Approaching 70 degrees Latitude – further north than Iceland. 22nd July.

On reaching Nordkapp I would have cycled across 35 degrees of Latitude. On many occasion it has not been a straight northerly route, rather a meandering line frequently travelling both east and west and at times, south. Tomorrow morning I should pass an unusual sign confirming that it is only 370 km to Nordkapp – more in the day’s to follow.

Today I’ve covered 90 miles and have arrived in a remote area. Back on the E6 through necessity, as there are no alternatives, it is now relatively free of traffic. I pushed on to a tiny place called Tretta, a little NE of Storslett, in part because of the weather forecast for Wednesday, (three days ahead). The road from Alta, the last remaining larger town before Nordkapp and Olderfjord is over 100km of exposed and deserted tundra. The plan is to arrive at least in Skaldi by Tuesday night. Again this puts me two days ahead of schedule, but better to be ahead of time than hunkered down in bad weather further south.

With a huge hotel buffet breakfast hardly confined in my stomach and a substantial lunch, from the same source that happened to find it’s way onto my bag, I cycled over the bridge from Tromso, (the only bridge so far where anti suicide precautions have been erected). Passing Tromso’s sail like cathedral, I first avoided the E6 using Cycle Route 1, but was soon directed onto the it again. Then came the peace and beauty of the 91 and two ferries. I raced to catch the first and the second was just arriving in the pretty town of Lyngseidet as I lingered to look at these attractions.

Now arrived at the point where any form of transport would be kinder on the rump.

The locals seem friendly enough.

Marrying up to go north on the E6 again at Olderdalen, I had soon covered the day’s distance and seen some great sights.

Views to the mountains on Lyngsfjellan.

Misty around a lake on high ground, below which the Sorkjos runs.

Raised salt bins indicator the depth of snow in winter.

Avalanche management to keep the E6 open for longer during the winter.

Tonight’s ‘home’ is a large roadside rest area beside a broad river with picnic tables in amongst trees beneath an impressive crag. Even a loo is provided. Add a shower and it would surpass many official camp sites.

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Tromso Floats my Boat. 21st July.

Only my humble view, but Tromso is certainly a cut above most other towns I’ve seen so far in Norway. It’s heritage is very much on display, in part due to the many older buildings around the town. More modern buildings work with the older and add variety and enhance it’s character.

As Anne and I will be meeting up here after the ride is finished. I tried not to look around too much. However if our day here is dull and overcast, (the weather that is, we certainly won’t be), it would have been a shame not to have used today’s sunshine and take a few photos. So here is a mouth watering taste of Tromso,:-

One of the pieces of art work done by minority group school children being displayed in the Folkeparken. This park had numerous styles of buildings found in northern Norway.

An atmospheric shot from under the pier at the Folkeparken.

And the view from that pier.

Nitty and Gritty make the London Cray Twins look like Pinky and Perky.

So much like my brother and me all those years ago.

Part of the 21 bay Fire Station. Even London hasn’t stations this big.

The most northerly botanical gardens in the world.

Helmer Hanssen, who on 14th December 1911, as captain of the Andoya ordered a stop to sledging as they approached the South Pole and asked Amundsen to ski in front of the dogs, he becoming the first man to reach the South Pole.

The Mack brewery pub.

And another, can’t think why I’ve included two very similar photos of a brewery. Must be because it’s the most northern brewery in the world, of course it is.

I would also like to mention two young people I met today. My addiction to caffeine is well known, so having parked my cycle next to a table, I went into a very pleasant cafe to order. ‘My’ table being the only unoccupied one attracted a young couple. I returned to the table and asked if I could share it with them. What followed was a very enjoyable hour of chatting with Kristina and Runar. They both live in Tromso, Runar is training to be a nurse and Kristina works as a special needs carer. I wasn’t surprised to learn that Runar is into Bouldering. For those who don’t know what this is. It’s climbing without ropes and gear at lower heights. It is both technical and demands strength. Runar was reserved about his abilities, but as is so often the case, our ladies support us and Kristina confirmed that he is good. We talked about Norway, the honesty that prevails, the cost of living, jobs, cycling and climbing. If you read this guy’s, it was a pleasure meeting you. I’m totally jealous of the lives you have ahead of you and wish you the very best for your futures.

This was the cafe where I met Kristina and Runar.

