08 and 09 May – the Arctic Tundra

I forgot to include a few pics from Nordkapp on my last post, of the round carvings at the cape designed by children from several nationalities who gathered there to have them erected in the name of peace. They’re quite striking, although I did get slightly soggy feet getting to them.

Back to more current affairs. I slept solidly for about 10 hours in Olderfjord, a pretty solid rest after the hard cycle down from Honningsvag, and awoke to a brilliant view and sunny day.

Oldefjord - nice view to wake up to

Oldefjord – nice view to wake up to

After breakfast I packed up, paid up, and pedalled off, but not before pausing to gaze across the Norwegian ‘Ocean’, a beautiful vista. Today would be the last day I rode alongside it, as I head further South and inland towards Finland and Sweden.

Packed and ready to pedal to Lakselv

Packed and ready to pedal to Lakselv

Here’s another shot from the same place as Lobster couldn’t decide on the angle.

Packed and ready to pedal to Lakselv 2

Packed and ready to pedal to Lakselv 2

I intended to stop in Lakselv for the night, some 65 km away, and the day looked promising with the sun shining and the temperature going up. Unfortunately the wind that made yesterday difficult was back today, albeit not as strongly which came as a relief.

Coastline alongside E09

Coastline alongside E09

Ride down from Olderfjord pretty spectacular

Ride down from Olderfjord pretty spectacular

The ride down the E09 was pretty spectacular, with more trees gradually appearing, a few reindeer herds, and at one point a couple of moose in a paddock; I don’t think they were wild but could be wrong.

The long and winding E09

The long and winding E09

Handlebar view - not much room for anything else

Handlebar view – not much room for anything else

Two moose regarding me with suspicion

Two moose regarding me with suspicion

As well as the moose, more cars (not just Volvos!) were starting to appear, and more frequent signs of human habitation, not quite towns yet but getting there. I even passed a couple of the people on bicycles, not tourers but they gave a friendly wave which always makes you smile and gives a boost.

Nature reserve 1

Nature reserve 1

The Arctic tundra was still very much in evidence, however I did pass through a nature reserve where the river forms a delta into the sea, where much bird life was in evidence; mostly wildfowl but also a few buzzards soaring about.

Lakselv delta nature reserve

Lakselv delta nature reserve

Have I mentioned how handy it is to have a bike stand on this tour? I wouldn’t leave home without one now, so much easier!

How handy is a bike stand?!

How handy is a bike stand?!

The terrain was mostly gently undulating, with the occasional bigger hill. All easily manageable; my legs must be getting stronger. I passed a pen full of Huskies basking in the sunshine, they gathered to have a look at me but didn’t enter into a barking fit which was a pleasant change as far as dogs are concerned. Despite the headwind I made good time to Lakselv, amazingly being spotted by my stalkers from home on the town webcam as I rode in.

I resupplied at the Remo supermarket in Lakselv, and then decided to carry on to a campsite a bit further on, my legs still feeling pretty fresh. I had a small escort of kids on bikes as I left the town; I don’t think they’d seen a bike with so much luggage on before.

The next campsite was only 10km down the road, but it proved to be closed which was a little frustrating after diverting up a track for a few kilometres to find it. Still, it was a nice off road detour, and I passed a several butterflies flitting about, struggling against the wind slightly, as well as emerging wildflowers; it must be springtime! It definitely felt warmer, perhaps around 11 degrees centigrade, with a few cold patches when the sun went in.

Still feeling fit I decided not to go back to Lakselv, but to pedal on to Skoganvarre where the ACSI app reliably informed me there was definitely an open campsite. I rode on for another 20 kilometres, passing through a restricted army zone where no photos are allowed; a shame as some wonderful frozen lakes and pine forested mountains. I nodded to the bored guard on gate duty as I passed a barracks, he nodded back, smiling, clearly amused at the stupid cyclist slogging through the hills at this time of year.

