The adventure has begun.
It was an early start this morning. Having packed up all my belongings and stored them with friends (thanks Noel and Anne) and family, I had spent the night at my sister's. This morning she made me porridge, we said our goodbyes, then she waved me off.
I rode down to Leeds station to get the 06:52 train to Manchester airport. I'd booked ahead to get a space for my bike but it turned out it was full of luggage and none of the owners wanted to shift them. So I had to stand with my bike for an hour and a half. So much for getting some extra sleep on the train.
At Manchester airport I had to pack my bike into the huge transparent plastic bag for the flight. I sat for ages trying to get the left-hand pedal off. I tried turning both ways but just couldn't budge it. Just as I rang a friend for advice, a guy who'd been in the queue came over and offered a hand. Tom, it turns out, does mountain bike training and he managed to loosen it. Thanks Tom.
After finally getting the bike packed (with bubble wrap over important parts) and my panniers combined into my Ikea bag, I took everything to special baggage. There I met a couple of parkrunners from back home. It turned out they were off to do the midnight marathon in Tromso and were on the same flight to Oslo. It's a small world (although my legs disagree).
On the flight I was sat next to a young couple. One of the guys had an old film camera he'd picked up on eBay for £3. Apparently you can still get film developed at Boots. Who knew? It is great to see they are still getting used but I'm not sure I'd swap my DSLR for one. Half my kit would end up being rolls of film.
Touching down at Oslo airport the scenery said Norway. The hills, the houses, the forests of tall spruce trees stretching up to touch us. After a few hours at Oslo airport I took my second flight on to Kirkenes. A lady at the help desk pronounced it "chirk-i-ness" but various tannoy announcements said it differently so I'm none the wiser. Rather concerningly, as I borded the plane I glimpsed a bike under the plane but it wasn't in a bike bag. Was it mine? I couldn't quite tell. Had something happened to it? Was I going to be stranded with a broken bike? Perhaps I had nothing to worry about. Perhaps someone else was cycling the route. I hoped that was the answer as I nervously drank the little cup of tea they gave me on the flight.
Kirkenes is pretty much the end of Norway. A few miles further and you're in Russia. But that isn't where I'm going. For the next four days I head northward and westward to Nordkapp. The plan is to reach it by the Summer Solstice so that I'm at my most northern point at the same time as the Sun. After that both of us head south.
So, I have over 500km of remote countryside to go in four days. I'll start tomorrow so that I have chance to find supplies in Kirkenes. Most importantly I'll need some gas for my camp stove and food. Plenty of food.