye purses to capture staff seeking hard currency, panoramic views of the city blocked to avoid guest seeing soviet infrastructure etc etc etc. Brilliant.


Saturday, 6 August 2016

GS.ee Day 15. Helsinki to Tallinn 0 km ( on a bike that is)

Today was spent wanfdering around Helsinki. The design district, the waterfront followed by boarding our ferry to Estonia (hence the .ee).

Helsinki turned on a beautiful sun filled day. In fact so fine that the design meuseum was bypassed after entering and almost passing out due to the heat. We visited the natural history museum (brilliant taxidermy and old school displays) wandered along the foreshore and reclined in designer chairs sipping coffees. 

We tried again to find the fabled hipster Kallio district, but again we were disappointed, apart from a few topknots there was no vibe.

 Boarded the ferry to Tallinn around 6pm choosing the overnight option which. Means you get a cabin and sleep untill 7 am before disembarking. The trick being that th trip is 2 hours but you sleep in port for about a third of the price of a hotel in Tallinn. Go figure.


Friday, 5 August 2016

GS.fi Day 14 Helsinki 0km

Helsinki, is weird. It looks like a old eastern block city but it's clothes are deceiving. It's pretty great. We started with a Sleep in then a coffee before catching a ferry to Suonemelina, the UNESCO listed island fort installation guarding the harbour. The few hours we spent there did not do it justice there is so much history and so much to see. 

Reindeer pizza, 

Booked another night

Thursday, 4 August 2016

GS.fi Day 13 Vaasa to Helsinki 428km

We arrive in Vassa just after midnight. We had pre booked a cheap hotel nearby so rode there and frigged around in the dark trying to find the key they had left for us. The place looked right out of some the USSR era concrete floors, metal doors, smell wafting up from the drain in the bathroom and the manditory two tone painted walls (Gulag green and jaundice yellow). Any way it was comfy and we slept until 9am.

It was to be a longish ride so we headed off after some pea sp for late breakfast. (Guess they were out of boiled grass). Before we left Vaasa we dropped into BMW Motrorad dealer who kindly got a friendly mechanic to re bend Gertys hand guard and re attach the end weight at no charge.

 We were off and as if on queue the rain started. We pulled up in Tampere for a coffee to warm up as we were starting to freeze.

60ks out from Helsinki we stopped for fuel and two things happened. Gerty dropped here bike again against the petrol pump. (Panniers are looking very adventurous now) and the sun came out. Within half an hour we were checking into the hotel but not before Gerty took out a pot plant with her pannier and went again crashing to the ground. This was quite a bad fall as it was unexpected. We were still I the pulling area of the hotel and some kind people rushed to see if she was OK. Her nerves were rattle but otherwise no injury except to said pot plant and the panniers which now have trouble opening.

I noticed an Indian restraunt across the way. So I put Gerty in a warm bath and I think we'll head over for a kingfisher or two.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

GS.se Day 12 Umeå then change of plan Finland and the Baltics


This morning we visited the Västerbottens  Museum, which had a skiing history exhibition amongst other exhibits. Here they displayed one of the oldest skis ever discovered 

Note the single scoop shaped pole

Oldest skis in captivity 

Following this we explored our next moves in Sweden over a coffee. Gerty rode out to BMW to get her sticking throttle looked at. Turns out her spill yesterday bent the hand guards into the throttle grip thus retarding its spring back. The mechanic removed the end weight to fix this but we will have to bend the guard back over the next couple of days to avoid undesirable handlebar vibrations.

Mmmm, what next? After talking to some Swedes suggesting Sweden is pretty much all pine forests in terms of riding we decided to catch the night ferry to Vasa in Finland then make our way through the Baltic states. 

How cool is Europe


Tuesday, 2 August 2016

GS.se Day 11 rest day Umeå 0km

After the wet ride and the great cheap accomodation we decided to chill in Umeå today. 

Had a big sleep in and a wander around town in the sunshine. I like this place but I fear that for 6 mths of the year it is snowed in dark and bleak. Bicycles everywhere here as its relatively flat and a twin university town. 


Looks a bit like Denmark. This bit any way.

We enjoyed dinner in a beer garden, and retired early as we needed to confirm our plans.

Monday, 1 August 2016

GS.se day 10 Change of plan Sverige 312km

We have re evaluated the trip up to Lofoten islands. The day was an 8r ride and the islands look great but kind of "more of the same". I have been fortunate enough to see them from a ship so seeing it from the road at low speed looked less attractive.

So Sweeden. We headed east and rode  to Umeå. As we approached the boarder the landscape morphed from fjordey to undulating pine forests littered with lakes. And once over the boarder. Yep great sweeping roads and 100kmph. This was bliss getting is under the tires and just touring. There was however about 60kms of dirt and large diameter Gra el due to road works. This resulted in Gerty dropping here bike again and a few more dents in the panniers. One minute she was in the rearvison mirror the next she was a little pile on the ground. I wrestled back and with the help of a truck driver we had her upright and speeding off. Now all was happy until until of course the thunder storm. Yep pissing down and pissing along trying to get to the patch of sunshine we could see in the distance. About 60ks from Umeå we caught the sun and slowly dried out. 

