I rode out out of the Arctic Circle today. It felt like an achievement,I don’t know why. Perhaps the word Arctic has something to do with it.
66 degrees 33 minutes North of latitude, above which we have the Land of the Midnight Sun.
I haven’t seen darkness for three weeks now, and it’s amazing how quickly you become used to it. The following uninspiring photograph was taken out of my tent at 2.45 am this morning. The sun just goes around in a big circle and never dips below the horizon.
The Earth has by now tilted its maximum of 23 and a half degrees to the South. Soon slowly it will come back up and give us the seasons and complete darkness at the high latitudes. It’s an incredible thing.
Even now there is still snow on the Arctic Circle line, a reminder that in these regions Winter is never far away.
Which reminds me, I must look South, and continue my slow journey. Progress is being made, even if at times I feel like an ant at the top of a Hot Air balloon!
After one last look back at the Lofotens from the ferry, our arrival in Bodo is something of a culture shock. It’s a busy, and quite hectic port town with an airport supporting civil and military aircraft movements. Pleasant none the less.
I thought I would describe a typical day on the road for me if there is such a thing. Routines seem to evolve whether you wish them to or not!
I usually crawl out of my tiny tent about seven, but it is invariably nine before I am ready for the road. I still haven’t worked out why this is. One of life’s mysteries.
The first hour of riding is usually difficult even if the terrain is flat. It takes time for muscles to warm up and the brain to engage, but if the weather is bright and sunny as it was this morning, the world takes on a different complexion. I am constantly distracted by a multitude of things. Passing over rivers I can’t resist hanging over the rail to look for fish in the clear water. There are endless varieties of wooden cabins up here that require inspection and comparison. Wildlife opportunities present themselves constantly, and every mile presents a photo possibility.
Needless to say, this activity is not great for the kilometer count,as enjoyable as it is. I usually search for a coffee stop before mid morning, though invariably there are none to be found. Lunch is taken in a bus shelter if I can find one, as they prove wonderful wind breaks. Almost always I dine alone at these venues.
By three thirty I start to look for the possibility of an overnight stopping place. The campsites seem to be cheaper the further south I come, and the possibility of a hot shower usually proves too much of a temptation. Wifi is of course another consideration, though obviously not essential.
I have developed a routine once I stop because I don’t have to think too much! Tonight there are no other travellers to communicate with, though often there are and chatting can pass the evening hours. Useful information is exchanged in a friendly and Democratic manner.
This leads me nicely into my next topic.
You do indeed meet some remarkable people travelling. Martha from Paris I met in the Lofotens And we cycled together for a few days. She had come all the way from Paris, up through Finland to Nordkapp and was now working her way back down again. Very pragmatic about life.
The young German family had been on the road for over two years in a campervan with their their young daughter. Very pleasant people, and entirely relaxed by the whole process; and then there was Bert the American guy who has travelled all over the World by bicycle, including three crossings of America. He has an amazing way of eating bread and jam. He tips the jam on the end of the loaf and then eats it down to a level platform before repeating the process several times. He must need the carbohydrate, and it saves on washing up.
All very ordinary people who have done quite remarkable things. They make me feel quite humble.
Setting off yesterday was decidedly cold as the thermometer indicates, with a wind whose direction left you in no mind as to its source. Having turned a headland though, the added push soon has you down towards the end of the Islands.
The cod drying racks seem to become more prevalent here, but at least I now know what happens to the heads: Nigeria imports them and adds peanuts and hot peppers to make a ‘ lively’ stew. Probably too lively for me.
The scenery becomes more dramatic still with near vertical rock faces plunging into the water, and I’m told the the depth soon becomes considerable.
I stay for two nights at Moskenes, just short of the end.From here the ferry will take me to Bodo in the morning. This proves another worthy decision. Just after breakfast and gazing idly out to sea, I notice six fins and the binoculars confirm them as Killer Whales-not 200 metres offshore. What luck! As I walk the 5 kilometers to A, another Sea Eagle glides in to patrol the rock faces behind me. Two major predators within an hour.
