Over the winter months I'd amused myself by sticking pins in a map and dreaming about a ride to Nordkapp. Being the most northerly point of mainland europe it appealed to me as a destination, and every photo I'd ever seen of Norway looked stunning. I started planning for departure in June or July to make the best of the weather but there were all sorts of issues with work that made those months look increasingly unlikely, and by April I'd given up on the idea entirely. August arrived and by the middle of the month a few things cleared enough for me to be able to take another look at the calendar. There was a gap that seemed just about do-able, the "only" snag was it meant that I'd be away for our Silver Wedding Anniversary. Fortunately MrsQ is a practical lass and I had already agreed to a new kitten (hello Fergus) so the trip received a green light. That was all the encouragement I needed, and two days later I was on my way to Hull to catch the overnight ferry to Rotterdam. For the next three weeks that was the only advance booking I made, everything else would have to be sorted out on the way.
The Ferry was the usual floating mixture of overpriced bars and shops but once I'd eaten I decided to resist the cabaret act and found a quiet corner to study my maps. If I could have gone earlier in the year I would have taken my time working north along Norways coast line to Nordkapp then head back via Finland, Sweden & Denmark. As it was now August I knew the weather would begin to turn fairly soon so I decided to do things in reverse; head to Nordkapp as quickly as possible and then take my time working south through Norway and hopefully keep on the right side of the weather. Tuesday morning saw me roll off the ferry into Rotterdam and battle my way east along the crowded motorways. I'd decided to head for Puttgarden in north east Germany where I could take another ferry into Denmark. I hadn't made a booking for Puttgarden but it all went very smoothly. I rolled up, paid at the booth and was on board within ten minutes. I'd barely enough time for an extortionately priced coffee when it was time to return to the bike and roll off into Denmark. I felt I'd done enough for the day so I turned off at the first sign I saw, ended up at place called Maribo Camping. It was a great little campsite with a cracking lakeside view. I had a brew and a munchie bar and a fairly long chat with a very stoned dutch chap. I struggled to make out what he was saying but I kept nodding and smiling as he pointed at my bike and after a whle he wandered off again. With that I crawled into my tent and slept like a log. Mileage for the day 564.
The next morning my brewkit was doing sterling service and after the minimum 3 cups of tea I loaded all my gear back into the panniers and set off towards Stockholm. The route took me over the bridge from Copenhagen to Malmo made famous by the Scandi tv series. I did see a lovely Porsche 993 as driven by the lead character but fortunately no severed bodies. The rest of the journey was a long drag along the E4 motorway, the only highlight being a great bit of twisty road around lake Vattern and the town of Huskvarna. As the day wore on the sky turned blacker and drizzle soon became heavy rain. I felt cold for the first time so pulled into a McDonald's for a coffee and put a fleece on under my jacket which was an immediate improvement. The rain never let up and as I got near to Stockholm I headed for the nearest campsite. It was still hammering down when I arrived at reception so it didn't take me long to decide between the £18 for a tent pitch or £40 for a nice warm hut. It was a bit of a bizarre campsite in that every single building including the toilets needed a pass-key for entry, even though there was no way to get on site without being checked through reception. The camping hut was more like a garden shed but it saved me pitching in the rain and gave me chance to dry my gloves out. Mileage for the day 464.
I woke up fairly early and once tea'd up and repacked I rejoined the Stockholm ring road in a grey steady drizzle. I wanted to keep headin north along E4 which followed the east coast along the Gulf of Bothnia. This should take me all the way to the town of Umea, picked for no other reason than it looked like a sizeable place and at just over 400 miles it seemed a reasonable distance. The Stockholm traffic had ground to a near halt with construction work and the morning rush so I headed down back streets heading vaguely north as best I could for a few miles and eventually pulled back on to a mostly clear motorway. The drizzle had turned to heavy rain and the sky was black but I felt a little happier now that I was getting some speed up. I could certainly relax a little about navigation on this leg; “take the first exit at the roundabout in 580Km”. The city soon gave way to some much more pleasant scenery and I crossed several suspension bridges that connect the many small islands forming the coastline. One memorable stretch took me across a huge suspension bridge over the Angerman river. Unfortunately I've no photos of this leg, not for the first time I wished I'd bought a helmet cam. I pulled in for a slightly surreal lunch at the Pink Ladies Diner truck stop and munched down a burger, fries and a milkshake whilst watching Grease on a huge screen. At another fuel stop later on I bumped into an Italian couple, Luca & Chiara riding two-up on a KTM 1190. They were also heading for Nordkapp so we chatted for a while. I wished them a safe journey and headed off whilst they got some food. I eventually arrived at Umea without incident and picked a campsite at random from the sat nav . It guided me towards a place called "First Camp" just off the motorway. I opted for a hut again (spoilt now), dumped my stuff and headed for a shower.
