Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Ready for the off!


Here's Bessie the bike all packed and ready to go on an adventure...


I'm off on Thursday's ferry for 4 days bikepacking. A trip from Perth to Aberdeen via a mix of quiet roads, estate tracks through glens and forest and hopefully some nice single track too. 

Plotted on the maps its around 345km or 215 miles, but I'm sure the actual mileage will be a touch higher unless I take some short cuts. I've a rough idea where I hope to wildcamp each night, but will play it by ear depending on the weather and how fit I feel, or not!



I'm hoping to do a video of the trip, so watch this space!

In other news... I was ill all last week, along with Clare and Beren. Despite this I managed to dose myself up on Sunday in order to attend the Shetland Wheelers Handicap TT. It was an ideal day for it and I had the chance to use my super speedy aero-helmet for the first time....


And super speedy I was. I'm not sure is it was the sudafed and paracetamol, aero-helmet or a week on the sofa feeling sorry for myself, but I broke my person best for the 10 mile course by 2.16 minutes! Due to my massive handicap points for the race I also won the Handicap TT! My first ever bike race win, if you can honestly call winning it with what is still realistically a slow time a win. Still whatever I was super chuffed!

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Feels like summer...

Wow, we seem to be having another summery spell at the moment! 2 days in a row so far and forecast to stay until the weekend.

To make the most of it I've been out and about a fair bit with work and today was checking out the possibility of a new route on the west coast of Yell from Ulsta up to West Sandwick beach.

Someone had got in touch to ask about the possibility, so I thought I'd check it out. As it turns out there'd be a lot of work to make it a sensible route to promote, and that's if landowners agreed. However there are certainly some gems along the way.


Looking north towards the Ness of Sound at Setter...


I didn't have time to go across the tombolo, but I'd like to pop back sometime to explore the little isle...


Looking across to Ronas Hill from the cemetery...


Approaching the remains of the Broch of Westbrough...


And finally West Sandwick beach around 12km after I'd set off...


I'd left my bike at the beach car park to cycle back to the car at Ulsta. Not a long ride, but the wind had got up to a stiff headwind all the way back. A sneaky ice cream at Ulsta shop and I was quite refreshed after a hard day in the office!

The other day I also got out to the Bard on Bressay. A route that could easily be developed with willing land owners.

Setting off from Kirkabister lighthouse I headed south east up the hill to follow a pretty direct route along the coast to the Bard.

Looking back to the lighthouse...


My favourite area on this walk is the valley of green that appears between the heathery hills at Veng. There's a nice burn and waterfalls and it's such a lovely isolated spot.


It's not far from Veng before you get to the Bard. If you look down from near it you'll see the Giant's Leg, a massive arch that's visible from the mainland...


And next to it the WW1 gun that remains on the Bard rusting away...


 It's probably an hours walk each way from the lighthouse and a great walk to do with fantastic views.




Monday, 15 August 2016

Busy cycling...

I've been pretty busy cycling lately when ever the weather is decent, quite long rides, and when not cycling I've been resting. The reason being that in September I'm away for 4 days of bikepacking in the Highlands again. This time the plan is to get the train to Perth from Aberdeen and then head north into the Cairngorms via Glen Almond and Loch to Tay to Blair Athol; then via Glen Tilt to Braemar, before loosely following the Deesside Way back to Aberdeen for the ferry home. 

Roughly 280-350km with big off road sections and camping, though the actual route details may change before then as I've a few options. If the weather is too poor I might do something entirely different!

Anyway I've been doing some long road rides of 100km plus lately (60+ miles) and yesterday happened to have the motivation (and a friend who wanted to do his first) to do just over a century (105miles/170km)


And you can view it on a cool new app that links to strava (what I record my rides with on my phone) here ...  https://www.relive.cc/view/675923608

Me and Steven...


We set off from Scalloway on a misty Sunday morning, heading north...


After a quick pee stop at Voe we went up Dales Lee to Mossbank before heading west in to a reasonable head wind to Brae, our first pit-stop at the new Co-op.


I had plenty of my own supplies with me. One being a macaroni pie! Something I've avoided for years, but Da Kitchen in Yell make fantastic pies so when I saw this one from them I thought I'd give it a shot. Very nice it was, slightly warmed from being in my jersey pocket! I'm still not convinced about macaroni pies in general though.


Carrying on north we did a loop through Sullom, somewhere Steven had never been and then out to Nibon. Nibon is another place he'd not been, but one of my favourite places. It's just lovely there.


Then it was back on the main road and north to Isbister at North Roe and a quick stop at Sandvoe nearby...


Another headwind stint along Ronas Voe to Hillswick saw us with another pit-stop at the shop there...


