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Thijs_B 09-24-2012 11:24 AM

Nordkapp in September, on a '95 BMW F650.
So first a few highlights of the last couple of weeks, just to grab the attention:evil:

Then some introductions:

I’m Thijs, 23 years old from the Netherlands, and graduated from college last february. Got myself a nice job to pay for this 2 year old dream of mine, which is mostly fuelled by the great ride ride reports on this site. Got my license early last year, and been working towards this thing ever since. Been lurking around ADV for some time.
Trying on a tank-like R1200GS at the 2012 ‘Motorbeurs’, an annual bike fair in the Netherlands.

Didn’t want to go in the high season, so originally intended to do the trip before the summer. However didn’t get things in place to do this, so decided to go directly after the end of the summer holidays, the month September. In the Netherlands this is often one of the best months in the year, with nice late-summer sun and temperatures. Only after making the arrangements to get the month off at work, I saw this was actually the wettest month in Scandinavia. Never mind, just go! I actually managed to do it in three weeks, and the weather was not that bad - most of the time.
Photo taken around it’s 100.000 km anniversary around october last year, at Schiphol airport. There are also 3 aircraft in the picture:wink:

My bike is the single cylinder ’95 BMW F650 Funduro, with just over 110.000 km on the odometer at the start of the trip. It had been standing in my parent’s garage for a couple of years, and I started riding it at the 85.000 km mark early last year. Used it a lot to get to work / college in all kinds of weather. For internships last year it did over 160km every day for months at a time, and it never let me down.

So, very important part, route map!
All my GPS tracks combined in Google Earth, the dotted lines represent the big ferries and are added by hand.

I planned to take around 25 days but it eventually took me 20 days, and 7700 km.

Although I didn’t get to do the Nordkapp trip before the summer, I did get the chance to do a ‘warm-up’ trip during ascension weekend last May (which is a 4 day public holiday in the NL). I went to Wales in the UK to see how I would find being alone on the road all day, not having everything planned, and most importantly: to find out how much kilometres a day I would be comfortable with riding the very raw F650 engine. This small trip was not planned, and I only got the idea the weekend before.

Since for me both trips are part of the same adventure, I’ll start the report off with an impression of Wales in the next post, before moving on to ‘the main event’.

naradalast 09-24-2012 12:40 PM

Pictures are very nice. I have a 98 F650. (now 76.000 km.)

I'm waiting...:lurk

MikJogg 09-24-2012 12:44 PM

Great pics so far,wait too...:lurk

Quikegeo 09-24-2012 05:00 PM

I'm IN!! :D

Thijs_B 09-25-2012 03:27 AM

Warm-up in Wales
To make full use of the 4 day holiday, the Wales trip started right after a full 8 hour work day, on wednesday May 16th. I would only have until the next Sunday to get back. I would be taking the Eurotunnel train that evening, and make for a B&B in Folkestone for the night. I only had that first B&B, and the two-way ticket through the tunnel booked before I left. I would be stuck to B&B’s, since I didn’t yet have all the camping gear, let alone the panniers to carry it. I only had an old Krauser topcase, probably around 30 year old.

The ride through Belgium was boring, and frustrating due to traffic jams around Antwerp and Brussels. Was full of anticipation however, so didn’t mind too much at the time.

Arrival at the tunnel was frustrating, got there 3 minutes late (literally THREE MINUTES) and they put me back to a 11pm crossing that night. Eventually got on at 10, still 3 hours later than planned. I knew however this frustration was my controlfreak-side acting up, and this would be all part of the adventure, so didn’t let it get to me.
Train-man directing how they wanted the bike placed.
Only biker on the train!

Started the next day following the English coast for a bit (don’t have any pics of that, don’t know why), but eventually found the motorway west towards Wales. It felt liberating, riding in a general direction but not knowing where I would end up at the end of the day. Might be normal for many of you people, but remember this was my first trip of this kind so I wasn’t used to it.

Ended up around the Pontypool area, right next to the Black Mountains and Brecon Park. Finding something was more difficult than I thought, but eventually (with some mobile-internet) found Ty Shon Jacob farm, a nice gem on the top of some mountain. Price was cheap, and had the best room ever! Ensuite bathroom with golden watertaps!
I know this may not be in the ADV riding spirit. Sue me.

