Norway

19th of May – 26th of May 2018:

Fully motivated, we began cycling to the other cape, which is merely on the other side of the globe from our starting point. 30,000 km, 30 countries and 2 continents awaited us!  

Our route first led us through a sparse and rocky landscape, partly covered with snow. On the plains, we saw lots of reindeer. Sometimes these animals fled in a suicidal way, running across the road or along the shoulder. Another constant companion was a strong wind, which challenged our untrained legs. On the first day, a tremendous gust attacked us as we exited a tunnel and we almost fell off our bicycles. After a short break, we continued, but it was a major challenge and we had to cycle in a crouch position and then pedal as hard as possible so as not to fall. This was an unforgettable moment, and an early test of our motivation to continue the trip. The wind never really stopped in Norway, but luckily, the later gusts were not as strong as on that first day.  

A 6.8 km long tunnel connects the North Cape Island with the mainland and it is up to 212 meters deep below sea level. In the first part of the tunnel, we enjoyed the steep downhill section, which has a gradient of up to 10%. Soon the situation changed and in the second half of the tunnel, we had to pedal uphill inside a dark hole. At least there was no wind! 

Due to the nonexistent night, we sometimes cycled until well after 8 PM. On the day of the World finals in ice hockey with the Swiss team playing against Sweden we searched for a place to bed down early. Luckily and thanks to modern technology, we could watch the game even though we were far away from civilization. Moreover, despite the missed gold medal, we celebrated that our team reached the final with whiskey from our flask! 

The further south we went, the more vegetation decorated the landscape. First, there were more and more bushes, which were later replaced by trees. The numerous mountain passes punctuated this change of scenery. Many times, we looked forward to the next downhill after a strenuous climb, but we forgot about the wind. So sometimes, we even had to pedal hard when going downhill. 

At the beginning of the tour, especially if we earned every kilometer through suffering, we felt it was legitimate to celebrate our small victories. We reached one of those milestones between mountain passes with wind still in our faces. The odometer showed 300 km, which meant we had cycled about 1% of the 30,000 km total distance. 

An area of great scenic beauty was the fjords, typical for Norway’s coast. The sea reaches far into the interior and gives the surroundings a characteristic flair. But the consequence was that we had to accept long detours around these majestic fjords. 

In addition to the fiords, alternating weather is typical for Norway as well. The weather can change in a very short amount of time. On most days, it rains at least once and pure sunshine is not something one often sees. On one day in particular the weather gods tested our willpower to the limit. First, it rained a little bit, which was no problem. We wore our rain clothes right from the early morning start to our cycling. Not long after that, heavier rain replaced the soft drizzle and the water ran down across our cold faces. We screamed to each other: “At least it cannot get worse”! Wrong! We barely finished this sentence when the state of things changed again and it snowed directly into our faces. The constant wind remained loyal to us too and did not leave us alone that day. While fighting through the snowstorm and sweating heavily due to the many layers of clothes, we wished that this freak weather would finally stop. 30 minutes after that it did so and the sun greeted us again. 

Up to that point we had only made camp in the wild and therefore our personal hygiene came up a bit short. So, after a full week on the road, we enjoyed our first shower since Tromsø at an official campground and afterwards we felt like we were newly born.  

Along the way, we saw many wooden structures that looked like the framework of a large tent, but they were not the residues of a festival. The structures are there to help the local anglers hang and dry their codfish. The dried and extremely tough fish is famous in this region and the locals love it. The rough Norwegian weather and the proximity to the sea give it its characteristic taste. It is worth it to try this specialty, but the taste is unique and everyone needs to make up their mind about whether they enjoy it.  

The trip so far had stressed not only our bodies, but our bicycles too. We decided in planning the journey not to bring the front panniers and to pack our entire luggage on the back. Due to that, our back wheels carried a higher load, and in an already long tunnel, we heard a loud and unfamiliar sound. It was a signal that we had suffered our first broken spoke and we would have a chance to test the skills we learned at the bike shop back home. With some patience but no further trouble, Fabian fixed the spoke that same evening, even though it was quite cold.  

On the seventh day in Norway, we made a nice acquaintance first thing in the morning. On this splendid sunny day, we met a German traveler who was walking from North Cape to Nuremberg – yes WALKING! Walter, despite his age, seems youthful and was moving along with the help of a modified buggy. The contraption was designed in such a way that he could stand on it when going downhill and reach a speed of up to 30 km/h. So far, he had managed to cover around 60 km per day – an athletic achievement! 

On the same day, the weather allowed us to cycle in only shorts and a T-Shirt for the first time. So, we were even able to enjoy another detour of 45 km due to another fjord. During our lunch break, we met some Norwegians in front of a supermarket. They were in a good mood and interested in hearing about our project, probably because of all the beer they were drinking. The entertaining group of men gave us salt cod to try and made jokes about the weather and their non-present wives. It is unfortunate that besides this encounter, we did not meet many other locals, since the region we cycled through was rather sparsely populated and the Norwegians are not famous for their extroverted characters.  

From the start of that day to almost the end, we enjoyed ideal conditions cycling around the fjord. But during the last few kilometers on the Norwegian coast in the direction of Skibotn, we faced another strong headwind and this used up our last energy reserves. But by the end we had managed to cycle more than 100 km in a day for the first time since we started this project.  

The next intermediate target after the border between Norway and Finland was a small village at an altitude of more than 600 meters ASL. Thanks to the platform Warmshowers.com we had a place to stay for two nights with a couple from New Zealand and Finland in Kilpisjärvi. The platform offers bicycle travelers a warm shower and a place to stay for a few nights. The road to that isolated village led through a magical valley higher and higher into the mountains. The surroundings changed from pine forest to scattered birch trees and finally to a sparse region with brush and dry meadows. Shortly before the top of the pass, we cycled past a completely frozen lake and later passed through the unspectacular border into Finland. During the border crossing, we played the Finish national anthem, a tradition that we want to maintain all the way to South Africa.  

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