When I returned I found that Luca & Chiara had checked in to the hut next door. Once cleaned up we shared tales about the journey so far and looked at the map comparing routes to Nordkapp. We met another Italian guy on the same site, also bound for Norkapp riding a Vespa. After much hammering and banging he'd emerged from his hut proudly displaying a piston with a hole in the crown, he'd actually rebuilt his engine on the table! He didn't speak any english at all but Chiara translated for me, basically telling me he was a nutter. I've never seen so much stuff strapped to a scooter in my life and I wondered if he'd make it to Nordkapp. Mileage for the day 419.
The next morning I took my time packing and waved Luca/Chiara and crazy vespa man off whilst getting my tea quota up. We were all going roughly the same way but I was enjoying riding on my own so far and didn't want to intrude on anyone's journey. For the first time I hadn't really settled on a destination for the evening as there seemed no sizeable town to aim for. I would just keep heading for Nordkapp following the quickest route via Finland and was looking forward to passing through the Arctic Circle. I set off around 10am and soon picked up the E4 again. The motorway on this section continually changed from a single lane to two lanes for a few km and then and back to one again. Unlike the UK network you get one single warning that the lanes will merge in 400m and that's it; no cross hatching, no countdown markers, no extra warnings, simply pay attention or die. I'd set off in dry weather but it soon began to rain and around mid-day it changed again from heavy to biblical. My new jacket & trousers were doing a great job of keeping me dry but my gloves were soaked and my hands were cold, even with the heated grips. At the next fuel stop I raided the free plastic gloves from the diesel pump and pulled them on over the top. They split but held together enough to prevent the wind chill and made a world of difference.
On one particularly grim stretch of motorway with a headwind and driving rain I caught up with the crazy Italian chap on his vespa. His riding gear consisted of jeans and a donkey jacket so he must have been absolutely soaked. He was slipstreaming behind an articulated lorry and barely making 50mph. I pulled alongside to give him a big thumbs up and cheesey grin before pulling away again. I soon crossed the border into Finland and not long after that crossed the Arctic Circle marker. I was expecting something quite grand but on the E8 it's just a sign in a lay-by. I actually rode straight past at first then doubled back when I'd subconsciously re-read it. The Finnish roads were arrow straight through the forests with hardly any traffic so I was making good progress but starting to feel tired. My nav suggested no campsites for at least 80k but I spotted one of the universal tent and hut signs at the side of the road and pulled over. This was the first (and only) time the whole trip where no-one spoke any english but after plenty of my miming I worked out that yes I could have a pitch for 20 euros. It felt odd to think about euros having just got used to Krona but the main issue was my proffered debit card was met with frowns and shaking heads - cash only at this place, damn! I'd passed a small town about 10 miles back so had no choice but to double back and find an ATM. I'd not seen a soul between that town and the campsite so I opened up the bike a little more than usual and was back again with some euros in no time. It was pleasant spot and I enjoyed a brew by the river watching a couple of guys fishing from a small boat. Mileage for the day 350
The next morning the sun was shining and I was feeling good. I'd decided to head for Alta as the next stop so I necked my tea quota, repacked and got rolling. The roads were deserted and it was very tempting to open it up but I soon realised the warning signs for reindeer are there for a reason. Rudolf and his chums just run out of the forest and onto the road at random. It took me all of 20 minutes to go from "ooh reindeer" to "sodding reindeer". The lack of other traffic meant that I could at least ride fairly central to give me some swerve room.
Some stretches of the E93 were being repaired and they were pure gravel for miles which made for a pleasant change. I followed a farmer in a tractor for a while, he was going so fast it almost drifted round the bends, no wonder Finland turns out world class rally drivers,. I crossed the border into Norway after a couple more hours and felt a sense of achievement even though it was still a long way to Nordkapp. Half an hour after passing through a town called Kautikino I remembered that I could have taken a detour from there along an all-gravel track know as the Old Postal Road that runs all the way to Alta, my next destination. I debated turning back but even though I had no time pressure at all I simply hate retracing my steps so decided to press on with the tarmac and see if I could join it further on. I managed to find a side road and join the old postal road a few miles outside of Alta. What I was expecting to be a gnarly gravel road was graded and hard packed much like a UK cycle route and whilst pleasant it wasn't the off-road experience I was looking for and I stopped worrying about having missing the first stage. Alta is a fair sized place and gave me my first look at a Fjord. I stopped for some lunch took a small detour to visit the Tirpitz museum whose sign I'd seen on the way in. It's not a big place but its crammed with reminders of the Nazi occupation. I knew Barnes-Wallis was the genius behind the Damn Busters bouncing bomb but I hadn't realised he also designed the tallboy bombs that finally finished the Tirpitz.
