Saturday, 28 July 2012

everyman's right

The one thing that makes Norway affordable to us is the ability to camp for free anywhwere, provided we are 150 metres from a dwelling and we stay for no more than two nights.  This is known as 'Allemansretter' in Norway - everyman's right.  And so, every evening, when we are starting to feel tired of cycling, we start looking for a spot to pitch our tent.  The joke is that although Norway only has 5 million inhabitants, they all have a cabin in the back country and they live very spread out.  Thus, trying to camp more than 150 metres from a dwelling isn't always as easy as the map suggests.

We also need water to cook.  Most places don't have public toilets, so we have often stopped at the well-tended cemeteries to draw water from the stand pipe.  If the weather's been bad we might cook our tea first in a bus shelter before looking to sleep somewhere else.  We have developed the strange habit of constantly spotting camping locations - dirt tracks that lead off the road, hidden corners in freshly-mowed fields, beaches or beauty spots by lakes that you cannot drive to.
A good camping place can make the day. 

Friday, 27 July 2012

early morning rain

After five decent days of sunshine the storm clouds gather.  It rains.  The wind blows in our faces and then it rains some more.  And then it rains again.  Each morning in our tent we awake to the sound of rain on the tent.  So much for waking with the joys of summer and the eternal sunshine of the Artic Circle.  It pisses it down.
 the view each morning looking up at the tent roof

The landscape is wonderful in clear weather - jagged mountain ridges disappearing suddenly into beautiful turquoise waters.  White sandy beaches. Wild flowers line the roads and the fields of hay stir in the breeze. 
we must remember this

 Cycling in our jackets and overtrousers is sweaty work.  Our feet get wet and our shoes never dry out.  Our glasses steam up and are coated in raindrops.  Somehow we always seem to find somewhere to shelter for lunch stops and teas.  It even stops raining when we set up our tent.  But not for long.  

And then there's the wind.  All cyclists dream of tailwinds, but now we are being blown sideways or to a standing stop by heavy gusts and headwinds.  It makes it all seem like hard work.  But the worst wind of all is the one that comes in the evening, in the tent, after the pesto and salami pasta dinner.  Now that, dear reader, is an ill wind...

Saturday, 21 July 2012

surfing with Gunnar and Hanne

Our first day's ride takes us a relatively easy 25 miles onto Kvaløya island.  We're heading west from Tromsø and out along a series of islands to the Loføten Islands.  We have arranged to couch surf with Gunnar and Hanne for a couple of nights.  We want to meet some Norwegians and cycle-touring and camping in the woods isn't the way to do it.  They're a lovely couple, living in a fairly typical house out along a coastal road with magnificent views at the junction of two fjords.  The villages always seem fairly well strung out along the roads - with everyone having a fair bit of space between them.  The land around their house belongs to the local farmer - and most of these communities would originally have been fishing/farming ones.  The shoreline is dotted with tiny fisherman's cabins and boathouses.  The roads have changed things  - Gunnar works in Tromso and can commute on the bus quite easily.  He works to promote Norwegian innovations abroad.  And thus we learn of the origin of the cheese slicer, amongst many other Norwegian inventions.
our lovely hosts
We are fed well and get a chance to ask about life so far north here for them both.  Hanne uses a wheelchair and their house is adapted for her.  Their fridge is coated in magnets - souvenirs from places visited.  They enjoy European cities - a sharp contrast to their daily surroundings - and are about to visit Copenhagen using couch-surfing.  Is it true Norwegians work on average only 165 days a year, as our guidebook says? No-one we ask can understand this figure. 
The views out from their house are stunning - mountains and fjords.  It seems quite wild and remote here.

Friday, 20 July 2012

the sun is shining

... and it never goes down.  Our first two nights wild camping outside Tromso airport feel slightly bizarre as the midnight sun is truly that.  The light remains constant - not even dimming slightly.   We find a nice spot on a spit of land poking into the sea - so nice that we return to it after a day exploring Tromso town.  To be honest, the town is rather disappointing because it's tiny and very quiet.  But this also makes it easy to navigate and find the important things - bank for cash, library for internet, supermarket for food.  
We know Norway is expensive - so we immediately withdraw about £400 in cash.  It'll probably last us a week.  We e-mail home and check out the food situation in the supermarkets. The prices are mindboggling. Is it really £3 for a loaf of bread?
We picnic in the sunshine.  Ahh, what a wonderful feeling - being on holi....I mean travelling again. 

Around ten in the evening we're reading in broad daylight in our tent when someone outside greets us.  A chatty fella with a rucksack has just come out of the airport in search of a free camp.  He's Ota and immediately strikes up a conversation like we were old friends.  So we're not the only hobos around after all.  

Saturday, 7 July 2012

And they're off!

Finally, after two years of thinking about this journey, and two final weeks of headless-chickening, we board a plane that takes us to Copenhagen.  And then one to Oslo.  And then another to Tromso.  It's mindlessly relaxing up until the point we realise in Oslo that we have to collect our bikes and trolley them up to another floor, through customs and through another check-in, with only 40 minutes before our final flight. We run through the airport to the very last boarding gate. It's Die Hard with a Vengeance stuff.  Gayle has to stop me from ripping off my shirt down to my vest in all the excitement.......

In Tromso we await the arrival of our luggage and bikes in a tiny terminal.  One bag is missing - the one with our tent.  The one with our new expensive tent.  "We'll send it over to where you are staying when it arrives" the helpful man at the information desk informs us.  We were planning to camp at the end of the runway - nice bit of flat ground, short grass, not too much traffic.  "That's okay - we'll wait".  
In the meantime we check and load our bikes.  It's 9 in the evening and there's a sun high in the sky. 

We've all the time in the world......