So tomorrow I mount up for the final 333 miles. Forecast is as anticipated, wet, dry, windy, wet, wet and maybe more wet. Who cares. Part of me doesn’t want this to end, but to continue would not be possible. Besides global warming is happening at such an alarming rate the ice is too thin at top end of Globe.

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Opened my 18th and Final Map Today. 20th July.

The last of the eighteen maps covering the route was opened in my hotel bedroom this afternoon here on Tromso. Just 333 miles to cycle. I have mixed feeling about finishing this wonderful journey. I miss the company of my wife, but will miss this life of wonderful new daily experiences and meeting so many interesting and different people. A bed surrounded by four walls feels slightly alien, having slept in a tent since Anne and I left Oslo.

As previously mentioned, yesterday saw me wet and cold to the core. My right knee that sustained an injury a few years ago, is not good. Any reasonable downward pressure on the peddle results in a stabbing pain. Fortunately upward pull is still good. However any advice coming my way that suggests stopping now to avoid possible adverse effects- will be ignored.

To avert the accusation I have Summit Fever, this Old Git made a decision last night to take the Express ferry to Tromso. Made in part due to the forecast of further heavy rain and the near certainly of cycling inside clouds most of the day. On reflection I’m pleased with the decision. Not least because I met a great guy from Vancouver, Ryan Sykes. Like Yoya, Alastair and Brian previously. I immediately liked Ryan. Kindred spirits, same objectives on life, whatever. Ryan, if you read this, I wish you every success with your work/life balance, but it strikes me you’ve got it about right.

I can almost hear some of you say, ” photo’s, where are the photos, Tim?” Well the Express ferry was just that and the weather was rubbish. So a different theme today. Andy Hill and I frequented a couple of excellent brewery pubs when we did Seattle to Boston. Starting with a great one in Seattle and another in the Old Fire Station in Rapid City.

Tromso is different to other Norwegian towns. I’m not talking about the big cities, it is Norway’s eight largest city, but still holds a small town atmosphere, blending old buildings with new and part of that heritage is the Mack brewery. In 1877 an enterprising gentleman called Ludwig Markus Mack saw the potential for a brewery to quench the thirst of the increasing numbers coming to Tromso to make their own riches from the Arctic Ocean. Today’s Olhallen, beer hall or pub, is to be found in the cellar of the brewery and dates back to 1928. The brewery also lays claim to being the most northerly brewery in the world.

I enjoy a pint under the watchful eye of a visitor from further north. At £15 a pint, every drop of beer had to have the full taste squeezed out of it and indeed it was excellent.

The bear necessities of life are costly in Norway.

With 64 beers available. All tastes are catered for.

Rest room cartoons are usually highly amusing. Sadly wasted on me this time.

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A Very WET Senja Island. 19th July.

The night was windy, very windy, some tents were misshapen by this morning. Having wrestled the tent into it’s bag and not lost anything to the wind, it was an early start to get to the ferry at Andenes. The first down pour arrived as I left the campsite. Delaying my departure kept me dry. The second deluge occurred after I had arrived at the terminal. Unbelievably there was no shelter, this resulted in four foot passenger and two cyclists sheltering under the eaves of the public convenience, very inconvenient. It wasn’t one of these impressively designed loos either, just a bog standard one.

The anticipated rough crossing to Gryllefjord didn’t happen. There were about ten cyclists, the two Norwegian brothers, another Norwegian about to move to Manchester, a Dutchman and others. Now sometime we can’t choose who we cycle with and on this occasion I was decidedly concerned.

This beautiful creature lives at The Senja Troll attraction

Here are some more photos of her remarkable home. Do visit if you are in the area.

These are the largest trolls in the world and their children :-

These two lads even dressed for their visit, or they were the son’s of the creator. Thanks for allowing me to take your photo.

We all headed off north through the new tunnel south of Ballesvika on the 86 and onto the 862 just before Haverjorda. Here an 8% climb started and continued until it entered another tunnel.

The northern coastline of Senja can be likened to a hand, four fingers with two thumbs.

On the north side overlooking the village of Bergsbotn is a 44m long platform of sculptured beauty. I was able to see this minutes before the heavens opened on a fast descent that turned each droplet of water into a skin penetrating needle.

