The night has been terrible. I must have caught a gastrointestinal virus. I had diarrhea, I was shivering and my body was in pain. I decided to focus on getting as much sleep as possible and to skip breakfast.
Outside it was raining so I was not missing so much.
Around 10am, I went to see the ship’s nurse because I felt so miserable. The first thing she did was to put me in quarantine in my cabin. Even my access card to the cabin got disabled. The resolute lady was not so much concerned with my own well-being but rather wanted to protect the other passengers from me. Actually, she did not give me any medication but ran even a COVID test on me. So self-medication with Coke and pretzel sticks had to be enough.
So, I was stuck in my cabin and a part of me was upset about that … but the good thing was that due to the quarantine I could keep the cabin until the very end when we would arrive in Svolvær. Normally, I would have needed to vacate the room by noon already. And … drinks were on the house.
I probably missed a lot of great views while watching Netflix – but it is what it is and like this it was also somewhat relaxing.
Around early afternoon, I started feeling a bit better. After our arrival I got off board and drove straight to the next camping site.
I can tell from the few things I saw that the Lofoten are a very special place. It is wild here, and it looks a bit like Mordor in “Lord of the Rings”.
My ship left at 6am and I was up way too early. Something was not quite right with my stomach.
The storm had gone but the sky was still grey. Temperature had dropped again to 7 degrees.
At the harbor I met Marlene, a cyclist from Lyon. She is on a sabbatical and has been cycling through Switzerland, Germany and Sweden up to Norway and the Cape. She crossed the border to Norway „through the forest“ end of June. For the first time I did not feel the urge or the curiosity to talk to another cyclist. Apparently this feeling was mutual. Maybe missing chemistry.
The Hurtigruten ship is very impressive. It is a mixture of cruise and freight ship build for heavy weather and it is not a ferry. However, there is a small elevator at the side for some cars or other heavy goods like building materials or the mail. It is used both by locals and by tourists on a multi-day cruise.
The views were stunning and the whether quickly became better the more we got southwest. Actuality one could see the heavy clouds hanging over the North Cape once we had left the area.
Originally, I had planned to go to Tromsø where I would arrive at midnight because from the website I figured that this was the most southbound harbor. From there it would be a 3 hour drive with a taxi or similar which would be very expensive. Of course I could cycle the route again but time was running out and I still wanted to see the Lofoten.
It turned out that my original information was wrong and the ships are actually running from Kirkenes at the Russian border to Bergen in southern Norway in 5 days stopping at about 40 harbors along the way. I asked if could extend my trip until Svolvær on the Lofoten. The answer was “no, we reach our maximum capacity in Tromsø”. A little later I asked again, this time the higher ranking lady. “Come back after Hammerfest” she said.
As I am now officially a cruise ship tourist, I made use of the time in Europe’s most northern city for a short walk. The buildings itself are simple and functional. All of them are from the 1950s or later. In WWII the Germans troops had evacuated northern Norway by force and destroyed the entire infrastructure so the Russians would be slower in their progress south. I still vividly recall the conversation with a Norwegian lady about this so-called “Lyngen-line” and the “roads of blood” which refers to the forced labor with locals which the Germans applied to build their defense infrastructure.
It is unbelievable and encouraging that today, 76 years after the war, a majority of the tourists are Germans without any hostile intentions.
After my stroll through Hammerfest, I walked back to the reception manager and asked kindly for a third time. Now, it was finally possible and not expensive at all. This means I will stay one night on the ship and reach the Lofoten tomorrow afternoon – yeah! From there I will then cycle east to my base camp 2, aka the rental car.
That now feels like a much better plan. The only downside: now I have time to miss Carolin, my wife. Long distance cycling is not so much hers but a cruise ship tour we would normally do together.
I had really reached my performance limit yesterday which is why I couldn’t sleep properly.
First priority was to wash and dry all my clothes and plan my trip down south. The other priority was to do nothing and most of all don’t get near the bike.
So, Rosinante had to wait on the porch while I was chilling inside. Outside, temperature had dropped to 8 degree meanwhile and there was a real storm going on (by German standards) which made my hut only even more comfy. I was so happy that I did not have to cycle today.
