Life North of the Arctic Circle. 14th July.

Life north of the Arctic Circle is very much the same as immediately south. Fortunately the wind had dropped to negligible. Cool, heavily clouded, the day was ideal for cycling.

We also met up with Paul from New Zealand. Raised in Wrexham in North Wales, he is also cycling to Nordkapp at a more gentlemanly pace, having had spinal fusion.

Brian and I continued in a northerly direction. Actually that isn’t correct, we cycled east, north, east, west and north through two tunnels, (the Silatunnelen at 2,870m and the Storvikskartunnelen at 3,200m) and used two ferries. We avoided the Svartisentunnelen which is 7,624m where no cycles are permitted by using the coastal road via Saura and a ferry over to Omes. A further tunnel saw us to an official camp site beyond Oppsal, where a shower was very welcome. We are now only 84 km from Bodo and catching the five hour ferry to the Lofoten island.

Here are a selection of photos from the day:-

A memorial to the Norwegian and English submarine crew who all drowned having hit a Nazi mine just off this coast.

Arguably the most futuristic public convenience in Norway.

Brian outside one of several tunnels we dived onto.

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Across the Arctic Circle this afternoon. 13th July.

Friday’s that fall on the 13th of the month are said by some to be unlucky days. Nothing could be further from the truth today. It has been a long day with so much variety and a chance meeting with Brian, a recently retired GP from Glasgow.

The event of the day rightfully goes to crossing the Arctic Circle. Brian and I had caught the 18:25 ferry from Kiboghamn to Jektvika. The captain kindly advised passengers that if we looked to Starboard we would see the Globe statue that marks the exact point at which the Arctic Circle circumnavigates the world.

The day had started with crossing the Helgelandsbrua, a spectacular bridge just NE of Sandnessjoen.

The route today changed direction faster than a fly avoids being swatted, of which many I became acquainted with when climbing a particularly long hill. Passing motorists must have thought why was this lone cyclist waving a buff so vigorously at them. I wasn’t, it was a failed endeavour to keep scores of flies off me whilst cycling up the hill.

Before arriving at The Hill there had been one ferry crossing. The hill was 9% up and 9% down. The down was a treat for someone fixated on speed and adrenaline. At 80 km/h, my chin was on the handbar and I was sitting on the crossbar. It was then that the bike began to wobble, as the panniers had an adverse effect on the bike’s aerodynamics. A real thrill, but I was never going to get up to 100km/h.

Having viewed the road around the fjord from the top of the hill, I knew that many kms were to be cycled just to put me on the north side of the fjord. I rode east for some distance then around the head of the fjord and back west into a brisk headwind before diving into yet another tunnel. Inside it was very cool, but mercilessly out of the wind. I really enjoyed the experience, which is just as well because there are numerous on the route ahead.

The view once having fought off the flies during the climb.

Looking across the fjord to the road I’d be cycling from right to left an hour later.

Now when I say tunnels these are not like the Blackwell tunnel near London. These were two or three km long. Vehicle are noisy when they pass through, however not as loud as I’d expected. During the times when I was the only tunnel inhabitant I practised my best Placedo Domingo operatic repertoire, by best I mean least awful.

Exiting the second long tunnel which had been driven through a granite mountain, there was a short rest from the wind in the lee of this impressive rock.

Pulled in to a museum cafe for a strong coffee and a cake. It was here that Brian approached me. We both agreed that we had not encountered any other UK citizens. We chatted for a while. Brian had cycled up from Bergen and is going the Nordkapp. He is travelling remarkably lightly considering he is also wild camping. We decided to catch the same ferry from Kiboghamn. After the crossing, we agreed that it would be a good idea to wild camp together this evening.

An ideal location!

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Norwegian Police like Cyclists. 12th July.

No, I didn’t get stopped for speeding, reckless riding or not wearing a helmet. On my way up to Horn ,the first 60 km of the day in grey, misty conditions, around a corner came eight police motor cyclists. In perfect formation, each one sounded their horn and waved vigorously. Now, has that for setting anyone up for the day?

It made the early morning start, even better. First having seen two Cranes strolling over a field (the type that need a runway to take off and don’t lift heavy objects), a deer leapt out of the verge in front of me and shot off into a wood where it started to bark alarmingly. Then a double treat, both a deer and my first sighting of an Elk. The deer took off as the previous one had, but the Elk stood motionless. The thing that struck me was it’s height about the size of a large horse. It didn’t make a sound because it had no horns (sorry). Unfortunately she was too far away to take a good photo. When she did move it was with both speed and grace, covering the ground quickly, but with no obvious effort. To complete the morning’s safari, a Red squirrel ran across the road about 20m in front of me.

As yesterday, I would be taking a couple of ferries. The first from Horn to Anddalsvagen, 20 minutes and the second from Forvika to Tjotta, an hour.

Photo of yesterday’s ferry at Vennesund.

Photo of ferry at Horn going to the Vega Archipelago.

