The North Cape
From Rotterdam the coast follows the ‘North Sea Route 1’ mostly through sand-hills where the most common farm animals were sheep and the occasional shaggy Highland cattle. Coastal towns with little boats in their harbours, small villages with thatched roofs, and endless sand dunes continued all the way from the Netherlands into Germany. The route crossed major rivers, it navigated around bays and inlets, crossed the large sand spit bridging the Ijsselmeer, before eventually reaching into Denmark. Denmark too, is dead flat with the route continuing along the coast.
Coastal route - Denmark
While the Route 1 crosses over to Norway from Hirtshals, and then continues along the south Norwegian coast to end in Bergen, I left it behind and continued my journey by taking the ferry from Friedrichshafen to Oslo, and headed North.
Arriving in Norway the mountains start at once and it’s a major shock to the legs as the road climbs and climbs and climbs again, and seems to wind ever upward.
The weather was often wonderful, but equally could be awful in the mountains where sudden storms lashed down. One day there was so much rain that the storm drains couldn’t cope and water steamed across the road. This ‘steam’ was melting ice and bitterly cold. Fortunately I made it to a campsite at a lower level just before the roads were close for several days because of rock falls.
After climbing over the mountains from Oslo to Trondheim the coast meanders its way northwards and eventually crosses over the Arctic Circle. It’s still a long journey north from the Arctic Circle of about 1000 km to the North Cape. It rains a lot in Norway. For one day, in part to get out of the rain, I took the Hurtigruten boat (which runs the length of Norway but can be joined at any point). An enjoyable experience, especially as, like many forms of transport in Scandinavia, was half price
for ‘older’ passengers.
7 km tunnel
North Cape was tough. It sheeted it down with rain as I climbed the first long climb into a gale force wind. On the final long climb the rain turned to sleet, and the fog was so thick it was starting to become dangerous. The sign for North Cape was just visible so I took a picture. Just beyond was a car park and barriers where about £25 per person was being collected. As there was nothing beyond the barrier I wanted to see through the fog, I refused to pay, turned tail, and headed to the closest campsite where that money was instead spent on a well-earned big meal.
North Cape fog!
For a long time a crack that had appeared around the top tube on my frame had been a major concern. My original plan of riding down the Swedish coast was dropped and I headed into Finland. Finland is suddenly much flatter much easier and, despite some long endless dirt roads, was a very pleasant place to ride. Also I saw more animals in Finland in a few days than the complete journey to that point. I could not risk the frame breaking in two on the remote roads, so taking a night train to Helsinki seemed my best option, and from there the longest ferry journey I ever been on to Germany (27 hours). The train back to Rotterdam was straight forward, and boats and trains from the Artic circle home, took just five days. It had taken me close to seven weeks and over 4000km to get there.
moulting visitors - Finland
The above is a rather brief summery of a ride took place in 2011, and I have not been back to Norway since. However, in 2012 I was in Denmark, and rode over much of the Netherlands and German part of the North Sea Route on my way to the Baltic in 2013, so a few comments may help those wishing to follow either the North Sea Route, or, like me, just use it as a marked out route to Norway:
· Leaving the Hook of Holland the route north is marked as 1B, which seems to end at Den Helder, and re-emerges as route 10a just before the 30 km long sand-spit that divides the salt water of the Waddenzee from the freshwater of the Ijsselmeer – see the map.
· Sections of the (again Route 1) in Germany were closed for repair, and campsites were behind high storm protection bankings, and difficult to see.
· Denmark continues along the attractive, rugged, North Sea as their part of Route 1, however, to the east of this route are gentle, rolling, forested hills, available as an alternative.
· Back from the Baltic, I again boarded the long-distance ferry from Helsinki to Lubeck. Unlike on the last trip, when I lived on scraps of food from my bag, this time I bought a meal voucher. It was expensive at first sight, but turned out to be the most fantastic value with the best food I have ever had on board a ferry at every mealtime. On both occasions I avoided the expense of a bunk and locked my bags in the lockers provided, laid out my sleeping bag, and slept like a log.