Author Topic: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)  (Read 44790 times)


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To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
« on: 09 December, 2016, 10:41:51 pm »

I blame Els.

There we were, in the summer of 2013, in a small hotel on Bolshoi Solovetski Island in the White Sea, [Wikipedia: “The White Sea is a southern inlet of the Barents Sea located on the northwest coast of Russia.”] Els was due to fly home from St Petersburg, but I planned to cycle home. ‘Planned’ is probably the wrong word, because I had no firm idea what route I was going to take. Els suggested I should go via the Arctic Circle. It was, after all, only about a hundred miles to the north of us, and we had a taste for 24-hour daylight because we were near enough for it not to get dark at night. In the end I took a more more direct southerly route as I wanted to get home in time for LEL, but she had sown the seed. Next year, perhaps.

And indeed the following year (2014) saw me heading through France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark to Sweden, crossing the Arctic Circle just before midsummer, then going as far north as possible in Sweden before retuning through Finland, the Baltic States, Poland, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium and France, arriving home after 100 nights away.

Here’s my route in 2014

But that wasn’t enough for lots of people - “You should have gone to Norway”, “Norway has fantastic scenery”, “Why didn’t you go to Norway?” And as I fancied doing something similar again, this year that’s exactly what I did.

Initially I didn’t have any particular timetable, but mmmmartin suggested I take part in the FNRttKust from Brussels to Ostend, so I signed up for that, and I reckoned I could take a week to get to Brussels and visit various WW1 sites in northern France on my way. From Ostend I could follow my non-plan vaguely east then north, and get beyond the Arctic Circle by midsummer.

And here, in installments, is how I got on.

Off I go

So  off I set on a Sunday in late April with a preposterously heavy bike, through Hampshire, Surrey and Sussex to the youth hostel between Lewes and Newhaven. Nothing remarkable on that day’s ride, except that I got mixed up with a Wiggle sportive south of Farnham.  The sportivistes were heading in roughly the same direction as I was, but using a less direct route, so the same groups passed me several times, passing barbed remarks about shortcuts as they did. There was a little sunshine, but best of all there was a stonking tailwind. The hostel was virtually empty, and I had a dorm to myself.

I had a bit of time before the ferry the next morning, so wandered round Newhaven for a while. I’ve always thought the ferry terminal at Newhaven and its surroundings were a bit of a dump, but I now realise that it’s entirely in keeping with the town centre.

I reckoned it would take about two days to reach the campsite I had earmarked east of Arras. I spent the first night as probably the only customer on a campsite near Gamaches about 20 km inland on the Somme. I was definitely the only tent-camper there.

The following day I reached the campsite near Arras by the early evening. During the day I experienced sun, rain and hail. The only consistent thing was the stonking tailwind.

On the way I took a short detour to visit Moyenville (“Averagetown”), the reason being that it is twinned with Willingham by Stow, the Lincolnshire village where my parents lived for a couple of decades. And like Willingham, there isn’t a lot there, but unlike Willingham Moyenville has a shop.

A pleasant former railway line after Abbeville. A better surface than some of the roads I used that day.

Near my destination I also stopped briefly in the village of Neuville Vitasse. It was here that my grandmother’s brother Harry (“Uncle Harry”) was wounded on the side of his head in 1918 during the Kaiserschlacht, the March Offensive when the Germans threw everything into a do-or-die attempt to finish the war.
(click to show/hide)
More on Uncle Harry tomorrow.

London Cemetery, Neuville Vitasse. The graves in the foreground are of soldiers who died in the same week that Uncle Harry was wounded.

During the day it had been warm enough to picnic outside, but by the time I reached campsite I was frozen, and stood for ages in the shower thawing. The patron of the campsite seemed a little bemused that anyone would want to camp in such weather, and that night the temperature sank to 1.5º C, but I was prepared for the worst of summer arctic conditions with a 4-season sleeping bag with a fleece liner, and didn’t notice it. The campsite was much busier, possibly because it’s near an autoroute interchange and is a useful stop-off for e.g. British tourists returning from the south of France and The Alps.

I booked in for 2 nights so that I could spend an unencumbered day visiting more WW1 sites.

Uncle Harry

The first place I wanted to visit was Greenland Hill. That’s what it was called on WW1 trench maps, and if you overlay a modern map on the trench maps, it’s pretty much where the autoroute A1 crosses the A26. It was where Uncle Harry suffered his first headwound in an attack on Greenland Hill. His war record was:
      August 1914 – joined up (Gordon Highlanders)
      1915 – wounded
      1916 – commissioned
      1917 – (Black Watch) wounded at Greenland Hill (right side of head)
      1918 –  (Gordon Highlanders - 51st Highland Division) wounded at Neuville Vitasse (right side of head again)
      1919 – demobbed
(to which you can add :
      early 1920s - emigrated to Canada
      early 1960s – showed me the scar on the side of his head and told me how he got it)

There wasn't a lot to see at Greenland Hill. There isn't much of a hill, and the western slope is hidden by the autoroute embankment. But I'm glad I went there.

According to the official report,  the attack on Greenland Hill was a total shambles
The moon went down at 3.00 am and the attack started at 3.45 am in pitch darkness. Further troubles were created by all troops losing direction as they were absolutely unable to see where they were going.

The troops on the right had to incline to the right, and we had to incline to our left – both these movements were carried out in too great a degree, with the result that there was a gap between The Black Watch and Camerons. This gap seems to have been partly filled by a Company of the Argylls. The troops on right and left of 26th Brigade also lost direction, with the result that the Camerons came into collision with the 4th Division and the Scottish Rifles charged into The Black Watch. Owing to heavy casualties both in Officers and men, it is impossible to collect anything like a correct story, but it appears likely that only a few scattered parties of men reached the German lines and these were captured or killed.

Greenland Hill in 2016

Greenland Hill in 1918

Poor Little Neville Dixon

The next place I wanted to see was Awoingt cemetery near Cambrai, to visit the grave of Neville Dixon, or “Poor Little Neville Dixon” to give him his full title. He had been a childhood friend of my grandmother in Gringley on the Hill in the early 1900s, and died on 10th November 1918. You might thing that he was unlucky in his timing, and that an earlier armistice would have saved him but it was illness rather than battle which killed him. He had been gassed earlier in the year, but recovered enough to go back to the front where he caught flu, which developed into bronchial pneumonia, and he died in hospital the day before the guns fell silent.

Awoingt Cemetery

Part of a letter from my grandmother to my grandfather dated 22/11/1918

That was it for specific destinations for the day, so I made my way through Cambrai back to the campsite, but it’s an area full of reminders of the Great War and I stopped off at several places.


