In the spring of 2013, I spent almost three months on a bicycle traveling to the northern edge of Europe and back home to Belgium.
I was away from home for 85 days and, in the end, I covered 10,831 km in total, using all kinds of overland/sea transport. That’s 127.42 km per day on average.
In total, I spent 64 days on my bike and I cycled 5,382 km. That’s 84.09 km per cycling day.
It’s hard to describe everything – experiences, tough times, happy moments, people I’ve met, landscapes,… – with words. When someone asks me how it was, I never know where to start. Do I start by explaining how it felt to be on a bicycle all day? Or should I say something about the Arctic? Or talk about crossing the North Sea on a cargo ship, or about steaming through the Arctic Ocean on a cruise ship? Or maybe about the phenomenal landscapes in Scandinavia?
The entire journey was divided into four legs, roughly of the same distance. This helped me to stay focused by having something to work towards to: Stockholm, the North Cape, Oslo and home.
There is a difference, though, between the first two and last two legs. The way north to the North Cape felt like a “mission” or “expedition”, although those words are obviously too big for what I did. The North Cape was a goal and I was extremely, maybe even almost maniacally, focused on getting there. Every day, I chose to ride on the shortest and fastest roads, or at least try to. There were few stops; I didn’t linger in places; and there were no detours.
Once I reached Europe’s northernmost point – that day was one of the most challenging, yet best, days of my life – the journey became more of a cycling holiday. I allowed more time to enjoy all the natural beauty around me, traveled more by public transport and made a gigantic detour across England.
I do have to say that the weather played a big part in this. Even though the way north was quite sunny, it was also chilly, rainy, and even freezing at times. Going south was warm, even hot at times, and sunny almost every single day, which was enjoyable.
In a nutshell, going north was a chilly cycle expedition and going south was a pleasant cycle holiday. And that’s awesome. I’m glad it wasn’t the other way around.
Those 85 days flew by. I wasn’t bored for a single second on the road. There was always something to do, in the morning, during the day and in the evening. Things had to be planned, I had to keep myself fed, directions had to be found, the bike had to stay clean and well-maintained, clothes had to be washed,… The list goes on and on. I call it a cycle holiday now, but it didn’t feel like a holiday at all. It’s certainly not the same as laying on a beach all day. And of course there were times of stress, worries and complaints too, but those are definitely outweighed by the moments of sheer happiness, joy and plain fun.
All in all, I was very lucky. I didn’t run into any major problems and even after thousands of kilometers on every type of road, I didn’t have a single puncture. I also got sick only once, for a few days, in 85 days of cycling in all kinds of weather.
But the most important thing was: every evening in my tent or bed or wherever I was sleeping, I was looking forward to the next day, because I knew that there were going to be new things to see and that I was going somewhere I had never been before.
That’s the way to live.
You can find more statistics of my trip, such as daily distances and accommodation, in this excel file.
My packing list can be downloaded here.
The North Cape Cycling Adventure Gallery features 200 photos of this extraordinary journey.
Here is a chronological overview of the blog posts that I wrote before, during and after my journey.