..,Before a more direct route back to Scalloway with a tail wind along Ronas Voe and on some of the stretches home. It was a great ride, no problem for either of us fitness wise, but my friend had to purchase a small tub of vaseline at Hillswick to ease his journey home (not funny, but it was). Thankfully he could apply it himself!

It's not just me with sporting endeavours though. Beren went to Cunningsburgh Show with the Islesburgh out of school club and took part in the hill race, winning himself a medal despite doing it in wellies! Good lad!


Sunday, 31 July 2016

Western Norway; what a stunning place!




A week ago we returned form our summer holidays in Western Norway. Two fantastic weeks that started with a direct flight to Bergen from Sumburgh with Flybe for less than the cost of us getting to Scotland, and quicker too at only 45-50 minutes flying. In fact on our return due to time differences we arrived in Sumburgh before we left Bergen!


 We were soon heading down to Bergen airport over an amazing archipelago of islands, with even the smallest seeming to have a hut and jetty on them. It looked amazing.


This amused me. And yes I did need to go!


A short trip on the efficient airport bus saw us getting off at Minde and on our way to an airb&b flat we had for the first two nights. 


We settled in with a quick check on the Tour De France situation ...


And then hit the tram into Bergen Centre. Everywhere in Norway seems to take cards, busses, trains, trams, small shops and large so we'd taken a credit card that doesn't charge for use abroad to pay off on our return rather than mess about with cash. We did get a small amount of cash out at the airport, but really we didn't need to.


The fish market is a real sight to look around, but wow, the prices!


We knew Norway was expensive, but crikey, it really is! Hotdogs (seems like a national food) were to become a relatively cheap and readily available snack, but even I can only eat them for so long.


After the afternoon in Bergen we returned to the flat, but I was keen to explore so took a steep and strenuous walk up the local mountain, Ulriken, while Beren and Clare relaxed. 

Seems they have pigeon lofts in Norway too...


And nice shelters along popular walks...


I took a very steep and scrambley ridge up to the top. At over 600m it was a bit of a climb, but the views over Bergen with a setting sun worth worth the effort...



I came back down the 'tourist' route which was a bit easier, but certainly not an easy path. Though just near the bottom they were starting to create stone steps up the mountain. I guess they are needed with visitor pressure here, but a flight of them all the way to the top will be horrible.



Two up two down Bergen style...


There were lots of cycle paths and shared use paths, though this one on the face of it seems a bit over the top. There's a road, a tram line, a road, a two lane bike path and a pedestrian path.


Bergen is a wonderful city with lots of history, parks and museums and a mix of old and new housing, arty areas and run down areas.

The science museum is ace...


And we enjoyed the local parks...

  

And were a bit perplexed by some of the shops...


There's a funicular up to Mount Floyen above Bergen,, but we walked a good way of the way up there before getting it. I'm glad we did as the cobbled streets and houses were a joy to see...


Seems Trump is not popular here too...


Going up...


Looking down...


 After a good afternoons walk around the park at the top of Floyen we walked back down the hairpin paths through wonderful woodland and treated ourselves to a pizza at Dolly's Dimples. It was a bigger treat than we thought when the bill came! Back to hotdogs then.


And so the next morning we left the comforts of a flat for the train to Voss and tent time. Beren was treated to some uber expensive pringles for the train...


The train was excellent with amazing views and our first taste of Norway's long long tunnels. We arrived at Voss to a pretty lovely sight...


And set up camp...


We explored the town and local woods and lakeside and wanted to hire bikes for a ride around the lake, but the cheapest we could find was around £60 for 3 hours each. Oddly we didn't hire them!

We did go for a great little walk to the local gorge and waterfall though.


An interesting bridge...


Looking back to Voss...


 And the gorge...




Quite impressive eh?


And our first berry picking of the holiday...


After a couple of days in Voss we were on again, by bus this time, to Gudvangen on Naeroyfjord. After getting dropped off we had a 1km walk back along the road to Vang Camping.


What a setting!



Not a bad view from the tent...


Gudvangen is a little , but busy, ferry port really and very touristy with just a petrol station shop for our use. There is a hotel and restaurant, but we'd learnt  our lesson!



Naeroyfjord is a world heritage site. Not surprising as the landscape is amazing and photos can't do it justice.


We decided to splash out on a pricey kayak day trip down the fjord with Nordic Ventures. The trip was fantastic and our group leader took Beren in his double kayak and was absolutely fantastic with him giving him a trip I hope he'll remember for many years.


We stopped off to visit a waterfall and heading down the fjord we even had a pod of porpoise pass close by. 



And stopped for a BBQ lunch on a beach we had to ourselves...


And Beren and Clare even had a swim. It was icy cold!


