Nothing is waterproof…

Day 41 – Sunday 4th of August – Narvik to 10 km east of Mo i Rana (445km)

…if it rains hard and long enough. The sound of rain woke me up this morning, as Alf was coming down from his room and we both realized we were a bit hung over. The cup of wine had turned into two bottles that we drank with Bjorn as we enjoyed what they said was a very rare warm night out in the terrace. Wanting to make the best of the good weather, Alf got the barbecue going and we had some midnight grilled meat, which tasted wonderful. Then the wine gave way to home-made spirit, what they call moonshine, and then at about 1 am, as the day was starting again, a fine drizzle started to fall, so we moved the party inside until about 5 am. I had a great time with Alf an Bjorn, and discovered some excellent new music.

Alf offered me to stay for one more day, and I was very tempted to do so as the rain was quite hard that morning and I did not fancy another long ride in it, because that would mean having to pay for accommodation at the end of the day to dry all the gear before going on, and prices were just too high. We checked the weather forecast and it seemed that it would not last long, the sun was supposed to come out in the afternoon and there was no rain in Mo i Rana, 400km to the south, so I decided wait for a while and then go. We watched a couple of episodes of a comedy I did not know, called Better Off Ted, which I really liked. I will download it when I get back home. (Do not download things kids, it is illegal, buy the DVDs)

At midday I loaded the bike and set off under the rain, expecting it to clear soon. 80km further south, it was still raining hard, and I pictured the weather service offices that morning – two meteorologists sitting in front of a computer, writing the forecast for the day, and one asks the other ‘what do you think the weather is going to be like today?’ and he replies ‘I have absolutely no clue’, so the first one says ‘right, I’ll just put in the sun-cloud-rain icon, one of the three is bound to be right’.

So as I came to the first ferry crossing of my trip in Norway I wondered how long I would have to wait under the rain for the ferry to turn up. I was happy to see it coming as I stopped at the ramp behind only two other cars, and I thought that it would not take long. Sure enough, it docked, the cars rolled off and a guy approached us with a credit card terminal in his hand to charge us for the crossing. It was almost 8€ and there was no choice but to pay it, as the road ended there. As he walked to two other cars that had arrived in the meantime, I put on the gloves again, ready to board, but to my dismay, nothing happened. It seemed that the ferry was going to wait until there were enough cars to fill it up before sailing off, and with quite thin traffic that morning, I had to wait for half an hour in the rain. Great.

We were finally allowed onto it, and I parked the bike at the front. For safety reasons, passengers were not allowed on the car deck during the crossing, so I went down to the lower deck, were there were some benches and tables, hoping the sea would not be too rough, as I did not like the idea of the bike falling on its side again, especially on the hard metal deck. I walked into the passenger deck with my suit dripping with water and people looking at me with funny faces, found a quiet corner in front of an old lady knitting and had lunch, taking the opportunity of being in a warm, dry place. Just as I finished and packed the food again, people started getting up and going back to their cars, we were on the other side of the fjord. I went up, put on the helmet and the wet gloves again and rode off the ferry. To my surprise, the weather had improved in the 20 minutes the crossing had lasted, it was still very cloudy, but it did no rain anymore. My suit was soaked, but the waterproof layer was doing its job well and I was dry and comfortable, but the same could not be said of my gloves. They were supposed to be waterproof, but in less than an hour the water had soaked through. I turned the heated grips to the max to keep my hands warm and hoped the sun would come out soon.

IMG_0391

It did not until I was practically done with the day’s riding, past Mo i Rana and near the Swedish border, where I stopped for the night. I only stopped once for fuel and once at the point at which I left the Arctic Circle, where there was a monument and a souvenir shop. I was about to get a wristband, but the print on them was really bad quality and they were ridiculously overpriced, so I just took a few pictures, talked to a guy who was on his way north from Germany on a Harley and rode on.

