That was a good night’s sleep, lovely and warm in my cabin. I think the campsite lady believes I’m a bit mad for coming here now rather than in summer, however despite the cold and rain I was smiling when I arrived yesterday, and was still smiling in the morning, which she seemed impressed by. At least I don’t get plagued by mosquitos and midges at this time of year.
I was up in good time to tackle the 130km to Kautokeino, my longest ride of the tour yet. I was slightly nervous due to the hills, continuing headwind, and chilly weather. This part of Scandinavia can be pretty unforgiving if you’re not prepared for it. Only one thing for it really, thumbs up and off we go; I’ve worked out how to use the timer on my camera, but still need to work on the angles!
Anyway, off I pedalled in the drizzle, keen to be on my way to the Artic Mobil campsite at the other end of the ride, as well as the Remo supermarket in the town, or village, or whatever it turned out to be. The road wound through pine forested hills next to a big river; the Karasjokka followed by the Jiesjokka I think.
I started passing quite a few piles of logs by the roadside, awaiting pick up to one sawmill or another. Logging must be a key industry here, especially with all the log built houses, however none of the hills look too denuded of trees so seems to be well managed.
The rain stopped after a couple of hours, bonus, and fueled by bread, salami and banana from breakfast I made good time over the hills, crossing a fast flowing and very cold looking river as the sun came out.
I soon climbed out of the pine forests and back into Arctic tundra, passing the now familiar scenes of frozen lakes and scrubby silver birch. I was pretty happy to see a sign saying only another 70km to Kautokeino.
Taking that photo did earn me a honk from a passing car, one of the few I’d seen in the last hour that snuck up on me. Undeterred I cycled on, stopping to top up energy levels next to…another frozen lake.
It was another double thumbs up moment, still haven’t got the angle right.
The E92 eventually turned into the E93, amongst a sudden convergence of speeding lorries which was slightly alarming. The E92 had been pretty quiet, however E93 definitely saw an increase in traffic levels with HGVs going from North to South and vice-versa. I didn’t see any moose, despite there being warming signs about them, but I did spot some more reindeer, which I duly herded off the road.
The whole landscape is criss-crossed with snow mobile tracks, which are especially visible on the frozen lakes. I saw one snow mobile speeding across a lake which looked to be thawing rather rapidly; rather them than me.
Other than the reindeer there was plenty of bird life to listen to, as well as catch glimpses of as I pedalled along. At one point I think I saw an owl, it was definitely owl shaped; I guess they have the hunt when it’s light here. I also saw an eagle, not sure what sort, as well as more geese and numerous smaller birds, some quite colourful but all to quick to catch on film.
The road continued on like this.
And in a similar fashion like this.
I may have been getting a bit blaze about the stunning landscape at this stage, however I’d seen a lot of the same for a while now and was quite looking forward to a town. I’d passed a few small villages nestled on hillsides, but nothing of any significant size. It makes me wonder what people do to survive/earn a living up here; there must be forestry, maybe mining, and tourism.
After a lot of ups and downs I eventually made Kautokeino after 9 hours and 15 minutes in the saddle, covering 129km. I was tired by the time I reached the Arctic Mobil campsite due to all the hills, as well as the headwind, however the campsite owner, a jovial Norwegian lady with only limited English, gave me the use of the Sami tipi for the night which buoyed my spirits, and cheap at 100 NOK. One downside; the shower, which cost 10 NOK, was cold, not what you want after a hard day’s riding.
Feeling rather tired I decamped to the campsite kitchen to cook up some noodles and drink peppermint tea whilst I planned the next few days. Sometimes I really miss coffee but don’t drink it anymore due to migraines, somehow peppermint tea just doesn’t quite do it. I should have brought some whisky, that would help, haven’t had a drink since arriving in Scandinavia; a bit odd but not missing it at the moment. After a few hours I retired for the night, but not before putting on my thermals and a few layers as the temperature was dropping to freezing, as evidenced by the snow getting more crunchy. The tipi, whilst comfy, was a little drafty, it having a hole for the smoke to go out of; as recompense it did have a divan type thing to sleep on.
I slept extremely well that night, waking up a bit late (08:15) but refreshed, and to sunshine, ready for the day ahead. In the back of my mind I was considering whether I could pedal out of Norway, all the way through Finland, and into Sweden in 1 day. I didn’t think I could make it, and there looked to be campsite and wild camping options along the way, but I decided to keep an open mind; 3 countries in 1 day would be an achievement, and I like setting myself challenges to liven things up.
