Yet Another Cycling Forum

General Category => Rides and Touring => Ride Reports => Topic started by: Salvatore on December 09, 2016, 10:41:51 pm

Title: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: Salvatore on December 09, 2016, 10:41:51 pm
Why?

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
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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.
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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.
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A pleasant former railway line after Abbeville. A better surface than some of the roads I used that day.
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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.
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More on Uncle Harry tomorrow.
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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
Quote
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
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Greenland Hill in 1918
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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.

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Awoingt Cemetery

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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.

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Cambrai

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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.

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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.

Quote
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:

Quote
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.
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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.

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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.
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The story behind the statue (https://www.awm.gov.au/blog/2011/07/19/dont-forget-me-cobber-the-battle-of-fromelles/)

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).
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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.

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The road from Ypres

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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.

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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.

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To be continued.
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: SoreTween on December 14, 2016, 11:26:38 pm
Sobering + nice. Thank you.
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: mrcharly-YHT on December 15, 2016, 08:25:05 am
Why?

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Which pannier contains the kitchen sink?
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: Salvatore on December 15, 2016, 08:53:30 am
Quote
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.
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: Salvatore on December 15, 2016, 09:07:26 am
Sobering + nice. Thank you.

Subsequent installments should be a little lighter.
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: Salvatore on December 20, 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.

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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.
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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.

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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.

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Breakfast in Ostend

Bikes and bees blog on the FnrttKust (http://bikesandbees.blogspot.co.uk/2016/05/fnrttkust-2016.html)

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.
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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.

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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” 

Netherlands

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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   http://www.natuurkampeerterreinen.nl/en/  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
Quote
Mission
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.
Vision
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.
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Nederhemert-Zuid

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In the orchard at another natuurkampeerterrein site.

This is what one campsite looked like from the outside:
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and on the inside:
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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:
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and not so stereotypical
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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.
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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.
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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.
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The ferry coming from Nederhemert-Nord to Nederhemert-Zuid so that it can take me from Nederhemert-Zuid to Nederhemert-Nord .

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A Dutch bicycle ferry. Maximum 12 bikes.

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

Germany

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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.
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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.

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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.
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Railway bridge over the Kiel Canal.

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Traffic on the Kiel Canal

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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.

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Germany’s lowest point

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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.

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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.

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Denmark

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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.   
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Child refugees’ headstone.

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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.
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A few random pictures from Denmark
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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.

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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.



Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: closetleftie on January 07, 2017, 09:03:46 am
Fabulous write-up of what must have been an excellent tour. Gagging for the next installment.  :thumbsup:
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: Salvatore on January 07, 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.
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: Joe.B on January 07, 2017, 04:39:55 pm
I've enjoyed too John, looking forward to hearing about your adventures further North.
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: Salvatore on January 09, 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.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: Salvatore on January 09, 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.

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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.
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Lots of this style of building in southern Norway

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 :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:
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.

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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.

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Above about 900m the only trees are stunted birches.

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High-stakes Jenga near Haukeli


Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: Salvatore on January 09, 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:
The bend in the tunnel meant that I didn’t see the exit until I was nearly there. And what a relief it was.

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The old road over the pass

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The beginning of the old road

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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.

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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.

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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:
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.

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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.

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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)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

(https://c3.staticflickr.com/1/293/31371602914_5d8581f55f_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/PNcEzq)

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:
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.
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: Salvatore on January 09, 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.

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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.

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

(https://c8.staticflickr.com/1/313/31402622103_27b6f36817_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/PQWDv2)

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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.



(https://c6.staticflickr.com/1/469/32094355261_d87ab4a366_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/QU4XEM)

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

(https://c3.staticflickr.com/1/408/32175975346_b261fffc8c_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/R2hhtC)

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

(https://c2.staticflickr.com/1/758/32214385065_4463c2cf52_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/R5F9ma)

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

Stay tuned.
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: Canardly on January 09, 2017, 08:32:08 pm
Another wonderful adventure John. Snow and sandals eh mmm!
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: Joe.B on January 09, 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.
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: closetleftie on January 10, 2017, 03:25:24 pm
 :thumbsup: :thumbsup:
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: mrcharly-YHT on January 10, 2017, 03:57:12 pm
That looks terrific.

Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: Socks on January 10, 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.
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: andrewc on January 10, 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  :(



Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: Salvatore on January 12, 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.

Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: Salvatore on January 12, 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.

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/749/32152383831_6dffa8c3b0_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/QZcnxn)
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.

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/271/31895537560_c260ff9247_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/QAuY6o)

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.

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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.

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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.

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/528/32152433211_b720f70cb8_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/QZcCdK)

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.

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/359/32122660032_086ef51b2a_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/QWz2G5)

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.
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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.

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/495/31895604430_2b31fa6efe_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/QAviYj)

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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/451/32233973106_4bf3d0f0b8_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/R7pxc1)
Not necessarily to scale, google maps has Kristansand-Trondheim at more than 800km, Trondheim-Nordkapp more than 1650km, and Nordkapp-Kirkenes as 540km.






Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: Joe.B on January 12, 2017, 11:01:14 pm
Superb photos John: As a Trinity supporter you'd be in good company with my brother and uncle.
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: Ham on January 13, 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 (https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@62.0923159,9.075078,3a,75y,276.4h,90t/data=!3m11!1e1!3m9!1su7eS5snTjseT0Jl6VoYuJA!2e0!5s20100301T000000!6s%2F%2Fgeo3.ggpht.com%2Fcbk%3Fpanoid%3Du7eS5snTjseT0Jl6VoYuJA%26output%3Dthumbnail%26cb_client%3Dmaps_sv.tactile.gps%26thumb%3D2%26w%3D203%26h%3D100%26yaw%3D10.639164%26pitch%3D0%26thumbfov%3D100!7i13312!8i6656!9m2!1b1!2i41!6m1!1e1)
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: mrcharly-YHT on January 13, 2017, 09:14:49 am
You are in troll country now, no mistake. Take care!
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: Salvatore on January 13, 2017, 11:50:43 am
You are in troll country now, no mistake. Take care!
Like this?

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/560/32243708166_c8034517a9_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/R8gr5S)
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: Salvatore on January 13, 2017, 12:00:36 pm
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 (https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@62.0923159,9.075078,3a,75y,276.4h,90t/data=!3m11!1e1!3m9!1su7eS5snTjseT0Jl6VoYuJA!2e0!5s20100301T000000!6s%2F%2Fgeo3.ggpht.com%2Fcbk%3Fpanoid%3Du7eS5snTjseT0Jl6VoYuJA%26output%3Dthumbnail%26cb_client%3Dmaps_sv.tactile.gps%26thumb%3D2%26w%3D203%26h%3D100%26yaw%3D10.639164%26pitch%3D0%26thumbfov%3D100!7i13312!8i6656!9m2!1b1!2i41!6m1!1e1)

I've spent some time looking at webcams, contrasting the current weather with my memories. Best done at about midday, when there's a chance there might be a hint of daylight.

Most roads (not the E136 here) which have a cyclepath are near villages with schools. Somewhere in southern Norway I came to a village and joined the cyclepath, following it even though it diverged from the road. I followed it up a short rise, through some gates, through a playground (to the bemusement of a teacher and her class) and straight out through the gates on the other side to follow the path back to the road. Outside villages there's often a pile of unlocked bikes next to a bus stop, where children have cycled to catch the school bus.
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: Salvatore on January 13, 2017, 12:06:40 pm
Superb photos John: As a Trinity supporter you'd be in good company with my brother and uncle.

I hardly ever get to see them now, but keep up to date with scores and team news. But especially I love researching the club's history, searching old newspapers (e.g. the home 2 league games against Manchester City and Newton Heath in 1896 - I'm hoping time travel is made possible before I die so I can watch those games)  and finding out (in the National Archives at Kew) that my grandfather was a shareholder in 1913.
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: closetleftie on January 13, 2017, 07:36:58 pm
Fantastic report and absolutely brilliant photos. Scotland on steroids.

Sent from my SM-G930F using Tapatalk

Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: Salvatore on January 16, 2017, 11:12:02 pm
In which I slog up the coast, and meet some interesting people.

It was now  June 6th, and I'd reached 63° 18’ N so I reckoned I should reach the arctic circle (as per thread title) by midsummer. From Orkanger the ‘new' E39 goes through a series of tunnels on its way to Trondheim. Happily for me that left the old road round the coast free of fast and/or heavy vehicles. Just me and a huge international convoy of ancient motorcycles sputtering past, followed by a mechanics’ van and sag truck.

Despite its significance, I decided to give Trondheim a miss. A convenient road took me across the bulge of land to the west of the city and a ferry from Flakk took me across Trondheimsfjord. According to the notices on the ferry, fares would be collected by the same system as collects road tolls, some sort of ANPR, so I assumed bikes would be free. No one asked me for money, so it looks like that was the case. I followed the coast then headed inland and turned due north. There were lots of ups and downs. According to strava I did 1525m of climbing in 129.4km. Considering most of the day had been pretty flat, that's quite lumpy. There were lots of roadworks going on. Big diggers, cranes and the like for about 15km. Notices warned that the road would be closed from 22:00 to 6:00. I got past the roadworks and found a spot to pitch my tent. I thought I might get a quiet night with the road being closed but of course the diggers didn't stop in the light night, and I wondered if they were going to crash through my forest and dig up my tent with me in it.

Ditch Prodders

However I survived the night unscathed and set off early. At a picnic bench after a few kilometres I sat down to brew myself a coffee. A couple of men in orange overalls were coming down the road. I'm not sure what they were doing but it seemed to involve poking at the ditch with long poles. One came over to me for a chat. He was full of questions, how far had I come, how far did I ride every day. I told him distances in kilometres, but he converted everything to miles (Norwegian miles). He himself was a Hailey fan (Bill Hailey? Hayley Mills? The comet bloke?). I nodded as if I understood.  Only when he said he was going to ride his Hailey to Nordkapp with other Hailey fans that I twigged that he was talking about his Hailey Harley Davidson. Promising to wave to me if he saw me on the road, with a cheery wave he left with his mate in their van.

For the rest of the morning I followed a twisty road to the remote coastal village of Osen. It was quite a grim day weatherwise, cloudy and chilly, and I was the only person in the tiny co-op in Osen wearing shorts. But it was still dry. The road east from Osen (the only road out) followed a river valley up, then another river valley down to route 17, so it was relatively easy. And despite my ditch-prodder friend’s forecast, it was still dry. After a short distance along route 17 I came to a campsite and booked in. Again I was the only person staying there. The owner pointed out the facilities, kitchen and showers as normal, and also the barbecue hut. In fact she insisted I use the barbecue hut, there was plenty of wood, and I could get more from the woodshed if needed. Even though I had no suitable food, it was quite chilly, so I went in, lit a fire and read all evening in the warmth.

Two gentlemen from Hertfordshire

The promised rain came during the night, so didn't bother me, other than squelching my way to the kitchen the next morning. When I got going my route took me through the large town and administrative centre Namsos. I only stopped for the usual provisions and carried on, not even stopping to visit the Norwegian Sawmill Museum. Some time later I met two cyclists coming the other way. They were from Hertfordshire, and were riding down the Norwegian coast in installments, 2 weeks a year. We swapped tips on routes, accommodation, and bike shops. One of them had had a lot of trouble with his very narrow tyres (23s at most, possibly narrower), and had visited most of the bike shops on the route. Such encounters were to become very familiar. If you meet a cyclist coming the other way, the etiquette is to stop and compare notes.

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/617/32181032872_9ee6b33360_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/R2JcUm)


The previous evening my 2 friends had got soaked and managed to find a room at a Thai restaurant. I saw it, but pushed on. It was now very windy. As I was crossing one bridge, the side wind meant I had to lean to the left into the wind to stay upright. When a high-sided lorry overtook me, I was suddenly sheltered from the wind and I had a brief fight to prevent my lean becoming a swerve under the lorry’s wheels. One more ferry, a 20km sprint and I reached the campsite at Kolvereid just before reception closed.

Next day was another cloudy day, following the twisty 771 north eastwards. At Nausbukta I went into the little co-op and bought the usual stuff, but also saw a table with a pot of coffee, so I asked if I could have a cup. The lady brought out a fresh pot, and I helped myself, but when I asked to pay she told me it was free. So I helped myself to another cup and a couple of biscuits before I left. Excellent wi-fi too.

