Cycling the Atlantic coast of Europe from north to south during the summer of 2017. View the archive, the route so far, or donate to MSF.

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.

panorama
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

landscape
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.