Once again we really enjoyed the hotel breakfast buffet and checked out at 12:00 pm. Our ferry to Moskenes on the Lofoten Islands was at 3:00 pm. It was still raining lightly and the ride to the ferry terminal was very short. We watched the Hurtigruten Ferry dock and could get on to our ferry at 2:30 pm. We left at 3:00 pm and arrived at Moskenes at 6:30 pm. We only rode a couple of kilometres to the first tunnel which the old road ran alongside along the sea, with bollards preventing cars from using it. We found a good bush camp right there and pitched the tent. The were many backpackers/hikers who used this road as well and during the night we heard people chatting as they walked passed our tent site. The views were not great yet, owing to the clouds on the mountains surrounding us.
The weather forecast had predicted a partly cloudy day, but on waking we had the same grey weather as before. We had a great day's riding though and the sun did make an appearance in the afternoon! Yay! Although the dramatic mountain scenery would suggest otherwise, cycling here is pretty flat as most of the time you are on the main route which follows the flat coastline. We passed through many scenic villages; typically Norwegian scenes. The promised ice blue sea water and white sandy beaches made an appearance. Many people say that the Lofoten Islands are the most beautiful part of Norway and they may be right! We saw many tents pitched all over in the bush and also many people on bikes, some cycle tourists, some out on day trips. Early in the morning just after Moskenes as I looked out over the water I thought I saw a kayaker, but then thought something seemed strange. Then I realised that what I was seeing were the dorsal fins of orca whales! BIG excitement. We pulled over into a laybye and watched. It seemed that they were two mother and child pairs. What an experience to see orcas!
The road was excellent and the cycle route bypasses the tunnels, except one, our first underwater tunnel. When we reached it we were on a cycleway which seemed to come to an end, but there was a pavement on one side of the tunnel. We decided to opt for the road. The tunnel was 1.7 km long and descended steeply. It then climbed steeply and we realised that the pavement was the place to be. We waited for a gap in the traffic and quickly launched onto the pavement and kept going.
Leknes was the biggest village we would pass through today and we did some shopping there. Thereafter we left the main route and cycled up a hill with hairpin bends, and beautiful scenery on the descent; large mossy boulders and a bay dotted with many islands. Shortly after this we came apon a great camping option on a beautiful crystal clear bay. Quite easy to push the bikes to. As the afternoon wore on the sky cleared and the sun came out! Bliss! Interestingly the sun does seem different here than it did further south. It is definitely not as strong and we still needed warm jackets even though we sat in the sunlight.
WOW - Beautiful weather today! So happy and pleased to be a cycle tourist on the Lofotens! The views were unbelievable; jagged mountains still with snow caps, that famous turquoise blue, perfectly clear ocean, white sandy beaches. It is an effort to get here, for anyone, but well worth it. We would pass through Svolvær which is a large town en route and shopped there for dinner. The road was quite busy with holiday traffic but all those drivers are also taking in the view so no one is racing.
Prior to Svolvær we crossed one of the typically steeply arched Norwegian bridges and on the other side stopped at the rest area. There were two busloads of toursits, German and Danish and a few of the Danes came to chat. They had been to Nordkapp already and we spoke for a while. Then a minivan pulled in with a group of Dutch tourists, one of which came over to chat as he recognised our bikes, being from the Netherlands. He was really enthusiastic as he had cycled from the Netherlands to Nordkapp last year and loved it. We also saw two motorcycle tour groups which was new for us; the tour guide leads from upfront and about 10 bikes follow. So many different ways to see Norway.
After Svolvær our road turned off the main route and we passed a couple of lakes and found a good camping spot on one. So nice to have a fresh water swim!
The great weather we had yesterday did not last and it was overcast today, but not cold, and the rain came only late in the day, once we had finished our ride. Our campsite last night was great but had two problems; flies (not the biting kind, just the normal, annoying kind) and worms. The worms were cute at first, tiny comical things that crawled on your boot or on the tent. But there were just more and more of them as the evening wore on and they seemed to want to spin themselves into cocoons on the tent. So we were kept busy keeping the flies and the worms out of the tent. Even midway through the day when we had cycled 60 km and caught a ferry, I found a worm crawling along Mike's handlebars. This is just the sort of fun and games bush camping can present!
