Rallarvegen: Day 1 – Haugastøl to Finse

Train Oslo to Haugastøl
Cycled Haugastøl to Finse

Date: September 2nd 2011

Rallarvegen is a famous cycling route along an old rail service track about halfway between Oslo and Bergen in Norway. You can rent bikes from the rail company, and they’ll take the bikes off you at the other end. The most popular route is to head from Finse down to Flåm, but we spent a couple of nights in Flåm before starting the trip, so we decided to take the alternative route to Voss. Bikes can be hired from the train stations at either Haugastøl or 27km further on at Finse. We chose to start at Haugastøl and stay overnight at Finse. It’s about a six hour train trip from Oslo so you have to stay overnight somewhere, and Finsehytta in Finse is the place to stay.

The bikes they gave us were 8 speed commuters with fat tyres. Initially I laughed at the pedal brakes, but I was very thankful for them later on the steep and rough downhills (for which a mountain bike with hydraulic brakes would be preferable) and when the hand brakes began to get soft after a couple of days. You can hire mountain bikes for a higher price. They are probably the better option, but the commuters handled the trip surprisingly well.

The ride to Finse is mostly a gentle uphill through tundra. It was overcast and quite cool, but there’s a cafe along the way to warm yourself over waffles and hot chocolate. At this elevation it’s often quite cold. The season only lasts from mid July to September, as it’s snowed under the rest of the time. Even though it’s well and truly below the arctic circle it’s apparently an arctic climate, so be prepared for chilly weather.

Cascades on Rallarvegen

Cascades beside the path.

Me with the bikes on Rallarvegen, not far from Finse.

Finse itself has a couple of accommodation options. There’s the very expensive hotel Finse 1222, or the much less expensive but not really cheap camping hut where we stayed, Finsehytta. You can’t book at Finsehytta, but they don’t turn people away. By the time we arrived all the beds were taken and they offered us a mattress on the floor for about 150 NOK. You can’t cook your own food, but the three course meal they provide, although expensive, is amazing. The bar sells beer from a local brewery and is quite busy, and it’s only when it quietens down that they move the chairs and tables and set up the mattresses. Millerine was suffering the tail end of quite a bad fever, so not being able to get to bed early was a bit of a problem. I spoke to a bunch of older women at dinner who did the ride every year. The previous year they had only found sleeping space on the stairs, so, thinking themselves too old for that sort of thing, had finally given in and this year were staying at the comfortable hotel. The hut was still the place to go for dinner though.

Finsehytta

Finsehytta, the full service “hut” where we stayed in Finse.