When I told them that I intended to bicycle to North Cape they stopped nagging me with their nasty questions. This was some years ago.
Meanwhile I have returned from my bicycle trip to North Cape and I am quite content with myself. I have been fighting heavy headwinds — the usual companion of bicyclists, just much stronger –, I have seen so many reindeer that I almost stopped caring about them, I cohabitated with hoards of mosquitoes and I learned how to avoid them, I embraced the loneliness in my one-person tent, I coped with all kinds of weather including ice, snow, rain and fog, and, not to forget, I have seen the North Cape.
Well, the North Cape itself does not offer all too much. It is just the end of the road. Moreover, you don’t go to the North Cape for the sake of fair weather. Thus, once there, you turn around and bicycle south again. This I did, too. I went back south through northern Finland until I got tired after some 500 kilometers or so. Then I took a bus, some trains, and a ferry back to Stockholm where I had started my trip. In 30 days I bicycled 2700 kilometers with 20000 meters vertical distance.
To bring a tent to such a trip is a necessity. The average distance between rooms to rent gets too large in northern Scandinavia. Even places to get food are quite often too far apart. Thus, my equipment included a sleeping mattress and a sleeping bag. In addition, basic cooking utensils, some food and other paraphernalia like emergency bicycle repair tools, some body care, or spare clothes. All in all, my bicycle plus all the stuff weighed some 45 kilograms.
Before this trip I had no idea about the rich variety of different landscapes in the north. I had no idea about the huge amount of really broad water streams bringing melted ice water towards the Gulf of Bothnia or the Arctic Sea. Before, I could only think of large forests, but I could not imagine the richness of different types of forests. Traveling at the typical speed of a bicycle, I could direct all my attention to the magnificent landscapes. I must say that one must not underestimate the potential of addiction to these landscapes.
As an Austrian, being used to heavy traffic with traffic jams in summer, I was amazed by the sheer non-existing traffic on seemingly freshly paved roads all over northern Sweden, Finland, and Norway. Even with all the Italians and Germans with their motor homes seeking their way to the North Cape, I felt alone on the road most of the time. I quickly started to admire the Norwegian car driver’s way of passing a bicyclist: They go all the way to the opposite lane, and in case of oncoming traffic, they patiently wait in some non-disturbing distance behind you. The Finnish and the Swedish car drivers do alike. The Italians and Germans could definitely learn a bit from this attitude.
Having spoken about paved roads, I must not forget to mention my experience with dirt roads. Of course, they were also a part of the trip. Mainly in Sweden in order to avoid the highway E4, and 60 kilometers in northern Finland between Pokka and Sirkka. There, my main thought was about what the few people living along this road must have been doing wrong in their lives that they deserved such a bad road. Thinking back now, it must have been the headwind which consumed all my courage and made me take a bus in Sirkka. The nice thing about dirt roads is that you can bicycle undisturbed for hours. Just the occasional reindeer might offer company for a couple of minutes.
Let me come back to the beginning of my thoughts: Why on earth did I decide to bicycle to North Cape in the first place?
When one comes closer to retirement age of 65, people usually start asking about one’s plans for retirement. These questions usually come with comments of the type “you will be bored to death”. For me, these questions were nagging in my brain and I tried to come up with various answers. Most answers did not work well, i.e. did not stop the questioners. However, when I tried with “I might bicycle to the North Cape”, I usually could divert the attention of the inquirer. Suddenly people stopped nagging me and instead turned their imagination of what it would be like to go to North Cape — a magical place when living in Austria. I had to repeat this answer quite many times, up to a point where I started to believe myself that I would do such an expedition.
In the first months of 2019 I planned the trip, bought equipment like bicycle, tent, mattress, sleeping bag, cooking utensils, and the like. I also started training by doing first short and then successively longer trips with a heavy loaded bicycle. I also tested outdoor sleeping at 0 degrees Celsius. This preparation phase proved rather valuable since it raised my self-confidence in being able not only to master the trip, but also to enjoy it since the body was already used to physical stress.
Now, my mind is constantly looking for more adventures of a similar type for the near future. It might really become an addiction.