We arrived to Norway a few days ago and were welcomed into the country with freezing cold wind and rain, but at least there were no gnats. Thankfully the bad weather only lasted for a day and we've been fortunate to enjoy several days of clear blue, though chilly, skies.
As expected, there are many similarities between Norway and Sweden. Once again, everyone we've met speaks perfect English, which makes communication pleasantly easy. We've discovered that “Every Man's Right” is a law found throughout Scandinavia, so just as in Sweden, we will enjoy our freedom to camp anywhere without being hassled. Much to Mike's delight, Norway has just as an extensive gummy selection at every supermarket as we found in Sweden. However, our decision to purchase them came to an abrupt end after our first grocery shopping experience. When we were in Portugal and Spain, everyone we met warned us that France was going to break our bank. When we arrived in France we were pleased at our ability to stay within our budget quite easily but were then warned that the prices in Switzerland were outrageous. Once again, we cruised through Switzerland and though we noticed a difference, were satisfied when we were again able to keep our daily costs down. When we were in Germany and told people we were heading up to Sweden, their eyes got big and they replied, “Oh, it's REALLY expensive there.” Thinking it couldn't be much worse than Switzerland we were surprised that it actually could be worse, yet somehow managed to stay right at the upper end of our budget.
Well, we've finally found the country that will, just as we were told, send us into bankruptcy. Our desire to spend the next month cycling the length of Norway might be wishful thinking now that we've learned that 2 gummy worms cost about $1, a can of beans runs about $5, and a dozen eggs, a loaf of bread or a pack of the cheapest “meat” (a.k.a. 6 hotdogs) will set you back $10. Everything, not only food, is ridiculously expensive and we're finding it nearly impossible to live within the budget we've maintained for over a year of travel, wondering if we'll have to resort to eating solely plain white rice and muesli.
I'm not sure how people can afford to travel here but Norway is swarming with tourists in camper vans, cruising around at over $10 per gallon! Prior to arriving in Scandinavia we always believed RV'ing was an American passtime but we've concluded that Norway takes the gold medal by a long shot. We see more RVs in a single day in Norway than we saw on our entire ride across the U.S. I'm not sure if it's because there really are that many more campers here or if it only seems that way as there are so few road options, forcing everyone onto the same route.
Aside from the busy roads and the fact that we go through buyer's remorse for splurging on a can of beer, Norway has been amazing. This is a crazy section of the world, a long and narrow country of rivers, lakes, jagged mountainous coastlines, fjords and islands. The rivers are no longer the dark brown color of root beer that they were in Sweden, but rather a clear, icy blue through which we can see perfectly the multicolored rocks on the bottom of the river some 15 feet below. There are waterfalls everywhere, shimmering in the endless sunlight like enormous ribbons of tinsel hanging from the mountain sides, as the last remaining evidence of the harsh winters of the North melt away. In a few short weeks all of the snow patches will be gone, the waterfalls will cease and the bright magenta fireweed that grows along the roadways will indicate that Summer's end is near and the cold is about to return.
We have just passed the Arctic Circle, a place where neither of us ever imagined we'd be cycling. Located above treeline along Highway E6, the landscape was very moon-like; rocky and barren. There was a small gift shop, a cafe, several small monuments and hundreds of cairns erected all along the infamous latitudinal line. We enjoyed a brisk, but blue-skied lunch, pulled out our maps to figure out where we'd be able to find supermarkets between there and Bodo, where we'd be catching a ferry to the Lofoten Islands and then continued to ride North.
At the Arctic Circle.
Our second day in Norway was a sad day for me. My trusty water bottle with the “King of the Mountain” jersey design from the Tour de France (red polka-dots) that has been traveling with me from the start, saw its last ride. It had been sick for a long time with cracks all along its side, leaking water and forcing me to squeeze gingerly so as not to completely split it open every time I took a drink. There are very few (as in no) bike shops up here so we couldn't just go and buy a new one, but as luck would have it, suddenly a bright pink water bottle appeared on the side of the road. I know, you all think it's disgusting to pick something up off the side of the road and use it but we do it all the time and it hasn't killed us yet. A little scrub followed by a boiling water rinse and I was good to go. So meet my new piece of gear, Emily, as the faded blue marker on her side indicates. Long may she ride.
Good-bye old bottle.
Hello new bottle.