zondag 24 augustus 2014

SCA2014 Day 11 & 12: Skibotn & Alta

As I exited the cabin, I could feel that thankfully the temperature had dropped a bit. Sunny weather is nice and all, but to have 28 degrees when you're deep in the Arctic is a bit too much for my liking.

I was ready to rock at a quarter to 8, and after writing a usual poetic addition to the guestbook I said my goodbyes to Ingvor and Annette (who weren't up yet, but Ingvor nonetheless came out to hand me back the 5 Euros I'd paid too much the day before)...

...I was on my way.

It seemed to become another sunny day.

Time for more overtaking prowess!

The whole benefit of leaving early is that roads tend to be not as busy as they are later in the day, which makes for some good riding.

First stop of the day: Narvik.

It felt quite weird being here; a few days earlier near Trondheim I'd seen a sign at the start of the E6 telling me Narvik was 900 km away, and here I was.

I had been told that in the Arctic, mosquitos would be a problem during Summer. The products from back home were said to be useless though; if I wanted to have something that worked, I had to buy something locally. 

So at the next petrolstation, I did. The cashier asked me where I was going, and he said that most probably the mosquitos were gone already, since it was now August. Me, I didn't want to take any chances.

I also opted for one of the local treats a bit later on - in most Norwegian petrol station, you can buy these sandwiches which are the local hot dog variety.

Only much better tasting than actual hot dogs, ofcourse.

Speedcameras were also wide in abundance in these parts. The only thing is that these speedcameras take a picture from the front, as they need to match up the license plate with the face of the person driving.

As both are impossible with motorbikes, they weren't that much of a threat... but still, once again I didn't want to take any chances. When you're in Rome, you ride as the Romans do.

Not too long after though, I started entering the vast nothingness again.

And with it, the pretty pictures returned.

The road surface, that was a different story though. 

I had learned prior to the trip that the Norwegian government is doing lots of work on the roads up North, to prevent a depopulation in the future through people moving South (just take a look at the change in road surface in this installment).

I was yet to meet the first real roadworks though, but this was a small indication of what I would be facing.

In the mean time, there was another word added to my riding vocabulary.

Being in a foreign country you're not really that streetwise to road conditions, and road etiquette. If you then find someone with native plates who rides or drives in the same tempo as you, it's wise to stick behind this person as he/she may know the road in question, and with it exactly what to look out for.

I dubbed these people 'spotters'.

It felt nice cruising along like this. Sticking behind this Norwegian rider, I had a blast.

When he turned off the motorway, he even waved me off. Class act.

On the road to Skibotn I kept on being amazed with what I saw. It was pretty picture...

...after pretty picture...

...after pretty picture.

By this point I figured it would be a good idea to shoot some video. 

Soon enough, I arrived at Skibotn. On my map it said there was a camp site, so I pulled in the first one I saw... and I surely didn't regret doing so. I first had to move past reception and entire forest of caravans, as the tent area was way in the back.

The word 'paradisical' came to mind, once more. An entire patch of land to myself, with a crystal clear river right beside of it.

I don't recall ever being able to camp as close to the water as I was here.

With temperatures being what they were (about the same as they were in Ballangen), the water was too tempting to pass up on. So I went for a swim in Arctic river water... albeit the shortest swim I've ever done. 

Drying up from the dive though, I couldn't have felt more at home. The sun was beating down upon my little camp, and amidst this glorious scenery I felt truly blessed I had come as far as I had. I realized there and then that these were the moments I rode thousands of miles for.

As night fell, I gathered my thoughts a little. I wasn't going to be long until I would be as far North as I could possibly ride.

Just before I went to sleep, I hear the sound of someone in the water, with a whizzing sound.

It turned out to be a fly fisherman. How cool's that?

During the night, Thor stopped by as well. After a Coke, it started raining.

The next morning, the scene was just as idyllic as before.

I now noticed the close proximity to the Finnish border for the first time. Didn't really feel like trying one though.

The rain led to a side problem though. When I wanted to set off , the rear wheel couldn't get any grip on the wet mud, so when I tried to pull away and make a turn, the bike dug itself a trench and fell over.

I guess I could do some morning exercise while I was at it.

After picking the bike up again, it was time for the final push to Alta, the last stop for the Nordkapp. I was about to experience the problem with riding in fjords, though.

Let me show you:

I started at point A, and proceeded my way up North. Now, fjords are quite beautiful in their own right, and Norway wants to keep it that way. So instead of building a bridge, you have to take a little detour.

A 40 km detour, in fact.

Oh well, at least I could see some more of the area while I was at it.

Time to go all the way into the fjord...

...turn around...

...and then back out again!

I didn't mind all that much though. It was still early in the morning, so I could do with some nice riding anyhow. I had planned this leg to be less than 300km, so it didn't really matter that 40 of them were in the same fjord.

But once I was eastbound though, time for left-lane-luxury!

It wasn't long until these started popping up - Sami souvenir shops along the road, sometimes sided by a coach load people.

But then, the roadworks started.

Usually what happens is that the two-lane road is narrowed to a single lane, and traffic lights (or traffic officers) direct traffic.

Which results in a waiting time.

I guess there are worse places to wait.