After cleaning up I took my DSLR and had a walk around the farm:

Next day went west for a little bit, and wanted to cross the Brecon Park and go north over an interesting looking old Roman road I found on Google Maps before I left.
First nice view of the trip, crap panorama-stitching though. Click on it for higher resolution.
Southern part of the Brecon Park, now the surroundings are getting interesting.
Some horses appeared on the road, I was clearly not in the Netherlands anymore.
Found the Roman road, this was the only three for kilometres around.

Saw some nice gravel road splitting of the main road, going in the mountains. Decided to find out where it would go. The gravel soon turned in boulders the size of my head though, so turned back. I had no real off-tarmac experience whatsoever, and this was a little too much for the first go. Crossed a nice big puddle in the process!
Looking back, now after my Scandinavian experiences, this is peanuts. At the time, not so much.
That was fun!

A little later, found this standing stone.
Some googling afterwards, found this stone was called 'Maen Llia', and the road is part of the Sarn Helen trail.

Going north from that point, and after a while more west towards the coast. Was about half way up along the length of Wales then, and reached the coast at Tywyn.

Going back inland, found a place to stay at the Star Inn in Dylife.

The inn dated back to 1640, and I think the mattress I slept on was from the same period. Food wasn’t that good either, but met some people that were there for some rally that would take place the next day.

Next day I left before the rally would take place and the road would be closed. Decided to head back north, I regretted my decision going back south the previous day and figured I had enough time to go into the Snowdonia park.

The day started off wet, and I found out about the danger called ‘cattle grids’. If they are wet, you need to cross them in a straight line, without changes in speed or direction since there is no grip whatsoever on the wet metal.

I eventually found my way to the Snowdonia mountains though.

Didn’t get all the way to the top of Wales, and went back south in the afternoon. Found a place to stay at Moto-bnb, owned by Rik Davis who spent 3.5 years riding around the world. I had put the address in my gps before I left home, considering going there if I was in the area. He didn’t have a full room available, but he had a bed in a small side room. Good enough for me!
Not very adventurous maybe, but again, sue me.

I cannot even begin to say how good the stay was, and how hospitable Rik was. If you are going riding in Wales, DEFINITELY try to stay at his B&B. The facebook page is full of testimonials of people with the same opinion.
The bikes could stay dry in the shed, under a cover (the cover over mine was already off), and make friends with the legend bike on the left.
The legend itself.

Next morning at breakfast had a nice chat with the other guests, bikers from the UKGSer forums, but I couldn’t stay for long. Had a train to catch as I had to be back at work the next day!

The ride home was amazingly boring, used some smaller roads to Oxford but nothing other than motorway from then on. Doesn’t matter, I was more determined than ever to make the Nordkapp trip happen!

Thijs_B 09-26-2012 05:29 AM

Nordkapp, Day 1 - September 1st.
The day had finally come, the wait had been so long but was totally forgotten. Over the months since the Wales trip I had replaced the chain and sprockets, break pads, rear brake disc, both tires, cleaned the carburetors and so on. Just to make sure that if the bike would fail this would not be due to shoddy maintenance. I also fitted some cool looking aluminum panniers, so the bike was ready!

GPS track of the day:
Country names are in Dutch, but to change the Google Earth language you have to change the OS language, not doing that.
All ready for departure!

The first day would be not much more than eating kilometers, and getting to Denmark. To give me some peace of mind, I booked the first two nights to make sure I would get to the ferry to Finland on the third day. This way I would not waste time looking for some place to stay (turned out this was hardly necessary).

It was nice to be on the road again, after I left it felt like I only returned from Wales the day before as if I hadn't spent the last couple of months doing overtime and saving up vacation days for this trip.

But since today was nothing more than motorway, not many pictures were taken and the good ones as promised in the first post will have to wait :puke1. So here are some screens from the helmet cam:
Splitting lanes around Bremen, not sure if that's even allowed in Germany (it is in the Netherlands) but hell no that I'm going to wait in line.
Saw an old R100GS at a fuel station, going north as well. Didn't get the chance to talk to the owner as he rode off and waved as I was refueling.

