Once back on the mainland we continued to head north with one destination in mind; Nordkapp (The North Cape), which is the northernmost point in Europe to which you can drive without taking a ferry. We were fortunate to stay with Stig-Martin, a warmshowers host, for a couple of nights in Russeluft, one of only two hosts in all of northern Norway. It was a much-needed stop for all 3 of us having ridding 12 straight days without a rest day and equally as long without a proper shower. We were beyond filthy, exhausted, desperately needed to do laundry and a major bout of bike maintenance as none of our bikes were working well anymore. We got everything we needed and more – lots of bike touring talk, an amazingly welcoming host and a delicious BBQ with the whole family. We left Russeluft feeling clean and refreshed for the final 2-day push to Nordkapp which was anything but easy as the road was continuously climbing and descending, never flat, as we snaked our way around one fjord after another.
Ben, Benjamin, Kesia, Mike & Stig-Marting...BBQ'ing
There were many Sami souvenir shops along the way, the Sami people being the indigenous semi-nomadic reindeer herders of northern Scandinavia, selling furs, antlers and dried meat. The reindeer population drastically increased forcing us to slow down or pull over on many occasions. I'm positive that reindeer are the stupidest animals on the planet. Northern Norway has so few people, leaving millions of acres of open space for the animals to roam, yet the reindeer opt to graze, walk and relax on the highways instead and are far from frightened by people or vehicles. Unlike deer who freeze for a few seconds, hesitate but then eventually run off of the roads, when a reindeer is in the ditch and sees us coming, rather than running away it runs onto the road and proceeds to awkwardly gallop in a zig-zagging line down the road in front of us. Other times they simply stand there, usually in the most inopportune of places, like a bend in the road or the entrance to a tunnel. Cars crawl to within inches of them but still no amount of yelling, bell ringing, horn honking or whistling can get them to move. It's a wonder how there aren't hundreds of dead reindeer in the ditches but we have yet to see one.
A Sami souvenir stop along the highway.
Reindeer blocking a tunnel.
The day we arrived to Nordkapp turned out to be quite a monstrous ride. It began with a series of tunnels, the first being relatively short, but dark and drippy once the reindeer moved out of the way and allowed us to enter. The 3rd and 4th were not noteworthy at all but the 2nd was by far the most intense tunnel any of us have ever been in. Perhaps it wouldn't have been so bad in a car but it was 6.87 KM long and steeply dropped to 212 meters below the ocean's surface. (For those who only think in miles and feet, the tunnel was 4.27 miles long and 695.5 feet deep). The ride down was fast and exciting at a 9% grade which allowed us to move at high enough speeds to ride in the traffic lane. Climbing out the other side was a different story, however. The grade increased to 10% which, on a loaded touring bike is really difficult. Often at grades this steep we have to switchback our way up the long hills, but we were confined to a 2-foot wide slab of asphalt where if you swerved to one side you ended up in wet mud and if you swerved to the other side you ended up going off a curb into traffic. It took major concentration to keep the bike on the little bike path at such slow speeds and we've never been more relieved to see the light at the end of the tunnel as we were after that particular one.
After the under-sea tunnel we met a Danish guy, Martin, who was also heading to Nordkapp so we invited him to join us. We arrived to the town of Honningsvag to buy groceries for the next few days as there's nothing available at Nordkapp, fill up water and find camp for the night. It was late and we were tired but we were less than 20 miles away from our destination which made it difficult to call it quits for the day. The group was a little indecisive on whether to stop or keep going so the executive decision was made to press on. It may have ended up being the most difficult 20 miles of our entire European bike tour. Little did we know when we set out that it was going to be 20 miles of mostly climbing in an absurdly dense fog that left us soaking wet and icy cold.
We arrived to Nordkapp at midnight on the dot, 4 grueling hours after we left Honningsvag, all of us completely bonked, eyes wind burnt, starving and shaking from the cold. The weather forecast for that night showed it as being our best bet at seeing the midnight sun but instead we couldn't see 10 feet ahead of us and were completely miserable. Moreover, we were greeted with a sign 500 meters before Nordkapp stating that there was a $50 per person entrance fee to walk out to the infamous globe. To ride all that way and then be told to fork over $200 between the 4 of us was outrageous. We turned back 200 meters, set up camp outside the toll booth as quickly as possible, chowed down some dinner and passed out before any of could enjoy the celebratory beers we lugged up the mountain for the occasion.
It was supposed to be sunny when we arrived!
We awoke the next afternoon to thick fog, just as it had been the night before, though by the time we'd eaten breakfast it was beginning to thin. We took this as our opportunity to disappear into the fog and sneak around the toll boot. There were no fences and no one checking tickets which made it amazingly easy to walk right into the visitor's center and out to the globe. Martin had purchased a mini bottle of champagne which he so gratefully shared and the 4 of us toasted our accomplishment and snapped what could potentially have been a $200 picture for free.
Ben, Martin & Mike using the fog to sneak around the toll booth.
Martin, Cari, Mike & Ben celebrating with a glass of champagne.
Cari & Mike at the globe.
From Nordkapp we were all heading separate directions; Ben back home to France as this was the end of his trip, Martin to Russia and me and Mike attempting to hitchhike about 750 miles south to the city of Mo i Rana which was where we entered Norway a few weeks ago in hopes that we wouldn't have to backtrack this busy section of highway that we had already ridden. We packed up our gear and stood just outside the toll booths thinking that surely one of the hundreds of camper vans in the parking lot would gladly pick us up. We stood there for 4 hours, watched thousands of people in cars and buses arrive, but only about 5 campers departed, none of which showed any interest in having us join them. We were completely baffled as to why no one was leaving. It was still foggy so the chances of seeing the midnight sun was slim to none and besides, yesterday was the day with a promising forecast. Maybe there was something everyone else knew that we didn't.
Suddenly, at 8pm, the sky began to clear, a patch of blue sky was growing right above us, the fog grew thin and wispy and revealed beautiful cliffs dropping a sheer 1000 feet down to the Arctic Ocean. Though we had technically caught the midnight sun quite a while ago, we had yet to see it as it had been cloudy every night. Perhaps it was good no one picked us up; maybe we were going to get lucky, if only the fog would completely burn off and stay away for 4 more hours. Cars were pouring into the parking lot keeping the toll collectors occupied so we not-so-discreetly rolled our bikes right on in to the tent area hoping to go unnoticed. Once again it worked so we set up camp and proceeded to choose our spot on the cliffs to watch the sun make its slow, angled descent towards the sea. As the hours passed the fog disappeared, the sun transitioned from white to yellow to deep orange until it ever so lightly kissed the northern horizon at midnight and then began its beautiful early morning ascent into the northeastern sky.
The fog beginning to lift.
The sun through the globe.
The midnight sun.
1 am...and then the clouds moved in.