Nordkap 2018: Reindeer & Ramen

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Old-n-slo, Aug 27, 2018.

  1. Old-n-slo

    Old-n-slo Burnin' fossil fuels!

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2005
    Oddometer:
    191
    Location:
    SE Michigan
    Tunnels, Bridges and Ferries

    I guess I should pick-up where I left off so you don’t think I’m still above the Arctic Circle frozen into 24-hour darkness. To the contrary, my ride south was blessed— or cursed, perhaps— with dimly lit nights, long days, a lot of rain, changing skies and delightful moments, at times hours, of blue sky and sun. These notes were jotted down around August 8, 2018.

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    It was quite obvious to me the Norwegians were not thinking of motor travel when they decided to build their fishing villages on the bumpy, vertical side of the Scandinavian peninsula. If there isn’t a big rock in your way then it’s a river, fjord or bay. The Norwegians don’t take a drive in the mountains. They take a drive THROUGH the mountains.

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    I’ve lost track of the number of bridges, ferries and tunnels I used to travel the few degrees of latitude south I covered to get from Alta to my next stop, Tromso. Now there are long tunnels in other places, though 5-6 km is not unusual in Norway. But I went through one tunnel that had two roundabouts inside of it. I went through tunnels that had two-way traffic but were only one “truck-width” wide. I went through tunnels that had rest stops inside of them and little cut-outs where one vehicle could pull in so the approaching vehicle could pass through. I believe their longest tunnel is 27 km end to end. This country makes a model railroad set look like…well, a toy.

    Although I did not leave with much of a travel plan, before I left the U.S. I received some great routes from Snakeboy on the HU forums. Despite his being on a round-the-world ride, he sent me some downloaded Googlemaps while taking a brief layover somewhere in Brazil…to do his laundry or get a divorce or something. He helped me piece together smaller roads and ferries that had me hop from island to island back down to the neighborhood of the Arctic Circle where I could ferry to the mainland and keep heading south. Snakeboy warned me to be sure I had a reservation a day in advance for the boat from Moskenes to Bodo when leaving the last of the Lofoten islands. Unlike the short hops on most of the boats I took between the Norwegian islands, this crossing is quite a bit longer and departs only once each day. Without reservations, you take your chances and might have to wait overnight. Everyone seems to know the reservation number and the agents speak perfect english.

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    If it's not up and down it's around and around

    Despite the warnings, there are few alternatives to the E-6 when heading south from Alta toward the islands. The dearth of population resulted in few heavy vehicles unable to keep up the 90 kph speed limit. I hit the road after a campside breakfast of fried eggs, reindeer meat, and excellent gas station bread rolls washed down with a liter of chocolate milk. I stopped for fuel and bought a liter of oil to top up the TransAlp. I may not have calculated the exchange just right, but I think the oil cost me about $16 US! And I bought the cheapest stuff on the shelf. I told myself it was my personal contribution to the Norwegian oil trust fund that will take care of all their baby boomers for the next 35 years while Americans wonder where their savings went.

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    The main highway itself squeezes into a small piece of real estate between the snow-capped mountains and the sea. In places, it’s cut right into the rock face that falls into the Atlantic, twisting like a serpent as it carves around fjords or launches you into the air on one of Norways many long arching bridges. I found myself frequently stopping despite the misty day, just to gaze at the incredible scenery unfolding through my face shield. Going faster than 90 would result in this beauty passing too quickly, so I relaxed into a comfortable pace up and down and around and through really long holes in the mountains.

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    Where did the clouds go?!

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    Oh. Here they are

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    Prime spots at Tromso go to RV's. Tenters have to hike into the woods

    The campground at Tromso was a bit hard to find but still in the city over a bridge from the center. The tent sites were woody, uneven damp, creek-side locations but the sauna was outstanding. And Tromso is the home of the Mack Brewery. This suggested the possibility of a warm pub on premises. A look on my phone at the Brewery Passport and TapRooms apps proved this to be the case and even "GPS'd" me to the door. Mack has operated since 1877 and claims to be the northernmost brewery in the world, a claim cited on all of their beer bottles. Although a Norwegian legacy brewery, they work to market themselves a “craft brewer" and have refused to sell out to the major international beverage conglomerates. I can support that! The start of hard rain as I explored Tromso on the bike "forced" me to pull up in front. I sampled the products to make good use of the time. Congenial location and a tasty brew.


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    Mack Brewery at the edge of downtown Tromso

    The last thing I want to tell you about this day of riding occurred at a gas station where I stopped because of a construction back-up. Thought I’d wait it out with a cup of coffee. Six or seven heavy motorcycles pulled in with Italian EU registration plates. One of the riders pulled off his helmet and yelled my name! Incredibly, two of the group were Italians I had met in Cairo in 2015 during the Cross Egypt Challenge motor scooter rally. They pulled a thermos of espresso out of a tail box and some carved Nordic cups. They had been to Nordkap the same day I had. Their trip would end in a couple of days and they had arranged to have their bikes shipped by truck back to Italy while they flew home. They extended an invitation for me to come to Italy and ride the Alps. Thank you Gaucho and Ottavio. Sounds like next summer’s divertimento!

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    #21
    hansen, 95Monster and norseXL like this.
  2. hansen

    hansen airhead addict

    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2015
    Oddometer:
    100
    Location:
    on two wheels
    #22
  3. Old-n-slo

    Old-n-slo Burnin' fossil fuels!

