zaterdag 23 augustus 2014

SCA2014 Day 9 & 10: Mo i Rana & Ballangen

I hadn't even woken up yet when the first problem of day 9 already presented itself. It was mainly due to the topography of my current location.

Wait, let me explain; here's a map of the route rom Day 9 and 10, with the stripe being a projection of the Arctic circle.

I wondered what exactly the conditions were of determining the location of the Arctic circle, and apparently, if you live in the Arctic it means that once a year the sun won't set (during the Summer solstice, on the 21st of June) and the sun won't rise (during the Winter solstice, on the 21st of December).

Currently, I was located quite close to the Arctic circle (at the A on the above map)... which meant that I was in trouble. You see, I woke up to this:

Naturally, I thought morning had broken... until I checked the time. It was a half past 3 in the morning. 3.30am, and you could read a book without any lights on. That's all fine and dandy if you want to read a book, but if you want to sleep it's an entirely different matter.

The thing is, as soon as it's this light and you wake up on a tour like this, your head is convinced it's the start of another day, and time to get going again. My mind became a puppy who'd caught a glimpse of a tennisball - I wasn't going to calm it down anytime soon. The wheels had already been set in motion.

But ofcourse, I had to think of something. It was 3.30am, for crying out loud.

My solution was as improvised as it was effective.

Upon actually waking up a few hours later, I figured this was why I was seeing more and more caravans and campers the further North I got.

I was waved off by my Dutch neighbor Aad, who was on his own tour of Europe in his camper van. 

Time for more Norwegian prettiness!

As it was pretty early in the morning, the roads were even quieter than usual. Basking in the sun, I set about working on my chickenstrips.

I knew it was going to be a day that would be ferry-filled, so progress would be slow. But as I approached the first ferry of the day, I wasn't quite expecting progress to be this slow.

Because just as I arrived, they were closing the doors to sail off. Pffff.

The ferry to the left had been taken out of service, so I had to wait 40 minutes for the ferry to return.

Time to shoot some pretty pictures then, I suppose.

Oh yeah!

When the ferry finally returned though, it became apparent that there was a banger race going on somewhere. Two racing teams had joined me on the ferry, one of which had a kid of about 10 in racing gear.

They really start off young down here.

This was the second ferry.

And here I'm waiting for the third.

The third ferry was the longest of the day - it made 3 stops at smaller islands, so I got to see alot of the surroundings while I was at it.

My only worry though was, as you can see in the above picture, bikes are not strapped down on these smaller ferries. There was probably no need for it since the waters sailed are quite ripple-free, but whenever the boat made a turn I looked whether the Beast's sealegs were up to spec.

I guess they were, thankfully.

It was turning out to be one of those pretty perfect riding days. The weather was good, the scenery was good, and the roads also treated me quite well.

I was just about to find out that things can also go alot more differently on a trip.

Because when I pulled up to wait for the next ferry, I saw this scene to my left. That seemed like trouble.

I parked up The Beast, and walked over to see whether the guy needed any assistance.

His name was Arnold, and he'd just come from the Nordkapp on his Moto Guzzi 1000 Quota. Apparently, one of the 4 magnets in the starter motor had come loose, rendering the bike immobile. 

He had taken the starter motor out, removed the loose magnet and was now busy assembling it again in the hopes it would fire with 3 magnets. I offered to help, but as I didn't have any adhesive to get the magnet back in place it wasn't necessary.

Arnold turned out to be a downright Moto Guzzi enthusiast - he had another at home (try and guess what number plate that one had), and explained he liked the sense of brotherhood there was between Guzzi-fanatics. Spare parts, modifications, group rides... he felt right at home, despite the bike sometimes getting all Italian on him. 

Looking at my bike he confessed he'd coveted the Honda Africa Twin too, but perservered with the Guzzi, because as he put it: "You buy a Moto Guzzi, because you want to have problems". When the starter motor was in again he tried to start it, but it wouldn't come alive and blew a fuse instead. 'Time to call the ADAC', he reluctantly said.

I stuck around for a while to redicule BMWs with him, and when the ferry arrived, I shook his hand and wished him all the best. Respect to this man.

It made me see that trips like these can also go completely different. The Beast had been behaving brilliantly up until now, and I was lucky that the worst problem so far was a loose oil filter. 

Then again, the Beast was put together in an Italian factory, so it always pays off to remain vigilant.

On the ferry meanwhile, I made the acquaintance of Cécile (Belgian) and André-Anne (Canadian). They were on their way from Brussels to the Lofoten, and they'd left home around the same time as I had. Quite good progress too then!

After contemplating past- and future holiday destinations, the ferry docked.

Off of the ferry, it was time to gun it once more. Warp 5 captain!

Time to lean in...

...and throttle out.

Before long, I was getting close to the city of Mo i Rana. The city is called this way because they wanted to distinguish it from all the other towns called 'Mo', by adding the neighboring lake to its name.

Here's a bit of the road towards the city. 

And it's quite the evocative place to be.

Quite evocative indeed.

Just North of Mo i Rana, I pulled into a camp site. Amazingly the reception desk was deserted - there was just a note on the window for any users of cabins, who could take a key from the basket, after which they needed to call a specific number to pay.

As I had opted to tent up for the night, I had other stuff to worry about.

Like the chain, which was still making a sawing noise of sorts. There were no dead links in it as of yet, the sprockets looked perfect, there was no sign of grinding, no noise from the engine itself... so the source of the noise was spooky.

For the night, I saw fit to stylize the blindfold. Dead sexy, oh yeah.

I was now getting really close to the Arctic circle. Tomorrow, I'd be crossing it... and it left me eager to see what was on the other side (other than brightly-lit nights)

Speaking of brightly-lit, the sun greeted my little camp with open arms the next morning.

