‘Moving on is a simple thing, what it leaves behind is hard’ – Mustaine
10 miles from Nordkapp, Canon 5d, 16-35L
With only a few hours to go to reach the Cape, I had a leisurely walk, a slow shower and an ever slower pack up. One last look at the Fjord who’s wrath had subsided overnight to be replaced by a calm and still picture of beauty. I was in no rush to get to the Cape, here I was at journey’s end and I wanted every minute to last a lifetime. It seemed unreal, almost surreal as I threw the bike around water’s edge roads, stood up on the pegs for no reason whatsoever and gave a variety of bikers nods and waves including a stunning rendition of the helicopter arms of Elvis at one point.
I no longer felt comfortable on the bike, I felt part of the bike. 18,000 miles or so will do that I guess. The self doubt I felt in the early days of riding in the Picos was long gone. I was by no means a skilled rider but I was a much better rider. Through tunnels that were dark and dripped with the remnants of last nights storm, round ascending bends, through scrubland and over hills, I pushed ever onwards with the chill wind cooling my lips and eyes being a reminder that I was in the Arctic and in a few miles, I would run out of road.
The photo at the start of this blog was taken about 10 miles short of Nordkapp, it was a cold but pleasant enough day with occasional light showers. I stopped several times to take photos and, if I’m quite honest, to delay my arrival just that little bit longer.
5 miles from Nordkapp, Canon 5d2, 16-35L
As you get to the final few miles, having ridden the cold tunnels and the rugged shorelines, the road stretches out beyond you in a series of twisties that last for several miles. I pottered along, got overtaken by a couple of bikes who were in a rush and waved absently as I started out at the hazy seascape. The grey shawl of fog covered the sea to the North and the temperature had dropped to just above freezing. I put the heated grips on to full.
In the last 5 miles to Nordkapp there are a couple of mountains that you have to go over. I caught up the bikes that had gone past me previously on the first one and overtook them on the sharp bends, either my confidence on mountains was high or their confidence on mountains was low. I guess somewhere in the middle. I hit the summit and I lost all vision as I roared straight into fog. A mountain descent with sharp bends and about 10 feet of visibility is a bit tricky. I slowed, made the descent with a few kick outs of the rear on some nasty gravel patches and pulled onto a grass verge. A few moments later, a Harley pulled up behind me – he was Spanish and wasn’t sure of the final route. I wasn’t either, there were no signs that I could see and my satnav had told me I was now ‘off-road’. He asked me to lead out and so off we went into the grey haze. I kept a reasonable speed, arrived at a junction and took the turn for Nordkapp.
I saw his lights behind me. On we went for a mile or so along a straight road with deep banks on either side. Suddenly, his lights disappeared. I slowed, peered in both mirrors, looked back over my shoulder and then stopped. Nothing, no noise and just a wall of grey all around me. I turned the bike around in the road, praying that no traffic was coming and headed back to find him. It took me a while to go down that road, with visor up, looking down at the roadsides and listening. I was dreading finding him downed in a ditch. I alsmot didn’t see the junction and skidded to a halt with my front in the road. No sign of the guy but I could see another sign that said Nordkapp but pointed in the opposite direction. That sign looked newer so I followed it.
I didn’t know where the other guy had gone and couldn’t find him so I reasoned I’d look for him at Nordkapp and if no sign I’d alert someone. Another mountain, another steep ascent and descent on twisty roads and I hit fresh tarmac. I almost hit the barrier as well but pulled up just short of the admission kiosk. Visibility was virtually zero and as such, the guard let me in for free. I parked up and wandered through the primordial soup like a blind man. I had no idea which way to go and after one failed attempt, I eventually found the visitors centre. A few hundred people were huddled at the entrance, waiting for their coach to be called or getting a nicotine fix before the journey back to their hotels.
I wandered inside and it was heaving with tourists eager to buy everything in sight. I felt numb, just devoid of feeling at all. On the plus side, I saw the Spanish Harley rider and we exchanged a nod which put my mind at ease. I took a coffee, sat down and asked for a pen from the family on the next table to me. They looked concerned, I showed them the postcard and did an air squiggle. They asked me to go to the shop and buy my own pen. I nodded, sighed and looked out of the window at the wall of fog. A pen appeared on the table and as I looked up, the waitress smiled and said ‘here, write your card’. Waitresses, all trip long, were my guardian angels. I have no idea why.
Made it, the full route
The coffee felt good in my stomach, helping to warm me up from the biting chill of the fog. I saw a couple of german bikers in the main reception area, both looking downbeat and I smiled and waved. They had ridden up, had delays and only had today to see the Cape before having to high tail it back to Munich. They were really dejected. I remember how I felt when I had not seen Mount Errigal in Ireland and so I told them that they had made it to a place where few do and they should be proud of themselves. They half smiled. I then said, it gives you a reason to come back again another time and live it all again. A warm smile, I think they appreciated my efforts, well at least I hope they did.
