Friday, September 12, 2014

Riding up to the Lofoten

There are several ways to go to the Lofoten, the captivating peninsula north of the Arctic Circle in Norway. As it is a peninsula, it is possible to simply ride onto it. There are however also several ferries that can take you there. Choosing which one isn't as easy as it seems. The Bodø to Moskenes seemed the most logical option until we saw the timetable, which meant arriving there just before 9pm. The Skutvik to Svolvær seemed only to operate in the weekend(?) and the Bognes to Lodingen is literally the long way round but as we weren't keen on 4 hours on a boat we took the long way round and went to Bognes. With the benefit of hindsight I'm glad we did as it became one of the most stunning rides so far!

Lodingen is pretty much the beginning of the Lofoten. From there to Å (yes that's the name of the place and undoubtedly the shortest name in the world) is about 230km. A lot of extra riding thus, but as the Lofoten are stunning, who wouldn't want to ride it? 

Meeting fellow travellers along the way… He's on an ex SW-Motech demo bike  
For the first time in 5 days we didn't wake up with a soaking wet tent and raindrops belting down on it. A nice change if I may say so. The tent itself is waterproof but dampness had set in everywhere. From sleeping bags to clothes, helmets… the lot. The continuous rain had had its effects on our equipment too. The speakers and microphones inside our helmets gave up the ghost, laptop connectors wouldn't charge anymore and the helmet cam had moisture behind the screen while being inside a waterproof casing. Had we had some rain? Yes we had plenty of it.

He lives in the US for 6 months, his wife loves to bring home US
furniture, so he bought this truck in Texas to transport it home!
We used copious amounts of toilet paper to absorb the moisture overnight, which made the helmet comms operational again, cleaned the various connectors and lubricated the chains once more. Heavy rain plays havoc with lubrication and now that it was finally dry it was time for a proper re-lube. Normally I lube the chains when Jeanette is doing the shopping as the chains are warm and it takes only 5 minutes. Not today though. We were somewhat distracted by an older man. He told us that he used to be a sailor of some sort, but had now been retired and liked a drink. We sort of had noticed the last bit… it wasn't even 10 am yet but he had a skinful already. Judging by the urine stench around him he hadn't been sober for weeks… It took a while before he finally gave up and went.

Next was a stop to get engine oil. I had made the mistake to use Motorex fully synthetic engine oil with the last service. Thinking I did the bikes a favour and might possibly extend the service intervals to 7,500 km. Not only is the stuff horribly expensive, all 3 bikes also suddenly started using oil. For those who are in Norway for the first time, carparts shops like BilXtra sell motorbike oil, tyres too by the way. As Norway has its own oilfields and should in theory be good for generations to come, you would think it wouldn't be that expensive… think again. Mineral motorcycle oil, the 'cheap' stuff, goes for US$31,- a litre… Talk about liquid gold…! The same brand, same type sells for $6,75 in the USA. 

While we were at BilXtra a group of Swedish riders were there for a new rear tyre. They were about 1100 km from home and had just been to the Lofoten. We talked 'bikes' of course and they took some photos of our bikes, something we realised later non of us had done!

What followed after that was a stunning ride. I am sure glad we didn't take the 4 hour ferry because instead we got 6 hours of pure heaven on a bike. Beautifully winding roads, not a lot of traffic, sunshine(!) and scenery that is just breathtaking. Rugged mountains, quite a few snow-capped, tranquil lakes and lots of it. It was one of those days that everything just clicked. The bike seemed to ride itself, like an extension of my brain. Perfect roads helped of course but still the feeling was just magic.

When we arrived at the ferry for the Lofoten, I felt almost sorry that the ride was over. I could have continued for hours! Ahead of us were the Lofoten though, another thing to look forward to! The sailing was smooth as, loading and unloading easy as bikes go in first and the ferry itself looked and felt quite modern. It was! The ship was made two years ago in Poland. It'll be waterproof then, joked Mike, as our panniers come from Poland! It's a pretty quick ferry too. In less than an hour we were across and ready to travel the magic Lofoten pensinsula… more of which in the next post!