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Europe by Tandem

From Castellon (Spain) to Northern Cape (Norway) by Tandem supporting the fight against cancer.

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Day 3. To the north of the north.

Posted by admin On Julio - 11 - 2010

JL: From Honningsvag to Skaidi. 128 kilometers. 7 hours.

Today was the first day of serious pedaling and we had to make sure we packed correctly. It’s been really difficult to fit everything into my saddleback but after three tries I’ve finally managed to close it. It’s so tight, so dense, that I think it has started to exercise its own gravitational force over objects near it.

The day has started cold and rainy. The temperature was around 8º C, but with lower a thermal sensation caused by the wind. If, in the month of July, 200 meters above sea level, you have snow around you, it means that you are really to the north; it is not a good idea to wear shorts.

After 15 minutes of pedaling we were soaking wet and blue with cold. Hands and feet very cold, goose bumps all over and the nose and upper lip area without sensitivity, therefore, when we tried to speak we would babble ridiculously. It is necessary to arm yourself with determination to continue moving. Luckily, the rain stopped after the first hour and the wind, although cold has dried us.

Out of the 128 kilometers, 16 have been through 6 tunnels badly lit, humid and icy. These tunnels go through mountains so close to the fiord that there is barely any space left for the exterior road. The worst of them was the first one. It had 6.8 kilometers and it connects the island that is located more to the north, where North Cape is located, with the mainland of the Scandinavian peninsulas; and it does so “under the sea”. The tunnel is completely straight, it begins with a descent of 3 kilometers at a 12% slope that takes you 212 meters “under the sea floor”  after that, barely  100 meters of plain ends with another 3-4 kilometers of  rise on a 9% average slope.

The ride was very tough, but, paradoxically, the worst part was the first descent. Using our brakes to stop our 200 kilos of total weight, thrown on the downward slope in a dirty and wet road, was more than the brakes could take. After approximately 1.5 kilometers it started to smell burnt, the brakes had turned red and were squeaking like a siren, smoke was coming out of them and they stopped working. We stopped the tandem bicycle with our feet. The hind brakes are broken. We had to walk for the rest of the descent.

The landscape is breathtaking: green all over, cliffs, steep slopes, water everywhere and continuous changes of light. Water of a thousand colors, reindeers sunbathing in the river bends, fisher eagles and seagulls that look like ostriches; it is obvious that fish around here are abundant. All of that around a road that for 90 kilometers circles the second biggest fiord in Norway, where there are more people riding motorcycles, mobile homes and bicycles than cars.

We had lunch at a small Sami settlement next to the road. There, the full number of passengers traveling on a bus, all of them Italian, rushed towards us and asked us a great deal of questions, they’ve taken our pictures from head to toe and wished all kind of good wishes to us. We bought a piece of smoked salmon of about 350 grams that we devoured without any bread or piece of cutlery. Never in my life had I tried a salmon soooo delicious. I guess it is normal: fished by them and prepared to the purest traditional style without any type of artifice.

At around 17:30 we arrived to Skaidi, town with a Sami name that means “place where two rivers converge”. It is obvious that these are people of very few words.

Here we are watching the final of the World Cup with our Spanish team jerseys that were given to us as a present. Two additional things to highlight about Norway:

  • They are tremendously respectful at the wheel.
  • They are able to watch the World Cup final game without blinking and in silence. We don’t behave like that, not even when we are at the library.

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