It was time to leave our sunny pocket universe tucked away inside rainy Norway. I checked the forecast and the minute we leave Storfjord, we're going to get dumped on. Outside of this place, I think we've had maybe two days of good weather the entire two weeks we've been here. Typical RideDOT.com.
Suiting up for another rainy ride. Going through a lot of plastic bags to keep my feet dry.
Today is exciting though. We're on our way to Nordkapp (North Cape in English). It's the northern-most point in Europe, marking our last days in Norway and the mid-point of our journey through Scandinavia. Nordkapp, like Deadhorse and Ushuaia is kind of a bucketlist item for overland travelers.
Wet ride to the very top of Europe
The coastal road takes us through some undramatic scenery compared to the Lofoten Islands.
All there seems to be this far north are road, rocks and water.
These racks are called hjell, they're used in the spring months to dry cod
We see these drying racks everywhere while riding along the coast in Norway. The fish is dried in the cold spring air, the temperature just warm enough to avoid freezing the fish but cold enough to ward off bacteria and insects. Looks like it would make for a quick tent.
The weather gets drier the closer we get to the most northern point in Europe
We see tons of reindeer along the side of the road. This is moulting season, so their fur is falling off.
I think this is the first time that we've seen reindeer in the wild! Very cool! There are about 200,000 of them in Northern Norway. They're raised by the indigenous Sami people who used them for their meat, pelts and antlers, and to sell them to jolly, fat men in red suits.
Inukshuk on the side of the road, heading towards Nordkapp. The sun is still high in the sky despite it being 10PM
Although the inukshuk is a Canadian Inuit symbol, the teepee isn't. We've seen lots of teepees and related pictures and signs while traveling through the north and at first, I thought it was just North American kitsch that the Norwegians were borrowing. But actually, the native Sami people live in similar cone-shaped huts called lavvu.
Monument at Nordkapp at the end of the world. Well, at least one end of it...
Nordkapp is basically just a very expensive parking lot. It's $30USD per person just to enter the premises, which consists of a huge parking lot and a visitors centre. We sat through the panoramic movie screening which was interesting, but the diorama displays inside the centre were poor and embarrassing. Most people just come to see the sunset.
It's so cold and windy up here. We had to put on all our layers and we alternated from hanging around the monument and then ducking inside the vistor centre to warm up. I think it's so windy because of the lack of any mountains at the very north coast.
Since we arrived at Nordkapp around 10:30PM, we had over an hour to kill before "sunset", so we goofed around a bit
This is the second time we've ridden to the very northern reaches of a continent. The last time was when we trekked up the Dalton Road to Deadhorse, Alaska. What a different ride that was through the muck and mud. Norway's road to the Arctic Ocean is pretty much paved all the way, but it is still quite a long journey to travel from the rest of Europe. The distance from Copenhagen (the gateway to Scandinavia) and Nordkapp is 2,400 kms! That's almost half-way across Canada.
Nordkapp is actually further north than Deadhorse, Alaska. Just over 100 kms closer to the North Pole.
Got so bored, I brought my motorcycle out from the parking lot and rode around the monument a few times
Nordkapp is a popular tourist destination because a lot of people want to say they've traveled as far north as they could in continental Europe. But also, this spot is where you can catch the last Polar Day (24 hours of daylight) on the continent. It just worked out that this was the actual last day in 2015! We totally did not plan that, but when we found out, we were very excited to see it!
As you can tell, so were a lot of other people.
Over an hour of waiting and loitering around, the moment is almost here! Neda waits with excited anticipation!
It was a few minutes before midnight, and the sun was slowly sinking towards the horizon, turning the sky around it a deep shade of orange. But rather than disappearing from view and letting darkness slowly creep over the land, it halted its downward path right at the moment it touched the water and at the stroke of midnight, reversed direction to start climbing the sky again. Wow, that was cool!
Sunrise at 12:01AM. And there it is: the last day of the 24 hours of daylight in 2015
With the show over, we headed back to our campsite just a few kms away. There was a bit of traffic on the road back, because everyone else was leaving as if a concert or a baseball game just let out.
Back at our campsite just outside of Skarsvag
This picture was taken around 1AM. This sun's been up for an hour already! Well, technically it never set, so really it's been up since May 14th... Isn't that crazy?
I'm so surprised that Neda is not only wide awake but practically wired at this time of day (night?). Normally she starts turning into a pumpkin around 10PM and is fully asleep by 11. It's amazing how attuned she is to the sun. Unlike me, my normal sleep time is consistently around 2-3AM regardless of the time of year or where the sun is. But the minute Neda puts on her eye mask she is fast asleep.
So I work a little bit on another blog entry in the campsite's kitchen before turning in. We've been constantly on the move over the last few weeks that it's left me with little time to edit pictures and write, so the blog is falling very far behind!
We wake up very late the next day and everyone's left. We're the only ones in the campsite!
We're at no risk of running out of daylight up here, which suits us just fine because we like to dawdle in the mornings. However, this isn't going to last. Nowhere to go but south now and I'm not looking forward to the days getting shorter. At least it's finally sunny!
Deserted cabins at our campsite. These were expensive to rent out.
We rode into Skarsvag for a little bit to check out the town. Typical fishing village, but it has the distinction of being the northern-most one!
We got so close! And the antlers are so furry! Cute!
Did you know male reindeers shed their antlers as well as their fur during moulting season? Their antlers grow back for the winter and get bigger every year the older they are. You can tell these antlers are already in their growing phase because they're covered with fur called velvet, which feeds nutrients to the growing bone underneath. Once the antlers grow to full size, the velvet is no longer needed and falls off.