I sat on the floor, propping myself against the wall and watching the masses consume everything with ‘Nordkapp’ written on it. I don’t think I even noticed the tears rolling down my face. Like my first trip’s end when I reached Malin head having ridden all of Ireland’s West Coast, the journey was over. No fanfare, no trumpets, no crowd cheering my heroic achievement. Just me and my sweaty clothes and a moment in time, staring at that big window into the fog and realising that I had done it. Sometimes we do things for the praise from others, perhaps to grab some fragment of feeling like a child again and sometimes, we do things for ourselves, perhaps to grab some fragment of feeling like an adult again. In a world of lattes, Facebook, work related stress and consumerism, sometimes you just need to ride a bike a long, long way with just one pair of underpants.
Having visited the exhibition and watched the films, I finally made it outside and headed for the monument.
Can you see the railing behind the globe in the photo above? That’s the edge, beyond that is a several hundred metre drop into the cold grasp of the Barents Sea. At that point, there is nothing more of Europe. I stood there a long time even though all I could see was white mist. The sirens song of the crashing waves below seemed louder with every impact, my hearing heightened no doubt because of lack of vision. Good travellers leave ‘nothing but footprints’, I left a piece of me at the Cape and, no doubt, a piece of me on every mile I travelled. I was me at the start of the trip but at the Cape, staring into that fog, he was gone. With one last look into the nothingness, I turned around and walked away.
It was only a few miles to get to the hostel at Honninsvaig but in thick fog it was tricky. Very tricky. However, I didn’t care and as I overtook the coaches in the fog, passed cars on the mountain roads and generally had a whale of a time ploughing through the mist and whooping in my helmet. I had always imagined I would sing some song once I had done this, perhaps AC/DC with Highway to Hell, maybe Motorhead or even Saxon with Wheels of Steel. With a plethora of excellent music to pick, my mouth opened and out came….Lionel Richie. I don’t even like Lionel Richie and I hate ‘Hello’. I have no idea why I sang that over and over as I thundered across the mountains. I can only presume my synapses were fried with the emotion of it all. Treatment is being sought.
Honningsvaig is a small town – it’s the place with the ice bar and where the cruise liners dock to let people out to go to…the ice bar. I dumped my stuff in the room and wandered out to the King Crab House…where I ate…King Crab. Cesar had recommended the place and it was fab. About 3 days budget but I figured I deserved it so I ordered a beer too. They tried to take the plate away at one point but with the meal costing a small fortune, I grabbed it back, determined to lick the plate, butter, mayonnaise and beer glass completely clean. My stomach didn’t know what had hit it.
This is what forty eight million kroner buys you, iPhone
Yes, I went to the ice bar. I’m not proud. I waited for the last of the tourists to retire back to their ship, headed in and tried to charm the girls there (polish and spanish on work exchange programmes) to let me in as a child. I paid full price in the end but hey, the budget was in tatters after the crab so what the hell. They told me about the ice and how it’s carved, gave me some shots. I got bored and we sat down and they told me about their exchange programme and what their aims were in life. Far more interesting.
I walked back through the rain, patted the bike seat and headed my bed and a deep sleep. I’d see what the weather was like tomorrow.
Now, my room. Its a hostel but with single rooms so no snoring problems here. Each of the doors had a little fish on them with the room number on – very nice, very in keeping with the fish industry. Yeah, my room didn’t have a fish…no, my room had a…
You’re kidding, right? iPhone
Waking to a thick blanket of fog, I mooched around the hostel for a little while in some vain hope that it would lift. The hostel owner told me it could last for days and that she had to console a Japanese family that morning who had flown into the local airport 3 days ago and had to fly back today. They had spent their savings on this trip of a lifetime to see the Cape. I really felt for them. As I loaded the bike, still pondering what to do – whether to stay a night, begin the journey to Finland or head for the Cape and chance it, the owner came out to me. She told me that the local airport at Hammerfest had been closed and fog was expected to last all day as a minimum. I punched Finland into the sat-nav.
A few miles South of Honningsvaig, the fog cleared and I built up speed. Rounding one bend, there was a huge crack, the bike wobbled violently and I lost visibility of the road. I screeched to a halt in the middle of the road, breathing heavily and my heart racing. At the side of the road, I pulled off my helmet, removed the shattered visor and replaced it. After 20,00 miles it had given up and as I pulled the spare out of my panniers, I realised I had been cursing carrying a spare as it was difficult to pack. I have no idea what caused it to shatter but it almost caused me to crash such was the force. I spent quite some time staring at the ocean before getting back on the road.
The road from Nordkapp to Finland is, as you would expect, very remote. It’s a good road but there is absolutely no reason for anyone to be on it. The Russian border is not far away and there is absolutely no one, at all, living along that road. It starts with forests and then as you get closer to Finland, it’s as though the life force of the landscape has been sucked away and you’re left with a ragtag array of tundra desperately clinging on to any bit of light to stay alive. The trees are stunted (or at least appear so) and as you pass through mile after mile of it, you begin to think that breaking down out here would really, really, really not be good. I saw no one at all in my journey to Finland. After I left the ‘tourist’ road to Nordkapp, the next person I saw was the Finnish border guard.
In the next post, mosquitoes and dodgy saunas.
Picture or it never happened, iPhone