Cycling the Atlantic coast of Europe from north to south during the summer of 2017. Still taking it one day at a time. View the archive.

Limping to Alta

By Stuart Lowe on

I was up early. If I was to make the bike shop by midday I needed to be off. I left my woody camp amongst fragrant, short, plants at 8am. I was able to free wheel a bit but it got scary with only one set of juddering brakes. At the bottom I had to walk again. I could see Alta across the bay.

panorama
Alta and fjord

I got frustrated aCnd worried on the walk. How much would it all cost? Would I have to use up my precious Norwegian currency that has to last to Bergen. Would I have to go a week without food and camping rough? I wanted the walk to end. A Frenchman on a bike stopped to see if I needed help. I was beyond the help of anyone else on the road themselves. A Dutchman in a van offered to give me, but not my bike, a lift to the bike shop. I couldn't see how that would help as it was my bike that needed to be there, not me. I kept walking.

The bike shop had been suggested by Chris, s friend from Cardiff. During the night I'd been able to contact a local cyclist (who was away in Oslo) and he'd recommended the same one. I eventually reached Sport 1 at midday with very sore feet. After days of cold and wet I'd subjected them to walking in neoprene socks that chaffed my toes. But I was there.

J&oring;rn at the bike shop explained he had a full load on and had been working since 6am. However, he said he'd see if he could squeeze me in. I should leave my bike and come back in a few hours.

I lugged my bags around the corner to a cafe in the nearby shopping centre. I treated myself to a hot chocolate and a small portion of fish and chips for 200 krones (about £20). Norway is expensive. My daily budget is down to 150 krones so I'd overspent. I hadn't even paid for bike repairs yet.

I snoozed on a bench in the sunshine with my solar panel out for the first time in days. Later in the afternoon I returned to the bike shop. J&oring;rn had replaced the wheel.He didn't have the same valve as my front wheel unfortunately so I had to buy a spare inner tube to add to the other two spares I have. He gave my a discount on the wheel given my journey. Thank goodness for local bike shops. Make sure to support yours.

I was able to pay with my UK bank card so felt less stressed. It can come out of the budget for the entire trip, not just the Norwegian part. By this point there were more staff in the shop and they told me where there was camping. I paid 180 krones for the night. I was way over budget but showers were included in the price so I could have my first in a week.

Broken

By Stuart Lowe on

I had 30km to go to get to Olderfjord. First there was another tunnel that was 2.6km long. Somehow I seemed to more or less stay in a dry spot between rain showers most of the way.

At Olderfjord I went in the little cafe and had a tea and waffle for 80 krones. That was my luxury for today. There I met Barry and Steve who were bus drivers from Staylybridge and Glossop. They were on motorbikes and had driven from home to Nordkapp. They were now on their way back. We shared stories and Barry went and got me three Wayfarer all-day-breakfasts from his bike. Thanks Barry!

I was a few kilometres out of Olderfjord when I met Wenyuan. He was from Shanghai but had started down near the Baltic and was heading north. He looked fresh and clean with a smart set of new panniers despite having been on the road for a month. I'm not sure how he managed that. I look a bit bedraggled after only 5 or so days.

Down into Skaidi I rode. There was a little rain. I went into the little shop which also served as a hardware store. I was hoping to find Duct Tape as I'd used mine up packing my bike in Manchester. I didn't find any but did find a long Roullade with marzipan for 30 krones. Yum. In the shop I also had a very brief chat with a lady from Poland who had cycled to Nordkapp with her husband and dog.

The climb up out of Skaidi was long. I stopped in a lay-by to have some lunch and a kind Dutch couple in a van topped up my flask and gave me a cup of broth (thin soup). Today was going well.

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Dutch couple

The road rose to a 240m summit then rose again towards a 386m summit. I was back up at snow-covered plateau level which was worrying after the last few days. This time I seemed to be travelling in my own little dry patch as the clouds were moving south at the same rate. More good luck.

Bang!

There was a noise from the back of my bike. I heard and felt a thud thud on every rotation of the wheel. Something was wrong. I stopped. The metal wheel rim had cracked. I've never had that happen before. I looked limited, for now. But my brake was rubbing against it. I had to disconnect the rear brake and sheepishly continued. I was 60km from Alta on tops that might entertain a blizzard. I didn't want to camp here.

I slowly pedalled over the summit and was dropping down to the 240m mark, with about 40km to go, when another problem hit. My right pedal was suddenly at a funny angle. It was unscrewing itself! I tried to tighten it but it wouldn't fit. It was as if it were the wrong size. Has the cold of the past few days shrunk the metal differently? To make matters worse my front fork has seemed a bit shaky for the past few days. I tried freewheeling down for a bit. That worked until I reached a plateau. Trying to pedal with only one pedal becomes really hard with the slightest slope. I had 27km to go. I pushed my bike 7km uphill to another summit. At this point I realised it was getting late and if I got to Alta it would be at about 1am. Instead I resolved to wild camp in a little wooded area next to the road to recuperate. I ate all of my Roullade cake.

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My friend Amy drew this picture of me

A friend on the road

By Stuart Lowe on

I had a very late start this morning. I laid in hoping the cold rain would stop so I could take down my tent. It eased and I slowly packed then had a big pot of porridge (with Nutella and banana as is now standard).