IMG_0399

I had seen on the map that Sweden was only a few kilometers away from Mo i Rana, so I decided to cross the border and maybe find a campsite instead of camping in the wild, as prices were bound to be more reasonable than in Norway, where you had to pay a minimum of 20€ just to set up the tent, and they charged extra for using the Internet… In the end though, the sun came out and the clouds all but disappeared from the sky, and the area near the border was so nice that I just decided to find a good spot and camp. I found a picnic area that was away from the road, by a small pond, and I set camp there for the night.

IMG_0408

A house with a view

Day 40 – Saturday 3rd of August – Alteidet to Narvik (427km)

Today I decided I had to keep costs down somehow if I wanted to have money left to enjoy the last part of the trip, so before setting off in the morning I went back into the campsite kitchen to make the best use of the wifi connection I had paid and sent some CouchSurf requests for the next three cities, hoping I would get lucky despite sending them so late.

My tent and riding gear had dried overnight, I packed them and spent some time rearranging all the bags on the bike. Ever since Volgograd I had been carrying the old front tire as it provided a useful space to keep the food bags and the bike cover, and support for the big Ortlieb bag with most of my stuff, but it also took up all the space in the rack and the passenger seat, so I got rid of it and now had to find a way to relocate the luggage so that there was space for my girlfriend, and I wanted to experiment with different weight distributions before picking her up. Today I put the bike cover under the Ortlieb bag to prevent it from tearing on the screws of the rack I had built to carry the spare tires and I strapped the food bags on top of each pannier. There was enough space in the passenger seat, plus the food bags seemed to make nice armrests. There was however a problem with that set up, which I discovered a few hours later.

The sky was clear and the sun was out, there was no sign of the rain that had made my previous day so miserable. I put some good music on and got on the road to have on of the best riding days so far in the trip.

IMG_0376

The landscape changed from the rocky, wind swept low fjords in the Norkapp to higher ones covered in forest at the bottom and with glaciers on the top. It was an amazing sight, and I thought that it was worth riding the coast for a couple days more despite the prices. It was like being in the Alps, only that the valleys were flooded in seawater, the surface completely still, reflecting the mountains and the fishing boats like a mirror.

I stopped a couple of times, one for petrol, one for lunch, and met Italian bikers in both stops, a couple riding a Triumph who did not speak any English and then two friends who provided the perfect comparison of the two bikes I might consider as a replacement for my poor V-Strom – one of them was on a GS Adventure, the other on a KTM 990 Adventure. I chatted to the KTM rider, who spoke good English, and told me that the GS was great for long distance riding, it was very comfortable and had excellent range, but was no good on anything other than good dirt roads. The KTM on the other hand had much less range, about 250km only, but was great fun on the road and could cope with anything off it. And it was much cheaper too.

IMG_0384

After lunch I noticed that my chain was making a strange noise when I pulled out in first gear, and it was getting slowly worse. I thought that I might have tightened it a bit too much the last time I serviced it a couple of days ago, so I decided to find a spot to check it. I stopped at nice picnic area – there are lots in Norway – and put the bike on the center stand. Or tried to. It was usually difficult with all the luggage on, but now that I had put the weight a bit further to the back to make room in the passenger it was just impossible. I had to take the food bags and the tools off before I managed to get the bike on it.

I checked the chain, and it was indeed too tight. Since I was at it and it had rained the previous day, I also cleaned it. When I got back on the road the noise had disappeared. I had checked my phone when I stopped and I had got a reply from a host in Narvik, where I was headed for that night, which was great, I did not think I was going to find a place so late and was already thinking about finding a place to set up camp.

I got to Narvik past seven in the evening and found the address, it was a beautiful small house overlooking the fjord.

IMG_0389

Alf Tonny, my host, was waiting for me outside, I pulled up the driveway, got my things off the bike and after a quick shower I was sitting with him on the terrace having tea, chatting and enjoying the views. Shortly after, a friend of his dropped by to bring him a new table for the living room, and he joined us. He was quite interested in history too, and we talked about some of the highlights of my trip. Before he went back home I gave him the blog’s address and invited him to visit me in Barcelona. Then we went back inside and another friend of Alf came by with a bottle of wine, and I decided to call it a day on the blog and just relax for a while.

IMG_0390