On the way back our leader got Beren up climbing around the boat and messing about. He loved it!


And we all had an amazing day. If you go there do it! Rob a bank if you have to, but do the kayaking.


Next up was a ferry from Gudvangen around Sognefjord to Flam...



Passing Undredal on the way, home of the brown cheese and the smallest stave church in Europe...


Approaching Flam...


Flam is a very busy cruise ship port and so commercial and touristy it was a bit like Disney. That's not a good thing by the way! Still we had a couple of days here to explore and the campsite was fine if not uninspiring and pricey.


Actually I've got to say all the campsites were pretty good. Very clean and very quiet, but often the toilet facilities were a bit short for the number of people on them.

One evening we took a walk up the valley to a waterfall we'd spied...


Looking back to Flam from the hill side...



And the waterfall. It was actually massive and went down way below us and above us. Again the photo just doesn't show the scale. There were waterfalls everywhere and all the biggest in the word ever!


A pretty house and orchard near the campsite...


The following day was wet, but we'd found a reasonably priced bike hire (~£25 each for 3 hours) so we went for a ride up Flamdalen, the valley that the Flambanna railway line runs up.


And admired yet more waterfalls and explored a couple too.



But all of this was prelude to the main adventure of our trip. A walk down the Aurlandsdalen valley.


We got the bus from Flam to Osterbo. Wow what a bus ride. We passed amazing mirror glass lakes, went through tunnels, up hair pin roads and even around hairpin corners INSIDE tunnels in mountains. It was mind blowing. When we emerged at Osterbo we had 20km of walk down a world heritage gorge ahead of us. With Beren and all our gear we planned to do it over 2 days, camping half way away from everything and everyone.

Entering the gorge...


Steep rocky paths, narrow rocky paths, waterfalls galore and drops into the abyss were to be our experience for the next 2 days along with the most amazing wildflowers.


Our first stop for lunch. Very civilised, but we didn't realise then what luxury a flat clear space like this would be.



We had some thing like 700m in altitude to lose from the start to the end of the gorge, but it's no easy downhill walk. If I didn't know better I'd say it was largely up hill.



Many paths are carved into the rock face and in years gone by were along rickety board walks wedged into the cliffs.


Quite challenging in parts...


And probably not for some one with a fear of heights...


And truly breathtaking...



You can see the path going diagonally down from the right and along the cliff base...


Some berries...



We were all getting pretty tired by late afternoon, legs shaking on the steep descents,  and worrying that we'd not find a spot to camp until Beren spotted a site on the river side down a steep narrow path. We called it Camp Hallelujah as that what it felt like!


Nice...



With packs off and a chance to relax for the night I took a few photos of the wildflowers...










And we settled in...





The next morning was wet!


And the walking no less challenging really. But it was amazing.



We popped in one of the latest abandoned farms in the valley. It's run part time now.


And marvelled at this shed!


And disabled access...



Before carrying on our descent towards Vassygbi.






Some bridge!


We were now getting towards the end of the gorge and, given the weather, quite happy to be doing so.


Sheltering under an overhang...


Very wet, but very happy...


Until we found that the shop at the bus stop in Vassygbi was closed. Still, we had some shelter there to wait the hour for the bus to arrive.

We caught the bus to Aurland and our last campsite...


Aurland is only about 6 miles from Flam, but feels like a proper village, not cruise ship Norway.


We were amazed at the number of wild strawberries and raspberries, as well as other berries, that were everywhere. They were very tasty.




After a look around Aurland we went to have lunch on a fishing island near the village. Some rickety bridges there!




We were all feeling the effects of travel and camping by now, so we were winding down a bit after the Aurlandsdalen adventure. The the sun came back with a vengeance and threatened to cook us.


It was scorchio at 26c with no wind.


Beren enjoyed a couple of swims in a pooled off area of the fjord...


We explored the village...


And took advantage of a cheap canoe hire place for one last paddle on the fjord...


Though we were all suffering with the heat and me with some balance issues on the water in quite a tippy 3 man canoe.

 But wow!




All that remained was to pack up and get the fast catamaran ferry back from Flam to Bergen. Another night in an air B&B and we were soon back in Shetland.

That was quite some holiday! Amazing memories and what a place! If I can get a good price for a kidney I'll be back as soon as I can to explore some other areas of the country.

We found it very clean, and welcoming and everyone speaks English. The transport and facilities are excellent with free wifi nearly everywhere. It is very pricey though; really pricey, even more than we thought it would be and most places are shut on a Sunday and Wednesday afternoon.

Definitely a country to visit if you like immense scenery and the outdoors.

Oh, and Mam spending a penny can cost you nearly £2!!!