2017 The Sahara

Norway 7 Henningsvaer to Henningvaer

Ok, I like that the rain has fitted in to mostly happen at night, but packing and unpacking a wet tent is getting annoying now. Everything feels damp even inside my waterproof socks. I need a drying day and today is not it!

A very misty damp start to the day

I was grumpy with the weather and the couple who pitched their tent next to mine and sat chatting for hours, then the rain. So I packed up my sodden gear. Loaded the bike and set off.

20km in I needed fuel. I keep my phone and preloaded bank card on the bike but old habits I reached for my wallet, not there. Weird. I go through the filling procedure and then check all my pockets. No definitely not there. I must have put it in the tent last night and forgotten to take it out this morning.

I wasn’t worried as I was pretty sure I would have put it in a bag or something. As I rode on my mind wandered to where I’d used it last. Last night in the pay as you go toilet. Had I put it on the side and forgotten it?

There are loads of these bridges linking the islands

I knew Jess was behind me headed towards Henningsvaer, so I messaged him asking him to check the toilet block. He replied saying yes but it would most likely be the next day.

I had stopped at a very lovely beach. I had done 85km.

Rambert beach

The weather was clearing and I took the chance to search my bags and even unloaded the tent to dry it a bit. No wallet.

There was no reason not to go back and look in both the toilet block and campsite. I headed back in increasingly nice weather. It was about an hour back on a great twisty road. Back at the campsite my search was fruitless. I was about to head into Henningsvaer to see it in the sun when Jess turned up. We had a quick chat and went our separate ways again.

Henningsvaer is beautiful

So what now? That beach I saw earlier had a campsite and it was nice, ill go there. 86km later I was back and the rain clouds where gathering. I asked about a lodge but they were all booked so I set up my tent, had a shower and went to the restaurant for an evening meal.

Pudding was wonderful

I went to sleep with the sound of rain again……..

Norway 6 Lodingen to Henningvear

In all I travelled just 17km today.

17km in the most beautiful scenery though

I had read about the challenging climb to Djevelsportal or Devils Gate. I thought I’d do more climbing in my bike gear

You start by climbing the devil’s stairs. By the end you are wishing them to stop……

Spectacular views

When the stairs stop you just wish they were back……

I’ve never riden a trial in my Forma Trials boots but I can recommend their grip on smooth rock.

Then the loose rocks test your ballance before yet more steps, which you aren’t glad to see at all. But after 2½ hours climb you are rewarded with this……..

The Devils Gate (Djevalsporten)

Its quite a thrill knowing the rock is just wedged there and at some point mother nature will erode it enough to fall.

Then there’s just the walk back down but it had started raining and those slopes got mighty slippy

Nearly there!!

By the time I was fully down, the now slippy rock, it was heavy rain. I made for the town centre and found a cafe. I sat eating whilst my gear formed pools of water on the floor. The food was good though.

A climbers lunch

I spoke to a Swiss couple who were on a cycling holiday. They were fed up with rain and were running low on money after both got a stomach bug and had to stay in a hotel for a week. They were headed to the airport to go home. I was headed for Henningsvaer. However another navigational error meant I went straight past and had to backtrack 20km.

It was a wet ride

I found the turning and within 100m there was a beach with free camping. That would do. I rode to Henningsvaer a great little fishing village but really I was soaked and just wanted to get some food to see me through.

My one photo of Henningsvaer does it no justice.

This is relevant so hear me out. Arriving back at the free camping beach I needed the loo. It was a busy place so no running behind a bush. On getting to the loo it was a pay by card access. My prepaid card was still on the bike so I fumbled inside my waterproof trousers to drag my soggy wallet out and get in to use the toilet. That done I needed to set up camp. I found a plot and settled in. I even flew the drone for a while.

Norway 5 Bardufoss to Lodingen (197 km)

I set off about 10am headed towards Lofoten. I was fairly sure I wouldn’t make the islands today.

A short morning hike to this cool little waterfall. The water was freezing cold

I made a few navigation errors and one led me to this cool church. I found out that the red paint used on so many Norweigan buildings is an oil based byproduct of the steel industry. Once painted on it protects the wood for up to 18 years.

A quick k ferry hop between Melbu and Stønstad.

Then onto Lodingen to a great little campsite. The place has no staff, you just pay at a parking meter. There were facilities and a toasty hot shower.

