Norway Part 3, The Far North

I am leaving Tromso on June 23rd.  The tent is soaking wet in my panniers, but I didn’t want to have another sleepless night at the campground.

Riding further north from Tromso, sometimes there will be no alternative then to ride highways E8 & E6.  Luckily you can leave the city via minor roads for the first 20 km or so, following ‘national bicycle route 1’.  Then there’s no alternative for the E8.  Keeping an eye on the gps, I find a small road between the E8 and the fjord, where the bicycle route continues over the horrible busy road.

At Fagernes I take a left onto the quieter road nbr 91 and pitch my tent a few km before the ferry landing on a high ridge overlooking a forested valley.  Typically for Norway, you see electrical power lines going everywhere.  3 lines going through this valley.

Next day I take the ferry from Breivikeidet to Svensby, crossing the Ullsfjorden.  The ride from Svensby to the next ferry at Lyngseidet is a beautiful one, but under an overcasted sky and the rain is chasing me.  I lose the fight against the rain at Olderdalen, where I  rejoin the E6.  Traffic, rain and quiet a few short climbs are not a recipe for a good cycling day.

The weather is improving the next day though.  At the top of the hill between Sandukt and Gildetun, I meet the Belgian girl again, who was also at the campground in Tromso.  We cycle the rest of the day together, entering Finnmark, Norway’s northernost province and pitch the tent at the tip of the Langfjord.  The mosquitos are horrible.  They are since Tromso.

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The famous ‘Ice Sea Cathedral’ in Tromso

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One of the many Norwegian ferry’s.

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On June 26th, I ride my longest cycling day ever.   The ride is beautiful along the Langfjord and the Altafjord.  The traffic is bothering me.

I enter Alta, one of the bigger towns here in the north and 400 km north of the polar circle in t-shirt and shorts.  The center is just a collection of supermarkets around a square.  I have about 80 km’s behind me today.  I’m in doubt to go to the campground but decide just to push on a bit.  The weather is so great and I hope traffic will get less during the evening.

It will turn into a terrific night !

At a spot, I see 4 eagles circling around in the sky.  When I stop to make pictures, two of them keeping flying over me quiet low.  I can see them from so close by, it is unbelievable.  The shape of their wings against the blue sky.  It’s hard to make pictures, because they are quick, and the mosquito’s are eating you whenever you stop moving, but I gave it a try.

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Angry mom leaving here nest.

North of Alta, the E6 is going inland over some kind of plateau which looks like what I think Mongolia must be looking like in some parts.  I cycle deep into the night and enjoy myself immensely on the now deserted E6.  At 3 am, I crawl in my tent on the hill top, 12 km before Olderfjord.  182 km after leaving last night’s camping spot.  What a day !

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Cycling through the night. 1:30 am
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2:30 am
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And 03:00 am, time to take a rest.At 05:00 am it became too hot in the tent.

Instead of continuing on the E6 (which in fact becomes E69 here) towards the North Cape along the eastern shore of the Porsanger peninsula, I decide to take road nbr 889 along the western side of the same peninsula.  A very quiet road with a very spectacular coastline near Lilefjord, where I pitch the tent for the night.  In the evening I hike into the hills for a while.  It was 31°C today.

The weather is glorious again. I even washed myself in the river today.

My second day along Porsanger peninsula, it’s a bit cloudy, but still good fun.  I see a lot of reindeer along the way.  In Havoysund at the tip of the peninsula, I pitch the tent just beyond the village.  (You can take a shower in the little wooden house at the marina).

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Porsangerfjord, the 4th longuest fjord in Norway.
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The small road along the western side of Porsanger peninsula.

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I arrived in Havoysund at 20:06. The supermarket closed at 20:00. Very basic meal, whch tasted wonderful after a day in the saddle.

The Hurtigruten coastal service will sail me towards the North Cape with their m/s Nordkapp (oh coincidence).  We arrive in Honningsvag, the ‘gate’ to the North Cape late morning.  Cyclists who follow the busy E69 and risked their live in the tunnels arrive here in a different shape as me.

I went into the jaccuzzi on board the ship this morning.

For a moment I think about going to the little Thai restaurant in town, but decide to do that tomorrow, ‘celebrating’ to have reached the North Cape.  This was never a goal in itself.  It is anyway just a tourist trap.  It is not the northern most point of the European mainland.  “No,”  many people say. “You have to hike a little further up”.

Wrong of course.  You’ll have to be on another peninsula, east from here, named ‘Nordkinn’.

