8.08.2011

HITCHHIKING WITH CAMPER VANS


The night of our first failed attempt at hitching a ride south from Nordkapp, the same night we saw the midnight sun, we met 3 French cyclists who informed us that they were also hoping to find a ride south the following morning. We were very unenthusiastic to hear this news, as the sight of 5 fully loaded touring cyclists on the side of the road looking for a lift is extremely daunting. In hopes that we could catch some early risers the next morning and beat the French to a ride, we dragged ourselves out of bed after only a few hours of sleep and set up our hitching post at the exit of the parking lot full of campers. Much to our surprise there was not a single sign of life in the lot. The shades were all still drawn, no doors were opening and closing, there were no smells of bacon and eggs cooking, it was a ghost town. We sat at the exit for 2 hours before anyone even began to stir, and another full hour passed before the lot was finally awake.

Around 10:00 the campers began to depart, yet no one so much as slowed down to inquire about where we were headed. Suddenly, the leader of the French pack appeared in the parking lot and began walking towards us. Oh man, we thought. He's coming to tell us that they're going to join us; exactly what we didn't want to hear. As it turned out, he had a different message for us. The 3 of them had already solidified a ride by walking around and asking people the night before and suggested that we try to find a ride that way. We had thought about doing that, but simply walking up to people asking for a ride and putting them on the spot like that seems a little bit rude and isn't our cup of tea. “Thanks for the advice” we said with fake smiles on our faces which faded as soon as he turned around. Our chances of getting a ride was rapidly dwindling. There were only about 10 campers with racks left at Nordkapp so we decided to test our luck.

We stood around for the next 10 minutes trying to figure out how we should go about these awkward encounters, what we should say and most importantly which of us unlucky souls would be the one doing the talking. After much debating it was decided that I'd be the one to talk “because you're a cute girl and people will be more likely to agree to give us a ride if you ask” was Mike's argument. Personally I thought that was a bunch of bologna but figured the worst that could happen was we'd get told to buzz off.

And so the face to face ride search began. The first guy I asked was super friendly and agreed to take us about 100 km to the point where he'd be turning toward Finland. Well, that was a good start but we thought we'd should ask around some more to see if anyone was going further. We got a handful of “no's,” a yes from a couple of old Finnish burnouts who had just driven 22 straight hours from southern Finland to Nordkapp and an “our camper is only registered to carry 4 passengers because of seat belts and if we get pulled over I'll get in trouble” from a gruff-looking, goatee'd guy in a Harley shirt. We immediately wrote that one off as a no and decided we'd take a short ride from the first guy, try hitching again from where he dropped us off and if worse came to worse we'd hitch with the Finnish guys. Just when we thought we were set, the first guy meandered over, shuffling his feet and informed us that his wife had vetoed his offer so he wouldn't be able to help us. Well, the Finnish guys it was. They weren't leaving until 3pm so we just sad on some rocks, waited and deep down hoped that someone else would pick us up.

As luck would have it, shortly after we sat down, a camper pulled up next to us and out hopped the guy with a goatee asking if we still needed a ride. “Well, we're still here, aren't we?” we replied as we began loading our bags into the camper and bikes on the back. They were headed to Alta that day, some 150 miles south of Nordkapp, a great start to the 750 miles we were hoping to cover. The ride was pleasant, filled with small talk with Roar, his wife Sorfrid, their son Henning and Sorfrid's brother, David. As we neared Alta Roar turned to us and said, “we have a place for you to sleep tonight if you'd like. David lives in Alta and we will stay at his house. There's a small BBQ house where you can sleep and the only thing you have to do in return is play a game of volleyball with us.” We were sold! When we arrived to David's house, we were greeted by his wonderful wife Ninni as dinner was being set on the table. Mike was in heaven eating reindeer stew, we showed our not-so-impressive skills in a humorous backyard game of volleyball, we were treated to hot showers, taken on a personal midnight tour from Ninni at a World Heritage Site in Alta of an extensive display of ancient rock carvings and to top it off, got to sleep in beds that night.
Sorfrid, Roar, Henning, Ninni, Cari & Mike

Mike, David, Henning & Sorfrid playing volleyball. 