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/718/31977240580_47d7a17637_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/QHHHy9)
Nausbukta co-op on streetview. (in fact that’s pretty much all of Nausbukta)

Rory and Jessica

Some distance down the road I came to a building at the side of the road whose verandah  was occupied by two cyclists, Rory from Dublin and Jessica from Belgium, who live in Jokkmokk in Swedish Lappland. I’d visited Jokkmokk in 2014. They were doing things rather differently. They had set off in May, on cheap bikes with luggage wrapped in bin bags and bungied to their bikes, and come via Narvik, traveling south camping wild every night in a big teepee. They'd had lots of snow, but kept warm using a reindeer hide they’d found in a bin. They didn't have watches or any other way of telling the time, except a mobile phone which they turned on every 4 or 5 days. But they were very impressed with my GPS, especially the where to/supermarket facility, which showed them that the next one in the direction they were going was 29 km away. More so when I told them they could get free coffee there. I must have spent a good hour with them, but eventually we departed on our separate ways.

One of the most useful bits of information I got from them was The Book. The Book is a small volume entitled Kystriksveien travel guide, which is free and tells you everything you need to know about the coastal route as far as Bodø. It has info on tunnels, campsites, a map, ferry timetables (very important - there are 7 between Namsos and Bodø), and anything else you need to know. Indispensable.

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/369/31520352253_84ecf26ddf_n.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/Q2m3zc)

I picked up a copy on the ferry that evening and camped at the campsite next to the ferry at Vennesund.

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/658/31488878984_ab89bc048d_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/PYyJEC)
Breakfast at Vennesund

The next day nearly brought disaster. About 15km from Brønnøysund I became aware of a bump on every revolution of my back wheel. A quick inspection showed that the sidewall was bulging out at the rim, held together by a few stands, and about to explode. All my hopes lay in there being a bike shop in Brønnøysund, and I was relieved with every passing kilometre that if the tyre went I'd have a shorter distance to walk. As it happened there were 2 bike shops, and I bought the town's last 700×37 tyre. Looking back I think it was caused by a very slow puncture which I failed to detect, which left the tyre more or less constantly under-inflated and flexing at the rim until the tyre wore through.

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/330/31488877224_9113cf476c_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/PYyJ9h)

The sun was now out, and I had a good run to the ferry at Horn. The landing place at Andalsvågen was in an absolutely stunning setting.

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/737/31488876384_1efb296faf_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/PYyHTN)
Horn

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/391/32181025352_bea8574241_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/R2JaEG)
Andalsvågen

The man from Heilbronn

Ahead of me was a 17 km straight run up the coast to the next ferry at Forvik. The road was deserted once the ferry traffic had gone, and it was a really super ride in the evening sunshine, mountain on the right and sea on the left. There was a bit of a wait in Forvik, and I got chatting to a German from Heilbronn who was touring Europe with his wife in their campervan. I impressed him by recalling seeing VfR Heilbronn in an away fixture at Schwäbisch Hall in December 1975. A bad-tempered 1-1 draw, if I recall.

On landing at Tjøtta I started looking for somewhere to sleep. An almost ideal spot  soon presented itself in a pine forest. The only slight drawback was that sheep and cows were roaming there and I had to clear the worst of their droppings before I could pitch. 

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/433/32181023412_33cc8f36c1_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/R2Ja6f)
Spot the droppings

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/340/32292139056_aef7cb1154_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/RcxDUd)
Tjøtta

Next morning just after my sleeping spot I came to a big German-Russian war cemetery and memorial, commemorating those lost on the Rigel. On board were Soviet, Polish and Serbian prisoners of war, Norwegian prisoners and German deserters, German soldiers and Norwegian crew.

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/573/32292138026_aeec629c96_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/RcxDAs)

The ‘camp anywhere’ law also applies to camper vans, and it's not unusual to see laybys filled with them. I spotted my German friend parked just off the road, and he gave me a cheery wave when he passed me not long afterwards. Soon I saw a woman in a layby unpacking a picnic table. Then I saw a plastic chair at the side of the road with a bucket on it, filled with water and sponges. By the time I reached the town of Sandnessjøen I realised that there was a marathon being run, although the number of runners was small. Sandnessjøen was a bit of a disappointment. I don't know what I'd been expecting, but beyond buying the usual supplies I didn't spend much time there but carried on.

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/259/31488868654_b42589228e_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/PYyFAw)

After Sandnessjøen there is a spectacular bridge, all the more so because you have to go along a causeway to reach it, and then there’s a sweeping 90° turn to climb the bridge. This was typical of this part of the coast - without looking closely at a map it was difficult to know at any point whether I was on the mainland or an island. There never seemed to be long before the road crossed a bridge or came to a ferry, and I seldom knew if I was crossing from or to an island or the mainland. And for cyclists there is only one road. If you are motorised and in a hurry, you use the E6, everyone else uses the Fv17. And even the E6 isn't that quick. Many long north-south journeys between Norwegian cities are quicker via Sweden.

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/514/31488867734_662a3c8250_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/PYyFjE)

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/339/31520405753_fc5333a0b0_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/Q2mjtB)
I was descending to the ferry and spotted that I’d just missed it.

One more ferry and I reached Nesna. There was a campsite here but it was sunny, I felt good and it was relatively early. At this latitude it doesn't really get dark at this time of year so you can carry on as long as you feel fit without riding in darkness. After  Nesna I could see that the road hugged the southern shore of Sjona, zigzagged to 340m, dropped back down to sea level, went round the end of the fjord, and came back along the north shore, via two long tunnels of 4 and 3 km, my longest yet. I struggled up the climb, and cursed its gratuitousness, but there were some spectacular views from the top.

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/491/31520405503_0b885b3b18_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/Q2mjpi)

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/664/31520404923_007b8d9142_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/Q2mjei)

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/277/31954057280_3c80ff59c3_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/QFETY5)


(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/418/31542919533_58cd05bd74_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/Q4kH3e)
Down there near the water is where I was to camp that night.

The first of the tunnels posed no problem. I soon spotted a good spot for camping between the road and the water and stopped there. No, it wasn't just good, it was super. I was at 66°18’N. Not far to go to the arctic circle and still 10 days before midsummer.

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/328/31954054560_0596b889a4_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/QFETab)

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/642/31954052940_d0a27b401d_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/QFESFf)

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/294/32211262431_5ca2b141fd_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/R5p96D)

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/467/32331128765_7ecf6cae2f_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/RfZubz)

Oriol

Early the next morning i had the second tunnel to myself, and headed for the ferry at Kilboghavn. This ferry crossing lasts about an hour, and would take me across the arctic circle. I would have preferred to cross it on my bike, but Rory and Jessica had told me about this, and anyway I had ridden across it in Sweden in 2014, so wasn't really bothered. There was another cyclist on the ferry, but I lost him when we landed at Jektvik, so set off alone. However a few km later I had stopped to turn off my lights after a tunnel and looked back to see a light approaching. This was the cyclist I had seen on the ferry, Oriol from Barcelona. We rode together for the rest of the day. He had ridden all the way from home, but was flying back because he had to be back in work on July 1st. Consequently he had more of a pressing schedule than I did. I never sprinted to catch a particular ferry, but Oriol didn't want to spend time waiting.

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/753/32292124656_089b5f6310_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/RcxzBW)
Oriol emerges from the tunnel

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/285/31977162020_c7fa0a5542_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/QHHjcE)
Oriol is not Spanish.

But there were only a few km before the next ferry from Ågskardet to Furøy, and although the ferry was waiting, it wasn't due to depart for another 90 minutes. A local woman took pity on us waiting in the cold and bellowed something into the echoing car deck. Out came a huge sailor, who said yes, of course we could wait inside in the nice warm saloon. Later he came and gave us some route tips for the next stretch - don't follow the 17 because there's a long ‘no cycling’ tunnel, but carry straight on at the church (it was very obvious when you got there).  When we reached Furøy Oriol pitched his tent next to some huts but I pushed on a bit and found a flat bit of land at the top of a climb. It’s always nice to start the day with a downhill.

Oriol (again)
Next day I started early, but Oriol had started earlier, wanting to catch the 7:45 ferry. In the end he just missed it and his bike was outside the waiting hut at Vassdalsvik. We landed at Ørnes, and rode together for most of the day. There were no more ferries, but 6 tunnels, the longest longer than 3km. I found it a very hard day, with lots of climbs, especially towards the end of the day. The weather was dull and it rained on and off all day. But it was a very pleasant change to have company. By the time we reached Saltsraumen l’d had enough and turned into the big campsite. Oriol wanted to get the following day's first ferry from Bodø to the Lofotens, so carried on.

Saltsraumen is a narrow gap through which water flows from the North Atlantic into some big fjords, and then out again, resulting in “the world's strongest tides “. The  mælstrom is too strong for fish to resist, so the place is a magnet for fishermen. The campsite had full facilities, including refrigeration rooms and rooms specially for gutting fish.

Four Norwegian fishers

I pitched my tent and lay inside, wondering whether I should eat or shower, but preferring for the time being to do neither. Suddenly outside I heard: “Hello! Hello!” I un zipped the flap and outside was a Norwegian woman. “Do you want food?” she asked. I didn't need asking twice and joined her and her three friends under an awning between their campervans. They had been fishing and obviously had plenty to spare. I don't know what the fish was, but there was also potato and salad, along with beer and aquavit. They wanted to know where I had been, where I was going, why I was going there ( always a tricky one). They were from just along the road in Bodø. I always ask people who live in the far north what it's like in winter. Invariably they enthuse about it - much better than summer, they say. The full moon never sets, the light reflects from the snow so it isn't properly dark and you can ski for hours. There are no mosquitoes. And then there are the northern lights. I asked my new friends but this time I got a different answer. “It's bloody miserable. When the dog dies we're going to go to Spain in the campervan for the winter. “

It was a very pleasant evening. At one point one of them asked: “People say that in the north of Norway the people are cold and unfriendly. What do you think, John? And have some more aquavit.” Eventually I made my excuses and returned to my tent.

The following day there was only a short 17 km ride into Bodø. I found a bike shop (the excellent Sykkelhuset) and bought a new tyre, just in case.

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/535/32331054965_b8ea59dc90_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/RfZ7fa)

Stats for the road into Bodø:
(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/561/31520377703_e6937d5b77_n.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/Q2mb8Z)(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/606/32331076875_91d2348637_n.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/RfZdKV)(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/543/32180957672_74094250c9_n.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/R2HPxN)

Bodø was the end of route 17, so reaching here represented another milestone. And it was from here that I was to catch the ferry to the Lofoten Islands.

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/768/31543367313_047ace66f9_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/Q4o19z)
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: sg37409 on January 17, 2017, 09:58:30 am
I am loving this
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: billplumtree on January 17, 2017, 01:22:27 pm
This is brilliant John, inspirational stuff!  Not least reading the names of the ports I visited with Hurtigruten this time last year (and seeing photos of some of 'em in actual daylight).  I've been wondering about doing something similar myself, if on just a tad smaller scale - I'd love to revisit some of those places without always having to get back to the ferry on time.  And to ride over some of the fantastic bridges we sailed under.

Looking forward to the next instalment - from around Ørnes northwards was by far the best bit for me.
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: Torslanda on January 17, 2017, 01:51:05 pm
This is more than fabulous!

There's a book in there somewhere...
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: Salvatore on January 17, 2017, 09:06:52 pm
This is brilliant John, inspirational stuff!  Not least reading the names of the ports I visited with Hurtigruten this time last year (and seeing photos of some of 'em in actual daylight).  I've been wondering about doing something similar myself, if on just a tad smaller scale - I'd love to revisit some of those places without always having to get back to the ferry on time.  And to ride over some of the fantastic bridges we sailed under.

Looking forward to the next instalment - from around Ørnes northwards was by far the best bit for me.

I looked through your thread some time ago, seeing what it all looked like in (semi) darkness.

Some of the big bridges were scary, especially if there's no segregated path, and I began to dread bridges more than tunnels.

The best bit for me was the Lofotens, although ....

Next instalment should be there in a few minutes.
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: Ham on January 17, 2017, 09:07:57 pm
[F5]
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: Salvatore on January 17, 2017, 09:34:22 pm
Lofoten Islands (and beyond)

For a few days I’d had a nagging feeling. Here I was, surrounded by stunning scenery day after day, mostly in reasonable weather. Was I now taking it all for granted? Was the daily fare of crystal-clear fjords and majestic snow-capped mountains jading my palette? So what if there’s a fantastic view across the water to distant islands, there was one yesterday and doubtless there’ll be one tomorrow. But I needn’t have worried, because … well, because (as they say) the Lofotens.