It is also not the ‘Northern most point of Europe’.  It’s on an island (Mageroya).  If you’ll include islands in search of the northern most point, Svalbard is much, much farther to the north.

I guess the Norwegians just made it where it is, because Svalbard can’t be reached by cars or camper vans, and the real point on the Nordkinn peninsula is much easier reached through  Sweden as through  Norway.  And that means bye bye tourist money, which Norwegians won’t do.

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Anyway, from Honningsvag to the so called North-Cape, it’s a 35 km ride with 2 big hills.

Near the top of the first hill, I see a big group of reindeer.  I park my bike and go very slowly closer and closer.   Not moving to fast, not directly towards them.  They keep an eye on me, but don’t run.

It seems like they get used to me after a while and just keep doing their thing, grazing a bit and they come themselves closer and closer to me.  Fantastic !

Duty calls however, so after a while I go slowly back to my bike.

A car with 3 Italians, father, mother & son stops just when I mount the bike.

The son, a 20 or so year old moron gets out of the car and runs like a madman towards the reindeer shouting “BHAAAAAAAAA”.  The parents find it funny.

I hesitate a few moments. Shall I cycle away or kill them ?

I mount the bike and ride, thinking how, once again, I deserve the nobel price for self-control.

This is not the end of the ordeal.  Only a few kilometer further a car coming from the other side slows down as I approach, a camper van sitting at my rear wheel.  As the other car slows, the camper van accelerates, knocking me into the ditch.  I shout at him and he stops.

Italians…

And a dozen of his countrymen with a campervan behind him.

The driver and his passenger get out and I tell him in very clear language what I think of him.  I make the argument long enough to stop the whole bunch for at least 15 minutes.

Today, I hate Italians.

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Somebody lost something on the way up.  Can you imagine the communication going on inside the car seconds after this happened.

The North Cape was in mist.  You could see nothing.

That made me happy, because that would ruin the Italians pictures and it was probably the big goal of their long trip.

There is an entrance fee to the North Cape.  I heard 160 Kroners or so, but as a cyclist you are waved through for free.

In the basement of the big visitor centre, their’s a small ‘Thai Museum’ about the visit of Thailand’s greatest king, Chulalongkorn, Rama V.  He visited the North Cape on 12th July 1907.

I came 109 years after him.

No museum will be erected for me, I guess.

29th June, exactly 75 days after I left home and cycled 4843 km & 36882 altitude meters.

From this 4843 km, at least 3500 were against the wind.  Probably more.

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The North-Cape at the right.

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The last km’s before the North-Cape
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The statue for the tourist at not the North-Cape.  But it is the point where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Arctic Ocean.
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Inside the Thai Museum at the North Cape

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Same sign on the way back.

I never made it to that Thai restaurant anymore in Honningsvag as I woke up too late the next morning, it was raining, so I waited even longer to break the tent down, etc..

I arrived ‘in town’ around 13:30 hrs and went  straight on board the Hurtigruten (m/s Finnmark this time).  I was almost alone on board as most of the passengers use the 3,5 hour break the vessel makes here to go quickly up and down to the North Cape by bus.

That suited me fine as this meant I had the swimming pool and jacuzzi almost to myself.  The sun had come out by then, and it was 26°C.

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Around 17:00 hrs I got off the ship at the next port of call, Kjollefjord.  The passage going with the ship in the fjord is stunning.  And so was the head wind.

I met a Romanian cyclist along the way, going the opposite direction.  I found a nice camping spot below a remaining patch of snow.  The mosquitos are still making your life like hell as soon as you stop.  There are a lot of horseflies as well, biting whole chunks of meat out of your legs.  Try preparing your food, and eating it like that….

Preparing happens outside the tent, eating I do inside now.

My second day on the Nordkinn peninsula, I had again a terrible headwind which slowed me down enormously.  It just seems to want to blow me to the North pole.  But I also had a blue sky and 26°C.  While the northern side of this peninsula reminds me of what Mongolia must look like in my immagination, the southern side is a barren, rocky dry land.  No gras, no trees.  But very beautiful.

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First campsite on the Nordkinn Peninsula, after midnight.

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The barren northern part of the peninsula.

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Suddenly I saw this chap on the road.
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I waited a bit, we stared at each other until he decided to come and get a closer look. Always let them come to you. The other way around doesn’t work.
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Isn’t he great ?