After a little lunch time nap, I had reserved the sauna which was super luxurious. When I was done I walked back the 300m to my hut just in my bathing pants. This felt great – for the first 100m. The rest was a little bit chilly to be honest.
I talked to the nice host who is from Honigsvåg and wanted to understand how it is in to live here in winter when the sun does not shine at all. She mentioned that the weather can get quite harsh with heavy storms and temperatures around -10 degrees. Also snow can get many meters high. She explained that the community of family and friends is very important in these months and that the sky in fact is not totally dark. There are the Northern Lights and also the colors that are created on the horizon because of indirect.
I am not convinced that I could stand this but I am willing to try it out one day – in a nice warm apartment with a good heating.
I was also scheduled to meet Doreen again. But she meant to meet at the actual Cape where I meant to meet at the camping site – which is 25km away.
Other than that, the day was uneventful. I am looking forward to getting onto the Hurtigruten tomorrow and hope that the gale is over by then.
Learning of the day: Good communication is an art.
I woke up early and made myself comfortable in the kitchen to finish yesterday’s blog and have breakfast.
Later Adrian and Emily also joined. They wanted to cycle to Alta today. Around 9am, I took off and stocked up my food supply in the local grocery store, the last and only one for the next 100km to come.
It was pretty windy but no comparison to the day before. On my way I met a couple who were digging in the ruins of what used to be their trailer. Yesterday, it had just been flipped over by the storm and totally destroyed. Also another SUV needed to be pulled out of the curb.
Now I understood why Adrian had complained about the wind yesterday. It must have been really dangerous for him to cycle this stretch.
The road followed the east coast of the mainland and wind came from west. Whenever the road turned inlands, you had to cycle against a decent storm, then through heavy wind coming sideways, and finally you could ride on a big wave of tailwind as the road would turn eastward again. It was fun and the scenery was stunning, too.
I had been warned that there were six tunnels on the way with two of them being “a bit challenging”. Number 1 was one of them. Over 4km you basically cycled through a cave in the rock. Water came down from all sides, it was really chilly, the road was gravel, and the lightening was scarce to put it mildly.
The other big challenge was tunnel number 4. This is the actual Nordkapp-Tunnel which connects the mainland to the island Magerøya on which the big North Cape rock is situated. This one was almost 7km long and went straight downhill with 7% to the lowest level of 212m under sea level. From there it climbed up again with 7%.
Luckily there are currently construction works ongoing, so from either side a safety car would lead a cohort of 20-30 cars through the tunnel, then turn around after exiting on the other side, just to lead another cohort of cars in the opposite direction. Because of this, I was pretty much alone in the tunnel most of the time.
Due to the steep decline on both sides the cold air “fell” into the tunnel throughout the year. So when entering, it felt like diving into a pool of ice cold air.
Overall a tough experience. Nothing to repeat too often. But, at least I was on the island now and “almost there”. The road led to Honnigsvåg where I had a proper warm meal at the gas station (aka cyclists paradise).
Then I met Quentin from Lyon. He had just cycled three months through Turkey, Albania, and Montenegro before coming to Norway. I had heard of him before through Adrian. Quentin had just completed his Masters with 25 years and was scheduled to start his PhD in September. Super cool dude.
For outsiders, a meeting of two long distance cyclists on the road must look overly strange. At first, there is a big “hello”, then a comparison of itinerarys and who one has met on the way. Finally, there is a respectful analysis of the others’ bike to get inspiration for ones own setup. And the last thing is to connect with the other cyclist on Strava or similar before moving on.
Around 5pm I was on the camping site that had been recommended to me. I got the key for a little cabin from a super nice lady and directly continued with the ascend to the Cape. I could have reduced the weight of my baggage but it was important to me to carry everything to the North Cape. It was somehow a question of honor.
Over 25km, the road climbs over many hills around 600m in elevation with up to 8%. I went into zen mode and pedaled up the slopes. It was windy and cold and a cloud had settled onto the rock. Visibility was low and it was wet. In other words: authentic North Cape weather.
Motor cyclists where giving me thumbs up signs during my climb. They could appreciate somewhat what it meant to drive up here.
By 7pm I reached the Cape. It was almost a spiritual moment, like reaching the destination of a pilgrimage. Visibility was so low that I needed to look around a bit before I finally found the famous globe overlooking the Cape.
