Tag Archives: Honningsvag

06 and 07 May 2015 – Nordkapp and heading South

Right, where to begin? It’s been an exciting few days and I’ve covered quite a few kilometres; I’ve decided to work in kilometres now, seeing as I’m in Europe and all that. I hear there’s also been an election in the UK, jolly good, carry on, I think I’ll stay in mainland Europe for a few more months until things calm down.

I’d turned up the previous night in the wind and rain somewhat nervous about the conditions for the ride ahead, however I awoke in the Hostel Vandrerhjem with sunshine pouring through the curtains; this was about 3am, it doesn’t stay dark for very long at this time of year.

Vandrerhjem Hostel

Vandrerhjem Hostel

The friendly landlady gave me a dorm room to myself, and a buffet breakfast was supplied each morning, setting me up for a good days cycling. You have use of a communal kitchen, as well as showers, and a washing machine. It costs 350 NOK (Norwegian Krone) a night, which bearing in mind Scandinavia is expensive is good value for money. I’m using a prepaid Travel Card on this tour (Caxton FX), which I load up with the currency I want from my current account, then use abroad as required; no charge for withdrawing from ATMs and much better than using my debit or credit cards from an exchange rate and fees point of view. Check out the Caxton FX Global Traveller card if you’re thinking about using a prepaid card abroad, I reckon it’s one of the better ones, Caxton being its own foreign exchange house.

I’m going to try a new approach to this post, using mainly pictures with minimal words, for two reasons really; 1 because I don’t think most people want to read a version of war and peace each time I post something, and 2 it’ll also be a lot quicker for me, touch wood. I haven’t edited any of these photos yet, again to save time which I need to spend on planning. This may or may not work, but we’ll see how it goes. See it already isn’t working because I’m typing drivel.

I set off about 09.00 and headed down to the tourist information, about 2km south from the hostel.

Honningsvag Harbour

Honningsvag Harbour

There was a troll, or maybe it’s a gnome, they seem interchangeable in some places. It was also pretty cloudy and ominous looking; the sky, not the troll/gnome.

Troll, or maybe a Gnome

Troll, or maybe a Gnome

Troll and me - he seemed like a friendly chap

Troll and me – he seemed like a friendly chap

Can’t remember what the St. Bernard was about. Probably a harbour master’s dog from an earlier epoch.

St. Bernard statue

St. Bernard statue

Having checked at the tourist information that the road was indeed open, and having a conversation about wild flowers, I started pedalling North towards Nordkapp. It’s about 41 miles there and back, going up a total of 1,548m, quite slowly at many points. Here’s a link to my ride: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/766943093

Almost immediately it started get hilly, or rather, mountainous.

Refuge hut, halfway up first mountain

Refuge hut, halfway up first mountain

A strong cross wind attempted to blow me off course several times, mostly into the snow, as the road wound up the mountain.

Road stretching up mountain

Road stretching up mountain

There were lots of scenes like his.

Road to Nordkapp, pretty snowy

Road to Nordkapp, pretty snowy

And this.

Frozen lake on way to Nordkapp

Frozen lake on way to Nordkapp

The strong wind made it chilly, but at least it was mostly behind me on the way there, mostly, the road does twist around a fair bit. At one point I heard hooves crunching in the snow off to my right and saw a herd of reindeer making their way through the rocky scree parallel to me. I hadn’t expected to see them, very exciting.

Reindeer herd

Reindeer herd

I did make take a video of them, but haven’t worked out how to deal with that yet, a task for another day, so here’s another pic to compensate. Cycling here at this time of year is obviously just a silly idea, a jolly coach driver affirmed as much a little later the same day.

Reindeer herd 2

Reindeer herd 2

After a couple of hours I made it to Nordkapp, through some pretty awesome but bleak scenery, meeting hardly anyone else on the road, and certainly no other cyclists.

Nordkapp monument 1

Nordkapp monument 1

Nordkapp is the northernmost point of Europe accessible by road, and not actually the northernmost point, which causes some arguments apparently. It’s a fitting place to start or end a tour, and is the starting point to Eurvelo 1, the cycle route that runs all the way to to Italy.

Eurovelo 1 marker stone

Eurovelo 1 marker stone

I spent a couple of hours at the visitor centre, entry for which I got at student rates because I was on a bike; should be free after pedalling over those mountains!

Nordkapp visitor centre, or Bond evil villain secret base?

Nordkapp visitor centre, or Bond evil villain secret base?

There’s a monument erected in the 19th century by King Oscar II marking Nordkapp as very much part of Norway. It’s very monumenty.

Monument erected by King Oscar II

Monument erected by King Oscar II

I paused for several minutes near the Nordkapp globe like monument, for a few selfies and pictures of my bike, just to prove I made it, and because I wanted to get a picture of the Cycle Tour Festival bottle in this far flung location.