The chapel at the junction which gives its name to Chapel Corner Cemetery.

John Hay Wishart

The following day I set off northwards, aiming for Ypres. Again the wind had turned to follow me and my route took me through plenty of post-industrial mining towns near Lens, along a good stretch along canal banks, with some spectacular hailstorms. I also came across a sector of Paris-Roubaix, and managed about 5 yards before concluding that it might be better to find a different route.

During the day I was to visit Fromelles where my great-grandfather's cousin, John Hay Wishart, was killed on 20th July 1916. His was a tragically pointless death, even by the standards of the first world war.

He emigrated to Australia in 1899 and lived near Newcastle. In July 1915 he went with some pals to Sydney to enlist. By November 1915 he and the rest of the 5th Division were on the way to Egypt where the task was to defend the Suez Canal against the expected attack. In June 1916 they sailed to France, and on the July 12th they went to a supposedly quiet sector of the front near Armentières to replace Anzac divisions which had been moved to the Somme as reinforcements.

It was decided to use these inexperienced troops and  under-resourced artillery to mount a diversionary attack, and discourage the Germans from moving troops to the Somme. The generals knew that the attack had little chance of success, and several argued against it, but it went ahead. Putting it briefly, the attack was initially partially successful, but the Germans counter-attacked regaining their trenches. Eleven  members of the 30th Battallion, including JHW, found themselves in a shellhole behind enemy lines. The official Australian War History describes their daring escape.

Realising that they were cut off, and being eleven in number, they decided – after debate – to make a run for it together rather than separately, and to assist any among them who met with trouble. Leaving their arms, and trusting to surprise, half of them succeeded in crossing two enemy trenches, each containing Germans. In the second trench two of them were seized; but the remainder instantly instantly turned round, as they had arranged to do, scared the Germans, released their comrades, and escaped with them into No-Man's Land, Krinks and three comrades eventually reaching the front of the 60th British Brigade.

Unfortunately for JHW, that wasn’t the end of the story. A footnote in the Official History:

This daring escape had a sad sequel. The men who reached safety with Krinks were Corporal A. H. Mc L. Forbes and Private J. H. Wishart (both of Wallsend, N.S.W.) and Private T. L. Watts (of Huntsville, N.S.W.); but two others, L/Cpl. S. B. Wells (of Wollongong, N.S.W.) and Private E. C. E. Amps (of Coff's Harbour, N.S.W.), had got clear of the German trenches, but in the wire-entanglement Wells was shot down and Amps injured. The 30 th Battalion after the fight was sent to reserve, but Krinks and his three companions returned to the trenches as soon as it was dusk, and, taking a stretcher, went out into No-Man's Land to find their comrades. In this they succeeded, and were bringing in Wells on a stretcher when a sentry of their own brigade, catching sight of their figures, fired, killing Wishart and Watts with a single shot

JHW’s body was somehow lost, so there is no grave, but his name is on the memorial at VC Corner.  As an aside, I’ve been in contact with a great niece of Cpl Wells, who was on the stretcher. He was patched up, wounded twice more then sent home to live out the rest of his life.

The memorial at VC Corner

Altogether there were 5533 Australian casualties, and it is thought by some that there was an official cover-up. The official communique published in the Times just stated “South of Armentieres we carried out some important raids on a front of two miles, in which Australian troops took part.”, but the German report in the same paper says “The brave Bavarian Division … counted 2000 enemy corpses in front of them.”  Incidentally one member of the Bavarian Division that day went on to reach a position of power in Germany in the 1930s which came to an end in a Berlin bunker in 1945. You may have heard of him.

In recent years bodies have been disinterred from mass graves and identified using DNA, and there’s a new cemetery in which newly identified bodies have been buried. There’s also an excellent museum which has an animated display describing the battle, which explains it better than all the books I’ve read about it.

Nearby is the Australian Memorial Park, with the statue named “Don’t forget me, cobber” showing a wounded soldier being carried  back through no-man’s land.

The story behind the statue

Not far away is the cemetery named Le Trou Aid Post, in the most beautiful setting for a cemetery I’m ever likely to see (especially on a calm sunny day in late spring).

Back to the bike ride - into Belgium to meet the Fridays

It wasn’t very far from Fromelles to Ypres and I checked into the campsite I had used before just outside the wall of the town. As if I hadn’t had enough WW1 for the day I went to the 8 pm  ceremony at the Menin Gate. It was packed and I couldn’t get in, but the haunting playing of the Last Post had its effect.

I had 2 days to reach Brussels and meet up with the Fridays who were departing from tradition (and Brussels) by starting on a Saturday night. Friday saw a short day leaving Ypres in the rain along the road to Menin, where I overshot and found myself in France, although it was largely the profusion of booze and fag outlets which gave it away. I retraced to Belgium and could have done most of the rest of the day by boat, following the river Leie to Kortrijk, then the Bossuit–Kortrijk Canal, then the River Scheldt for a while, before ending the day with a climb to the campsite on the slopes of the Kluisberg. The site is terraced, so pitches are flat, but whoever and designed it didn’t bother with drainage, so it was mostly soggy underfoot.

The road from Ypres

A bridge at Kortrijk  supported by a pair of trainers.

The following day I set off along the Scheldt to Oudenaarde, then headed along tiny lanes through archetypal Flemish countryside. As well as the landscape, the names of towns and villages were a giveaway – on one hand distinctly Flemish names like Zottegem, Woubrechtegem, Denderleeuw and Dillbeek, on the other are villages  named after obscure saints I’ve never heard of – Sint-Goreks-Oudenhove, Sint-Agatha-Berthem and Sint-Lievens-Esse. I didn’t push the pace as I didn’t want to get to the rendezvous too early, and I didn’t want to exhaust myself the day before an overnight group ride when I would be the one with 50kg+  of bike and luggage.

Eventually in the evening I reached the outskirts of Brussels and stopped for an evening meal at a roadside friterie in Anderlecht, before heading to the city centre and meeting up with Els at the appointed meeting place in the Grand Place.

To be continued.
et avec John, excellent lecteur de road-book, on s'en est sortis sans erreur


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Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
« Reply #1 on: 14 December, 2016, 11:26:38 pm »
Sobering + nice. Thank you.
2023 targets: Survive. Maybe.
There is only one infinite resource in this universe; human stupidity.

Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
« Reply #2 on: 15 December, 2016, 08:25:05 am »

Which pannier contains the kitchen sink?
<i>Marmite slave</i>


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Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
« Reply #3 on: 15 December, 2016, 08:53:30 am »
Which pannier contains the kitchen sink?

Front left.

Actually I had one on my 2014 trip but not this time.  I find a collapsible rubber sink is handy for ablutions when wild camping on arctic tundra.