I cycled into town and tried to sort my brakes outside the Tourist information office before being slightly rudely asked to move by someone wanting to sell tours to tourists disembarking from the Hurtigruten. One American lady came up to me and earnestly asked me if there was WiFi. Another couple asked me where they could find an ATM. Once again I was stood with a heavily loaded bike and was mistaken for a local.

I went to the Coop to get food for the next couple of days and was stunned to find a little jar of pesto for 4.90 NOK. I thought they may have put the decimal point in the wrong place given Norwegian prices. They hadn't. Bargain!

I then hit the road proper and reached my first tunnel. This one was 4km long. It was noisy, especially when cars or camper vans or tourist buses went by. But it was easier than I thought. Plus it was flat.

A few kilometres after that one I got to a second. This was the big one; 6870m of road that went under the sea to the mainland. It was 3km down, a kilometre of flat, then 3km uphill. At the lowest it was 212m below sea level.

On the mainland, the road was easier than the last few days. The rain was now intermittent and light. The cold north easterly had lessened a bit.

Off in the distance I saw what looked like a figure on the road. It was! I stopped to find Brendan, an adventurous Australian, walking from Nordkapp to Oslo. Actually he started on a spit of last about 100m further north than Nordkapp. Realising I could have a proper conversation, I asked if I could walk with him for a bit. I pushed my bike and we chatted about our trips, our countries, and life. At some point he said he'd like to stop for a water break. I asked him if he'd like a cup of tea. He said yes so I produced my flask. I apologised for the lack of milk. It transpired that he had 20 days of food in his backpack but it was all in powdered form. So, I offered to make a fried egg sandwich. I wouldn't get top marks for presentation but sharing hot sandwiches and tea on the desolate side of a fjord was a simple pleasure. I also gave him a banana and some chocolate to keep him going. It is important to help out those in a tougher situation.

Brendan is a pretty awesome person. He had saved for 10 years and has been travelling all over the world for over two years now. He has cycled through south East Asia and been to South America. I could have easily kept walking with him for the rest of the day but realised I'd taken a lot of his time so wished him well with a handshake and cycled on. Meeting people like Brendan is what makes these trips so enjoyable.

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Fjord panorama

I'd been roughly aiming for Olderfjord but, with 40km to go I saw a perfect little camping spot. Someone had fashioned a little table from stone among a rare group of trees. It had a view of the fjord. I pitched my tent. After dinner I was having tea and biscuits when two reindeer came into view. They hadn't seen me and gradually got closer grazing on the short Arctic plants. One kept staring in my direction trying to work out if I was a danger but must have finally decided I was part of the scenery. They got really close but we're finally scared off by a van that stopped on the road so the four male occupants could smoke, pee, and top up their petrol tank.

portrait
Reindeer

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Camp spot

A little later I was visited by a hardy bumble bee touring the diminutive plants and somehow making an existence for itself in the little sylvan nook.

The weather wasn't perfect today but the friend on the road, the views, and the wildlife have made it one to remeber fondly.

To the end of the world

By Stuart Lowe on

The Hurtigruten arrived in Mehamn harbour a little late. There were three of us getting on. It was like a ghost ship but then it was 1am. I sat in a lovely comfy chair on the viewing deck and drifted between sleep and worrying that I'd missed my stop. At 5.30 we pulled into Honningsvåg and bus loads of tourists disembarked to visit Nordkapp. I was the only bike getting off but not the only bike visiting the Cape today.

I headed out of town and cooked myself two eggs and porridge (separately) by the side of a fjord. Then, about 8am, I headed up the road to Nordkapp. Up was the right word. There were a series of 200-300m climbs along the 25km road with snow and clagg above 200 or so metres again. This road was much busier than the past few days as camper vans, cars, and buses made their way to a point notable for being the northern-most point of Europe.

The final 1 km had a big drop down to the ocean on the side. The exposure made me stick to the middle of the road in case of a gust of wind. Riding up the final 500m took me to a ticket booth where I was waved through because I'd arrived by a sustainable means of transport (it is free for walkers too). I headed to the globe monument and got a picture of my bike. I've taken its picture next to quite a few landmarks now.

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Nordkapp

I went into the visitor centre to warm up and dry off. Every layer of clothes was wet either from sweat or rain. I had an expensive cup of coffee and a plate-sized waffle. Then I visited the shop and panic bought a new waterproof jacket as mine is no longer doing the job (the past 24 hours have sure been expensive). I then went to watch the panoramic film about Nordkapp and visited the exhibition. Having somewhere to warm up at the end of the world was very welcome even if I didn't really dry out.

Eventually I had to venture back out into the cold but now with an extra jacket. On the way back I knew what to expect of the road so it felt easier. At the end of the tough section, a few km from Honningsv&aging;g, I decided to stay in a campsite. It was expensive (210 NOK as it is in tourist land) but every piece of clothing I had seemed to be wet and I wanted the use of a dryer. I had really overspent today.

I dried my clothes (20 NOK) and made full use of the kitchen. I chatted with a couple from The Netherlands who had cycled all the way from home.

I may not have cycled far today but at least I was now warm, dry, and fed.