I packed up, and readied myself for the Arctic.

What seemed strange to me was that nobody had approached me during my stay. Usually if there's nobody present at reception upon arrival, you put up your tent and the owner will come and find you to take care of the administration.

This time though, there had been no-one. There was no info regarding pitching tents, the reception booth (visible here) was once again empty as well.. so naturally, I rode upon the neighboring E6 to set off towards the Arctic.

It was only when I looked back one more time I saw the owner run out of his nearby house with a form in his hand. Since turning the fully-laden Beast around by itself is quite a tricky business (the extra weight makes it prone to falling over at slow speeds, and the tankbag limits the turning circle severely) and I was now on a 60mph motorway, my sense told me to gun it. 

That owner just shouldn't have been so lazy to sit in his house and let the guests do his work, I thought.

But good-guy as I am, I turned around anyhow.

Ofcourse the Beast couldn't make the turn at once, so I ended up doing a three point turn on a motorway whilst balancing nearly 600 pounds worth of bike.

After endangering myself to go back, part of me wanted to tell him this was not how you run a camp site. I've been to countless camp sites in countless countries, but I have never experienced something like this. 

However, I decided to start this day on a good note instead. The guy wasn't angry with me, so no use for me to be angry with him.

After paying, I was finally on my way.

I felt a strange sort of excitement riding towards the Arctic circle. It was a boundary to cross, and - in my book at least - an achievement of sorts.

And even though we'd been going East, away from the coast, the amazing scenery just didn't seem to stop.

It just kept blowing my mind.

One thing I also noticed was that slowly but steadily, vegetation was getting sparser.

And soon enough... had gone altogether.

Whether it had something to do with my next stop I didn't really know. 

All I knew was the sheer sense of elation and total amazement I felt upon seeing this sign.

I was absolutely lost for words.

Time for a pose..

...and a sticker. (Getting tired of these sticker puzzles yet?)

Ofcourse, after all that funny business at the Arctic circle I forgot to turn the camera lens back to the right position.

So briefly, the world was at an angle. The trees had returned as well - must've been the altitude, earlier.

At the first petrol station, I turned the lens back the right way.

That's better.

It was around this time a new word added itself into my riding vocabulary. 

In the above picture you can see the beginnings of what I began labeling as 'trains'. A train is a row of cars, preceded by a slower vehicle which they are unable to overtake. 

Some trains are longer than others, naturally - it all depends on the road, the vehicle in front and overtaking skills.

Myself, I wasn't planning to stay in this one for long. 

So I opened up the Albanian toolbox.


Awww yeah. Blessed freedom.

Ofcourse, it's only a matter of time before you're stuck behind the next campervan.

I guess that means it's time to fill up.

I was now decidedly entering the North of Norway, but the weather had been the best so far.

So was the quality of roads, I reckoned. The flowing bends just kept coming.

Not to mention the scenery.

Soon enough, it was time for the final ferry of the day, and for that matter also the final ferry of the trip.

Upon arrival, the cashier said I'd just missed the previous one, and the next one would sail in an hour's time.

I used the time to walk around, eat a little, check up on oil consumption...

The odometer was now at 95155. As we'd left the Netherlands at 91720, it meant we were close to the 3500 km mark.

I decided that after this ferry, I'd find a place to spend the night.

And soon enough, I did.

I pulled in a small farm near Ballangen (Pippira Siida), which rented out cabins. As I rode upon the premises, I saw that beside the Norwegian flag, they also flew the Sami flag.

When I had gotten my stuff inside, I talked to owners Ingvor and Annette about this... and as soon as I started talking about 'Sápmi' (the area the Sami live in) they were all ears about what I had to say.

You see, in most of Europe we know the region as 'Lapland', but to alot of Sami people it's seen as a derogatory name. Thanks to the research I'd done at home I knew this, and I guess Ingvor and Annette were all too pleased that someone from this far away spoke of them in the correct manner.

Furthermore, a few decades ago the Norwegian state adhered to a policy of 'Norwegianization', which basically meant that Sami people were not allowed to speak their language, practice their culture or any of the kind. They were Norwegians, and thus they had to act like Norwegians. The Sami culture was severely repressed, and Sami people were (and sometimes sadly still are) considered to be inferior. 

Thankfully this policy ended about 30 years ago, and the Sami have been recovering ever since, displaying their culture proudly when- and wherever they can. Like putting up the flag in front of the house.

Ingvor also explained to me the significance of the Sami flag: the red is Norway, the green and yellow are Sweden and Finland, and the blue is Russia. The circle represents the bond between the four Sami regions.

As I talked to Ingvor and Annette, I told them I'd been looking for a sticker of the Sami flag though I had no real idea where to get one. I saw that on their guestbook there was a Sami sticker, but Ingvor wasn't sure they still had any.

Annette was positive there'd still be a few lying around, promptly went inside the house, and under my eyes she cut one out for me.

Awesome. Just awesome.

Ingvor explained to me that the cabin I had for the night was furbished as a typical Sami house.

Here, let me give you the dime tour:

I guess the temperature wasn't too typical for these parts. Ingvor explained the weather had been like this for weeks now, but they tried to enjoy it as much as they could. Not too strange if you know winter in this area starts in October, and lasts till well into May. Wow.

This further sparked my interest in the Sami way of life, and I made the promise to myself I'd make sure to find out more about the region in the coming week.

In the mean time, it was time for dinner.

I guess if you're on the road for a week and a half, you get confused by the sight of a regular kitchen.

(be that as it may, the can stove worked faster than the actual cooker present... so I wasn't completely mad, I reckoned)