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/333/31529204994_9c2ca7b829_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/Q38qbE)

The crossing from Bodø (pronounced pretty much ‘Bhudda’ by the way) lasts just under 4 hours and the next crossing didn’t leave until 3:30, so I had plenty of time to stock up and laze about in the sunshine. I had a chat with Mannfred from Stuttgart, also with a bike and waiting for the ferry. He was in his 70s, and had come most of the way by plane and train, but was going to cycle on the Lofotens. On the ferry itself I found a seat next to a socket and recharged my devices. It stayed sunny for the duration of the crossing and a plan formed.

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/319/32214252642_edc4a4a564_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/R5EsZ1)
Leaving Bodø

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/360/32244186451_0ce3c23a10_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/R8iTga)
Approaching Moskenes

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/261/32214248532_7552c959f6_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/R5ErL9)
Mannfred waiting to disembark

At the landing at Moskenes Mannfred made for the packed campsite 200 metres away, but as I’d ridden only about 20km that day and the sun was shining, and it wouldn't get dark for several weeks, I thought it best just to keep riding until I got tired. A good decision, it was one of the best bike rides ever. The road went through Rheine, hopping over bridges from islands to island, and switching from the east-facing coast to the Atlantic coast and back again, then having to go inland to the head of a fjord to come back on the other shore. All the time the low sun was lighting up the mountains which rose steeply from the coast. Now and then there would be a fishing village, and huge racks where fish was hung out. But words cannot quite convey what it was like, so here are some pictures. But they don't convey everything. You'll just have to imagine the smell of rotting fish.

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/777/32324961196_0b4f8cfc7a_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/RfrSMb)

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/666/31987428080_a6e7d2b44d_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/QJBVWG)

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/709/32214236822_632ffc7223_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/R5Eohf)

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/311/31987416860_35e5b9002b_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/QJBSBf)

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/256/32364473285_8c32841c37_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/RiWom6)

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/600/32325201586_49854c4a63_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/Rft7eQ)

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/719/31521881154_ef2f6eece5_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/Q2tT4y)

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/638/32364451785_f2222c4181_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/RiWgXp)

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/443/31521868434_c6d40c815b_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/Q2tPhf)

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/762/31521853514_0f3692fd19_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/Q2tJR1)

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/574/32364432585_9180cca154_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/RiWbfn)
They don’t want the roof of the bus shelter to blow away again.

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/774/31521831554_8f2e89d220_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/Q2tCjo)
This is as close to a sunset as you’ll get


At about 11:30 I came to a tunnel, but this differed from all the other tunnels I had ridden through in that it went under the sea. Nappstramtunnelen is only 1800m long, but goes down to 63m below sea level, and then of course climbs back up, its steepest gradient being 8%, quite enough for a heavily loaded bike. I had a bit of a weird feeling afterwards. Because the way out of the tunnel involved a climb, I thought I must be high up somewhere, and the water must be a mountain lake, when of course it was the sea. At sea level. It took some time to get my head round that.

(https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/0a/Nappstraumen_Tunnel_-_2013.08.jpg/512px-Nappstraumen_Tunnel_-_2013.08.jpg) (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ANappstraumen_Tunnel_-_2013.08.jpg)
Nappstraumen Tunnel - 2013.08 (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ANappstraumen_Tunnel_-_2013.08.jpg) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], by rheins (Nappstraumen Tunnel - 2013.08), from Wikimedia Commons



At midnight I stopped at a roadside picnic bench and had a snack. Instant pasta with bread and cheese and some fruit.

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/646/32244118621_b978ec15f7_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/R8ix6F)

It was now getting cold, I'd guess just above freezing. Mist was rising from a lake.

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/547/32325162496_5bbed6cf2e_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/RfsUBS)

I passed through the town of Leknes, which was like a ghost town, but only because it was deserted (it was after midnight, after all) and in daylight. After Leknes there was a climb, then a descent towards the sea. To me what lay in front of me seemed like a badly painted backdrop from a budget 1950s film.

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/340/32244114261_51b3f1a846_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/R8ivNv)

Just when I was beginning to think I was getting too tired and cold to carry on, I spotted a tent-sized patch of grass near a road junction and called it a day. A memorable day.

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/580/32213912942_2f91d79e92_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/R5CJ17)

I slept late the following day and didn't get going till 10:00. And the scenery just carried on as before, helped no doubt by perfect weather.

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/348/32244109621_4b33aa2eed_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/R8iuqv)

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 I met Roy from Canada who was on his way south and didn't believe in travelling light.

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/633/32364405275_938345b522_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/RiW38v)

I stopped for another coffee on some rocks by the shore next to a little beach. I couldn't resist a paddle in the clear water. The crab and the jellyfish I saw between my feet didn't seem bothered by my presence, certainly no more than I was by theirs.

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Even in such surroundings there is the overriding practical consideration of where one is going to find food, so I aimed for Svolvær largest town on the Lofotens, where there was bound to be a supermarket. With that in mind, I stopped at a picnic table with a view of the “cathedral of the Lofotens” on the way into town and finished what food I had left. On the rock behind me were memorials for every royal visit (to the cathedral or to the picnic table?).

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As I finished the last of my peanuts, a cyclist came up the road, and stopped for a chat. This was Koen from Belgium. He had followed a route similar to mine (he’d started his journey on the same Breskens-Vlissingen ferry I’d used), but sensibly avoided southern Norway by traveling through Sweden, and like me intended to return through Finland. He has a huge amount of cycletouring experience. Just look at where he’s been since 2004 (https://bike-a-way.com/my-bicycle-trips). We were to meet again.

I duly filled my food pannier in Svolvaer and headed on up the E10 out of town.

The E10 is the main road through the Islands. It is possible to cycle on it and sometimes there's no choice, but there are often numerous alternatives which are longer but quieter, visiting remote fishing communities and giving good wild camping opportunities. I made it a policy to take such long cuts wherever I could and so left the E10 to follow the 888 which loops round to the west. I passed a campsite at Sandsletta but at 220kr a night preferred to take my chances finding a wild camp.

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/424/31521746374_7800507d39_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/Q2tbZL)

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An electric cattle grid. The smoothest cattle grid I’ve ever ridden over.

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Some time later I found it, the best wild camp ever, on an island in a fjord, surrounded by snow-capped peaks. The island was connected by causeways to both shores of the fjord, in fact it formed a shortcut to avoid having to go right round the end of the fjord, but was still technically an island. It was quite windy, so I took the rare precaution of unwinding and securing a guy on the windward side.

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Satellite view of "my" island (highlighted) on bing

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I worked for decades in IT, but from time to time I'm still amazed by modern technology. From my tent on an island in a remote fjord (itself on an island) in the Arctic Circle I rang my mother then had an email conversation with an Australian journalist who wanted to know if I was going to the 100-year remembrance ceremony for the Battle of Fromelles. In fact there were only two places in Norway where I found I couldn't get a phone signal.

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It was here that my footwear started to disintegrate.

Next morning as I was packing up I saw a cyclist going across the causeway. I caught up with her at the ferry at Fiskebøll. At Fiskebøll the road rejoins the E10, but the E10 has some long no-cycling tunnels with no alternative, so bicycles cross to Vesterålen and head north to Andenes  and the ferry back to the mainland. The cyclist I had seen was another Belgian, Joke from Bruges. She was another well-travelled Belgian, and we compared notes on our trips to Ethiopia.

After the ferry the road goes round the coast of Hadseløya to Storkmarknes. A Hurtigruten ferry/cruise ship was in town, and it was easy to spot the cruise passengers who were taking the opportunity of a stroll round the town centre.

After Stokmarknes two bridges bring you onto Langøya.

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Then there's a choice between the direct route and the long way round to Sortland. I plumped for the long way.

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I'd bought food in Stokmarknes, and found a patch of grass at the side of the road where I could sit and eat it. A local cyclist came along and wanted to know where I was from. Ah England, he said, I met two  English cyclists a few weeks ago. I wondered if these were the two from Hertfordshire I'd met near Namsos, and we managed to confirm that it was because we both remembered that one of them had very narrow tyres. Positively  ID’d by tyre size.

That evening I found a just-about adequate wild camp. Next day was cloudy and chilly, and I stopped in Sortland and extravagantly splashed out on a coffee and sandwich in a cafe.

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Sortland is famous for having many blue buildings

Later that day I met Alaric from St Neots, who had come from Tromsø and was riding south. We swapped useful information on shops, ferries, campsites, tunnels, all the usual stuff.

By this stage I dreaded bridges more than tunnels. Especially bridges like this

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/570/32243976991_59ebe21cd6_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/R8hNZM)

In the afternoon the headwind got stronger. By the time I reached the island of Andøya it was blowing a gale. A week before the friendly sailor on the ferry had told Oriol and me that the road up the eastern side had better shelter from the wind, so that's the way I went. Not that it made much difference. The mountains are on the west, and the road on the eastern side is long, straight and exposed. If I'd wanted long straight roads into a headwind, I thought, I could have stayed in the Netherlands.



I came to a campsite at Kvalnesbrygga, and pitched my tent behind some bushes, hoping that they might give some shelter. It seems to have worked, because the tent didn't blow away. I spent most of the evening in the kitchen.

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I only had about 30km to Andenes, where I was hoping to catch the second ferry of the day to the mainland, but the wind almost blew me to a standstill. I averaged only 11kph, but eventually came to the outskirts of the town. As I began to wonder which was the way to the ferry, I saw a cyclist approaching. I soon recognised Oriol. His pithy summary of the situation: “Shit weather, shit town.” He had been on the early ferry, but like most of the other passengers he’d been seasick, anything not secured had been flying about the saloon, and the ferry had turned back. It was uncertain (but very unlikely) that any more crossings would be attempted that day. Oriol had already found out that hotel rooms were prohibitively expensive, and was on his way to the airport to see what was what there.

I had a quick look round the town and then made my way to the tourist office. The woman there didn't know whether the ferry would be running (but why should she? the ferry people didn't know). Oriol then turned up, the airport was closed until the afternoon, but the tourist info woman said we could sit in one of the rooms there and use the wifi. We ended up spending most of the day there. I spent some time reading Oriol’s blog. He would write his blog in longhand, photograph it, then email that and other photographs to his wife back in Catalonia, who then typed it up. While we were there she published his account of meeting me the previous week, and it tickled me to read  “qui sap si en futur ens tornem a trobar” - who knows if in the future we’ll meet again. There’s also a picture of us both, and the caption includes the word “sandàlies" and an exclamation mark. Oriol’s blog (http://pedalantfinsacapnord.blogspot.co.uk) is worth a visit, even if you don't fancy reading Catalan (not too difficult with a bit of French and Spanish with google translate as a backstop) - there are some superb photos. During the afternoon he rang his wife, and was told in no uncertain terms that he should catch a plane and definitely not get on the ferry again.

It was a long shot, but in the late afternoon I made my way towards the harbour to see if the evening ferry was sailing, but before I got there a German motorcyclist stopped and told me it was cancelled, and we made our way to the local campsite. Andreas (from Bonn) and I managed to find a relatively sheltered valley on the campsite and pitched our tents there. We spent the evening in the campsite’s dining room with a German motorcycling couple from Munich.

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Andreas

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We went to the ferry the following morning half expecting it to be cancelled again - it was just as windy as the previous day, but it set off on time. Just as it was pulling away I saw Oriol on the harbour - he had pitched his tent somewhere amongst the sheds and fish warehouses. He caught that afternoon’s flight to Tromsø. Some people were seasick, and my Bavarian motorcycling friends looked distinctly unwell, but Andreas was up on deck, loving every minute of it. It didn't bother me.

There was one other cyclist on the ferry, an old Bavarian who was the spitting image of Uncle Albert from Only Fools and Horses. He had an ancient narrow-tyred ‘racer’ with a trailer. I made the mistake of being sociable and asking him a question, and he replied by telling me his life story. At least I think that's what it was, because I hardly understood a word. This was a bit of a blow to my pride, having studied German dialectology (under no less an authority than R E Keller). But I didn't feel too bad when I heard him and other Germans having to converse in English.

Landing at Gryllefjord left me within striking distance of Tromsø. That day I counted 2 ferries and 7 tunnels. After one particularly long tunnel, thankfully downhill, I met an Austrian couple. I asked if they were riding all the way home. Well *he* wants to, replied the woman. I sensed an impending difference of opinion.

