Been keeping up with your travels and am still thrilled to read them after following along for almost a year now.
Your recent trips remind me of the Sea to Sky Highway here near Squamish.
Stay safe and happy riding, ehh !
It dipped to single digits last night, and we were dreading what kind of weather we'd see when we woke up. But in the morning, we strained to hear the patter of rain on the tent. A look outside confirms it. No rain!!! It's still fairly cool out, so we'll have to continue wearing our rainsuits, but I can sense this will be a good day for travel.
What better way to start off the day than with a brisk ferry ride - Afanes to Solsnes. We get the top level all to ourselves!
View from our perch on the ferry. Cloudy, but at least it's dry!
Today we're going to spend some time on the Atlantic Road. It's only an 8-km stretch of road right along the Atlantic coast (duh) that's supposed to run through some quaint Norwegian seaside villages. The scenic route is really out of the way, our GPS keeps wanting to route us back to the main highway, so we follow the clearly marked tourist signs that point us to the "Atlantic Way".
The village of Kyststi is so small, I couldn't find it on Google Maps
Then I found out that Kyststi means "coastal road" in Norwegian... Silly me. I feel kind of ashamed that we've learned no Norwegian words while we're here. But in our defense, everyone speaks English!
Neda finds a small grocery store in Bud, which is a town at the start of the Atlantic Road and I go exploring the tiny village by myself and to take some pictures.
Absolutely no one around, so I park wherever I want.
Fishing boats go out for the day
I return to the grocery store to rendez-vous with Neda. We took turns updating each other. I was showing her my pictures and she was telling me how super-expensive the groceries were. She revealed to me the most outrageously priced item that she saw - a single red pepper that they were asking for €6! WHAT? I know they don't grow these in Norway and they have to import them in, but seriously, $10 for one red pepper?!?
I know how much Neda likes red peppers so I check the grocery bag. No red peppers. *phew*
Other motorcyclists out enjoying the Atlantic Ocean Road
I think by Norwegian law, you have to paint your boathouses rust-red. There is a hefty fine if you don't - they make you buy a bag of red peppers.
Towards the northern end of the Atlantic Ocean Road is one of the more popular sights in Norway. It's a run of eight bridges that link the tiny islands together so tourists can continue traveling along the coast. You've probably seen the dramatic photo of the Atlantic waves in the autumn hitting one of the more peculiarly shaped bridges on this road:
Famous picture of one of the bridges on the Atlantic Ocean Road - taken from the Internet
This is the first bridge to the south and it's the one that everyone knows about - the Storseisunbrua Bridge. It's been written up as "the most dangerous bridge in the world", "both terrifying and awe-inspiring", "Its treacherous twists and turns, perched just above the Atlantic's unpredictable waters, make a casual drive feel like a roller coaster ride".
Well, if it's that dangerous, we *MUST* go and ride over it...
Oooh, looks like a pretty cool ride from here
So Neda, are you ready to ride "The Most Dangerous Bridge in the World"?
I want to make sure we capture this on video, so all my cameras are ready. We approach from the south, and I ready the contents of my stomach for the dramatic twist and swoop down the northern side... that never came. What?!? Where is it? Where's the drop, swoop and danger?!?
Turns out the famous picture of Storseisunbrua is a bit of an optical illusion to make it seem more dangerous and dramatic than it really is. It's a forced perspective taken at a very specific angle. When you're actually driving over it, it's kind of boring. Don't take my word for it, here's the onboard video:
Oh yeah, many people have asked me how I take those riding shots with my point-and-shoot camera. Well, now you know.
The after picture from the northern side. Welp... not so dramatic after all...
After all the hype and marketing, we were very disappointed. But before leaving, I at least wanted to get a shot of the bridge from that famous, forced perspective. It turns out you have to hike over the road barriers almost out to the waters edge. Fishermen were lined on the steep shores, and that seemed way more dangerous than the bridge itself.
*bah* The hike was too far. It turns out I didn't care so much about getting a shot of the bridge
and the fishermen were far more interesting...
More fishermen along the Atlantic Ocean Road, risking a terrifying death-plunge into the frigid waters of the awe-inspiring Atlantic Ocean below!!!
