As is now my habit, I’d like to first thank all of the new Oldies Club donors for their WONDERFUL support!! Belinda Bauer, Rose and Steve, Lorraine and Dick Rigby, Katrina Hoogendam, Anne White, Anon x 2, Mika and Caroline Anderson and Louise Stanforth. In the days when there are thousands of charities in need of donations, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping this worthy one!
A new chapter coming up on the mainland
Hello from Bodo, Norway!! My laptop has been resurrected thanks to the very competent Frederick at Bodo Epelhuset. Hurrah!!! It’s probably taken an internal beating trying to survive the cold temps and eternal damp. My heart sank completely when it wouldn’t fire up the other day – no more blogging? What would Murph’s legions of fans do for entertainment now?? In any case, everything is fine – for now. Fingers crossed it’ll keep trucking – there’s still a heck of a long way to go.
Where were we last post? Ah yes – Tromso and the beginning of the real rain. We left Tromso Camping under blue midday skies and made our way west and over the great hump of a town towards Senja Island, the northern gateway to the Lofotens. It was time. Murph was bored with the comparative luxury of our hut and very ready to move on. She’s such a little travel-terrier star!
A few pics of Tromso:
The fab Anthony Gormley in Norway?? Yessir! Looking out to the harbour. A great surprise for a Gormley sculpture fan like me!
Moving to the Island
Most cyclists I met coming from the south mentioned the Island of Senja. Though not technically part of the Lofoten chain, they claimed it was just as beautiful. I thought I may give it extra time for a thorough examination. Unfortunately, the big rain started just before there, and didn’t end until 11 days later – our last day in the Lofotens. With temperatures around the 6-8c mark, extremely gusty headwinds and the endless squalls of rain, the camera didn’t come out much. Crossing Senja and the Lofotens had more of a survival/expedition vibe. Shelter from the rain and wind was tough to find and putting the tent up and down in such conditions was a very, very trying task. If my sleeping bag or extra layers of clothes got wet, I was sunk. Very few communities, campsites or services meant I was on my own and I had to be extremely careful. Still, we managed, and all of the gorgeous scenery helped us along.
At the end of a particularly gloomy, soggy day, I cycled into a tiny town and the small store there. I met the very sweet Vanja and her boyfriend Nils who directed me to the beach with the Golden Toilet. Vanja excitedly pointed out that not only was it heated, but there was a shower with hot water – all free to use. AND, there was great camping on the beach. Yippee!! You have no idea, folks, how valuable a heated public toilet is to an exhausted, freezing and wet-through cycle tourist. In one, I can warm the dog and myself up, dry things, shelter from the wind and rain, have a wash, do laundry, fill water bottles, clean dishes, semi-assemble my tent out of the rain, recharge my phone – and of course, the thing for which toilets were actually designed. Not only practical, THIS particular toilet was a genuine tourist attraction. People were pulling up in their cars, getting out in the pouring rain…wait for it…to take tourist snaps of this very special latrine. Long live the heated public toilet!
Though Senja really deserved a much more involved inspection, the weather forced me to keep my head down and push on. From Gryllefjord, we hopped a grim little ferry to Andennes, on the first Lofoten Island of Andoya. This particular ferry was a pain in the butt. Cyclists were clearly an unloved thorn in their side, and we were shoe-horned against each other risking damage to our bikes and equipment. Then we encountered a very grumpy agent who forced Murph and me to travel on the open deck for the hour and a half crossing. I was wet and cold and angry. We could have been tucked well out of the way of other passengers under a stairwell inside, but this chap was obviously having a bad day and we paid for it.
Dogs on ferries with foot passengers in Norway is a gamble – it depends on who’s in charge. Overall, I’ve found Norway to be the least relaxed about dogs anywhere in Europe. Almost a bit hysterical. I knew this coming, but it’s not easy to work with. Despite it, I’ve found the occasional very accommodating and reasonable official, but there’s certainly no guarantee. I imagine it’s quite different in the south of Norway where I understand the dog culture is a bit more progressive.
The rest of the Lofotens is a bit of a blur simply because of the terrible weather. Most days involved heavy rain, cold and big wind. Fog was also an issue and it often obscured the surroundings. There was a wonderful morning when we had sunshine for THREE WHOLE HOURS! It almost made me sad. In the sun, it was one of the most excruciatingly beautiful places I have ever been. I felt a teeny bit ripped off – as did my fellow cyclists. Hey ho!! A cold rainy day in the Lofotens is still better than a sunny day slaving at the peat moss plant in Alberta.