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The first tunnel of the day just after Gryllefjord

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Another tunnel

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Many tunnels in this area have a help-yourself box of hi-viz vests at the entrance

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Press the button and the light starts flashing. So the meaning of the warning sign goes from “There may be cyclists in the tunnel” to “There definitely are cyclists in the tunnel”

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I also saw an arctic fox during the day. It looked as if it might be lame.

I managed to find a reasonably flat not-too-boggy patch of land for my tent just after the ferry from Botnhamn to Brensholmen. But the moss and heather made for a very comfortable mattress.

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Next day saw me reach Tromsø. I had to cross a big bridge to reach Tromsøya, the island on which Tromsø lies, and then another to reach the far shore where the campsite was supposed to be.

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At first I was doubtful, there seemed to be just regimented astroturf squares for campervan and caravans, but when I checked in I was directed to the woods on the other side of the stream where campers could pitch their tents wherever they wished among the trees. It was like wild camping, but for 200kr (but including use of kitchen etc). I booked in early enough to book a washing machine and drier and laundered nearly all my clothes and my sleeping bag inner. After 2 months it was about time.

Next: a day in Tromsø and the leg to Nordkapp.
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: Ham on January 17, 2017, 09:50:26 pm
[thankyou]
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: andrewc on January 17, 2017, 11:03:20 pm
Lovely, that brings back memories.  https://www.flickr.com/photos/andrewclark/albums/72157622365574201/page1


I flew to Oslo and then Bodo.  Over to the islands and then up, wild camping most of the way.  I went up the west coast to Andenes , going past what must be one of the worlds most northerly golf courses.  I picked up a dodgy tum which had me turning around and going down the busier east side.  Annoyingly busy & populated when you urgently need a discreet place to stop!   


And yes, the smell of drying fish..... :sick:



Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: billplumtree on January 18, 2017, 08:02:44 am
the sun was shining, and it wouldn't get dark for several weeks, I thought it best just to keep riding until I got tired.

Lovin' it.  Thanks John.
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: mrcharly-YHT on January 18, 2017, 08:08:52 am
Lofoten Islands (and beyond)
 But they don't convey everything. You'll just have to imagine the smell of rotting fish.



Quote
cold-adapted bacteria matures the fish, similar to the maturing process of cheese
I think that conveys the potential smell. I can't imagine much worse!
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: Auntie Helen on January 18, 2017, 03:09:30 pm
This is such a wonderful read, thanks Salvatore  :thumbsup:
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: Canardly on January 18, 2017, 03:11:24 pm
Marvellous stuff.
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: Nuncio on January 19, 2017, 01:02:51 pm
That bus shelter!
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: Salvatore on January 19, 2017, 07:02:55 pm
That bus shelter!

The fjord behind it faces the Atlantic, and I imagine any gale  from the west will be funnelled by the mountains either side and the bus shelter gets the full force.

But no shelter for the sheep.
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: Salvatore on January 19, 2017, 07:15:26 pm
Lovely, that brings back memories.  https://www.flickr.com/photos/andrewclark/albums/72157622365574201/page1


I flew to Oslo and then Bodo.  Over to the islands and then up, wild camping most of the way.  I went up the west coast to Andenes , going past what must be one of the worlds most northerly golf courses.  I picked up a dodgy tum which had me turning around and going down the busier east side.  Annoyingly busy & populated when you urgently need a discreet place to stop!   


And yes, the smell of drying fish..... :sick:

Some familiar views there Andrew. Those are the same stones on the beach, aren't they? I think you were standing about 10 ft north of where I stood to take the photo.

[edited to replace the photo with a different one]
(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/455/32244108361_d100e58a92_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/R8iu3M)

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/3/2523/3970261920_1890a4fd9f_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/73QCxJ)18A_0336 (https://flic.kr/p/73QCxJ) by Andrew Clark (https://www.flickr.com/photos/andrewclark/), on Flickr

Roy the Canadian had been playing golf that morning, but that was still on the Lofotens. Koen the Belgian had been past a golf course, but was of the opinion it was an inappropriate place to put a golf course (but didn't express himself quite so politely).
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: closetleftie on January 20, 2017, 01:44:19 pm
Fabulous. Thanks so much for taking the trouble to write this up.
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: Salvatore on January 20, 2017, 03:46:38 pm
The End of the Road


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A day off

After the grim weather the previous day, the sun came out for my rest/sightseeing day in Tromsø. I had one priority on my to-do list, a haircut. Then it was a matter of doing touristy things until I got fed up.

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I rode across the bridge to the city centre and locked my bike, then wandered around looking for barbers. The standard price seemed to be 250kr (no appointment necessary) and I was unlikely to find anything cheaper by shopping around, so I plumped for an establishment on Storgatan (Main St.) where there was no queue, and had a no. 2 all over. The most expensive haircut I've ever had, but a bargain by Norwegian standards. And yes, I was asked about my holidays.

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With the main business or of the way, I was free to soak up some culture. I’d earmarked some attractions from leaflets at the campsite reception, and the first place on my list was the polar museum. Well worth a visit if you're ever in Tromsø. It is housed in an old customs warehouse. Lots of stuff on polar exploration - “this fascinating museum is a rollicking romp through life in the Arctic, taking in everything from the history of trapping to the groundbreaking expeditions of Nansen and Amundsen” - Lonely Planet.

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I spent a couple of hours there then went to the Northern Norway Art Museum. The exhibits which made the biggest impression on me were the big 19th century landscapes, many of places I’d ridden through the previous week. But one painting stands out in my memory, Laestadius preaching to the Sami. Even though it is set 100 years after his death,  Laestadius, or at least the influence of his religious teachings, feature heavily in Popular Music from Vittula by Mikael Niemi, the comic story of a boy growing up in Pajala in Swedish Lappland. Life, especially on Sunday, is heavily influenced by the Laestadian church’s repressive and restrictive practices. The Sami in the painting look bored out of their skulls. A detail from the painting:

(https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/2a/Biard-Laestadius-detail.jpg)

The next place on my list was the MS Polsternja, a wooden seal-hunting vessel which was built in 1949 and which sailed until 1981. The visitor gets access to much of the vessel, and there's a very informative mp3 guide to sealing and life on the ship.

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Below decks on MS Polsternja

By the time I'd finished there it was clouding over so I bought some food, retrieved my bike and rode back across the bridge to the campsite.

Next morning it was back to damp drizzly weather as I checked out. As I was about to leave I was addressed by name by a figure dressed head-to-toe in waterproofs. It was Koen, he had arrived the previous evening and was wearing his waterproofs because he had washed all his clothes but couldn't get the drier to work. I told him of my rough crossing from Andenes and of Oriol’s experiences. He knew Oriol - cyclists heading north all seem to know each other.

Light Show


I was now further north than the 68° I’d reached in 2014. I could now look at a map of Norway and see how much further to go without being dispirited. I set off out of Tromsø and the drizzle turned to rain. I had to take the E8 for a while and it was busy for a road in northern Norway - I suppose it's the proximity of the big city Tromsø. I was relieved to turn off onto a minor road which looked like a shortcut to the E6, but involved two ferries, so it was quicker for motorised traffic to go the long way round. I had ages to wait for the ferry at Breivikeidet. It had stopped raining but was bitterly cold, and unlike at the ferry ports south of Bodø, there was no warm waiting room. I ended up waiting in the toilets for the best part of an hour and a half.

After the ferry deposited me at Svensby, there was only another 20 km before the ferry at Lyngeidet and another long wait. Once on the ferry I was able to enjoy a hot drink and appreciate the dramatic black clouds which dominated the skies.

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The ferry arrives at Lyngeidet.

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Olderdalen

On landing at Olderdalen I was now on the E6, the road which runs the length of Norway. But here it is little more than a country road, and virtually deserted. The clouds continued to threaten, but the sun was somewhere behind them, and I enjoyed an ever-changing spectacular light show above the mountains of Lyngan peninsula on the other side of the fjord.

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/352/32255844322_c2ac75ecc2_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/R9kCJW)

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The show probably went on all night but I called it a day at a nice cheap basic campsite at Rotsund.

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70° N, Cotswolds, Ossis


Next day was cloudy but dry. I went through Oksfjord and very near Burfjord and it occurred to my uncluttered mind, in the way that things do when all you have to do is pedal, that I might have blundered into a parallel Cotswold-Norse universe.

Another way to occupy my mind was to keep track of progress by how far north I was getting, even though I was going east as well as north,  and towards the end of the day I crossed 70°. That meant I was 8 times as far from the South Pole as I was from the North Pole.

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/430/32366693056_493e93d46b_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/Rj8Ld1)

Otherwise it was another day at the office, with mountains and fjords, but no ferries or tunnels, although there was a tunnel being dug and a climb over a desolate mountain pass.

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The main thing was just to eat up as much distance as I could. I stopped that night at a campsite at Alteidet. Top feature was the kitchen. Here I met a couple from Mecklenburg. German campervans were as common as anything hereabouts, but these were the only Ossis I met.

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Alteidet campsite …

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and its kitchen

Next morning I started early. With showering, breakfasting and packing up I usually reckoned on less than an hour between waking and departing. That morning I tweeted :
Quote
The sun is out, the campervans aren't on the road yet, the snow is bright, the mozzies are playful. A perfect arctic morning.

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European route E6 is mine, all mine

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I aimed to get beyond Alta. The sun went mid morning, and I took a minor road for the last few kilometres into Alta. I avoided a bridge and tunnel combo by taking the road round the head of the fjord. Kåfjord is one of several where the Tirpitz sheltered during WW2. It's where the attack by midget submarines took place which caused extensive damage, as portrayed in the 1955 film Above Us the Waves starring John Mills.

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Like Tromsø, Alta is the biggest town in the word at its latitude or above, but I stopped only to buy food. I knew that according to OSM it was 86 km to the next shop at the village of Skaidi, so I'd have to take into account that the following day was Saturday and the shop at Skaidi might be shut or close early, and I'd be unlikely to find a shop open on Sunday, so it was a Big Shop.

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Biketown Alta

The rain started as I left Alta, but it was quite warm. Perfect sandal weather. After a few kilometres next to water the road starts climbing. I stopped near the top of the first climb and pulled into a layby to have an apple. I was joined by a Norwegian who had come from Nordkapp, and was doing a Norwegian End-to-End. I asked him about The Tunnel. He knew which one I meant.  If you're cycling to Nordkapp you have to use Nordkapptunnelen, 7km long with a lowest point 212m below sea level. He said it was one of the worst experiences of his life and he was glad he'd never have to repeat it. He spoke of the deafening noise of the vehicles and ventilators, and being passed in both directions in the narrow tunnel by never-ending streams of cars, campervans, buses and lorries. Food for thought.

He also mentioned meeting Oriol and a young German cyclist.

I started looking for somewhere to camp. Everywhere seemed to be either bog or dense forest, but eventually I came to a patch of firm flat ground next to a side-track. I slept well apart from being woken by bells outside my tent. I opened the tent to see three bemused sheep standing there.

Another early start next morning to try to get to Skaidi before midday. I found that I was already almost at the top of the climb, and I had a strong tailwind across the bleak tundra landscape. At one point a dog ran out from one of the rare Sami farmhouses and chased me, grabbing a loose pannier strap in its teeth, almost bringing me down. I managed to stay upright and put in an unprecedented burst of wind-assisted power until it gave up and trotted back home.

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There as some big distances in northern Norway. This sign was on the E6 road across the tundra between Alta and Skaidi.

I reached Skaidi in good time. It was only a small shop but like all shops in these parts it stocked a vast array of anglers’ requisites - rods, flies, lures, waders.  In Skaidi the sense of remoteness was increased a little because it is a Sami placename. Many places have bi- or trilingual signs, but Skaidi was solely Sami. It's also a road junction. Left to Hammerfest, right to Nordkapp and Kirkenes. To me, Hammerfest is one of those names, a place so remote it's just a name on the map which may or may not exist. Like Timbuktu, Astrakhan or Murmansk are, or used to be. Well I've been to Timbuktu, and I've seen the Astrakahn-Murmansk train passing through Кемь so I can sort of vouch for them. I was half tempted to head off down the road to Hammerfest, but I would probably have been disappointed, and I would have had to return to Skaidi anyway , so I carried on down the E6. But still...

