Murph and I escaped Calgary on May 30th with only a slight hacking cough. The smoke from northern wildfires had just rolled in. I thought of my nieces having to endure the horrible air quality from these pernicious fires year after year.
We had an unexpectedly smooth flight to Amsterdam. The plane was less than half-full and we got an entire row of seats to ourselves. Much to my great relief, Murph slept comfortably in her bag the whole way. Arriving at Schiphol in Amsterdam was a bit of a shock however; it was madly busy – the beginning of a bank holiday weekend. Pushing a trolley through the throngs with a huge bike box, all the gear, and a dog that needed to pee was possibly the most stressful thing I’ll have to do on this trip.
Made it to the car rental joint red-faced and breathless. We started our two-day rest in the Netherlands before our next flight to Helsinki, then Ivalo, Finland.
With jet-lag more or less resolved, back to the dreaded Schiphol to board our flight to Finland. Both flights were jam-packed this time, and most unenjoyable. Never mind – we made it to Ivalo!
It’s 7pm and we’re knackered. We cycle a few kilometres towards Ivalo and stay at a riverside campground.
It was a cold night after the 34c of Amsterdam – only 8c here and colder through the night. Adrenaline and novelty got me through and we bustled out of camp the next morning keen to experience a completely new country. The weather looked only semi-cooperative, and it did indeed rain much of the next few days, hence very few photos. As I made my way north though, I was treated to immaculate road surfaces, sweeping curves and gentle gradients; absolutely my favourite type of terrain to cycle. The wild camping opportunities were superb. Murph and I delighted in hoisting the tent in the wild blueberry bushes overlooking rivers and lakes.
Midway through our Finnish leg, we met our first bicycle tourists coming from Nordkapp. This sweet, young French couple are touring the entire world over three years! They are paragliders and each is carrying their own paragliding kit on their Surly Trolls along with all the other clobber you need on a world expedition. And I thought I was mad to haul around a dog. They have a very cool blog here https://www.lenvolavelo.com/
As we spun our way up the hills and towards the Norwegian border, the landscape became much more tundra-like. Scrubby birch trees and lichen everywhere. We had already encountered several reindeer (you’ll have to wait for the YouTube video), fox and innumerable species of waterfowl. Very, very few communities on the way, never mind shops with food. I had to plan wisely. The complete isolation became slightly monotonous after a couple of days and I welcomed the sight of the Norwegian customs booth as I sped down the mountain from the forlorn plateau. Once crossed over, the landscape immediately changed – much more agricultural and lush, more populated and very, very beautiful!
The roads in Norway have, so far, been a little rougher than in Finland, but the drivers are spectacularly generous to the cyclist. Almost without exception, they give wide berth when passing, wait behind you if there’s oncoming traffic and slow down when passing you. Bravo!!
I wasn’t exactly producing great mileage up until now. The gusty wind was straight in our noses the first few days, and I took an awful lot of breaks for Murph. I constantly reminded myself that we were not in a race. We only had to worry about getting to food every now and then. I am astonished that we already, somehow, find ourselves on our first frigid fjord belonging to the Barents Sea, and properly in the Arctic.
As expected, it was getting tougher the further north we pushed, but just when I would start to flag, some lovely motorist/motorhomer/motorcyclist would give me a big thumbs-up, a ‘bravo’ or a honk and enthusiastic wave. The further north we get, the more frequent the support. Honestly, it made me feel like a gladiator – a slightly emotional gladiator. I’ll admit there was an occasional tear of joy.
The weather has turned grimly against us as we fight our way from Lakselv on the final stretch to North Cape. Frustratingly, the forecast has gone completely bonkers. It was meant to be in the teens in Olderfjord, but now it’s looking like rain/sleet/snow over the next few days. Murph hasn’t been getting enough comfortable down time, and I couldn’t decline a break from the damp and cold, so I took an extortionately-priced, heated camping hut in the outpost town of Olderfjord, about 120kms from the top of Europe by road.
Now as we are cozy and safe, the crucial question is, should we even try to get the last 100kms to North Cape at all, or abort it citing dangerous weather? Gales, snow and freezing rain feature in the forecast for the next few days. Olderfjord is a crossroads and we could start heading southwest to Alta from here for better, warmer weather. Does this diminish our adventure at all? Most people say that Nordkapp is just a tourist trap – rather bleak and ugly. It is, however, a massively symbolic point on our journey.
What should we do? Wait a few days in our expensive lodging, hoping the weather improves and then keep going north, or say sod it – let’s start for the south?
Tell me what you think in the comments!!
It is my desperate hope that this entitled and self-indulgent travel will raise a ton of money for my favourite charity along the way; The Oldies Club. These gorgeous people work to find homes for overlooked elderly dogs who are stuck spending their golden years in shelters and fosters all over the UK. The link below will allow you generous, dog-loving folk to donate what you can – as little as £2 or $2 – more if you can. Also, please consider them if you are ready to give a beautiful old soul a loving new home. Do it for Murph!! Click on the just giving link below.
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