It was mid-afternoon and the sat nav informed me that Nordkapp was about 150 miles away. When I'd set off that morning I'd been thinking about spending the night in Alta but the sun was shining and I felt good so I decided to keep heading north a little longer and see how it went.
The forests gave way to a quite barren but no less beautiful landscape. I'd got a full tank of fuel, sunshine, the roads to myself and some Pink Floyd in my ears - if I could only bottle this feeling... Another fuel stop and a sat nav told me I was now only 80 miles from Nordkapp so I decided to keep going. I'd already been through umpteen tunnels but there were three in quick succession near Nordkapp that I found a bit strange. The first one just said "no lights", the opposite of the usual instruction, but once inside I realised it meant there are no lights in the the tunnel, just a few reflectors on the wall. The KTMs candle glow headlight wasn't really up to it so I crawled through that one. The next one said "fog in tunnel" and sure enough I went from bright sunshine to a pea souper with 5 yard visibility. Fortunately that was quite short. The last tunnel just before Honningsvag (nearest town to Nordkapp) is a 6km and goes under under the sea, roughly 2km straight down at 10% gradient and the last 2km straight up again at 10%. It was absolutely freezing and I felt sorry for a couple I saw cycling, it must be like doing a Tour-de-France stage in a freezer. Once past Honnigsvag I was within a few miles of Nordkapp. The sun was still shining and the road was fantastic, bend after bend hugging the coastline. Suddenly there it was, the Nordkapp sign. I stopped for a photo then headed for the visitor centre. You have to pay but I'd heard you could get the entrance cheaper if you say you don't want entrance to the movie. The ticket seller reluctantly agreed this was the case so I saved about a fiver - just enough to buy a coffee. The visitor centre is a huge shed full of landfill stamped with reindeers and compasses but the globe monument is worth a look, as is the view straight down the cliff edge. Amazingly I bumped in to Luca & Chiara once again. They'd just arrived and as they were booked on a boat out of Honningsvag at 5am the next morning they were planning to stay up through the night. I had a quick catch up and wished them well, then set about finding somewhere to sleep for the night.
Taking the road south again from the visitor centre the first place I tried had a huge board proclaiming itself "the most northerly campsite in the world". I went into reception but for some reason took an instant dislike to it, it seemed very soul-less and the smallest cabin was an outrageous £55 a night - sod that. I rode a few yards further and saw a handmade sign saying "cabines to rent". I turned off down the track saw the sign leading me over a wooden jetty onto a very small island. I followed this along and suddenly came across the only person I've ever met in real life that had a hook for a hand. This turned out to be Ole, the owner of the hut and indeed the small island. He seemed surprised that I wanted a room as it is "late in the season" but as I was on my own he offered me a hut at "half price" at just £20 for the night. Perfect ! I showered, changed and set about getting my tea quota back to normal. About an hour later another chap appeared and he introduced himself as Wolf from Germany. The Only Wolf I could think of was from the crap 80s gameshow "Gladiators" but I was pretty sure it wasn't him. He was also traveling solo and had checked in to the hut next door. Although too late in the year for us to see the midnight sun it certainly never got dark and we sat out til the early hours sharing a box of red that Wolf had brought. I contributed all I had by way of snacks and we put the world to rights. Mileage for the day 405.
It was raining when I woke up the next morning and the sky was a lot darker. Having made my destination in just five days I decided to take a days rest and do absolutely nothing. I paid Ole for another night which he seemed very happy about. Apparently he'd lost his hand in a boating accident years ago and had a variety of different attachments to get by - the original swiss army man. He'd bought the small island in 1990 then built his house and gradually added a few holiday huts to supplement the fishing income. He's a genuinely lovely chap living his dream in a spectacular part of the world. Wolf had decided to start making his way south. He was travelling solo by car "living like a student" again as he called it. He worked as graphic designer and had taken a month off to do much the same as me. For a German he had a great sense of humour. I wished him well and retreated back to my hut.