Took the wrong exit somewhere south of Hamburg, despite of my GPS. Nice thing is the tracking of the TomTom Rider is pretty accurate, so got to 'fill in' what we in the NL call a 'klaverblad' (cloverleaf).
Chance to practice some right hand cornering, you could keep riding around these things all day if you want.

I like crossing borders in Europe, there are no checks anymore (well sometimes at random), and the entire look and feel of the surroundings change within a couple of hundred meters.
Here's the Danish one, the flags behind it a reminder that you're also entering Scandinavia.

Found the campsite, and wasted no time setting up the tent. It's a Spitfire Duo, and it can be set up in 15 minutes (ok, maybe not the first time)
And don't forget the chair for some added comfort.
As the night fell the moon rose, and made a nice reflection in the water.

As I like statistics and numbers and stuff, so I'll close these posts with the accomplishments for the day (as the TomTom kept track of them):

705 km travelled, at 91 km/h average. Spent 7:50 riding and am 490 km away from home.

(Since it's only a single cylinder, the top speed of the F650 is just over 150 km/h, the maximum comfortable speed however is always just below 130 km/h. But with the bike loaded and all I didn't exceed 110 km/h, even on the autobahn were there are no speed limits. The top speed of the entire trip was going to be around 120 km/h, with the wind in the back.)

Bongolia 09-26-2012 05:33 AM

Terve, Dude.


cvcaelen 09-26-2012 11:12 AM

Hey Thijs,

you've got my attention also

keep on writing :wave


Thijs_B 09-27-2012 04:56 AM

Day 2 - Crossing the Danish Islands and reaching the Swedish most southern point.

Because I didn't want to take the direct route to Stockholm, I planned to follow the Swedish coast and avoiding the main E4 highway. The next camping would be close to the south-west end of the Swedish coast, and I had to cross the cross several bridges between the Danish Islands to get there.

The second big bridge was a toll road, with no exits for several kilometers. The road started at Copenhagen going through a long tunnel under the city. Exiting the tunnel I got a great view of the bridge I was about to cross in the distance.
The wide angle lens of the Contour doesn't do justice to the sheer scale of this construction, it took quite some time to cross it.

Although I had a bit of rain in the morning, the weather out here was beautiful with clouds creating nice shadows on the seas. To bad it wasn't really safe to stop and take pictures of both the weather and the bridge.

The border into Sweden is somewhere on the middle of the bridge, and reaching the other side there are the tollgates. I stopped at an automated one, where I only had to enter my creditcard. A toll-woman came running up, telling me out of breath that bikes would be cheaper if processed manually, and opened up the toll booth to do so. People genuinely helping me out without being asked to do so, I already like Scandinavia.

After a while, turning south, I reached the first milestone of the trip: the southernmost point of Sweden. Also being the southern point of the Scandinavian horse-head peninsula, it felt appropriate to go north to the Nordkapp from here.
Mandatory sign with distances to all kind of cities.

The weather was very warm, almost mediterranean, and there were even potted palm trees at the boulevard. I was able to drive the bike right up to the monument there, some elderly people licking their ice-creams looking puzzled why I appeared so happy to be there.
The area in front of the stones was a big boring parking lot at a harbor.

There was a small set of stairs down to the water's edge, where the 'real' southern point was.
Got accused by friends at home for not taking pictures with me in them when I got back from Wales, like the bike was on a solo-trip. Trying to correct that:norton.

After that I started following the coast. The area reminds me of the Dutch countryside, with all the farms and the total absence of forest areas. Because of that I thought it wasn't really THAT interesting and since that small chunk of southwest Sweden is bigger than it looks on the map, I returned to the main roads to cross it.

These main roads where mostly two-lane, with no chance of overtaking since the lanes are separated by rails or fences. Every few kilometers however an extra lane would be available to overtake trucks and slow cars. There were plenty of resting areas on which one can escape from this and the Swedish religiously adhering to their speed limits (for instance, sometimes they keep going the allowed 80 km/h, right up to a 60 sign, and then suddenly hit the brakes to get to 60 instantly. I'm used to just reduce throttle and let it roll to 60).
A lot of these resting areas had a little lake where you could swim. Very peaceful.
Boats can also dock, not sure why you would want a boat on a small pond like this.