We got an early start as we had a 10:30 am ferry to catch from Fiskebøl and just over 40 km to ride. The riding was flat, along wide plains, along the coast. We still had those fabulous turquoise water views of the travel guides. We reached Fiskebøl in plenty of time and the ferry trip was only 25 minutes but with great seating and windows. We alighted at Melbu, Vesterålen and it was only a 15 km ride to Stokmarkness, our main town en route. We visited the tourist info office and uploaded the website. Although we have our own wifi we mostly cannot access the internet in areas we travel through so we try to make use of it when passing through a town. We crossed two bridges out of Stokmarkness, stopping between the two for lunch at a picnic site. The roads today were so quiet, on the road to Fiskebøl only one car passed us in all the 40 km and after Stokmarkness we chose a longer, quieter road to Sortland which was also very lightly trafficked. The next bridge we crossed was another steeply arched affair on a narrow pavement. I try not to look down as you've got to concentrate to stay on the pavement, but the lure of the deep, clear, turquoise water from above was too much, "Don't look down, but isn't this water amazing?" I said to Mike who replied "I wanted to say the same to you!". We had a moment's indecision as turning off onto the quieter road (FV 885) was 30 km longer to Sortland than remaining on the RV82, but we are pleased we chose the former. The route wound between sea and farmland and the scenery changed quite a bit after 20 km and became quite dramatic, large rocky outcrops and so on. We stopped at a few potential bushcamps before finding ours which is secluded but close to the road. We walked back a few hundred meters to a river to swim. There was a deep pool on the rocks which made for a perfect bath. We seem to be getting the hang of the river swims now and they almost don't feel cold at all. Hee hee. The road we are camping on must be the quietest road ever. In fact it is so quiet here it's like being in a vacuum. Except when it is raining on the tent.
It rained most of the night and we cycled in rainpants and booties all day as it was cold, but it did not rain which we were happy about. The day's ride was not all that interesting when compared with the riding we have had on the Lofoten's and now Vesterålen and in that the views were not as good, but of course we still enjoyed it. We had a climb and then a quick descent into Sortland where we crossed the usual type of bridge and then continued along the west coast of Hinnøya. As we approached Risøyhamn we could see the Hurtigruten leave and realised the reason for these high arched bridges; it is so that ferries and ships like the Hurtigruten can pass underneath them. The bridge at Risøyhamn looked so steep when bearing down on it that it seemed impossible to ride up it, but all these bridges are at 6% grade so not as steep as they appear. We shopped at Risøyhamn and then had only 15 km to go 'til we came to a beautiful beach after Noss. On the way, we passed through our third town called Bø, which follows nicely the towns we've seen called Å. The beach had a grassy area perfect for camping and across the road were toilets and benches, etc. for car traffic. It was not possible for cars/campervans to access the beach camp area which is just the way we like it. We swam in the sea (brrrrrr) which was as clear and blue as it always is here. Pity it was only 10 degrees but we are clean! Tomorrow morning we will ride 40 km to Andenes and the ferry to Senja. Tromsø is only two and a bit days away!
We had the same overcast conditions today and with a headwind all the way to the ferry at Andenes it was cold too. We had 42 km to ride to Andenes but the headwind made us feel a little under pressure. Our ferry was only at 1:00 pm, but we also needed to shop for food and use wifi if available at the info office beforehand. The route itself was almost all flat and along the coast. Andenes offers whale and birdwatching safaris but apparantly the whale safari had not spotted a whale for three days. Even the larger mammals have packed it in! The ferry trip was 90 minutes. It was quite a small ferry and the corssing was a bit bouncy. We alighted at a much warmer Senja which was a relief. Still overcast but the weather seemed better. We are grateful though that we have not had rain.