Checking out yet another fascinating bit of toilet culture. This one is in the middle of nowhere. Floor to ceiling one-way windows so you can gaze out to the ocean while your business is being done.
Speaking of my fellow cyclists, I was seeing more and more coming from the south. All kinds – day trippers, credit card cyclists (don’t carry much baggage and stay in hotels), laden long-distance tourers like myself, groups on tours with electric bikes – you name it. The best cyclists though, were the ones I kept bumping into along the way. Jenny from Seattle, for example, and I keep running into each other in the most improbable manner. I found a very well-hidden wild camping spot in the absolute middle of nowhere, popped out of a shrub to collect some water at a little waterfall, and there’s Jenny at the side of the road eating biscuits. So adorable! She was having brake problems and her modus operandi under stress is to eat biscuits. Good strategy. Anyway, I invited her to share my perfect little spot for the night. Murph was delighted – she loves Jenny!
Then there’s the Kiwis – Mark and Sarah Jane. They’re the lovely ones I shared a spot with by the glacial river a few weeks back, and here we are in rekindling our friendship in the Lofotens. All four, Jenny, me and the Kiwis met again completely by chance on the ferry to Bodo. Spooky.
The rest of my ride through the several Lofoten Islands was extremely worthwhile despite the weather challenge. Only a few pics, alas.
On our one beautiful and sunny morning, we found the Grunnfor Cyclist’s shelter – built for us!! Link here: https://70n.no/Grunnfor-bicycle-shelter-encountering-the-environment. You can sleep inside on a platform, cook and gaze and socialise – no charge. A special place, and I sure wish there had been more of them at regular intervals. I didn’t stay here but came to check it out. There was also a charming little bar/cabin that was open for all to use. Love.
The last islands before Bodo
I have had to dig deep to find the mental and physical toughness to get through the challenging conditions on the Lofotens, but I was soundly rewarded on our last day before the ferry; a full day of sunshine! Oh how it changed the world around us!
The day my roof blew off
I had made a rather poor choice of camping spot the evening before the ferry to the mainland; on a cliff with the ocean below. Exposed. Windy. But hey, it was sunny and nice when I set up the tent the night before. Had I learned NOTHING in my blustery time on the Lofotens???
Well, the next morning, of course it was blowing a total hooley, and as I struggled to pack my bike up and sort Murph out while staying upright myself, my tent suddenly blasted off like a giant Chinese dragon kite. As it became airborne, I swung around and ran full-pelt after it, dove – all fours off the ground – and just before the extremely pricey tent met a watery end off the cliff, managed to reel it in by the last dangling cord. Phew! That would have been a tear-inducing disaster. I credit my early ice-hockey goalie career with my still-sharp reflexes. Thanks Ken Dryden for the inspiration!!
I am relieved to report the long ferry ride to Bodo was spent in the warm interior thanks to a sympathetic worker. Four toasty hours later, we all disembarked in the pleasant town of Bodo. Jenny sped off into the distance and Mark and Sarah Jane melted into the crowd of foot passengers and other cyclists. I had reserved a little hut at the nearby campsite in order to find first aid for my laptop, so off I went in a different direction.
These little huts are a great find, if a bit pricey, generally run-down and smelly. They are heated though, and I can leave Murph safely while I run around completing errands. I can certainly justify the luxury as the rest of our nights are spent camping wild in the glorious Norwegian nature for free. What a privilege!
As I look at the long-term weather forecast for the coast, I see more of what we’ve just had. Cold, rain. While the rest of Europe bakes and boils, here we freeze and drown. I remind myself all the time that we are in the Arctic! But it’s true, that even for here, the weather has been poorer than normal. I have contemplated heading back over the mountains and into empty central northern Sweden, then south towards Gothenberg. Warmer, drier but hundreds and hundreds of kilometres of only forest. Or should I tough it out on the spectacular Norwegian coast and hope for a weather miracle? What to do? I will sleep on it and decide in the morning. Come back next time to find out if we ended up looking for a nice if dull Swedish smorgasbord, or if we decided to stick with soggy, but attractive dried fish.
For more interesting history and information on the Lofoten: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lofoten