More of a bathroom sink, really.
et avec John, excellent lecteur de road-book, on s'en est sortis sans erreur


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Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
« Reply #4 on: 15 December, 2016, 09:07:26 am »
Sobering + nice. Thank you.

Subsequent installments should be a little lighter.
et avec John, excellent lecteur de road-book, on s'en est sortis sans erreur


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Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
« Reply #5 on: 20 December, 2016, 01:54:39 pm »
The story so far: I'd arrived at Brussels for the 'Friday' night ride to Ostend.

The full complement still hadn’t turned up by the appointed time of midnight, and while we waited for the others, we attracted the attention of some of the locals who were promenading through the Place and wanted to know where we were heading at that time of night. “Ostend” was of course the standard reply, but I felt obliged to add that I was heading for the north of Norway, returning through Finland. Possibly. And it turned out that amongst the “locals” were a man from Trondheim and a Finn. I may be wrong, but I think I sensed in the Norwegian a smidgen of doubt in my prospects of riding there.

Eventually we sped off through quiet streets out of Brussels, at a pace which was probably higher than comfortable for me with all my luggage, but I got a breather when Stuart’s chain broke and we waited for mmmmmartin to fix it.

Broken chain repair team in action

A long stretch along a canal, including a crossing by footbridge with lots of steps (not suitable for a loaded touring bike, but hey-ho), a slight detour due to towpath repairs, the unmistakable smell of the brewery in Aalst, and a further canal stretch, and we were at the feed stop where family friends of the Vermeulens had put on a magnificent spread for us. I don’t think anyone really wanted to leave, but Ostend was calling, and  there were it was just beginning to get light when we left.

There was a super sunrise (aren’t they all when you’ve ridden all night?), and it warmed up as the mist lifted. The quiet canal bank became busier and busier, especially after we left Bruges, but eventually we reached the seaside and took the ferry to where Els’ sister was waiting for us at the cafe where Els had booked breakfast for us.

Breakfast in Ostend

Bikes and bees blog on the FnrttKust

Other people drifted off on their separated ways to get home or elsewhere. I took my leave and headed slowly up the coast to stop at the first campsite which took my fancy. Eventually I found one near de Haan which (a) catered for tents and (b) had a reception which was open. I slept most of the afternoon.

Now I had no time constraints, no deadlines, no rendezvous to keep. I had nothing more than a rough plan, and thought it probably best if I got home before winter.

I started off heading up the coast, through Zeebrugge and Knokke-Heist to the Dutch border, although it can be difficult to know exactly where you are on the Belgian coast. I confess that I haven’t made an effort to get to know individual seaside towns, but the coast gives me the impression of one long town, with a broad promenade and multi-story apartment blocks.

Things changed immediately I crossed the border, and the blocks gave way to dunes with the occasional village. Just as I was wondering how to get round or through Antwerp, which lay ahead of me, I came to Breskens and discovered that there is a ferry service to Vlissingen, an ideal Antwerp avoidance route. That evening I managed to get to a lovely campsite near Essen. NB, that’s the Essen in Belgium, but the campsite was 30 metres inside the Netherlands.

The hold (aka bike park)  of the Breskens-Vlissinghen ferry

Although I had plenty of time, I wanted to get through the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark as quickly as I could, because I wanted to get to Norway. Same with this write-up, so I’ll spare you a day-by-day blow-by-blow  account and just pick out some things which are memorable or noteworthy in a non-chronological way. And anyway every day would sound the same – “campsite - bike-path – ferry – canal – bridge – wind – campsite” 


My route through the Netherlands. This was determined by (a) wind direction and (b) the campsite I thought I could reach in good time each evening. I knew I really ought to be heading east towards Germany, but the east and south-east wind kept persuading me otherwise until I ran out of land and had no choice. I usually navigated by choosing a town about 20-30 km away in the right direction and letting my Etrex 20 decide how I’d get there, then repeating. This worked pretty well.

The campsites I used were all part of the  organisation. Following a tip from mmmmartin I had sent off €14 for a membership card and handbook. Money well spent. All their campsites are simple with basic amenities but no frills, often small and on farms. Some don’t allow cars on the site itself – they are left at a ca rpark near the entrance.  Their mission statement includes lots of fine words
De Groene Koepel is dedicated to the sustainable development of Natural Campsites in the Netherlands: campsites where campers can relax in harmony with nature and the environment and can enjoy the natural surroundings.
De Groene Koepel is committed to maintaining and expanding camping facilities in the form of Natural Campsites. The sites are different from other types of campsites due to the application of quality requirements (Guidelines) which are related to the value of nature, scenery and sustainable management. Based on quality criteria and hospitality, the user can help preserve and raise awareness of the high quality standards of nature and the environment in which the Natural Campsites are located.
All I know is that they are good value and nice places to stay.

One of the nicest was at Nederhemert-Zuid. Just a small field by a river, a few tents and a small washroom. A dutch gent welcomed me with a can of beer on my arrival, and the following morning I had breakfast at the communal picnic table with Liselotte, who had ridden from ‘s-Hertogenbosch with her little boy Raf in a trailer. Raf, she said, was a city boy and had complained about the noise the birds were making.


In the orchard at another natuurkampeerterrein site.

This is what one campsite looked like from the outside:

and on the inside:

The cheapest was one right in the north, run by the Dutch Forestry authorities. There were no staff but a machine where you could pay by plastic – except I couldn’t get it to work, and no-one had turned up to receive my money when I left at 6:30 the following morning.

Being in the Netherlands, most of my cycling was on cycle paths, but a (to me at least) surprising amount was through untypical landscapes. To balance that a lot was through very stereotypical Dutch landscapes, especially in the north.

Stereotypical Dutch roads:

and not so stereotypical

In Appeldoorn I was a day early for the start of the Giro. Some people had made an effort, but it didn’t quite match le Tour’s impact on Harrogate.

This made me think of Wobbly John, until I realised that whereas Wobbly John makes bikes out of everyday objects, the owner of this campsite had made an everyday object from a bike.

Some people following me on twitter were under the impression that I was deliberately taking as many ferries as I could find, but this wasn’t the case. I was travelling north avoiding cities, and with rivers flowing east-west, and major roads using bridges in cities, many of the minor routes avoiding cities have to take ferries. The ferry from Nederhemert-Zuid to Nederhemert-Nord was one such ferry. I arrived at the south bank and had to ring a bell to summon the ferry from the other side. It came across, I paid my euro, and was taken across to the other bank whereupon the ferryman resumed reading his book and waited for the next customer.

The ferry coming from Nederhemert-Nord to Nederhemert-Zuid so that it can take me from Nederhemert-Zuid to Nederhemert-Nord .

