Travelling with a small motor bike means that when packing you have to hone down to the bare necessities. You might be taking less but the laborious decision making means it takes longer.
At the last moment I pulled out the laptop computer to give a little free space and less stress after all Mark twain and Robert Louis Stevenson got by with paper and pen.
On the ferry there were about 20 other bikes. Along side my little Honda 90 they were big serious creatures. The ones with British number plates were all shiny and polished ready to eat up the Scandanavian miles.
At Stavanger in the morning the traders were setting up the flower stands outside the cathdral when I called at the tourist office to pick up some useful guides and leaflets.The first of which helped me locate the ferry to Tau which runs about every half an hour and is used in much the same way by the locals as we would use a bus. Of course it takes cars too and it cost me about £6 to travel along with the motorbike. On the otherside we were immediately on a quiet road and I followed the Rv 13 stopping just before Jopeland to look at a a little harbour at Hellerstninger which had ancient runes carved in a big rock on a cairn of some 2000 numbered stones placed there to mark the Milenium.
RV 13 road was pleasant enough enough but to get a feel of the country I slipped off to see the town Jopeland (A couple of stores there but everything closed on Sunday so be warned stock up if you need to!) Beyond the town a small road took me past little houses whose owners have boats by the water. the timber buildings were mainly terra cotta or lemon in colour they show up well against the green trees that cover the landscape. A small road leads up to Preikestolhytta, (a bus service connects with the Tau stavanger ferry)
It was beautiful enough up there staying at the Youth Hostel overlooking the lake of Refsvatnet, but the really stunning draw that brings people to the region is the Pulpit Rock (Preskestolen) if you tackle it, have good footwear and allow for a two hour walk each way for the four kilometres.
The reward is viewing a fantastic panorama over the Lyndesfjorden, There is a sheer drop of some 1800 feet,604 metres to the water below. (Don't forget to take rain wear and food) To give you an idea of how pooular the experience is, some 90,000 people made the trip in 2005.
After breakfast at the hostel with a truely international and friendly group
I rode up the little road leading to attractive white wooden church at Strand meandering past a handful of farms and houses then down the winding way to yet another Lake. This one was called Borheimsvatnet (I was bennning to relise that all Norwegian place names were like a rather bad hand at Scrabble.)
I spotted the now familiar symbol on the sign for a cabin and turned up a farm tark to Hamrane Hyttefelt. There were seven of them, hidden from each other, but each with a great view from its balcony.
To me the word cabin seemed an undertatement. These were small houses and I could have happily lived in mine. Inside the first impressions were of warmth and of that lovely scent of wood. There were two bedrooms, a shower, all modern appliances and satalite television. It seemed to have everything.
Not there was much need for the TV. I heard the clomping of horses hooves and half a dozen young girls rode by on the nature trail that went up the hill. Notices in Norwegian explaind to those who understood, about flora and fauna, I guessed that much from the picture of the fox and one another from the heading "Hemlock" above a drawing of a shrub (I decided not to try that herb for my cooking!)
Once I had settled in I went off on the little motorbike again
to explore the area. A steep road took me over the hill to Fiska and and to yet another Fjord where farms and attractive houses with the Norwegian flags flying lined the waterside.
It was all very lush and green which I am sure had something to do with the rain that never seemed to be far away.
I was finding driving quite easy the traffic was light and the speed limits low. Even the signs were easy to understand, Particularly the one for the moose I am sure that had I met one I would have given it the right of way or more likely turned and revved like hell.
A roadside sign indicating food on Sunday 12.00 to 1800 had my little Honda purring up the hill to "Ryfylkegarden Holta" I found candlelit tables in what was a former farm house which looked even older than its 60 years.
Taking a seat by the window I enjoyed a beer and a had a lunch cooked by Ivar Nerhus.
Along with others he spoke of friendly ties with Scotland and the UK that stemmed from the days of World War Two.
My roast beef was brought to my table by the window by a blonde girl called Rebbeca, at which point I decided that the view was good in both directions.
I brought that particular day to a close by watching, on the satalite TV an open air concert from Austria with an audience in pouring rain wearing plastic panchos. (My soaking was yet to come)
I decided that monday would be the adventure day. I took the road down to Forsand and experienced my first Norwegian Tunnel at 800 metres through the mountain it seemed impressive, (but was really small beer with what was to come later.)
At Forand I met the really friendly people who ran the local store at the marina. It was also the post office, bakery and cafe. So I sipped coffee and ate a cake while I sat and watched a rainbow rise above a large bridge that I had recently crossed.
It spanned the entrance to The Lyse Fjord. The "Lysefordsenteret" means the "ford of light" because seemingly, no matter how dark and lowering the clouds above might be the water always seems bright.
Shortly after noon I rode my little motorbike onto one of the fast ferries that serve the three or four communities along the Fjord's 42 km length and with a few other tourists gazed in wonder at the huge cliffs that rose above us towards mountains. They were topped in clouds and mist that swirled like steam in a cauldron. The boat with its catamaran hull moved fast over the water and did not even hang around much at the little harbours. I wheeled my bike ashore at Songesand and when I turned round it was already speeding down the fjord. Suddenly I was alone. I rode up a single track road which soon leveled out and ran alongside a fast flowing river.