Nordkapp - Smaug made it - that's the name of my bike, from Oxford Bike Works

Nordkapp – Smaug made it – that’s the name of my bike, from Oxford Bike Works

Nordkapp - Cycle Tour Fest bottle, and a travelling lobster

Nordkapp – Cycle Tour Fest bottle, and a travelling lobster

Nordkapp - view West

Nordkapp – view West

Nordkapp - view East

Nordkapp – view East

Nordkapp monument again - are you bored yet?

Nordkapp monument again – are you bored yet?

It was pretty blustery outside, so I was glad of my polartec Buff; did an admiral job keeping my head warm over the last few days and fits under my cycle helmet snugly.

Me at Nordkapp

Me at Nordkapp

During my tromping about outside I was spotted on the webcam by folks at home, who now appear to be successfully stalking me by various Norwegian webcams; I think there might be a job in MI6 for one or two of them.

I retreated inside in need of a warming brew, lobster helped.

Hot chocolate required

Hot chocolate required

There were a lot of trolls knocking about the visitor centre, here are a selection, all seem pretty friendly but maybe that’s just their tourist face.

There were several layers to the visitor centre, making it an ideal Bond villain base. Features included a cave of lights, which wasn’t overly impressive, a peaceful chapel, and rather bizarrely a Thai museum.

Chapel - peaceful spot

Chapel – peaceful spot

Apparently King Chualalonkorn of Thailand visited and has his name carved in the rock at the Cape.

Thai museum

Thai museum

There was also a stuffed sea bird exhibit, a cinema where I didn’t stop to watch the film because several coach loads of tourists turned up, and a museum detailing the sea battle off the cape in the second world war. The latter sounded pretty dramatic with the sinking of a German battleship with nearly all hands.

Having done Nordkapp, I was pretty excited to be starting my tour in the Arctic Circle, and got back on my bike to pedal to Honningsvag and the hostel. It was amazing to think about all the countries, places and faces that await me on this tour; inspirational place.

Excited to start tour

Excited to start tour

This was easier said than done, as the wind had got a lot stronger and was now in my face (about 25mph reducing speed to 3mph at times). It was really hard work, aside from a few downhill stretches where I just had to be careful not to get blown of course. Needless to say the air turned blue a few times; many cyclists will empathise with this, it becomes personal versus the wind.

Nice downhill stretch

Nice downhill stretch

It took about 3.5 hours to get back, as opposed to the two to get there over the same hills and distance. I was somewhat relieved to make it back to the hostel, after picking up some supplies at the local supermarket – Remo.

After a warming shower and a lot of pasta I settled into an evening of route planning, ably assisted by a travelling lobster and chocolate milk; very happy they have chocolate milk in Norway. I’m also using the ACSI app to find campsites, which is proving quite handy so far.

Lobster helping with route planning

Lobster helping with route planning

I awoke the next day surprisingly non achy, and after a large breakfast courtesy of the hostel packed up and pedalled off to Olderfjord. This was a 97km ride through several tunnels and into a strong headwind again, for most of the day. Not a lot to report other than hard cycling, through arctic tundra, however the tunnels made things novel.

Packed and ready to pedal

Packed and ready to pedal

The first tunnel was from Honningsvag through the mountain, it felt like entering the mines of Moria.

Honningsvag tunnel entrance

Honningsvag tunnel entrance

The tunnel was fairly flat, and went on for about 5km.

Honningsvag tunnel 2

Honningsvag tunnel 2

The echoes were fairly dramatic, and I enjoyed making Orc noises, as well as singing a few songs to speed me along.

Honningsvag tunnel 3

Honningsvag tunnel 3

A few cars passed me, and one lorry, they all sounded very loud. I made it to the other end, where the road continues to follow the coast past the occasional fishing village, and not much else.

Road follows the coast south

Road follows the coast south

I soon got to the next tunnel, under the sea to the mainland. This was a more challenging affair descending for 3.5km before ascending 3.5km to the other side.

Nordkapp tunnel entrance

Nordkapp tunnel entrance

Nordkapp tunnel - down into the depths

Nordkapp tunnel – down into the depths

It was very hard work pedalling up to the surface, however thankfully I wasn’t chased by any Balrogs, Trolls, Orc or Goblins, just the occasional car.

Nordkapp tunnel - phew made it out

Nordkapp tunnel – phew made it out

On I pedalled, into the headwind.

Handlebar view

Handlebar view

Stark scenery in places

Stark scenery in places, but dramatic

I passed lots of interesting rock, which is probably fascinating if you’re into geology.

Rock strata - is this metamorphic rock?

Rock strata – is this metamorphic rock?

