First of all, this page includes the Orkney and the Shetland Islands as well as Norway. These used to be owned by the Norwegians until they were given away as a royal wedding dowry in the 15th century. The main reason I have combined them with Norway though, is because this is where I met and travelled with my future wife, Felicity. We are got married in Australia on the 10th of August 2002 . She is an Australian, from Sydney, but was working in London where she has taught music since 1996.
We met in a hostel on the Orkney Islands. She walked into the kitchen, and we said hello, perhaps a few other pleasantries. I didn’t think too much about it, but later, I was going to the (one and only) pub with an Italian travel writer I was sharing a room with. I ran into Felicity again, and told her where we were going and invited her to join us. Half an hour later, she joined us, and the two of us just talked like long lost mates. We had a common interest, travel. She has travelled through much as Asia and Europe herself.
Stromness port, Orkeny Island. The clear skies in this photo were short lived. I think it rained most of the time I was there. There is still an active fishing industry, a brewery, a baker, a dairy and cheese-making, but I don’t think jobs are a too plentiful here. It was very quiet, and beautiful. I’d love to come back, but they tell me don’t hold your breath waiting for good weather.
Skara Brae Village. An old Viking village. In Papa Westray there is Knap of Howar, the oldest house in Europe – older than the pyramids.
The mysterious symbol of the Ring of Brodgar, a ring of stones similar to Stonehenge.
The next day, we went to the Shetland Islands. Felicity borrowed a bicycle helmet, and jumped on the back of the bike, and we did a tour of the Main Shetland Island. The weather was a bit unkind, like in the rest of Scotland, but we did get to explore a lighthouse, see some puffins and other sea birds, and picnic on St Ninians Island.
The main harbour at Lerwick in the Shetlands. Again, the weather cleared momentarily for me to get a good shot.
St Ninians Island where we had a picnic lunch. The sand bar in the middle is tidal. At low tide, you can walk across to the island. We stayed on the beach in the shelter of the cliffs to escape the cold winds. Here, we had talked about where we were headed, and found that we were going the same way, to the Lofoten islands, but I was going to keep going to Nordkap, while she was to return to Oslo.
I really enjoyed Felicity’s company. I hadn’t enjoyed talking to someone so much for as long as I could remember. I started to have thoughts of a relationship with her, but that was just plain stupid. I’m over 14 years older, she lives in London, and I live on the opposite side of the world. Ah well it’s fun to dream. I’ll ask her to join me anyhow, because I just like her company, and I already considered her a good friend. So I invited her to come with me on the bike. She didn’t have a helmet or any riding gear, but shouldn’t be too big a problem.
We took a night ferry across to Bergen, Norway. Next morning, we were cruising between hundreds of small islands headed for port, and I’m wondering what Felicity’s decision will be. I really didn’t expect that she would agree. After all, a girl jumping on the back of a bike with a guy she has only known a few days, and heading off into the distance in a foreign country is not the sort of thing sane girls do. Fortunately, she had a good sense of adventure, she did trust me, and figured if I had made it this far around the world on the bike, I can’t be too crazy (dubious assumption). Anyhow, she agreed! Wow! Ok……….errrr….. I suppose we’ll have to get you a helmet. You can have my wet weather over-trousers. Your jacket and boots are waterproof. I have a spare set of gloves. So all we need is a helmet.
We trekked off in Bergen in search of a motorcycle store. Let me tell you, motorcycle stores in Norway are rare, and in Bergen where it rains 300 days a year, even more rare. With a bit of local assistance, we tracked down a store, and after being put off by the price of new helmets, we asked about second hand helmets. The store owner was really good. Very helpful, and generous as it turned out. He did have an old Nolan full-face that needed a new visor. He said we could have it if we buy a visor. Bargain! We also bought balaclava’s, because I only had my motocross helmet, and it was bound to get cold and wet. And it did!
Bergen was wet, wet, wet. I’ve been here before in better conditions and it is a nice city. But when it is wet, there is nothing to hang around for, so we pushed inland as quickly as possible.
