24 Oct Goodbye Norway: making decisions, fighting headwind and mosquitoes
The campground in Alta has a great kitchen and seating area, a place to wash clothes, warm showers, and free internet. The tent space however is plain sucky. After wild-camping for so long, we absolutely loathe having to camp cramped up next to other tents. We can hear every word being whispered, every person turning around on their mats, and anybody snoring in the neighboring tents. Yet, we go ahead and spend a few days at the campsite anyway. We eat a few great home-cooked meals, go grocery shopping, hang out in the warm kitchen, wash our clothes, and try to catch up with the blog (once again).
We meet a young Slovenian woman while eating breakfast in the kitchen. She is training to be a midwife in Alta and since the prices for housing are ridiculous, she stays in a tent at the campground during her 2 month training. She rides a bike to her appointments and also rides the bike when she gets called to a birth. Despite the inconvenience, she loves the experience because up here in this remote area where there are hardly any facilities, she gets to do so many different things, that would only be done by doctors in other places.
After a few days of relaxing, checking our finances, and planning, we finally decide that: yes in deed it is time to leave Norway. Although, we wanted to originally ride along the Fjords through Norway toward Copenhagen, we figured we’d be broke by the time we’d reach it.
People told us that Norway is expensive, we never really thought it would be to this extreme. It is sort of like when people say, the Grand Canyon is stunning, huge and beautiful, but you do not really understand until you see it for yourself. We expected high prices–like airport prices– but seeing the final number on a small, measly grocery bill really knocked our socks off.
So we decide to head straight south out of Norway and ride through Finland along the Swedish/Finnish border. Once we’d reach the Baltic Sea, we’d make up our mind, whether we should continue through Finland back to Helsinki and take the ferry over to Germany or whether we’d head south through Sweden.
Time to pack up and get riding again.
Although the wind is still going strong, we are lucky to follow along a canyon which protects us most of the time from the strong winds as we are climbing up onto another plateau. Along our path we meet a Lithuanian cycling couple heading north. They rode up through Sweden into Norway and they would like to make it to Nordkapp to see the midnight sun. Unfortunately, by the time they would make it up there, the sun would set again. Also, the forecast for Nordkapp is not looking good, but we wish them good luck and tell them about the “free” shower at the campground in Alta.
Besides climbing up to the plateau, riding through a canyon and fighting headwind all day on top of the plateau, it was an uneventful day of touring. The scenery on top of the plateau is not as beautiful as we had expected. It is riddled by small, crooked birch trees, which seem to be plagued by sickness, the harsh environment, and the everlasting strong wind.
Late in the evening, we set up camp at another rest area, from where we can see a waterfall in the canyon several meters below us. The mosquitoes are getting more plentiful and aggressive the further inland we go. We try to spend as little time as possible outside the tent, which causes us to set up our tent, make dinner, and slip into the tent in record time.
In the morning the gang of mosquitoes quiets down a little bit, just enough to let us have coffee and a bite to eat in semi-peace before hitting the road again.
Ever since entering the reindeer region in Finland a few of weeks ago, we have been on the lookout for deer antlers. We have read, that reindeer shed their antlers every year and that it would be easy to find them if one keeps an eye open. As we ride over the plateau, we scan the area along the road in hopes of finally spotting an antler or two. Suddenly, Ron hits his breaks and asks me to hold his bike, while he is checking out another twig-looking thingy next to the road. Proudly he presents a small antler. We keep riding and soon we come by another area where he finds more antlers. We park the bikes and Ron goes on the antler hunt across the road in a field that seems to be littered by reindeer bones. Eventually, he comes back with several antlers and reindeer heads. We pick the two biggest and best-looking heads, and a hand full of antlers. Ron exclaims “Rudolf is coming home with me!” and attaches the biggest head to the back of his bike. I gather a few antlers together with my “power-feather”, that I have found on our hike to Nordkapp, arrange them into a bouquet, and attach it to my back pannier. The second reindeer head gets stowed away in a plastic bag on the back of my bike…we do not want to look too creepy.
The other 5 or so reindeer heads, we place nicely along the side of the road for other travelers.
Eventually, we are slowly making our way off the plateau. We keep following the river, occasionally we ride along a lake, and trees become big, tall, and abundant again.
As we take a short break on top of one of the rolling hills, we notice that as far as we can see, we see nothing but trees. We are on top of a green ocean! There are no houses and no signs of civilization anywhere.
Pretty much all day, we see nothing but trees, trees and more trees. Whenever we try to take a break, we are getting swarmed by mosquitoes and the only way to tolerate a 5 minute break is by pulling our midge nets over our heads and putting on our long-sleeved windbreakers. Unfortunately, this makes it difficult to have a bite to eat. Needless to say, we ride and ride and take only a few very short breaks until we find another rest area by a lake to set up camp.
The open area along the lake allows a slight breeze to whisk away many of the mosquitoes. Yet, there are still plenty left to pester us while we are making dinner, eat, and set up camp.
During the morning coffee, we find ourselves still fending off more mosquitoes. We notice that we were not the only ones staying the night at the rest area. About 100 meters down from us at the next set of picnic tables, an older woman wades into the lake to take her morning bath…naked.
For a moment, we think about joining her, but the influx of mosquitoes persuades us to keep our clothes on and to get going again.
Since it is not very far to the Finnish border from our last night’s stay and we still have a couple more Kronen left, we decide to spend it on a snack, a coke or coffee. Just before the border, we ride by a small cafe, which is part of a campground. It has a sign outside, advertising cloud-berry pancakes and coffee for pretty much exactly the amount of money that we have left in change. This place must be here just for us! And to top it off, we finally get to try the famous cloud berries!
We go in, order the cloud-berry pancakes and ask for two cokes. Unfortunately, the nice Sami-lady only has diet coke left. We politely decline the coke, telling her that we really would like the sugar! She smiles and tells us she has Fanta with sugar. We sit down, with our Fantas and wait for the pancakes. After finishing up the delicious pancake meal, the nice woman comes back with an even bigger smile and hands us two brownies “More sugar! You need more sugar!” she says happily and hands us the sweets.
Happy and with full bellies, we keep riding toward the Finish border.
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