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Beware of not only elk (top) but also reindeer (bottom)

Cunning Plan

Now the road took me across another piece of tundra to Olderfjord where I left the E6 to take the E69 towards Nordkapp. With bit of mental arithmetic I reckoned it was another 80-90 km to the tunnel. A plan, which had had first occurred to me as a possiblity before I’d left home when I'd read blogs of cyclists going to Nordkapp, now began to look as if it might be practical. It was more than a plan - it was a Cunning Plan.

But first I needed to push on up the road. And with a tailwind and a road which barely rose above sea level as it hugged the shore, I made good progress. So good, in fact, that by the time I pitched my tent 8 km from the tunnel it was the longest day of the trip distancewise since I left home.

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Reindeer grazing moss on the tundra just before I stopped.

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A long-drop toilet demonstrating the fertilising properties of such an arrangement

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It may have been remote, but there was excellent mobile & 3G reception. Not surprising with the mast on the hill behind.

I do enjoy the advantages of 24-hour daylight, but there are sometimes drawbacks. On many nights I had woken in broad daylight, and immediately thought it must be time to get up, only to look at my watch and see that it was 1:27 a.m. By the time I’d got used to it, I’d wake in broad daylight but assume it was still the middle of the night, and only when I looked at my watch see that it was 8:10 a.m. and I’d better be getting up.

But on this occasion I set my alarm and was up and on the road by 4 a.m. putting my plan into operation.  I had the passing  thought that having ridden to a place where it was sunny all night it was a bit silly to plunge into a gloomy hole in the ground, but in I went, and down I went.

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It occurred to me I was both the furthest north and also the furthest below sea level  I’d ever been. The road eventually levelled out  and then it was a long slog back up to sea level. One car came past going north, and one going south, and a bus entered the tunnel just as I was emerging into the daylight. Otherwise I had the tunnel to myself.  The plan had worked and I could declare the result: Cunning Plan 1, Scary Tunnel 0.

Last leg

After the tunnel there was a short stretch above ground, then another 4 km of tunnel, but this one was flat and easy-peasy.

All that now lay between me and Nordkapp was about 35 km of road. At this point it might be worthwhile saying what Nordkapp is, or rather what it isn't. It is not
So what is it which makes it a destination? Later at Honningsvåg hostel we decided on 2 things. It is

Historically it was of more significance to mariners than cyclists landlubbers. Rounding Nordkapp meant you were leaving the Atlantic and entering the Arctic Ocean. In fact it was first named North Cape in 1553 by an Englishman Steven Borough who was searching for the Northeast Passage.

Despite the above I’d decided I might as well go there as I was in the area and see what the fuss was about.

The road rose from sea level to 250 m, then dropped, then climbed to over 330m. It was sunny where I was but the on the distant skyline the mist occasionally cleared to reveal buildings. I assumed this was the visitor centre.

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It seems the weather gods were on my side. I heard that the whole plateau had been enveloped in fog the previous day, and two days previously this caravan was blown off the road.

Eventually I crawled up the last climb onto the plateau, past the line of cars waiting to buy tickets (it’s free for bicycles) and up to the visitor centre.

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Knivskjelodden in the distance, further north than Nordkapp, but doesn’t have a road or visitor centre, so doesn’t count.

I had a stroll round, and posed for photographs for several people who didn't believe it was possible to cycle there from England (including an Italian woman who was particularly effusive). I had a look round the gift shop, then splashed out on a coffee and piece of cake.

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71°10’21" N. I’d reached the end of the road going north. Now I wanted to go as far east as I could before the road ended.




To be continued.
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: mmmmartin on January 20, 2017, 05:43:28 pm
Great blog, John. I succumbed to temptation and bought the socks at Nordkapp. Several of your photos look very familiar. It was a great trip, wish we'd met up afterwards to chat about it, maybe at the start of LEL we might have a chance? I'm volunteering at the start.
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: Salvatore on January 20, 2017, 05:46:53 pm
Great blog, John. I succumbed to temptation and bought the socks at Nordkapp. Several of your photos look very familiar. It was a great trip, wish we'd met up afterwards to chat about it, maybe at the start of LEL we might have a chance? I'm volunteering at the start.

The reference to socks was indeed for your benefit. I noted on your Flickr stream you took a photo of the same signpost. Was the dead caravan still there when you were there?
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: billplumtree on January 21, 2017, 09:17:20 pm
I rather liked what I saw of Hammerfest, it seemed a friendly, lively place, music events on all over the place.

I think you should go back.  If only to be inducted into the Royal and Ancient Polar Bear Society with a walrus's penis bone.
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: mmmmartin on January 21, 2017, 09:38:16 pm
The caravan had gone.
From Nordkapp I took the bus back to the town then took the hurtigruten to Hammerfest, where I realised the polar bear society is a brilliant marketing idea and has some mildly interesting photographs but little else.
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: Salvatore on January 22, 2017, 07:27:13 pm
Nordkapp to Kirkenes

The End of the Road II

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After Nordkapp, the next destination was Kirkenes. To get there I could retrace 130km or so to Olderfjord (including the tunnel), continue to Lachselv, then take the E6 or the E69 eastwards. Our I could take the Hurtigruten to the next peninsula along and avoid retracing.

Whichever I chose, I had to retrace to Honningsvåg. Going back seemed a lot easier. Perhaps starting at 300m and ending at sea level had something to do with it. Not long after leaving the visitor centre I came to a small car park. This was for purists who wished to walk to Knivskelodden, the nearby point which is the northernmost point of Norway if you don't count Svalbard. From his blog I found that Oriol had done this.  Here I met a French cyclist, Michel, who was also planning to hike there, having been thwarted by the fog and wind of the previous two days. He gave me the tip that the hostel at Honningsvåg was not much more expensive than the campsite, and included breakfast and use of washing machine.

The road back to Honningsvåg:

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A bit further on I passed a campsite advertising itself as the world's most northerly, and then met a young German cyclist, Ole. He wanted to know if I thought the campsite had a TV, because he wanted to watch that night's Euro 16 match involving Germany.

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Ole on the horizon

Just before Honningsvåg there is a long descent, but from the top there is a layby with a super view.

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Traditional Sea Same houses near Honningsvåg

Honningsvåg

I reached Honningsvåg and booked into the hostel for a bargain 330kr. Ole had told me that the Rema2000 (a big supermarket chain) was open, despite it being Sunday and there being no hint of it being open on Sundays on the opening times, so I stocked up on the basis that you never ever ignore an open supermarket. I also booked a ticket for the next day's Hurtigruten ferry/cruise liner to the next port at Kjøllefjord.

In the hostel I met a New Zealander who intended to book a taxi to get back through the tunnel, and a Dutch motorcyclist who that evening gave up his hostel bed and rode up towards Nordkapp, pitching his tent on the tundra to enjoy the 24-hour sunshine. I was somewhat envious, and the following morning at breakfast he was enthusiastically showing everyone his photos.

I didn't sleep that much that night in the hostel, partly because of the bright sunshine all night, and partly because I stayed up late chatting with my German roommate. He had met a French cyclist called Jerome who had fishing tackle with him, and had caught a big fish of some sort, and distributed chunks of it to everyone he met. My roommate had a big piece which he went off to fry eventually, and was considering getting hold of a rod and line himself. In fact several of the cyclists I met had angling equipment with them, not something I myself had considered when packing.

The Hurtigruten wouldn't be leaving until the afternoon, so I had plenty of time the next morning. A little group of us sat outside the hostel in the warm sunshine, nearly all cyclists, but also including James, an Englishman, who had a bike but was just using it to get between hostels and airbnb bookings. He said he was spending a lot of time and effort finding accommodation and making bookings, and envied those of us with tents and our freedom to camp when and where we wanted.

I had a leisurely stroll round the town, very pretty in the bright sunshine, had a snack, and made my way to the quai. The Hurtigruten stays a few hours in Honningsvåg to allow cruise passengers to be ferried by coach to Nordkapp. Today the departure was further delayed by a very leisurely practice evacuation.

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Some of the crew enjoying a jolly round the harbour

Hurtigruten

Once on board I made my way to the sun deck. Despite us being further north than pretty much all of Siberia and Alaska, cruise passengers were sunbathing and frolicking in the pool. A word of explanation of Hurtigruten - firstly it's a line of luxury cruise liners which go up and down the Norwegian coast between Bergen and Kirkenes, calling in at many ports in between and offering excursions. It can also be used as local transport so oiks like me can get on at one port and get off at the next.

Just as we were finally due to leave I saw a cyclist boarding, and recognised Ole, the young German I’d met on my way back from Nordkapp. It was a very relaxing couple of hours  observing how the other half spent their holidays before we reached our destination at Kjøllefjord. I don't know how it compares with other cruise liners, but it was the poshest boat I've ever been on.

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Kjøllefjord

Across the Tundra.

From Kjøllefjord we took the only road out, which immediately climbed to over 300m. Soon we were crossing a vast desolate landscape of arctic tundra. Just rocks, streams, boggy grass and patches of midsummer snow. No trees, no bushes, no buildings except one house near the only junction in 110km, no animals except small herds of reindeer. The sun was still out, but there was a fierce wind from the south, and at the junction with the road to Mehamn and the cape which is actually Norway/Europe’s most northerly mainland (which we declined to visit), we turned right into the teeth of the wind. We were making very slow progress, but the views and the sense of isolation were magnificent.

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Ole

Riding with Ole was very refreshing. Only 18, he was taking advantage of the time between school and university. He wanted to study medicine, or failing that marine biology. It all depended on his exam results which would be published on June 30th. Today was the 27th. He kept mentioning different things he wanted to achieve in life, always wanting to stretch himself. In Tromsø he had run a marathon. When I was 18, I did my first multi day tour, four days from Lincolnshire to Galloway. I would have considered cycling to northern Norway much as I would have thought about riding to the moon.

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Ole

Being a stripling less than a third of my age, eventually he found the going too slow, excused himself and rode off into the distance.

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Ole disappearing into the distance

After slogging into the wind for 35km the road dropped back to sea level to cross Hopseidet,  the isthmus which connects the northern half of the peninsula to the rest of the mainland. I was hoping to find somewhere to camp here - there had been no shelter on the high plateau. It was only when I had already begun the climb from the isthmus up towards the continuation of the plateau, that I heard someone shouting down below.

Hopseidet:

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Jungle

Ole had found a perfect spot for camping. I couldn't make out what he was shouting, but he was pointing back down the road, so I turned round. As I said, perfect, with one drawback. It was only reachable by fighting through about 30 metres of low, stunted but dense jungle. I unloaded my bike and we manhandled it over the barrier. Leaving my bike we carried my bags down to where he had pitched his tent. Apart from some small twisted trees and bushes, the undergrowth came up above my knees. Underfoot but invisible were jumbled rocks - my biggest fear was stumbling and twisting or breaking an ankle.

It really was a super place to camp. The ground was covered with some sort of low springy plant, there was a river flowing into the fjord for bathing and drinking water, and there was not a breath of wind. Incidentally the water in the river wasn’t too cold for bathing despite being recently melted snow. We guessed that on the plateau it flows through a series of shallow pools which would have been warmed in the sun.

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After two nights with limited sleep, I slept like a log. The following morning I got up at my normal time about 7 a.m., made good use of the river and had my morning coffee. Ole stuck his head out of his tent and said he was going to sleep longer, so I packed everything up and started lugging my tent and bags up the slope to my bike. It took two return trips through the jungle. I hadn’t realised the previous evening that the jungle was home to evil biting insects. With both hands full I was unable to brush them off my bare legs, and by the time I’d got everything back to the road and on my bike, my lower legs were covered in blood. But my ankles weren’t broken.

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The road was opened in 1989

The climb took me back up over 300m to the plateau and an identical landscape to the previous evening. (BTW I see that I’m in the top 10 for the strava segment on this climb - 5th out of 5 at 6.2km/h.) And there was an identical headwind, made worse by the road being on an embankment, presumably so that snow pushed off the road doesn't pile up at the side but falls down the embankment. Next to the lake Reinoksvannan was a shelter, cunningly constructed so you could find shelter from the wind whichever way it was blowing. Just to show how remote this was, there was no mobile phone signal here (only the second time for me in Norway).

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Strava segment “RV888 16 climb”

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After 35 km the road dropped back down to sea level at Bekkarfjord, and the first human habitation I’d seen that day. In winter you can only use the road to Kjøllefjord by travelling in convoy, and Bekkarfjord is the place where vehicles assemble to form convoys which depart according to the published timetable.