The E10 ends at A. The place has a wonderful tranquility about it, and I spend a few hours on the sheltered rocks gazing down the rest of the island chain as they become fainter and fainter.
So that was the Lofotens, with many memories for me. Cuckoos singing day and night, sheep bells sending you to sleep, and above all the solitude of the place, regardless of tourists such as myself being there.
That book with the strange pages had offered up its promises. The last word must be with two locals though, (deceased ).
Sometimes a last minute decision can bring rich rewards. It could also leave you with regrets. Happily today the former was the case for me as I turned left off the main E10 road and ventured along the Southern coast. This is probably one of the most beautiful roads I have ever ridden on a bike, and very light on traffic. It twists and turns across low lying moorland and dips into the heads of bays with more pure white sand, and every corner turned brings new views of endless Islands and headlands. Quite mesmeric.
No picture can do it justice; It’s difficult to know where to look next,and once or twice the bike almost ended up in the ditch( I seem to be attracted to ditches of late).
To find a decent tearoom in Sussex, England when you are cycling can be a challenge sometimes, strangely enough. I had not even remotely considered the possibility on the Lofotens. Imagine my surprise, when rounding a bend I come across Rebecca’s, in the middle of nowhere. It seemed like a mirage, but the other cyclists seemed to be sampling its pleasures: roadies, day cyclists and tourers like myself. There’s nothing quite like a good enigma.
All this tearoom visiting and staring at the landscape left me with few kilometers under my belt today , and my intention of wild camping came to nought. No matter, there’s always tomorrow. I end the day at Brustranda Camping, where the kitchen yields another example of Norwegian dried fish decoration. I quite like them.
After another night sleeping in a cosy cabin with a very efficient heater, I prepare to head Southwest and discover what these Islands are really like.
My near neighbours are French and are equipped with an incredible bicycle, obviously seasoned travellers. They make me feel an amateur at this game, and they are long gone before I begin packing my bike.
My immediate impression as I head off down the valley is that this place really does feel different to mainland Norway. Perhaps it’s just because you know these massive lumps of rock are essentially rearing up out of the sea without a surrounding landmass. There’s a feeling of tranquility, and if you stop the bike and wait for any passing traffic to disappear, there is absolute quiet apart from the odd birdcall or sheep’s bell. It’s easy to think that you’ve ridden into a film set, but I suppose that’s our 21st Century visual conditioning!
Another striking aspect is the clarity of the water, both in the sea and the rivers. The colours could be Mediterranean (though I would need a massive incentive to swim in it) There is little or no flotsam, and the beaches that I have so far seen are beautifully clean white sand.
I stop tonight just outside the fishing village of Svolvaer, still important for this industry by the look of the boats there, and for whichever Norwegian God deals with this department, he is on my side, because the sun is out and the next few days look promising. After reprovisioning in the morning, I may well head off to some remote spot, pitch the tent, and light a fire. I fancy a whole day doing nothing, but then I always was good at that. Care to join me?
When I was a youngster and laid up at home with Chickenpox, my mother bought me a lavishly illustrated travel/ adventure book to take my mind off the red lumps. The pages had a most unusual smell I remember, but that’s an aside. Apart from the usual offering of remote tribes in the South American jungle, there was a section on the Lofoten Islands. For some reason this place fascinated me and I remember thinking that one day I would visit it. Over half a Century later I’m here.
Good weather is vital to see them in all their glory, so I shall amble down their length, as the forecast is improving.
I’m camping tonight beside a barn next to the Sandtorgholmen Hotel, a very historic place. I have a feeling these Islands have much to offer, inspired by those strange pages all those years ago.
There is a term in cycling known as ‘ cycling squares’. Mentally and physically
the day is difficult and if the weather is against you, as it was today, you just have to accept that the riding will be hard work. Of course the adverse can be true, and when it is, it’s wonderful.
Having said this, I made some kilometers today by virtue of the fact that campsites disappeared into the ether, and needing a shower I was forced to carry on. I finally threw caution to the wind and stayed in a small hotel in Bogen on the E10, the road to Lofoten. I can see them from here and by the end of tomorrow I should be there. Exciting.