The next day we walk through Kristiansand with Inger. It starts dripping, dripping more and then raining hard. This couldn't be true, we both think. In Norway, the rain would turn to snow and we would leave the bad weather behind us. We get scared that winter is over and we only get rain and muddy roads here too. Mentally, we are not prepared for this. Fortunately, Inger is also surprised that it is raining so much and she assures us that winter is far from over.
"Once you're in the mountains, it's all snow," she says.
In the evening, Olivier replaces all tires for winter tires. They are full of small steel studs for better grip on the ice and in the snow. Hopefully we really need them from tomorrow on, he thinks.
The first few kilometers out of Kristiansand we cycle over bits of ice and mushy snow. On the fields and in between the trees there is more and more snow. After about twenty kilometers we leave the main road and turn to a dirt road. In front of us lies a white carpet of hard-packed snow. It looks so beautiful, almost like a ski slope, but also slippery as an eel. The winter tires give very good grip, but our brain tells us it must be slippery. Carefully we explore the limits of the winter tires and soon we are cycling twenty kilometers per hour over the snow.
The oppressive feeling of yesterday is completely gone. A blissful feeling bubbles up, it radiates from our eyes. We are finally in the landscape where we want to be, finally cycling in winter. We can only be happy and grateful that we can do this.
Late in the afternoon we knock on the door of a house to ask for water. An older woman opens the door and looks at us in surprise. They speak only Norwegian, but the words kald, vinter and strong need no translation. We also ask if we can pitch the tent behind their house. It is going to storm tonight and there is hardly a flat spot for the tent. They say they have a båthus by the frozen lake that we can sleep in. We understand that there is ingen dør (no door), but that we are sheltered from the wind.
To get to the boathouse, we have to go a hundred meters through the deep snow. The boathouse is actually a simple shed containing a small rowing boat and a few agricultural tools. There is not enough room for the tent, but our sleeping mats just fit in.
The next morning, the woman comes to see how we slept and asks if she can post a picture of the winter visitors on Facebook.
The following days the sun shines in the sky. It freezes below -10 degrees at night and it is sometimes below zero all day, but with the sun it feels like we are on a ski vacation. If Germany and Denmark tried to tell us that we'd better cycle on as soon as possible, Norway may be telling us to stay here. We cycle from one beautiful place to another and get a little fear of missing out. The region around Lillehammer is our search area, but it is also so beautiful here. Should we also consider this region? Why do we choose Lillehammer? And we also want to see Sweden. How will we ever choose? We tell ourselves to follow our gut feeling, but what is it actually trying to tell us? It doesn't give a clear signal, but mostly question marks. We try to find a hold on our original plan. Hopefully that will give us peace of mind.
During one of the days we cycle through a beautiful valley. All the houses are red and meet our needs. Suddenly there is a dream house. Zoë can't resist. She gets off her bike and rings the doorbell. The man is not used to strange visitors and takes a while to get comfortable. Then they talk extensively about the area and their lives. They are not selling their house for the time being, but Zoë hands over a business card in case they ever put it up for sale. We are still a few days away from our search area. That's where our focus changes from being on the road to staying on site. We hope that our gut feeling will send some clearer signals from there.