11/6/17. Although we went to bed early (well before 9), we both fell asleep quickly but then woke in the early hours. It is so strange to see daylight at 1 in the morning. Of course our thoughts immediately leapt to “What’s the election result looking like?” as the polling stations had closed a couple of hours earlier and we were surprised to see the BBC’s exit poll predicting no overall majority. We both woke several times more and kept checking the BBC website for updates on the progress of the actual results while 250 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Almost a year ago we were monitoring the results of the EU referendum sat in a temple complex in Japan. The wonders of modern technology!
Despite the broken sleep we were up and ready for breakfast at 8 o’clock and shortly thereafter on our way. However, we pulled up after not much more than 50 yards as both of us had mudguards rubbing against the wheel. (Despite their apparent simplicity, Stephen is convinced that mudguards must be among the most difficult things on a bike to fix correctly. They ALWAYS rub until they have been adjusted and fiddled with for at least an hour!)
Some tinkering later we set off again and made our way to the road heading east towards the rest of Norway and, more importantly for us, Finland. As it was busier than we had expected (but still quieter than most main roads in the UK, of course) we were pleased to find a decent cycle route for the first few kilometres out of town but we soon back on the road with the cars and trucks. A few came by quite close and it was interesting to note that they were generally Russian (there are quite a few on the road). There was quite a variety of nationalities represented by the vehicles – we saw number plates from 10 different countries including a British 4×4, a French car and, a long way from home, a Spanish motorhome.
Although it was not mountainous, the road snaked up and down quite a few hills – certainly enough for Christine to get in her walking “ ration” for the day. The traffic reduced after we passed the side road to the airport but there was still more than we had expected for such a remote place.
After about 40 km we reached the Finland turning which was beside a raging torrent of a river carrying lots of melted snow down to the fjord. This road was much quieter and we were able to enjoy the lovely views more.
We had seen a couple of reindeer beside the E6 but now they became a more frequent sight, with several bearing impressive looking antlers which were still covered in velvet as far as we could tell.
Another 10 km saw us reach the border. On the Norwegian side there was a Customs house in which we could we see several officials who appeared to be taking no interest in happenings outside so we kept on riding through carrying, as far as they knew, all sorts of nefarious goods.
A short way into Finland we came to 2 supermarkets side by side. Both had fuel pumps and we can only assume one majored on petrol and the other on diesel as each offered one cheaper than the other by a couple of cents. We took the opportunity to top up on chocolate, coffee and a couple of donuts using some of our remaining Norwegian kroner.
Just past the shops we spied a likely looking place to camp. (In Scandinavia wild camping is permitted just about anywhere apart from private gardens and, not surprisingly, the military area we had passed through on the E6.) It was an area of small, thinly spread trees on reasonably level, dry ground. We wheeled the bikes a hundred metres or so into the trees and set up the tent in a spot that was just visible from the road, but only if you knew we were there.
It had been another warm day with the Garmin showing up to 16° (although we are not persuaded that it’s thermometer is completely accurate) but by 6 o’clock it was starting to cool down quickly. The donuts had taken the edge off our appetites so we had a quick meal of Stephen’s a signature dish (when camping) of pasta and tomato sauce before diving into our sleeping bags.
The temperature continued to drop and, during the night, Christine got into her sleeping bag liner while Stephen added an extra layer of clothing and retreated right into his sleeping bag with the drawstring closed.
In the morning we were scrabbling around in our panniers for extra layers and warm clothing. Christine had woolly tights under her leggings and 5 layers on the top while Stephen was also in leggings and even got out his bobble hat and full fingered gloves! The Garmin was showing 3.5°.
Then we came to the question of the morning’s ablutions. In the absence of a shower built into the adjacent silver birch tree, washing was a perfunctory affair using (very) cold water from a water bottle. I am sure you are asking yourself the age old question, “Do cyclists **** in the woods?” Well, the answer is “Yes”! (With a degree of embarrassment.)
In view of the temperature we needed to get on the bikes to generate some warmth, so breakfast was a quick bread roll or two with nutella (or rather, a Norwegian supermarket own brand equivalent) and coffee followed by a swift packing up of the tent, etc. and we were on our way.
While packing away the tent Christine noticed something on the outside and asked “Is that the stuff you used to mend the small holes?” to which came the reply “No. It’s bird muck!”
With the sun behind clouds that had drifted in overnight, it took some time to warm up sufficiently to start peeling off clothes but eventually the bobble hat and an outer layer or two came off.
Meanwhile we just enjoyed cycling along the very quiet road taking in the gentle landscape. Once the sun burnt off the clouds the weather was glorious, although it remained on the chilly side, with a beautiful blue sky reflected in the myriad lakes and the trees just coming into bud. The gentle wind was mostly from our backs and the hills had flattened out so that the road was was only gently undulating. Life was good!
After about 30 km we reached a small village – i .e. a name board, 3 or 4 houses on either side of the road and a campsite. A sign announced that the campsite had a cafe so we decided it would be rude not to take advantage of the offer. Along with coffee and hot chocolate we had a couple of small sandwiches with reindeer meat (yummy!) and a pancake with lingonberries and cream.
While we were eating another cyclist came in and joined us. We had a very enjoyable chat with Trevor from Kendal who now lives in Greece and had cycled from home! He told us that he had met John and Sean/Shaun earlier and they had recommended this campsite/cafe to him after their stay the previous night.
Trevor told us that we had 100 km of “nothing” in front of us until we reached the village of Inari which was confirmation of what we already knew – we were going to be wild camping again that night as there was no way we were going to ride that far in the afternoon.
The afternoon followed a similar pattern to the morning – gentle cycling through lovely countryside with just reindeer and the odd car for company. By 5 o’clock the temperature was starting to drop again and so we decided to stop for the night in a little patch of ground 10 metres from the road.
Forewarned is forearmed! This time we used the sleeping bag liners from the start and were grateful for them as it was another cold night.
Sunday was pretty much a repeat of the previous day without the cafe offering reindeer meat and lingonberries and with two Dutch cyclists rather than a Greco-Cumbrian! However, for the last 20 km into Inari our quiet little road joined the E75 which, like the E6 in Norway, was the main road with far more traffic – still not busy by UK standards but enough to require continued concentration.
Arriving in Inari (try saying that after a sherbert or two!) we decided that after two nights in a tent in near freezing temperatures we deserved a treat so we checked into the Inari Hotel – expensive at €111 for a night but warm, comfortable and with hot shower and toilet!