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Thread: Reflections on Scratching the itch - Nordkapp 2013

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    Reflections on Scratching the itch - Nordkapp 2013

    This is my first attempt at a ride report so be kind. It's an edited version of a private blog I kept for family and a few close friends so if the tone is odd in places that's why

    27th May 2013 Blandford to Harwich

    Well I'm on way. The bike was all loaded on time.

    And that's really all there is to say. It feels a bit odd to be finally doing it after all the thinking about it. Did Dorset to Harwich all in one go apart from a fuel stop I reckon I was down to my last litre or so. I was beginning to contemplate having to admit to running out of fuel before I even left England. Total miles 202.5. According to the sat nav I am 22ft below sea level at the moment. Probably not true. I'm really chuffed to have managed to get the Premier Inn room for only £29. And it's right opposite a Lidl so I've got a beer and some tomatoes to go with my pork pies for tea. The ferry is just down the road so no panic in the morning. It's 9am departure so I can leave here a bit before 8. Breakfast on the boat and a bit over six hour crossing. I want to do at least 100 miles tomorrow night; it's just over 400 miles to my guest house for Wednesday night. I don't know where I will lay my head tomorrow.

    28th May 2013 - Let's go Dutch

    Well that was the flattest bit of sea I've ever crossed. The ferry was really good too. Clean and comfortable. Little caged basket/football area on the deck, Chairs and tables outside the lounges and not too many people. Only 3 bikes which is quite a contrast to last year. Free, though very slow and almost unuseable, wifi. Pulling away from Harwich was good as we passed the old town



    with the huge container port on the opposite bank and on down to the mouth of the Orwell which stretched mistily behind us.



    Old defences as we crossed the bar and set off to sea.



    The arrival was not unattractive



    It turned out not to be a good time to take to the roads. It must have been home time and I had to do some determined filtering to make any progress. I reached the hotel in Apeldoorn by just after seven, including a slight detour due to sat nav misreading. I found it on Booking.com and booked it using my phone and the free wifi on the boat. I was quite chuffed with that. No kettle in my room so I had to get the stove out in the bog to make my cup of tea.



    Long day tomorrow so shower book and bed I think. I'll give dinner a miss so I can do justice to the breakfast I've paid for. No free internet either.

    May 29th May 2013 - A Cellar Full of Beer

    Not really much to say about today which was a motorway slog through Holland and Germany.Thunder and intermittent rain were the order of the day and it was a case of just getting it done. I had a collection of Bob Harris's Country podcasts from R2 (Don't judge!) which helped.North Germany is very flat, like Holland. Pleasant green farmland and very windy. There were wind turbines everywhere.



    The best bit was arriving. I'm now in the guest house on Fehnman. A pretty place:



    On a farm with a Dovecote and a big barn which provides a hiding place for the bike



    With a sophisticated security system to keep it safe



    Mein host is very helpful. His last act before disappearing back to Mrs Host was to show me the cellar which was full of crates of



    "Help yourself," he said, " 1 euro a bottle and pay me in the morning." So I will.

    30th May 2013 - What Bloody Bridge?

    So, ten minutes after a good breakfast, which also yielded a good ham and cheese roll for lunch, in a room stuffed with antiques , the bike was safely strapped down on the Puttgarden/Roby ferry. Leaving Germany and entering Denmark.



    This is Fehman, flat and wind turbines




    I didn't understand why there was a mad scramble for the shop. Turns out it was only open for about 20 mins and only sold booxe, fags and chocolate. You can see why some people came:




    There was nothing to see except more wind turbines in the sea.1,400 tonnes!



    Denmark was more flatness and more oil seed rape. And then it all went a bit wrong and I went to Elsinore by ferry instead of over the bridge because the sat nav decided it was quicker and forgot to ask me. So a lonely bike on another ferry



    I wasn't too upset; it was quicker and cheaper. And no dead bodies. I liked what I saw of Elsinore and then on to the E4. Sweden is made of trees. This is what the rest of my day looked like.



    Not bad taken from a moving bike at 70mph with gloves on! I was making such good progress I kept going stopping only for petrol and coffee. Still life with Danish, except it's Swedish, and very nice too.



    And this one helps give an insight in to my second childhood. It was for my son (32) and his friends because they will giggle like I did.