"This is easy" I thought, "maybe there is just a pass through the mountians?"
Wrong of course, soon we were climbing up to the clouds, and just before a "winter gate" (I worked that one out!) I found a great viewpoint looking back down over the Fjord. It as too wet for pictures and I pressed on. Getting towards the top the storm enveloped us and the cold air outside made my helmet visor steam up. When I lifted it stinging hard rain hit my face. It was like being under the full force of a fireman's hose. I felt water penetrate through my boots and two layers of socks. It was all exceeding damp, but in some sort of perverse way it was exhilerating. I passed by a couple of mountain to lakes Sandvatan and Lyngsvatn. Then the road began its long corkscrew down to join the civilised and sensible traffic on the main road that led back to the warmth and comfort of my little wooden house at Hamrane. It had been a day to remember.
Having enjoyed the countryside It was time to nose around Stavanger. It is an attractive town and with a motorbike it was esy to scoot around the wooden homes on the hilly streets that rise up from the harbour.
One of the most interesting parts for exploring on foot is the Gamle
(Old Stavanger) there cobble stone streets lead you through 18th century white washed wooden houses in what was once a deprived part of the city. It was nearly torn down but was saved and has now become a most desirable and expensive neighbourhood. In thi same area and well worth a visit, believe it or not, is the sardine canning museum (The Hermetikkmuseet) The address is Ovre Strantata 88A. You will come away with an understanding of what was one of the towns, major industries (in 1922 there were 70 sardine canneries) .
If you want lunch or a drink head for the harbour and you opposite an old steamer you will find a the NB Sorensen's Damskipsexpedition, It is a remarkable place with a great atmosphere everything around the tables is to do with travel and seafaring. It is like a gigantic shipping office stuffed full of ancient luggage, maps and maritime memoribelia.
Stavanger is an ageeable place to stroll around and has more than its fair share of interesting statues. If travellers from Newcastle find one that looks something like thier famous "Angel of the North" it is no coincidence. The small figure looking out to the harbour is by the same artist.
Not quite as tall as the Angel of the North. but certainly impressive,is the "Swords in the Rock" it is located not far from Stavanger, at Hafrsfjord and is the Norwegian national monument. It marks the location of a battle that resulted in uniting Norway as one kingdom in 872AD.
To the south and west of Stavanger the route 507, the coast road, presents a contrast to the fojrds and mountains that lay inland. Near Orre and Kleppe golden long sandy bays like the one at Orrestranda are backed by dunes. In the thick grass red thick berries and purple flowers add to the vibrant colour. It is quite a mixture as the scenery changes from the dramatically jagged rocks in the south, through agriculturaly biased land of Jaren before you eventually reach the Fjords
If you have time to fill in before getting the late ferry back to the UK a visit to Havann Badeland at Sandnes could keep a whole family happy. It is one of Northern Europe's largest indoor water worlds complete ith wterslides, wwave poll, jacuzzi and a Roman Spa. In the same complex you find a couple of supermarkets and ten pin bowling.
My ramble with my litte Honda 90 provided some memorable moments and I was impressed by a the two and a half mile tunnel through a mountain to Frafjord, I wondered at the economics of it because there was not much at the other end. There was certainly a beautiful fjord and a few farms and cabins but little in the way of popultion.
Another wonderous sight was on the route 503 from Byrkjedal where the road wound up through a mountain side of massive boulder slabs some as big as houses It looked not unlike the volcanoe from the closing scene in the film of the Lord of The Rings.
There was something magical about this part of Norway and as I queued for the ferr I was feeling quite pleased about my 400 miles of rambling. Almost smug I confess, then a large gleaming 1200cc BMW motorbike pulled up alongside me. It was a luxurios affair. I heard a whirr as the motorised stand went down and then Igor and Natasha dismounted and flipped up their space age helmets. They were from Russia and had travelled from Oslo that morning. Newcastle, London Amsterdam and Paris were on their itinerary. I really was impressed. With two hours to wait for the ship to call we chatted and shared malt whisky and Russian brandy (v.good.) Then just a the ship was approaching the dock we were joined by a third motorbike an old "off road" Honda XLR. It sat high off the ground. With the bleached scull of a fox afixed to the front mud guard it looked decidedly battled scarred.
String held the mud-gard high so the the wheel might rise high as it bounced over rough terrain and some of the paint work looked as though it had been sand blasted away. In short it seemed as though it had travelled far, and indeed it had. The rider, Rossa Gibbon was from West Cork in Ireland and in the past seventeen weeks had been through Greece, Turkey, Russia and Siberia pluss a couple of other countries that I can't spell.
In some places without maps he had ridden across country using GPS.
Well there are adventures and adventures and most important friends you meet along the way who help you keep things in perspective.
The little Honda takes Allan Rogers to the
'Land of the Mountains and the Trolls'