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Camel Rally 2009/ IBA Saddlesore Lite (Page 2)

I was glad to get out of Oslo, not that it looked like an interesting city to visit, but I was getting very hot by now and wanted to get cool air rushing past me. On the way to my next bonus I stopped and took a picture of the Fylke, or County, sign for Buskerud. These were worth 100 points, with a 250 points bonus for getting five of them, although I had only identified four fylkes which would count on my route.


I got to the village of Vikersund and found a tourist sign which I guessed might lead to where I was going, the Ski Flying Hill (I guess it should translate properly as Ski Jumping, but it said Flying in the book and that sounds so much more exciting!). When I found it I tried to imagine what it must look like in the winter - it was a lot steeper than it looks in my photograph. For the rest of the day I was passing through beautiful scenery and it was strange to think how all this would be covered by snow for half of the year. On the road to my next checkpoint at Fagernes I added some extra points by taking photographs of a number of road signs. Further up the road I saw a warning sign for deer... and then crossed into another Fylke, Oppland. Having the opportunity to gain extra points by getting these signs certainly made sure you concentrated on all the road signs you came across throughout the rally, although a couple of times I went past them and had to turn back to get them.


I had two checkpoints to visit, at Fagernes and then at Geilo which were time restricted meaning I had to get to each of them between 4pm and 7pm. I had to get timed receipts to prove I was there so have no photographs for these. I got to Fagernes at 5.30, about an hour after I had planned to be there, and then to Geilo at 6.20. I saw two other riders arriving in Fagernes as I left there, Georg Kile and Espen Benneche on their Africa Twins. Although I had lost time I still had over three hours to spare on my timetable so decided to take a rest bonus at Geilo, thus gaining 500 points and a useful break. I sat at a table outside an Esso garage, sent a few texts and looked at the rest of my route. I thought I might see Georg and Espen again but did not so guessed they must be on a clockwise route.


The road around the national park from Geilo had some wonderful views which sometimes made concentrating on the road quite difficult. Other things demanded my attention too as I came across some more signs: firstly I found a sign for sheep - going round the next corner, in the middle of the forest, there was indeed a fair number of sheep wandering across the road. As I came down from the hills there was a sign for cows - sure enough around the corner the road was filled by a herd of cows being driven off for milking. I crossed into another Fylke, Hordaland, where there was also one of the old county marker stones. This also marked quite a change in scenery and temperature. The mountains all around still has snow on them, with a glacier shining on the horizon, and it became markedly colder as I passed between them. For almost the first time on a rally I actually stopped to take photographs other than just those needed for the rally!


Continuing towards Eidfjord I passed the Voringsfossen, Norway's most famous waterfall and then descended into the mountain, spiralling down through a series of tunnels with short breaks exiting into the evening air. Over the next few hours I was to go through a fair number of tunnels - indeed at the end of the rally I could not work out why the record on my Garmin Streetpilot, which I leave on all the time during a rally, was over 50 minutes out until I realised that must be the time I had spent in tunnels when the GPS lost communication with any satellites. Arriving in Eidfjord I got a photograph of my bike next to the village sign. There were lots of people in Eidfjord as there was a large cruise ship moored in the harbour. I was amused to see that all the trees on the road out of the village had knitted scarves covering their trunks.


From Eidfjord I rode through the Valley of Waterfalls, where long and impressive waterfalls ran down the mountains on either side down to the sea. I came to one place where two waterfalls met and crashed down next to the road, covering the road with spray. It was like riding through a car wash! I carried on to my fifth and final checkpoint, Odda, which was also my most valuable bonus at 700 points. I got a receipt to prove I was here as I needed to get fuel anyway. My next stop was at Roldal. I got my photograph of the village sign then took a small detour. I had worked out that the next fylke, Rogaland was only a few kilometres down the road from Roldol and thought it would be worth getting this as it would gain me 100 points, plus the bonus for getting five fylkes. Unfortuntaley there was no sign on the road and I wasted 20 minutes looking for it. Returning to Roldol I decided I needed a rest and would take another hour's break. I stopped at the petrol station and got a coffee, stretched my legs and put my head down on a bench for a few minutes. When I woke up the station was closed and I panicked for a minute as to how I would get my finish receipt for my rest bonus. Then I realised the pumps had automatic credit payment so could use those.

Before coming to Norway I had been concerned about being able to get petrol at night or in remote places - in actual fact it was probably easier than trying to get it in some places in the UK, as all the petrol stations had automatic payment. It was actually much harder to use cash since you then had to go into the station first to arrange this. The only problem I had had was earlier in the day when the machine had not given me a receipt and I had had to go into the station to get one. My luck was not holding as the same thing happened now after I had drawn some petrol, maybe it was my British credit card or maybe it was just out of paper, or maybe I just misunderstood the Norwegian instructions, since they did vary with different machines. There was nobody around, since it was now midnight, and no other way to get a receipt so I just had to take photos of the pump and my bike's clock and hope to the leniency of the rallymaster at the end to see if I got my points.