Two guys from Utrecht talked to me in disbelief about my trip. They also took this picture.
I had a warm coffee in the Nordkapphallen, sent a message to my wife, and then started the return. Due to the many ups and downs it took me almost two hours to get to my cabin and I arrived cold, wet and exhausted – but silently happy.
By 10pm, I wanted to take a shower to get warm again but I had no Norwegian coins anymore. I had given my last one to Doreen in Russeless when she needed one. So I asked for help in the public kitchen and a lady was kind enough to give me the key to the sauna which had a free shower. What a life saver she was.
By midnight I crashed and fell asleep in a comfy and dry bed.
Learning of the day: The actual destination of your journey is within you!
After I had a slept a good 10 hours, I felt a little stronger again. Outside it was raining and the sky was covered with huge clouds. Also the temperature had dropped.
It is one thing to get wet in the evening after a hot summer day. It is something else to start cycling in wind and rain. So, there was a lot of noise in my inner team and there were some motivation issues to be addressed.
After an hour, the rain stopped and the sky cleared up. The task for today was to get from the west to the east coast which meant climbing up some hills and decent on the other side.
Because of the clouds the views were super dramatic today. Much different – and probably more typical for here – than on the days with blue skies before.
After I had cycled through 80km of mountains with virtually no infrastructure, I came to a gas station with a shop. This is how it must feel to find an oasis in the desert. I had a yummy meal and then took on the rest of the distance.
After a short climb the route descended through a river valley towards the east coast. It had started to rain again and the wind had developed into a bit of a tailwind storm for me. So I went downhill with up to 70km/h and arrived frozen stiff at the camping site.
Because of the rain, I had decided to get myself a cabin today but all were rented out to the workers who are building a brand new tunnel tube to the North Cape.
So I set up my tent in wind and rain which was not quite as simple as the days before.
In the large kitchen I finally met other cyclists and hikers who I had been looking for over the past weeks.
There was Emily from France who had cycled over three months via Germany, Poland, the Baltic States, Finland and Norway to the North Cape and was now heading home via Denmark, Germany and Belgium. She is a freelancer in the event industry and since there was no work she rented out her apartment and started her biggest journey so far. With this she was also saving costs she said. Very impressive lady.
Then there was Adrian from Geneva who had cycled around the ring road of Iceland and then flew into Norway and went to North Cape by ship to now cycle down the Norwegian coast. He feels that he is carrying to much luggage and that he has a lot of headwind. Both is probably true. A very nice and thoughtful guy.
And there was Doreen from Germany who works as an ergo-therapist in a forensic psychiatry in Bavaria and is now on an 21 months sabbatical. She arrived in Alta today and had spent the night before in a bar at Oslo airport because she had missed her connecting flight. Her plan is to hike down the E1 from the North Cape through Norway and the see were her path may lead her. She did that before in New Zealand and does between 20 and 50 km a day. A very cool lady.
We spent the evening with cooking, eating and chatting and it was delightful. Everyone asked questions, was curious and appreciative. The topics of the evening can only be appreciated by fellow travelers I guess. Other campers who wanted to do their dishes felt a bit like intruders and only whispered with each other – funny.
Unfortunately, my “waterproof” GoPro has died today in the rain. So, no videos from today onwards unfortunately – which is a real pity.
Learning of the day: Don’t always rely on the loudest voice in your head. It might be your fear.
Today was tough. It was very hot and there was a lot of climbing. Towards the evening I also came into a thunderstorm.
The night had been somewhat traumatic for me. Since the camping site is located directly next to the E6, it was kind of noisy. So, I decided to put earplugs in. I don’t do this very often but I remembered that they often used to fall out. So, I put them extra deep into my ears. When I woke up around 1:30am, I wanted to take the earplugs out again. One I could manage but the other one was too deep in my ear because of all my “doing it right”. This had never happened to me before. I almost freaked out because I could not get it out. I actually risked pushing this thing even further into my ear. So I got up looking for some sort of tool. Luckily, another camper lady was also awake. I asked her for a tweezer and luckily she had one. I probably looked like some sort of rabbit in a trap. Even if I felt totally embarrassed, I asked for her help to pull it out. So there we stood in the middle of the camping ground after midnight: a panicking rabbit and the perplexed helper with a tweezer.