Death! Danger! Fishing! My heart can't stand it!!!
We actually rode further north to the other bridges in the Atlantic Ocean Road just to make sure we didn't miss anything. The other bridges are even more boring than Storseisunbrua. What a complete waste of time. We got off the coastal road and made a bee-line for the highway.
After exhausting most of the tourist attractions in southern Norway, the plan is to head far, far north now. We stopped for the evening at a campsite just outside of Trondheim and called it an early day. The next morning brought us considerably less sunshine for our long trek north. We spent about 8 hours on the highway, enduring frigid temperatures and riding through on-and-off again rain. What made us feel even more miserable is the knowledge that the rest of Europe is currently experiencing a heat wave. Neda's sister in Milan messaged us to tell us that it almost hit 40°C there the other day. And it's 10°C here.
What the hell are we doing here?
We stopped in Mo i Rana, about 500 kms north of Trondheim. We're just too cold and tired to carry on, so we stopped in a shopping mall to warm up. We sat in the food court with all of our rain clothes drying on the chairs around us. And we didn't buy anything. Such sorry hobos we are. I looked around and wondered silently if we could hide in the mall overnight and sleep there. It was so warm and dry...
Well, we couldn't stay there forever, what with mall security giving us the evil eye. With all the rain-riding that we've done, Neda ran out of chain lube a long time ago and we've been checking all the gas stations and stores in all the small towns that we've ridden through without any success. It's kind of worrying her since this was a new chain and she wanted to take care of it. Turns out Mo i Rana was a large enough town that we managed to find some chain lube at a gas station near the mall. The price for a small can? $40 CDN. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?! It's like $10 back home for a much larger can...
So we begrudgingly buy a $40 can of chain lube. After forking over the cash, I felt like I needed the lube for something other than a motorcycle chain...
Our spirits are lifted about an hour north of Mo i Rana
I don't have many pictures of the long, rainy ride up Norway's main highway. But now we've arrived at a very special place: The Arctic Circle! The elevation of the road is much higher here and the vegetation is sparse amongst all the unmelted snow patches on the barren ground. But amidst all of this emptiness is a large building and monument marking the imaginary line of latitude.
The Arctic Circle is the line on earth where anything north of it is able to experience 24 hours of daylight (on Jun 21st) or 24 hours of darkness (on Dec 21st). Even though we are well past the summer solstice, we've noticed that the sun has lingered higher in the sky a lot later than it usually did even compared to yesterday, 600 kms to the south. These pictures were taken around 8PM and it was like it was the middle of the day.
There's something really profound about crossing lines of latitude. You become acutely aware that you're actually crawling on the face of a globe instead of a flat 2D map. And to cross the Arctic Circle so close to the summer solstice and to see the effect that it this has on the path of the sun - you can imagine the Earth tilting through its seasons as it completes its annual orbit. It really places you in a larger, celestial context.
There are a couple of other monuments here at the Arctic Circle centre
We're a bit refreshed, mentally and physically, after crossing the Arctic Circle, as if an imaginary line of latitude has imbued us with some kind of spiritual energy to continue on. It's getting fairly late now and we have to find a campsite close to Bodø, where we're going to catch a ferry early tomorrow morning. We're feeling like maybe we should wildcamp for the night. Why spend the money to put up a tent for 8 hours when we could do it for free?
So on the way to Bodø, we keep an eye out for a spot to pitch a tent out of the way of the main road.
On the way to Bodø. The sun has been threatening to set on us for hours now!
Turns out that there weren't any suitable places to pitch a tent. I think too many people have the same idea as us - to try to wildcamp between the Arctic Circle and the next major town up, so they've made it intentionally difficult to do so. Two hours later, we arrive in Bodø and we have to camp anyway. Oh well.
Over 700kms today. Over 14 hours on the road. We're cold and tired. It's 11:30PM and the sun *STILL* hasn't set!
So strange. We're on the other side of the summer solstice and the sun is setting later and later the further north we go.