Although I had done the incredible scenic rail trip from Oslo to Bergen the year before as a backpacker, nothing prepared me for the even more incredible beauty the further North you go. This water fall was just one of many beside the road. The sun was strong, the colours bright and contrasting, and the countryside dramatic.
To get from the South to the North of Norway, you have to cross several fjords. We pulled up at a ferry station where we met a Norwegian couple on a Honda Pan-European ST1100. They were working for the UN in the UK, but had come home for the summer school holidays. They said they were taking the scenic route up to Kristiansand. We didn’t want to go all the way there, but we thought it would be nice to travel part of the way together.
Along the way, we had to cross several Fjords by ferry. In the Sognafjord, we had about a 2 hour trip down the fjord which is one of those must-do experiences. The water is smooth as a mirror. The air is crisp, but not too cold. The sides of the fjord rise up 1000m on either side, and the water can be even deeper than 1000m. Uve (pronounced Ooovey), who was in the Norwegian navy, told us that Russian submarines used to come here for exercises, much to the annoyance of the Norwegians, because they would be too deep to find with sonar. They knew they were there, but they couldn’t find them.
Felicity was finding travelling on the KTM tough going. Lets face it, the KTM is really a solo bike, and even then it isn’t too comfortable for the rider. She has a problem with her back, and the seating position was causing her a lot of pain. She was to the point of deciding to part company with me, and get on a train her pain was so great. Yet apart from the pain, she really enjoyed my company, and seeing Norway from a bike, which is much better than from a train window. I could see the discomfort she was in, and I was feeling really bad for her. She could see my empathy, and asked me to hug her. I heard her perfectly, but I said “pardon?”. She didn’t have to ask me again, ever. The sparks flew. There was definitely a strong chemistry between us, and Felicity knew then that she couldn’t leave. Although she was in pain, the beauty of the surroundings, and being comforted by me helped her forget the pain momentarily. We talked about what we should do, and decided that we would have to have more regular stops, and shorter days. There was still some discomfort, but it was tolerable, and for the next 10 days we were treated to some of the most dramatic and beautiful scenery we have ever seen in our lives. Not a bad way to start a relationship!
The middle of summer, but plenty of snow on one particular pass.
Spectacular road. Lots of switchbacks down to the valley below. Trouble is it started raining as soon as we headed down.
This 800 year old church is made of timber, and still in remarkable condition. The weather must really preserve timber well. It is the oldest timber building I have ever seen.
It is a shame it is raining here. It is a really spectacular fjord. Massive cruise ships sail right up here, and one arrived while were there. This is a popular camping and holiday destination. We stayed one night, but we were getting tired of the rain by now. The next day was even worse. I’m sure Felicity must have been wondering what she had let herself in for, and so was I.
We kept pressing on north. It was wet, cold and miserable. By about 3pm, we had both reached our limits. I decided that we would just stop at the next place we can get accommodation, no matter what it costs. Norway is very sparsely populated the further North you go, and it was another hour or so before we found somewhere, and it was a gem of a place. It was a camping park with cabins for rent. We got a centrally heated self contained cabin with a laundry and a huge shared drying room. We unloaded the bike and started hanging out everything to dry. Just about everything was wet. Even inside my panniers, because they were no longer waterproof thanks to a few crashes. I was soaked to the skin. My gloves are wet, and boots were full of water. I had found the limit of my Dainese jacket and KTM wet weather trousers. Felicity was a little better off having me as a rain shield. We filled the entire drying room with our gear. Lucky no one else needed it. The air is so dry here, that even without heat, everything was dry the next morning. We stayed another day because Felicity wasn’t feeling the best, and it was a really good rest. It was great for us too. We had a lot of time to just talk and get to know each other better. I couldn’t imagine a better scenario than what happened, and I started to feel like we are meant to be.
After this, Norway really turns on it magic for us. The weather is absolutely fantastic from here on.
Felicity on the Trondheim.waterfront. A beautiful seaside city.