Finally reaching the campsite, I could choose where I wanted to put the tent. I think I was just one in five guest or something.
Relaxing at the tent at sunrise the next morning.

Scores for the day:
Travelled 640 kilometers, with 7:30 in the seat and 85 km/h average. Currently 900 km from home.

I was really looking forward being in Finland, 600+ kilometers in one day is to much I think to be enjoyable. Looking back it may have been better to book the ferry one day later. But at the time, I planned to have a much more expanded route up north. Anyway, I would be in Stockholm the next day and finally take the ferry. After that there would be hardly any requirements on daily progress, and I could tone it down a bit.

africadero 09-27-2012 05:25 AM

Nice report
Hey Thijs,

great trip, I will enjoy reading it,

Ronny, greeeeeeeeeeetz from Belgium.:D:D

Thijs_B 09-28-2012 04:43 AM

Day 3 - Getting to Stockholm
Today was going to be about getting to Stockholm for the ferry to Turku in Finland. This meant following the E22 all the way (which would be a two-lane-can-only-overtake-every-few-kilometers-road as described before) and then the E4 highway for the last bit.

The day before I accidentally bumped the Contour of my helmet while arriving at camp. The stupid mount failed. Just happy it didn't happen while going 100 km/h, but bashed myself because I forgot to take a backup one from home. Kept a look out for one for the entire duration of the trip, but since it's mostly available in internet shops, no luck. I didn't want to risk using glue or anything, as I didn't want to lose the camera with all the already taken footage. This means no helmet cam shots for the rest of the trip :hmmmmm
Breakfast of champions, add hot water to the space-food packaging and leave standing for a couple of minutes. Could last almost an entire day on one of these.

I had to cross through Norrköping, which was a bigger city than I expected. Lots of traffic as well.

Somewhere along the E4 looking for a place for lunch and to stretch the legs I found a little island which could be reached using a very small dirt track. The weather was great, so I just layed down in the grass and closed my eyes for a couple of minutes.
This adventuring business is rough, having a very hard time here.

From there on there wasn't really anything interesting until Stockholm, the last bit was really just highway, and remembered me of the Rotterdam area including all the traffic jams. That there was a lot of construction work in the harbor and traffic was even messier there didn't help things either. Got very hot and sweaty, felt like summertime.

I arrived at the ferry terminal an hour early, and met a bicycle rider from Switzerland who had been cycling through Europe for the last 4 months. Was nice talking to the guy, but we didn't exchange names which I very much regret. He seemed impressed by the distance I was about to ride, since the Nordkapp is as far from Oslo as Rome in Italy, but naturally he was used to 'only' 60 kilometers a day.
Then the boat arrived, in camouflage, and the check-in opened.

For the helmet cam I had another mount so I could attach it to my front wheel. Only used it to get some shots of the (dis)embarkation of this ferry. Haven't used it since, because it's a lot of hassle turning it on and off for short shots when it's out of reach like that.
Following mister 'I'm-Swiss-and-not-a-European' through the waiting line (got a little discussion about the Euro crisis going before:evil).

While we were waiting, talking to a Fin who told us about the coming weather in Finland ('could be cold and even snow, could be warm and some rain, depending on wind direction', yeah very helpful:rofl), a biker on a R100GS came up our rear (we were in the bike-lane). He got off, and seeing my plate he suddenly said 'Waar je ook gaat, je komt overal Nederlanders tegen' ('Wherever you go, you always meet Dutch people'). He was Markus from Germany, who worked in the Netherlands and could speak (heavily accented) Dutch.

He was right, we are a very travel-eager nation, with Dutchies traveling all over the world. I got accused of being a 'crazy Dutchman' for trying the Nordkapp in September ('What, you're going now?! Crazy Dutchman!'). He was none the saner however, as he left Bergen in Norway the night before and only had 2 or 3 hours of sleep while riding to Stockholm. He said there was nothing but rain in Norway, and his boots were still half-wet. He was going to Helsinki airport to catch a flight to Oulu in the north, an a business trip. The R100GS was relatively fresh, only 70.000 km on the odometer, although it looked like it had been through some tough times.
Boarding the ferry, with Markus riding in front.
I always wonder if Germans get training in riding at walking pace when they get their license,
since I always see them dragging (sometimes both) their feet at low speeds.
I was taught to put them on the pegs whenever not standing still.