After checking in at our campsite in Bodo, we pitch our tent around midnight. Even though it's still bright out, we try our best not to make any noise lest we disturb the other campers around us who are surely asleep at this time of night, er day...? Eventually the sun dips below the horizon as we settle into our sleeping bags. But it didn't stay there. Three short hours later, it was back up in the sky, casting an otherworldly glow against our tent wall as if an alien spacecraft were landing beside us. Go away, Sun. We're trying to sleep!!!
In the morning, we paid for our 8 hour patch of grass rental and headed back out on the road. Part of the reason we are up this far north in Norway is to visit the Lofoten Islands. It's kind of neat how we found out about it. Our guide in Lyon France, Jean-Jacques, put us in touch with his friend in Sweden, and he recommended to us that we visit this archipelago in the north. I love how our random interactions with people we meet along the way influence the direction of our travels!
These days, everyday starts off with a ferry ride! This one is much bigger than the ones we normally take!
Most of our ferry rides through the southern fjordlands of Norway have been hop-on-hop-off affairs, none lasting more than 15-20 minutes. However the ferry from Bodo to the western tip of the Lofoten Islands is three hours long, so we have some more time to nap on the boat!
Wow! Those mountains, though...!
We roll off the ferry in the early afternoon and the weather in Lofoten is just as overcast and gloomy as the mainland we just left. However, we are immediately impressed by the tall, imposing mountains around us. Most of the mountainsides are so steep, they look like some monster has bitten through the crust of the earth from the inside and left their teeth sticking up through the landscape.
Although the geography here was shaped by the same glaciers that cut the fjords in southern Norway, these Lofoten mountains are like the fjordlands on steriods - higher, more craggy, intensely foreboding and dramatic against the cloudy sky! No wonder we have to take a ferry here. One does not simply walk to Lofoten...
The first island we land on is the Moskenes. It's the western-most tip of the Lofoten archipelago and from there we start making our way east. But we don't get very far before we have to stop and explore the very pretty town of Reine, which has arrested our journey just less than 5 kms from where the ferry let us off. It's going to be a very long day. But since the sun sets around midnight, we have the time...
Red buildings? Must be boathouses. Wouldn't want to be fined a bag of red peppers now!
Reine is a pretty fishing village with a very impressive backdrop of Mordor-like mountains behind it. Unfortunately the main peak is obscured by these damn low-lying clouds but it's still quite a sight nonetheless! There's supposed to be some really good hiking in the mountains around Lofoten, but thankfully for me it's so wet and gloomy that Neda doesn't bring it up. *phew*
Some boat construction going on around Reine
More beautiful scenery as we ride further North/East through Lofoten
E10 is the main road that runs through Lofoten, but we're taking our time to explore all the little roads that run off it towards the coast on both sides. On the next island over, Flakstadoya, we found a quaint fishing village called Nusfjord on the southern coast. It's advertised as the oldest and most preserved fishing village in Norway. However, we found a whole bunch of other villages which also make that claim, so we're taking that with a grain of Atlantic Sea salt.
Nusfjord, one of many old fishing villages on Lofoten Island
What Neda would look like if she were a Norwegian fisherman
Walking around Nusfjord
A collection of fish heads drying on the rails in Nusfjord. Adds atmosphere...
Walking around all these fishing villages really reminded me of the Maritime provinces in Canada, especially Newfoundland. When I mentioned this to Neda, she replied, "How do you think Norwegians feel when you're constantly comparing their country to Northern Ontario, Vancouver Island, New Zealand, Iceland and now Newfoundland?"
"Well, hopefully they're not that overly sensitive about things that don't matter. You know, like how Torontonians are..."
Most expensive boathouses in the world
No, they weren't expensive to build, but they are expensive to sleep in! In Lofoten, these fishermen's cabins (called Rorbu) have been renovated and furnished to accommodate tourists. Recently, they've become quite a trendy thing to rent out for vacations. Just for fun, I checked out how much they cost: $260/night for a single, $350/night for a double. Of course it would cost that much. Of course.
I just hope they leave a bag of bloody red peppers on the pillow every evening for that price...
