So many different things have happened in the past five days, I don’t know where to start. I went to a museum, visited Santa on the Arctic Circle, took a bus across northern Finland, cycled while it was snowing in Norway, slept in a kitchen and camped by a fjord…
Day 42 (May 12): Rovaniemi, Finland
22.56h. I wanted to buy a bus ticket for tomorrow, but it’s Sunday and Mother’s Day. Hence, everything was closed. That requires a change of plans. I’m going to spend one more day in Rovaniemi and catch a bus on Tuesday. At first I wanted to go to Inari to visit a truly great museum about the Sami people, but I’m going to have to skip that. So instead I went to the Arktikum museum here, which is wonderful too.
It has a fantastic display about Lappish animals and plants and an interesting exhibition about the way people have managed to live in these regions for thousands of years. Just like learning about the Aborigines’ culture (and cultures within a culture) in Australia I really enjoyed spending some time and gaining some knowledge about these people as well. They both live really close to nature – but in completely opposite environments – and I like that a lot. Culture fascinates me…
I also wanted to share this fact that I learned today: The term Arctic is derived from the Greek word ‘Arktikos’, which means the land of the Great Bear. It refers to the constellation of the Great Bear that shines in the Northern skies all year long.
The Arktikum is closed tomorrow and I didn’t want to miss out on that, so I have postponed going to the Arctic circle and Santa Claus Village until tomorrow.
I hand-washed all my clothes this afternoon. That took me hours. Most of it is still drying in my room. My bicycle really needed some cleaning too, so I did that very thoroughly. It looks almost brand new now! Spent an hour and a half doing that, but that actually was fun.
Day 43 (May 13): Rovaniemi – Arctic Circle – Rovaniemi, Finland
19.34h. First of all, the sun barely sets anymore. It’s semi-dark for a few hours every night now.
I cycled across the Arctic circle today! It lies almost exactly ten kilometres north of town, as you can see. I’m going to cross it again on the bus tomorrow (yup, I got my ticket!), but I absolutely wanted to do that by bicycle as well. I didn’t cycle more than 3,000km to cross it on a bus…
What is the Arctic circle really? It’s the southernmost place where the sun doesn’t set at least one night per year. Or vice versa, the northernmost place that has a sunset all year round. The exact spot varies every year though. That has something to do with the angle of the earth that varies slightly every year too. The planet wobbles a little bit!
Santa Claus Village definitely is an interesting place. Obviously it’s been built as a tourist attraction. That’s all it is really, but I genuinely enjoyed walking around for a few hours. You can visit Santa in his ‘official’ office, which is located exactly on the Arctic circle, sent postcards bearing the ‘official’ Santa Claus stamp, go on reindeer safaris,… You get the picture. You may not agree with me here, but I think that’s just cool. Of course you can buy a crapload of souvenirs as well. There literally are more than a dozen of souvenir and handicraft shops. It’s actually hard not to buy something…
It was a little quiet now, but it must be the most magical place on earth around Christmas time.
The village opened in 1950, when Eleanor Roosevelt paid a visit. The cottage where she stayed is still there. Apparently a lot of Americans are drawn to this remote place on earth. I heard many voices talking in an American accent today!
Day 44 (May 14): Rovaniemi, Finland – Karasjok, Norway
445km by bus.
21.16h. Today I spent seven hours on a bus and fast forwarded across northern Finland. I’m in the heart of Norwegian Lapland right now. Seventh country already, and my third entirely new one. The bus ride was tiring. I feel more exhausted now than when spending a whole day on a bicycle. Don’t feel like doing anything else but lay on a couch right now.
The views were great at times and the change of landscape is nothing less than dramatic. This is true wilderness. The rivers are wide, meandering and shallow, with wide rocky or sandy banks. There’s still snow in many places and on every mountain top. The birch trees are sparse and small. The pines are tall and narrow. I saw sixteen reindeer this afternoon.
I love it and I cannot wait to cycle again. Even after only three days of not cycling (I’m not counting those 20km I did yesterday now, that was part of an activity) I honestly miss it.
I’ve got a whole cabin to myself! Now I just book dorm rooms, because I know there won’t be any other people there anyway. Cheap and lots of space.
The weather looks really bad tomorrow. I’m expecting a lot of rain. So I scheduled a short day before two longer ones.
Day 45 (May 15): Karasjok – Skoganvarre, Norway
16.07h. It was snowing when I woke up. I mean really snowing. I waited until noon, it didn’t stop, so I just took off.
It was freezing too: -2°C – 0°C. I actually didn’t mind the snow and, surprisingly, it didn’t feel that cold at all. However, my feet got wet and extremely cold. I expected rain today, certainly not snow… After about 35km my feet started to hurt really badly, my gloves were soaked and my hands got cold as well.
There was no place to stop and dry and was a bit scared about frost bite. So I stopped at the first camp ground I came across. Could have gone further today, but this probably was the smartest decision.
The landscape I rode through is just magnificent. Absolutely breathtaking!
Took a hot shower and pitched my tent. Time for some warm soup and coffee now! I’m not sleeping in my tent by the way. The kitchen floor will be my bed tonight. The weather looks super-promising the following days. I want to get up early and make it a long day tomorrow!
I’m one and a half month on the road today. During that time I’ve constantly been in the same season: early spring. As spring moved north I followed along. I have seen snow melt and spring flowers start to bloom in Holland and Germany, and I’m still seeing the same, here in Norway.
Sometimes it’s nice to spend a few months in some place and watch the seasons change, but following a season for thousands of kilometres across Europe is something really special…
Day 46 (May 16): Skoganvarre – Olderfjord, Norway
19.53h. I had an extremely bad night, but I was up early. The great weather was such a relief after yesterday.
I cycled along the Porsangerfjord most of the day and it was fantastic. Man, the views! There were some pretty tough ascents, but I’m not complaining.
Tonight I’m camping next to a fjord, which is just amazing. Very windy, but amazing! I made rice for dinner, but I’m still quite hungry. It’s Norway’s National Day tomorrow, so the stores will be closed. Stocked up on food today.
I’m finally doing laundry. That was about time, believe me.
So close to the North Cape now! Maybe tomorrow, but that will mean a very long day. We’ll see…
To be honest, I already started writing about day 47 too. Then I realized that I could actually write an entire blog post about that day.
UPDATE: So I did!