Heading east in Norway close to the Swedish boarder


Swedish boarder

We checked in to the coolest hotel right in the middle of town U&ME hotel. A chic self service hotel with brilliant rooms and rates not much higher than a hytte in Norway.

We indulged in a slap up curry and went to the movies to whatched the new Jason Bourne flick.















Sunday, 31 July 2016

GS.no Day 9 Heia (380km)

We are making a mad dash for Lofoten islands before Gertys holidays run out. A mad dash here is 900km is 2 days. Given our average speed over 9 days has been 53kmph this was no easy feat. Speed limits here are ludicrous for summer they are so slow that a mobility scooter would be a viable vehicle for travel. A lot of the time you are buzzing along in 2nd trying to remain under 50kmph and when you do get to give it a squirt to say the max 80kmph some selfish bastard in a motor home is swerving along at 60 with a strain of pissed off motorist behind it.

Any way we left Kristiansund in sunshine and after three hours and 160km we arrived at Trondheim for a coffee in the old part of town. From there it rained all the way until we could ride no further being limited by the wet and cold. Our bed for the night is in Heia Kro (Kro = Pub) about half way to Lofoten.

View from near our coffee stop in Trondheim.


Saturday, 30 July 2016

GS.no Day 8 Atlantic highway - kristiansund (150km) 4hrs

A Short day today. Our only real direction is to ride the Atlantic highway. 

But first a quick side trip the the Troll wall a famous 1000m climbing face of loose rock and ice with an overhanging top of the route. Unfortunately the top was in cloud but apparently that's not unusual. I guess it's a cross between nth face Eiger and the hideous Scottish wet winter snow climbs.


Trollveggen




Extremely low speed limits 50-60 most of the way made this ride pretty frustrating. The first glimpse of the Atlantic and the "Highway" was the smattering of low lying rocky islets strung along the coast. It's green and pretty and we have bright sunshine. The high way is only about 60km of islets linked by bridges which is impressive but as a motorcycle ride it's pretty lame, soon enough your in a massive tunnel on the way to Kristiansund. It's a bit like the sky bridge between Stanmore tops and Woollongong in Australia, ie looks great in the motorcycling mags but when your on it its not as impressive and it's all over in a øjeblik (eye blink).

Kristiansund was about as far as we could bother so we scoured the tow for a centre. Alas it's missing the town has no real centre and it took us several spiralling laps breaking a few road rules to find an open cafe with wifi. I understand Kristiandsund was heavily bombed during WWII which would account for the lack of charm.

We found great accomodation at place called "Homes" (owned and run by the very talkative Johanas Holmes who lives upstairs). It is a set of rooms in a converted basement for 100auds. It was clean basic and 1/3 the price of anywhere else. Guests also have use of his fantastic garden where we sat and chatted to other travelers before a squadron of myge (midges) descend and lay siege. 

On arrival we noticed a large Turkish presence so expected there might be a great Turkish restraunt. Sure enough right on the waters edge we found one and had some extraordinarily tasty Turkish fare and a bottle of Italian red. 


Friday, 29 July 2016

GS.no Day 7 Geiranger and Trolstein 192 km

Here we are ready for the motorcycling roads Norway is most famous for. First off Geiranger. It starts off in an alpine glacial wonderland then plummets into Geiranger fjord. From there one climbs out slowly behind numerous motorhomes. (living proof that we "humans" are ultimately selfish). Then it's down to another ferry crossing.

From the ferry it is a slow climb to the top of the Trolstein. At the top I stopped to take the mandatory photo but Gerty (in the lead) completely missed the tourist centre and rode down to the bottom. Realising her error she road back up again to meet me then we continued down together. 

Now the first half off the day was brilliant riding, However, the hair pin bends and loads of slow traffic of the Geiranger fjord and Trolstein switchbacks are not a brilliant ride. Don't get me wrong it is beautiful but it's way too crowded to be a great ride. Gerty however loved Trolstein doing it twice, not so much for the curves but for overtaking recklessly on the straights.













 

GS.no Day 6 Sognefjellet til Lom (218km 5hrs)

Beautiful day to day with brilliant riding. Sognefjellet is another motorcycling and tourist dream road. I'll just let the pictures tell the story but traffic was light and riding was great.

The start of the day

Stop for another glacier pic

Typical road in the section




Glacier moraine 






Wednesday, 27 July 2016

GS.no Day 5 Single track to Hoyanger (251km)

HNorwegians body love tunnels. Part Viking part mole they burrow through mountains to avoid long roads. Today's route took us through so many tunnels we lost count. Some small and unlit, some so huge they also containined round abouts at underground intersections. They all felt colder than the outside temperature even though the Beemers temp gauge showed little difference.

We rode in rain from 10am - 4pm with only a couple of coffee stops. Why so long? Well our route took us on an extraordinary single lane road hugging the side of several fjords and gorges. One had to sit in an overtaking bay to allow oncoming traffic to pass. At one stage we rounded a corner only to screech to a halt to miss an oncoming bus that took up the entire road. He couldn't back up as is customary for cars as the was a queue of cars behind him. So we had to. Now for those of you that don't ride motorcycles, they don't go backwards, you have to push them backwards on tippy toes which is extra taxing when the bike is fully loaded.

