Our Unlimited Cycling Dream: Going North Part 2

After successfully managing to cycle from Germany to Trondheim, Norway, we were ready to cycle as far north as possible. We had amazing weather before, which just came to an end and we thought wouldn’t return until we head south again…

Kystryksveien – The Coast Road

The weather was bad and cold during our stay in Trondheim and didn’t really clear up until the second day we started cycling again. I was frequently wearing my gloves to combat the ridiculously bad circulation in my hands as the temperature never went much over 15°C. With all the humidity around it felt awful, as I was sweating and peeling off layers on uphills, only to put everything back on again for the downhill as the sweat never really dried. We were really wishing back those hot days in the south of Norway, but we knew that this is what we had to expect in one of the world’s rainiest countries. And the weather wasn’t really as bad as in Ireland last year.

Some good days were in-between and we luckily managed to stay with hosts (of which there were not many at all!) when the weather was a little bit worse. On one occasion then Yuily’s gear cable snapped, and unfortunately we didn’t have any replacement. I managed to get the derailleur to the 7th gear, but the front chainrings were all she had available for shifting. The next bike shop was almost 200 km and a lot of climbs away. But amazingly Yuily managed to get up a 400 m climb in that high gear afterwards. Then a saviour came along, another cyclist. We flagged him down, and Gabriel from France luckily had a fitting cable and helped us to install it. We thanked him a lot and later camped together.

The weather cleared that evening and stayed mostly good the next day as we crossed into the Arctic Circle. There was no sign to take photos with as we crossed it while we were on one of the many many ferry. The scenery became increasingly pretty and we were in awe from how dramatic it looked. A few days later we then made it to the city of Bodo, marking the end of the Kystryksveien. The beautiful scenery was only going to become better though, as next up were the Lofoten islands. Failing to find a host in Bodo, we took an afternoon ferry after arriving in the city. After a shaky 4 hour ride, we stayed in the waiting room on the other side in Moksenes.

Lofoten and Vesteralen

Thick fog was hanging over the islands the next morning and we enjoyed the waiting room a bit longer – there was no point in heading out when you don’t see any of the beautiful scenery. Finally the fog cleared in the early afternoon and we were off. The Lofoten were definitely even more dramatic than the mainland: The glaciers, that covered much of Norway during the Ice Age, didn’t reach here, leaving the mountains of the islands poking out of the ocean, like a dragon’s spine. The Lofoten were also definitely more touristy than anywhere since Trollstigen. The only road was narrow in many places and it was a slight battle between all the campervans, tour buses and hoards of other cycle tourists.

Since most of the pretty scenery is on the south of Lofoten, we took it all in slowly, doing no more than 40 km a day and going on multiple hikes. While we were camping on a beach with a massive amount of campervans occupying the parking lot, we got invited by a lovely Belgian couple for a soup and enjoyed the midnight sun. It had never really gotten dark since Trondheim already, but here in the Arctic Circle we were able to witness the sun just grazing the horizon and then rising again.

The past few weeks the World Cup was going on, and Yuily was very excited about it. She was taking chances to watch matches whenever she could. We watched the semi-final Croatia-England in a supermarket in Svolvaer using the WiFi, when an excited girl asked us about our bike trip and quickly offered us a shower in her nearby apartment. Isabelle had just finished a year long trip and, although she couldn’t host us, showed us amazing hospitality by offering everything else and showing us a spot to camp. As touristy as Lofoten is, we didn’t expect this out here and were really grateful for her help.

As we left the Lofoten on to Hinnoya island, the scenery looked closer to mainland Norway again and we made faster progress. I chose to take the main E10 highway over the official bicycle route in order to avoid yet another ferry, but this was a bad choice in hindsight, because we had to cross many long tunnels, the longest being 6 km long. Although legal, definitely scary and not recommended. A few euros for a ferry crossing is not worth getting almost flattened by a tour bus in a tunnel. As we got to the island of Andoy, we had some rare easy riding as the island is unusually flat for Norwegian standards. We managed to get to the city of Andenes on the northern tip in good time.

We failed to find a host but had a rest day nontheless by camping two nights in a row in the harbour. Andenes is one of the coldest places in the Norwegian summer and we shivered along in the 10°C drizzle, watching the World Cup final squatting outside the closed information centre using their WiFi. I noticed Yuily getting up at night, but I didn’t think much further of it. She came back an hour later with a lot of perfectly edible food from supermarket dumpsters. It was fantastic as she found many foods which we normally couldn’t afford (we had to be very selective in Norwegian supermarkets due to the high prices). Later we made friends with one of the campervan drivers called Linus, shared some food with him, in return for which he offered to load our bikes on his campervan for the next ferry, which unusually charged bicycles an extra fee.

Senja and the Far North

This ferry took us to what many Norwegians said is the most scenic part of the country: the island of Senja. After multiple failed attempts the week before, we also managed to find a host. Staale from Couchsurfing could host us in his cabin in a very scenic part of the island. The weather was clear as well so that we could fully enjoy the midnight boat ride he took us out on and the hike we went on the next day from his cabin. We were very grateful for his hospitality.

After camping one more time in a beautiful spot on Senja, which definitely lived up to all the expectations, we cycled to Tromso, Norway’s biggest city in the Arctic and the northernmost point we would reach on the trip. Many cyclists press on to go to Nordkapp, but the scenery up to there was supposed to become more desolate while the cape itself is a giant tourist trap. It would have some draw to us if it would be the northernmost point of Europe, but it is not. That honour goes to Kinnarodden further east, or, if you want to include islands (since Nordkapp is on one), Rossoya on Svalbard.

We stayed three nights in Tromso with two different hosts, the first of which, Szymon invited us to come along to a hiking trip a bit south of the city, to where he was able to give us and our bikes a lift in his van. He, his girlfriend and the friend they were visiting were all Polish, working in Norway, attracted by the good wages of the country. We really enjoyed the time with them, as Szymon and his friend showed us how easy it is to catch fish in this part of Norway. Roasted right away, they were delicious.

Throughout Norway we saw many many campervans on the road, and it’s easy to see the country they are from (mostly Germans). But on a parking lot in northern Norway we saw a license plate that boggled our mind: It was from China. We went to talk to the owners, and sure enough, they drove it all the way from China to Norway (through Russia and Finland). Amazingly, they didn’t speak any English and were using Google Translate to communicate most of the time. The car was full of groceries from China, enough for one year as they said, which is how long they want to spend traveling through Europe. 

A while back, Jani, a Finnish friend of mine, following our trip via Facebook, shot me an invitation to come to stay in Turku. Our original plan was to cycle south through Sweden, but as I considered his invitation more and more, it became clear that we could just as well go through Finland and go to Sweden with an affordable ferry from Turku. By now we were pretty sure that we wanted to do this and thus made our way to the Finnish border…

Previous: Going North Part 1