After a while though, time to get going. Little did I know though that this was to be the first of many on my way through Northern Scandinavia.

The roads went from old, to brand new, to roadworks every 10 minutes or so.

When I got to the Northern coast road, that's when the scenery had another go to enter the realm of awesomeness.

What I was then presented with I could not have imagined. 

See for yourself.

Ofcourse, at the end of this were some more roadworks.

Then again, there are worse place to wait.

In the mean time, the cyclist I had overtaken in the above clip had caught up again.

As I was getting further and further North I saw more of these cyclists, and apparently, he was going to the Nordkapp as well. Respect - I wouldn't have the guts to go there on a bicycle.

It would take me 2000 years for starters!

And yes, campers and caravans were the name of the day. Yet again.

And just when you've overtaken one...

...the next is already eagerly awaiting your arrival. How sweet!

And as soon as you've overtaken that one...

...it's time for some more roadworks.

I was on the lookout for petrol as well, so when the escort vehicle passed a petrol station...

...I crosssed through the muck to get some fuel.

With the muddy encounter in the morning, I now had three shades of Metzeler on my wheels. A completely different kind of pornography.

As I was now a 100 km away from Alta, I phoned Björn-Erik - the guy whose details were given to me by Gijs and Madeleine from de Motorschuur. I'd spoken to him back in Ballangen as well, and he warned me about the reindeer on the roads.

Ofcourse, I'd been on the look-out ever since I'd seen the infamous warning signs everywhere, but up until now I hadn't seen a single animal on the road. Within minutes after departing again though, I saw my first couple of reindeer on the road.

But the fun wasn't over yet! I still had to get back on the same road again.

Time for some more off-roading on the road.

(did that make sense?)

I felt I was now getting quite close to my destination for the day. As I worked on my chicken strips a bit further, miles were tumbling.

The Alta area is well known for its own kind of natural stone which goes by the same name. At all rockfaces, you could see vast supplies of the stuff. It's used in traditional tiling of roofs in the area, but also exported throughout the world.

The roadworks meanwhile had smeared the front of the Beast with some warpaint.

Time now for Alta! Björn-Erik had specified a location to meet up, and after I got there he arrived within minutes.

A friend of his (to the far left here) was already there, and unsurprisingly the two knew eachother.

I used the break to open up the brake reservoir in the front, as the frequent braking had made a bubble appear. There we no leaks, so time for some fluid.

Björn-Erik's place overlooked the Altafjorden. I could understand immediately why he didn't feel like moving away - he was one of many generations living in Alta.

The nice thing of staying with locals is that they can show you all of the things you'd miss if you'd be there by yourself. After removing the gear from the Beast, we went on a ride to the countryside.

Björn-Erik first brought me to the clubhouse of his motorclub. The story behind it was exceptional - together with his friends he bought a house from elsewhere in the city, took it apart, and rebuilt it here with a garage underneath.

But, as he admitted, as the years have progressed the abundance of time spent there has diminished somewhat. Still, I was impressed nonetheless.

It couldn't have prepared me though for what I was about to see. As Björn-Erik was giving me the tour of the premises, we heard the loud roaring of engines nearby.

We rode to the siding lake, and what I saw then amazes me even as I'm writing this report. 

Here, see for yourself.

Apparently, as the snow disappears the youngsters want to keep racing their snowmobiles. Whereas most people would suggest a dirt track of some kind, here in the far North they thought of something a bit more exciting.

Björn-Erik told me they even hold races on the lake with their snowmobiles. I should really come over when there's a race, I would love to see that.

We then visited the nearby Tirpitz museum. As it turned out, the adjacent Kafjorden was the place where in World War II, the Nazi's biggest navy battleship was anchored. It was attacked so fiercely by the Allied forces, you could probably find the wreckage of a Spitfire at the top of the hills. 
Björn-Erik further told me that when the Nazi's fled, they burned down the entire area - the only two buildings that were left alone were two churches, simply because they both harbored a cemetery.

In the years after the war, you could find all kinds of Nazi stuff laying around the area, and fishermen caught vast amounts of rifles in their nets long after. Amazingly, alot of the guns were made of such good steel that they still worked.

It felt quite amazing that even this far away from my home in Rotterdam (a city also completely destroyed during the war), there were stories of widespread Nazi devastation. It gave me a grueling idea of the massive scale of the Nazi rampage during the war.

After this piece of local history, it was time to buy some bread - it seemed a good idea to Björn-Erik to have a little barbecue, and his significant other had prompted him to get some bread.

In the supermarket, I couldn't help but notice the Dutch influence inside the cheese area. A Dutch brand!

During the evening his neighbor Thore also swung by, who used to ride alot himself as well. Apparently, back in the day he used to have the fastest bike in Alta, and once went through the city with over 200 km/h. That was all in the 80s, a time when you couldn't buy a fast bike but you still had to make it fast. And so he had. Now that he was older and had a family though, those days were long gone.

Björn-Erik explained to me that most riders in Norway are old riders like himself, as the insurance premiums are just way too high for younger people like me to pick up biking. Once again, this change of perspective made it clear to me of what a privileged position I was in

As you can see, I was now getting pretty damn close to the North Cape, located at the top right in the above map.

Tomorrow, it was time to reach this trip's ultimate destination.