    By 8 o'clock I had done 500+ miles, which takes a big bite out of the distance to my Finnish hotel which is booked for Sunday. But as the sun set I had nowhere to sleep. The first hotel wanted £200 for a single room! The second was much better value at only £140. I pushed on and took a detour through Uppsala where booking.com found me a room in a hostel for £31. And that's where I am now, drinking black tea. Total miles today, 557.

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    The last bit of the above is mess and I am waiting to get the edit button back to sort it out if an admin coud be so kind!

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    29th May - I Talk to the Trees

    On the road again. 9.00 this morning



    And a few hours later



    A lot of riders complain about Sweden but I quite like it. I decided it's the same mindset as enjoying test cricket. There's always something about to happen, the miles slowly accumulate, like runs, and a few days later you have a result.

    Occasionally, there's a lake



    And once a good bridge, not the bridge, but a good one.



    Over an inlet of the gulf of Bothnia



    And they keep warning but I've not seen one



    And now I am in a hotel in sunny Umea. The further north I go, the hotter it gets. 25 today and the Swedes were out in force in the main square



    You've got to love a culture that has a bank just for pants



    And they really take their crispbread seriously, A whole aisle in the supermarket




    But it is very good. It makes Ryvita look really pathetic. It's about four times as thick and much tastier. Good for breakfast.

    I hope to be in Finland for tomorrow night but I don't know where.

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    30th May - But They Don't Listen to Me


    At least they haven't answered yet. Very good breakfast this morning, I think the best yet. The scrambled eggs were excellent. I've perfected building the perfect lunch roll. Choose a good roll and butter moderately. Place slices of ham and or salami on both sides, do the same with slices of cheese and then finish with cucumber before closing and slipping into the plastic bag in your pocket.The ham gains from proximity to the butter and the cheese provides a damp proof membrane to prevent the roll and the ham getting soggy. Add a boiled egg, apples, satsumas, nuts etc to the bag as available. So I did that and got back on the road. It looked like this



    The forest itself looks quite welcoming in the sunlight but it goes on for miles in every direction. Quite impressive really.



    When I stopped for petrol I think I found where twats come from



    A few hours later it looked like this.



    Have you got the idea now?
    I found a nice spot by a river for lunch. Here's proof of life



    and the picnic spot




    I think the analogy with watching cricket holds well because there is always the possibility that something will happen so you have to keep watching. When I started the bike up after enjoying my excellent snadwich, I got the dreaded LAMPF warning Of course I have packed a spare bulb; it's right at the bottom of the left hand pannier.

    Plan A was unpack, find it and fit it. I chose plan B and went into the Hypermarket, bought a new one for half what the garages were charging and fitted it in the car park.



    From there to fill up with fuel and suddenly, and unexpectedly, I was in Finland. I thought the border was ten or so miles away.

    Anyway, Finland looks like this



    I hope you can see the difference. YES! Different trees. The conifers have given way to birch and, I think, aspen. There are still lakes occasionally and the land is a bit more open.



    There are also more speed cameras but they are front facing and they give you a very clear warning in advcance, I went through a few showers in the last thirty miles otherwise more sunshine. According to a German chap who was waiting for a taxi outside the hotel last night, this is the hottest June in Sweden for 100 years! My prediction that I would benefit from the UK's poor weather pattern seems to be holding.

    So phase one is nearly complete, the Arctic Circle is only a couple of miles up the road and I will cross it tomorrow.

    Total miles so far: 1961
    Total ascent: 9522 ft (I don't think I have been above 500ft since landing in Holland)

    Sunset tonight 9 mins after midnight! (I'm an hour ahead the UK) and sunrise 02:19. So tonight is less than two hours long. And to complete the picture I am staying here:

    http://www.santapark.com/en/santapark

    !!!!

  5. #5
    Excellent, keep it up

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    May 31st - Watch Out for Rudolph

    I kept my eyes closed tightly all night but Santa didn't come. He has built himself a nice modern sports hall though. It's a winter ski centre for cross country skiing. I had a nice room at very off season rates with a good breakfast.



    Rovaniemi where I stayed is the regional capital of the northern region of Finland. It's an ugly town, a monument to fifties architecture. The retreating Germans destroyed 90% of it in 1944 as part of their scorched earth policy during the Lapland war. This was after Finland switched sides and joined the Russians in opposing Germany. So it had to be entirely rebuilt. It has a good bridge



    The Jätkänkynttilä bridge over the Kemijoki river. The central pillars have an eternal flame burning as a memorial.