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Convoy times

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Supermarket!  and Cafe!

Another 20 km round the coast and I came to Lebesby, a fishing village with a church, a population of 85, and a small supermarket and a cafe. After stocking up I was stowing my purchases when Ole turned up. We went into the cafe and were the only customers. There were no staff, just a pot of coffee and some mugs, so I helped myself and left the money on the counter.

Often I pass through a remote place and wonder what life is like there. Here is an article on some of the problems facing Lebesby. The Changes in an Indigenous Society (https://www.nrk.no/sapmi/lebesby-with-new-women-power-1.12578848)

After about an hour we set off again, and reached the junction at Ifjord and turned east on route 98 before Ole shot off again. The road crosses the base of Nordkinn peninsula and rises to over 350m (another strava top 10 - 7/7 on the strava segment at 6.2km/h). Another very bleak road, but without the sunshine.

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Reindeer herding pens

George

On this stretch of road I met George from Romania and swapped camping info. He had ridden from Romania via Ukraine, Poland and Finland, and was heading for Nordkapp. I rooted around in the dustiest corners of my memory of my 2005 trip to Romania and wished him “Drum bun” (Romanian for “bon voyage”) before we continued our journeys.

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George

Before the road dropped all the way back to sea level I pulled off the road and put up my tent among some stunted birches. Mosquitoes taking full advantage of the short summer were soon all over me, so I put up my tent as quickly as possible, dived inside and zipped it up. The only time I timed myself putting up my tent it was just over 3½ minutes - I'm sure this time was quicker. Once inside I examined my lower legs. The skin had a yellowish bruised look and my ankles were swollen - no doubt the work of the evil biting flies in the jungle at Hopseidet.

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At about the limit of where trees can grow. Only birches have a hope.

At Lebesby they’d told us that the next supermarket was at Tana Bru, and that was still another 60km. I rode for a time with Ole. He had stopped further on than I had but had slept longer. After some ups and downs it was nice to follow the road south next to the broad River Tana. The low sheltered valley was forested, which made a change after the last few days. Tana Bru did indeed have a supermarket, so I stocked up and snacked before carrying on. The sun came out for an hour or so in the evening before I stopped once again amongst  mosquito-infested birches. My ankles had swelled up again during the day, but were no worse than the previous evening.

Next day would take me to within a short distance of Kirkenes and I’d earmarked a campsite about 10km from the town. Again Ole came up behind me but unusually didn't want to talk, but zoomed off after up the road after only the briefest of greetings. I remembered this was the 30th, the day he was due to get his exam results.

Ilya

At a picnic table I met cyclist Ilya from St Petersburg who had arrived that morning from Murmansk by bus. He’d had no difficulty at the border getting into Norway, nor had the rest of the passengers, but the one person whose papers were not in order was the bus driver.  He was tickled at the sight of tourists taking photos of the border post. He was going first to Inari in Finland then north to Nordkapp.

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Ilya

At Neiden is the junction with the road to Finland. I’d need to come this way later. I didn't stop at the cafe but noted it for future reference. The day had started rainy but turned into a scorcher. According to Mrs Campsite it was 23°. That counts as a scorcher in these parts.

I checked in to the campsite and was lying in my tent resting when I heard shouting outside. “John! John!” It was a delighted Ole. He'd been into Kirkenes and read the email which told him he’d got the grades to study medicine. That evening he celebrated in the campsite kitchen/dining room with a huge meal of pasta, onion, fish paste and goodness knows what else he had found in Kirkenes.

Kirkenes

The following day I went to Kirkenes and had a look round. I went to the Hurtigruten quai, which is the very end of the E6. I also went to the tourist office, and realised that by far the biggest tourist attraction is the Russian border. There are bus trips, guided quadbike trips and boat trips to catch king crabs (which take you to within metres of the actual border). Many signs, especially on shops, are both in Norwegian and Russian, and many of the vehicles are Russian (mostly with Murmansk registrations).

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Kirkenes is a long way from anywhere

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The end of the E6, and the last port on the Hurtigruten route

From Kirkenes I carried on east about 10 km to the Russian border.

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The Russian border. The “No pedestrians” sign was significant in the winter of 2015/16, but didn’t stop Syrian refugees without motorised transport.
Arctic route to Europe (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/russia/11964457/Bike-shortage-stems-flow-of-migrants-using-Arctic-route-to-Europe.html)



This really was the end of the first part of my trip. I’d gone as far as I could, from now on I’d be on my way home.

Next: Finland (and a little bit of Sweden)







Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: mmmmartin on January 22, 2017, 08:18:02 pm
Great to see how well you are doing on Strava John.
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: Salvatore on January 22, 2017, 09:40:35 pm
Great to see how well you are doing on Strava John.
I suppose that in the interests of balance I ought to point out who is at the top of the Veloviewer explorer(tiles) worldwide leaderboard , both for 2016 (ahead of a certain Kajsa T) and all time. But modesty forbids.
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: perpetual dan on January 24, 2017, 09:33:32 pm
I'm well away from the end, but loving this. With added interest as I learnt to ski at Valdres (near Fagernes, back on page 1).
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: Salvatore on February 02, 2017, 12:11:30 am
Finland

(but first the last bit of Norway)

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That's Russia over there, that is.

From the Russian border I rode back to the campsite, and spent an entertaining evening with the assembled international melange in the campsite’s kitchen/dining room/common room. They included the obligatory Dutch couple (if there are no Dutch on a campsite, there's something wrong) and Luca a motorcyclist from Milan.

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The next day I retraced to Neiden, and spent much of my remaining Norwegian krona on a cup of coffee and a piece of cake. That left enough for another piece of cake and a 1 kr tip.

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There was a salmon fishing competition at Neiden with crowds of spectators on the bridge. Perhaps not crowds, but probably a large percentage of the population of Neiden.

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Narvik is quite far north in Norway, but this sign reminded me how remote Kirkenes is from the rest of Norway. FACT: Kirkenes is further east than Istanbul.

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After 43 days in Norway I was about to leave by very much the back door.

Finland

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First of all, I'll declare that I have a soft spot for Finland and the Finns. This was the third time I've cycled there, and I hope it isn't the last. It’s a land of big forests, thousands of lakes (78% forest and 10% lake according to Wikipedia, and I’m not going to argue).

There are big distances between towns, especially in the north. From time to time while pedaling day after day along the same road through the same forest into the same headwind I have wondered if it's not so much Finland which I like, but the idea of Finland. I get excited by the thought that if I went eastwards, ignoring inconveniences such as oceans and borders, I could travel round the world in the same forest and end up back where I started. The taiga, as it is called, really is vast. The only similar sense of scale I’ve experienced was on a walking holiday in the western end of the Sahara and wondering how long it would take to walk to Cairo.

Anyway, Finland. I’ll spare you a day-by-day account and describe the more memorable towns which punctuated my ride, and anything else occurs to me. Between the towns was invariably very little but long roads. And trees. Lots of trees. So this account will probably give a false impression - the towns were brief punctuations on a 1000+ km forest ride.

While cycling through Lapland, the top layers of  Maslow's hierarchy of needs are stripped away and thoughts of food and water (where are the shops?) and shelter (where can I camp?) dominate daily life on the road, but I'll try to restrict my ramblings about supermarkets and campsites, wild or otherwise.

So here's a vaguely chronological account, punctuated by towns.


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First stop was just off the road, at the top of a slope leading down to the river. A bit early, but too nice a spot to ignore.

Some pictures of roads in Finnish Lapland

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(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/624/32347579752_5b34a0a7fa_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/RhrNuh)

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(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/758/32499356315_7c79930fcc_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/RvRGnz)
See below


Inari


When traveling from the Norwegian border in the extreme north, Inari, after 150 km, is the first place you come to which could be called a town, although there is a small settlement with 2 shops near the border.  Inari has a couple of supermarkets, a cafe or two, and a Neste petrol station with a restaurant offering reindeer pizza, which I’ve now had on both my visits.

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No camping here ...

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… or here in the myr (bog)

In Inari there's also a campsite where I stayed in 2014 and  saw a magnificent non-sunset across a lake which lasted several hours before the sun started to rise again. But this time I pressed on to a wild camp I had noted in 2014, but hadn't used then because it was mid-morning. It was a bit further down the road to Pokka than I remembered, but it was worth it. Equal best wild camp ever.

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Pokka

I don't think anyone would call Pokka - population about 50 (a guess) - a town. There is no village street, just a few scattered houses. But it is the biggest settlement in the 195km between Inari and Kittilä, so it seems like an important milestone. There's no shop, but there is a cafe which serves coffee and a small selection of cakes. Pokka’s main claim to fame is that in 1999 the lowest ever temperature in Finland was recorded there.

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I'd forgotten that the tarmac runs out just after Pokka, and I was toying with going to Kittilä via the ski resort Levi, but the decision was taken out of my hands. We all know that to a ‘road closed’ sign can be added ‘but try your luck with a bike’, but i knew that ‘silta’ means bridge, so ‘sillankorjaustyön’ was probably bridge repairs. Trying my luck might mean fording a river or retracing 21 stony kilometres, so I followed my 2014 route.

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Kittilä
Kittilä  is a proper town. With a big main street, supermarkets, pharmacies, cafes, and a campsite, it's the administrative centre for the huge Kittilä municipality (sort of equivalent to county). Like everywhere else I've been in Finland, if it's big enough for one supermarket, it's big enough for two. And those two will probably be an S-Market and a K-Market, probably on either side of the road. And almost indistinguishable. Their logos are similar, and so are their prices and merchandise. It's not like having a Waitrose and a Lidl, it's more like having two Tescos. I arrived early in Kittilä with the intention of doing some laundry and bike maintenance, but there was an almighty thunderstorm which went on and on and on, so my clothes stayed dirty and my bike stayed unfettled, as I sat in my tent and read.

Next day I set off towards the Swedish border. In mid morning I came to a wooden house with the picture of a coffee cup outside, and an “Auki" (open) sign. I was sure that I hadn't been this way two years ago, and yet it looked familiar. The owner interrupted her handiwork to serve me, it also being a craft shop, and that convinced me it was my second visit there (later confirmed by checking the visitors’ book). I can only think that I approached the village from a different direction.

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Pajala

Pajala isn't in Finland, it's in Sweden (just) and I went there because it's the setting for Mikael Niemi's semi-autobiographical comic novel Popular Music from Vittula .  It's about a boy growing up in this thinly-disguised town north of the arctic circle, and the characters he encounters, both among his family and the townsfolk. The town portrayed doesn't match most people's idea of Sweden. Most of the people speak a form of Finnish rather than Swedish, the main industry is forestry and that's been mechanised so unemployment is high, and the repressive Laestadian form of Lutheranism had a big influence. It’s the back of beyond, ignored by Stockholm, and southern Sweden might as well be another country.  The town has cashed in on the fame and notoriety resulting from the book (and the film of the book) - there are signs pointing to places which are the scenes for various episodes in the book.

I spent the early evening sitting in the sunshine in the town's main square watching the world go by, and wondering how much the childhood portrayed by the book is still typical for the town.

Rovaniemi (south of 66º33'46.5"N)

Further south (a tittle too south) and bigger. It sells itself heavily on its position in the North. It is, according to its tourist office, the “official" home town of Santa Claus, the best place to see the northern lights and it has its big new Arcticum museum. It is a much bigger town than other towns further north. It is, however, south of the arctic circle, and there's barely a mention of it. I get the feeling that it secretly wishes it was 10 km further north. Other places, such as Jokkmokk and Juoksengi in Sweden have areas with lines on the ground and flags of all nations the circle passes through, and you can buy a certificate to say you've crossed the circle. But Rovaniemi is a few kilometres south of the line, and there's nothing to mark it when you’re crossing. Due to the wobble in the earth’s axis, the arctic circle is not fixed, so one day Rovaniemi will be north of the arctic circle, but it won't be soon because currently the line is moving 15m a year in the wrong direction.

So after 26 days I was now once again south of the arctic circle, back in the weird part of the earth where the sun sets every single day of the year. It was still more or less light all night, but soon I would have to get used to darkness.

Rovaniemi to Helsinki

South of Rovaniemi there was a bigger choice of routes, and I tended to use smaller roads, which usually took me through smaller towns (which nevertheless all had the regulation two supermarkets - I made it my business to check). I was now making for Helsinki.

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South of Rovaniemi I met Eero, who had been on a tour of Ireland and was cycling home.

