03 August, 2008

Norwegian Wood - isn't it good.

You will all have read in my previous post about how I fell in love with Norway, but I have left out many of the details of my journey itself, so this is quick attempt to fill in the gaps.

During my very enjoyable stay at Chez Magnus, Magnus arranged for me to make a guest appearance in the local newspaper in Kalix Sweden, see below for details.

Hitting the road I left Kalix to head back to where I had been - Finland - to head North into the Arctic Circle and up to Nordkap. The roads through here are quite smooth, albeit a little damp, and those reindeer warning signs are not put there for nothing. My first experience of a stag with enormous antlers trotting towards me down the centre white line, as if he owned the road, was one of awe and wonder - what a magnificent creature. He was the first of many though, and as I crossed into Lapland and then into Norway proper I saw many more of both sexes.

Stopping to take photos was almost out of the question, however. The mosquitoes in this neck of the woods are plentiful and voracious - apparently that is why the deer come on to the road, to escape the mozzies. Tempted as I was to toss the poor suffering reindeer my can of Aeroguard, I needed it for myself.

I stopped for fuel once I crossed border, paying §3 per litre and enjoying my first $25 service station hamburger (yes, it is true what they say about Norway being the most expensive country in Europe)

Before long though, as I continued North, the winds grew steadily stronger and the night (although it was bright daylight) grew steadily cooler. I finally reached Nordkap, after travelling through 6 tunnels - the longest 7km - and windswept fishing villages, around 12.30am with many other tourists (including 2 Goldwings and a Triumph Sprint) enjoying the view from the clifftop. The wind by this stage was blowing a gale and one of the Goldwing riders needed us to rescue him as his bike was blown sideways and over by one huge gust (think how heavy a Goldwing is folks, and think what wind force is required to achieve that!).

I decided it would be inappropriate to try and erect the tent in that location so headed back 15km South to the lee of cliff face and set up camp around 2.30am (again in broad daylight). That was fine until around 5am when the wind changed direction slightly and I ended up with a flattened tent and a broken fibreglass tent pole to show for my efforts.

By 7.30am I was ready to get back on my way and continue South along the fjords, but first I had 2 or 3 mountain passes to cross. With altitudes up to 1,500 metres and plenty of snow, mist and rain it was truly desolate and bloody cold. Believe it or not though, the conditions may have been hard for me but I passed at least 50 hardy souls on bicycles all heading North into the gale up to Nordkap.

I finally reached Alta, to joke with the two service station attendants about what a miserable summer they were having (I can't believe anyone voluntarily chooses to live in such cities as Alta, Hammerfest and Tromse where for 2 months each year they see no daylight whatsoever!), before continuing down to Narvik where I had a most enjoyable stay in the local Youth Hostel.

Next day I continued further South along magnficinet roads and vistas, taking ferries across fjords, passing the maelstroms near Bodo, and crossing out of the polar circle again, to camp for the night alongside a fjord near Mo I Rana ( I figured camping was the easiest way to keep my costs down). It is here where I believe I caught the dreaded lurgy.

The following day was similar riding alongside fjords and up and down mountains. This part of Norway is only 6km wide at one point and I reached Dovre (the troll capital of Norway) to find all accommodation booked out and having to set up tent again 2 metres from a wonderful fresh flowing river.

After an early start I headed off to Sogndal via the Jostedalsbreen glacier and the magnificent UNESCO listed Geiranger fjord ferry - what magnificent riding.

I have told you about my unpleasant experience en route to Oslo, and from Oslo I was feeling quite under the weather fro the ride down into Sweden and into Malmo where I spent a morning in the local hospital before crossing the bridge into Denmark and Copenhagen. This evening was spent in a beautiful farmhouse hotel in Kosor on the Danish coast and the next day took me to Kiel in journey - a short days ride but added to by 200km of recrossing my tracks endeavouring to find a camera that may have bounced to the road somewhere along a 50 km stretch of freeway.

This evening was spent camped at a Rast Platz alongside the autobahn as all accommodation was booked out in Kiel.

Yesterday I took a short ride to Hamburg and arrived early enough to take the last bed in a backpacker's lodge in St Pauli (a great bohemian location near the Reeperbahn) and today I have arrived in Berlin in an attempt to understand the changes that have occurred since I last rode into this city in October 1977 (and there was a big wall around it :-)).

Tomorrow it's off to Leipzig to visit the Stasi museum and then off to Prague and Budapest to see a little more of Eastern European history.