23 Oct Back to mainland Norway, about an early morning drink, meeting new and old friends, and the most expensive dinner
We still can’t believe we’ve made it. We have traveled through parts of the US and Morocco, we rode from Southern Spain and found our way all the way to Scotland. We have made it over the Alps in the winter and rode to southern Greece and back to the most northern point in Europe–Nordkapp–on bicycles!!
Although, our route through Europe resembles more of a zig-zag figure eight, we feel somehow accomplished. At the same time we feel like we have reached the end of a great adventure. We had to change our route several times due to different reasons, such as bad weather or a conflict in the Ukraine; yet, we have managed to ride our bikes in 23 countries so far and feel very fortunate and blessed about it. We have seen many great places and met lots of wonderful people, who have made our journey special and unforgettable.However, both of us believe, that we have seen and experienced enough of Europe. Although, we love the historic sites, the old castles, churches, ruins, and of course the people, we start catching ourselves saying that we do not have to go look at another church or castle. Some of the sights are becoming more of the same and we feel that it is time to move on.
So where to go now?
Although, we thought at times, that maybe we are burned out on traveling and should go home, we are still not ready to return. After all, there is still a whole world out there to be discovered!
Maybe, we need to change scenery. Go somewhere, where the culture is completely different, where the temperatures do not drop in the winter time, and where we can experience the great feeling of pushing our comfort zone closer to the limits again.
South East Asia comes to mind…that’s where we should go. However, it is still too early. It is still hot, steamy rainy season there until November. So our plan is to make it back to Germany, maybe hit the Netherlands on our way there and possibly venture to Turkey before traveling to Thailand in November.
Happy with our new-found plan, we are eager to make it back to Germany.
We pack up, and start riding.
To get back to mainland Norway, we have to cycle back the same way we came. We ride along the roller-coaster road to Honningsvag, buy food supplies for the next couple of days and head toward the Nordkapptunnelen. Just before the dreaded tunnel, we notice a parking lot with bathrooms. To our surprise there is also hot running water in the bathrooms. Ron quickly decides it’s time to wash his hair and take a “whore” bath, so we stop, take a break, and wash up. After all, we have not had any hot water or facilities since leaving our campground back in Helsinki.
Refreshed, and clean, we don extra shirts, windbreakers, and gloves to make it through the tunnel again.
Going through the tunnel this time is a much nicer experience. Apparently there is some sort of construction going on. Traffic is only going into one direction at a time and the cars have to slowly follow an official car leading the short convoy through the tunnel. Even after exciting the tunnel, we encounter hardly any traffic for the longest time.
After a long day of cycling, we decide to stop at another rest-area with toilets. We pull up to a set of picnic tables. Since it looks like it is about to rain, I start dinner, while Ron quickly sets up the tent. Two motorcyclists from Hungary are setting up camp at the table next to us. They pull out their sleeping bags and try to find a comfy spot under the open sky to crash for the night. One of the guys comes over, smiles, says hello, and hands us a big can of beer — and that was that!
Since it is starting to rain, they quickly change their mind and instead of sleeping under the stars in their sleeping bags they set up their tent and we all disappear in our shelters.
In the morning, while we drink our coffee, the motorcyclist comes over and asks where we are coming from. After finding out we came from the States, he quickly pulls a bottle of clear liquid out of one of his saddlebags and hands it to us.
“Hungarian Whiskey, I made it myself. Have a drink!” he hands it to Ron. Ron takes a swallow and hands the bottle to me. I take a swig and try to hand the bottle back, since it does not quite go with my morning coffee. The man is not totally satisfied with our drinking habit and urges us with an encouraging hand-gesture and a stern “Drink!!” to drink more…so the bottle makes another round before he wishes us well, shakes our hands, and tells us goodbye.
After another cup of Joe, to counteract the early morning drinking session, we pack up and get going. Although, we came the same way up, the scenery looks different heading South. We ride through the same two tunnels again and take another break at the Oldefjord tourist information area, where we meet Lukas, a Swiss bicyclist, who was attempting for the second time to ride to Nordkapp, but also changed his mind for the second time due to bad weather rolling in. Instead he is trying to make his way to Hammerfest, where he wants to get on an airplane to see polar bears. We chat for a while, since it was getting late and we are about to encounter a long gruesome climb and turn into a bad headwind toward Alta, we decide to get going before Lukas…maybe we’ll meet again later.