The road continues to undulate around the coast, and I continued to shout at the wind, to little avail, passing the occasional herd of reindeer,  a few startled crows, and finally the first trees of my trip, a veritable mini Lothlorien.

Road following the cliffs

Road following the cliffs

Mini Lothlorien

Mini Lothlorien

I made to Olderfjord after a 7 hour cycle, at about 17.30, to be greeted at the campsite by more trolls.

Olderfjord campsite troll guards

Olderfjord campsite troll guards

I had to call the campsite to book in, which was a bit annoying as I’m trying not to use my phone to save on money; costs me £3.00 a day to use my phone abroad, chargeable only when I use it during a given day, but will get expensive if I persist.

Satisfied I’d found a sheltered spot mostly out of the wind I pitched my tent, cooked up a vast amount of noodles, then promptly feel asleep for a solid 10 hours. I’m happy to report I was plenty warm enough in my sleeping bag and down jacket.

Unpacked and tent set up, a room with a view

Unpacked and tent set up, a room with a view

Wonderful view of the Norwegian 'Ocean'

Wonderful view of the Norwegian ‘Ocean’

One other thing to report; my SP Dynamo is working brilliantly for charging my GPS and phone. Much easier than the PowerMonkey solar charger which I have as a back-up. Actually the solar charger would no doubt work well here given it’s not dark very much.

I was going to try and type up today’s ride too, however it’s late and I ought to get a good night’s kip before tomorrow’s ride; a short one of about 50km got Karasjok. I’ll blog again from there hopefully, if I make it up the big hill.

If you’re enjoying my blog please consider donating to the Big C, a Norfolk based cancer charity very close to my heart. Every little helps and keeps me motivated in those headwinds and over those hills. You can donate here via my Virgin Money Giving page here: www.virginmoneygiving.com/james

From Cycle Touring Fest to the Arctic Circle

The Cycle Touring Festival in Clitheroe wrapped up on Sunday afternoon, after a brilliant weekend. About 200 people attended, including a broad range of guest speakers and experts. It was fantastic to meet so many like-minded individuals, most of whom have completed one or more tour by bicycle, with several having been on more epic round the world or one continent rides, and a few just planning their first odyssey.

Closing moments at Cycle Touring Fest - great bunch of people

Closing moments at Cycle Touring Fest – great bunch of people

There were talks from individuals or couples on their rides, including touring South America and the Andes, Asia, Africa, USA and Alaska, Canada, the Middle East, Australia, as well as more locally in the UK and Europe. Some of the feats of endurance, as well as the commitment shown, and ability to survive and adapt to any environment or culture were frankly astounding, as well as hugely inspiring. I’m not sure I’d have the guts to pedal the length of Africa, or some of the high altitude routes n the Andes, but I guess it’s all about taking things one step at a time and building up your experience. Hats off to the likes of the Laura and Tim Moss, McNeils on Wheels, Tom Allen, Tom Bruce, Emily Chappell, Helen Lloyd, Anna Hughes, Kev Shannon, Stephen Lord; this list could go on for some time, however needless to say there were lots of very cool people there.

As well as hearing about so many amazing adventure by bike, I was able to pick up lots of useful advice and top tips for my forthcoming tour, and any future tours in Europe and beyond. There were talks on equipment, picking a touring bike and bike maintenance, surviving extreme environments, touring as a man or a women, preparing psychologically, communicating your trip and writing for magazines (thanks for the latter Ruth and Scot), to name but a few topics, all in a friendly and inclusive environment. Needless to say I have come away feeling a lot more confident and reassured about my forthcoming ride, as well as with the knowledge that if I need it there’s an amazing support group there I can get in touch with, if I get stuck and need more advice. I feel like I’ve made lots of new friends for life, as well as had the opportunity to meet up with folks like Anna Hughes, and Tony and Gill Pearson who I’ve only communicated with over the internet up until now. Anna has just published her book East, Sleep, Cycle, on her tour around the coast of Britain, well worth a read.

Eat, Sleep, Cycle - Anna Hughes

Eat, Sleep, Cycle – Anna Hughes

Available on Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Eat-Sleep-Cycle-Around-Britain/dp/1849536872/

I completed the same tour, albeit slightly different route as I decided to include a few islands, in 2013; rather than go for adventures in far flung lands it can be just as exciting and rewarding, and at times just as extreme, to explore what’s on your own doorstep. You can read about my own ride around the  coast of Britain, and check out the route I took, via my Bike around Britain website – www.bikearoundbritain.com

I could continue to wax lyrical about the event, however if you’re interested it’s probably best just to sign up for next year’s and go along yourself, certainly worthwhile if you’re thinking about cycle touring and want to learn stuff, meet people, and realise it’s not so strange a thing to want to do. Many thanks to Laura, Tim and the whole team for organising and running it. Who knows, maybe next year I’ll be able to give a talk on my own experiences whilst cycling from Norway to Spain to Istanbul?