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2005
    Oddometer:
    191
    Location:
    SE Michigan
    90 km per hour...about 56 mph. Norway is notoriously strict in enforcing speed limits. My speedo gear crapped out but I knew top gear at x RPM I was going 120 kph and adjusted accordingly. Just tired to not be the fastest guy on the road. :-)
    #23
    yokesman likes this.
  4. Old-n-slo

    Old-n-slo Burnin' fossil fuels!

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2005
    Oddometer:
    191
    Location:
    SE Michigan
    Islands of the Vikings

    I should really pay more attention to finishing this ride report. But it’s hard when you are in 5-below temps in Michigan, trying to work in a garage with a ’98 KLR that won’t start after 3 years of inactivity, a ’03 KLR that starts but has corroded brakes, and a ’91 K75 Beemer that caught fire a year and half ago and got sort of abandoned by an owner who would rather fly to Europe and ride an ’86 Honda TransAlp that runs like a sewing machine. That’s my excuse! If I haven’t lost you completely, let me pick up where the codfish meets the road….

    On Nov. 8, 2018, I wrote:

    ...I’ve learned a lot about Vikings and about codfish in the last few days. But that’s what the Lofoten Islands are all about. That and mountains meeting beaches, laced together with winding narrow roads that wander through small settlements of commercial fishing families, quaint villages, and tidy fields of feed grass. There are also a lot of sheep wandering around the roads unsupervised.

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    Way up above the Arctic Circle...glad to not be here in January!

    Although it’s been cold and misty a lot, locals assure me we are having typical August weather. I don’t enjoy breaking camp in the rain, consequently I have been making use of hostels. I admit I am getting spoiled. Living indoors is pretty nice.

    On the ferry to Andoya, the northern most of the Lofotens, I met up with a couple of Lithuanian motorcyclists, Tomas and Saulius. They were doing more or less the same Baltic-Scandinavian circle I am doing, but in 9 days. We shared a room in a guest house overlooking the Atlantic and watched a heavy storm move in from the west to soak the countryside over night. The next morning, I set off at my leisurely pace, exploring side roads, running down country two-tracks, and drinking coffee in a truckstop while another down-pour side-lined me for about three hours. Ian, from near Liverpool, kept me company. He vacations on his motorcycle every summer in Europe and has put over 100,000 miles on one of his BMW’s in just the past four years.

    In the village of Kabelvaag on the leeward side of Vestvagoya Island, I settled down for a couple of days to further explore the island’s byways. I stumbled upon the Lofotr Viking Museum, which just happened to be hosting the annual 4-day Viking Festival. Lots of re-enactors, traditional crafts, rides in a Viking sailing boat, staged battles, and a “fashion show” of Viking garb.
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    The museum itself is in Borg, on the site of a significant Viking archeological excavation and recreation of the largest known longhouse (83 meters), once home to a great Viking chief. It reminded me of a previous ride I took with my son Lukas when we traveled across Labrador and New Foundland and visited the Viking site at Lans aux Meadows and their longhouse.

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    Vikings eating lunch

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    Your humble scribe....ready to ravage the village and seek out the virgins

    Today I took most of the day wandering down the last three major islands to Moskenes, where I can get a ferry in the morning to the mainland at Bodo. By 4:00 PM, a windy mist began warning of predicted heavy night-time rain. I easily abandoned my plan for wild camping on the beach and took a bunk in the hostel in the village of A. That’s right, “A”. Pronounced “ooo-aah.” I need to learn more about that.

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    Not particularly crowded, but warm and dry: the hostel at "A"

    Most of the village is the Lofoten Fishing Village Museum which actually still has fishing boats going out but lives primarily from renting refurbished fishermen’s cottages to vacationers waiting for the ferry. The hostel has rooms in a 19th century codfish processing house, right upstairs from the Dried Codfish Museum. I learned a great deal about cod and it’s history in the islands going back thousands of years. Especially wind-dried cod (stockfish or “torrfisk”) which keeps for years, is 80% protein, and was the principal trading commodity of the Vikings.

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    As winter approaches, the cod come down from the Berents Sea. As they are brought in and processed by hand, they are hung from large wooden racks that are everywhere on the side of the road in the Lofotens. From March until about June they are dried this way.

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    Then whatever the Norwegians don’t eat, they export. Norwegians love their dried fish. It was their “North Sea oil” before they discovered North Sea oil. I went to the village restaurant and had a torrfisk dinner and a pint of Norwegian beer. It broke my budget but was very good. I promised myself to sleep beside the road tomorrow.

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    The photos don’t really do justice to the beautiful ruggedness of this area and how picturesque the cabins and villages truly are. I could blame it on my iPhone, but it might just be me.

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    Ferries from island to island

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    ...and constantly churning weather

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    Sod roofs on wealthy summer retreats

    Attached Files:

    #24
    2004ret, hansen and norseXL like this.
  5. Old-n-slo

    Old-n-slo Burnin' fossil fuels!

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2005
    Oddometer:
    191
    Location:
    SE Michigan
    Got a couple of emails reminding me I had let this lapse while I was exhaling. Sorry. I got invited to present on Nordkapp and riding Cuba at the Ontario Horizons Unlimited meet next week. So, I hope to be able to pick up this report and finish it when I get home. Maybe do a short one on Cuba too.
    #25