The climb from Oldefjord up onto the plateau is long. Combined with the strong headwind it actually becomes somewhat of a leg breaker. Just as we reach the summit Lukas catches up with us. We ride together for several miles, until we reach a small village where Lukas plans on spending the night and where our paths separate. Just next to Lukas’ motel is a gas station with a small cafeteria attached. The food smells delicious and we are starving. Since, we are absolutely tired of salami sandwiches and do not have anything else in our panniers at the moment, we decide to follow the wonderful greasy smell and treat ourselves to a real meal…we know this is Norway, but how expensive could a burger really be?!
While checking the menu above the ordering counter we are trying to do the math…Kronen to Dollars.
Either our math skills are lacking or we have just found the most expensive burger in the universe. A burger with fries and coke comes up to be $42!!??
Although it smells delicious, we opt for the “cheap” meal, consisting of 2 chicken thighs, fries, two leaves of lettuce garnished with a slice of tomato (here lavishly advertised as a salad), and a coke, for a “measly” 27$ each, something like this would be under $5 back home!!
This better be the best darn chicken on earth!
Well, it is good, but not the best. At least we are in good company with Lukas, we are out of the stormy weather, and best of all, we do not have to eat another salami sandwich. After dinner, Lukas invites us to his room to get on the internet. Besides checking e-mails, we look at a map to confirm we are heading the right direction towards Alta.
Quickly, we continue on our way toward Alta, where we plan on coming up with a final route heading South.
On our way there, we brave more headwind and climbing. During a long straight away we spot a familiar cyclist in front of us…the “Polish Guy” is just about a half mile or so ahead of us.
Eventually, we see him turn into a rest area by the river. We follow suit and since it was getting late, we decide that this would be a good spot to spend the night.
Our Polish friend is setting up camp as well. Sometimes what looks like an ideal place to set up a tent, turns out to be not so ideal. The ground is very rocky, bumpy, and full of thistles. Unfortunately, we do not have a freestanding tent and can’t just set up on the asphalt. However, the location is perfect: there are toilets and the river provides water. Luckily, we are able to rig the tent with bungees and rope, so we could set it up on top of the narrow paved walkway that leads to one of the shelters.
After getting our tent set up we figured that this would be the last time, we get to meet up with our Polish friend. Feeling kind of sad about that fact, we decide to share the vodka we were given to by Sebastian in Poland, with our cycling friend. Ron heads over to our friend’s tent, who is seemingly impressed by the vodka and is very happy to share it with us.
Afterwards, Ron heads to the river to pump water for dinner. In the meantime, our friend comes over with a bag full of fish and hands them to me. Fresh fish, he caught… and he is adamant for us to eat it. We fry it up in our skillet and have the best dinner…even better than the most expensive chicken in the world!
Cycle touring is great!!
As it is getting later in the evening, the mosquitoes are starting to pester us. Although, the mosquito spray and citronella coils seem to help fend the little guys off, we still decide to crawl into our tent early to call it a night.
The next morning, we say our final goodbye to our cycling friend and get going early in the morning.
As we finally make it to Alta, we look for a grocery store and head to the Tourist Information, to find out more about this campground. It is located outside of town along what would be the route back to Finland. Outside the tourist office, we notice another set of touring bikes, which turn out to belong to a young Swiss couple, who are trying to find the quickest way out of Norway as well…the prices are killing their budget… common theme among cycling tourists around this area!
Before they take off they tell us about an insider tip at the campground. Apparently there is a charge for hot showers. However, they know of one shower, which apparently is free of charge. Maybe a fluke in the system? Or maybe it was set up for long-term campers or workers? Either way we are thankful for the tip and wish them good luck.
Finally, we make it to the campground, the first one in 14 days. We are beat and tired and in dire need of a real shower. After realizing that we have not really rested in the past two weeks, and had either cycled 100+km days or went on long hikes, we decided to take some down time at the campground. It would also give us a chance to really go over our plans again. Should we really leave Norway as fast as possible or give it another chance? Should we head south through Norway, Sweden, or Finland? …Time to think.
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