I was aware that although it has the visitor centre and the monument Nordkapp isn't strictly the most northerly part of mainland europe. There is a trail you can walk that takes you to Knivskjellodden, a rocky outcrop that is actually a few meters farther north. It was still raining and the walk was supposed to be a six hour round trip. On any other day I'd have been up for the hike but I was tired and the weather was dire so I decided I could live without ticking that particular box. I rode the few miles into the main port of Honingsvag to stock up on provisions and have a quick look around. It was a Sunday and most places were closed but I had lunch at the towns Pizzeria then bought some bread, cheese and snacks from the co-op. I returned to the hut and decided to try the sauna. That was truly magical, being so toasty warm and being able to see the rain lashing the ocean just a few meters away. I spent a few hours either dozing and chain-drinking tea and generally felling good about life. Later that day Doug from Altanta moved into the hut vacated by Wolf. He'd recently retired and taken a year off to ride around the world on his BMW. It was too cold to sit outside so we sat around the table in my hut, finishing off the last of my hip flask and discussing Brexit and how unlikely it was anyone would actually vote for Donald Trump. Mileage for the day - next to nothing.
I awoke feeling very rested and ready to get on the move again. Once fully tea'd up I bid farewell to Ole & Doug, loaded up all my gear and set off towards Tromso, once again picked for no other reason than it looked a reasonable days distance. I passed through Alta again and then followed fjord after fjord. The route to Tromso involved taking two ferries and I arrived at the first one mid-afternoon. There was no ticket office just a notice board with the crossing times. I conferred with the driver of a car, the only other vehicle in the queue and we agreed that the ferry was due in 25 minutes time. Half an hour came and went with no ferry. By this time others had joined the queue and then one woman explained that they had now stopped their summer service so the frequency had been reduced and the next crossing was now another hours wait. I had nothing particular to see in Tromso and I hated standing around so I decided to head back inland to try and find a campsite. I followed the road south but worryingly the next three campsite signs I passed all had red tape crossing our the signs - closed for the season. Incredible that it was still August but there you go. The miles rolled on, it started to rain and I began to feel very tired. My sat nav suggested 60km to the next known camp site (they weren't all on the nav by any means) and I didn't know whether that would be open or not. I pulled in to a lay by for a drink and a munchie bar and saw another Bike parked up and with someone having a smoke. I went over to say hello and realised it was Eddy from Holland, we'd had a brief chat at a fuel stop earlier in the day. I remembered him as his BMW starter had failed so after every stop he was running alongside his bike then jumping on it for a bump start. He had it down to a fine art now. He was looking for a place to wild camp for the night so I decided to join him. It didn't take long to find a fire road into a forest with enough of a clearing for us to pitch. Eddy immediately turned into Bear Grylls and set about collecting and cutting wood for a camp fire. Turns out he'd been wilderness camping in America for months and was pretty used to this kind of stuff. He soon got a good blaze going and we had a brew. He pointed out that my fuel cap was missing from extra rear tank. Damn! I'd fueled up about 15 miles back down the road. With no fuel cap and the steady rain this could be a show stopper so I put my gear on and screamed back to the petrol station. I saw the rubber O ring lying on the floor next to the pump I'd used but there was no sign of the cap itself. It was a nicely machined aluminum lump so I guessed someone had pocketed it. I went inside and performed my best "has anyone handed in a filler cap" mime but the cashier clearly thought I was bonkers. I was thinking I'd have to use Gaffa tape to make a seal when I spotted an emergency fuel cap in the shop. A bargain 30 krone later it proved to be a perfect push fit into the cap and it lasted me all the way home again. I sped off back to our makeshift campsite and had another brew with Eddy whilst we batted away some of the biggest mosquitoes I've ever seen in my life. Eddy has re-assured me that a) bear attack was unlikely and b) if a bear comes along all you do is shoo it away like a dog. Hmmm. Anyway I slept like a log. Later in the trip I had a look back at the gps to find out where we'd actually stayed; the area was called Ånekjerran. Mileage for the day 394.
Eddy and I were both heading south and both had a similar list of places we wanted to visit so it made sense to ride together for a while and see how it went. It made a pleasant change to have someone to confer with and Eddys minuscule bladder and nicotine addiction made sure we stopped at least every hour. On my own I tended to ride until I needed fuel so my journey actually become more relaxing. It felt felt odd to be checking my mirrors for Eddy after each maneuver but I soon dialed into it.
We'd decided to head for the Lofoten Islands, a collective name for a string of small connected islands. There's no centre as such so we aimed for one of the larger towns called Kabelvag. The islands are also home to a town simply called "A" which easily qualifies as the shortest town name in the world. We pulled up in the centre of Kabelvag and filled ourselves up with pizza before taking a look around the shops. Earlier I'd listened to Eddy talking about dried fish being one of the local delicacies so I bought a pack when he wasn't looking, it looked pretty grim. Filled up and fuelled up we headed out of town and within a few yards we saw a sign for a campsite. It seemed to be owned by the Lofoten Harley Davidson Club and the owner kindly gave us discount for being bikers. Pitched a few yards from the lake it was a nice spot. I gave Eddy his dried fish and we both tried a mouthful. It looked exactly like fiberglass matting and we reckoned with a bit of resin you could easily repair a boat with it. It tasted about as nice too, good job it wasn't expensive. Mileage for the day 200.