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At Ifjord I join the bigger road 98 and turn east instead of south.  And would you believe it, so does the wind.  Or storm as I have to start calling it now.  It is so strong today that it literally blows you backwards when you stop, or it topples you over when you turn sideways.  I was blown into the ditch several times today.  People who saw the bicycle race Gent-Wevelgem of 2015 can have an idea what it’s like, but imagine having these condition on a fully loaded touring bike, for days in a row.

But the temperatures were good, 30°C today the landscape was impressive along the northern edge of our continent and the road wasn’t busy at all.

It was 1 km beyond Ifjord I completed the 5000th km of this trip.

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Heaving breakfast at km 4.999, in the wind, but still with a lot of mosquito’s.
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The spot where I hit my 5000th km.

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Who wouldn’t like to cycle here ?

At Tanabru I had no choice but to re-join the E6 further east.  The big constant being that wind, and the high temperatures.

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This must be a very old sign. CCCP.
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More or less sheltered from the winds.
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This picture could be taken in the Provence, but it is along the very northern edge of our continent.

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On Monday the 4th of July, America’s National Holiday, I completed the last stretch in Norway, the ride to Kirkenes and further on to the Russian border.  This is Russia’s northern most border post.  There’s nothing to see in Kirkenes.  The Norwegians expect a lot of traffic to and from Russia in the future I think, because the road is upgraded (even with a bicycle lane !) and (yet another) tunnel is blown into a little hill, where the current old road goes around/over it.  Many times, I have the impression the Norwegians are blowing tunnels through mountains just for the sake of making them.  Keep the economy going I suppose.  Many of these tunnels are completely useless with perfectly good roads around the hill which can carry the same amount of traffic.  And a new tunnel going into the mountain 200 meters from where the old road goes around it, also means a new bridge over the river or fjord of course….

I was a bit disappointed arriving at the Russian border.  Not in the border itself, but I ‘d expected some sort of welcome by Vladimir P. after all my efforts.  A cup of milk and a few cookies.  It might be my own fault as I’m a day later as expected because of all this head wind, so maybe he was waiting for me here yesterday.  I guess he must be at work Monday at 8:15 am.  Especially today, I suppose he needs to send an e-mail to his colleague Barrack for the holiday.

I expressed my disappointment to the Russian border guards and asked them whether Vladimir had to go back to his office in Moscow, but this information was classified.

So instead I sang some patriotic songs with the boarder guards like ‘Babooshka, Babooshka’ and ‘Ra-ra-Rasputin, lover of the Russian queen’ while dancing the one-legged tirritomba.

In the evening I cycled back to the village Neiden in the rain and pitched my tent at the same place where I broke it down in the morning.  A nice place very well sheltered from the wind.

I feel that apart from the wind, i have been extremely lucky with the weather in Norway.  Sure, I’ve head rain, sometimes lots of it, but I ‘ve got a lot of sun as well which meant I saw most of the northern part under glorious blue skies.

It  also appears the whole bicycle thing made a huge impression on Shakira when we met in Utakleiv, as she just launched this song  a few days ago 😉

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Bad weather coming from the east.
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Now isn’t this a spectacular rest area ?

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Just a little push further and I would be in Murmansk, but I didn’t have the Russian visa.

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Love the ‘conduct at the border’ section. Not sure whether singing songs with the Russians qualifies as ‘intentially making contact with persons on the other side of the border’ or ‘act in an insulting way’.

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Last breakfast in Norway, looking at Finland already.
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Camera’s…. :-/

Total kilometer Norway: 2.418 km
Average km per cycling day: follows later

Total kilometer so far: 5.328 km
Total altimeter so far: 42.205 meter
Total time on the bike: 356 hrs 44 min

Nights slept inside: 0
Nights slept outside: 36 (5 on campgrounds, 31 wild camping)
Average daily cost Norway:

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The Norwegian part of the trip.
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Norway Part 2, The Islands

Lofoten:

Ah, the Lofoten…

This group of islands well above the Polar Circle. I wished to visit them for a long time already.

I arrived with the ferry from Bodo around 21:00 hrs and cycled with a German couple, Kessi and Matthias towards Lofoten’s southern tip, the village A.  The camping didn’t welcome tents anymore, but I saw already an allright wild camping spot on the way in.

At first, there’s no alternative for the E10.  It’s a small road here and they kept the old track around the tunnels open for cyclist.

A MUST do (with thanks to Kessi for the tip) is the hike up the hill just before entering Reine village.    It’s a hard, steep and at times slippery way to the ridge from sea level to 487 m, but the view you get is not possible to catch in a picture (for me at last 😉  ).

It is of utmost importance to take your time when you visit these islands and not simply rush trough over the main artery, the E10.  Take side trips !

