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.
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.
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 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
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
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
There were lots of scenes like his.
Road to Nordkapp, pretty snowy
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.
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
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 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
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?
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
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 – Cycle Tour Fest bottle, and a travelling lobster
Nordkapp – view West
Nordkapp – view East
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
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
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.
Two headed trolls, always a win in my book
More trolls – smaller versions
Slightly sad troll
Lobster and Troll – best buddies apparently, go back ages
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
Apparently King Chualalonkorn of Thailand visited and has his name carved in the rock at the Cape.
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
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
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
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
The first tunnel was from Honningsvag through the mountain, it felt like entering the mines of Moria.
Honningsvag tunnel entrance
The tunnel was fairly flat, and went on for about 5km.
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
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
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 – 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
On I pedalled, into the headwind.
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?
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
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
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
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