Before I start this post, I’d like to thank all the gorgeous people who have been donating to my Oldie’s Club Just Giving Page – YOU are the superstars!! Strangers and family, from North America and Europe, have been so generous. You are directly improving the lives of abandoned elderly dogs. Thanks to you and the Oldies Club, they will get much needed veterinary care, and hopefully new forever homes. Murph and I thank you with all of our hearts!
Chris Chenore (wow, what a generous cuz!!!), Maggie and Mike Chenore, Judith Wolf, Laura Cartwright, Heather Patrick, Tina Griffin, Susan Woodruff, Sally Stranks, Jayesh Patel, ANON, Steve Jarvis and Karen Sumption.
Since we last chatted…and PS – you can click onto the smaller photos to enlarge them
Both Murph and I were aching to leave the confinement of our little cabin in Olderfjord and get to the first major symbolic point of our adventure; the North Cape. We had been stranded by dramatic weather for three days, and though it was slowly improving, it wasn’t happening fast enough for me. It was still rubbish out but it looked much better the following day. I decided to take a bus up the last 120kms and cycle back down. After all, we would have had to retrace our route anyway – only one road up and one down. I packed up all of our gear and hoped the driver would allow Murph on board.
We needn’t have worried! We had the sweetest driver in Norway, and a whole bus to ourselves. Problem was, the driver said he wasn’t sure if the final portion of the road to Nordkapp was open; they had suffered a major dump of snow with the same storm. We would find out if we could continue once we arrived in Honningsvag, the biggest town on the Cape.
All in our favour again as the rain had come and melted most of the recent snow. It was a shock how quickly we got up there. After all, we had been travelling by bike at the blistering pace of 12kms per hour for the last week. The second shock was just how many motorhomes and tour busses were already at the top. Monsterous numbers of busses full of cruise ship passengers from Honningsvag, and dozens of motorhomes.
I put my bike and bags together in the perishing wind with hundreds of tourists watching agog. Then they spotted Murphy…and the paparazzi-fest began. I felt like we were the star attraction in a polar zoo, forget that they were in this most amazing and spectacular place called NORTH CAPE! Nope, a dog on a bike trumps it all. Murph will undoubtedly be in hundreds and hundreds of photos all over the net.
Once Shirley was assembled, away from the masses, and with Murph cozy in her nest, I popped into the attractive restaurant/viewing station to grab a coffee. By the time I got out, a colossal wall of dark grey was swiftly moving at us from the north. I quickly manoeuvred us over to the globe and snapped the inevitable North Cape shot before we were all engulfed. It was then so numbingly cold that I simply couldn’t hang about. We started pedalling south in earnest.
On the way there I was worried that, somehow, taking the bus up was cheating and perhaps it would take the gloss off the momentous occasion. But it was OK. It felt absolutely WONDERFUL to be there, and now on the creaking bike, rolling southward and aiming roughly for Spain, I felt invincible. And so it was then that the clouds started parting to reveal slightly less grey!
The dopamine and adrenaline really started kicking in as we made our way through this strikingly beautiful, humbling and inhospitable place. The tough climbs were welcome because they warmed me up. The zig-zagging steep descents were bone-chilling but tremendously breathtaking. There were dozens of intrepid motorbikers, motorhomers and busses squeezing by me on the narrow road, but all were polite and careful. Many, many gave us thumbs up, little honks, waves and shouts of encouragement. I felt myself well-up on occasion, blurring my view of the road. It was one of the most memorable days I’ve ever had on a ride. I was sad to see Honningsvag come into view; it meant the end of the Cape.
We wild camped peacefully in the sun with this outrageous view before attempting the most dreaded of all tunnels: the 7km long, undersea Nordkapp Tunnel.
I’d been reading about The Tunnel on various cycling blog sites for a few months now. I had convinced myself that all were probably exaggerating its hideousness to some extent.
Nope. It. Was. Awful.
3.5kms straight down under the Barents Sea to the icy depths of a damp, dripping hell with deafening lorry/bus/motorhome/motorcycle traffic flying by in the dim yellow light. I was very worried about Murph so I bundled her up in layers and put plugs in her ears, though she’s already quite deaf. Then, the reward for the misery of reaching the bottom; 3.5kms at 10% straight up – no relief, no mercy. I will never in my life cycle through such a thing again. If you’d like to read more about this torture device: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Cape_Tunnel
Once we got through the tunnel, we started making our way back towards Olderfjord, anxious to get onto some new territory. At Olderfjord, we would turn right and start southwest over and around a series of fjords until we hit Tromso.
The riding was getting tougher and I fought the cursed headwinds still, but it was getting even more scenic. On our new road, the traffic was much thinner and the road was stimulatingly curvy. My legs and lungs were coming up to the standard, and I just felt great. I was drifting into that familiar mind/body zone of cycling omnipotence. Even my rear end was reasonably happy (new saddle!).
Some of the gorgeous places we pitched our tent for the night on the way to Tromso:
There were very few communities of any size along the way until we reached the last stretch before Tromso. I had to plan carefully for food. As we hopped from fab fjord to fab fjord, I admired the simplicity of the houses and buildings; pretty, harmonious and completely unpretentious. Red is the colour here.
A typical little fishing arrangement along the fjord, replete with abundant drying fish.
Murph always finds us a great table near the window!
Another sunny day. Enjoy it girls, because it could be your last for a couple of weeks.
Yes, it did start to rain, and rain all day just before we hit Tromso. It was all made better by cheerful encounters with other bike tourists – namely Sarah Jane and Mark Jonathan from Christchurch, NZ. We spent an evening shivering merrily together by a glacial river before pitching up for the night. They have covered roughly the same ground as me, and then some. Have you guys got a blog?? Message me!
I was also very happy to meet and share an overnight spot with Murph-loving Jenny from Seattle whom I’ve run into again here in Tromso. Intrepid and brave cyclists from the world over are arriving thick and fast in the area despite it being a little early in the season.
So here we are in our cute little cabin in Tromso pondering the next stages towards the unmissable Lofoten Islands. The weather is predicted to be plumb terrible for as far as the forecast can see. All of my new cycling companions are feeling a bit glum about it, but it is Norway after all; stunning, but wet and cold. I feel quite fortunate that we’ve had some sunshine to speed us over the more difficult altitudes thus far.
I will spend the rest of the afternoon exploring Tromso, then pack up and head out into whatever comes our way tomorrow. Next post will be all about Murph travel and all the gear she requires to keep her comfy and safe. Murph fans – tune in next time. Until then, adjø from Norway!