The next day was Wednesday the 24th - my Silver Wedding Anniversary. To bet the full Lofoten experience we decided to ride all the way to the end of the string of islands and from there try and catch a ferry back to the mainland. We took our time as we had several hours before the boat was due, but also because the scenery was breathtaking and we wanted to get the camera out on almost every bend. It was interesting to see the white sandy beaches, I don't know why but they seemed so unexpected with the rest of the scenery.
Eventually we made it to the ferry port at Moskenes. We still had an hour or so to kill and ether were no facilities in Moskones so we carried on following the coast and found a roadside cafe where we had excellent coffee omelette and cake. I was paying for my meal when I got a tap on the shoulder, I span around to see Wolf grinning at me. He'd spent a couple of days in a hotel in Tromso, driven through Lofoten and was now booked on the ferry as us to the mainland - small world!. We met again on the ferry and enjoyed the sunshine on the deck as we headed away back to the mainland.
I knew I needed to check in with Jo particularly as it was our anniversary but I'd been hanging on to make sure the flowers I pre-booked would have been delivered. I checked Facebook and saw she'd posted some pics of our wedding day so figured I'd risk the call. Sure enough the flowers had been delivered so all was well. The Ferry docked in Bodo in the early evening and we stopped for some Thai food in the town before setting off to find a campsite. It must have been rag week for the students as we watched group after group of kids in fancy dress staggering in and out the bar over the road. The nearest campsite in the town itself turned out to be closed so we carried on inland towards a place called Fauske and found another. It was a nice spot with good views at the mouth of the fjord but the weather was closing in again with dark skies. Mileage for the day 122 plus 3 hours on a ferry.
It lashed it down overnight but it was dry the next morning. We'd pitched next to the communal kitchen area so I got properly tea'd before packing all the kit away. We followed the E6 south passing the through the Saltfjellet national park and crossed back through the Arctic circle again. Unlike the Finland crossing on the E6 there is a huge visitor centre to mark the spot. We stopped for a coffee and bite to eat. We'd been riding up near the snow line and it felt good to be in the warm for a while.
We pressed on south with no real destination in mind but eventually pulled in at a promising looking campsite by a river at a place called Namsskogan. We pitched our tents at a great spot right next to the river and soon got into a conversation with a couple of cyclists. One of them introduced himself as "Monsieur Mont Ventoux" and he told us they'd set off cycling from heel of Italy heading to Nordkapp doing stints of around 500K every day! They had a friend driving a support van that carried their gear and went ahead to set up up brew stops along the way for them. I warned him about the steep cold tunnel just before Nordkapp but I doubted it would really bother him. He asked me to his picture posing by my bike and he gave me a little card with details of his website . I did take the time to look him up when I got back, incredible chap. www.monsieurmontventoux.be After a brew Eddie and I decided to walk to the garage a few yards down the road to stock up on a few provisions for breakfast. On the shelf there was a miniature bottle of brandy so I grabbed that (about £6) thinking it would do to liven up our coffee. Only when I got back did I realise it was alcohol free brandy essence intended for flavouring cakes - Aaaargh! (day total 252 miles)
The next morning started fine and sunny although the inside of my tent contained a large puddle. I'd stupidly left my washkit pressing on the mouthpiece of my camelback and it had emptied itself onto the groundsheet. Fortunately not too much was affected but I stuffed the few wet clothes into the campsite tumble dryer whilst I got tea'd up and packed the rest of the stuff away. Today we had a definite goal in mind - the ride to Hell. I'd seen the place name on the map (near Trondheim) and thought it had to be worth a visit. Unfortunately the weather once again turned grey and by the time we got to Hell it was absolutely lashing down. We still posed for a few photos by the town sign then found a garage for a coffee and a snack. If the weather hadn't been so awful I would have liked to have found the train station, a used ticket to Hell would've been a great momento!