Now this area of Norway is sparsely populated, small industries and agriculture are the main stay of the local economy and some tourism. However the vast majority of tourists are self contained in their own RV’s. There are camp sites, but hardly any hotels. So the need for public transport, which is good (I see many empty buses on the roads), is minimal. Strange that I should see two of these side by side, maybe the supply has superseded the demand, or who knows what pressures are placed on the system at rush hour.

The second ferry to Tjotta was an hour of feasting on grand views. The sun had come out and the light on the remaining mist was impressive.

Having disembarked from the second ferry and back on road 17 up to Sandnessjoen, there is a remarkable Granite escarpment that runs for several miles. A climbers paradise! It was near here is saw this little girl:-

” Mummy, Daddy when I grow up I want to do something stupid, like cycle from Gibraltar to Nordkapp”

Nearing Sandnessjoen at the end of another 100+ km day, to my right I saw the Seven Sisters mountains. Now moving mountains takes some effort, so those Seven Sisters and additional siblings previously seen a few days ago must have been imposters. Some ladies will do anything to gain notoriety.

Photo of true 7 Sisters. (two were out at the time of this photo- out of shot).

Today has been a particularly good cycling day and the forecast, although the wind is from the north, doesn’t include any rain.

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The World’s Strongest Tidal Current. 15th July.

Brian decided that he was hampering the progress of an Old Git on a heavily laden cycle. So he decided to leave early this morning so I could catch him up on the way to Bodo. Oh! I’ve got that totally wrong. For the past two days Brian has been waiting for me to catch up at the brow of each hill. His time scales are different to mine and whilst he is in no rush, I am again a day ahead of my schedule and in danger of becoming even more so. Hence I’m going to slow down a little.

Brian, it was great to ride with you over the past few days. When you pass through West Yorkshire and have time for a ride, it would be good to show you a few Yorkshire hills.

I said cheerio to Paul at the camp site and headed up the hill and into three tunnels, Skaugvoll at 240m. Vidvik at 980m. and Sundsfjord at 750m. The fjords were like mirrors creating perfect reflections. Traditional fishing boats looked serene in the still water.

Some 50km later another bridge took highway 17 over something special at Saltstraumen, a maelstrom running between Saltenfjorfen and Skjerstadfjorden. Under the bridge through the strait runs the world’s strongest tidal current. Over the course of 6 hours up to 400 million cubic metres of sea water push through the shallow sound travelling up to 40km/hour!

Saltstraumen is also one of the world’s best cold water diving sites. The fishing is beyond excellent, with Pollock, cod, halibut and wolf fish frequently being caught. The world’s largest line caught pollock was landed here weighing 22.7kg.

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Two Ferries and Three Tunnels. 11th July.

The ferries ‘book ended’ the day’s cycling. I was away early from an ideal wild camp and covered the 25 km to the first ferry in the cool air. The scenery remained jaw dropping with bridges using small islands as staging posts as the road hopped from one island or peninsula to the next.

It was while I was taking the photo below that Michael rolled up beside me from the direction I was heading. His bike made ‘Mr Pickford Removal man’s from yesterday, look like a Tonka toy. Unshaven, thin as a lat, Michael had obviously been travelling for a while. Friendly and easy to talk to, we fell into conversation. Living in Germany, he had flown with his cycle to Beijing last September and had been cycling since. He was returning from northern Norway having arrived there via Finland and was on his way home. I wonder how many kilometres he has travelled during the last twelve months, how many tyres worn out and punctures. Michael, if you read this, you are an inspiration I was smiling for hours after meeting you.

And this folks is Michael:-

Note the beer cans! Man after my own heart.

And this is what we both were photographing.

This is the first ferry of the day. A string coffee and cheese cake were consumed in the sun while I waited for it to arrive.

I thought this would be helpful for those who want to exactly where these fantastic places I mention are.

This evening I’m in Vennesund and having cycled 140 km today, have finally caught up with my itinerary, having spent some additional quality time in Oslo with Anne, my long suffering wife.

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Snakes and Cycling. 10th July.

I’m sitting on the edge of a wooded glade three metres above the Blikengfjorden, 25km north of Namsos. It is 9pm and the sun is still high in the sky. A breeze keeps the flying nasties away and the only sound is the lapping of the water, the bees and the leaves been gently blown. There is one large solitary mosquito trying to take my blood, but sadly for it, he has a distinct sound, so he will die before he drinks, or even as he drinks. The other sight and sound I have never seen before, jumping fish. Some of them quite large, they clear the water and splash back down. Very much like miniature whales breaching. Strangely enough there is no bird song, none at all, very weird.

My pitch tonight.

I packed up my gear this morning at the same time as a guy in his late twenties on the pitch beside me. Since I had arrived last night he had hibernated. I asked which direction he was going. He was heading south to Trondheim. On hearing I was heading north, the route he had used, he advised me that I was in for an awful lot of climbing on the 715 road before meeting the 17 going up to to Namsos. I similarly advised him that there were a few 9% hills for him to enjoy on his way to the ferry across to Trondheim.

Using the bus shelter at the junction of the 715 and 17 for shade as I ate the remains of last night’s gargantuan pizza (and so it should have been at over £20). I reflected on those 715 hills. The late twenty something year old on his electric bike may well by the end of his day have a different definition of ‘ hard hills’. However he was carrying more gear than a fully loaded Pickfords removal lorry.