The rain returned with a musical accompaniment of thunder and an occasional flash of lightening. It was particularly heavy and loud on the second particularly long and steep hill. Would The ‘old git’ be found by the roadside with scorched tyres and curly hair.

The rain did have a break, enough to trick me onto delaying and allowing me a dry look at the Tungeneset rest area. A walkway made of Siberian latch permits uninterrupted viewing of the razor edged Okshornan peaks.

Totally wet through. I surrendered to a second consecutive official camp site near Lusenes, were a hot shower was very much appreciated. The area had also been home to this massive elk, before a macho game hunter decided to shoot it.

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In The Land of the Midnight Sun. 18th July.

I’m sitting beside my tent over looking a golden sandy beach not five metres from me. Many small outcrops of rock protrude from a quiet sea. A shaft of light reflected from the sun runs across the water and cuts through the wild flowers next to me. There is a gentle breeze and mercifully nothing flying that wants to eat, drink and annoy me. On the right a dark jagged line cuts the horizon. The high rock reminds me of The Alps without the altitude. I’ve just had an evening meal of creme fraiche potetsalat, chicken, cheese and biscuits and a can of rubbish Pilsner’s, (oh, for Yorkshire draught bitter!).

Another day of around 100km and another stunning one. The landscape had changed from Melbu and continued to be more open with the mountains less dramatic, but no means less impressive as I rode towards Sortland. From Sortland I took the 82, through extensive road works and on northwards to the island of Andoya, where I took the longer west route. The scenery was stunning.

And another architectural masterpiece for a public convenience.

Today developed into a day of variety, so much happened. Here is a selection of some events.

The bridge over the sea from Dragnes to Risoyhamn had the steepest ramped access to its apex to date, though not apparent from the photo. Beautifully engineered, the experience of cycling up it was further enhanced by one of the Hurtigruten ships setting ‘sail’ and going under the bridge with many on board waving. It was made all the better for knowing that in a few weeks time Anne and I will be going under the same bridge on a Hurtigruten ship. I wonder whether an old git with a white beard on a cycle will be waving from it?

From Bo, yes that is a place and takes twice as long to write as A near Moskenes, I really didn’t want the day’s ride to finish. The museum at Risoyhamn had been impressive, where again I met up with two brothers on their annual cycle trip from southern Norway.

Arriving at the pretty little town of Bleik I was unexplainable drawn into a cafe super market. This was something out of the ordinary. The calories on offer exceeded those in Willy Wonker’s Chocolate Factory. The cheesecake was exceedingly good and so much better than anything Mr Kipling could make. Similarly, the coffee was good and refills were permitted. This necessary delay resulted with me arriving at the Space Centre Aurora to late in the day to do it justice. Anyway, by which time my senses had be overloaded for much of the day.

And the sun still remains high on the sky in a land that for now never sees it set.

Tomorrow I take the ferry to Gryllefjord on the island of Senja. Again I am a couple of days ahead of schedule, so Anne has booked me into a hotel in Tromso for two nights. This will be an opportunity to clean and service the bike and deep clean it’s rider, before setting off for the final week of this adventure.

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Bridges, Boats and Bus shelters. 17th July.

My hosts of last night were late risers this morning, so I didn’t provide them breakfast before leaving.

Another wonderful day, clear skies with a rising wind late afternoon. Today was very much about cycling over a series of stunning bridges.

Some have narrow pavements with high curbs. My cycle is classified as a wide load, although some long distance cyclist ride bikes that are seemingly as wide as they are long. This makes negotiating the bridges, which are narrow for two way traffic, difficult. With the cross winds and little margin for error, concentration is paramount. To be blown off the pavement at the wrong time would not be healthy.

The first ship I was tempted to visit was in the Hurtigrutemuseet. However in a few weeks time Anne and I will be returning down the coast in one of their ships and will visit the museum together.

I rode around 130 km today and having arrived in Sortland near the end of the day’s ride saw this navy ship tied up beside the filling station.

Riding into Sortland a chance glance to my left revealed a fantastic and unique bus shelter. It was just like a mini sitting room, perfect and done with such charm.

All this with a back drop of continuing mountains, crystal clear water and an abundance of wild flowers, all in air that is void of any pollution (RV’s aside).

And my home for the night- too windy for mosquitoes.

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Lofoten – Undefinably Uneque. 16th July

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.

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