A Dutch bicycle ferry. Maximum 12 bikes.

Remember the Great Flood of [insert year] ? The water was THIS high!


Much the same as the Netherlands, except the rivers were wider and the ferries bigger. Previously when heading to Schleswig-Holstein I’ve gone to the east of Hamburg. This time for a change I went to the west.

An Elbe ferry. There were huge queues for motor vehicles, but it’s still quicker for many than using the autobahn to the east of Hamburg.

In Germany I missed the Dutch natuurcamperterrein campsites. In Glückstadt I plumped for the youth hostel, and at Dagebüll I ended up what I later decided was the worst campsite of the whole trip – plenty of room, but the site was mainly a thin layer of sand on stones. Not too bad if you’ve got a campervan but decidedly pants if you’re paying to pitch a tent. Having said that I stopped at pleasant campsites at Idafehn, Delve and on the banks of the Weser at Sandstedt between Bremen and Bremerhafen.

Taking no chances with floods by the Weser.

In Glückstadt YH  I met Willi, a retired Bundeswehr officer who was touring the area. He had grown up in Idafehn, which was where I had camped the previous night.

Germany gave me a chance to make my two German river jokes.
Firstly when I crossed the River MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM,
(click to show/hide)
and then when I crossed River Arse.
(click to show/hide)

One day I found myself taking a small ferry on which I was the only passenger apart from a car and its occupants which made a return trip without disembarking. On the same day I rode for a couple of hours along the side of the Kiel Canal (known in Germany as the Nord-Ostsee Kanal as it links the North Sea with the Baltic). It has few bridges across it, presumably because bridges have to be high enough to allow ocean-going ships through. But there are plenty of (free) ferries, so I made my way alternately on the south-east  and the north-west bank.

Railway bridge over the Kiel Canal.

Traffic on the Kiel Canal

A transporter bridge (in German, Schwebefähre, or suspended ferry)

I’ve been to Germany’s highest point, the Zugspitze in Southern Germany on the Austrian border, and on this trip I came across a small carpark by the side of the road which is Germany’s lowest point at 3.54 metres below sea level.

Germany’s lowest point

Near Sandtoft (yes, Germany has its own Sandtoft)

Nearby on a quiet country road was a bus shelter which had been adopted and fancified by the locals, and I reckon they’d made a pretty good job of it. The newspaper article pinned up in it recounts the time the local TV weather forecast was made from there. It's also a popular destination for cyclists.

Near the Danish border I cam to this level crossing. The last time I had been there was on a (rail)road trip with nuncio opt in 1982 or 1983, and we’d visited the island of Sylt. Apart from the weekend homes of Germany’s very rich and very famous (Axel Springer, Udo Lindenberg) dotted about in the dunes, it reminded me of Spurn Point.


In Denmark I was making for the port of Hirtshals in the north of Jutland, where I could get a ferry to Norway.

Mostly I found good campsites in Denmark. At Tiset I was the first ‘backpacker’ to camp there this year, the owner didn’t know how much to charge me, and in the end I paid a bargain 60kr for exclusive use of the camping meadow well away from the campervans. I arrived at Viborg on a holiday weekend, and the campsite was packed, but there were 2 tiny places left for non-motorised campers. The following morning I woke  early, and was already up and about when a car alarm went off at 6:10. The owner didn’t seem to be about but there were plenty of mightily disgruntled campers milling around in their dressing gowns, plotting revenge. Possibly.   

From Herning I rode for 50km along an old railway track all the way to Viborg. To the side of the track there was a sign indicating a German military cemetery. Although some of the graves were of soldiers, most were of German refugees. I assume these were refugees who had fled westward to avoid the Red Army.   

Child refugees’ headstone.

Elderly refugees’ headstone.

Aalborg promotes itself as a cycling town. Essential emergency tools, bike counter also giving ETA in the town centre and a crap pump.

A few random pictures from Denmark

After 5 days I reached Hirtshals, I pitched my tent at the excellent campsite (with kitchen) overlooking the Skaggerak, bought my ticket for the following morning’s ferry to Kristiansand, looked round the harbour, did some shopping and even did some 'planning' for the first few days in Norway. I’d head north and then veer left to Bergen. Simple.

The ferry took about 4 hours. I spent most of the voyage reading and trying to ignore the noisy group which was surrounding me (I’m not going to reveal their nationality but I suspect many of them voted Trump). But it got me to Norway.

The warm-up was over and the tour proper could begin.

To be continued.

et avec John, excellent lecteur de road-book, on s'en est sortis sans erreur

Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
« Reply #6 on: 07 January, 2017, 09:03:46 am »
Fabulous write-up of what must have been an excellent tour. Gagging for the next installment.  :thumbsup:


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Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
« Reply #7 on: 07 January, 2017, 09:13:49 am »
Fabulous write-up of what must have been an excellent tour. Gagging for the next installment.  :thumbsup:

Thanks. Next bit shouldn't be long now.
et avec John, excellent lecteur de road-book, on s'en est sortis sans erreur

Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
« Reply #8 on: 07 January, 2017, 04:39:55 pm »
I've enjoyed too John, looking forward to hearing about your adventures further North.


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Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
« Reply #9 on: 09 January, 2017, 07:49:06 pm »
Southern Norway

In which I experience several lows, but end on a high.

My arrival in Norway wasn’t ideal. I prefer to ease my way into a new country, but I found myself in the busy centre of Kristiansand not quite knowing which way to go or what to do. I’d earmarked a campsite a few kilometres along the coast, but saw signs to a much nearer campsite, so I followed them. Eventually I found it, its gates chained and padlocked. So back to plan A. I didn’t have any Norwegian krona, and assumed I’d pass an ATM sooner or later. Well I did, but it wouldn’t give me any money.

The coast round that bit of southern Norway, while not part the award-winning fjords, is nevertheless indented with creeks and inlets, which means a distance on the map is far longer on the road. And if that wasn’t enough, the land rises straight up from the sea, and while the main roads sweep over big bridges and through tunnels, the cycling routes grind up short sharp climbs. I probably did more climbing in the 20 km to the campsite than I did in the whole of the Netherlands and Germany combined.

The reception was closed when I got there, but a quick chat on the intercom brought the owner to the building. They accepted plastic, so no problem paying, but the price was 220 kr. (As a very rough rule of thumb, knock a zero off any amount scandinavian currency to get its sterling equivalent.) 220kr. Showers extra. Use of kitchen extra. I could see that over the next few weeks I was going to have to make full use of allemannsretten, the principle in nordic countries which allows everyone, amongst other things, to wild camp anywhere within reason – that’s a paraphrase, but it’s the basic idea.