Immediately after I got to the cabin I took a nice hot shower to wash all the kilometers off, there was even someone at the door at one point who said the silent fire alarm had gone of (we where still in port). Yep, having a rough time in Scandinavia so far.

After that and dinner I went outside, seeing I just missed the sunset.
Still very beautiful, click on it for full size.

And late at night I went outside for some fresh air, and took some more pics.
Colorful boat this was.
Even though Tallink Silja is Finnish, the flag on was Swedish.

The next day the trip would start for real, no reservations or bookings from now on.

Scores for the day:
Travelled 460 kilometers, with 6 hours in the seat. Average of 77 km/h.

Arek Kontrol 09-28-2012 05:26 AM

Im in !:lurk

Simplyred 09-28-2012 05:49 AM

Mooi bericht, leuke foto's! Ik ga dit volgend jaar zélf doen. Ben ooit al eens naar Noord Zweden geweest toen met de auto.

Nice report, nice pictures! I am going to do this myself next year. I once already have been to Northern Sweden but then by car.

Thijs_B 09-29-2012 03:59 AM

Day 4 - Finland
The ferry would dock at Turku at 07:00, which is a bit early, but ok why not. Finland is however in a different time zone, so that's 06:00 on my 'body clock'. The ship's captain woke everyone at 06:00 local, which was 05:00 'body clock time'. Not really my idea of holiday… :bore

Anyway, here's the GPS track of the day:

Got me some breakfast, and went down to the car deck. In the elevator there were some elderly Russian women. Since I'm a big guy (1,96m), I think they couldn't even reach for the top of my head if they wanted, and all being cramped together in the elevator seemed quite funny. One of them suddenly reached for my shoulders and felt the protective padding of my jacket. I smiled at her, said 'motorbike' as explanation for the padding, but there was no response whatsoever. She said something in Russian to the other women, and one of them said 'da'. Then the elevator arrived at their floor, and they left leaving looking at the closing doors with a feeling of 'wtf just happened' :scratch.

We left the ship as the sun came up, and I followed some Finnish choppers to the exit. Markus was behind me, and we would be riding together to the highway where he would turn towards Helsinki and I would go north to Tampere.
The metal on the bottom is the ship's ramp, and the tarmac is 'touchdown' on Finland.

I started following the E63 towards Tampere, where a little mist started to creep up as soon as I left the city of Turku.

But soon the mist got thicker and thicker, and I didn't see much of the scenery for the next couple of hours. I really hoped this wouldn't be the default weather in Finland, since I could only see the road directly in front of me and some vague tree shapes right next to the road. It got very cold as well, even after the mist had cleared a bit.
In Finland, looking for kids to eat for dinner :evil

But when I got past Tampere things really cleared up, and I left the highway into road 338 to get north. On my Michelin map there was a little green line next to the road ahead meaning 'beautiful scenery', and it delivered. The sun came out, the road was dry and twisting through a beautiful pine forest so I was really enjoying the ride.

In Scandinavia they are apparently very keen on swimming in summertime, in these countries there are signs everywhere directing to swimming locations. I followed these whenever I needed a rest, and there was usually a small beach or dock to relax.
Another boat ring, on the dock where I had a little 5 min powernap in the sun. Yep, rough times.
View from the dock, with the occasional lumber truck crossing the bridge.

Since I never wild camped before I started looking for a spot very early (I was also on the road since 07:00). There were a lot of trails going into the forest, some of them leading to houses (often marked by letterboxes) and some used for deforesting. I eventually found one along road 77 overgrown with tall grass (so not used recently) and followed it in. The grass finally cleared into the forest and there was a small flat surface where I could put the tent.
First wildcamp! The track would eventually return to the main road and I think was used for maintenance of a small power line nearby.
Some strange green mushrooms. First thing I thought of were the 'shrooms from Super Mario, where these would provide me with 1 extra life.
Sun was setting behind the trees, and the forest became eerily quiet. However the mosquitos didn't, and I got stung a gazillion times.

Daily achievements:
Traveled 435km in 6 hours with 75km/h average. Currently 1760 km away from home, so further than Moscow!

