Norwegian Hospitality

We arrived in Lyngseidet late in the day after a 30-minute ferry ride from Olderdalen. We had put in a full day along a fabulously scenic route and were looking for a place to camp. Sadly, no campground in town and nothing showing on the map, despite what we had been told by a young lady at the tourist office in Storslett. As we slowly rode out of town we met a lady walking her dog and we asked her about camping. She said the closest one was about six Norwegian miles up the road. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scandinavian_mile) Then we learned that a Norwegian mile is 10 KM, so 60 KM to the next campsite was not an option after having already ridden 80 KM. Our next question, regarding an ATM machine, did meet with success as there was one a few blocks back. We rode back and found it, took out some money and pondered our options when we met the lady with the dog again.

She offered to phone the person who owned the land where the campground used to be to see if we could stay there but she didn’t think there would be water. Next, she said that we could camp at her house, or have a room, if we wanted. Tired and not having many options other than hoping to find a spot to ‘camp sauvage’ we gratefully accepted her offer. She introduced herself as Sylvi and as we walked with her chatting, her husband, Hallvard, pulled up in his tractor. It being Tuesday, he was on garbage detail, Sylvi explained.

A few minutes later, we arrived at Sylvi’s and Hallvard’s lovely home overlooking the fiord and the mountains above Olderdalen on the opposite side. The bikes were put in the garage and we were set up in a spare bedroom in the basement with our own bathroom and even a sauna (which we declined to use as that would have put us to sleep almost right away). We gathered around the kitchen table over beer and talked well into the evening before supper was put out on the table: buns, bread, cheeses, elk sausage and boiled eggs, accompanied with a nice bottle of Italian red wine.

Sylvi and Hallvard Olsen, our hosts in Lyngseidet.
Sylvi and Hallvard Olsen, our hosts in Lyngseidet.

We talked late into the night about life in Norway and Canada, and about their family. They have 2 daughters and 1 son and 5 grandchildren. Sylvi owns a hair salon in Lyngseidet and Hallvard runs the family’s bus company, Lyngen Buss (http://www.lyngenbuss.no/), a company started by his father. I think we went to bed near midnight and slept like babies in an almost dark room, something new since we’ve been living in non-stop daylight since we began our trip in Iceland on June 1.

The following morning we had breakfast together. Afterward, we packed and thanked them for their generous hospitality and as they headed north into town on their bicycles to go to work, we headed south to continue our journey. Thank you again, Sylvi and Hallvard. Your generosity was overwhelming and we appreciated it very much. It always amazes us how hospitable and generous people can be. Imagine what our world could be like if we all embraced that philosophy.

The road south between Lyngseidet and Furuflaten.
The old road south between Lyngseidet and Furuflaten. The new road goes through a tunnel.

Our days on the road prior to meeting Sylvi and Hallvard were good ones. We had nice weather and no wind to slow us down. After our weather day in Repvåg, we have been cycling an average of about 80 KM per day. South of Skaidi on the E6, we found a lovely spot to camp in a copse of birch beside the Reppafjordelva River with a small herd of reindeer keeping us company. The next day, we crossed Sennalandet, a stark, treeless plateau between Porsangen Fiord and the west coast, with almost no wind. A good thing as any kind of wind except a tailwind would have made cycling very difficult.

Our 'camp sauvage' along the Reppafjordelva River.
Our ‘camp sauvage’ along the Reppafjordelva River.
Honey, watch out! There's a herd of reindeer on the road.
Honey, watch out! There’s reindeer on the road.

The next three days from Alta to Lyngseidet were some of the most scenic we have ridden. The road mostly follows the coast with short overland climbs up to 400 metres in elevation between fiords. The larger mountains of the coast coming nearer with each pass.

Jan trucking along west of Alta.
Jan trucking along west of Alta.
The view of Kvenangen Fiord from the pass above Oksfjordhamn.
The view of Kvenangen Fiord looking north from the pass above Oksfjordhamn.