After breakfast and more peppermint tea I pedalled to the supermarket for supplies, bidding the jolly landlady goodbye with a wave. I splurged out in chocolate and expensive salami, needing to use up some NOK.
I found a pastry, it was pretty nice, and gave me a good boost for the ride ahead.
I rode down the E93 to the border with Finland, keeping an eye out for moose again.
I didn’t see any, but passed lots more tundra and frozen lakes.
I pedalled through the border via the ‘Nothing to declare’ channel, passing some lorries stopped at customs that must have been transporting fish; very smelly. Goodbye Norway, hello Finland.
So, on into Finland, my 3rd country of the tour, and my first impressions were that it wasn’t a lot different to Norway; more reindeer for example.
The road through Lapland took me down to Enontekio where I thought I might find a campsite, even if it was a bit soon to stop; I didn’t, so I carried on toward Palojoensuu. Some of the place names are quite convoluted so apologies for any typos.
I rode through part of a national park, a sign telling me to watch out for all sorts of wildlife including Brown Bears, Pine Martens, Otters and Lynx; I didn’t see any of these but again birds were in abundance; Snow Buntings, Ptarmigan (heard not seen), Grouse, Capercaillie and birds of prey.
I passed through fells, forest and mires, keeping to the road of course. I thought this might be a good place to camp, until a lorry turned up and looked intent on staying for a while, with the engine running.
There were lots of frozen lakes again, but there seemed to be more thawing going on in Finland.
Pedalling through pines and Silver Birch the road was a lot flatter and made for easier riding than the last few days. I could hear the sounds of running water everywhere, mixed with birdsong, with the occasional reindeer or group thereof startling as I rode by. It was as if the land was waking up from being asleep all winter.
There was so much running water from all the snow melt, and all of it very brown, leaving everywhere very damp and not very suitable for stopping to camp. I made it to Palojoensuu and guess what, couldn’t find a campsite despite there being one marked on the map; maybe it just hadn’t opened for the season yet. I cycled on keeping my eyes peeled for a suitable spot out of sight of the road, but everywhere was either snowbound, or in one instance had a large ant’s nest inconveniently positioned; there are quite a lot of large ant’s nests in Scandinavia, all waking up, reckon it’s one mega colony.
After a bit of a climb I finally made Kaaresuvanto about 21:30, then crossed over the bridge and into Sweden and Karesuando. I’d done it, 3 countries in 1 day!
There was no activity on the border, and I pedalled straight through following the signs to a campsite, which turned out to be closed, or completely absent of anybody anyway. Without realising it I’d gained an hour somewhere along the line, but after 146 km I was too tired to pedal any further, so opted to pitch my tent anyway and pay if anyone turned up, which they didn’t, so a free night’s stealth camping for me, wahey!
After several rounds of cheese and salami sandwiches I turned in for the night, listening to the sounds of birds singing, or in some cases just squawking. Pretty awesome day I thought, as I drifted off to sleep.
No sooner had I fallen asleep than I heard my alarm go off, at 06.00; I’d slept pretty well again. To be honest I think it was more the bird song that woke me up; so many birds singing, and new calls I haven’t heard before. Over breakfast I watched a hawk getting mobbed by two very persistent Magpies, who eventually forced it to land in a tree.
My phone said it was 06.00, however I think it might have actually been 05.00, as the time kept changing as I crossed the border and further into Sweden, it was a bit confusing but didn’t really matter.
No-one had turned up overnight, and there was no number to phone, so I packed and pedalled off from my stealth camp at about 07.00, or could have been 06.00. Unfortunately there was nowhere to refill my water bottles but I still had one and half left.
I rode through the village of Karesuando, which still looked mostly asleep aside from one other cyclist pedalling the other way, who glanced at me rather confusedly; I gave them a wave anyway.
The road took me through pine forested countryside, with little in the way of hills or any kind of wind, however it was quite cold and overcast, despite the sunshine earlier; at least the rain held off.
I pedalled past the village of Narva, out on an island.
The scenery didn’t really vary very much, and there wasn’t much in the way of traffic. A few cars gave me a wave, as did a few lorries (mostly Post Nord Logistics), and the one police car I’ve seen all tour flashed their lights at me and gave me a thumbs up, all nice and encouraging; although I hoped they weren’t just trying to warn me of an impending hurricane or snow storm.