Oh, and they had a bar, always handy, Saturday night partying left me somewhat delicate first thing Sunday morning. Probably wasn’t the only one though…

The illustrious Kev Shannon - he punched a wolf you know

The illustrious Kev Shannon – he punched a wolf you know

Kev cycled around Europe a few years ago, down to Istanbul; you’ll have to ask him about the wolf punching incident, pretty terrifying.

Sidenote: I’m typing this up flying North over Norway, over stunning landscapes full of snow covered mountains, wooded valleys and lakes, can’t wait to get on the ground!

Flying to Tromso - stunning scenery

Flying to Tromso – stunning scenery

At the end of the festival they gave those of use departing on tour a bit of a send off, including cake which is always a win, so I’ve really started on a high, thanks again Laura! To round things off, and as I was staying over until Monday morning, Tony, Gill and several others including myself headed to a local pub in Waddington (Lower Buck Inn I think) for a few pints of ale and some grub; a fitting end to the festival celebrated with Timothy Taylor’s Landlord, one of my favourites.

Post Cycle Tour Meal at the Lower Buck Inn

Post Cycle Tour Meal at the Lower Buck Inn

Gammon Steak with all the trimmings, awesome

Gammon Steak with all the trimmings, awesome

Lobster on a hat plus pint of Landlord

Lobster on a hat plus pint of Landlord

On Monday I packed up my tent, which had stayed nice and dry despite some pretty persistent rain, said my goodbyes and pedalled off to Manchester. A pleasant ride over a few hills, but nowhere near as many as on the inbound ride, and the rain held off. I even met up with Graham from the festival in Manchester, completely by chance. He’d just got off the train on his Brompton and was pedalling home; we crossed paths 4 miles from my hotel.

After 37 miles in about 4 hours I reached my hotel, a cheap and slightly shabby affair that completely did the job for one night, and checked in. I had to nip out to find a large bag to put all my panniers into, airlines not being particularly sympathetic if you turn up with 4 or 5 different pannier bags needing to go on a flight. I had a few ideas about what might suit, but as I was short of time and it being a bank holiday Monday I opted for buying a large canvas rubble type bag from Wickes, which has loops at the top, in which I could fit all my panniers then tie it up with bungees. I have to report this tactic worked very well, and the bag only cost a fiver so not precious about discarding it at the other end of the flight.

Panniers packed in a Wickes rubble bag, worked a treat

Panniers packed in a Wickes rubble bag, worked a treat

I managed to sneak my bike into the hotel room and spent the evening packing that into the large CTC plastic bag, then unpacking and repacking my panniers several times in a state of slight paranoia. I chose the large CTC plastic bag option for transporting my bike as it’s cheap at £10, you can fit the whole bike in by just turning the handlebars, lowering the saddle, and putting some padding in; for example I used a plastic bottle to cover up the derailer, another top tip from the festival. Baggage handers can also see what it is so there less likely to throw it about, in theory anyway.

Bike wrapped and ready to fly

Bike wrapped and ready to fly

All packed up I tried to get some sleep, after all the TV didn’t work, and Wifi didn’t reach the room, however it was slow coming due to high excitement levels. I think I eventually nodded off about 00.30 and awoke with a start what seemed like 5 minutes later, but was in fact 06.30. I’ll skip over the journey to the airport other than to say when the shuttle vehicle first turned up it was a taxi, in which my bike wouldn’t fit, d’oh; one minibus later I arrived.

Wheeling my bike and baggage through the airport precariously perched on a trolley proved challenging, as did checking in, but I got there eventually. I had to go back to check-in after security as they don’t like bike tools in hand luggage, and there was no way I could do without them. Not sure what damage I’d do with a small wheel wrench and a few allen keys! Everyone was helpful, however it was a great relief to finally get on the plane and start my journey North.

The flight involved three planes, one to Olso, then a connection to Tromso, followed by the final plane to Honnningsvag with a stop off in Hammerfest to drop a few people off; Hammerfest sounds like a cool place. The planes got gradually smaller the further North I journeyed, flying over some beautiful vistas. Needless to say I eventually arrived in Honnningsvag, as did all my luggage, thankfully. I screwed my pedals back on, remembered to pump my tyres up again, twisted a few things that had had some abuse back into the right place, and pedalled to the hostel through the wind and sleet; only a couple of kilometres to a safe haven.

I’ll leave you with a few photos from the journey

My next post will cover today’s ride to Nordkapp and back, and probably the next few days, depending on when I next get online. I might be offline for a few days as I journey South.