Finally, she managed to pull this thing out. I was so thankful for her kind help. I immediately threw the pieces into the dustbin – maybe a bit overly dramatic. I imagined what would have happened without her help. It took quite a while until my pulse got normal again and I could go back to sleep.
I woke up early and was in the saddle by 7:30am because I knew that today would entail some climbing. The first hill went up over 8km to 400m in altitude with amazing views on the Altafjord. I even reached the snow fields.
My mood was high and I felt strong. The descent over 10km was also very cool.
After a second hill, I found a supermarket and Cafe with a super nice owner who also spoke some words of German – cyclist heaven. It had gotten hot meanwhile and I took some time to eat, drink and chat with her.
Later, a Norwegian cyclist couple in my age came by. They wanted to do 3.500km Norway from North to South in 3-4 weeks. He looked quite in shape, she not yet. Both pulled fully loaded trailers behind them and had done 100km a day – but wanted to speed up now. It did not need much science to see that they would not make it in time unless they got rid of a lot of weight. I told them about the rule I have developed for my luggage: if I don’t need it every other day, I don’t need it at all.
Later, I also met Jim, another nice guy from Norway who was also going south. He was quite happy to have a chat since he had not met a cyclist in the past days. I also met other couples or small groups but they never stopped for a chat. They were in their own little bubble.
Oh, by the way: I saw more rain deers. Also I learned that none of them are “wild”. They all belong to Sámi people even if the roam around freely and each have an unique cut in the ear as a marker. The amount of rain deers pretty much represents their bank account. Hence, it is considered impolite to ask a Sámi how many animals he owns. After Tschernobyl, over 70.000 animals needed to be killed because of radioactivity. The Sámi were never fully compensated for this.
For the afternoon, I was following the Altafjord to Alta. Fjords are great to watch but not very practical in terms of logistics. I could see the city already when I still had 30km of cycling to do. A thunderstorm grew as I came closer. I would either have to ride right into it or do something illegal and take a bridge and some tunnels that are forbidden for cyclists to get on the other side of a mountain. I chose the illegal option and the plan worked out. However, 5km before the camping ground I finally got really soak and wet. It was actually quite refreshing.
I arrived at the camp ground next to the Alta river. This time, I chose a room because of the rain. I did my laundry and quickly ate something. I was very tired and simply crashed around 8pm.
Learning of the day: It is amazing who is there to help you when you are in trouble.
I had some bad dreams that had to do with guilt and not being wanted here. It seems that the conversation yesterday evening with this somewhat wicked lady has had some effect on me after all.
Nonetheless, I was looking really very much forward to today, since I would cycle alongside the Olden Fjord which is embedded into snow-covered mountains on both sides. After 50km I would take a ferry across the Fjord to meet the E6 again.
I started in the saddle by 8:30am and followed the Fjord. I had not checked if the ferry is running at all and what the schedule might be. I just started cycling and trusted that everything would work out fine. Once I realized this I had to laugh about myself. Last year, on my tour around east Germany, I was still way more careful. On the other hand, a 100km detour was at stake, so I finally asked an elderly Norwegian couple if the ferry was running at all. I asked in English, they answered in Norwegian. But somehow it worked and I got a thumbs up.
After 3 hours, I arrived at the ferry port and who else arrived at the same time? The ferry itself. I did not wait longer than 10 minutes before I could get aboard. And ferries are for free for cyclists here. Go with the flow.
On the ferry, a sentence got into my head. I don’t really know what it means. It goes: „I have arrived in my tour”. Maybe it has to do with less pain. My “seating area” is much better after I changed the tilt of the saddle one more time. But maybe it also means something else.
After the transfer to the other side of the fjord and some jaw-dropping views, I got back onto the E6. Traffic was quite ok today.
Did I mention already that I absolutely love Northern Norway? I have to stop so many times each day just to stare at the magnificent scenery.
Even the people who operate road construction sites are nice and friendly here. One gave me a head start so that I could cycle before the cars and trucks. That never happened to me elsewhere so far.
Today I met two cyclists, both Norwegians, who were cycling south from the North Cape. Eric around noon and Edwin around 5pm. With both I had a bit of a chat which was fun. Edwin comes from the Oslo region, has a dark skin and speaks fluent German because his mother is German. He has studied Physics and is now doing a two year engagement at “Teach First”. Here professionals in the MINT space spent the first years of their careers as teachers. A great initiative.