Curious reindeers interrupt their feeding to check up on us
They decide that we're not a threat and go back to eating to feed their growing antlers. Beautiful creatures!
We are scheduled to make a date-sensitive border crossing in a few days. Unfortunately while we were at Nordkapp I realized that I misremembered the date and it was actually six days later than I thought. Normally six days more time is not a bad problem to have, but because I got the date wrong, we were rushing through Norway a lot faster than Neda had planned. She wanted to enjoy the nature and do some hiking but all we did was ride and ride for two weeks.
I reminded her that the weather was crappy, she couldn't have hiked anyway.
Apparently it's not really an apology if it starts with a "But" and ends with "anyway"...
At least the weather has gotten a lot nicer
We're traveling south through Finland and the scenery is the same homogeneous boreal forest that you find all over Canada and Scandinavia. It's a long ride back to mainland Europe, but we have lots of time, as I'm reminded constantly.
During this time on the road, the squabbles and arguments bubble up again over the communicator. We've been looking forward to riding Norway the entire year and Neda is still upset that she didn't get to spend more time camping and hiking. There is a huge misunderstanding about leaving Lofoten earlier than she wanted. I thought she wanted to leave, she thought I wanted to leave. So we left and that wasn't what either of us wanted.
Neda is angrier than I've ever seen her this entire trip. That makes me feel very defensive over what I thought was an honest mistake. Plus I'm also feeling under-appreciated for all the work I put in planning the next stage of our trip.
Nothing is getting resolved. It's just better if we drop it and continue our ride.
At least the groceries and camping are less expensive in Finland.
I'll be honest with you. I don't know what kind of meat this is. I only bought it cause I thought the name was funny...
It sounds like something you would say to a baby when you are tickling them.
Pulling into our first campsite outside of Ivalo, Finland
Raining the next day.
From Ivalo, we head down the main highway that passes through Rovaniemi. This is where the Arctic Circle runs through Finland, so we take a break from riding and pull into the visitor's centre there.
Much more commercial than Norway
I'm so surprised at how developed Arctic Scandinavia is compared to North America. Maybe the weather is milder in this part of the world, but they've made more use of their land north of the Arctic Circle than we have. In Canada, 75% of our population live within 100 miles of the US border. Not that we're getting ready to do something. Yet...
Stepping over the Arctic Circle in Finland
And then back on the road towards Oulu. The scenery is still the same. We start arguing once again about having to leave Norway early.
You know how when you're fighting, sometimes it gets so heated that one person walks out and slams the door, or hangs up the phone? Well the equivalent here is switching off the comms when the other person is talking...
We have almost a week to kill before we can cross the border. So we attempt to get some regular maintenance done on our bikes at the dealership in Oulu. We've always just showed up at the service centre and have always gotten an appointment immediately. However here, they are busy for the next three weeks. The service manager helps us by calling around to the other dealerships in Finland and everyone is booked solid. We can't even make productive use of all this time we have on our hands.
We find a campsite in Oulu and during that time, we don't really say much to one another.
With the midnight sun far behind us, the nights are getting darker now.
Waiting it out in our campsite at Oulu, at least the weather is warmer
After about a week in Oulu, we pack up and head to Savonlinna. It's here that we have a final knock-down, drag-out fight to end our time in Scandinavia.
This is more than a simple argument about forgetting dates and we both know it. You don't argue about something that trivial for an entire week. We are not enjoying the trip anymore and the stress of having a schedule and rushing to meet dates is taking its toll on us after over three years of constant travel. I think all this stress started before we went to Toronto at the beginning of the summer. We had to rush through Central Europe to catch our flight back, it was busy and hectic while we were overseas, and then once we were back here we had to rush through Norway because of the border date (yes, the one I got wrong).
To make matters worse, we are heading into a part of the world that requires visas and carnets at every crossing, with entry and exit dates carved in stone. So the dates and deadlines would only get tighter and more strict from hereon. We've always traveled when we wanted to and on our own schedule, but this won't be possible anymore when we travel though the countries in the Middle East and Central Asia. Just thinking about trying to stick to all those dates made our stress levels skyrocket.
Part of me is very embarrassed that we've turned into the non-committal kind of people that cringe with visible distress at the sight of dates on a calendar. Has all of this freedom spoiled us that much?
This is supposed to be fun and it most obviously isn't anymore. It's not worth the time or the damage to our relationship. So after much talk, we finally discussed the possibility that this trip might be over.
And as soon as we both acknowledged this, an immense weight seemed to be lifted off of our shoulders. A weight that we've been carrying for a few months now. Perhaps we were trying too hard to hang on to something that should have been finished quite some time ago.
The only problem is that we're not sure where home is anymore. Our trip back to Toronto confirmed that we don't really want to move back into the city. Maybe somewhere outside of it. Don't know. These are still things we have to talk about.
So the current situation is that we have a couple of appointments we have to keep - dates that we had planned months ago. But the plan now is that after we've finished with those appointments, we would not make any further arrangements to continue our trip and in the meantime give some serious consideration about where we would end up.
Okay, so we're feeling better about things, so we resume our sightseeing
I know we've missed out on a lot in Southern Finland because neither of us really felt like doing any sightseeing. But now that we've got some of our issues resolved, we try to make the most of it before moving on.
I have enjoyed y'alls travels but all things must come to an end especially so if it is impacting y'alls relationship. Perhaps though its just a much needed intermission before the next chapter begins.