As it was we pushed on through Trondheim and got stuck in some horrendous traffic on the ring road. We weren't too sure what the legalities were with filtering so we tried tentatively nudging our way in-between the traffic until we spotted Norwegian plated bike flying past the jam by just using the hard shoulder. It felt very wrong but we looked at each other, shrugged and did the same. No longer held up we continued south along the E6. After a while it began to feel like we were in Snowdonia as the road cut its way through endless pine forests in the hills. We arrived at a village called Oppdal around 5pm and turned off into a campsite. It was full of static caravans of the type that a motor home can pull alongside and some sort of magic awning joins the motorhome and caravan together to create a large living space. There were also some wooden huts and as it was still raining they appealed more than pitching the tents. We managed to haggle a bargain rate for a hut that was more like a ski lodge, an eight berth two story log cabin that was toasty warm. I sank into the sofa and realised that was the first time I'd sat on anything comfortable for a fortnight. We also has a washing machine and dryer so we cleaned some kit up. Eddy rides in hiking boots which were soaked so he put them tumble dryer which began wobbling around and making a noise like a cement mixer. Once cleaned up we back along the road for a few hundred metres towards a campsite bar we'd clocked on the way in. Going to a bar is not exactly unusual for me but it would be a first for this trip. After much deliberation I opted for a Guinness and Eddy had a pint of Carlsberg. A mere £18 for two beers - jeez. (day total 256 miles)
We woke to glorious sunshine and had a brew looking at the mountains from our balcony. We were both set on riding the Atlantic coast highway today, an amazing series of unlikely looking bridges that span the islands between Vevang and Averoy. One the way I'd convinced Eddy that we should take a detour via the Aursjøvegen gravel road. This is a mountain road from Sunndalsøra in Sunndal district to Eidsvåg in Nesset, about 120km of which 55km is mostly gravel. It was originally built to serve for construction traffic for the Aura power station. It proved to be well worth the extra distance. The main entrance to the track had an unmanned toll booth, As best we could tell it was free for bikes and not having any change we simply rode around the side of the barrier.
Once into the hills the views are spectacular even by Norways standards and we stopped for many photos. It was mix of cloud and sunshine and the ever changing light made the scenery magical. One the gravel sections it felt good to be standing on the pegs again and feeling the bike skitter around a little instead of the steady hum of tarmac.
We finished the trail and after a stop to fill up bikes and bodies we headed towards Kristiansund for the start of the Atlantic Coast Highway. We ended up in a very long tunnel and I thought for a minute we'd taken a wrong turning but then we emerged into the light and saw the toll booth for the bridges that make up the ACH. It is a great bit of road but seemed over all too quickly so we pulled in at the cafe car park and did a U turn to ride it again and make sure we got out moneys worth. It wasn't exactly hard to ride but it was another box ticked.
From there it was a another short stretch of road to Andalsnes where we camped for the night ready for the next days assault on one of the most famous roads; the Trollstigen (Trolls Ladder). (day total 239 miles)
That evening we got on the wi-fi and saw that there was a viewing point from Andelsnes that gave spectacular views across the fjord although it was a good hours hike from our base. In the morning we woke to really thick low cloud and we decided against the platform as we would likely hike all that way and yet be unable to see anything when we got there.
Rather than delay any more we set off to ride the Trollstigen. As as we got nearer the mist began to clear and it made for a really fantastic ride with endless switch back hairpin bends past several waterfalls. At the very top there's a large visitor centre with a great viewing platform and the obligatory shop selling all manner of troll tat. We spoent a while there taking in the view before setting off across the top of the pass towards Geraingfjord.
If anything the ride across the top was even better that the Trollstigen itself, just endless epic scenery and hardly any traffic. Geraingfjord is the image that always comes up first on any guide to Norway and when you get there you see why.
Our route took us right down to the mouth of the Fjord and then back out the other side so coupled with the Trolstigen we were well up on our hairpin quota for the day. We rode together until we joined the main E6 and here we parted company, Eddy wanted to head east to make his way to Oslo and I'd made up my mind that I had to see Bergen. It had been great riding with him for the last few days, he was one of life's positive people that are always upbeat about things. I soon adjusted back to solo mode (not stopping for Eddies fag break every 60 mins) and picked up the pace towards Bergen. My route involved catching a ferry which gave me 20 minutes for a coffee and a twix. I'd rolled on to the ferry behind a Norwegian Biker, chatted to him for most of the journey and only when I rolled off again did I realise I hadn't paid - oops. By now it was around 6pm and the traffic got steadily busier as I picked up the main route into Bergen. I was following my nav to the campsite that seemed to be nearest to the centre, a place that with a nice no-nonsense approach was called Bergen Camp .