By the way, do you know why it makes sense for cyclists to wear a helmet in Norway (and Sweden)? To protect yourself against attacks of breeding seagulls. I kid you not, I was attacked full contact on the head three times so far.
I found a nice camping ground between E6 and a lake. Since the weather will get colder tomorrow, I figured it might be the last opportunity for a swim in the lake. I should say that in contrast to Sweden the lakes here are mostly made up of melting water from the mountains. The water was so cold, it physically hurt at certain parts. But it was great nonetheless and I am glad I did it.
Did I mention that the nature here is super stunning? I find it hard to describe the special, rough beauty in words.
I got up early and was on the bike by 7:30am. Navigation was easy since I would stay on the E6 all day.
This road is a bit like a life line for the North, so it is super busy with a lot of trucks. However, drivers here are really super respectful and careful with cyclists. I only had two situations where the drivers got too close and one of them involved a German camper van.
After the road to Tromsø separated, traffic got much less which is great.
Weather was sunny and warm and the road was freshly made, too. It looks like Norway is investing a lot into infrastructure up here.
The scenery was ever changing and not monotonous at all. Once and again there were jaw-dropping sights like waterfalls, mountains, rivers and so forth.
Today I crossed the 2.000km mark. 524km still to go to the North Cape. However, there is rain forecasted for the coming days. Let’s see. My return ticket with Hurtigruten from Hoenigsvåg (North Cape) to Tromsø is booked for the 12th of July.
During the last days, I had come by several memorial sites for the battle of Narvik. I was not aware of this event so I stopped by and read. This battle took place in the winter of 1940 and was fought together with the French and the British. It was the first defeat of the Germans (supported by Austrian alpine troops) in the North even if only temporarily. Narvik was strategic to Hitler since it had an ice-free harbor and hence could ship the steel which was produced in nearby Kiruna.
When I arrived at my camping site, I had a chat with a local lady over dinner. This place is actually the get-together-area for the entire village. Actually, the lady started talking to me “Do you know what the Germans have done here during the war?”. Then she started listing some cruelties of the Nazis like forced migration, forced labor, killings etc.
Also she was not very happy that they now let foreigners like me into the country again. It has to be noted that Norway is quite behind in terms of vaccination.
After a while she just stood up without saying another word and left to sit with someone else. The situation was a bit strange and she was, too.
It had been a long time since I was addressed as a German like this but it was also very informative. I don’t feel guilty but somehow connected to our history and can’t help to also feel responsible.
Learning of the day: Sometimes you have to go far to learn something about your own history.
This camping site was the most beautiful I have seen so far. It was located directly at a large fjord with a stunning scenery. You could see both snow-covered mountains and the blue and green sea. I was lost for words when I woke up to bright sunshine. I could just sit there and stare onto the water and and watch the reflections of the mountains in it. See the video to see for yourself.
Also, I would like you to meet my new best friend. He is called “ThermaCell” and is the wonder weapon against all kinds of bugs. It was originally developed for the snipers of the US Army which makes it even more mysterious. You start it and after some minutes you have a bubble of clean air around you. I love it.
After a calm and bug-free breakfast, I spend two hours re-engineering my luggage. Since I wanted my new rear wheel to last, I tried to reduce weight and also move more weight to the front wheel.
I was able to reduce about 5kg of luggage including one full bag. Unfortunately, the most slack was in the food compartment. I was carrying e.g. 500g of “Schwartenmagen” (a German kind of sausage) with me that Swen had given me as a gift. So I reduced all security stock, redundancies, buffers and other extras and left all of it in the car.
Rosinante looks a lot slicker now, don’t you think?
Fortunately, the owner of the camping site allowed me to leave my car at his farm until I return from the North Cape. This is now officially “base camp 2” (Evenesvaien 82).
My neighbors on the tent ground by the sea were a young British couple who happened to both work at the Natural History Museum in Tromsø. We chatted about the Norwegian way of dealing with COVID and the impact on society. While the daily life in Norway had been relatively unaffected in the past year, the total shutdown of the borders fostered a somewhat nationalistic climate with absolutely no foreigners in the country not even for business reasons. They confirmed that up until last week the borders where totally closed for all non-Norwegian residents. So, I am one of the first foreigners to travel the country since almost a year or so.