The 715 was a beautiful road to cycle and eventful.

If you cycle please tell me whether you regularly come across these creatures? I’m starting to loss count of my encounters with them.

First there was Hungary with Andy and Luke, then The Badlands in America with Andy. Australia whilst cycling in WA, to be expected as Australia plays host to an extraordinary number of very venomous snakes and other critters. Then there was North Vietnam earlier this year and now today.

The route today was of rolling hills. More ups than downs as elevation was gained. Some impressive waterfalls running over smooth red granite rock. Then came the deep blue lakes, numerous and like mirrors reflecting their surroundings.

The hill’s did require constant gear changes. So numerous were they and so nearly uniform, a pattern of gear changing evolved using every gear, a little like Valentino Lisitsa’s performance of Ballade, that used all the piano keys.

The ride along the 17 was a pleasant one and I arrived in Namsos sooner than expected, even though I had stopped for a rare drink of Coke for 330 Krona, just over £3!

After a coffee, prolonged so as I could charge up my devices and making good use of the iced water provided to fill my bottles, oh and the paper towels in the loo to dry myself after a quick strip (partial) wash, (this was to be a wild camp night), I headed into Rema 1000 to buy my evening meal. Having mounted up and was heading out of town I nearly bumped into Norway’s rock idle, or to be precise a bronze ( yes, another one!) of him. Age Aleksanderson born 1949 is the Norwegian compatriot to Paul McCartney. So influenced was he by Paul’s music he formed a band called Prudence after that Beatles song.

To date apart from the many road warning signs, this is the only Elk I’ve seen.

Other wildlife have included this:-

… and that:-

He seemed friendly enough, but at three metres high, I didn’t hang around.

Immediately after leaving the town I turned up the hill and was presented with a 600m tunnel. My first of any length. With lights on, I entered. They were right, every vehicle sounds ten times as loud and the direction of that sound is also unclear. The whole tunnel was on an incline, which made for a baptism of fire.

The ride to where I am now was stunning. Two bridges constructed not to cross a void on the level, these are ramped, arched and curved and the third, not 100 metres from here is a classic steel girder bridge.

Having taken a quick dip, I can also confirm that fjord water is extremely cold. By dip I don’t mean a swim, just the requisite wetting for washing.

Foot note:- The snake was deceased, dead, had slithered off to the other snake world. Although this snake hadn’t fallen off it’s perch as a parrot would, it does draw that Monty Python (incidentally also a species of snake) sketch to mind. It was a viper, Norway’s only venomous snake. And of that mosquito, it joined the snake.

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1,678. 1,679. 1,680. 1,68 and oh! 1. 2. 3…. trees. 9th July.

There were many trees this morning. If I was a certain member of the British monarchy. (which thankfully for both you and I, I am not), my arms would have been very tired. There are many varieties of trees, these were Spruce, nothing but Spruce, all growing in straight lines. Was this going to be ‘a boring tree only’ day.

It certainly wasn’t! Whereas yesterday afternoon had caused me to dig deep, this afternoon was an absolute pleasure. Hard work on a series of long steep hills.

From Lonin onwards riding was a delight.

As a light alternative from cycling at Reppklelv I climbed a number of staircases and scrambled up to what the information board proclaimed to be the largest Granite pothole in northern Europe, with a diameter of 11.6m and a height of tens of metres. The side wall having collapsed years ago had exposed what had been the remainder of the internal walls.

I later saw this Indianna Jones style cable bridge that ‘had’ to be crossed (several times). Without a whip, revolver, school satchel or a cowboy hat, I didn’t drown. However I wasn’t running for my life or having to rescue a damsel in distress.

Not everyone had made a successful crossing.

What followed was a series of lakes. After one long and steep climb I was rewarded with this view.

After the lakes came the fjords. Now fjords were around long before the straight line was invented. So when first putting in a destination into my mapping device, it may say 40km. Now that’s ok for a Crow, but not a bloke on a bike. Ask it to identify a route and that 40 could jump to 65km. From here on ‘straight’ doesn’t exist. However cycling on such beautifully maintained roads (and Norway, I am told, can be a little colder in the winter than in the U.K. – take note UK Highway Maintenance, Norwegian roads rarely have potholes) and with such stunning views, who cares if you need to cycle in a near circle.

Road sign warning of pedestrians air walking.

This sign appears to indicate that some have perfected the art of walking in the air, without the help of Raymond Briggs Snowman. Such an ability would negate the need to walk in those near circles around these wonderful fjords.

On nearly reaching Osen I looked across the fjord and saw a camp site. The fjord stretched away both to the left and right. The tide was out, would it be possible? No, it wouldn’t even look plausible in a Monty Python’s sketch.

So around and up over another hill, (how many of those today?) riding past The Seven Sister hills, although there looks to be more than seven, maybe their parents are still trying to give them a brother and just get more daughters.

The Seven, (or perhaps more) Sisters.

This sign confirms that tea is as important to Norwegians as it is the the English.

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