Well it was an early start on the 5th of May and I was dockside shortly after 5am awaiting the ferry. It was a classic floating hotel with nine levels and who knows how many cabins.
After getting my very own Hurtigruten swipe card (which I will set in glass as an heirloom for my family as it is precious to me), I wandered around an empty ship. With all bar the 6 passengers who boarded with me still asleep, there was no fish-slapping to be found and so I grabbed a coffee and muffin and watched the coastline pass by.
We docked at 8am and I made my way towards the Havoysund township and the bridge to mainland. Off the normal tourist trail, it was very much a fishing village. Lovely painted wooden houses a counterpoint to some industrial scale fish factories. The road skirted the town and over a high bridge to the road to Olderfjord.
It’s an 88km road walk from Havoysund to Olderfjord and I decided to break it down into four 22km days. Road walks suck big time as the constant pounding kills your feet, but if you have to do a road walk, this is the place to do it.
I will load some photos once I get to a PC but the road swaps between section running along the fjord coastline then cutting inland to meander up a valley over a pass and down again to another fjord.
By 2pm I passed the 20km sign and while a bit short of my target, came across a roadside stop. An ideal campsite: soft ground, running water and a beautiful view. I pitched my tent next to the ruins of a peat house, the remaining walls not much more than knee high. The region had been inhabited since the Iron Age so who knows how long it had been there.
So I spent the afternoon alone with my thoughts.
At my last meeting Michael Lappen (an old friend and mentor), he asked me what I did with all my time on the trail and my answer was that I just think about stuff.
In NZ it was getting my shit together and for much of the first half of the walk it was a Robert de Nero in The Mission type of scenario- struggling with my physical and emotional baggage in the hope of coming back from the abyss I had taken myself to.
This time around things were both simpler and more complex. Going from north-south NZ to north-south Europe was just the next level of walking, but I had already walked 500 miles and walked 500 miles more without getting “back to your door” and on many levels this trip is just an excuse to achieve a self-imposed solitude in new surroundings as an alternative to loneliness in familiar ones.
My hotel room in Oslo had a poster wall claiming that “The best things in life are NOT things”. I sent a picture of this to Rose, who replied “no it is people”. This was running through my mind as well; because when I first saw it I thought “no it’s experiences”.
But was it really experiences? Close the deal, move on. Develop the strategy, move on. Deliver the project, move on. Complete the adventure, move on. Pretty shallow really, and when I think about it, it was always the people that made each experience a buzz.
Here I was 52km into the walk missing Lachie’s lordship at the card table at the end of the day while Alex was confounding his fellow Trekkers – unable to explain his powers of ESP.
The highlights to date – midnight chats with Jan-Eric at the Oslo hotel and meeting Udo and Tina at the start of their adventure at Nordkapp.
Rose was right, it was people and I had already decided that whatever happens I would be there on December 29 to give my beautiful son Lachie a hug on his 18th birthday.
So off I set at 5am for the second day of road walking. More coastline, more valleys and passes and every time I got more than 100m above sea level slush!
10km in my feet were sore and I could feel the toe nails I had lost in NZ lifting again. 20km in and I was hobbling, and contemplating my next move. What happens after Olderfjord? If conditions are the same, it’s a 300km road walk to Kautikino!
Just before Lillefjord I started hitching.
The secret to saving a good strategy is knowing when to change tactics. I could still reach Cape Passero and hug Lachie – just not on foot.
I would head back to Alta to get a bike. A few cars passed before a young food inspector from Hammerfest picked me up and drove me through to Olderfjord. We crossed the E1 trail (snow) and arrived with a couple of hours to spare before the next bus. I grabbed a late lunch and as fate would have it, ran into Tina and Udo.
We discussed my change in plans and I got a lot of advice on bikes and routes, which was much appreciated as my knowledge of bikes only slightly exceeded that of snow. Saturday morning I went shopping and with the help of a bike technician got myself a new modus propulsion. If I meet Tina and Udo again I hope they approve and don’t just shake their heads in bewilderment.
I am happy and while 27 gears and disc brakes seem quite a lot, it’s a nice ride. Sunday morning I loaded it up on the bus for Hammerfest to continue my trip.
I met some young guys on Saturday night on a leave pass from Oil Rig building at Hammerfest and as well as being at the same latitude as Lillefjord, I wanted to see this construction that dwarfed the town where it was built.
I piled my bike and trailer onto the bus for Skaida, the bus exchange to the other northern towns, saw Tina and Udo (who did not laugh at my bike), then continued on the bus to Hammerfest.
The town had the same colourful wooden houses of Honningsvag and Havoysund. I didn’t see the rig but it was clear the place serviced the oil industry and was a working town. I didn’t stay long before starting the 58km ride back to Skaida.
It crossed my mind that it had been at least 6 years since I had last ridden a bike! 20km in there was a pop and it crossed my mind that I may have never changed a tyre!!!
I looked back – no support car, no one running towards me with a new back. Clearly the TDF is faked.
Well it wasn’t a 5 minute pit stop, but I managed to replace the inner tube, reseat the wheel, and get the chain back where it belonged.
No further midadventures, though I was conscious I no longer had a spare. The last 9km to Skaida were undergoing roadworks so to be safe, I pushed the bike through a few sections. I also got off and pushed on a few hills – cycling clearly uses a different set of muscles. But just after 7, I was back in Skaida. A bit cold and wet and with a very sore bottom, but having covered more in an afternoon than I would have in two days on foot, I was pleased with myself and the change of transport.
The bad weather has set in, so I will stay put for the day before a 2-day ride to Alta. I will get a few spare inner tubes and while I refuse to become a 50-something in lycra, a pair of padded shorts under my trekking pants may be the go (hope they don’t look like incontinance pads).
Well after a messy start, I think I’m on the way!
Hope you are all well.