Tuesday, 20 August 2013


In the space of the last fortnight my erratic lifestyle has again thrown up the unexpected. Two weeks ago I was tucked away north of Trondheim miles from anywhere and all tooled up to give the van its scheduled oil change in a secluded parking area. Whilst removing the sump plug it became clear that it was merely spinning freely allowing oil to leak out but proving impossible to either remove or re-tighten. PTFE tape reduced the trickle to a slow drip and I made my way carefully to a small garage some 30 miles away where after some effort we managed to apply a two part quick setting liquid metal that stopped the drips but prevented the removal of said plug. 
With only a fortnight of my trip left I decided it would make sense to return early and the next three days saw a rapid and trouble free return across Northern Europe. In Bristol PC Motors fitted a new sump complete with gasket and fresh oil putting me back on the road again with a trip to Wales and Shropshire proving that all was well. After catching up with friends and family I was able to tag along for the next chapter in the renovation of a new bothy in the Elan valley in mid Wales.
Nine weeks previously over 20 tonnes of tools, materials and equipment had been lifted across to the ruined farmhouse where Paul, Chris and a small team of craftsmen had started on the ambitious project. Two MBA stalwarts had installed a flue liner once the chimney was secured and reported favourably on the progress to date and I was keen to see the transformation having walked in 20 months ago in mid December when the idea of a renovation first emerged and been at the memorable initial work party to dig out 60 years of accumulated rubble in November of last year.

Rounding the headland gave the first view of a remarkable transformation best described by clicking this link:


Paul and his team with the support and back up of Alec, the Elan Valley Trust and the MBA volunteers are to be thoroughly congratulated on an achievement that is a true credit to all involved. The sensitive and sympathetic materials used combined with high quality craftsmanship have produced an outstanding result that sets a benchmark for future projects.
This stage of the renovation work was rounded off by the lifting out of scaffolding, tools, surplus materials and scrap roofing sheets by the skilled team of  Chief Pilot Phil and his colleague Dave from Veritair (www.veritair.com) and soon the rejuvenated building was left in its remote surroundings with a kite and some sheep taking no obvious notice of the transformation. 
A bonus for four of us was a flight over the bothy and surrounding area - the Elan reservoirs looked superb way below and the dams almost insignificant as all too soon we were dropped off at the water's edge for a final check of the site.
Much internal work including stove installation, repointing and the construction of a sleeping platform remains to be done so an appeal will be made to the many MBA volunteers who have achieved so much in Wales over the last 30 years in the hope that progress will be made in time for a scheduled 'official opening' in mid October.
Back at the drop zone a small team worked hard to return the scaffolding and other equipment to various storage areas before I headed off to Brecon with the prospect of a Bank Holiday weekend at another bothy near Dolgellau.
Thus my unexpectedly early return has had many a silver lining and I anticipate being UK based now until December - updates will follow in due course so as ever watch this

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Ups, downs and rounds.

The impressive Seven Sisters ridge offers a 16 hour traverse but I contented myself with an ascent of the most southerly summit as I felt attempting the full route on my own might be asking for trouble and would require some logistical planning eg dumping the bike at the far end etc. However the 910m Breitinden was a good top in its own right and provided superb views across to the thousands of islands out west and further tops inland - later that day I saw my first moose as I was heading to Sandnessjoen : not a good photo as I passed at speed but good to see anyway.

I took the ferry over to Donna planning to do that island's main summit but unfortunately the following day the conditions had changed dramatically and I spent a wet and windy day tucked beneath its fog bound slopes by a lovely beach and caught up on my trip diary and some further research. After crossing to Heroy via various bridges and causeways I took another ferry back to the mainland and spent the night on a small site between two more of the many ferry crossings that complete the E17. 
Heillhornet provided a superb day's hiking in perfect conditions with the final ridge requiring some scrambling assisted at one point by some chains. The views were again astounding, confirming Norway's status as one of the most beautiful countries I have visited. The unspoilt scenery, well kept villages, colourful houses and low visitor numbers combine to make it a place I will return to another time - probably when there is some snow on the tops but perhaps not when the nights are long and dark.

Leka is of geological significance  to Norway and made for a good day out on the bike. I left the van parked up, caught the ferry across to the island and followed the coast roads and tracks on a day that whilst dry lacked the sunshine to highlight the deep yellows of the convoluted igneous outcrops that characterised particularly the west coast.
Similarly today Joa - another island - provided another excellent perimeter ride. Whilst tucked away last night torrential rain had drowned out the action whilst watching the 1st series of Homeland but after a lie in this morning things cleared up and the 6 hours pedalling round Joa's roads and tracks were enjoyed in hot sunshine.
A mini festival that apparently takes place annually had taken over a pristine beach and headland and had obviously been severely affected by the overnight downpours. Sadly there was a huge amount of rubbish and abandoned tents, camping gear, old chairs and settees but I presume it would get cleared away eventually.
Side tracks led to small jetties and landing stages and the Nordveien crossed to the north of the island via a good section of single track riding. The small church at Dun stands in the ruins of a larger one and marked the final highlight of what had been a thoroughly enjoyable if tiring day.
Back on the mainland I passed through Namsos and will need to do a bit of a shop tomorrow before heading for another planned summit : Hermanssnasa and then entering what may be a slightly busier area of Norway. The last four weeks have covered an area that takes some getting to but over the next three I will be trying to cover the highlights of the major fjords and some national parks which will involve some back tracking at times.

A few photos sit here and progress south can be seen here.