The coast line is dotted with small towns and settlements and it generally feels like we’re cycling through a travel brochure. Many of the houses are red or yellow and stand out in the greens of the surrounding landscape. All along the roadsides and in the fields are riots of pink as fireweed is in full bloom everywhere we go. Jan and I both think this has been some of the finest cycling we’ve done.

Talvik, north of Alta.
Talvik, north of Alta.
An enticing side road with a magnificent view.
An enticing side road with a magnificent view.
The Lyngen Alps are getting closer.
The Lyngen Alps are getting closer.
Fireweed colours the landscape.
Fireweed colours the landscape.

Another amazing person we met on the road will sadly remain anonymous. We call him Austrian Guy. We never did get his name, despite repeated meetings along the road as we hopscotched along the same route. What we did learn was that he is 76 and lives in Vienna. He flew to Honningsvåg and took the bus to Nordkapp and began cycling south. He wants to cycle back to Vienna, a journey of some 4,000 KM, give or take a few hundred, depending on which route he takes. This is a man who is more than 25 years our senior and essentially undertaking the same journey we are. Amazing! We hope that in 25 years we will still be cycling like Austrian Guy.

From Sylvi and Hallvard’s it took us two days to get to Finnsness where a bridge crosses to Senja Island, Norway’s second largest island. After stocking up on some groceries we crossed the bridge and turned north on Route 861 hoping to find a suitable place to pitch a tent as campsites are a bit scarce on that side of the island. A few kilometres along we saw a sign for Skoghus, a Hostel International, so we pulled in and they offered camping. Lucky for us as moments later the skies opened up and it poured for 90 minutes. We were so happy to be under cover inside the common room at the hostel.

Senja Island is a kind of fairytale island with jagged peaks bisected by fiords and dotted with little villages and hamlets. It’s a bit like Mordor but without the rough edges because the landscape is verdant and populated. The northern route twists and turns as it follows the coast line and where mountains impede progress, tunnels simply take you to the other side. We went through six tunnels and a seventh, along with a bridge across a fiord, is under construction taking out the mountain pass to get to Gryllefjord. It really is amazing the amount of infrastructure here that connects communities. It’s a sign of a prosperous nation with a commitment that nobody needs to live in isolation.

Jan pushes the button to activate a light so drivers know there are cyclists in the tunnel.
Jan pushes the button to activate a light so drivers know there are cyclists in the tunnel.
Jan riding in the tunnel from Senjahopen. One of six tunnels we went through on route 862 on Senja Island.
Riding in the tunnel from Senjahopen. One of six tunnels we went through on route 862 on Senja Island.
The road to Mefjordvær on Senja Island.
The road to Mefjordvær on Senja Island.

Despite the marginal weather, we did get good views of the gorgeous landscape of Senja. We made our way to Mefjordvær on one of the northern peninsulas. There was no campground and the hotel was fully booked so, at the suggestion of a woman at the hotel, we made camp just on the edge of town with a magnificent view of the surrounding mountains. We decided to treat ourselves to dinner at the hotel. Jan, adventurous as ever, ordered whale steak (no species was given) and I had reindeer steak. Both delicious, and washed down with wine and beer, respectively.

Another 'camp sauvage' near Mefjordvær on Senja Island.
Another ‘camp sauvage’ near Mefjordvær on Senja Island.

The next morning, another tunnel, about 3 KM long, took us through the mountains to the next peninsula and on to Skaland where we took a break for coffee and cake.

Looking north from the pass toward Skaland on Route 862.
Looking north from the pass toward Skaland on Route 862.

The day before, we had met a man along the road (he and his wife were picking berries) who told us we had to stop in Hamn and have “the best fish soup in the world.” We took his advice and pushed on, delaying lunch until we got to Hamn. It is a charming little place that is mostly a resort now after the nickel mine closed many years ago. At its height, about 650 people lived there but now it’s mostly holiday houses and the resort. We stood out a bit among the well-heeled crowd in the classy dining room as we sauntered in wet and sweaty from the ride. The soup was very good.

