16th JUNE 2018
As usual it’s broad daylight when I first wake so I have absolutely no idea what the time is. I look at my phone and it’s 4.00am. Still, I need the toilet so I get up and am greeted by the most serene picture of Olderfjord I have seen since I arrived. The air is still and the water is flat calm. Both the fjord and the sky are a light pastelly blue, while a pale sun casts bright light on the water. When I wake up for real in the morning it all seems like a dream as my tent is being blown sideways again by the wind.
I’m treated to breakfast by Dutch Hanna, who is once again being incredibly hospitable. I think it’s because I’m the same age as her son who she doesn’t really have any contact with. Maybe she sees some of her son in me, although that’s probably unlikely as he’s a six foot four mixed-race guy with dreadlocks who’s in a motorbike gang. She cooks bacon and eggs which will give me plenty of energy for today’s cycle. To make sure I have enough fuel, I follow that up with four rolls and jam.
There’s a long narrow flag on a pole overlooking the fjord which gives an instant indication of the wind direction and speed. For the last couple of days it has been flying horizontally with the wind screaming in from the South, which of course is the direction I’m travelling in. A bit like Tom Hanks in Cast Away, I’ve been watching the flag and waiting for the wind to change direction so I can escape. I’d already postponed leaving yesterday as there was rain in addition to the wind, but as it’s dry today I really need to get a move on.
For the first five kilometres out of town I head North with the wind behind me. This is only a cruel tease though, as I soon round a headland and face the next sixty kilometres into the wind. I’m also going to start referring to everything in kilometres from now on as that’s the measure of distance in all of Europe and what appears on road signs here. Everyone I meet refers to kilometres and my brain is starting to think in that way too. It’s also much nicer from a cycling point of view as it takes less time to cycle a kilometre than a mile. If you want to convert my kilometre figures back into miles, just use about two-thirds as a rough guide.
Nonetheless, whether it’s miles or kilometres today it’s a long slow plod. The wind blows straight at me, relentlessly, all day. On flat sections I’m often in the lowest gear and even downhills need to be pedalled. Towards the end of the day I meet a German cyclist heading the other way. He is freewheeling along a flat section without a care in the world while I grimly inch forward, fighting the headwind. Cycling from his home town in Germany to North Cape it looks like he’s taken one of those ‘I won’t shave again till I get there’ pledges, making him look like a Viking on a bicycle. He also has the whitest eyebrows I have ever seen on a human. With the huge tailwind propelling him today he’s utterly ecstatic. He keeps laughing and saying he can’t believe his good luck, forgetting that I’m pedalling right into the elements.
I reach today’s modest target of Lakselv, to find one campsite suggested by google maps closed and the other non-existent. I pop into the Lakselv Hotel to see if they know of any campsites, but to no avail. I just get them to refill my water bottles and carry on. As there’s little value in fighting this wind much longer, I only cycle ten minutes past town before pulling up a dirt track. I carry on till I’m out of sight of the road before finding a flat, soft clearing mostly surrounded by trees where I pitch the tent. I can still hear the road from where I am but not a single person knows that I’m here.
I get a decent sleep despite all the weird night-time noises you hear when you’re camping in the woods. My tent is fairly sheltered from the wind, but a rogue sapling scrapes menacingly against the outer cover throughout the night. There’s a strange duck-type quack coming from down near the river and also the odd mournful bellow from what could be a cow or a moose or a troll. I have absolutely no idea what that one is !
My breakfast consists of all my remaining bread, which leaves me only biscuits, nuts and chocolate for today’s cycle. Water is also going to be an issue as I’ve almost drained the bottles that the hotel refilled for me last night. Luckily the morning proves nice and easy with flat roads and no breeze to speak of. But of course this doesn’t last, and pretty soon I’m starting a gradual climb up and away from the fjord. It will be my last sighting of the sea for a while.
I keep climbing ever so slightly for most of the day. Nothing strenuous, but more of a long and slow incline. With the sun and the extra effort I’ve soon exhausted my water supply, so I stop at a rest area where I ask a middle-aged Finnish couple if they can help. They duly oblige. Continuing with the climb and drinking water like a demented fool, it’s not long before I’m in danger of running out again. This time I see a mother and daughter playing outside a house on barren ground in the middle of nowhere. I ask if they have any water which brings the old grandmother outside to see what’s happening too. They look like they are Sami people – natives of Northern Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. While mother is inside filling my water bottle, the four year old daughter gives me a stone as a present.
With about ten kilometres to go my day begins to get a whole lot easier. The climbing stops, the road flattens out for a while and then it shoots downhill all the way into town. I check into Karasjok Camping on the outskirts of town which is a nice, big clean park with views over the river. For dinner I use up all the leftover food I have left. This involves pasta and a weird green pea vegetable mix that I bought by mistake as I couldn’t translate the wording on the packet. Bland, but filling.
I have a day off in Karasjok, catching up on-line, food shopping and trying to relax in a caravan park that has just been invaded by a convoy of eighteen motor-homes full of elderly Italians. It’s also my final day in Norway. I’m off to Finland tomorrow.