After my bike was ready and the car was parked away, I started cycling around 11:15am.
First, I had to cycle 45km back alongside this beautiful fjord to Bjerkvik to get onto my route. From there you can see the toll-bridge to Narvik in the distance.
Then I got onto the E6 which leads all the way through the coastal mountains of the Arctic Sea to Kirkenes at the Russian border.
It feels, smells and looks like alpine environments but the proximity to the sea is unique and really special. I think I love Norway (more than Sweden).
Indeed, I only saw Norwegian cars and no cyclists at all. That feels a little strange.
I found a camping ground in the mountains next to the E6 with a restaurant and stopped around 6pm.
Learning of the day: Too much safety makes you heavy.
First things first: I have a brand new rear tire and I am legally in Norway! Also, I drove around 650km by car today. But one thing after another.
Despite my luxurious cabin I slept badly. It was noisy, the air was stuffy … I missed my tent.
Around 7am I started driving the 250km east to Luleå and arrived at the bike shop at 10am sharp.
They still remembered me from yesterday and were extremely friendly and helpful.
I was prepared for multiple days of waiting, missing parts, improvising and negotiating etc. but Roger the mechanic just said “yes, we have all we need, shall we call you in around 45min when it is ready?” I was simply out of words and full of joy. I hung around in the shop and chatted with the other chap who had lived in multiple places in Sweden and Norway before. I asked him a ton of questions. Did you know that there is a Swedish unit “mile” which is exactly 10km? I heard Swedish folks talking miles before and never understood why.
So, if you ever happen to be at the Arctic Circle with a bike problem you want to go to Cykelstället in Luleå
Once the bike was read, I did some sightseeing in Luleå which is located directly by the Baltic Sea. It is a beautiful former harbor town. Not spectacular but pretty and relaxed.
After that I contemplated what to do. All the rumors amongst the cyclists I had met said that Norway would open up on Monday. I read the official website again and it actually said there that the border was already open for Germans who are fully vaccinated and have a digital vaccination certificate. All of this applies to me. So I said to me “ok, if one great thing can happen today maybe also two are possible!”
So I drove from Luleå on the east coast 400km to Narvik at the west coast, hoping they would let me in. Of course I could have done that by bike but I wanted to have the car in the same country as me in case anything happens while I am cycling to the North Cape.
On my way I came through the mine town Kiruna, the most northern town of Sweden. They are mining iron ore there and currently the entire city is being moved 5km east so that they can exploit all the ore in the ground. The air smells like hot metal. Not a very pretty place.
The further I came west the less confident I became. I saw a lot of German VW busses and BMW enduros coming my way and they all looked somehow frustrated I figured. Probably, they were all not vaccinated since Sweden with its liberal policy attracts a lot of COVID neglectors.
The trees in the forests became smaller the more north I got. Eventually they were only bushes, the so-called Fjäll. The nature here was so breathtakingly beautiful that I almost drove in the curb once. I regret that I could not cycle this piece of about 150km – it is not half as intense in a car. However, there is one good thing about that: my car is covered with dead bugs now and I think this is a fair revenge for the last two weeks.
The route from Luleå to Narvik is so flat that there is even a railway line operating, the most northern one in Europe. The altitude of the road is between 370m and 520m with very gentle slopes. No comparison to the Alps which have crossed numerous times by bike.
Finally, I came to the border which was unmanned. 20km into Norwegian territory there was a control post. I showed my COVID vaccination app and mumbled my story and the officer just said “nice story, enjoy you trip”. I nodded and drove off. After the next curve I was jelling and screaming to release the pressure. How cool – I was in Norway!
The landscape here is even more wild and full of contrast as in Sweden. The mountains reach 2,000 meters and are covered with snow. The air smells of salt and there are NO mosquitoes.
Since it had gotten late, I had a quick dinner at a gas station and a found a picturesque camping space directly by the sea.
Tomorrow, I will leave my car here and start cycling north again. From the North Cape I will jump onto the post boat to bring me back to Tromsø. And from there I will then cycle back south to the car and drive to Malmö. If everything goes as planned that is.
Learning of the day: miracles can only happen when you dare to try things out!