    A few miles out of town I was finally able to put a big tick on the bucket list.



    Santa has cornered the tourist trade on the line as well. It seems it's always Christmas in the souvenir shop. I was really tempted by a reindeer skin rug but I only bought a sticker.





    Then on the road again. It really is quite remote where I am now and very sparsely populated. I was worried about the availability of fuel; the bike only has a range of about 170 or so miles. They've got it well sorted though with self service pumps which are open 24/7 even when the shop/cafe is closed.





    Interesting that they have added Russian instructions. The Russian border is quite close.



    The coffee shop was open though. Whatever else they sell, right through Sweden and Finland they always have this



    They are bloody big mossies too. In fact I've just smothered myself in stuff as I am sitting outside on the guest house porch.

    The trees are definitely getting smaller and quite often there is a clearing by the road, usually with a small barn in it.



    And I am slowly climbing. I topped 1,000 ft a couple of times. I suppose that's because I am going up the world not down. The bus stops are good. Sami aesthetics.



    The warning signs for moose remain but they have been joined by



    The black bit is the area of Finalnd where Reindeer are conserved. Half the country! Thousands of square miles! Turns out they are right to warn you



    Luckily a car passing the other way flashed a warning so I had slowed right down in case it was a police car. He couldn't give a toss and just strolled across. In fact after that I saw quite a few wandering around





    I found a good picnic spot again





    But the mossies zeroed in and I didn't linger. It looks like the downside of the warm weather is that my plan to beat the little buggers by coming early has failed.

    It started raining as I pulled into Inari and it's still going as I write this. There's a supermarket right next to the guest house and I now have a tin of what I think is vegetable soup and a can of something called dark lager. It looks like it will be cooking in the bathroom time again.

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    liking this,
    I Ride, therefore I am

  8. #8
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    Good read.... Keep it going

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    June 1st - Revenge is a dish...

    I changed my mind last night and, after one of these



    went to the local cafe for a smoked reindeer and and blue cheese salad and very nice it was too. That'll teach Rudolph to try and knock me off my bike and indeed it was served cold. I'm firmly in the land f the midnight sun now. This was the view from my room at five past midnight last night.



    The sun skimmed across the ridge for a bit and then rose again.

    Revenge No2 was on the mosquito that attempted to assault my nose this morning.



    I arranged a day off the bike here for two reasons. One because after the sprint through Holland, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and most of Finland I thought my bum might need a rest. Two, because there is a good museum of Sami culture here: http://www.siida.fi/contents. It was an excellent museum and I have spent a happy five hours learning all I need to know about Lapland, Sami culture and reindeer. I also took a lot of pictures but I'll spare you most of those.

    Inari is on a lake and the view this morning was lovely, still and peaceful





    This is the airport



    I'm serious



    The museum was a short walk away across the river



    I learnt a lot. For example, there are seven main biting insects here and they make a significant contribution to the local ecology. They call it the Rakka season and it runs for a couple of weeks from midsummer. The insects are so bad that the reindeer congregate in herds and take to the hills and open moorland which is very useful for census taking and management. The insects are also essential to some key bird species. Luckily, my Poundland repellent wipes are working a treat so far.

    The displays, information boards and graphics were really excellent in the museum. I was particularly taken with a good graphic showing the annual reindeer husbandry cycle. Guess what's happening at I here



    Have a point if you said castration, by teeth! I don't want to know if you said anything more exotic!

    The museum is partly built on a site that used to be a farm and they have developed an outdoor trail with Sami structures and artifacts from all over Finland including the original farm buildings which were in use up until the fifties. This is the main house on the farm.



    It took me a while to realise that the bundles of birch twigs by the doors were not random; they are cheap recyclable doormats.



    I had a good walk in the woods. It would not be hard to get lost but they are lovely at this time of year in this weather.





    They put these nesting boxes in the trees by the lake for wild ducks



    Once there are three eggs in the nest they nick one so the duck lays another. Apparently you can get an egg a day for a month or so.

    There are also some good exhibits showing various Sami trapping techniques from this possible solution for the urban fox





    to a full grown bear trap.