I passed into the next fylke, Telemark as it got colder and I stopped to put on my oversuit. I also passed some ski resorts and took this photograph of a warning sign for Skiers - possibly trying my luck here! In  Haukeligrend I was supposed to take a photograph of the village sign but could not find one on the entry or exit to the village so after driving around a bit (again my GPS took me up some winding roads up the mountain before I realised it was wrong and returned to the main road), I took this picture of the tourist hotel with the village's name on it.


My plan from Haukeli had been to head north and collect a bonus at a cafe by the Gausta mountain. I had changed my mind at Roldol, since the road looked like it could be slow going, and I was nor entirely sure where the cafe was - plus I could not get part of the bonus which was for a receipt from the cafe and I doubted this would be possible in the early hours of the morning. Instead I decided to head for the Dalen Hotel, in Dalen which was not very far off the main E134 back towards Oslo. The road down to the village and back to the main road was a great windy road with a succession of hairpin bends down to and back out of the village, probably with great views if it had not been dark, and now raining again, making it quite treacherous in parts. The hotel was a beautiful wooden building but it was quite difficult to get an effective photograph of my bike in front of the hotel - you can see the name of the hotel under the lights but little of the detail of the hotel otherwise in my photograph. I decided to chance my arm even further than with the skiers by taking this photograph of a warning sign for children - surely they could count as animals of a sort, couldn't they? I might at least amuse the rallymaster! I was getting tired as I rode along the E134 towards my next bonus at Kongsberg. I tried to find somewhere I could get a receipt since I reckoned I had time to stop for a rest bonus but could not find anywhere and in the end I just stopped in a layby and slept on a picnic bench for about 20 minutes, waking up to find it was raining on me again. I always find this time, the last hour before it gets light, is the hardest and when I am most likely to need to stop for a bit. I then find renewed energy with the dawning day. This was the case now, and I rode into Kongsberg looking for signs for the Silver Mines. I followed the signs for this and was looking around for the information board I had to photograph when I saw someone waving at me from above - it was Baard Medal-Johnsen on his BMW F800GS, showing me where to go. We had a brief chat before he shot off (later to finish in second place).


I felt like I was on the home leg now, being only 150 kilometres from the finish. It was still annoying me that I had not got that fifth Fylke sign and I worked out that a short detour south from Drammen should take me Vestfold where I should be able to get the sign. I hadn't meant to end up on the motorway but I did find the sign there and took the picture as quickly as I could before taking the next exit back to take the tunnel under the sea and emerging back on the E6.


I had four bonuses left on my list, three of which were in Fredrikstad itself, and one at Skjaerhollen, on an island 30km south of Fredrikstad. The good thing was that at least I knew exactly where one of these was, in the old town (Gamlebyen), and I thought there was an extra sign I had seen when I had walked down there to get a meal on the Friday afternoon. This was a warning sign for Ducks - and the road had actually been blocked by two swans and their five cygnets. As I slowed down for the sign another rider, Dag Johansen went past on his Yamaha MT-01.  I met up with Dag around the corner where he was already stopped in front of the statue of King Fredrik II in the middle of Gamlebyen. The other two bonuses in Fredrikstad were a bust on a small island across the river at Isegran, and a photograph of a sign with the name of the river Glomma on it. Despite riding up and down the sides of the river and crossing all the bridges I could see I could not find a sign with the river's name on it (even though Dag had given me a cryptic clue!) and gave up on the 150 points I could have got for that and headed through the town to Isegran. The bust of Erling Johansen was sat on a plinth at the end of a muddy track (marked no vehicles!) on the island overlooking the old town.


I still had an hour and a half before I had to finish, and worked out that I could either go for the 600 points at Skjaerhollen, or take a third rest bonus for 500 points. Since I would not be covering any extra miles by resting it made more sense to rest and sort my rallybook out. I got a receipt from a petrol station and rode across the rad to the riverside and sat down on a bench to copy down all my ride details from my waterproof notebook into the rallybook. I cleaned my visor and realised why it had been stiff and rattling all night - at sometime on the previous day I must have lost part of the visor mechanism while changing from dark to clear visors. After an hour I got another receipt and rode the few kilometres back to the finish, arriving back with nearly half an hour to spare.


I was tired but very glad to have completed the rally, and had had a brilliant day's riding in a beautiful country. After going through my photographs with Per I chatted with a few of the other finishers, including the previous winner Espen Lothe (who was to win again this year) for a while before they all gradually departed. I was left with my bike surrounded by all the camping gear I had left in Per's car to pack it up and head off to find somewhere to get a few hours sleep before collecting Stacey from Torp airport at 6pm. This meant I could not attend the post-rally meal at 5.30pm so it was a few days (while sheltering in the rain in a hutte in Dalen) before I got on the internet and found out that I had come third! The following week I managed to meet up with Per when we returned to Fredrikstad on the way home and collected my Bronze medal and certificate - a good end to a great rally.


N.B. The IBA's Saddlesore Lite certificate is a rarity - a Saddlesore certificate for less than 1000 miles: this can only be claimed on the Camel Rally for completing 1000kms in the 24 hours of the rally and has been especially approved because of the diffculty of travelling even this distance in that time on Norwegian roads.

Camel 2009 Saddlesore Lite Norwegian Camel 2009