Unfortunately Bergen Camp turned out to be pretty grim, it was almost all huts with one tiny strip of grass next to the toilet block for tents. That I could live with but it was also situated next to a very busy truck stop just off the main road and the traffic noise came as quite shock after so many remote campsites. By now I was too tired to look for anything else so I paid for a night (hut again) and crashed out. (day total 275 miles)
I had the usual breakfast of a munchie bar and a cuppa whilst looking at the map. I really wanted to see the centre of Bergen. but it was still around 15K away from the campsite. I debated paying for another night then leaving my gear in the hut and riding in but Mr & Mrs Shouty had moved in next door and that together with the constant truck noise made me decide it was time to move on. I used the free wi-fi whilst I got tea'd up and had a look for somewhere to stop. All of the city centre hotels were £150 plus per night so I tried Airbnb. The first one that came up described a room in a flat with Lucia and her Norwegian Forest Cat so that was me sold (we have two at home). A swift email exchange between fourth and fifth cups of tea and I was booked in. I couldn't get to the address until 2pm so I set off towards to harbour to get my bearings and check out where I'd need to be for the Ferry the next day. I saw a few bikes parked up on a pedestrianised area outside a police office so I left my bike next to them and had a quick stroll around, at least as far as I could comfortably walk with all my bike gear on. I assumed there was no permit needed but I'd longed stopped worrying about parking tickets. After a superb coffee and cake stop I went in search of Lucia. She lived on an narrow street with no parking but I managed to squeeze my bike into her neighbors car port. She was very welcoming and gave me a tourist map with a quick sketch of the places she thought most worth a visit. There was a funicular railway from the centre to the top of Mount Floyen that had caught my eye. The weather was great so I decided to hike up through a park to the top and then take the funicular railway down into the city. The views from the top were superb and well worth the steep climb.
I took the railway enjoying the steep drop down into the city and had a "Motorbreath" burger at a Rock Bar before exploring further. There is a section of the old wharf is called the Bryggen, now a world heritage centre as its wooden buildings date back to the 1700s. Its packed with artists studios and craft shops with everything priced somewhere north of eye-watering. I'm sure they do very well from the steady stream of cruise ships but I limited myself to buying a bottle of water. Bergen has a lovely feel to it, there are endless shops and enticing places to eat and drink, if only everything wasn't so expensive.
After a few hours I stopped off at a supermarket to stock up on munchie bars and nibbles then headed back to the flat to look at my route. I'd decided that I was going to push for home now. I would have loved the ride further south towards Stavanger and hike up to Pulpit Rock but I was increasingly conscious of how long I'd been away from my family and my work. I was also conscious of the ever changing weather and that if I did ride to Stavanger and the weather closed in then one extra day could easily turn into another three or four. The best option seemed to be to take the ferry from Bergen to Hirtshals in Denmark then ride back through Germany to Rotterdam and from there another overnight ferry back to Hull. As I'd got enough the time and the wi-fi I decided to book the Bergen ferry on-line. It was an overnight crossing but rather than the usual cabin option it told me I had a "air seat". It didn't make much sense but was the only option so I booked it anyway. I watched a bit BBC news, the first TV I'd seen for over two weeks but after five minutes I decided I didn't miss it at all. The next day the rain was back with a vengeance. My ferry check in wasn't until twelve and it was only a ten minute ride so I hung around in the warm as long as possible. Lucia works as a chef for one of the restaurants in town and she made me a fantastic breakfast. She also persuaded me to try some "brunost", a Norwegian brown cheese eaten with jam. For most of my journey I'd been eating on the hoof every day usually at fuel stations and not had much chance to try any local specialties.
Feelling very full I loaded up my gear and set off into the rain. At the ferry check in there was a fair old queue and I was glad I'd booked as the ferry was full and the biker in front of me that had turned up on spec was turned away. I asked about the "air seat" and was told that there were no cabins but I would be able to sleep in my air seat. The ticket showed a picture of someone on an almost flat chair. When I'd made my way to the designated area I discovered that air seat was quite literal, its a room full of ryanair type seats with about as much legroom. It was also rammed with mostly drunk German backpackers. We were due to arrive in Hirtshals at 8am and I wanted a decent nights kip to be fresh for a full days riding but this didn't look very promising. I went down to the info desk and asked if there'd been any cancellations but no, definitely no cabins. I invested £5 in a miniature of Jagermeister, necked it and then lay down on the floor of the (now closed) top deck restaurant. That was a rough night. I woke up (not sure I ever actually went to sleep) full of aches and pains and treated myself an omelette and a huge coffee before making my way down several decks to the bike. I unfastened all the ratchet straps and told the sat nav to make tracks for Rotterdam. It was cold and foggy In Hirtshals but that began to clear as I got further south and the sun broke through. I crossed the border into Germany in what seemed like no time at all, it caught me a little by surprise. I'd originally thought that, at just over 1000km, Rotterdam would be impossible on a one day stint, but as I watched the remaining distance ticking down I began to wonder. The clouds had disappeared and by the time I'd reached Hamburg it was feeling very warm. Unfortunately in Hamburg the entire motorway network had ground to a halt. I filtered through as much as I could to keep moving but the lanes were narrow and it was hard work to keep my luggage clear of the cars mirrors. Eventually I cleared through the jam and the traffic began to flow a little better but my Nav now suggested an 8pm arrival at Rotterdam. The last possible check-in for the (unbooked) ferry was 7:30 so that was out of the frame for now. I pressed on through a featureless strip of Germany until another set of roadworks slowed everything to a crawl again. By now it was about 5:30 and I'd suddenly had enough of riding. I pulled off at the next exit and ignoring the bollocking from my Sat nav I just follwed the road North. It felt good to be moving but I'd actual no idea where I was, the downside of blindly following a sat nav. I pulled into a bus stop lay-by and tried my phone for "nearest accommodation" which informed me there was a hotel just 2km away - that would do. Sure enough two left turns later I'd pulled up in front of the very welcome looking Hotel Lansdstrup I squeaked my way into reception (very dusty bike boots) and asked if there were any rooms available. Yes said the receptionist and added almost apologetically that it would be 35 euro per night or 42 euro with breakfast., Fantastic! I'd been conditioned in to paying that for a campsite pitch. She showed me to my room, oh the luxury of pillows and my own shower! Once cleaned up I hit the bar and re-discovered the joy of a beer for less than £9 a pint. I had an excellent blue cheese schnitzel with several more beers and slept like a log. Day total 450 miles.