There seemed to be a new tunnel just after the ferry terminal. Our original route did not indicate a tunnel so we were pleased to see it! It allowed us to avoid a 180 m climb/descent which is always good! It had an added feature which was a button for cyclists to press which then lit up a sign warning motorists that there were cyclists in the tunnel. How cool! The tunnel was slightly uphill; all good training for the steep climb in the Nordkapp tunnel. After the tunnel the route took us along some really picturesque coastline. The road was narrow and the views magnificent. We stopped to check out what we will translate as "Troll world" which was a place dedicated to these creatures. There was a HUGE troll that looked as if it housed a theme park type affair. All very scary. The cafe housed a souvenier shop which had every kind of troll statuette that you could wish for, were you to be a collector of trolls.
Shortly after this we had a 4 km climb of 300 m in height. The roads had all been quiet and continued quiet. We picked a camp spot on a lake right before a tunnel. It was a great spot, just some wading through water to get to it. We had a good swim, surrounded by high mountains and with great views of the lakes below. Later on, once we had eaten, a group of four women parked on the road and walked up and asked if they could camp in the same place. Interesting as when you are in a car the wilderness is not quite as big.
We woke to clearish skies and set off early. We are by this stage a bit over the pressure to meet the ferries that we seem to have had most days. It all comes down to how far you camp from the ferry terminal though. You could arrange the trip to stop right there I guess, but we prefer to stop where we find a good camp spot and also when we have covered good distance. Also, we have always timed it right and never missed a ferry, but in the back of your mind you want to make sure you have time available in case of the dreaded p-word (don't even think it!) or a headwind, etc. Anyway, we are above 69 degrees north so it is very, very light up here; daylight all day and getting up any time is not a chore. Well, no more so than getting up later! It all seems the same. We got up at 5:30 am and were on the road at 7:00 am. We had 7 tunnels today, three of them between 2 and 3 km long. The first right where we camped was being resurfaced but it was safe and our lights are very good so you can see and avoid the potholes. The work on the tunnel is done at night so the tunnel is closed from 7 pm - 7 am. It was a great day to be out on a bike as we had so few cars passing which is particularly good in the tunnels. Most of the tunnels had that button to push which alerts motorists entering that you are there. Not sure how long it stays on for, maybe they figure out the time it takes by sending and old lady through on a bone shaker?
Just after the tunnel we came apon a beautiful viewing site with an amazing platform. The Norwegian Transport Authority does a great job on commissioning artists and architects to design these sorts of things along the National Tourist Routes. Impressive. We also noticed here the little boxes with high vis vests that cyclists can borrow to put on before entering the tunnels for extra safety which is cool. We hadn't seen these before.
The first part of the day to the ferry at Botnhamn passed enjoyably with one climb. Spending a lot of time along the coasts of fjords and then popping through tunnels to the other side of mountains. Fabulous. The weather was good. We had an 11:15 am ferry to catch and made good time. We had planned to ride about 80 km today and then have about 30 km tomorrow to ride into Tromsø (where we had booked a hotel for the night) but with this excellent weather and our early start, we started to think we could ride to Tromsø today and stay two nights in the hotel, which would deliver a luxurious rest day! We had not actually stayed two nights in the same place in Norway yet and after 26 days, not having a change of scene would be appreciated! So we got out the computor and modem at the ferry stop and booked in for tonight as well! It amazes me that you can do this virtually in the middle of nowhere!
The ferry trip delived us to Brensolmen and the weather was fabulous here too! We chatted to a group of Dutch cycle tourists on the ferry who had started their trip at Moskenes and were hoping to make it to Nordkapp. We now had a mission: To make it to Tromsø! The ride was beautiful, still affording those brilliant turquoise ocean views and the road was still quiet. Many people were out an about walking, taking advantage of the good weather. After an hour or so though, it was already starting to change with high cloud coming in! Again we had alot of coastal fjord riding and then a steepish climb up to the plateau. From here it was a great descent and then we stopped for lunch. A French cyclist chatted to us. He lives in Tromsø but also lived in Northern Finland working with sled dogs and gave us some good tips for our route in Finland. We then turned to the coast again to meet the bridge crossing onto Tromsø which is actually an island. We had a cycleway all the way and had to dodge groups of reindeer along the way. We skirted the edge of the island to get to our hotel, going further than we needed to to avoid climbing the hill across the top. We arrived just after 4:00 pm so it was a long day but we are glad we made the effort! It is great to be in Tromsø and Nordkapp now beckons.