    And on the way back to the guesthouse



    I slipped into the supermarket for a custard pastry, which turned out to be cheese. It's a very ordinary local supermarket, but it still has a whole section of stuff for your sauna



    More excitingly I found this



    For the uninitiated, salmiak, or salmiakki in Finland, is liqourice salted with ammonium chloride. It's found all over Scandinavia. Definitely an acquired taste but I love it and to find a salmiak ice cream was very exciting. I ate it sitting by the airport on the lake. A black outside with dark grey ice cream innards. Excellent.

    The final revenge on Rudolph was this reindeer steak in a blue cheese sauce.



    It was really good. I've eaten a number of alternatives to a good slab of dead cow in my time and this was the best. It beats the buffalo and elk I had in Wyoming last year.

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    Enjoying this

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    June 3rd - So that's that then

    So today didn't start well because the weather had changed dramatically. The temperature dropped from 25 to 8.5. It was spitting with rain. The wind was strong and bitterly cold and the sky was black. Suddenly, I felt like I was in the arctic. So it was on with the layers and back to winter gloves There are no pictures of the first part of today; I was concentrating on staying on the road. What made it more worrying was this was the most remote part of the trip because I was planned to cut across to Norway along a comparatively minor back road through the forest. In the end the road was good. I only saw half a dozen other vehicles in fifty miles. I did see more reindeer though. It was still lakes and forest although the trees were more stunted and gnarled and there were increasing stretches of moorland.

    Suddenly I was in Norway, earlier than I expected. If you blink you miss the border. All there was was a small yellow sign saying Norge. The valley opened out and became almost pastoral for a short while.



    Although the way ahead began to look increasingly rugged.



    Not long after I was following the shore of Porsangen Fjord



    The rock looked very loose



    Although it made nice patterns



    Then came the first tunnel. It was only as I went into the tunnel that I saw the sign saying it was 5.5 kms long. It was dark, damp and bloody freezing and seemed to go on for a lot more than 5.5 kms. The next few were shorter and then it was the long one under the sea to the island on which The cape stands. That was 8kms/5 miles. It went down a long way bottomed out and then climbed back up. Again really cold. I booked into my room in the Hostel in Honningsvag to warm up and dump some luggage and then set off on the last 20 miles to the Cape.

    The road wound it's way up from sea level to more or less 1,000 feet



    The top of the island is a fairly bleak plateau.



    All the way there I was debating whether to give in to the outrageous entrance fee, £27.00. In the end I paid it, reluctantly and told the young lad on the gate what I thought of the charge. He just shrugged and agreed. I expect he gets it a lot. The sat nav was quite clear we were at the end of the road.



    And this is what all the fuss is about



    It is quite impressive. The cliff is almost 1,000 ft high. This, to the east, is technically slightly further North but is a 4 hr walk with no vehicles allowed.



    I was happy with I where I was and took the key picture with the self timer.



    Nothing to see here, looking north.



    But it is where the Duke of York sank the Scharnhorst in the last great naval battle of WW2.(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_North_Cape.) There's a good account of the battle on the wall of the visitor centre. It is oddly triumphalist about the German losses. The Scharnorst was sunk with 1,900 men and only 38 survived. Whoever wrote the text for the display seems quite pleased about that.

    This is a brand new sign



    Because they had just formally opened, two days ago, the E1 footpath which runs all the way to the most southerly part of Europe in Sicily. I'll have to go there next!

    So That was it, all over. Back over the top



    And down into Honningsvag. This is the main harbour.



    I've bought a loaf of bread and I will finally eat the tin of soup? which I bought in Finland



    It was quite good and filled the gap.

    Still to come is the journey back home which will be more leisurely and take me back through Norway. It is a live debate on this and other forums whether it is worth the effort to travel up to the cape. All I can say is that I have enjoyed the trip immensely so far. Sweden and Finland were interesting and the last 50 miles or so were pleasantly desolate. The visitor centre feels stupidly overpriced but it is in line with prices in Norway generally and it is well designed and managed. For me it was something I wanted to do and i am glad I did it. There are more picturesque places, cheaper places, places with better beer and easier to reach places but they are not the North Cape. Only you can decide, but if you want to go, go.

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    Very nice write up old chap

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    A great read thanks

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    I love reading about and looking at the photos of trips up to the Nordcapp. After reading Richard Papes book Cape Cold to Cape Hot it has always been a place that has fascinated me. Mind you does Iceland, The Faroes and the Shetlands.

    Adrian

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    Got as far as Bodo in Norway a few years ago.... Will go back one day.

    Nice read, thanks.

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    Top read mate....keep it up

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