 Rock carvings

We had planned to haul our bikes back out to the highway the following morning, but right before we went to bed Roar told us they were continuing south for a bit more and were more than happy to take us with them to the point where they'd be turning off of the main highway towards the Lofoten Islands. Amazed at our luck, we piled back back into the camper the next morning and just before they dropped us off we pulled over, had a big BBQ lunch and were invited to stay at their house in Trondheim (if they're home) when we get there. We cannot thank Roar, Sorfrid, Henning, David and Ninni enough for their incredible kindness towards us. They went so far above and beyond giving a couple of bums a ride (a total of 360 miles); they welcomed us like family.
Henning, Sorfrid, Roar & Cari

We got dropped off in Nordkjosbotn in the evening, stood by the side of the road for a couple of hours, but eventually gave up for the night and set up camp. The following morning we checked into bus tickets, but of course, they were painfully expensive, as we are in Norway afterall. On our way back out to the highway we spotted a camper at the supermarket with an empty rack. Well, it worked once so we might as well shamelessly try it again. I rolled up to the driver, asked if they were headed south and if they'd be willing to give us a ride. “I'll have to ask my wife” was the reply. No sooner had we backed away thinking it would be a negative, which is usually the case when the wives are asked, that a woman walked out of the store, gave her consent and we were loading into another camper. They told us that they were headed to Narvik, 120 miles south and were hunting something or another so it would be slow-going. Are you hunting a kind of animal we asked? No. Are you hunting for a certain type of berry, which we've seen a lot of people doing? No. We had no idea what it was they were searching for, but we weren't really in a hurry and beggars can't be choosers. A ride is a ride.
Granny, Jatage & Miritta

It immediately became clear to us that this Finnish couple was gung-ho about Geo-caching, a game we knew nothing about until we stayed with my uncle in Huron, South Dakota nearly a year ago. It was quite possibly the slowest 120 miles we've even driven as we stopped at least 20 times to join in the game as the enthusiastic couple searched high and low, in buildings, under bridges, in rock crevasses and under tree roots to find random objects hidden by other people and then happily crossed it off of their list. Once again we were treated wonderfully, and owe many thanks to Maritta and Jatage for the ride, the lunch and the introduction to Geo-caching.
Mike & Jatage Geo-caching.

As before, we arrived at our destination late in the evening and had no luck finding a ride as everyone we asked seemed to be going in the opposite direction, or that's what they told us anyway. Both of us, tired of standing on the side of the road begging for rides, didn't want to waste another entire day, so we decided that we'd catch the early morning bus from Narvik to Fauske, a 150-mile section of busy, winding, shoulder-less highway with a total of 17 tunnels. As we watched from the windows of the bus, we concluded that avoiding that stretch of road was well worth the $100 we paid for tickets.

We arrived in Fauske at noon with the intention of giving hitchhiking a try for a few hours and if we had no luck, would ride the final segment of highway E6 to Mo i Rana, the point where we entered Norway, the following day. We got off the bus, rode into the city center and saw a camper sitting at a gas station. Here we go again. I pulled up to the window, asked if we could get a ride and almost immediately got an affirmative answer that they too were going to Mo i Rana and were willing to take us. We slept for most of the ride with Uwe and Heidi, a German couple, as we'd had several consecutive short nights of sleep. They dropped us off near the campground where we stayed for a night and from there we planned to ride south.
Friend, Heidi & Uwe

We are truly grateful to the 3 camper vans that collectively drove us 600 miles, enabling us to avoid cycling on a terribly busy highway where there were no alternative routes. Every one of you were far more kind and generous to us than we ever expected; many thanks to all of you!

5 comments:

Mom said...

I have never been a fan of camper vans, but what an awsome experience; makes me re-think why I have not liked the camper van. Yes, I can totally see Michael pawning the asking for rides on you Cari. I do hope you write a book about all of your travels. Love you bunches!!

Betsy said...

We spent a couple of nights in Trondheim on our honeymoon, and it was lovely. We had the best meal of our lives there. An Italian opera singer had been working on a cruise ship that stopped in Trondheim. He fell in love, stayed, and opened an Italian restaurant. He walks around the restaurant, singing...:)

Anonymous said...

Volleyball- the universal language! - Bob

NancyE said...

Yeah! Almost as universal as kickball. :-)

fede said...

such a nice story. enjoy life!!!

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