Colourful Trondheim again.
Crossing the Artic circle.
They have soil on the roof for insulation. Grass grows like mad here, so how do you cut it? Just throw a few goats up on the roof, that’s how.
The camp site at Bodo. Waiting to catch the ferry across to the Lofoten islands. Check the size of our tent. Lucky we get on well.
This is a town simply called ‘A°’ on the Lofoten Islands. We had a fantastic room here with views. The weather was great. The scenery dramatic. The company even better. I will never forget this place. The building in the foreground has a cheap seafood restaurant. Our room was a few hundred metres behind, with great views from our window.
From A°, the are lots of walking trails that take you into the mountains, with beautiful lakes and spectacular views of the dramatic coastline. If you like nature and walking, this place is hard to beat if the weather is good.
On the Lofoten’s again.
White sandy beaches are common in Norway. I actually saw kids swimming. The water is freezing! And this is in summer!
Another small fishing port.
One of my favourite photo’s. The reflection says it all about the stillness. Felicity had gone back to Oslo, and I was on my way to Nordkapp, the northern most point of Europe.
At Nordkapp.I met a young university student from Stockholm on a 2000 Adventure that he had just bought second hand. He rode past me as I was making a cup of tea in one of the many road side parking areas. Later I passed him having his lunch, so I pulled in to say hello. We were both headed the same way, so we travelled together for the rest of the way to the top. Along the way, we pulled in for fuel. He started his bike, and it was rattling really badly. It had a competition exhaust, and was loud, so I didn’t notice it riding with him, but there was no mistaking it, this motor had a problem. I asked him about it. He said it had been making that noise since he bought it, and it had made it all the way from Sweden, so it should be OK. I was dubious, but it’s his bike, and we pushed on.
Johan Nyman’s bike did make Nordkapp, and this is just before the parking area for the Nordkapp museum. We met another Australian couple on a ZZR1100 there. We all went to the gate to get in, but they wanted to extort us for an outrageous amount of money (I forget how much), and none of us went in.
This is what you see at the northern most point of Europe. As far as I’m concerned, further north than the Lofoten islands is a waste of time. The scenery is not that spectacular, and it is a long way to go for what I consider a ‘check box item’. Had I have known what was ahead of me, I would have cut through Sweden and caught the ferry across to Helsinki. Most of Finland lacks interest from a motorcycling point of view. It is very flat, lots of lakes that are very beautiful, but if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. If I had money, I would have spent more time there, but it is a very expensive country.
We turned around and headed straight back again. I didn’t have any idea where we would stay for the night, but events happened that would have blocked any plans. I was merrily riding along, through the twisty roads, but not twisty enough to be fun unless you are doing 160+, fingers frozen thanks to my motocross gloves (the others were wet) and I noticed Johan wasn’t behind me anymore. I went back and found him beside the road, bike parked with a long black rubber mark behind the rear wheel. The motor had locked up solid, and fortunately for Johan, on one of the few straight stretches. The motor was terminal. Johan wanted to see if we could get it going again, but I assured him that he won’t be going any further on this bike in this trip. We weren’t there long when two Germans stopped to help. They took Johan back to the next town 30 minutes away, and we organised a tow truck to come back and pick up the bike. The tow truck charged almost US$500 for less than 2 hours work. I’m in the wrong business!
Reindeer are everywhere, and can be a road hazard.
While Johan was away, we organised a place to stay out of town. It was cheap, and more to the point, warm! The Germans had their BMW 318 coupe full of food. I forget their names now. This all happened 9 months before I wrote this story, but I think one of them was Deiter. They didn’t plan to spend any money in Norway that they didn’t have to. They cooked up a feast, and we had beer and wine
Johan Nyman, and the two Germans who helped us. Hi guys. Thanks for your help, and the food! The next day, Johan got himself and the bike on a ferry to Trondheim, and on a train from there back to Stockholm. He emailed me a while ago to say that he had the bike fixed under insurance, and was going well again.