I covered about 250km today as I didnt take the direct route

Norway 4 Tromsø

I wasn’t up that early, the bed was huge and very comfy. However there was sun shinning in through the window and most my stuff was dry. I started moving my bags to reception. As the lift doors opened and there stood Sebastian 2. We laughed at seeing each other again. Bless him he had waited an hour at the ferry port in the hope it would stop raining but it just got worse. Still he was taking a day out and heading to a brewery in town.

One of two identical bridges into Tromsø

I drove out to the car park Jess was staying at and we had a brief chat before swapping numbers. On the way back I picked up provisions. Norway is expensive to keep eating out and staying in hotels.

I used to eat these most days when I lived in Norway
Another expense £35 to ride a cable car

I’d read the cable car gives great views and it was a stunning day so I paid for parking and then paid for the cable car. Its a 4 minute ride and there’s a viewing gallery. You can then walk to the very top of the mountain. It took about an hour but was fun and gave great views of Tromsø.

Going up
Tromsø and just over the far side the sunken wreck of the German destroyer Turpitz

The main bridge into Tromsø and at this end the snow cathedral
The cable car station and viewing gallery

The cable car was swift and the viewing gallery a great place to, well view! I saw a flag in the distance and started walking towards it as it seemed to mark the highest point. “I’ll be there in 20 minutes”, an hour later I was there. A sweaty mess but I’d made it. My question to the mayor of Tromsø, you made a cable car and charged me 350Nkr to ride it, why not make it go to the top?

An hour later I reached the top.
Its a much paler mustard when it’s dry

After a rest back at the cable car station I made my way to the snow cathedral. Its a gorgeous building and it’s design let’s light flood in.

Ok, enough churchy stuff.

I was back on the road trying not to use the E roads as spectacular as they are the side roads are often better and I’m in no rush. I made my way 130km to Bardofoss and found a cheap little campsite at Målselvfossen. Fossen means waterfall and this had a great one. I was in for another hike though

The roar could be heard from my tent
Back at camp it was time to strip and clean those pesky fork seals.

The fork seals have been leaking a while and stupid me had only cleaned the dust covers. Now with a home made scraper made from my cinema loyalty card I removed the dust covers and cleaned the seals proper.

Norway 3 Olderdalen to Tromsø

It was 8am and Id missed the first two ferries. I got myself ready, wished Sebastian a safe journey and rode the 200m to the ferry, parking next to a red motorhome in the queue. The next moment Jess appeared next to me. He had got new tyres and left Ettiene at the tyre shop.

The rain was threatening to make it a wet and windy day as we boarded the ferry.

It was a much bigger ferry than the one in Sweden and they provided a driver!
Jess’s motorhome and my bike

Olderdalen to Lingseidet was only 20 minutes and then a short but impressive ride saw me arrive at Svensby for a slightly longer ferry ride to Briedvik. I told Jess I’d wait for him. At the ferry port I had a quick chat with the two cyclists I had met the night before and let the ferry sail whilst I waited for Jess.

I got a coffee and sat in the waiting room, which of course was a stunning little cafe with a great owner who talked about the whales and dolphins he sees each year. He made me laugh as I had been outside and he came out to say I was welcome into the cafe to wait. His words, “Ahh you are British, you can come in to wait, although you guys like the weather a bit shit!”

Jess duly arrived as did another Sebastien (Sebastian 2) cyclist. This one German. He had limited time and had flown to Finland then cycled to the top and was now headed for Lofoten before flying home. He said he had been cursing the headwinds all day and now the rain was coming in hard. We all sat inside and Jess supplied boiling water for Sebastian 2’s noodles, which made him very happy.

Jess showed me a parking place he was going to spend the night and I said I’d meet him there. I rode off first and headed the short distance to Tromsø. It was heaving with rain and I decided to park up and find a place to dry out and eat. Hey look a car park and an all you can eat pizza place. I was sold, obviously. It was mid day and the buffet finished at 3pm. I put my gloves on the heater and all my wet gear on spare seats at my table overlooking the harbour and my bike.

Who has a starter at an all you can eat place

I went to get my second plate of pizza and on return a small yellow tag was hanging from the left hand grip. I wasn’t going to look but sure as hell it would be a ticket.