Some of them are along dead end roads, but are definitely worth the effort.  That way I visited Nusfjord, the beautiful beaches of Utakleiv, the Venice of the North (another one….) Henningsvaer and made round trips along the fjords south of Leknes, at Austvago, etc…

There are going to be a lot of pics in this one, I’m sorry…

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Near the southern tip of the Lofoten.
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The E10 is a dead end road with a parking lot at the end.

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Love the small ship in the picture.
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The view on the hike up near Reine. Picture cannot show at all how spectaculair it really is.

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In Nusfjord
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Nusfjord
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The dead end road to Nusfjord
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The old road around the tunnel to Utakleiv.
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I had a spectacular camping spot along that old road (closed for traffic).
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The camping along the old road is better as on the beach down, where you have camper vans, and all the noises that are coming with it.

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And down there at the beach, they don’t have the visitors I get.
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Shakira arrived in the morning by helicopter to her yacht.

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Leaving the E10, you will do many extra kilometers, but you’ll be riding on these narrow deserted roads.

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The detour along Gimsoy peninsula towards Hov showed a complete different landscape then the rest from Lofoten.

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The lighthouse at Hov, where I camped along the beach, watching the midnight sun.

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Kessi and Matthias. Love the little tea pot on the panier.
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Henningsvaer.
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Along the dead end road to Henningsvaer.
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Along the dead end road to Henningsvaer.
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After Henningsvaer there’s a tunnel.But there’s also an old road.And look what you get, taking that one ….. 🙂

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At the highest point of the old road, you can take a nice walk up to the hill with good views in the next pics.

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Lofoten Cathedral.

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Not a bad place to lay your head.  Another wild camping spot taking the small roads along Austvagoy.

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Just before Fiskebol, I left the main road to have a better look at the beach.

That’s where I think I lost my Gorilla (tri) pod.

For a few days I felt miserable about that and wanted to punish myself by standing in the corner for an hour or so, but that’s when I realized that since I’m living outside 24/7, there are no corners anymore in my life.

I could do it when I take a ferry from one island to the other, but I guess the other passengers might find it odd, when I stand in the corner the whole passage.

Besides, I have too many things to do on board of the ferry.  Filling up my water bottles, washing myself a bit in the rest room, maybe do some laundry there as well, taking pictures, pay for the passage, eating lunch, or second lunch, ….

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A view from the Lofoten Islands to the Vesteralen Islands.
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The church where I lost the gorillapod.  The mountains of Vesteralen in the background.
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The last fjord on the Lofoten certainly was a good one.

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Last view towards Lofoten.

Vesteralen:

The Vesteralen are a group of islands north of Lofoten.

There too, I mostly took the ‘long way’ around the islands, avoiding the bigger roads.  I had bad whether with lots of rain and one night a storm which became so violent I simply had to break down the tent and sleep in the sanitary facilities.  I’m used to heavy winds in the tent, even holding poles and supporting it from the inside, but this one became way to violent.

I’m not moaning about the wind too much, but still, it is mostly against.  That much that frequently my speed goes into single digits on the flats.

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First kilometer on Vesteralen

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Briliant hut where I spend the night before the stormy one.

 

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Inside the hut.
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Ready for another day fighting against the winds.

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I saw sea eagles frequently.  This one fighting with another bird.

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They ‘ve got these buttons you’ve got to push before entering the tunnels.  Some tunnels even have boxes from which you can take fluo jackets if you wish to use them.

Senja:

Leaving the supermarket in Andenes, I met Dutch cyclist Jos with who I cycled for a day towards the island Senja.

Senja should be one of the most beautiful Norwegian islands, north-east of the Vesteralen.

It’s quiet a long ferry ride and it was still raining when we arrived there.

Late in the afternoon and a big part of the next day, I was very lucky and the sun came out, so I could so how beautiful the region is.

Before arriving in the biggest city of the north, Tromso, I had one more island to cross, Kvaloya Island, where it rained so much that I don’t have to bother anybody with pictures from it.

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Selfie.  Haven’t got a hair cut since leaving home in April 😦
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After a pretty long climb, I arrived art Bergsfjord and wild camped near the water.
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Wild Camping spot at Bergsfjord on Senja.
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Pics from the camping spot.
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Pics from the camping spot.