My plan, such as it was, was to follow Sykkelrute 3 north, then west, skirting to the south of Hardangervidda, the vast remote plateau (“the wildest mountain plateau in Europe” - Ray Mears), until I got to the coast, then follow the coast north, ideally being north of the Arctic Circle (as per thread title) by midsummer. My destination was not North Cape (although several people assumed it was, and even told me it was). There were several places I wanted to visit, and Nordkapp was one, but it definitely wasn’t my ultimate destination. If anything, that (as far was Norway was concerned) was Kirkenes, the town tucked away in the far corner of Norway hemmed in by the Russian and Finnish borders, but above all I wanted to ride in the arctic summer – a magical season in a fascinating part of the world. But that, if it was ever to happen, would be several weeks and a few thousand kilometres ahead.

Next morning I set off and found an ATM almost straight away, and I withdrew 3000 kr. My route took me back through Kristiansand, but this time through quiet backstreets past white-painted wooden houses. Fairly soon I was going north on a cyclepath next to a quiet road up a valley. Sykkelrute 3 was well signposted and very pleasant, and I made good progress north. And the weather brightened up a bit. Norway wasn’t so bad after all.

Sykkelrute 3 follows Setesdal, a long valley. A railway line, the Setesdalbahn, used to run right up the valley, but was abandoned, but now the southern end has been restored. In the south, the cycle route follows some rough tracks with some sharp ups and downs, but further north it often uses the old track which is flat, even though the surface is variable, but always rideable.

Towards the end of the afternoon I started to think about somewhere to sleep, and rejected 2 campsites for various reasons, and set off up the minor road up the valley looking for a spot for wild camping, soon coming across a pleasant spot next to the fjord in some trees well away from the road.

et avec John, excellent lecteur de road-book, on s'en est sortis sans erreur


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Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
« Reply #10 on: 09 January, 2017, 07:59:10 pm »
Next morning was beautifully still, if a little misty, with super views across the fjord. The early mist turned to drizzle and then rain as I made my way up the quiet side of the fjord. I think it was 2 hours before I saw a car on the road. The previous day without noticing I had gently climbed up to 200m asl. Today I was due to climb rather higher.

During the afternoon the weather cleared, and I could see more and more patches of snow as I climbed. At one point the cycle route took a scenic diversion and I found myself having to avoid a snowdrift left over from the winter.

Lots of this style of building in southern Norway

 :thumbsup: to the village of Åraksbø for having a covered picnic table.

It was going to be a wild camp that night. A digression on wild camping: WIld camping is legal, with a few minor restrictions. In a country with such a sparse population, which is largely covered by forest, you’d think it was easy to find somewhere, wouldn’t you? Just go into the forest and pitch your tent. Simple. And wrong. Reasons why it can be difficult include:
  • The forest is too dense (especially birch)
  • The forest isn’t dense, but there is dense vegetation between the trees.
  • The forest is on the side of a mountain. The rare bits of flat land are used for agriculture (therefore no camping)
  • There are no trees and it’s flat. Closer inspection shows the ground to be waterlogged. Too waterlogged for trees to grow. It’s a bog.
  • The ground is too rocky. Big-boulders rocky.
  • There’s a perfect spot in the forest, but it’s inaccessible because of a huge drainage ditch running next to the road.
  • There’s a perfect accessible spot but it’s just a little too early, so you push on. You don’t see another suitable spot for hours so you give up and try to pitch your tent in a steep rocky birch forest.
But if you do find a good spot, there’s no better way of spending the night. In Norway, Sweden and Finland I was to camp in some brilliant places.
That evening I found another reason:
        8. Flat, no trees or rocks, but yellow grass. The grass is yellow because it’s been covered by snow for the previous eight months, and the melted snow has left the ground waterlogged.
But beggars, especially knackered beggars can’t be choosers so that’s where I ended up, just off a minor road.

The next morning was crisp and sunny, with spectacular temperature inversion. A fine day for cycling, except I soon came upon patches of snow on the road. Soon there was more icy snow than tarmac. Hard, frozen icy snow which had me slipping if I tried to walk on it. The situation wasn’t helped by having to push a 60kg loaded bike which had a mind of its own on the ice.

I was relieved to reach the main road in the valley, which was kept clear of snow. More steady climbing got me high up, riding past frozen lakes and through deserted ski resorts, mostly at about 900m asl until a sharp descent to 500m brought me to the junction at the village of Haukeli.

Above about 900m the only trees are stunted birches.

High-stakes Jenga near Haukeli

et avec John, excellent lecteur de road-book, on s'en est sortis sans erreur


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Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
« Reply #11 on: 09 January, 2017, 08:15:52 pm »
In Haukeli I was supposed to follow the cycle route west, with Hardangervidda to my right, but I couldn’t see any of the familiar brown Sykkelrute signs. After a brief stop at a small supermarket and a snack on the bench outside, I set off westward. The road climbed steadily to about 1000m. It started to rain. I came to a tunnel. My info said there was a cycling alternative to the tunnel (i.e. the old pre-tunnel road over the pass), so I took the branch to the right, but got only 300m further before it was clear that it was impassable with snow. Still, cycling was permitted in the tunnel, so with hi-viz and lights on, I ventured into the dark. About 1.6 km long, uphill, slight bend, heavy traffic. My first ‘proper’ tunnel, and I learned:
  • All noise is magnified, and is not directional. A car approaching from ahead sounds like a juggernaut coming from behind.
  • The walls of the tunnels are bumpy with jagged bits, as if they’d been crudely dug or blasted and then left. [Some have walls covered in concrete, but they’re still bumpy]
  • Tunnels are scary.
The bend in the tunnel meant that I didn’t see the exit until I was nearly there. And what a relief it was.

The old road over the pass

The beginning of the old road

The next 20 km or so was at over 1000m but fairly flat, skirting round a series of frozen lakes. I knew they were lakes because the map said so, and they were very flat and snow-covered with a man skiing across. The road was clear of snow but everything else on either side was covered in deep snow. Meanwhile, the rain got heavier. And colder.

Then I came to another tunnel. This had a very definite No Cycling sign at its entrance. The cycling alternative, which existed according to maps and other info? I couldn’t even find where it branched off, such was the snow covering. So there I was, cold, wet and with no chance of shelter. I briefly considered trying to hitch a lift through the tunnel, but didn’t fancy standing at the side of the road, even for the briefest time, so quickly concluded that I had to lose some altitude to get warm, and the only way to do that was to retrace to Haukeli. So back I went. This was Low Point Number One.