Bugger £100

At 3pm I settled my bill and took a ride round town. I was still wet and cold. I made my way to the place Jess was camping. It was high up in the cloud and even wetter. I spent some time looking for a place to pitch my tent, nowhere!

Never gonna hammer tent pegs in that

I looked up campsites. Of the two closest one was closed and the other didn’t exist. I started looking for places to wild camp but again the quiet places I found were waterlogged. Jess had mentioned a place near the airport but that didn’t appear as I searched. Then I found a hotel. Dripping wet I went to the door and it didn’t open. The whole hotel was closed for a refurb. There was nothing for it Booking.com found me the cheapest hotel in town, about 2 minutes from the pizza place.

After placing everything in the room to dry out I took a walk through the town, before bed

Norway 2 reindeer and rain dear

Starting at Skiaga It was the same gorgeous ride back through to Alta and then on the E6 to Tromsø. I had done about 5km when I saw what looked like a ski jump. Some 15 minutes later I was at the base. It all looked very old.

The steps swayed as you climb them.
Not sure HSE would allow this

Once at the top of the steps you are effectively at the launch point for the skier.

Yes its overgrown but imagine throwing yourself down that on skis. My bike is at the bottom

Looking up the ramp I couldn’t imagine the bravery

Nylon runners keep the skis straight

I went to climb the stairs but it was clear they didn’t want people climbing it

The stairs were closed on several levels

But people had and I was the next one to feed myself through the framework and around the gates

I was rewarded with some great views, although the wooden floor was rotting

No,just no! (Also I’d left the keys in the bike with all my riding gear too)
There was even an airport

This little diversion had taken a good hour so I wasn’t going to make Tromsø in a day. I’m in no rush, when will I ever be in this part of the world again? The riding was easy, despite the painfully low speed limits. The tunnels through the fjord side rock where long, some 5km long.

This made me laugh

Watch out for reindeer in the tunnel. I was wondering why they would venture into the tunnel, but as one lady had told me, they are just stupid and then…….

Yup plain stupid, stood in the tunnel

I saw him stood there quite near the exit and slowed as he turned and trotted out. But a vehicle coming the other way confussed him. I parked up and ushered him out the way

At some point I came up on a queue of traffic at roadworks. In front of me a car and in front of them a bike. I could just make out a UK sticker on the top box. In time I skipped the car and tu ked in behind the bike, a big road going BMW. I was just enjoying the ride when I noticed some markings on this guys rear tyre, the more I looked the more concerned I was but what to do. I should try and stop him in case it is dangerous. At that point he indicated to pull over so I tucked into the same lay-by. Ettiene is South African but has lived in Suffolk for many years. His trip is exceptional, setting off from UK in May he has travelled as far as Georgia and now is returning from Nordkapp.  Formalities out the way I asked if his tyre was OK. We looked, it wasnt

Honestly this is the good side

We had a dilema and searched for tyre dealers, there was one 25km away. “Do you think it will be safe to ride?” He asked. The fact was he had been riding on it for some time and really had no choice. I said I would follow to keep a safe gap between following traffic.

30km later we arrived at the first place, they were ATV and trailer specialists so no good and had no good news. Its 125km to Tromsø and that is the best bet, we were told. However 500metres later was a car spares place and I asked a local biker. “Tromsø” he said. Then he looked at the tyre “WOW you’ll not make Tromsø”. He pointed across the road to a car tyre dealer. 3 minutes later good news. They could get a tyre and fit it. The bad news Ettiene would be there for 3 days minimum. We got chatting to a guy, Jess from the Netherlands, who had the same issue on his camper but they would have his tyres in the morning. I bid them both safe onward journeys and set off.

Just stunning
I’d just missed the ferry

The quickest way to Tromsø is by taking 2 ferries and island hopping. I arrived in Olderberg and watched the ferry sail off. It was 5pm and maybe I could camp here. I took a little ride and found some cabins to rent. 100nk or £10. That’s cheaper than camping. OK it wasn’t luxurious and if anyone else turned up I would be sharing. No bedding charge if you use your own sleeping bag. The bike was under cover as the rain started.

Later I met Sebastian a French cyclist making his way to Nordkapp. We ended up in the same dorm.

Norway 1 Nordkapp.