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Mefjorden

Norway Part 1, The North

I entered Norway in the province Nord-Trøndelag.
Sweden’s road 340 becomes road nbr 765 here.
Near Ostnes, I pushed my 3000th km of this trip away.
In my quest to avoid highway 6 as much as possible, I continued north via small roads, cycling along Tunnsjoen lake which has a huge island in it, a rock 812 meter high.
I was traveling through a winter wonderland now, full of snow and ice.
Instead of taking the tunnel after Gjersvika, I took the old road over the mountains, Steinfjellvei. This old road is blocked for car traffic, so you are really mounting into heaven, car-free.
Oh, what are people taking those tunnels missing….

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Tunnsjoen lake with the big 812 m high rock inside.

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This was such a beautiful place I decided to pitch the tent next to the lake and spend the night here.
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Find the tent.  Great camping spot.  It got too hot inside the next morning at 4:45 hrs due to the sun.

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In Namsskogan, a little town along the E6, I joined the highway for about 40 km, before entering the Fiplingvatnet valley, following the Villmarksveien.
By this time, I had entered my second Norwegian province on this trip, ‘Nordland’ and officially entered North-Norway..

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Roma 3101 km ?? As the crow flies.  I have that distance on the odo-meter, starting from Belgium.

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This is how a Norwegian train station looks like from the inside. At the country side at least.
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Sour skulls 😛

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The Fiplingvalley along Villmarksveien

Between Trofors and Mosjoen, the E6 can be avoided by cycling dirt roads on the other side of the river. Steep climbs and descents between 10 & 12% await you.

After Mosjoen, I headed via road 78 (largely car free, as it is closed to motorized traffic, who are forced to take the new toll-tunnel) towards Norway’s most famous road, coastal road nbr 17.
Road 17 means incredible views towards the sea, cycling around fjords which makes progress slow but beautiful, it means tunnels, ferry-crossings and camper vans.

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Alternative gravel road for the busy E6
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Wild camping along Vefsnfjorden.
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What view did you have, waking up this morning ?

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After the ferry dropped me in Nesna, I had to climb pretty high up a hill, but was rewarded with stunning views into the Sjona Fjord.

On the 5th of June, 51 days and exactly 3.368 km after I left from home, I crossed the Polar Circle.
But not on my bike. It lay there, right in front of me…… in the water. So I passed it on the ferry.

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Another great wild camping spot in a field on hill.  The sun doesn’t set anymore so it’s nice and warm inside the tent all night long.

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German cyclist Ole who joined me to the glacier later on.
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Danish Cyclist Kenneth, on an e-bike to the North-Cape.

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Passing the Arctic or Polar Circle at 66.34 degrees.
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View from another wild camping side.

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I met a nice German couple who were cycling from the North Cape to Gibraltar. They gave me the tip to visit Svartisen Glacier. I did this together with Ole, a young German cyclist who’s cycling around Scandinavia.
A tiny ferry dropped us near the glacier. We hiked up to the glaciers mouth in the evening. As with every glacier, you cannot help but notice how far and how fast they are retreating.
Late in the evening (it’s already 24/24 light up here) we reached the mouth of the glacier, which is 3 or 4 men high. The bright blue and white colors are very spectacular and must be even better when the sun is shining.
We planned to camp 2 nights below the glacier, and climb up higher the next day.
This turned out to be a day of non-stop rain, hail, ice rain and fresh snow a few hundred meters above us. It became a rest/reading day during which I re-read George Orwell’s ‘Burmese Days’.

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Our tiny ferry which will bring us and the bikes to the glacier.
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Obviously it’s retreating very fast.

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Unreal patterns.

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After the rest day, I cycled again a day against hard head winds. Cycling around fjords, you cycle in every direction during the day, but still the wind manages to blow BANG in your face, whichever direction you turn your handle bars. Remarkable.
It looked like an autumn storm, how the leaves were torn from the trees and were blown around ones head.

After Ornes, the road to Bodo becomes to busy.  Cars, mobil homes, trucks; the constant roar of traffic in your ears and all your attention goes to staying on ‘your’ few centimeters at the edge of the road, instead of enjoying the scenery.

The first day after Ornes, the weather was truly horrible.  Cold, rain, hail.  And head wind of course.  There ’s one more tunnel, but the old road can still be taken by bicycle.  It’s a bit steep and extra 200 meters of climbing, but the view at the other side of the top is worthwhile.

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I was lucky to find a really nice wild camping spot a bit before Saltstraumen, where you’ll find the strongest tidal current in the world.

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The last day into Bodo, the weather was warm and sunny.  People were out in town, terraces and restaurants were packed.  I headed to the harbor to catch my ferry to the Lofoten islands.

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Bodo