Author Topic: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)  (Read 15121 times)

Salvatore

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Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
« Reply #25 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

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

Salvatore

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Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
« Reply #26 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.
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et avec John, excellent lecteur de road-book, on s'en est sortis sans erreur

Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
« Reply #27 on: January 13, 2017, 07:36:58 pm »
Fantastic report and absolutely brilliant photos. Scotland on steroids.

Sent from my SM-G930F using Tapatalk


Salvatore

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Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
« Reply #28 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.




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.


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.



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


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.



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.


Horn


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. 


Spot the droppings


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.



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.



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.




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.









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.









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.


Oriol emerges from the tunnel


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.



Stats for the road into Bodø:


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.


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

Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
« Reply #29 on: January 17, 2017, 09:58:30 am »
I am loving this

billplumtree

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Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
« Reply #30 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.

Torslanda

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Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
« Reply #31 on: January 17, 2017, 01:51:05 pm »
This is more than fabulous!

There's a book in there somewhere...
VELOMANCER

Well that's the more blunt way of putting it but as usual he's dead right.

Salvatore

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Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
« Reply #32 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.
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et avec John, excellent lecteur de road-book, on s'en est sortis sans erreur

Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
« Reply #33 on: January 17, 2017, 09:07:57 pm »
[F5]

Salvatore

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Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
« Reply #34 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.



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.


Leaving Bodø


Approaching Moskenes


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.






















They don’t want the roof of the bus shelter to blow away again.


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.


Nappstraumen Tunnel - 2013.08 [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.



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



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.



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.



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.








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



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.













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?).







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. 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.








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



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.


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





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.


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.



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



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.


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



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.





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 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.


Andreas





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.


The first tunnel of the day just after Gryllefjord


Another tunnel


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


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”


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.



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.



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

Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
« Reply #35 on: January 17, 2017, 09:50:26 pm »
[thankyou]

Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
« Reply #36 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:



Not fast & rarely furious

tweeting occasional in(s)anities as andrewxclark

billplumtree

  • Plumbing the well of gitness
Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
« Reply #37 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.

Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
« Reply #38 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!
<i>Marmite slave</i>

Auntie Helen

  • 6 Wheels in Germany
Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
« Reply #39 on: January 18, 2017, 03:09:30 pm »
This is such a wonderful read, thanks Salvatore  :thumbsup:
My blog on cycling in Germany and eating German cake – http://www.auntiehelen.co.uk


Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
« Reply #40 on: January 18, 2017, 03:11:24 pm »
Marvellous stuff.
Get a bicycle. You will never regret it, if you live- Mark Twain

Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
« Reply #41 on: January 19, 2017, 01:02:51 pm »
That bus shelter!

Salvatore

  • Джон Спунър
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Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
« Reply #42 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.
Quote
et avec John, excellent lecteur de road-book, on s'en est sortis sans erreur

Salvatore

  • Джон Спунър
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Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
« Reply #43 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]


18A_0336 by Andrew Clark, 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).
Quote
et avec John, excellent lecteur de road-book, on s'en est sortis sans erreur

Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
« Reply #44 on: January 20, 2017, 01:44:19 pm »
Fabulous. Thanks so much for taking the trouble to write this up.

Salvatore

  • Джон Спунър
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Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
« Reply #45 on: January 20, 2017, 03:46:38 pm »
The End of the Road




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.



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.







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.



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:



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.


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.


The ferry arrives at Lyngeidet.


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.









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



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.



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.







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.


Alteidet campsite …


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.


European route E6 is mine, all mine





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.




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.


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.






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...


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.




Reindeer grazing moss on the tundra just before I stopped.


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


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.







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
  • The most northerly point of the European or Norwegian mainland, because it isn't mainland.
  • It isn't even the most northerly point on the island of Magerøya
  • The most northerly bit of Norway. Svalbard is much further north.
So what is it which makes it a destination? Later at Honningsvåg hostel we decided on 2 things. It is
  • The furthest point of Norway/Europe accessible by road (but only since the tunnel was opened in 1999)
  • The most northerly tourist trap in the world, with a well-stocked gift shop with a wide range of troll dolls and souvenir socks.

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.







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.




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.



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

mmmmartin

  • BPB 1/1: PBP 0/1
    • FNRttC
Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
« Reply #46 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.
Besides, it wouldn't be audacious if success were guaranteed.

Salvatore

  • Джон Спунър
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Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
« Reply #47 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?
Quote
et avec John, excellent lecteur de road-book, on s'en est sortis sans erreur

billplumtree

  • Plumbing the well of gitness
Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
« Reply #48 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.

mmmmartin

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Re: To 66°33′46.5″North (and beyond)
« Reply #49 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.
Besides, it wouldn't be audacious if success were guaranteed.