It was a cold night in Alta so i spent a long time in the shower warming up before heading off for the furthest point North this trip would allow. It soon warmed up and the scenery was stunning. I cant describe it so here are some pictures

These designs were created by one child from every continent and they all came to Nordkapp in a sign of world unity for the unveiling
Theres a great story attached to this….. unfortunately I don’t know it!!

It was 200km of road riding bliss. Every corner revealed another stunning view. I wasn’t prepared to pay the £35 for access to the gift shop and cafe. So entry was free with strict warnings not to try and get the bike to the globe. As I parked my bike I again spotted Marc on his KTM. He had been there, done that and was headed back towards Finland.

Just one thing left to do. Get the prize photo

I’d made it to the furthest point you can ride North on mainland Europe.

I spent surprisingly little time there. Enough to get photos and cold from the bitter wind. I rode back to the next little fishing village and found a seafood cafe. I don’t do seafood but the carrot cake and coffee were good, as was the company of the waitress who told me about the King crabs she sells and showed me the keep tank with probably 50 King crabs in. She really loves them despite cooking them alive. She didn’t like the expression ‘underwater sea spiders’.

From there I headed back to Skaida where I found a small hotel and booked in for the night. There was the chance of an aurora that night but this far north it just didn’t get dark enough to see anything.

Finland

Finland to Finland fín was very quick. Less than two hours. If I hadn’t stopped a few times my feet may not have actually touched Finnish soil. What was aparent is that the “finger of Finland” is like a transition area. In Sweden you are constantly surrounded by trees and although you do rise and decend a lot, the constant presence of vast lakes makes it feel like you are at sea level. As you enter Finland that ceases and the road rises higher than the surrounding land, the trees stop and the rough mountainous rucks start to build up. Then Norway arrives in a blur of empty border control booths.

Goodbye Sweden
Hello Finland
I have a habit of finding a abandoned airfields
I stopped to but sme bits and found this. The owners are Swiss and were celebrating 1 year on the road in their self build 1991 fire engine.

It was getting colder for sure. I decided to stop for a warm up. It turned into lunch in a really cool, buy very warm geodesic igloo.

As I left in walked Marc Henniger again. We had a chat and thought we would probably see each other at Nordkapp.

Norway is so rugged, everything about it, the faces of all the hills and mountains forged by ice ages and ferocious erosion. The water flows fast in the streams and boils as it passes over and around huge boulders. Its a hard land with tough people who are kind and welcoming.

At 4pm I rolled into Alta, one of the last big towns headed north. I decided to end early. The campsite was fine with views of the fjord and snow capped mountains. I rode into town and found a jet wash to clean the bike. On the way back to camp I saw the very distinguished KTM and rider Marc Honniger again. He was headed further up the road to camp. After that, back at camp I adjusted and oiled the chain.

It does what it says
Maintenance night
Then relax and watch the sunset

TET 10 The Finish and Finnish.

I woke up refreshed and ready for breakfast at the hotel in Mokkjokk. I think there is about 60km of trail left. So I took it slow to pack, shower, load the bike and say goodbye to the rather lovely receptionist. I got my leg over and fired her up, the bike that is! One last check, oh that looks more than 60km.

I headed off along the crazy straight trails. In fairness there was 1km of single track to start with

It may be straight but wow the bike weaves under you.

I want to say I stuck to the 70kph limit but its just too much fun to fire it off down these tracks. Always aware this is a road used by car drivers and lorries which remain unseen until you crest the rise. The corners are to be taken stood up with light grip on the bars letting your weight dictate the direction. It’s biking heaven for me. The rear tyre may disagree, at 11 days old it looks very worn as it spends most of its time spinning faster than the bike is going. Riding at these speeds takes concentration and I can’t keep it going for long before I need to just sit on the bike and cruise. Luckily there are enough little communities that require you to drive slow.

Eventually I needed fuel just as the trail came to the E10 main road. 15km later a petrol station and cafe. Time for lunch. A chicken salad did the job and then I needed just one more thing…….

I needed a Plopp

The OSMand app said I had 130km to go. It was 2pm so that would be easy. What I didnt realise was that distance is as the crow flies. I had a huge distance to go but what exceptional riding it was. Sec 5 may be the last section heading North but it has some of the best riding.

