Jul 31, 2010

It - It is in the people

So far, most of our days off happened to be in clear sunny weather. It wasn't any different on our rest day in Bodø, when the Atlantic ocean and the Norwegian mountains had agreed on a cease-fire and let the air fronts breathe peacefully. Immediately, we took advantage of the occasion: with the help of two Norwegian girls and a Swedish medicine student, we conquered the Keiservarden hill overlooking Bodø and offering a sneak peek out to the distant Lofoten islands emerging only as a light touch of blue pastel on the horizon.

The more our journey advances, the less predictable it becomes. We did not preplan to visit the Lofoten as it seemed to add too much distance. But, as we have become used to jumping on and off ferries, skipping the islands seemed to be almost a criminal decision. Looking forward in time - to skip Tromsø and Nordkapp feels like it would definitely be a crime, so we felt that we must also tick those coordinates off our "to visit" list. Also, it is only normal that communicating with various other travellers on the road helps develop a better sense of the area and the experiences worth getting.

That said, the concentration of travellers was one thing that the Lofoten is low on. Its rich landscape offering all kinds of activites from bike tours to hiking, mountain climbing and even surfing next to snowy peaks, attracts visitors like flypaper. There, you can meet hundreds and hundreds of tourists and still feel a lone traveller in the world. After this the brief encounters with the rare likeminded become all the more valuable.

What's the difference, you ask? And how can I tell who's who? The difference is in feeling the unity. By saying this, I consciously take the risk of sounding like a hippy tripping on acid, but the truth is out there and it becomes so obvious once you learn to see it: we're all in this world together. In more precise terms, the difference is in being an interactor vs being an observer-consumer, not so much in what kind of activities you're participating in. We are used to saying Hi to other passing cyclists or approaching and talking to (or being addressed by) anyone interesting (or interested). Other travellers are too. No tourist ever is.

By keeping our minds open we met Kris the Pole, cycling for the who-knows-how-manyeth-time to Nordkapp, who shared with us another of the secret recipes of cyclists who need to eat a lot and survive in Norway on their non-Norwegian budgets. Pasta with jam remains in our emergency list for the day when we're so fed up with Wasa bread that we can't possibly face eating even a single slice more. Up to this day, we're still holding on and trying to vary what we put on it. Spoonfuls of salty butter is one of our secrets of not getting skeletal too fast.

When we're not busy meeting people and talking to the wind, we communicate with the local wildlife. The sheep, we have met before. However, it was fun to chase them and dodge the poo flying out at running speed from the back of the herd. The lilacs I haven't seen for a while since I am used to them being one of the first signs of summer in Estonia, blooming some months earlier. They were one of the first real signs of the North to me. It doesn't feel like we're in the North and going further every day - it actually gets warmer with the sun constantly around and the Gulf stream caressing the coast.

A few days ago, we finally found the mosquitoes. Or rather, they found us. We have been fighting midges in some areas further south before, but the mozzies have been rare so far. That evening, we discovered the new natural power we must start dealing with from now on. If it is not the wind or the rain or the hairpin climbs, it will be the monstrous bloodsuckers waiting for us on the roads that cross the swamps of Lapland. Luckily, we can perfect our skills for another week before arriving in their dukedom. A good technique is to stroll casually away from the tent, luring the bugs into following you, stand still for a second and then make a desperate dash towards the tent. It is generally a good idea to practice the fast opening and closing of the tent zippers beforehand or else the mozzies will have time to recover from the confusion and slip in.

Or we could take the advice of the Heia boy in the Sami tourist information, who told us to cover ourselves from the infrared eyes of the bugs by wearing heat reflecting clothing (white is better than black) or just make them puke by smearing a special stinky ("authentic crap smell") liquid on the skin.

And then, we arrived in Tromsø - the town they call the Paris of the North because of its liveliness, big interest in fashion, culture, art and cuisine. Everywhere you look, you see variety - be it the people, the buildings or the nature. This cute colourful town is filled with sparkly student life that can also be noticed during the summer holidays, when the sun never sets but only shifts its light so that even the surrounding mountains never fail to change their appearance every hour or so.

Are we in the North now? I don't know. It doesn't feel like it. Being surrounded by two bubbly Italian raggaze and a bright-eyed Brazilian boy in the house of a shiny Norwegian girl makes being here under the everlasting sun just as merry as anywhere in the South.

Mostly, when we are not too hungry (which is before dinner) or being eaten by swarms of hungry mosquitoes (which is during dinner), we feel that there's no other life we would want to be living at the moment. The simplest things matter: eating, sleeping and smiling back at the people waving to us.


Day 25: 82.88km on the Lofoten, following the E10 towards the mainland; ferry: Bodø - Moskenes; camping on a roadside, sheltered from the wind by bushes;

Day 26: 95.07km on the E10 until Fiskebøl (or Fish Bowl as we affectionately named it); camping in the port, on a field;

Day 27: 126.41km on the E10; camping on a field, sheltered from the wind by a bush;

Day 28: 114.99 on the E10, road 825 and E6 until Setermoen, camping on a field - no wind but hundreds of mosquitoes;

Day 29: 90.40km on the E6 until Nordskjobotn, camping in a schoolyard;

Day 30: 75.80km until Tromsø, couchsurfing;

Day 31: day off;

Distance cycled from the last long stop, Bodø (in 6 days): 585.55km
Total distance cycled in 30 days: 2494.64km


beth said...

yey! you girlies are AMAZING! and the photos are once again so beautiful, especially the one with the poppies and the mountains behind, and the one of the lake with all the wee orange houses around it.
if the views you see all around you are always this beaufiful I can imagine that you spend half the time with your mouths gaping over in wonder (although not for too long, wouldn't want to swallow those midges).
lots of love from the south ♥

Triin said...

Hehehe, thank you so much! We're indeed trying to absorb everything we see when we see it. The clear days are absolutely amazing! The cloudy rainy days not so much, but luckily, for a few weeks it has been been about 50:50 clear:cloudy, whereas before we had more like 5 nice days during the first 20 days on the road:P

For the good pictures you have to thank Alice and her camera, because mine died too soon. And the poppy-pic is taken by Tomas, the Brazilian guy, who ran around with Alice's camera and took some great photos.