Thursday, 11 July 2013

24 Hours At The Top

Heading back towards Honningsvag for a couple of miles put me at the start of a 5 hour return walk to Knivskjellodden (that woke the spellchecker up) which juts a mile further north than the Nordkapp and is the true most northerly point of Europe. On a dry but blustery day the walk took me out across a plateau with scrub grazed by reindeer herds, birds play acting to lead me away from their nests and a sense of remoteness  of some magnitude. In fact a couple of other people were also on the route which eventually dropped through a broad valley and down to a windswept bay. Half an hour later a stone memorial and a signing in book marked the endpoint with the cliffs of the Nordkapp away to the east and a choppy, cold looking Norwegian sea stretching in to forever.
On my way back I was fortunate to find a glove I had dropped and got back to the sanctuary of the van before the heavens opened. Back at the Cape I parked up behind a line of much larger vans as last night the howling gale had threatened to rip my bike,cover and rack from the rear door before having a quick wash and retreating to the comforts of the visitor centre for a couple of hours of people watching whilst also online.
Outside the low cloud, heavy prolonged showers and biting wind underlined the realities of this location and again I reflected on how extreme it must be in mid winter.
After an early evening lull the various coaches arrived and discharged their hundreds of passengers who all disappeared in to the exhibitions, cafes and shop - I chatted to a couple from Tasmania on their big OE and was generally bemused by all the activity. Outside the low cloud persisted until magically at the stroke of midnight there was an all too brief appearance of the sun to a round of applause, popping flashguns and general excitement. Within half an hour almost everyone had gone but after returning to the van for my heaviest down jacket I returned  as the clouds cleared more substantially to bathe everything in sunshine - again it amazed me that with no cloud it was simply broad daylight at 1am.
Today the winds were if anything even stronger and after a couple of hours of tea, biscuits and banter with Barry who is on a longish tour after retirement from various services and had a very comfortable van (only the second UK plate seen in a fortnight) I headed back along the exposed road to Honningsvag where the Oceania was berthed.- smaller than the QE but still a mighty ship. A couple of walkers, some cyclists and numerous bikers were heading north and all struggled to stay upright in the atrocious conditions - they all deserved a huge amount of respect but I was at a loss for words when I saw two lads walking and pushing a wheelbarrow containing their kit. The Nordkappelen tunnels and bridges took me back on to mainland Norway and I  am now round in Hammerfest the most northerly town in Norway where tomorrow's highlight could be the chance to be knighted with a walrus's penis bone at the Royal and Ancient Polar Bear Society - we'll see.
Otherwise inspired by Barry's tips from his journey up from the south I will be hugging the coast heading south, visiting the Lofoten Islands and hopping on and off ferries like buses as I cover the one thousand plus miles down to Oslo - its still nearly 400 miles just to cross back over the Arctic Circle but with 6-7 weeks in hand it will be a gradual process which you can follow here and see recorded in megabytes here.

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