The scenery was spectacular but the rain and wet roads had me hating it until the scenery won over after an hour or so. Mid afternoon the rain turned torrential and we were now getting cold so it was a little less tolerable. Finally we boarded our first fjord hopping ferry to Larvik where we grabbed a coffee and urgently booked the nearest hotel. 50k later we we showered and fed in a cosy hotel in Hoyanger.

View from the hotel

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

GS.no Day 4 Heroes and Hardangervidda (954km)

M Ryukan, is the scene of the famous "Heroes of Telemark" WWII sabotage mission. A squad of UK based Norwegian commandos parachuted into the wilds of the Telemark region to destroy a heavy water plant at the Vermok power station and thus delay the German nuclear bomb research program. Their xc ski based approach and daring entry to the powestation to blow up the heavy water apparatus directly is legendary. But that was not the end of it as they got word that the Germans were quickly rebuilding the plant. They we then tasked with a second mission to destroy all stockpiled heavy water that was being transported by train. The best option was destroy it on the ferry that took the train across a fjord and it worked but at the cost of the lives of most of the civilian passengers.

Today is very special for me. I have whatched and read so much about this mission and today I got to visit the Vermok power station. Whilst the heavy Walter factory Section had ben destroyed and demolished after US bombing the  power station  was in perfect repair and is now a meuseum. It was fantastic visit not only for e war history component but the power station itself was interesting. As soon as I walked in it smelt like a hydro station and bought back memories of my time working in the Snowy Mountains Hydo. When this station was built in 1919 it was the latest in the world. 



Basically an its an engineer/xcskiier and war history buffs wet dream.



Our afternoons ride was across the aplpine area, the Hardangervidda. This is glorious alpine country reminded me of the lake districts, Scotland and even parts of the Kousciosco national park. It's a xc skiing dream with little lodges every where. And, as seems to be the tradition here  most of their roofs were covered with grass. This is ist here an ingenious traditional thermal insulation approach or a bone idle approach to maintenance.



We made a brief stop coffee stop at Geil, a huge ski resort bristling with Lycra clad Noweigians in salomon shoes and running jackets. From there it was a short ride to our destination Eidfjord where we took a cheep room at a camp ground as it had started to rain again. This last section took us through our first tunnels. The Norweigans bloody love tunnelling. One tunnel today corkscrewed its way down and down as a means to get us to the valley floor. 

We stayed in the attic pictured here

Monday, 25 July 2016

GS.no day 3 Rjukan rain


Contrary to weather forecasts it pissed down last night. Seriously tropical rain that tested the tents mm rating with a few drops getting through. Consequentially it was a very late start rain stopped at 10. Tent dry and chicks away at 12.

Curvy glorious wet roads and oncoming camper vans taking up 2/3 of the road made it a little uncomfortable, but an hour or so saw us in our first real coffee shop denoted by three motorcycles parked out side. The coffee was great so we stayed for two and recharged our devices un aware more rain was on approach. As we left it started bucketing down again. Visibility was bad and water on the road was deep enough in places for a bit of aquaplaning.

 Gerty had a little complain about me riding slowly but it was I that had to peer through the rain, meet head on traffic and estimate unmarked tight corners all she had to do was follow my tail lights and avoid the flaming wreckage should I  stuff up. ( not many tight or decreasing radius corners are marked here as there are too many)

Around 4 we checked into a budget guest house in Ryukan to dry out and soon after went out for a Norwegian attempt at Chinese, which turned out not too bad at all. 

Rjukan is in a valley which in winter has no sun whatsoever. An enterprising resident has designed and built 3 sun tracking mirrors atop the mountain to reflect a patch of sun light at 80% original strength onto the town square. This provides a patch of 60 square meters of sun for the residents to catch some Vitamin D.


Said mirrors

Sunday, 24 July 2016

GS.no Day 2 DK to NO 245km (+3.5hr ferry)

We said our fairwells to Anne at around 6am then rode the hour or so to the ferry terminal at Hirtshals. The trip lasted 3.5 hrs so I took this opportunity to catch some ZZZZs on the deck along with hundreds of others sunbathing on the helideck.

We arrived at Langsund at 1:30. What a contrast to Denmark with steep rock walls rising out of the water right from the ferry terminal. Straight off the ferry we rode the scenic route to Dalen in 26 deg sunny weather. There are very few straight roads here and by Dalen we had seen fjords, mountains, typical Norwiegian houses dotted a about said mountins and had started to wear the sides of our tires (which don't get much of a work out in Denmark)

We checked in to a campsite in Dalen, sorted the tent etc and headed to a little cafe on the fjord for a sensational steak and alcohol free beer. NOTE: The Norwiegian blood alcohol limit for driving is ZERO so they have very good alcohol free beers which are also much cheaper the the usual 20AUD for a .5 litre draught beer.

Waiting for our first of many ferries


Scandies catching a few rays while they can

Our first camp

Gerty sampling the first of many non alcholoic beers