Published: July 12th 2008July 10th 2008
Well the trip is now over. I'm back in Dundee and procastinating over preparations for a move to Edinburgh and the start of a new job on monday.
My trip back home with coach, train and plane was incredibly hitch-free. I woke up on time from my hostel in Kabelvag (hard not to with my alarm set to Fight for Your Right to Party by Beastie Boys - it gives me heart palpitations when it goes off). I didn't fall back to sleep. I ate a nice breakfast. I got the bike ready for the 5km into Svolvaer. My bike didn't get a puncture or anything on the way. I found the bus stop. The bus arrived and despite everyone skipping the queue there was plenty of room for me and my bike. The driver didn't seem to notice I had a bike (yeah thanks for the help putting it into the back) so I didn't tell him and didn't have to pay the ridiculous fee for transporting it. The bus arrived on time in Narvik. The train station was woefully small and unmanned with noone there to collect ticket, confirm I could get my bike on. When the train
arrived 10 minutes before departure time I quickly dumped my 5 bags in the coach where my sleeper compartment was and attracted the attention of the passing head guard. 'Where should I put my bike?'. 'Sorry we can't take bikes on the train. We're not allowed to.' My heart sank a little, but I'd somehow expected this. I put on my best pitiful voice, and she said 'Well you better go down and speak to the staff down at the restaurant coach.' I knew this was tantamount to 'You can put it on, but I'm washing my hands of all responsibility.' In the end the very friendly sub-guard guy got me and the bike on the back coach (which had been locked up and was completely unused). I'm not sure if the fact that I had bought an expensive ticket (1st class sleeper) had worked in my favour, but well I had got it on and I could relax all the way to Stockholm. The sleeper rooms were a bit cramped (i was lucky i didn't have to share my room) so I spent the daytime in the 2nd class chatting with a young Mexican guy called Juan. He was
very friendly and kept giving me gifts (i reciprocated with food) he'd made like a mayan necklace and a mexican wind whistle thing. Time passed quickly trundled away from the Atlantic to Riksgransen then Kiruna passing many an iron ore freight train on the way and picking up and dropping off lots of happy-looking swedish hikers too. The scenery changed a lot more slowly, the tree-clad mountains slowly turning into tree-clad hills to tree-clad flat with the odd lake interspersed. Come 11 I was ready for the sack and retreated to my surprisingly comfortable berth.
In the morning on arrival in Stockholm I had a quick coffee at the station before catching the changing of the guards at the royal palace. They certainly dragged the show out for the crowds of tourists. I'd have happily left after 5 mins but i was penned in with my big bike by the throngs.
Stockholm seemed a pretty nice place, but it's hard to really to do any city justice in an afternoon when you're new to the place and on your own. I contented myself with first getting a bed on the floating hostel Chapman, a very elegant old-style boat
then a walk around the central district Gamla Stan. I took in some street jazz for an hour or so - a good show - then wandered somemore eventually ending up on a boat to another island where the Vasamuseum is. I'd been told back in Trondheim by my half swedish friend Nils that this museum was well worth a visit. And he was right. It's the museum containing the ship the Vasa that apparently sank over 300 years ago in Stockholm harbour 30 minutes into it's maiden voyage. It's an incredible sight the top deck towering 6 storeys above you and, especially the stern, crazily ornate.
My last evening was a quiet affair, but it was nice to sit out on the top deck of the hostel boat in the semi-twilight watching the lights of the city.
My flight home on thursday passed right over the mountains of Norway and I reflected back on the whole journey. Had I really done it?!
Back in the UK i was reminded straight away why I'd been so keen to cycle elsewhere. Firstly rain was in the air then I'm forced straight on to a huge dual carraigeway leaving
the airport (i don't think i'd cycled on a dual carraigeway the entire trip except the first stage from Dundee to Rosyth) then the sign to the Forth Road Bridge leads me towards a motorway (which obviously I can't go on) so I'm forced to ad-lib the route as there are no cycle signs. Great.
On the bridge I stopped to take a piccie again. I'd been here almost precisely 2 months earlier at the start of the trip. The say the bridge is going to fall down sometime soon. I'm not surprised - the shaking is unbelievable as heavy goods vehicles pass by. Surely it was never designed for the current traffic levels. Crossing the bridge I veered left towards Dunfermline to meet my friend Neil for lunch. Well it took a bit of time to actually find his workplace thanks to his crap directions (he'd directed me down a motorway - thanks Neil!) and he had to come out and look for me in his swanky red sportscar and 'i'm an overpaid lawyer' purple tie shirt outfit. It did occur to me that we must have looked an odd sight as we met - him in his
car, shirt+tie (It's okay Kate, I did like it honestly - well chosen), coiffured hair; me on my 'at least I don't have to cut and paste boring contracts all day' panniered up bike, with my oil smeared, sun bleached clothes (i wasn't actually wearing my cycle gear as the people next to me on the plane might have complained!) and slightly unkempt tanned been in the sun constantly for the last month look. And yes, guess who paid for lunch????!!! Not the tight-ass lawyer i'll tell you. Over lunch I briefly recounted the trip, and Neil told me about his 4 year plan. I thought to myself that my plan doesn't take me much beyond 4 days (i.e. getting my stuff to edinburgh and starting work on monday). Anyway as I'm moving to Edinburgh I'll be seeing a lot more of Neil, so best not slag him off too much (more than he deserves in any case)!
To finish the cycling off I nipped across to Inverkeithing for a direct train to Dundee. There I was reminded again how much I hate Britain. I arrive with perfect timing for a train only for the guard to say 'You're
not getting on with that bike'. ie. I can't be arsed walking up the platform and opening the guards van. There's the difference between Sweden and Britain. In Sweden it wasn't allowed but the guards made every effort to help me - they seemed a happy and intelligent bunch. In the UK, it is allowed but the guards are such a miserable dumbass bunch and they don't seem to realise that actually they might actually get some job satisfaction by being nice to customers and helping when possible. But do they hell...
At that point I got a bit of sympathy from an old guy at the station who had seen the whole incident. We chatted for 20 minutes or so as he recounted his own cycling exploits, then turned rather more morbidly to death of his 12 year old son who had been pushed off a quarry top and then the 'agonising, slow' death of his wife from cancer. I did try to change the conversation.
The next train came and whisked my to Dundee. I made my parents place just before the rain started. 7 weeks, 2600 cycled miles and about 5-10kg the lighter since I'd
There are more photos below