As we were leaving Nusfjord, it started raining. It's pretty cold out so we're wearing our rainsuits anyway, but still it's a bit of a bummer because this place must be beautiful when the skies are cloudless and blue! Although the islands that make up the Lofoten chain are pretty small (ranging from 20-70kms long), we are stopping fairly often, so it's getting late in the day. However, the omnipresent Arctic summer sun fools us into thinking its much earlier than it is.
Our next stop is to the tiny village of Eggum which is on the north coast of the next island in the Lofoten chain, Vestvagoya. Neda is planning all the routes and destinations in Norway and she said there were some ruins that we could visit here.
These are the remains of a WWII German radar station. It was built in 1944 to monitor the Russians at Murmansk, just across the Finnish border. These days, the area has become quite a popular hiking destination, with the old radar station used as a meet up point. As you can tell it's raining fairly steadily now, so hiking is the last thing we want to do. Thank Odin!
Walking around the radar station. We keep our helmets on so we don't get wet.
I have no idea what we were talking about here, but usually when Neda does this,
she's normally saying to me: "Come on, it's not *THAT* far away!"
Inside the ruins are presumably the remains of the radar station. The electricity was powered by a petrol-driven generator
You can also camp at Eggum, but we don't. Lots more to see in Lofoten.
It's a pity the tops of the mountains are obscured by the clouds, they must be majestic! We're off to the next island, Ausvagoya! At least the islands are close enough that we don't have to take ferries, everything's connected via short bridges.
Well we've been in Norway for over a week and a half now, so here are some peculiar things we've noted (besides the most expensive red peppers in the world):
There are a chit-ton of Tesla cars here. Literally, one in every four cars is a Tesla Model S. What is up with that?
I got a chance to Google it, one of the first links led to this fact: "Tesla Sells More Model S EVs In Norway Than Ford Sells Everything". It is the best-selling car in the country. You know the Norwegians are filthy rich when the best selling vehicle in the country is a $90,000 car. What the what?!? Like the Saudis, I heard that when their Model S breaks down, they drive it out into the fjordlands to abandon it and just go to the Tesla dealership to pick up another with the loose change they have in their pocket. Then they go to the grocery store to buy a bag of red peppers to feed to the birds outside.
Damn oil barons...
Me, trying to fit in, pretending to be a rich Norwegian. Hope I don't blow up my gas tank...
So apparently, besides Norwegians being filthy rich, they pride themselves for being environmentally friendly (ironic, yet commendable for an oil-producing nation). Plus the government has set up a sovereign wealth fund from all the oil money and subsidizes the purchases of electric cars. Citizens get an income tax deduction *and* they pay a lot less sales tax if they buy an electric car.
But they're *STILL* $90,000 cars!
Neda poses for the camera
Not just in Norway, but all over Europe there are these photo radar cameras set up at the side of the road. Apparently they only snap pictures from the front, and because we're motorcyclists, there is no front plate to record. So every opportunity we get, we zoom by those cameras at perhaps slightly more than posted limit and give the operators some interesting poses to look at. I've been told there are newer cameras that take pictures from the front *and* the back, but our license plates are Canadian, so I'm sure we're immune to those to.
At least I hope so, otherwise there'll be a ton of speeding tickets waiting for us back in Canada!
We've set a pretty blistering pace (at least for our standards) over the last 10 days, riding almost every day. We normally never do that, but Norway is too expensive for us to stay put for any length of time. However, we're feeling a little drained, so we've booked three nights at this nice campsite we found just outside of Skibotn back on mainland Norway. This area seems to have a weird microclimate, a pocket of clear, dry weather perhaps because it's in a valley surrounded by large mountains. Nice place to be for a few days.
Our campsite in Storfjord. Picture could have been taken at 12PM or 12AM...
We got to know our Finnish neighbours Jana and Janni a little bit. They come to Storfjord every summer and they said that the weather last year and the year before was beautiful and sunny. It's just that for some reason this year was very rainy. We both looked at the ground guiltily...
We're up so far north that after sunset the sun stays just barely below the horizon so it still manages to light up the sky all night. I'm a night owl and it's so strange roaming around the campgrounds and not being able to tell if it's 4AM or 4PM, other than the fact that I'm the only one walking around.