I was now north about a third of the length of Finland, the next day would take me more east, towards the Russian border and to the edge of Lapland.

Thijs_B 09-30-2012 03:45 AM

Day 5 - Going east
I've heard that first time wild campers sometimes have some difficulties, like trouble sleeping, making wild animals out of every noise, things like that. Never had these problems though, slept like a rock and only woke up once to do a toilet run. Even then I didn't feel scared or even overwhelmed by the darkness of the forest, which kinda surprised me a bit.

Anyway, GPS track of the day:
No city or town names this time. Doesn't matter, Finland's mostly one big beautiful forest anyway (no offense).

The good weather hadn't carried through the night, it started raining and in the morning it was still drizzling. As I started packing it suddenly stopped however and I was able to keep the inner tent dry.

For the first time I used one of the many dirt roads that Finland has, and although it was a bit slippery had some fun doing so.
And the skies started to clear too!

I then followed the main roads going north east, to Iisalmi, Kajaani and Suomussalmi. From there I got on the 843 road, which took me into 'reindeer land' and close to the Russian border. These 'main roads' were however nice, clean and two lane, so nothing like highways, so for me there wasn't really a reason to avoid them.
Forest floor, looked like this probably hundreds of kilometers in all directions.

Found a nice place for a break next to a lake, and laid on my back on the comfortable forest floor. Unknown to me at the time this was the last break I was able to spent like this...
Notice the knees, still struggling here in Scandinavia. Bad weather closing in on the left though.
First reindeer of the trip, first of many. Unless that belt contains some sort of GPS device, I wonder how the Sami keep track of them in this seemingly fenceless wilderness.

For almost the entire day I had seen bad weather coming in my mirrors, but I was able to stay in front of it all the time. I found a place to put the tent by following a path that was probably used by wood lumberers in the past. I followed it for about half a kilometer and found a nice open area where I could camp out of the view from the road.

As I was putting up the tent, the bad weather finally started to catch up with me, and the wind started to pick up. I hurried to get everything in place, and was just closing my panniers when the rain started coming down like a monsoon. I ran to the tent and literally dove in to stay dry. After about half an hour of heavy rain it suddenly stopped and I was able to start prepping food and take a picture of camp.
Second wild camp! Bad weather going away in the background.

Measured in a direct line I was around 4km from the Russian border, so the hills I saw in the distance were Russian. Hey, at least I now have seen a bit of Russia :clap

I knew I was in bear country, so while walking around I whistled some stupid song and looked around for tracks. Didn't find any bear ones, but saw some moose tracks the size of my hand (with fingers spread) around 2m apart. These animals were huge! Found some dog paws around a km from the tent as well, didn't think much of it until realizing the morning after that these were probably wolf prints :huh

As the sun was setting the skies were very beautiful, still threatening with rain but with the occasional blue spots.
Clouds moving over Russia, still can't believe how close I am.
A lonely tree in the open field.

The clouds eventually closed the sky and I just got in the tent to escape from all the pesky mosquitos. There was no rain the entire night though.

Somewhere in the night I woke up because of a sudden light surrounding the tent. Looking out I saw the skies had opened up and that light came from the moon. I decided to go out and use my tripod to try and capture the scene (and of course to 'shake hands with the king':evil). The entire forest was lit, and I didn't need a flashlight to move around. I lit the small light I had in the tent and took the shots.

Since there was too little light to autofocus, and because I didn't have my contacts in, I couldn't get the manual focus right. The pictures looked good on the screen at the time so I went back to sleep (it was very, VERY cold as well). If only these would have been in focus :cry
My lens just wasn't wide enough to get the moon in taking the shot horizontally, and the dense forest started behind me so I couldn't move back more.
The clouds were moving fast.

Even then, with pitch black forest probably hundreds of kilometers all around me, I surprised myself by not even being the least nervous or scared about bears, wolves, moose or even trolls. Guess I'm not such a pussy as I thought :super

Anyway, daystats:
Traveled 400 km in just over 5 hours in the seat, with 76 km/h average. Currently 2060 kilometers away from home.

The next day I would be going more back towards the west, and make for Rovaniemi and the 'obligatory' arctic circle stuff at Santapark.

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