Photos from the previous blog are up.
I've made it to my end destination... well I'm at the hostel tonight 5km from Svolvær where I neet to be at 9.30am tomorrow to catch my bus to Narvik.
Lofoten has of course been amazing despite a cruel northerly wind. Full report to come, here's some photos...
Right here goes:
So I eventually got to Lofoten from Bodo at 6am after the 1.45am ferry was delayed and delayed until about 3am. The ticket collector at Bodo was looking a bit stressed - apparently the ship was refueling - we could see it across the bay - and I'd already pretty much given up on it by the time it finally came back to port. Still in the meantime I'd got chatting to a Polish cycling couple who were quite entertaining. Onboard I quickly found a row of seats to spread out my sleeping bag on and drifted off to sleep. I have a vague recollection of a very rough crossing. I could hear the waves crashing above me on the glass ceiling windows despite the fact that we were up on the top deck, but nothing was going to
get me to open my eyes from my semi-slumber. I'd promised myself I'd get up to watch the approaching Lofoten Wall (the mountains appear foreboding like a wall when approached from the sea) but I was woken by a ruckus of people as we drew into the harbour at Moskenes. In a daze I piled out of the ferry, 6am, into the bright sunshine surrounded by steep jagged mountains that all seemed a bit surreal. I headed up to a nearby church and plonked myself in my sleeping bag in it's grounds (not a graveyeard thankfully) figuring that I would be fine for a few ours in this place of sanctuary. And had a nice sleep for a further few hours till the next ferry arrived back. They're noisy things ferries - you can hear the rumble from a mile off, so it must be a bit annoying to have a house in what should be a tranquil place like this. Anyway the arrival of the next ferry kickstarted my first day in Lofoten. After a quick chat with the very helpful tourist info guy (wearing a st. andrews university polo shirt, and sounding ever so slightly st. andrews university
posh though i suspect he was norwegian) I headed out up the E10 highway the wrong direction to the end of the road at A ( or should it therefore be the start of the road?). There there's a rather large car park full of campervans, but pushing through you get to a great view of the Lofoten Islands trailing off into the sea. From there I headed back up the E10 (not busy at this point at all even in July) to Reine. Just before the edge of town I found the hiking trail up to the viewpoint at 435m that must be one of the most amazing views in the world! The path is literally straight up which means it actually doesn't take to long to get up, about 40 mins to get to the peak involving a little bit of semi-scrambling. The views of Reine, a string of islands connected together by the E10 across the bay and the backdrop of 1000m mountains rising almost vertically from the deep blue sea water is utterly amazing. See for yourself from the photos (or go there yourself!) I chatted a bit
with an older german couple who i reckon had done pretty well just to get up the path. We were pretty much the only people up there, but on my way down I encounter a procession of people so I was glad I'd got up there in the morning.
Reine was a lovely spot for a bit of lunch with lots of stockfish hanging to dry (it's not the fish season in Lofoten so I think they lay on a few racks of drying fish just for the tourists because all over the rest of the island the fish drying racks were empty) and Rorbu (fishermans huts) lining the harbour. According to my guidebook the view from the harbour has been voted the best view in all of Norway, but in my opinion the better view is from the top of the mountain.
Well it was only 130km to Svolvaer along the E10 and I had two days to do it, so I figured I'd be having an easy last two days, but it didn't really turn out like that. There was a nasty headwind (cold) the whipped up as I headed up to the north side of
the island chain at Flakstad. There there's a lovely white sand beach but I only saw one person foolish enough to go for a swim (and that lasted about 5 seconds). I contented myself with a paddle and got chatting with a couple of cyclists from spain and estonia. I'd actually seen so many cyclists in Lofoten (almost more than the rest of the trip combined) in one day that I found myself shockingly not even saying hi a couple of times. Having so many cyclists somehow lessens the sense of adventure, but what you have to remind yourself is that better cyclists than all the horrible campervans that were increasingly clogging the road as I headed northwards.
By this stage it was already 5.30pm and I hadn't even put down 25 miles. I hoped to make the north coast to see the midnight sun across the arctic ocean for my last night camping so I had to put my foot down a little into the evening. I passed by the Polish couple I'd met on the ferry (queue another chat and a few biscuits) whipping past them mercilessly Lance Armstrong style on a rare uphilll section (the cycling
on the E10 is mostly flat, but not easy thanks to the wind) and then down through a tunnel between islands. This turned out to be a rather brutal climb, as it dipped down a good 100m below the sea level, on a rather poor pavement beside two lanes of roaring traffic that of course didn't give a hoot about racing by you. Oh well. On the other side the scenery spread out around Leknes and with the headwind there was a 10km spell I wasn't really enjoying at all. I kept to the E10 to hit the north side of the island and was thankful when final I reached the turn for Unstad, 8km up a dead end road. The scenery changed pretty quickly back to Lofoten dramatic. Through a tunnel, then a steep climb and through another and I burst through into the bright sunshine of the north coast. It was a great spot for my last night and maybe of all the places I've been the most remote and desolate.
There's a cliffside walk between Unstad and Eggum which is popular to see the midnight sun and there was a big group of Norwegians leaving as
I arrived. I however was feeling pretty knackered and contented myself with putting the tent up and making a nice midge free dinner. Come 11pm I decided to hike out a couple of km on the path to the corner of the bay where you get the first view of the northern horizon. I stayed out there for an hour (chatting to Italians them in Italian, me replying in English) just to say I'd been up at midnight and seen the midnight sun. In fact the sun didn't even touch the horizon.
That night I slept so well - possibly the best of all nights of the trip - and woke with a start at 8.30am with the sun just coming up behind the mountains and hitting the tent. Clouds were sweeping in from the north but being held up by the surrounding mountains. I figured bad weather was only a few hours away, but the clouds came and went and I had sun that evening as I wound up the trip in Kabelvag just next to Svolvaer. The scenery had been surprisingly uninteresting as compared to the southern tip of Lofoten up to Kabelvag (Heinningsvaer was a disappointment)
but then turned dramatic again. That evening I dropped off my stuff in the youth hostel at Kabelvag (it's not a proper hostel and the facilities, except for free internet, are poor) and after my first shower in over 7 days headed into Svolvaer to officially end my cycling trip and celebrate with a quayside beer under the dramatic Svovlaergeita mountain (it's a horned peak that apparently you can jump between, but I didn't have time to get up there. The tourist office has a rather dramatic photo of someone jumping between the horns, but I noticed he has a safety harness and rope attached!). How did I feel? Well after the beer I felt rather nice and pain free. Overall I guess I was happy to have finished the trip without quitting. And 2500miles+ can't be bad - a continental distance!
That night I slept poorly... I had a lot to worry about the next day. I had a bus to catch at 9.45 from Svolvaer to Narvik - would they have room for my bike? I hadn't booked a seat. Then in Narvik, would the bus make it on time for the train, and would they let
me get my bike on the train? I'd read in the Lonely Planet (after buying my rail ticket) that Swedish Rail doesn't allow bikes, but I wasn't sure which rail company was running my train - I'd emailed them with no response.
Day 42- Å to Unstad - 6/7
Dist (miles): 58.39
Ave speed (mph): 10.6
Max speed (mph): 29.0
Time on saddle: 5h29
Day 43- Unstad to Svolvær - 7/7
Dist (miles): 55.69
Ave speed (mph): 11.3
Max speed (mph): 34.5
Time on saddle: 4h53
TOTAL MILES: 2581.42
Tot: 2.474s; Tpl: 0.053s; cc: 22; qc: 125; dbt: 0.0769s; 2; m:saturn w:www (18.104.22.168); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.8mb