I arrived at the campsite at about 17.30, having covered 95km which I’m pretty pleased with after 97km the day before. Thankfully the campsite was indeed open, and I was able to pitch my tent close to another frozen lake where people go fishing on the ice in winter.

Skoganvarre campsite - frozen lake thawing

Skoganvarre campsite – frozen lake thawing

The ice is thawing now, bringing the ice fishing season to an end, which means this campsite will close in a few days and not open again until June for the next batch of holiday makers; guess I got lucky. I chatted to a couple if Finns who have been coming here for years; apparently the fishing hasn’t been good this year, I hope it’s not a case of over-fishing like so many other areas of the world. It was great to talk to them and I’m constantly impressed at how good nearly everyone’s English is up here, can’t say the same of my Norwegian, although I have mastered ‘Takk’, just about.

Tent set up in Skoganvarre

Tent set up in Skoganvarre

The campsite was a little more expensive at 150 NOK for the night, but I did have use of a campsite kitchen, as well as a lovely hot shower which was most welcome. I spent the evening eating, not unusual, as well as planning the next few days ride and updating my blog. Oh, and I remembered to check the UK general election results; a conservative majority which came as a bit of a surprise, and a shame to see such a big Lib Dem collapse, perhaps not such a surprise though. I really haven’t missed all the social media furore and indignation.

Thanks to everyone following my tour so far, and for the comments whether they be on twitter, Facebook or here, helps keep me motivated; although that’s not too tricky given the scenery I’m cycling through.

I didn’t get such a good a night’s sleep in Skoganvarre, due to some of the other residents packing up and leaving in the very early hours of the morning, and not being at all quiet about it. Tent walls aren’t very sound proof, especially versus slamming doors and shouting. Anyway, I awoke to the sound of rain, and was somewhat reluctant to get up, so had breakfast in bed instead; bread, salami and banana, what a luxury!

Cloudy and raining in Skoganvarre

Cloudy and raining in Skoganvarre

Using a porch to shelter from the rain I packed up, and was soon on my way, waving goodbye to the campsite owner and hacking a couple of Ingress portals in range of the Wifi signal as I pedalled out; if you’re confused as to what Ingress is look it up, it’s a fun game to play, especially when you’re travelling, but data hungry so I’m not playing it much out here.

Packing up in a porch

Packing up in a porch

It was only a 50km ride to Karasjok, up an initial gradual 1000 foot climb to a plateau, then across and down to the municipal village. I opted for the yellow lenses in my glasses today, they make everything look happy.

Yellow lenses make things look happy

Yellow lenses make things look happy

Rainy day on the road

Rainy day on the road

Crossing the river Lakselv

Crossing the river Lakselv

Whilst the cycling was relatively easy, especially without the headwind of the last few days, it was pretty cold and wet. The scenery was impressive; Arctic tundra consisting of silver birch scrub pines, and more frozen lakes. I expect it looks starkly different and beautiful in the summer, but with a lot more insects of a biting nature.

My passage along the road was accompanied by the sound of cawing crows, honking geese, and other tweeting birds all waking up for the spring. I think I might have seen a Waxwing, but it was only flitting by and I not sure if they all migrate or not; I suspect all the geese I’ve seen and been honked at by are migratory.

Latterly I started to hear the sounds of bangs in the distance. I think there are a lot of hunters in Norway, as was evidenced by the two people dressed in snow camo heading off into the tundra dragging sleds behind them, complete with rifles; I wonder what they were hunting? Probably why there aren’t many bears or wolves left.

Road side map with bullet/shotgun pellet holes, a little concerning

Road side map with bullet/shotgun pellet holes, a little concerning

I eventually passed the source of the bangs – Karasjok shooting club by the looks of it.

