I am woken at some unknown hour of the night by the sound of flapping canvas. The wind has picked up, changed direction and is now blowing side-on at my tent. A poor pitch, admittedly, and now I’m being punished for it. I wedge my boots into the fabric of the awning in a bid to keep the canvas taut.
Meanwhile, I see that the pegs at the rear of the tent have come loose! One sidewall, it appears, would like to be under full sail on a direct course for the other side of the field. The downwind wall, on the other hand, is loose, flapping against the inner tent in the absence of a side stake.
I can see clearly, the snow-filled air carrying the light of a nearby farm to where I set camp late the previous evening. I’m wide awake, lying in my dampening sleeping bag, waiting for a peg or pole to be blown free and for my hideout to collapse in a flapping heap of ultralight canvas. And the shadow of collecting snow is beginning to pile up ominously.
After what seems like hours, I drift off to sleep again, helped by pulling my hat over my eyes and donning my earphones in an attempt to block out impending doom. When I wake up, it’s 10am and a surprised-looking woman is skiing past with her dog.
“Hi!” I say with a beaming grin, emerging from my bedraggled excuse for a tent. She replies hurriedly, avoids catching my eye, and promptly departs; a reaction style which seems to be a common theme so far in Norway. Its inhabitants seem unwilling to open up, somehow fearful. They’re probably all really lovely, given an inhibition-loosening drink or two and a gaggle of friends with whom to make merry — just not in the street in the presence of a bearded stranger and his winterized bicycle.
All my camping gear is damp. The temperature in the tent had been too high to freeze my body’s evaporating water, so it has condensed all over the inside walls of the tent in the form of water droplets — which are impossible to avoid brushing onto clothing and kit while packing — and in alarming quantities on the floor beneath my mattress.
I suspect that the floor is not as waterproof as it once was. I add ‘cheap tarpaulin’ to my mental shopping list, along with a plastic spade, a tin of vaseline and a box of matches.
It’s been a pretty crappy night, and I realise I need to get my camping routine sorted as soon as I can. I will need snow anchors as well as pegs tonight; 3 of my panniers can remain packed while I sleep, and along with the bike itself I will be able to secure all 4 of the necessary corners to heavy objects and bury these objects in the snow.
The day’s riding is short. I stick mainly to the route towards Hamar suggested by the national cycle network signage; a mixture of minor roads and cycleways, all now white and crunchy. The fresh snow during the night has left some roads slippery; hard-pack freshly pressed beneath car tyres giving way easily under sketchily-balanced bike tyres. Spikes are no use in such snow, and I look for patches of ice or tarmac which will give me a steady ride.
There’s a quick learning curve to riding in such conditions; it’s much slower and more methodical than I’m used to, but I’ll be able to make the distance if I pack enough riding into the daylight hours — and carry on into the darkness if it comes to that.
In the towns, sidewalks are all designated cycle lanes, and kept clear by snowploughs. This is wonderful — I can take my leave of the heavier urban traffic and the salt-spray that will quickly eat my drivetrain. Settlements in these low, forested hills of snow are characterised by large, well-spaced wooden dwellings, compact town centres and the usual scattered prime-positioned supermarkets and petrol stations. Ah, petrol stations — my old friend…
Later, I’m hunting for a patch of concealed snow that won’t require too much knee-deep bike-dragging. An old man walking two dogs — one friendly and one amusingly timid — takes me down a farm track to a drive of a bungalow he says is currently empty.
“Maybe this is OK for you?” he asks, before pondering the caravan parked outside. The roof is sagging under the pressure of nearly a metre of snow. In a flash, a deal is struck, and does vanish the prospect of the tent — I will climb the ladder and clear the caravan roof, in return for being allowed to sleep within it!
Such chance events are the hot spice of cycle-touring. I clear the drive as well, in thanks.