Today is a day of superlatives, as you will see in this post.
It was a truly spectacular day. I woke up to a blue sky, comfortably warm sunshine and calm water in the fjord I was camping by. After a basic but big breakfast and packing up camp I was on the road by 9.
Just like yesterday the road ran alongside the Porsangerfjord for most of the day. It’s 123km long, which makes it the fourth largest fjord in Norway. The cycling today was absolutely breathtaking.
The views were honestly amazing all day long. On my left side were the massive towering cliffs, mountains, or whatever you want to call them, still covered in snow, and on my right side was the Arctic ocean, some fishing villages here and there, and rocky beaches. Seagulls were plenty and there were numerous other unnamed bird species about. It was spectacular.
As time passed and I cycled further north the trees became more scarce and smaller until they disappeared altogether. I was really in the Arctic now. The landscape had changed dramatically within a couple of hours; from icy lakes on fells, surrounded by birch bushes and other small shrubs to actual tundra, with its mosses and lichens. I saw hundreds of reindeer today. Literally. There were herds of them laying down, grazing, running around, running away and being a real danger on the road. Sometimes they got scared when I came cycling by and they would start running on the left side of the road. There were several really sharp turns around rocky edges. If – I’m saying if – a car had come flying around a bend, that would have been a complete disaster. I was actually worried at times, because those reindeer would keep running on the road for a couple of kilometres before deciding to head to higher grounds or towards the sea.
At one point the road was closed, because some rocks had come crashing down a cliff onto the road. Luckily no one got hurt, but it obviously needed to be cleaned up. There was a tour bus waiting and several cars. Almost a hundred people sat waiting around on the rocks near the sea. I, on my bicycle, could zig-zag right through! The people even cheered me on, which was pretty awesome.
As beautiful as it was, it was extremely challenging too. Some ascents were very tough.
The North Cape is sometimes being promoted as the northernmost point of the European mainland. That’s not true. It actually lies on the island of Magerøya and you get there by going through an 8km-long tunnel, which makes it the northernmost point in Europe you can reach on wheels. That tunnel was incredibly hard to get out of. The first four kilometres were downhill and I was flying, but, of course, the last four kilometres were uphill. And it was steep. And it got steeper every 500 metres. You know that saying about the light at the end of the tunnel? Well, I was unbelievably glad when I actually saw that.
The temperature dropped to a mere 4°C in there, but I was sweating profusely. It was hard. Once I got out, I had to take a fifteen minute break and I ate almost all the food I had left and could eat at the moment (no rice or pasta obviously). After the tunnel it was about twenty kilometres to the camp ground I was going to stay at. I took that last part really easy. Especially because that’s all I could do. I didn’t have any energy left and felt empty.
But the gorgeous mountains, the crystal clear ocean and the warm rays of sunshine were definitely good company and made everything a lot easier.
I got to the camp site, pitched my tent, took a shower, made a bunch of rice and planned an evening to relax and get some rest before tackling the North Cape the next day.
My journal read:
20.00h. What a spectacular day! Greatest cycling ever. I’m really beat though, there were some extreme climbs today. Nordkapp tunnel was horrible. It totally drained me and I ate almost all my food. My body hurts right now. Just made dinner, rest now. 105.83km.
Now, here’s where part two of the day begins. After an hour or three of doing absolutely nothing I felt a surprising lot better. The weather was so nice I was actually sitting on a bench outside. We’re talking 10pm at a 71° latitude now, so that says something. It was still sunny, the sky was as blue as ever and there were some small white clouds high up in the sky. Those are the ingredients for a perfect sunset. There was no wind whatsoever, which happens almost never up here.
A thought crossed my mind: what if I’d cycle to the North Cape tonight? I considered this idea for a minute, thinking about the amazing opportunity and the possible risks of cycling into the night (which isn’t really night in terms of darkness, but it was going to be very late when I got back and I would be very alone on the road).
I made up my mind pretty soon; I had to go. The conditions were just too perfect not to. I quickly cooked some noodles, chucked them down, changed into my cycling clothes and was on my way at around 10.30pm.
The ‘sunset’ was as gorgeous as it gets. The sun doesn’t actually set by the way. My aim was to be at the North Cape at midnight to watch the midnight sun, but it almost instantly became clear that that wasn’t going to happen. The first three kilometres were a 9% ascent, proper switchbacks included. I was glad I was doing this without all my bags. It was tough cycling, the hardest cycling I have ever done in fact. However, the views were unbelievable and the descents were fast, fun and even frightening at times. There were a couple of really, I mean really, steep stretches.
It’s about 25km from the camp ground to the Cape, and it took me nearly two hours to get there. I did stop several times to take pictures (and to catch my breath) though. Seriously, it was almost magical. The plateaus were still covered in blankets of snow, there were reindeer walking around, the sky was yellow, orange, red and purple, the air was still warm and it was past midnight, 00.30am…
I was incredibly glad to have gotten there. It didn’t feel special though, nor was it an emotional moment. I was just glad I could rest for a while and I spent half an hour up there.
It’s actually a big rock. You’re standing high above the sea and the views aren’t too bad! The ocean was amazingly calm; there were no waves at all.
You might even say it was peaceful, and maybe that’s exactly how I felt too. Except… I was already thinking about the way back. That was going to be a challenge. The only food I had left and brought with me was half a jar of chocolate paste, an apple, a banana and some sugar tablets.
I ate all that and headed back. Surprisingly I was flying. I had my iPod turned on, earphones in my ears and the volume all the way up. The climbs seemed easier and downhill I was going really fast. I pretended my handle bars were a guitar or drums and I sung my lungs out. Yep, I was definitely on a high!
I stopped several times to take some photos and videos (and to catch my breath again).
This time the last three kilometres were 9% downhill. I had been looking forward to that since I reached that summit several hours earlier. At 3am I arrived back at the camp ground. Starved, I ate some canned sardines with my last scraps of bread. I went to bed wearing all my cycling clothes…
I wrote in my journal just before going to sleep:
53.28km. Tough, tired, but happy I went tonight. Food and sleep. More later…