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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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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