Immediately after I crossed the border I noticed that Norway is a comfortable country to cycle compared to Russia. Cars see me, they slow down and then almost hit the road barriers on the other side of the road. People don’t take risks here. Also the language barrier was gone in a glance cause even the older generation speaks good English here. When I arrived at the first town, I even saw a bike path cleared of snow.
I entered a different world from Russia.
I had been cycling in Russia for the challenge and I did get that. I knew that Norway would be a more bike-friendly country and after being in a more raw country I would feel the comfort.
Is enjoyment actually possible in temperatures of -25 degrees celcius? You get used to it and that is why traveling by bike is a perfect way for me. I can adapt well to the conditions that exist. Cycling in the cold and more mountainous areas is a challenge.
I learn to survive and to take care of myself in a different way.
One day I cross a small fishing village named Lebesby.
I stop in a coffee shop where a man talks about his work. He breeds fish just outside the village. It is good business he explains. The lady who runs the coffee bar is also there. She mumbles to the conversation with jàjà. When we talk about my route to the north a little later she pulls a more serious face. “Be careful, if the sun set the temperature gets cold in the mountains. There is nothing, no trees, nowhere to hide. Just check the weather. ”
I nodded, that I had been learning the last night.
Last night was a challenge. Toward nightfall I cycled up and up. I was not aware that there would be a pretty heavy mountain pass. Around five o’clock and with the twilight I came to a more flat area. Totally in sweat. I realized that I could not go down any more, then I would freeze.
I was startled when I looked at my newly acquired temperature gauge.
The temperature had already dropped far below -20 degrees celcius. What now? I decided to stop cycling and pitch my tent. Because when would the mountain pass go down? When I wanted to put on dry clothes, panic broke loose. My sweater was completely frozen by the bag of water that was in my barrier. The water started to leak.
There I was, sweaty with a frozen spare of clothing in at least -20.
I decided to put my down jacket directly over my sweaty clothes and happily got warm. The down in the jacket only got wet. At a certain moment I started to get cold again.
It was a fight.
What saved me is the idea to put my benzine burner in my tent. Fortunately, I had enough benzine with me to burn the burner for a few hours. So I could dry my sweaty clothes in the tent and then put them in my sleeping bag to dry completely.
With this experience, I nodded to the lady in the coffee shop. I’m now better prepared I explain to her. All my clothes have been dried and that water bag is in the garbage in Ifjord. We make some jokes about me cycling in winter here. Towards nightfall I start an even steeper climb.
That night I camp under the beautiful northern lights.
And that is so incredibly beautiful that I look up in a thick layer of snow breathlessly in my thermo clothing. It is a dream coming true.
It completes this journey.
The last day before Kjøllefjord was a tough day. I planned to cycle the last stretch of about 80 kilometers. And without even a location in between to rest and to warm up. It is increasingly remote here.
In the afternoon it starts to get cloudy and the wind starts to blows. I talk some courages words to myself. Continuous for the last 20 kilometers.
“Keep moving Henk, you’ll stay warm.”
I have to stop, my legs need rest.
“Henk! You’re almost there!”
Wowow, I need chocolate, energy, calories, no, caffeine, a hot cup of coffee from my thermos.
“You’re losing weight, soon a nice belly for summer!”
Pfff, it’s heavy, I have to keep moving otherwise I get cold. I can’t anymore.
“Yes, Henk, things are going well, at some point you are there!”
What? Are we suddenly in this together?
This is how the lonely long challenging cycling days go by. Because I’m alone, the only thing I have to deal with is myself. My body, my thoughts. What can I do? What is my limit? How can I motivate myself? How can I stay positive? I could write a book about all conversations with myself during such days.
Kjøllefjord, yeeeesss, I’m here!!!
Nothing to see here. “Does not matter Henk, you arrived!!”
I cycle a bit further, where
there is something and dive in a cafe to warm me up and to treat myself to a tasty burger. The lady who prepares the hamburger comes from Kirkenes, a town close to the border with Russia. She tells enthusiastically that next year she will go to America for a year to study. I realize that it feels good to have a conversation with someone other than myself.
The weather gets better and when the night falls Kjøllefjord is beautifully illuminated.
I cycle to the ferry to score my ticket to Honningsvåg. There is nothing. No one and no reception. I call a number on the door of the waiting lobby. A guy answers: “The ferry is leaving in about 8.5 hours. At three in the night.”
I hang out my stuff, blow up my air mat and lie down.
Eight hours, that’s enough time to get some serious sleep.