All of a sudden the track took a right turn towards the river and a ferry boat. I was effectively stuck in a small village, Lainio. You need to take the car ferry across the river. The ferry was there but no driver. I went to the office and read a sign on the door. Basically if there’s no driver, just take the ferry yourself. I read it again and again, yes it really says help yourself. It also says if the ferry is on the other bank then take the little outboard engined boat to go collect it to make your crossing. Luckily it was on my side. I rode on and waited for someone to come out shouting, but nothing. I worked out how to lift the ramp and without keys for the motor its a case of haul the steel cable yourself, suddenly I was at sea. I was videoing the whole thing and didn’t think to take photos. Maybe 15metres out and a quad bike turned up at the boarding point I had just left. I called out to the guy “Do you want me to come back?” I was waiting to be told I had stolen the towns ferry and would be charged with piracy, the reply “Oh yes please that would be very kind”. It took quite a bit off stopping but it did and soon I was back at the Quay, lowering the ramp like one of P&O’s finest. I mentioned to Mike that it would be easier with two, he said it would be much easier as he has a key for the engine!

A library pic but that’s the good ship Lainio
Approaching land. You can see the DIY collection boat on the shore.

Mike explained that the town were looking to secure funding from the EU for a bridge. It seems a shame that the ferry may come to an end but just imagine his journey, he was crossing the river to get paint brushes from his storage shed. If he had been any later he would have had to take the tender and collect the ferry, go back pick up his quad and cross again. I mean get some paint brushes delivered!

He said traffic had increased with the inclusion of Lianio on the TET route which would help with funding a bridge. He wished me luck as we disembarked. ‘I’m a ferry driver, me’.

I still had 60km as the crow flies and it was absolute heaven with a little bit of everything I’d experienced so far, bar the water crossing, thrown in. Sand, rocks, gravel, mud, fast straights and twisty twin track. Ending on a main road and ultimately the Finish at the Finnish border.

I was in Finland, the first new country on my trip, I have been to all the others before. I had seen a campsite just across the border and with time getting on I needed somewhere to sleep. The campsite was closed, as was the adjoining hotel. A notice suggested the Rajamaa Hotel in Sweden but honestly this place looked expensive so I didn’t fancy going back to the Swedish equivalent. Two more campsites failed to materialise so back to Sweden.

It was my lucky day the Rajamaa in Muonio is a small guest house with chalets, parking for motor homes and even plots for tents. The little twin bed chalet was such a good price I took it. I asked about food and they could fit me in.

I parked up the bike grabbed my washing bag and that was me set up. In the dining area the lady produced the food and it was a feast. Some kind of curried chicken breast with rice, salad and various breads. Honestly, as a fussy eater, I was amazed at how good this was. I ate until I could eat no more.

The guy who runs the place came to clear away and we got chatting. He showed me photos of other TET users including a couple of guys in a tuktuk. I explained how great the food was and he immediately went to the kitchen returning with freshly made blueberry pie and home made cream. He told me he had picked the berries that morning.

Bloody lovely

So that’s it, TET compete. Thank you Sweden for the best biking I’ve ever done, the nicest people you could wish to meet and stunning scenery. The site and smell of which will last a lifetime.

TET 9. Arrow straight tracks

Ansia camping in Lycksele was lovely and I was torn as to stay another day or move on. But it was another gorgeous sunny day and who knew how long this would last. This indecision meant I didn’t set off until 10am.

This was section 5 and it was mostly fast straight gravel top, every now and then taking a sharp 90° turn which left me locking up the rear wheel and trying to slide it into the bend or just plain overshooting it.

I had stopped for a drink when this guy turned up. marc_the_tiny_giant on insta or Marc Honniger in person

About lunchtime I came across a lovely dam, aptly named damm2. I rode across and saw two guys on bikes stopped. I joined them and was going to have my picnic lunch. The guys had just finished there’s and told me the rest of this section was all straight to Mokkjokk.

I’d done enough gravel for the day and opted for the road to Mokkjokk. I had done something to aggravate my shoulder so sitting down and cruising seemed a good idea.

Some time later I stopped at a gokarting track for coffee and 3 bikers there also said the ride to Mokkjokk was nothing great.

What was great was getting to this place

I’d made it to the artic circle

I dont know what happened as I cruised into Mokkjokk but I had decided on staying in a hotel. It didn’t look much but it was very nice inside and the receptionist was unbelievably gorgeous, so I couldn’t say “How much!!!”, I just said “Oh yes that’s fine thankyou”.

%d bloggers like this: