Travels

A long walk for 47 seconds, the Ukrainian minion, and other traveller’s tales.

Sunday 23 September. I didn’t stay at Nordkapp last night. The wind that was strong when I arrived and really strong half an hour later, leading me to turn Big Al’s nose into it and shelter the vents, had really kicked in. Also, the low cloud had severely reduced visibility.

I moved the van close to a building on the car park, where some poor soul was sheltering in the porch, but it didn’t help. I’m up for an experience, but everything was telling me to get the hell out of dodge. I thought about asking the sheltering person if they wanted a lift down the hill but then a big motorhome drove past with a smaller one tucked in behind and I grabbed my opportunity to hang onto their taillights as they negotiated the foggy descent. I did feel a bit guilty about the person sheltering, but maybe they were just waiting to be picked up.

I returned to Skarsvåg. Even in the sheltered harbour the wind was rocking the van.

The morning was calmer. After checking the weather forecasts I kept to my plan to walk to the ‘real’ most northerly part of Europe.

I’d read up about the walk and it sounded straightforward but I found it tough going. I’d read that it was largely flat. It wasn’t. The car park is a good way up the road to Nordkapp.

This cairn, in sight of the car park, marks the highest point of the trail which, about 8km along gets down to sea level. The descent is gradual, and feels kind of flat, so I was striding out like a good’un, soon overtaking a couple who’d left 15 minutes before.

The walk is on rock all the way, uneven, sharp edged and, even through my good boots, hard on the feet, yet with the wind at my back I was cracking along, enjoying the views.

The last photo is across to Nordkapp.

About 2k from the end there was a steep clamber down to almost sea level,

and the last kilometre was traversing smooth rock at an angle of about 40 degrees,

which was very slippery where it was wet. Then Knivskjelodden came into view,

and it’s time for the selfie, trying to line up with Nordkapp in the background.

Nordkapp stands at 71° 10′ 21″. Knivskjelodden stands at 71° 11′ 08″, a difference of 47 seconds, but for half an hour I was the most northerly person in Europe!

I signed the book, had some lunch and had packed up to leave when another guy, wearing a minions hat, arrived. I offered to take his picture, and then asked him to take mine.

I didn’t know until I checked my pictures this evening that when he gave me my phone back, he’d accidentally taken a selfie.

(There is a point to this!) I leave Mr Minion and head back. Everything that had been downhill was now uphill and into the relentless wind. It was hard going, not helped towards the end by cresting rise after rise only to find another rise beyond. I was so happy to get to the highest point and see Big Al waiting for me.

Rather wearily I got changed into dry clothes and just caught a glimpse of Mr Minion walking by. I ate the rest of my lunch, checked the van and set off, only to see Mr Minion hitching with a big rucksack. Well, we were fellow travellers who’d shared a moment so I picked him up. “Where are you going?” “Lakselv.” He showed me the map on his phone. I pointed to my SatNav, which said Lakselv – it was the pitch I’d found through my app that was a couple of hours drive and brought me to the E6, the longest road in Europe,

which is going to be my friend for a few weeks. Mr Minion was on a roll of good fortune with his timings and chance meetings.

We chatted. His English was fairly good. He was from the Ukraine, I guess he was in his early twenties. He had travelled up through Norway and was heading for Finland so we swapped a few travellers tales. I said I’d been to Nordkapp yesterday. He said he had as well, in fact he’d spent the night there sheltering in the porch of a building. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I could have given him a lift, but it turned out he wanted to be there so he could do the walk today.

We put his phone on charge and settled into the journey. The road from Nordkapp, the E69, which had been so exciting on Friday with its tunnels, views and narrow sweeping route, was equally exciting going the other direction. I guess that’s why it’s the 69, it gives pleasure both ways.

I had to stop three times for reindeer to cross the road.

They really don’t give a shit.

The drive put my companion to sleep, hardly surprising after a night at Nordkapp and a good 18km walk.

I notice the Lakselv destination on my SatNav about 10km away, but a roadsign saying the town is 60km. In Scandinavia they’ll name an area after a town and this has caught me out a few times. I wake Mr Minion and explain I’m not going to Lakselv after all. (I do consider taking him but 100km round trip is too much as I can feel my concentration going.) He’s fine about it so I let him out at the entrance to where I’d planned to stop, a lay-by set back from the road. There is one car there already, which drives away moments after I stop. And, yes, you guessed; the car picks up Mr Minion. He had a charmed day.

The takeaways from today? If you want to get places wear a Minion hat, and the world is full of good people trying to do good things with their lives and helping others along the way.

When I see our country’s future in the hands of self serving deceivers and, as Macron put it, liars, it fills me with despair for the future, particularly the futures of young people. The Europe I’ve seen is a welcoming place where a young guy from the Ukraine who wants to see the world, and appreciates what he’s seeing, can hitch through countries safely because people in general are good and helpful. Britain is a backward looking backwater of Europe. It’s no wonder more sophisticated and mature nations give short shrift to the political tantrums they see played out.

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