What must be the Karasjok shooting club

What must be the Karasjok shooting club

The descent down into Karasjok was pretty fast and thus freezing. You get cold pretty quickly when you’re not pedalling and it’s damp, however it’s nice to get some speed up now and again. Karasjok has a cool coast of arms, 3 fires on a shield, representing the 3 ethnicities that live here; Sami, Norwegian and Kvens.

Coat of arms of Karasjok kommune

The Kvens are Finnish and Swedish peasants/fishermen who migrated to Northern Norway in the 18th and 19th centuries, and of whom I had no prior knowledge. I’d heard of the Sami, and Karasjok is where their parliament is based.

The Sami (Laplanders) are the indigenous people of Northern Europe, the Arctic  bits, and are found in Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Kola peninsula of Russia. They’re traditionally fishermen and sheep herders, as well as fur trappers, and of course nomadic reindeer herders; the Sami are the only people allowed to herd reindeer here. I’ve passed several touristy Sami spots so far, and seen a few in their cultural dress of red coats and dual pointed black hats, but haven’t had chance to get any photos yet; somehow seems a but crass.

I also spotted this sign; Norwegian zebra crossing signs are much cooler than UK ones.

Look cool whilst using this crossing

Look cool whilst using this crossing

I found the campsite and decided to opt for a cabin, which whilst a luxury at 500 NOK would be warm, allow me to dry my stuff, and would set me up for the long ride tomorrow; about 130km to the next campsite!

The cabin was very cosy with a nice view.

Cosy cabin in Karasjok

Cosy cabin in Karasjok

Room with a view

Room with a view

I feasted on noodles and cheese, followed later on by an expedition pack of minced beef hot-pot I’ve been lugging around with me for about 2 years, and which I need to use before it allegedly expires.

Finishing the evening watching some Bear Grylls ‘The Island’, using a VPN link to access 4 on demand from the Europe, very handy. I don’t think I’ll get many tips on how to survive the Arctic tundra from the TV show, entertaining though it is.

Early night now before tomorrow’s attempt at 130km (80 miles), I hope it’s not raining.

15 thoughts on “08 and 09 May – the Arctic Tundra

  1. Nick Paton

    Really enjoying your writing and photos. Also very well done on the trip so far.
    Particularly impressed that you’ve eaten an expedition hotpot. A certain ToekneeP of cycle festival fame has been particularly snooty over mine and even threatened to “barbeque” them, so feeling thoroughly vindicated in the dried victualling department 🙂

    Like

    Reply
  2. Simon cox

    A really great journey; the photos and writing are fantastic. I’m planning a similar trip next summer, and so am following your route carefully! Will you follow coastal route 17 from Bodo or stay on E6 to Trondheim?

    Like

    Reply
    1. SelfPropelled Post author

      Thanks Simon! I’m actually heading South, through a corner of Finland and then down through Sweden. I thought about going through all of Norway however will save that for another time. Heading to Lulea on the Swedish coast, then down from there, following some of the Eurovelo 7 route, but not religiously as there are a few other places I want to visit. I tend to make it up a bit as I go along!

      Like

      Reply
  3. Richard pink

    Looking fantastic! When do you hit the Swedish border? I will have a Swedish snaps to celebrate! When you do! Great stuff ! Keep a goin!

    Like

    Reply
  4. westonfront

    Now you have some experience of Norway, how expensive would you say the food is in the supermarkets vs. that in the UK? Also, do most of them take credit cards for payment?

    Like

    Reply
    1. SelfPropelled Post author

      Hi Will, I think they all take credit cards. I’ve been using my Caxton FX global traveller card so far – prepaid card. Works really well – no charges for using abroad or withdrawing cash from ATMs, just load it up as and when you need more money on it. Food in Norwegian supermarkets is more expensive – maybe 1.5 x the cost in the UK. I didn’t buy any alcohol, reckon that’s even more expensive,

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      1. westonfront

        Thanks James. That is both helpful and reassuring. We have a card similar to yours but based on MasterCard. Yours sounds better but it’s too late to apply now! T minus 2 days 🙂

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s