I had to negotiate the first tunnel again, but it was now downhill so I was through it quickly. All the time I was wondering where I could spend the night. Things looked hopeless until I spotted that there was a campsite in Haukeli itself - and it had cabins (call me a wuss but I didn’t fancy camping) and there was a light on in reception. It turned out that the owner was only there to start putting things in order in time for the summer season, but she said I could have a cabin for 300 kr. The problem was that the cabin was being used for storing stuff, so I waited outside in the rain while she cleared it. She wanted to sweep the floor, and apologised for the fustiness, but I was glad of anywhere with a roof and a heater and insisted it was fine as it was.

I found a weather forecast for the following day on my phone - heavy rain with danger of flooding, so quickly decide on another day in the cabin. The following day:
  • I watched the waterfall get fuller and the puddles get bigger
  • I read a book from cover to cover.
  • I went to the supermarket which said in big letters that it was open from noon on Sundays, but a notice pinned on the door said it wouldn’t actually open on Sundays until June. The garage down the road didn’t have much to offer, but I made do with biscuits.
  • 2 drenched German cyclists turned up. They intended to go west as I had intended, but I warned them it was impassable.
  • When I went to pay for the 2nd night, the owner only charged 250kr “You need a break”. She also said it was too early in the year to be doing what I was doing. She wasn’t the last to say that.
The following morning the Germans consulted me again. One headed west, saying he’d cycle through the tunnel illegally if necessary, and the other headed east.

I couldn’t go west (tried it), I couldn’t go north (Hardangervidda - no roads), and I didn’t want to go back south, so I headed east, and had a lovely day on a quiet road which skirted a lake, then rose high above the next one, before turning northeast onto another high 900m plateau. I made sure there were no tunnels, or at least none which couldn’t be cycled.

The descent from the plateau involved a steep road down a narrow gorge. After a tunnel I stopped in a layby to turn off my lights, and saw a hydro-electric plant across the gorge. Nothing unusual in that, but it had a familiar look for some reason. An information board showed why - this was Vermork power station, which the Germans had been using to produce heavy water in their attempts to make atomic bombs until it was wrecked by Norwegian commandos. See the Holywoodized version “The Heroes of Telemark” with Michael Redgrave, Kirk Douglas et al, or the more factual “The Real Heroes of Telemark” re-enactment with Ray Mears and British and Norwegian special forces, and some of the original saboteurs. All available on youtube. A Norwegian factually-accurate version was also made in the last couple of years.

Beyond Rjukan I stopped at a campsite, right next to the end of the railway line where the heavy water tanker wagons had been loaded onto the ferry before being sunk in the deepest part of the fjord. (see above)

Sister ship of the Hydro, which lies 430m below the surface.

The next day brought me nothing untoward, and I found a wild camp just north of Kongsberg. I was now much further south and east than I’d intended to be. A glance at the long thin shape of Norway showed I was just buggering about in the deepest south of the country. At this rate I do well to reach the Arctic Circle by midwinter, never mind midsummer.

But from here I could push north again. I’d head north the Numedal valley and then west from Geilo to Bergen skirting the north edge of Hardangervidda. Simple.

60º North. Twice as far to the equator than to the N Pole. Or five sixths of the way from the S Pole to the N Pole. But still a long way to the arctic circle by bike.

I reached Geilo in two and a half days, the first of which was an easy ride up the valley, and the second of which involved a steep climb to see a wooden church, then a brilliantly scenic  35 km on a gravel road which rose to 1000m. That night I had a wild camp on a bed of lichen near where the Vermork saboteurs had passed on their way to neutral Sweden.

Gielo is a ski resort, and I asked at the Tourist Office to make sure it was possible to take the main road to Bergen. No problem, they said, so I pointed my bike westward and set off. It was sunny and there was nice scenery. After about 30km I came to a sign. No cycling 50km ahead because of a landslide.

A YACFer (who had told me it was downhill from Geilo, which I now knew not to be true)  said that from Finse it was downhill to Bergen, so when I saw a signpost for a cycle route to Finse I took it. The scenery was spectacular, with white mountains, blue sky and a frozen lake, but I wondered if the gravel track would still be free of snow further up. I asked a hiker if it was possible to cycle to Finse, and when she had stopped laughing she said I could if I could but it would mean dragging my bike through 10 km of snow.

So retrace 30km of gratuitous climbs back to Geilo.

After Geilo I made the mistake of following a cycle route on the quiet side of the valley. This track was halfway up the steep side of the valley, with dense forest. I ended up pitching my tent in the middle of a side track, half overgrown, sloping, and with 2 giant boulders perched perilously above the track poised to fall and crush me.

They didn’t fall, so I continued in the rain the next day down the valley to Gol, where 2 valleys meet. Here I had a decision to make. My choices:
  • Go north-west up Hemsedal and then south-west to Bergen, as recommended by a Scotsman at Geilo Tourist Office. As the road involved Norway’s longest road tunnel and I wasn’t confident of the cycling alternatives, this wasn’t a favourite.
  • Head south east. If I was going to go south again, I might as well give up and go home. Or go to flatter terrain in Sweden, head north and cross into Norway later. But I’d already ‘done’ Sweden. This year was supposed to be Norway.
  • Head north-east to Fagernes. This involved a steep series of hairpins out of Gol itself, and climbed to 900m. Considering I’d had difficulty getting my legs going on the downhill to Gol, this didn’t appeal.
I sat on a bench and considered the options. None of them appealed. It was Saturday lunchtime. It was a week since I’d stopped at Haukeli and I’d hardly got any further north. Meanwhile some sort of Boys Brigade band was marching up and down the main street. The boys too small for instruments all carried crosses. Or rifles. It was difficult to tell what they were - the long part had a stock like a rifle, but there was a crosspiece at the other end making it a cross. People are weird. Low Point Number Two.
et avec John, excellent lecteur de road-book, on s'en est sortis sans erreur


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Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
« Reply #12 on: 09 January, 2017, 08:25:04 pm »
Suddenly I plumped for Fagernes as the least-worst option and set off before I could change my mind. This meant abandoning going to Bergen, so the story so far could be summed up as
      Plan A. South of Hardangervidda to Bergen
      Plan B. North of Hardangervidda to Bergen
      Plan C. To misquote George VI, “Bugger Bergen”

The grinding climb out of Gol took an age, but eventually I reached the plateau. I’d sensed problems with my headset as early as the Netherlands - it felt notchy, making small steering adjustments difficult. On the hairpinned descent to Fagernes I made up my mind to get it fixed once and for all. I booked in for 2 nights at the campsite, the following day being Sunday, and hoped I’d find a bike shop to fix it on Monday morning. I dreaded the cost, a headset replacement would entail big Norwegian labour costs, but at 9 am on Monday the mechanic at Intersport just said “too tight”, fiddled a bit with an allen key, and sent me on my way without charging anything. Fagernes  :thumbsup: :thumbsup: :thumbsup:

And the Tourist Office gave me a map. It was a cycling map of Norway, showing all tunnels, distinguishing those where cycling was permitted from those where it wasn’t, as well as ferries and recommended routes. I’d seen such a map  at Geilo, but there weren’t any for sale. I asked at Fagernes if I could buy one, and was told “they’re out of print (2009) and out of date, and we only have one copy”, then there was a pause and then “it’s out of date so you might as well have it”. I was the envy of many a cycletourist in the next few weeks. Fagernes  :thumbsup: :thumbsup: :thumbsup:

Also in Fagernes a woman came up to me speaking Norwegian (it is in Norway after all). She looked somewhat perplexed and even shocked when I asked if she could speak English. Apparently I am a dead ringer for her friend Frank.