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Memorial to a battle in the Lapland War of 1944–1945, when Finland fought against the retreating German forces in northern Finland.

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At a farm which specialised in highland cattle, coffee was being served, and lettu (pancakes) with homemade mansikka (strawberry) and/or karpalo (cranberry) jams.

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I stopped for coffee in Leppävirta and saw from the What's On brochure that I'd missed the Boot Throwing World Championships, held there the previous month.

The rights which allow you to camp anywhere within reason also allow you to pick flowers and swim in lakes, but this lake had its own facilities (including changing cabin).

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Laavu

About 2 days from Helsinki I slept in a laavu. These are provided for outdoorsy people to sleep in, especially hikers and canoeists, so are not often near roads. This one required a trek along a forest path, but I had exclusive use. This one provided:

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Yes, I did have an early-morning dip.

A the campsite in Juankoski I met Cezary, a forester from Poland. Something of a busman’s holiday for him, I guess.

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A war cemetery

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I’ve nothing against bilingual signage, but which is which?

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In the south there are some Swedish-speaking areas, reflected in the placenames. For someone like me brought up in Lincolnshire, seeing  village names ending -by makes me feel almost home.

Helsinki

I thought I'd have a rest day and do some touristy things, so I booked for two nights at the big campsite in the suburbs of Helsinki. Next day I bought a €8 go-where-you-please ticket and took the metro to the centre. I strolled round a bit, went round the national museum and visited a big outdoor market, but wasn’t used to walking and my legs fancied a rest. So I got on the next tram I saw and spent a relaxing hour touring round the inner suburbs of Helsinki before the tram deposited me back where I’d started.

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And with that, the Finnish leg of my jaunt was just about over.

Next: Estonia.




Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: mmmmartin on February 02, 2017, 09:45:10 am
Ah. Great read. Looking forward to reading about Estonia as for some time I've fancied going there, probably on a weekend trip.
Thanks for all this John.
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: closetleftie on February 03, 2017, 07:43:47 am
Thanks indeed - I love this tread.  :thumbsup:
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: Nuncio on February 03, 2017, 09:45:07 am
I like the idea of the ad-hoc multinational network of odd (I use the word advisedly) cyclists, doing their own things across the vast northern lands but regularly encountering each other and sharing plans, travel advice, life stories, updates on others, before possibly riding together awhile or carrying on with their own journeys. What's missing is a secret system of symbols to indicate, for example, 'good wild camping spot 40km north of here', 'you might get a free coffee here', 'at all costs avoid the mad Englishman on the ridiculously overloaded bike'.
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: mmmmartin on February 03, 2017, 10:00:54 am
But Nuncio, all those points could be made about every single kilometre of road in the Scandi-wegian areas. Esp your last phrase.....
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: Salvatore on February 03, 2017, 11:01:28 am
So Martin, what symbols do you suggest for

'at all costs avoid the mad Englishman* on the ridiculously overloaded bike. *the one without the ridiculous sandals/socks combo'
and
'at all costs avoid the mad Englishman* on the ridiculously overloaded bike. *the one with the ridiculous sandals/socks combo'

?

BTW I'm still in contact with several of the cyclists I met.

Some hadn't met each other when I met them  but had when I met them the second time. (i.e. I met A then B, but A didn't know B. By the time I met A the second time, A had met B).  A simple Venn diagram wouldn't suffice. It would have to be animated.
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: mmmmartin on February 03, 2017, 11:12:03 am
Hmm, that's a tricky one. How about a sign with a union flag at the top and a bicycle underneath, and a black cross superimposed over both? After all, you wouldn't need to distinguish between those with or without socks/sandals because surely ALL Brits on bikes wear them?
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: Salvatore on February 15, 2017, 04:22:12 pm
Estonia

Where next? And after that?

Now I’d reached Helsinki, I had to decide where to go next. As I saw it my options boiled down to 3,
After due consideration I realised that all three implied rather more planning ahead than I like, and after all I’d done the first two before (and the third in reverse) so I came up with a fourth, which better suited my philosophy of aimless drifting.

So that's what I did.

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There's a choice of ferries for the trip across the Baltic to Tallinn, and it's about 2½ the distance of Dover-Calais. In 2014 I’d paid € 57 to cross on what was more or less a big speedboat, but  this time I thought I’d save money and take a big slow car ferry. It was packed, there was hardly anywhere to sit down, it takes nearly twice as long and it still cost me €44. I wish I’d splashed out for a speedboat trip.

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How I crossed the Baltic in 2014

The Baltic. I had heard of the Baltic long before I had any idea of where it was. My grandfather used to tell his grandchildren tales of his childhood, which included the tales told to him by his grandfather. One in particular was that he (my GG grandfather Thomas Wilkin) had been taken to sea as a boy by his father (my 5' 3½" dark-complexioned brown-haired blue-eyed literate seafaring GGG grandfather John Wilkin). Young Thomas evidently didn't take to life at sea, and matters came to a head when he disobeyed his father and was thrown overboard into the Baltic. The moral of the story, I was told, was that I shouldn't disobey my father lest I be thrown into the Baltic. Thomas went on to spend his working life on dry land as a blacksmith.

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John Wilkin’s 1844 merchant seaman registration.

I did as I was told and reached Tallinn without getting wet.

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Tallinn looks like a lovely city for a visit, but the old city isn't ideal for cycling round  (cobbles and crammed with tourists), and the campsite in Tallinn is by all accounts an expensive and noisy dump, so I headed west along the coast, aiming for the RMK campsite at Leetse near Paldiski.

RMK campsite

In 2014 I'd stumbled across this campsite almost by accident, after failing to find anything in 50km or so and then following a rough stony track for ages. It’s right next to the sea, has firewood, toilets, picnic table and firepits, and costs nothing. Just turn up and pitch your tent.

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The peninsula was until 1994 a nuclear submarine training base.

This is one of a network of basic campsites run by RMK, the Estonian Forestry Authority. Wild camping is not allowed in Estonia, so these sites are the next best thing. Details can be found in English on the RMK website (http://rmk.ee). And there's an app.

Paldiski

The following morning I looked round Paldiski and the rest of the peninsula.

It may be 26 years since Estonia split from the Soviet Union, but there are still plenty of reminders of those days. This is especially the case once you leave Tallinn, and even more so in and near Paldiski. From 1962 until 1994 Paldiski was a Soviet Navy nuclear submarine training centre, and the town was closed off with barbed wire. The town has been spruced up a bit since the Russians left, but you can still find derelict buildings without having to look too hard.

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Out of town towards the end of the peninsula are further examples of military buildings.

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The cliffs at the end of the peninsula feature a dangerous overhang. The danger didn’t seem to worry some fellow sightseers

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The port has been developed, and most freight seems to be imported Mercedes which are then transported by road to Russia. I saw several Russian car transporters loaded with shrinkwrapped Mercedes at the port, and a huge compound outside the town filled with brand new cars.

There is a ferry service from Paldiski to Sweden, but I wanted to spend more time in Estonia and headed inland. Since I’d decided not to repeat the Baltic States route, it meant getting a ferry from Tallinn once I'd had my fill of Estonia.

Enno and Eva

I ended up at an RMK site in a small clearing near Keila. I had done shopping in Keila with a view to making use of the fire pit there, albeit with a disappointing lack of imagination - toast bread, butter and sardines. I was joined by Enno and Eva, who had left their 2 small sons with friends and were on a 3-day hike between RMK sites. They had bigger culinary ambitions and a bigger pan. I improvised a toasting fork from some bamboo kebab skewers and we sat round the campfire putting the world to rights. Enno confirmed something I had suspected 2 years earlier - there had been an economic boom in Estonia, but the wealth is concentrated in Tallinn, and the countryside, especially the south, is being depopulated as young people leave for study or work in the big city. I remember in 2014 riding on a Sunday evening through Lihula, a small town in the west of the country. There were long queues of mostly young people waiting for buses. I assume they had come home to visit for the weekend and were returning to Tallinn for work. One word of Estonian which I could still recall was müüa - ‘for sale’, I had seen it so often on boards outside houses in small country towns. Everyone selling, no-one buying.

RMK campsite near Keila:

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RMK long distance footpath
 (http://loodusegakoos.ee/where-to-go/hiking-route)
Cheap as Chips

Next day was an easy day heading vaguely east. Estonia is pretty flat, and without a specific goal, it was rather an aimless day. I stopped at a small supermarket and bought some provisions - 750g apples, an ice cream, a big tub of yogurt and a chocolate bar. Total: €2.86. A fraction of what it would have cost me in the previous couple of months.

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Village shops don’t do a great deal to advertise their presence

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No picnic is complete without some smut.

I stopped at another RMK site just off the road. This one was not as well maintained as the others. There was no firewood, and the grass hadn't been cut. There was barely room for me to pitch my tent. Still, I got a good night’s sleep and it didn't cost me anything.

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Swords into ploughshares, and ploughshares into roadside benches

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Warren safety?

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A balti spoon is handy if your curry is too runny.

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Traditional wooden house. Variations of such houses occur all round the baltic.

Koen

Next day I intended to make for an RMK site on the coast about 50 km east of Tallinn. Lack of direct roads meant I had to take something of a roundabout route, but I wanted to keep to tarmac.

 I got there in the afternoon, and started following the stony track to the sea. Soon I spotted a loaded cyclist coming from the camp. A bit odd to be coming from the camp so late in the day. As we approached each other to our great surprise we recognised each other. It was Koen from Antwerp. We had last seen each other when I was leaving Tromsø, several weeks and a few thousand kilometres ago. He warned me that the camp wasn’t any good. According to his blog
Quote
Two big groups of Estonians were playing volleyball, car stereos at maximum volume, beer all around. Further down a group of Hells Angels was making loud noises with their Harley Davidsons, a group of girls was sitting in front of a tent smoking water pipes (idiots), a family with dogs on the beach....

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Koen

We must have have spent about an hour catching up. I told him about riding with Ole; he had met up with Joke in Tromsø and they'd ridden together for a day; we worked out that Koen had been a day behind me on Nordkinn peninsula where he met George from Romania; Koen was going to ride home to Belgium then head off to Spain. He also tipped me off about a hostel on the coast in the direction. I was going towards Tallinn, he was going east, so we went our separate ways to look for somewhere to sleep.

The hostel was friendly and I got a comfy room for €27. That meant my accommodation budget for Estonia had been blown by €27. The lawn led right down to the Baltic, and I fancied a swim before sunset (following the family tradition), but the water near the shore was covered in scum, and when I found a scum-free bit the water was no more than a foot deep so a paddle had to suffice.

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Baltic scum

Next day was a shortish day to Tallinn. From seeing placenames on signposts I had noticed some obvious lexical similarities between Finnish and its Finno-Uralic cousin Estonian. Lake in Finnish is järvi, in Estonian it is järv; likewise river is joki/jõgi. While pondering these particular similarities I wondered if, with Estonia being so flat, they actually had a word for waterfall.

It happened that my question was answered within 5 minutes.

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Tallinn

On the outskirts of Tallinn I came across a road race in progress.

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/705/32665258805_56ce6ff980_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/RLvZpk)

I stocked up on the road into Tallinn

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I booked my ticket on that evening's overnight ferry to Stockholm and waited in the sunshine. Also waiting were three Swedish cycle couriers who had been on a tour through Poland and the Baltic states. One of them said he'd met an Englishman called Stuart while touring in New Zealand several years ago. I immediately thought of this thread (https://yacf.co.uk/forum/index.php?topic=6839.0). Subsequent descriptions of this Englishman and his antics convinced me that it was indeed Stuart Lee, aka tuggo formerly otp.

So I left cheap as chips Estonia to go to Sweden. I think I may be back sometime.

¹²
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: Salvatore on November 30, 2017, 05:14:57 pm
Lofoten Islands (and beyond)
 But they don't convey everything. You'll just have to imagine the smell of rotting fish.



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cold-adapted bacteria matures the fish, similar to the maturing process of cheese
I think that conveys the potential smell. I can't imagine much worse!
(https://farm1.staticflickr.com/638/32364451785_f2222c4181_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/RiWgXp)

I learnt this week from a BBC radio documentary available on iPlayer  (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w3cswclg) that most of the stockfish produced on the Lofotens is exported to (you'd never guess)
(click to show/hide)
. One of the exporters asked if she minded the smell. "No. To me it smells of money."

