The Mjølkevegen has been voted one of Norway’s favourite cycling routes and is heavily publicised in cycling magazines and literature about the country. The route takes you through beautiful mountain landscapes and summer farms between Vinstra and Gol across large parts of the water rich Valdres region.
The route begins at Vinstra Station, which for us was at a bleary-eyed time of 3am after riding a sleeper train North from Oslo. We clambered the bikes off the train and slowly began to pack up using the flickering lights from the station platform. First things first, we searched for a wild camp spot in order to salvage what energy we had left for a full day of pedalling. We awoke after a few hours kip to glorious sunshine and noticed that just 50m away from our pitch was a stunning beach with sparkling turquoise waters. It turned out to be the perfect spot for a breakfast snack. We couldn’t believe that we were completely oblivious to it the evening before.
After packing up we pedalled along the start of the route towards Jotunheimvegen “Home of the Giants” and then followed along the edge of Lake Vinstre. Apparently wildlife around this region includes reindeer, elk, deer, wolverines and lynx. Sadly we didn’t have any encounters with Rudolf or Prancer or any of the others. We did see a pair of Eagles though!
Hill after hill turned into fulls days of climbing across beautiful mountainous landscapes. With 360 degree views, Norway is just magical. Whilst racking up the kilometres we cycled between clusters of Norwegian cabins, many with grass roofs presumably for adding a little extra insulation in harsh winters, and reindeer antlers proud of place above the front doors. You feel completely isolated in this landscape, only coming across summer farms every few kilometres, and there was no people in sight – just herds of cows with their calfs. In fact, we woke up one evening to a shuffling outside of the tent. Could it be a lynx I thought?, Mat bravely poked his head out to come face to face with a cow licking our tent pegs. He immediately designed a cow barricade that Ray Mears would be proud of that surrounded our tent. Following this the sound of cow bells rang like a travelling band as a herd of ten or more came trotting past on the nearby road. I guess the route is called the Old Milk Road (Mjølkevegen) after-all.
When evenings came we pitched the tent low out of the wind, as close as we could to water for our fresh water source and cooked hot meals which usually consisted of; sweet potatoes, chickpeas, noodles, rices and vegetables. Then retreated to our tent Sid and our cosy down quilt to read the Kindles.
After consulting the map, Beitostølen town centre was the next stop for topping up on our food supply, but getting there was a little tricky. We experienced beautiful sunshine and blue skies but they came at a price with a fierce headwind. We were being blown all over the gravel tracks and suffered wind chapped lips and cheeks. “Would you rather have a headwind or rain” I shouted at Mat through my jacket which was zipped over my face, “Neither he replied coiling into his waterproof”. You look back on these moments and laugh, but at the time we were on the edge. We battled through it and ended up taking a well deserved rest in a Norwegian ski lodge for waffles and a hot drink. These lodges or as I call them ‘lifesavers’ were cropping up at the perfect time after hours or days of isolation to give us fifteen minutes of shelter out of the elements and help to fuel us up with a warm drink.
After stocking up on food at the local supermarket we headed down towards Beito, and then towards Slettefjellvegen. There is an impressive climb up to the top of Slettefjellet (1315 m), which is the highest point of the whole trip. My poor legs! Reaching the top made it all worth while as there was a picnic area which offered an amazingly beautiful view over large parts of Jotunheimen. Then of course what goes up must come down, the road from the top then descends quite steeply down towards Vang, one of the best descents of the route.
After a wild camp evening, we pedalled another tough climb up to Syndin and Syndinstøga for about 10 km. Going up hill for 10 km. ‘What am I doing??’ I thought to myself as my legs burned and screamed for a break away from the pedals. Once you are pedalling up a hill you have to reach the top, there’s no point in stopping as it’s harder to get going again. Or this is what I like to tell myself to get up as quickly as possible. Hills are something I have become more accustomed to over the last year and a half riding across the North York Moors but nothing like the abundance of mountain passes here in Norway. Even so, it has been good training as it has made this trip achievable for me with a fully loaded bike!
From the Syndinstøga region, Mjølkevegen continues towards Vaset between Nørre and Sørger Trollhovd. We crossed rivers, passed by stunning lakes, and fun technical rocky mountain bike routes. The route then continues on to Murkelie where you cycle with lake Vasetvatnet on your left side all the way to Vaset. Upon reaching Vaset we found shelter from the rain under a gazebo and enjoyed some cheese sandwiches with a dollop of chocolate spread. We perked up and cycled through the rain from Vaset to Storefjell which was just under 30 km and then from Storefjell we followed the signs down to Gol. The decent into Gol was perfection, smooth roads with lush pine trees either side. The smell was overpowering, fresh pine aromas were wafting at our faces whilst we tucked down into our bikes to enjoy the rare and thrilling descent. I could feel the temperature changing dramatically as we plummeted down towards sea level after being up high in the mountain air. The sun was shining and we had reached our destination two days early. “What does this call for I said to Mat.” “BEER!”
Now we head onwards to Oslo airport where we will fly to Cologne and attend the Bombtrack Groundwork Event before flying back to Norway and continuing where we left off to cycle west to Bergen, this will complete our Norway bike-packing tour from Oslo to Bergen.