We caught up with our friend Ben, the French guy we met in southern Sweden, in the town of Bodo where we took the ferry over to the Lofoten Islands. We were excited to ride with him again, especially on the islands and up to Nordkapp, since he was the one who initially gave us the idea to visit those places.
Ben and Mike at camp on the Lofoten Islands.
We have spent the last week cycling the Lofoten and Vesteralen Islands, a chain of tiny islands located off of the northwest coast of Norway. They have turned out to be very popular vacation spots for folks in motor homes as well as bike tourists with the number of fully loaded cyclists rivaling the numbers we saw in Austria. But it's easy to understand why; the scenery here is absolutely stunning. From the sea that sometimes looks a deep, pure black yet in some places shines vibrant turquoise against the white sand beaches that makes us believe we're in a very cold tropical paradise, comes jagged mountains covered in hearty emerald green shrubs and towering sheer granite cliffs. There are places near the centers of the islands where the mountains are only silhouettes on the horizon against the flat, brown, desolate terrain. The many different landscapes remind us of some of the most impressive places we've seen around the globe. It's as if the Andes near Machu Picchu, the fjords of New Zealand, the granite cliffs of the Sierra Nevadas, the African Savannah and the Carretera Austral in Patagonia have all been combined to form one single, spectacular place.
It's hard to beat this camp site!
White sand beaches.
The islands are dotted with little villages, most of them offering nothing in terms of services, and consist of only a few small houses and sheds with faded and peeling paint, exposing the gray, weathered wood beneath. The harbors are filled with colorful fishing boats that create beautifully dramatic reflections on calm evenings and along the shores are racks and racks of drying fish, whose stench I don't think I need to describe, combined with the pungent smell of salt water and washed up, decaying sea life. It's not the most pleasant of scents, but it's what one should expect from fishing villages.
Reflections on the harbor.
We have not been granted the greatest weather, though it hasn't been all that horrible either. We had one day of sun where, judging by the locals who were on the beaches in shorts and tank tops and sunbathing on their decks, you'd think it was 80-degrees outside. Though it was warm enough to cycle in shorts and a t-shirt, it was cold enough that we were all had rosy cheeks and runny noses and had to put on pants and a jacket every time we stopped riding. I have a feeling that a 60-degree day would be considered hot to the people who live here year-round. The rest of our days have been cold with low clouds that dull the colors of the islands and gives them a mystical feel and a damp fog that chills you to the bone like you find in San Francisco. We're all hoping for a blue bird day but I think they're few and far between up here.
Even the cloudy days are beautiful.
It might seem strange to go bike touring on islands, but long bridges, tunnels and ferries makes it quite easy to do so. The ferries typically run a few times a day so either Ben texts his girlfriend back at home to find out the schedule or we simply show up at the dock and wait for the next one. We have learned that Norwegians absolutely love tunnels, or at least they love to build them. We pass through several every day and though we originally thought it silly that we bought a package of batteries for our headlamps just before we arrived to Scandinavia where it's always daylight, they have proven to be necessary as some of the tunnels are 1-2 miles long. They are dark and cold, the air is dusty and it sounds like a freight train coming at us every time a vehicle approaches. Needless to say, they can be a little creepy, especially on a bike, but we just put on our fluorescent, reflective vests and blinking lights and go for it. There have been many times we've been thankful for the tunnels; they sure make cycling a lot easier when, rather than going up and over a mountain, instead we get to right right through.
Ben and Mike ready for one of many tunnels, this one being our first under-ocean tunnel.