I could go 30 minutes to an hour without seeing another vehicle, certainly no other cyclists, lots of thinking time. Lobster had to give me a motivational talk at one point.
You can start wondering what on earth you think you’re doing, riding all the way out here, on your own, in these conditions? Why not do what ‘normal’ people do and take a trip to New York, or the Maldives? Why set yourself challenges like this?
I’m not sure I completely know the answer to these questions, however I know it’s to do at least partly with continuing to try to discover myself, and to give myself time to mull things over and perhaps decide on a future direction. I know I enjoy setting myself a challenge and seeing just what my limits are. I’m also a strong believer that it’s important to get out of your comfort zone from time to time, in order to grow as a person and experience the joy of new things, and grow in confidence. Then there’s just the joy of travelling, seeing new places and meeting new people. I could prattle on for ages about this, however in summary I’d recommend everyone, should the opportunity arise, take some time out and challenge yourself once in a while; see what happens.
I arrived in Vitangi, my destination for the day, at about 12.30, a bit earlier than expected due to the time zone change thing. I had a quick look around, and was hailed by a lady who’d seen me cycle out of Karesuando earlier; she congratulated me on a quick ride – 110km all in about 6 hours.
The town hosts a population of about 800 people, according to a sign, and lies to the South of the lake, the campsite being on the North side. You have to cross a bridge to reach it. The ice on the lake has nearly all melted, in contrast to most of the lakes I’ve passed to date.
After pedalling about a bit I cycled back over the bridge to the campsite, which was as deserted as the one from last night. It did however have open toilets, shower, and a kitchen room, with power and running water. I tried calling the number at reception but there was no answer, so I pitched up anyway, and sat out enjoying the sun which had come out in force, warming things up nicely, and drying a few clothes I washed through.
Noodles were on the menu again, with cheese and Tabasco, hasn’t got boring yet.
I thought I saw a furry rodent face scuttle pass at one point, through the grass, but might have imagined it. There was certainly a lot of bird life about again, and I nodded off for a while listening to them all.
Despite enjoying the solitude I was quite looking forward to getting to more populated areas again, where I might meet a few more people. It’s great being out in the ‘wilderness’ and I love the challenges it brings, however it can get a bit samey.
As if on cue a camper van turned up with a couple from Switzerland, and one of them was a cycle tourer being driven up to Nordkapp by his wife, Astrid, to start his own tour! Fredy, 65 and just retired, intends to cycle back down to Switzerland and then, if all goes according to plan, on to South Africa. He’s taking a slightly different route to me, via Russia and Estonia, and said it was a bit of nightmare securing the Russian visa.
What’s more, he’s doing it with his dog Dimitri, in a trailer! And Dimitri isn’t exactly small.
This is the second person I’ve met this year cycle touring with their dog. The first was Maggie Scorer, who is currently cycling around the coast of Britain, a tour that I completed in 2013, with her Dog Oscar – http://dogontour.co.uk . Oscar isn’t very small either, but looks like he’s loving it from the pictures.
It was great chatting with Fredy for the evening, hearing about his plans and comparing notes. He felt like he had to do something now he’s retired, and would regret it if he didn’t, and now he’s doing it, brilliant. His website is here: http://www.sasbybike.ch (there might be an English version coming soon). He’s a rotary club member, which I assume is the same organisation as in the UK, and is raising money for charity – school in Africa. Fredy also has a passion for birds and brought me up-to-speed on the various species I was likely to see, or that I’d already seen.
I wish I could speak more foreign languages. Everyone I’ve met so far has at least adequate English, whereas I only have adequate French as well as English, and a smattering of words in other languages. Hopefully I’ll pick up some more on this tour.
Needless to say it was great to meet a fellow tourer, my first since reaching mainland Europe, and I hope to bump into Fredy and Dimitri on the road somewhere in the future; he has some great plans, and Astrid is very supportive in driving him all the way up here. The chance meeting gave me the boost I needed, and I retired to my tent after a lovely evening, falling asleep quickly after a last cup of peppermint tea.
Tune in next time to hear about my encounter with a varmint – remember that furry rodent face I thought I saw…
Does anyone want to see my ride statistics/map? I can post links to them on the Garmin website if so, I just keep forgetting.
Also, I’m in Gallivare now, and still 100km in the Arctic Circle, should make it out tomorrow. Need to tot up my total km too.