The recommendation was to go north via Valdresflye, so that’s the way I went.

The rest of the day got me as far as Beitostolen, an out-of season ski resort. There didn’t seem to be much opportunity for wild camping and as I didn’t want to be tackling the rest of the 1300m climb  to Valdresflye on a dismal evening, I plumped for an early stop and checked into a cabin for 400kr. Unlike the one at Haukeli, this one include its own shower and toilet, and had a TV. The novelty of watching TV, including a very old Pointless, kept me up later than my normal bedtime.

The next day the road soon took me beyond the last lodges of the sprawling resort and past the last of the blackened stunted birches into wild treeless country. The snow became thicker on the ground, and eventually the sun came out. Below was a frozen lake with some fishing huts. Near the top the snow was high on both sides of the road - I estimated 4 metres deep on one side and 3 metres on the other. Every driver coming the other way gave me a wave.  It was exhilarating, possibly the best day’s cycling ever. I haven’t the words to describe it, so I hope the photos do it justice. And I hadn’t even started the descent.

The descent didn’t disappoint. There were stunning views to either side and the warm sun and melting snow was filling the rivers.

After several hours I reached a riverside campsite near Vågåmo. The owner was quite chatty and wanted to know where I’d been. I enthused over the crossing of Valdresflye, but she was less happy - the sunshine would mean more water and higher river levels. And indeed, the picnic bench where I’d eaten supper was next morning almost isolated on its own little peninsula.

After 12 days and some setbacks and a huge diversion I felt as if I was starting to make some progress.

But seeing what was ahead of me, even allowing for distortion which exaggerates distances further north, there was still a long way to go

Or to put it another way, plenty of adventures to come.

Stay tuned.
et avec John, excellent lecteur de road-book, on s'en est sortis sans erreur

Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
« Reply #13 on: 09 January, 2017, 08:32:08 pm »
Another wonderful adventure John. Snow and sandals eh mmm!
Get a bicycle. You will never regret it, if you live- Mark Twain

Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
« Reply #14 on: 09 January, 2017, 08:47:55 pm »
Cheers John, another enjoyable read, certainly kept me entertained for a small duration of my Newcastle to Helensburgh train journy.  It's a shame you missed Bergen, I've only ever visited it by ship but it's a terrific city.
Very brave wearing Sandals.

Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
« Reply #15 on: 10 January, 2017, 03:25:24 pm »
 :thumbsup: :thumbsup:

Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
« Reply #16 on: 10 January, 2017, 03:57:12 pm »
That looks terrific.

<i>Marmite slave</i>

Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
« Reply #17 on: 10 January, 2017, 07:06:22 pm »
What a fantastic journey - and journal.  I'm not sure that I would be able to tackle this even if I had the free time.  After a couple of weeks I start to miss the comforts of home.  However it is great to read about this sort of trip. 

Thanks for sharing - I look forward to hearing more.
Sunshine approaching from the South.

First time in 1,000 years.

Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
« Reply #18 on: 10 January, 2017, 11:17:40 pm »
Making me jealous !  I've done 2 tours there, but only a fortnight each.  I'd love to go back sometime, such a pity there is no ferry from the UK to any of the Scandinavian countries anymore  :(

Not fast & rarely furious

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Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
« Reply #19 on: 12 January, 2017, 09:38:48 pm »
@Joe.B and @Canardly sandals were ideal. It wasn't cold, especially in the sun. The snow makes it look cold but it was melting as fast as it could.

Bergen - I usually avoid cities on my bike. They'll always be there if I go back.

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Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
« Reply #20 on: 12 January, 2017, 09:51:18 pm »
There was only one way north from where I was - the E6. The E6 is the main north-south route in Norway. It starts in Sweden, and the Norwegian bit goes north from Oslo all the way to the arctic circle, then easr to Kirkenes, just short of the Russian border. I didn't want to ride on such a main road, but a glance at the map showed I had no practical alternative. I'd go about 30 km up the valley on the E6 to Dombas, then head for the coast on the E136.

Near Sel

I had a sharp climb and long descent to Sel where I stocked up on food, and then joined the E6. It wasn't as bad as I had feared. On some stretches cycling was forbidden, but only where there was an alternative. Usually this alternative was on a minor road which took me through a village. On the E6 itself the traffic wasn't too heavy.

I stopped at Dombas for food at the co-op and wi-fi at the library. Co-op stores in Nordic countries often have wi-fi, but it can be variable. I've been known to spend 20 minutes in a co-op selecting a single yogurt, coincidentally the time required for my podcasts to download. But in Dombas the library has excellent wi-fi, so I didn't need to hang around the dairy section. The  atmosphere was very heavy and I was fully expecting a thunderstorm. As it happens some very threatening clouds developed later in the day, but only a couple of drops fell on me.

From Dombas the E6 heads north to Trondheim, but I took the E136 which heads north-west to the coast. For the rest of the day I had exclusive use of the segregated bike path next to the road. The road runs next to a railway line, so there are no big gradients, and I made good progress. There didn't seem to be any opportunities for wild camping, so I went to a commercial campsite. I was the only customer that night, and I think the granny had been left in charge and she only charged me 50kr, the cheapest I paid anywhere all summer.

The map showed that the railway line did some spectacular curling about, doubling back on itself with numerous tunnels, so I guessed that the purpose was to gain height, and that the road would get steeper. I was half right . A sign at the resort of Bjorli showed that the road would get steeper, but it would be downhill.

And what a downhill it was, the most memorable feature being the waterfalls. With plenty of snow on the high ground ready to melt and warm temperatures, it was peak waterfall. What my photos can't convey is of course the noise. There was a constant roar all the way down.

The road had steep cliffs either side, including Trollveggen, the tallest vertical cliff in Europe. A monument at the visitor centre lists the climbers and BASE jumpers who have died there. The monument has plenty of room for more names.