We contemplated staying there but the only accommodation available was a “simple room with twin beds” for 1130 NOK ($200), including breakfast. We pushed on to Gryllefjord, despite the deteriorating weather.

Route 862 on Senja Island at Ersfjord.
Route 862 on Senja Island at Ersfjord.

We climbed the mountain pass – soon to be eliminated by a new tunnel and bridge – but did not get rewarded with a view as the weather had closed in rapidly. On the descent  to Gryllefjord we met a couple from Switzerland who have been on the road for 3 months and were on their way to Nordkapp, and then back home to Lucerne. We chatted for a few minutes in the increasing rain and went our separate ways. The last five kilometres into Gryllefjord was grim and we got a thorough soaking. The GoreTex failed on many levels, from head to toe.

Paul on the road north of Ersfjord.
Paul on the road north of Ersfjord.

With nowhere to stay in Gryllefjord, we opted for the last ferry of the day to Andenes on Andøya, the northern most island of the Vesterålen archipelago. We had an hour before the ferry’s departure and luckily Gina’s Cafe was open so we could warm up and dry off a bit, have a snack and something to drink.

Adding sauce to boost the calorie count of our snack at Gina's Cafe in Gryllefjord.
Adding sauce to boost the calorie count of our snack at Gina’s Cafe in Gryllefjord.

The ferry ride lasted about 90 minutes and was a bit of a bumpy one because of the weather. Arriving in Andenes, the weather was not any better. Wind and driving rain got us wet all over again in the few minutes it took us to get to the camp site on the edge of town.

We pitched our tent in a “fresh breeze” and bolted for the common room and kitchen to dry off, warm up and make some soup. It was nearly 10 PM and it had been a long day. The “fresh breeze” continued through the night complete with rain but we slept like babies for about 10 hours.

The campground in Andenes.
The campground in Andenes.

The morning had not brought much improvement in the weather but as the day progressed it eased up a bit so we managed to get down the road about 18 KM when the next wave of rain hit us. We were at Stave, a small seaside community with a campground and some cabins. We opted for a room: warm, dry and with its own kitchen.

South along route 976 from Andenes to Stave.
South along route 976 from Andenes to Stave.

We have two days to get to Evenes Airport, south of Harstad. We will most likely cycle to Risøyhamn at the south end of Andøya and take the Hurtigruten to Harstad. The only unfortunate part of that plan is that the ferry leaves Risøyhamn at 4.30 AM and gets us to Harstad a couple of hours later. From Harstad we’ll ride to a campsite north of the airport where we will become a foursome for the next month with our friends Alba and Gérard from Barcelona.

Here’s a google map of our journey so far:

http://goo.gl/maps/dwXhq

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6 thoughts on “Norwegian Hospitality

  1. Following your progress with interest we we hope to ride from Bergen to Maloy in 2014/15. We don’t get as much time off as you clearly have for this amazing pan-European trip.

  2. It is a pleasure to read your travel stories and I am impressed about your endurance…and still a lot of kilometers ahead ..keep going and writing

  3. Oh man, and I thought we were adventurous !!!!Ha, ha, cycling 100km from New Denver to Nelson on rail to trail when Mary took our heavy panniers!!!!!LOL. But hey, we are old. LOVING your blog and the pics. So wished we were there. Enjoy.

  4. Looking good you two! It hasn’t rained here (or even been overcast) in well over a month, and it’s been hitting 28C with regularity. Looking forward to the next post as always, and keep on adding that sauce to the fries Paulie – gotta keep that calorie intake up! Also, where’s the beard!?!
    Ciao for now! xo

    reply: The beard is up in the air. Maybe later in the trip 🙂

  5. Wonderful hosts and scenery. Their reindeer sure look abit stumpy. I’m sure this type of breed may not do super good in Canada initially? We do have the woodland caribou.

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