I woke up to a glorious cloudless sky and plotted a route over breakfast. It was only 300km to Rotterdam and I didn't need to be there until 7pm so I was looking for something of interest en route. I decided to take a look at The Hague, a place whose name I'd heard many times on the news but about which I knew very little. I arrived at The Hague around lunchtime and the city centre traffic was jammed solid with traffic and temporary lights for roadworks added to the chaos. The city was a mix of modern skyscrapers and older gabled buildings, a little like Amsterdam with wider streets. It was once again very hot and I headed down a couple of side streets to get away from the jams and pulled up under a tree alongside a canal. My map showed me to be a short distance from the centre but for the first time in a long while I felt a bit nervous about leaving my bike unattended. I had a munchie bar and a red bull from my back pack and thought I'd try and ride a little closer to the centre. As I got nearer the streets all contained tram lines. I really dislike riding on these as I can't read any of the road signs and it seems inherently wrong to ride along a street onto which a trams can appear at random. I did what I usually do in such situations and glued myself onto someone else's bumper. I followed them wherever they went and hoping they were also heading towards the centre. Fortunately they were, and I pulled away on to a pedestrianised area rammed with bars and cafes. I parked my bike alongside hundreds of others and had some food at a cafe where I could still just about keep eyes on it. It was very pleasant watching the world go by and there seemed to be a real mix of accents and languages.
By it was now mid-afternoon and I thought I'd start winding my way back out of the centre and heading over to Rotterdam. As I began the final leg towards the ferry terminal it all got rather depressing, riding past mile after mile of container docks and petrochem plants it made the open wonder of Norway seem like another planet.
I arrived at the terminal with plenty of time to spare but there were was already a sizeable queue building up. I pulled up behind three 1950s Matchless motorcycles on their way back from a rally in Poland. Once past the annoyance of passport control (annoying because gloves off , helmet off, big smile, helmet on, gloves on always takes longer than it should) I rolled on to the ferry, strapped the bike down for the last time and headed to dump my stuff in the cabin. After another over-priced bite to eat and quick flit around duty free I once again resisted the lure of the caberet act and got my head down. Mileage for the day was a mere 230 but with all the hot city centre riding in The Hague it felt like I'd done a lot more. The next morning was uneventful, no delay getting off the boat and after a brief "whoaaah" moment on the wrong (right!) side of the road I picked up the M62 and headed for home. This last leg was 96 miles making a trip total of 4645 miles.
Quick summary:- Things I did/bought that I was really glad about. 1) Extra Fuel Tank. The KTM usually runs twin exhausts but I fitted a two-into-one conversion to run with a right hand silencer only, and then a company called Metmachex (Alfreton Derbyshire) made me a custom fuel tank to fit into the vacated space on the left. This gave me an extra 6.5 litres of fuel and extended the range to 200 miles between fill ups. Not only that, even when full of fuel the bike is still 7kgs lighter overall than it is with the twin factory fit exhausts. 2) Proper waterproof riding gear. I used a Raiden DKR jacket and Klim Overland trousers. Both were excellent and kept me bone dry even through torrential rain. 3) USB jump start battery pack. I kept this in my tank bag and charged it from the 12v supply when riding. The one I have will still give a USB charge output even when its being charged itself so I ran another lead from this to power my phone on a handlebar mount. When I set up camp I had a fully charged pack that would recharge my camera, headset and so on and if needed could even jump start the bike.