The road brought me to Andalsnes. On a map of Norway it doesn't look as if it's on the coast, but the deep fjords allow cruise ships to stop there. There was one in town when I arrived there, the Arcadia. I had seen about a dozen buses with “Arcadia" on the front making their way up the valley, they must have been excursions from the cruise ship.

The road out of Andalsnes goes through a short tunnel, but there was a No Cycling sign at the entrance. No problem, I thought, on the map there's a road by the coast which meets the main road after the tunnel. So back I went through the town and down the coast road, until I found it blocked by a big fence and No Entry signs. There were big road works going on and the road had been closed. So I couldn't use the main road and I couldn't use the minor road. My heart sank. There were no alternatives, unless you count going back to Dombas and up the E6. I'd had enough of being turned back. I went all the way to the fence and noticed that there didn't actually seem to be any work going on, so I decided to get past the fence somehow and chance it. In the end the works were deserted - they must have knocked off - and I got through to the other side.

The road took me right round the fjord so that I found myself opposite Andalsnes. The cruise liner really did dwarf the town.

I didn't follow the other traffic and take the ferry at Herjestranda, but pressed on along the side of the fjord, a lovely quiet road which brought me to a campsite at Mittet run by a German who found me a secluded spot a few feet from the water, next to a derelict house which had last been occupied by a retired sea captain. That evening with the sun still high above the mountains on the other side of the fjord, I sat outside my tent and thought about perhaps putting a jumper on. Meanwhile, seeing a few tweets from MarcusJB in France confirmed that my decision to head north for the summer was a sound one.

Next day was sunny and bright and I followed the road along the shore, before it turned inland. I stopped at a small supermarket. I bought supplies and sat outside to have a snack. The woman who'd served me came out for a fag and asked me where I was from. She and her husband were Liverpool supporters and had seen a match at Anfield. She asked me who I supported and was somewhat nonplussed when I told her it was Gainsborough Trinity. I explained that it was a club with a fine history which I detailed, but I realised I wasn't going to convert her, even when I told her of the dramatic 1904 Lincolnshire Cup victory, so I packed my stuff up and carried on up the road.

The road rose up a beautiful valley next to a river, then turned back on itself to climb to a pass at 500m, where I stopped for another snack,  then went straight back down to sea level. The fjord was still, the sky was blue, the road was flat. My lows at Haukeli and Gol seemed a lifetime away.

On a whim I left route 770 and turned onto route 666, which snaked round the coast. I felt sure I’d find a wild camping spot, but I was wrong. Immediately inland from the road the land rose up, covered in dense forest. On the other side were fjord, rocks or farmland. But I did find a supermarket open at Angvika. It had become a habit to stop at any supermarket I saw and buy food, because you never know when the next opportunity to stock up will come. The normal practice was buy more food than I could carry, easy the excess, and so set off with full panniers and full belly. This was a lesson swarm_catcher and I had learned in 2013 on our first full day in Sweden.

My diet was mostly bread, cheese and fruit. Sometimes I would have ‘kaviar’, a salty fish paste,  instead of cheese. From time to time I'd also have some nuts or yogurt, especially cloudberry yoghurt.

The 666 brought me to the E39, the main coast road to Trondheim, but as the old road runs parallel, cycling is prohibited. The narrow coastal strip was too populated for wild camping. Two magnificent but very different bridges (one had to allow for shipping, one which didn’t) brought me to a bit of the E39 where there was no alternative, but late on Saturday evening it was fairly quiet. Having been on the lookout for a camping spot for a couple of hours, I was now getting desperate, and followed a side track to put up my tent in a damp, uneven, insect-infested birch forest. I had to clear away the worst of the woodland debris, and there was barely space for the tent, but I slept well as always. I had covered 120 km on the road, but I was only 30 km as the crow flies from where I'd set of in the morning. Bloody fjords!

After a few kilometres the next morning I came to a ferry. After the crossing I waited for all the motorised passengers to leave before seeing off. Because the road is fed by the ferry, I had the road to myself for half an hour until I was passed by a convoy of motorcycles, then cars, then campervans, then larger vans and lorries. Then I had the road to myself for another half hour, before another convoy came past. This repeated itself with decreasing clarity through the morning as I got further from the ferry and the convoys split up.

I followed the E39 for most of the rest of the day until I turned off to Kirksæterøra, and found first of all the supermarket just before closing time (it being Saturday evening I had to stock up to last me until Monday morning), and then found the campsite. I was rather taken with the site's barbecue hut.

I didn’t manage much the next day, rising after 9:30 and plodding off in the sunshine up the road squeezed between the mountains and a fjord. Surrounded by such wonderful scenery it seems a little churlish, but it was pretty much a standard day at the office. Along the fjord, then steep, false flat and steep to 400 m, then down. In the journal which I was keeping from time time I noted that I “didn’t have a huge amount of energy or enthusiasm”. No wonder I only managed 58 km that day. I stopped at a campsite at Orkanger which seemed to be in an industrial estate. Worst news of the day was that my trusty Canon G11, which had bounced about in my barbag for tens of thousands of kilometres, gave up the ghost.  Good job I’d packed a spare camera.

An inauspicious day, but it had got me within striking distance of  Trondheim. Trondheim was the home town of the Norwegian we’d met at the Grote Markt just after midnight in Brussels at the end of April. He’d told me it was half way up Norway, so I’d taken him at his word and looked on it as an important psychological milestone. Look at a map or get google maps to calculate the distance, and they’ll show that Trondheim is only a third of the way. But I preferred to believe the man in Brussels, and anyway Trondheim is an important strategic point, where the bulge of southern Norway becomes the narrow strip between Sweden and the Atlantic. And I needed a milestone.

Not necessarily to scale, google maps has Kristansand-Trondheim at more than 800km, Trondheim-Nordkapp more than 1650km, and Nordkapp-Kirkenes as 540km.

et avec John, excellent lecteur de road-book, on s'en est sortis sans erreur

Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
« Reply #21 on: 12 January, 2017, 11:01:14 pm »
Superb photos John: As a Trinity supporter you'd be in good company with my brother and uncle.

Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
« Reply #22 on: 13 January, 2017, 07:43:54 am »
Really enjoying this, I'm having particular fun following on Google map, especially when they have Sno/No Sno views like from March and September

Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
« Reply #23 on: 13 January, 2017, 09:14:49 am »
You are in troll country now, no mistake. Take care!
<i>Marmite slave</i>


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Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
« Reply #24 on: 13 January, 2017, 11:50:43 am »
You are in troll country now, no mistake. Take care!
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et avec John, excellent lecteur de road-book, on s'en est sortis sans erreur