From the beautiful, sweeping fjords to the jagged permafrost of the north, Norway was created for riders… and photographers.
Dave Williams has always been attracted by glossy images of both natural phenomena along with the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard’s icy finger at 81 degrees north. His first venture to the land of mountains, glaciers and deep fjords would be slightly different though, as he went in search of a dream section of road.
The UK-based photographer explains how a 5.2km stretch of silk smooth road and an undulating man-made bridge can set the pulse racing as much as any feat of nature.
My passion for travel and adventure is matched only by a deep infatuation for my Triumph Tiger Explorer XRT and a desire to explore new places, so I thought ‘why not combine the three and tick off one part of this amazing country I’d always wanted to experience?’
There always has to be a goal in sight and mine was Atlanterhavsveien, the Atlantic Highway. I’d seen shots and been in absolute awe of this incredible road, rated one of the best in the world to ride. Sitting on the coast and connecting several archipelagos, it’s a 5.2-mile stretch of tarmac connecting Averøy with the Romsdalshalvøya peninsula.
The road has earned its celebrity status partly thanks to the Storseisundet Bridge, the longest of eight incorporated within the Storseisundetbrua. That would be my final destination – the bridge I’d seen made famous by Instagram posts and travel blogs the world over.
Determined, focused and not forgetting that big journeys start with small steps, I packed panniers with camera gear, clothes, wild camping kit – everything I’d need to survive for nine days from the UK to Norway. The Channel Tunnel was waiting, I saw the sun rise over France, skipped through Belgium and into the Netherlands for the obligatory windmill photos at Kinderdijk, before camping in a wet and windy Germany.
“The traveller sees what he sees, while the tourist sees what he has come to see”
Heated grips and seat were a boon as I pressed on into Denmark. I rode the entire length of the country to Hirtshals in the north and the Superspeed 1, which would carry me and my bike over Skagerrak, the strait of the North Sea between Denmark and Norway, to Kristiansand.
Next morning it dawned on me: I was here in the country I love as a travel photographer and there was nothing between it and me. The traveller sees what he sees, while the tourist sees what he has come to see. I was there, I was living my adventure, at one with the wind and the sky, cruising through the rugged yet charming landscape of that country I’d fallen in love with from afar through pictures.
“Quaint rivers to enormous fjords fed by behemoth waterfalls”
Every twist, every turn, every ridge, it felt as if something amazing was being revealed to me to make my jaw drop a little further than the last time. Exploration and adventure were the aims and they’re exactly what I got.
As the terrain slowly transformed with my ride up the country from green, rolling hills into jagged, imposing mountains, from quaint little rivers to enormous fjords fed by behemoth waterfalls, my reverence for this stunning landscape grew further still. The weather closed in and the road changed from smooth, constant tarmac into pot-holed asphalt and gravel. The arctic conditions take their toll here on a seasonal basis, opening up tiny cracks into huge holes as the thawing and freezing cycle takes effect on the surfaces.
“I nudged into a terrain coated with snow still fresh from the winter”
The stamina required to ride all day for days on end only goes so far, but the Explorer was an ally, keeping me warm and actively controlling the suspension, traction and speed to make life as simple as possible while still ‘feeling the ride’ with every turn of the wheels. Cruise control set, I enjoyed the vistas during every contouring corner hugging the edges of fjords.
Approaching Lillehammer, I nudged into a terrain coated with snow still fresh from March winter just ended a month earlier. It was there in that same snow that I pitched up for a night’s rest at the edge of Mjøsa, fuelling myself rather than the bike and prepping for the day ahead.
The following morning, having slept through howling winds and bitter cold staying toasty warm in my arctic sleeping bag, I hit the road again. The impact of what was, essentially, an endurance ride was starting to take its toll. But I pushed through and pushed on.
“A ribbon of road rising from the sea”
Picturesque and breathtaking, the sheer drama of this landscape left me taking deep breaths as I reached my destination of Storseisundet Bridge, my eyes soaking it all up. This ribbon of smooth road appears to rise from the sea; the gargantuan Atlantic on one side and the fjord inlets on the other as the track seamlessly meanders one way then the other while rising and falling with graceful fluidity.
The weather here is harsh and unforgiving. The change from bright, beaming sunshine to relentless, unhindered wind and rain can happen almost in an instant, and that’s just what happened to me. After riding the road back and forth a few times to really feel the experience and then stopping at a few spots to document it all, that Norwegian maritime climate changed its mind and showed me how treacherous it can really be.
My ride back inland was littered with hazards and I was lucky to be on the right machine to take it all on. Combined with my years of riding, those features of the Explorer kept me and my luggage safe and took me through mountain passes, over a ferry, and on track in tunnels until I reached Dombås, home for the night.
“I’m so disappointed it’s over”
The majestic peaks I’d encountered on my ride north now hid behind clouds of grey for the return south. I’d made it just in time as darkness fell.
My return journey home was packed with weather-related highs and lows. Rain drenched me for two days straight through Denmark and Germany, but my reward was glorious sunshine through Luxembourg. As I made my approach into London after nine days, eight countries and 5,000km, my emotions flitted from ‘now I can have a proper rest’ to ‘I’m so disappointed it’s over’.
The ride was phenomenal, the bad experiences are now lifelong stories of adventure and my bike held up brilliantly against the rugged nature and climate of Norway, as I pondered… where next?