[BTW I still intend to finish this - Only Sweden, Germany, Low countries & France to go.]
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: Nuncio on November 30, 2017, 09:19:50 pm
There's a report on a Cycling UK trip around the Lofotens in the latest Cycling magazine.
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: mmmmartin on November 30, 2017, 10:44:45 pm
Norway is great cycling, esp the coastal road with all its ferries. I had seven weeks there last year, up to Nord Kapp. No language problems, great tarmac. Beware of the "allemans rett" rule - you are allowed to camp anywhere at all (everyman's right) that is 100 metres from a house, uncultivated land and for one night. But I hardly ever found anywhere flat enough to put a tent on.

oh- you'll need waterproofs. I was there for seven weeks and for the first five weeks its rained everyday except for three.
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: Salvatore on December 01, 2017, 02:25:22 pm
Norway is great cycling, esp the coastal road with all its ferries. I had seven weeks there last year, up to Nord Kapp. No language problems, great tarmac. Beware of the "allemans rett" rule - you are allowed to camp anywhere at all (everyman's right) that is 100 metres from a house, uncultivated land and for one night. But I hardly ever found anywhere flat enough to put a tent on.
I always found somewhere eventually. Just keep riding and something will turn up before it gets dark.
oh- you'll need waterproofs. I was there for seven weeks and for the first five weeks its rained everyday except for three.
In 43 days in Norway I had two rainy days and one when it was a bit drizzly. It's all a matter of timing.
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: mmmmartin on December 01, 2017, 03:28:13 pm
In 43 days in Norway I had two rainy days and one when it was a bit drizzly. It's all a matter of timing.
Good point. And although it rained, it wasn't cold. Wore shorts all the time. Only chilly near Nord Kapp. My next trip is three weeks Seville-Santiago, a week with the FNRttC in northern France in July, and possibly two weeks Narvik-Lulea that will be a recce for a winter arctic circle crossing of Scandinavia. Keep being drawn back to Norway. Great cycling. Wild camping good also I do like the campsites with their heated kitchens to get out of the weather.
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: videoman on December 02, 2017, 02:09:23 pm
Well been laid up with a cold all week and only been out of the house twice but just spent a very enjoyable few hours reading your trip report from start to finish and what a great read it is as well. Thanks very much for posting.
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: Salvatore on December 02, 2017, 02:11:24 pm
Well been laid up with a cold all week and only been out of the house twice but just spent a very enjoyable few hours reading your trip report from start to finish and what a great read it is as well. Thanks very much for posting.

Thank you. Not quite finished, I'm just polishing the Swedish bit.
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: Salvatore on December 02, 2017, 02:48:03 pm

(https://i.imgur.com/aSBTtfc.jpg)

By now there was very much a feeling of being on the the way home. My vague plan was to ride from Stockholm to the south coast where I could get a ferry to Germany, then use  familiar roads to northern France, and then a ferry back to Blighty. But I wasn't in any hurry, and I'd allow myself to be drawn down any detours I fancied.

New Friends
While waiting for the ferry in Tallinn, I’d met three Swedes who were cycle-messengers in Stockholm who had just done a 2-week tour through Poland and the Baltic states. Before we docked in Stockholm I had breakfast with my new courier friends. They recounted tales of bizarre consignments, nightmare journeys and eccentric customers. But they were agreed that theirs was a model employer. We also established that Johannes had encountered Stuart Lee (formery tuggo in these parts) on a tour of New Zealand many years ago. For their Baltic tour, their boss had paid for their ferry tickets to Poland and back from Estonia, all on condition that they post on n the company's Instagram account once a day.

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My chums about to disembark, looking uncharacteristically glum.

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Company HQ coffee bar

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Essential cycle-camping equipment

Although I'd been to that ferry terminal in Stockholm before, that was going the other way to Finland three years previously with Els. All I knew was that I'd have to go through the centre of Stockholm to continue on the direction I wanted. I started off following my new friends, when Johannes dropped back and said if I went with them to their office, they'd give me a “little souvenir”. It wasn't far, and they were greeted with high fives by their colleagues in their gleaming office. Then Erik disappeared into what turned out to be a stock cupboard, asking “What size are you? Try this”, and tossed me a brand new short-sleeve full-zip red jersey with the company name and logo across the front.  It fitted perfectly. Then “Red or black?”  and before I could answer,  “have both” and a black jersey flew out of the cupboard, followed by a pair of touring shorts.

Commercial break
I realise that blatantl advertising is frowned on here, but I feel honour-bound to point out that Ryska Posten (https://ryskaposten.se/) are the people to go to for all your delivery needs in Stockholm, Sweden or worldwide.
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Do you need to send a laptop from Söder to Östermalm? An agreement to New York? Nothing is impossible. The easiest way to get something from A to B is to use Russian Post whether it's by bike, car or worldwide. You may not need to send anything, but feel for a spontaneous change in the office or have to clean up after yesterday's staff party? Lucky we also have our doers who are always ready and can help you with everything and then we really mean everything. We simply do our utmost to deliver the best service of the city, no matter when you call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year

Guided Tour
The trio had only called in to their office to see their chums (and raid the stock cupboard on my behalf) before going home, so we left the office and I got a guided tour through central Stockholm on a beautifully sunny morning, with first Johannes then [insert name here - I can’t remember his name] peeling off before Erich took his leave of me and pointed me in the right direction.

I started off on a cyclepath next to a what looked like a major dual carriageway, but it wasn't long before I turned off onto smaller roads and tracks. Even though I was on my way home, I was in no hurry, so just took whichever road took my fancy, as long as it was more or less in the right direction.

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On the outskirts of Stockholm.

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First tunnel since Norway

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I’m all for a bit of encouragement, but I was going as farst as I could.

Camping
The rest of my trip through Sweden was largely uneventful. I stayed in a couple of forgettable and overpiced commercial campsites, some wonderful wild sites and one uncared-for and overgrown laavu. Some of the best wild camps were in openings in the forest where glacial action 10,000 years ago had ground away any lumps in the bedrock and left a smooth surface where only moss and lichen could grow. Before I had left home I made sure I got my hands on a tent which would stand up on a hard surface without tent pegs. On my last wild camp I was woken by the sound of a hooved animal running past. I pushed my head out of the tent to see an elk disappearing into the forest.

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Improvised tent peg

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I don’t know the Swedish, but in Finnish this is a laavu

Postman’s knock
My new jerseys caused some comment. One village shopkeeper told me that Ryska Posten was not only a courier company, but also the name of a children’s game. She didn't elaborate on the rules. Nor did an elderly gent I met on a cyclepath a couple of days later. By the use of Swedish Wikipedia and google translate I have since found out that it is a version of “postman's knock”.

Quote
The boys or girls enter a room at a point and choose a "pointer". The first one in the sex chooses either handles, famts, claws or kisses. If, for example, the first-sex person chooses famntag, the pointer points to a person and asks "do you choose him / him?", Then the person can choose yes or, in this example, no. The pointer points to a new person, and if the first person in the queue says "yes" then these two people must be hugged.

Sandal repair
In Sweden my other sandal gave up the ghost, which arguably meant my footwear wasn’t odd any more.
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Which is the fairest of them all?
I had to make an emergency detour to Sjöbo to replace my rear tyre. I’d found a nice bench in the town centre as a handy fettling shelf, and was putting everything back together when I was accosted by a woman returning home with her shopping. She asked all the familiar questions, and when I reeled off the countries I'd been through, she asked me which was the most beautiful “Sweden, it's Sweden, isn’t it? Go on, Sweden, it must be Sweden. Sweden’s the prettiest, isn't it? Must be Sweden. Say Sweden.” I thought long and hard (with my best 'thinking hard' face)  then answered “Norway”. “Ah, I knew you'd say that” she said with an air or resignation.

Some random photos from my week or so in Sweden:

(https://farm3.staticflickr.com/2934/32331206564_eb92233c01_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/RfZTiW)

(https://farm3.staticflickr.com/2895/32331001404_4096154305_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/RfYQjG)

(https://farm1.staticflickr.com/772/32360845863_05c65cb8f2_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/RiBN3k)
Dry-stone walls

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(https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3754/33176024475_abd0f58ccb_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/SxDNeZ)

I was making for Trelleborg in the deep South West. I arrived there on a dull afternoon, made my way to the ferry terminal and asked about a ticket for that night's crossing. The only ones left were shockingly expensive outside cabins with windows, but (a) the shock was mostly but not wholly because the price was quoted in krona and (b) I didn't want to hang around for another day, so I stumped up for the most expensive ferry ticket I've ever bought.

There was some time before the ferry left, so I took a went back into the town. I managed to coincide with a torrential downpour (which flooded parts of the town), so I speedily took refuge in a handy pizzeria and waited out the storm there.

(https://farm3.staticflickr.com/2837/33134628866_95bc919462_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/StZCLA)
After the downpour

(https://farm3.staticflickr.com/2937/33176394685_9fec5387fd_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/SxFGhV)
The most expensive ferry ticket ever, but my cabin’s window gave me a nice view of the sunset.

As it happens, Trelleborg (specifically the ferry terminal) is the southern end of the E6, the Scandinavian superhighway which goes through Sweden and Norway all the way to the Hurtigruten ferry terminal in Kirkenes in the far north of Norway near the Russian border, where I'd been several weeks previously.

I can’t remember anything of the crossing - I must have slept like a log. Next morning I was in Germany.



Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: Salvatore on January 08, 2018, 01:52:55 pm
It looks as if the organisers of the 2018 Arctic Tour of Norway have been reading this thread. Apart from the excursion to and from Hammerfest and the first bit of the stage from Vadsø, they are the roads I rode, and the ferry I took.

(https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DS9m7zfXUAYJQIA.jpg)

mmmmmmmmmmmmmartin will be relieved that my top-10 strava placings on the segments on the stretch from Kjøllefjord to Tana are safe, the race goes in the opposite direction.
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: mmmmartin on January 08, 2018, 02:11:15 pm
An interesting route, I see them be going through the long tunnel, which was blooming cold when I did it, and they're avoiding that tundra road by heading south from Hammerfest.
Good publicity for the area, should be some good times as well because those roads, like everywhere in the Arctic, have no real hills and the condition of the tarmac, as everywhere in Norway, is uniformly excellent.
My abiding memory of riding south from Hammerfest was waving my arms to get those herds of reindeer out of the way. That might provide some photo opportunities....
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: Von Broad on January 08, 2019, 08:49:13 pm
I always knew there was a lot on this forum I didn't read, but, to my shame, I never realized there was this much I hadn't come across!!

What a fantastic trip John....great write-up and beautiful photos...I had no idea you were out there!

Chapeau my good man, you're a true hard man of the road :-)
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: Salvatore on January 09, 2019, 11:26:14 am
Bugger. I was alerted to your post and then spent the rest of the evening re-reading the thread. And watching the Kjøllefjord web cam (http://www.hotelnordkyn.no/Webcam) (you can control where the camera is pointing, and it looks fairly light this morning even though sunrise isn't until 22nd January).  Now I'm pining for the fjords. And the tundra.

And it's reminded me that I really should get around to writing up my 2018 trip. Here's a taster
(https://i.imgur.com/2t1dsLv.jpg)

Koen, by the way, hasn't stopped cycling. He spent several months last year riding north from Tierra del Fuego. The latest news is that he's planning to spend some months in Australia. His blog. (https://bike-a-way.com/)
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: Cudzoziemiec on January 10, 2019, 11:42:43 am
...as I’d ridden only about 20km that day and the sun was shining, and it wouldn't get dark for several weeks,
I've been belatedly catching up on these reports. It's all very well written and gorgeously illustrated, but this phrase in particular made me laugh.
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: Salvatore on January 10, 2019, 03:10:00 pm
Another postscript

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.

Greenland Hill in 2016
(https://c4.staticflickr.com/1/746/31535348475_d9c04d8f61_z.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/Q3EUqK)


During the autumn following this tour, I attended a lecture at the National Archives in Kew about the lessons learned by the British Army in 1916 which were put into practice in 1917. At one point the speaker said, almost as an aside, that some trench maps were still wrong, and that Greenland Hill was marked in the wrong place on the maps.

So the ploughed field pictured above where I stopped and stood reverentially for a minute or so was just that - a ploughed field.

Uncle Harry in late 1916 (a photo which came to light recently)
(https://i.imgur.com/0AH3IZg.jpg)
Title: Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
Post by: mmmmartin on January 10, 2019, 03:50:59 pm
These posts show there's a lot more to cycle touring than simply touring by cycle.