Travels

Excellent job, Slartibartfast.

Friday 21 September. I’m in Skarsvag, twenty minutes away from Nordkapp, but that wasn’t the plan. I woke up bright and early and was on the road by nine, even after doing some chores. Within ten minutes I was heading down a long straight road into Karigasniemi on the border and, almost before I knew it, I’d crossed the bridge over the Anarjohka River and was in Norway.

Though it’s a significant route, the road is still only a single carriageway. If anything, it’s narrower on the Norwegian side – they dispensed with the centre line – and the road really got no wider after that.

As soon as I crossed the bridge the countryside began to change. The pine forests gave way to deciduous trees, many bare, the rest in autumnal colours, and then mountains appeared in the distance.

I think I’d expected ‘Norway’ to evolve over a day or two but within an hour it had turned the fjord-fest up to eleven.

I passed through 70º north,

and pushed on for Porsanger Fjord where the Our Tour bloggers, whose route I’m following, overnighted. I’d gained an hour at the Norwegian border so it was only late morning when I got to Trollholmsund, named after the poor trolls who were turned to stone on the shores of the fjord.

Trolls get a bad press but this poor family looked like they were stranded waiting for a boat to take them somewhere.

The chips of white limestone were like flakes of skin blasted from the trolls.

It was a beautiful and atmospheric place, but only an entree for what was to come. I decided not to stay there but to drive another 90 miles to Skarsvag. This was really where the fun began.

As with previous journeys, it’s not the distance but the single carriageways and the speed limits that make it more of endeavour. As I mentioned before, I’d read that you’re lucky to be able to hit the 50 mph speed limit in Norway, and that proved to be the case today.

Those of you familiar with The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy will be aware that, when the earth was being constructed, Slartibartfast was the person responsible for designing the fjords. He took great pride in their complexity. Well, if the fjords were already on eleven, the next couple of hours saw them turned up to thirteen as the narrow road followed the edge of the fjords, around sharp bends, up steeps hills, sometimes almost at sea level, at other times clinging to the cliff edge offering long drops but stunning views across to other mountains and fjords. The views were breathtaking. Every corner turned threw up another gobsmacking vista, and it was not just what I was seeing through the windscreen, the wing mirrors showed views I hadn’t seen of places I’d passed. And this assault on the senses was going on while I’m trying to focus on the road, a road hardly wide enough for the lorries and coaches heading towards me. And the drop was on my side. If there was barrier it was often little more than a concrete kerb about 18” high. There would be no prisoners taken.

And then there were the tunnels! Not the brightly lit, white tiled, generously wide kind of tunnel, no. These were rough hewn walls, a single run of orange lights above, and the same width as the narrow road; oh, and kilometres long. There were four such tunnels, if I recall correctly. The longest, at about 7km, links the island of Magerøya, on which Nordkapp stands, with the mainland. It’s a long descent, followed by a long climb out. This was shortly followed by a 4km tunnel. The first tunnel surprised me and I didn’t see the signs for its length, but that also felt like 4 or 5km.

Needless to say, I was very focussed, but it was also the most exhilarating drive of my life. Today, more than any other, I wanted someone in the copilot seat to go wow, or swear, as Norway astonished. On this trip I have enjoyed wonderful experiences on a daily basis but this was in another league. I spent the whole drive either going wow or WTF!

Magerøya is a massive lump of rock and the road had some very long climbs. On the way up one, a herd of reindeer decided to cross the road in between a car coming down and me heading up, or most of them did. A mother and young got separated on my side, and the mother was keeping the young one from crossing. The car and I had stopped and we waited, then they crossed. There was space to pull in so I was able to jump out an take a few photos as the herd wandered off.

Some of the cliffs on the island are 300m high, so crossing the island offered more wonderful views.

I descended into Skarsvag,

the most northerly fishing village in the world apparently,

and am parked on the quay.

It’s a picturesque village, and very quiet.

The weather has been good today, but the forecast is for heavy rain and high winds tomorrow. I think I’ll drive to Nordcapp, where it costs about £25 per head to park for 24 hours, and hunker down. Sunday looks better, overcast with some drizzle, so it’s then I’ll do the 18k hike to the real most northerly point in Europe. Or that’s the plan now. I’m bushed. The day has been exhilarating, mentally, physically and spiritually, but draining at the same time. I shall sleep well tonight.

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