Olderfjord, Norway - June 15, 2013
I bet that I am in a colder, greyer place than most of you are right now. Which is too bad for me, because the past couple of days have been sunny a bit. Before I left Canada, I checked and saw that Hammerfest, just over the mountains to the west from here, was 30C and sunny. But not today. I am now only 125 kms from the most northerly drivable spot in Europe, taking a bit of a health day before going up to Nordkaap. Once there, that will be the most northerly place I have ever been (exceeding Prudhoe Bay by a degree or so), and promising to be nearly as cold.
Campground View, Olderfjord, Norway
I've had a very pleasant few long days ride through Finland. I suspected that the weather was going to turn as the pattern over the past three days has been the same. Wake up to very cloudy and threatening skies, ride north into clear weather. Stop, camp, wake up to cloudy skies, ride north into clear weather. But now, there is no clear weather north (as there isn't much north to go to). And now, just cold, wind and rain. But Finland was nice to drive through. It reminded me very much of a mix of Newfoundland or Nova Scotia, northern Alberta and the Cassiar Highway in BC. But all on very good roads and with totally unintelligible signs. Almost no English at all. Lots of trees like Newfoundland, small lakeshore villages, like NS, farms cut out of the bush like in Alberta and wild lands like BC... except for reindeer on the roads instead of bear.
Road in Finland
I like to compare what I am travelling through with other places I know. Some might say, well if it looks like BC or the Maritimes, then why go to all the trouble and expense to go somewhere else. May as well just stay home. But I think that is the whole point of travel. You see that other people really live in the same kinds of area that you do, have the same kinds of problems, but just deal with them at times, differently. For the most part, the Finns seem to deal with everything the exact same way Canadians do. Cars are the same, houses are the same... but some things are different. For example, I saw that there were a few stretches of remote two-lane highway yesterday with light poles for several kilometers. Now why would that be? Lots of moose or reindeer congregating there in the winter? Dunno. But there must be some problem they are addressing. But I haven't had a lot of interaction with people, however. The Finns seem shy. Usually, someone will come up and start a conversation about the bike... but not there. Here in Norway, however, it seems different. Much more yakitty-yak with gas station attendants, clerks and bus drivers here. It's just more gregarious.
Camp in Rovaniemi, Finland
Crossing the border yesterday was strange, as there really wasn't one. Strange in the fact that Norway is not part of the EU, the Schengen zone or the Euro zone. They are like Switzerland... odd man out. But there must be some kind of agreement as there was at the Swiss border... nothing to do. And the horror stories of prices here may have been just that. Some things are expensive (gas is over $10.00/gallon, over $3.00/litre... costs me $60 to fill my little motorcycle tank!), but the rest seems on par for being so far north. Coffee is $3-4 a cup, but a nice buffet breakfast is about $18.00, just maybe a tad over what you would pay at home. And considering the location, easy to understand. It may be that the cities down south are unusually expensive given their location. The room here is nicer than the converted Atco trailer I stay in at Prudhoe, and the same price.
Santa's Village, Arctic Circle
So I have been camping all the way so far. No problems until last night. Rained, blew, very cold. Everything was getting damp and I woke up in the middle of the "night" feeling yucky and wondering who had jammed a meat hook in my mouth. Terrible sore throat. Par for the course on these trips it seems. Airplanes, airports, jetlag, tired, riding, weather, wind, lousy gas station meals... thought I had better warm up and dry out. So I moved from the campground this morning across the road to the hotel. Same place, just better accommodation. Probably just a viral infection. Nice to have a warm bed to sleep in though.
The plans are to ride up to Nordkaap tomorrow and return here tomorrow night. Then on Monday, I'll turn west and head over to the western fjord country. I think that will be slow going headed south and I will have to watch my time carefully. A bus driver I was talking to said that we should have one more bad day (tomorrow) and then on Monday it should break. I was also talking to some German tourists who came over to chat and they said that they had just returned from Nordkaap. Totally socked in and couldn't see a thing. Glad I didn't go up today. I'd love to head out onto the Lofloten peninsula and take a ferry from the southern end back to the mainland. It looks wild there and the fery ride might be awesome.... a perspective you don't get from the road.
Lots of motorcycles here (as this is one of those collecting places in the world I've mentioned before) and a surprising number of bicycle tourists. Met one from Paris this morning... he was going to Nordkapp today and tomorrow. God, that looks cold.
OK... so I'll send a spot from Nordkaap if I make it.