Yesterday riding into Bodo on a Sunday afternoon I felt like Clint Eastwood riding into the deserted town in that excellent old film High Plains Drifter.
For the first time since leaving Oslo it had been raining. Although heavy cloud had persisted for several days it had until now remained dry. This was to change.
Having cycled up and down Bodo’s deserted high street save for one solitary craftsmen working on a shop front, I found the only sign of life in a cafe where Catherine worked. We initially talked about exactly what a Flat White is. I stayed safe and had an excellent cappuccino. Having spent several hours there, she approached me and started to ask about my trip and enthused about the Lofoten islands, where she grew up. I had decided that as a consequence of my right knee again giving me ‘jip’, I would catch the ferry to Stamsund and not Moskenes. Moskenes is nearly at the furthest sw point of Lofoten and I would miss out cycling 80km, including the sea tunnel at Napp, which is 1,780m long and has an 8% gradient down into it and up out of it. This would give my knee a much needed rest. Catherine immediately looked at the time tables. There was no information for the Stamsund ferry, so we presumed it was full, this being the school holiday time. There was however information on the Moskenes ferry. It departed in 30 minutes, so a haste farwell to the very helpful Catherine, (and when your children are older, you will climb Kilimanjaro) and off onto the largest ferry yet for the 3 hour trip for a reasonable £22. On board the usual limited and expensive food was available. The best valve being beef burger and chips at £22. I slept a little before becoming part of three young children’s game of hide and seek, once a grandad, always a grandad.
I rode off the ship at 10pm and found a wild camp spot within two km overlooking a damp and gloomy sea. Where the rain soon returned and remained throughout the night.
Waking this morning to the sound of heavy rain on the tent, a very difficult division was made to stay put. My travel advisor and internet browser (long suffering wife), advised that the rain would stop at 12 noon. The last time I stayed in a tent for such a period of time was when a friend and I were trapped by a storm at Camp Two on Khan Tengri, which incidentally was when I injured my knee. The rain stopped at noon precisely. I had almost packed up by then, so was off by 12:15.
Immediately, although still very much overcast, it was evident that Lofoten was a special place and as the weather improved it’s full beauty was revealed. There is a uniqueness about the place that is difficult to identify. The mountains are sharp, steep sided and green with plant growth. A little like the Mount Kenya region approaching Batian and Nelion, but that’s where the similarity ends. The white and red timber buildings, the fish drying racks, with just the wind dried heads of cod hanging from them. The traditional fishing boats floating on crystal clear sea water, all go to make a wonderful landscape.
I made good use of the old roads, now designated cycle ways, to bypass the first three tunnels, including Hamnex at 1.5km length. However there was no bypassing a tunnel that went under the sea. The Nappstraumtunnelen is 1,780m long. You descend down into it and ascend out of it. I was in slight trepidation as I approached the entrance. However on the left side was a footpath which made the experience almost enjoyable. The vehicles were loud, but the extractor unit was far louder. Light was minimal so I did not see what I heard to be glass under the front wheel. A puncture in the tunnel would not be very pleasant. Both tyres remained inflated.
Emerging from the tunnel I realised how wet and filthy both I and the bike were. Some cleaning of both is required.
Having bought provisions in Leknes, I turned off the E10 onto the 815 to commence one of my most enjoyable rides ever. It was mid evening and most of the traffic had disappeared, with the sun still high in the sky, it was both peaceful and beautiful with the evening light on the calm water and mountains.
This cafe was ideally placed and served strong coffee and an enormous slab of delicious chocolate cake.
Beautiful white sandy beaches with a plastic pink flamingos?!
I am very pleased that the ferry to Stamsund wasn’t available last night. And of my knee, well we’ll have to see how it copes, but with only 12 more cycling days to Nordkapp, I’m not about to allow it to dictate.
So a wet and dreary morning developed into a special day. I had to stop myself from constantly getting off the bike to take yet another photo. I can only include a handful here. However hopefully it’s sufficient to give you the flavour of Lofoten.
Tonight I am camped beside a stack of those white plastic silage sacks and my hosts are scores of hungry mosquitos, midges and flies. Finding a piece of land dry enough for the tent was difficult. So choices were very limited. With a necessity for urgency the tent was up in three minutes and the few blood suckers that made it into the tent with me were quickly dispatched.