Arriving at the Arctic Circle and discovering cabin life

21st June 2023. Today is the longest day. Its been a really good day. I didn’t sleep all that well in the hotel. I did have a lovely soft bed but it was very light in the room. The curtains were not good at keeping the sun out. I woke at 7, had breakfast and got away by 8.50. My objective was to get to the polar centre which was about 2 and ½ or 2 and ¾ hours away north on the E6. First I rode through Mo I Rana, the place I had expected to be staying and then continued north. It seemed to take an age to get up there. It seemed that everything was in slow motion, like a hangover. As I rode further north the scenery became more dramatic, more rocky, more snow-capped and more snow by the side of the road. Eventually the Polar Centre came into sight, and I turned off. It was quite busy but was a large area. Lots of motorbikes parked, lots of motorhomes and lots of nicely customised jeeps. Of course I took lots of photographs and had something to eat.

I made it

I didn’t buy any of their ridiculous things in the gift shop but it felt really good to have achieved getting there and I found myself thinking that having a concrete objective on a holiday, or when travelling, is much better than just having the vague objective of riding around and having fun. This is something that you know you have done and it seemed to work because I eventually I packed everything and turned round and came back heading back south. I felt – mostly – more relaxed. I could stop whenever I needed to, I didn’t have a punishing schedule. I stopped and had coffee and a roll at a petrol station which feels more natural every time I do it. Then I plugged in the campsites into the GPS. The nearest was campsite Haugen. It was only half an hour down the E6, though I was tempted to try and get further but it was beautiful weather today, glorious sun all day, sometimes a bit too warm – up to 28 degrees, cold in the tunnels. Some of them were really long where the temperature fell to 13 degrees. I arrived here and a woman came out and I said I had a tent and she offered me a cabin and because I had been looking at the weather forecast so often which showed there was an unavoidable band of rain coming across tomorrow; some places get it earlier than others but around here it should come about 8am – I said yes to the offer. And that rain seems to last all Thursday, all Friday and all Saturday. According to the forecast there seemed no way of avoiding it. So a hut/ cabin or hytte seemed a fantastic idea, so much nicer than being in my super-cramped tent. So I’m in the hut now. It’s got a mattress – really nice, It’s got a fridge, it’s got a little stove top, its got lights, its got sockets for me to charge everything up. Its like a mini hotel but it’s a log cabin. It smells like being in a sauna.

My home for the night
Like a mini hotel
Fast flowing river

It cost only Kr400 instead of Kr1100 that last night’s hotel cost. The washroom and the shower is a bit old school; you have to put Kr10 in the slot to get hot water but that is fine by me and I can really do without the swankiness of the hotel. This really suits me well. The tent is fine when its dry and warm but it’s really cramped so to be in a place like this is amazing for really not much more money. It makes such a huge difference. So, this site is beside the E6 but there is also a river behind it, quite a long way down. You would have to take a steep path to get down there. As I am writing this the sun is – well it won’t set tonight probably. It is a beautiful evening, still warm and the river is rushing down there happily. There are a few other bikers staying but they are a safe distance away. Staying in a cabin is such a good solution and if the next few days are going to be rainy this is  a much better option than going for a hotel, I think, unless it is really horrible.  I’ve covered up the bike but it seems unimaginable that such a sunny evening will turn into a rainy dawn and then rain all day.

Two other things: my GPS – Garmin Zumo XT – when it goes into tunnels it goes into night mode dimming and then lighting up again when you come out. But earlier today it got stuck in the dark mode and I could not see the screen. I tried restarting it in a lay-by but this didn’t help. Eventually, after restarting again and making an adjustment it got back to normal, but it gave me a real moment mainly because I rely on it to see whether I am exceeding the speed limit (everyone warns that speeding fines are very expensive here). Thing number 2: I’ve got my big map of this part of Norway spread out here on the table and I was going to put a town Rorvik into the GPS. I’ve looked at it before – its one of the places where the ferry goes on the Motorrad tour but there are two Rorviks and now I’ve found the real Rorvik which is a much smaller place near Trondheim and this is one of the first ferries that they catch on that particular day. Luckily I didn’t put the wrong Rorvik in which is further north but close enough to be a plausible place that you might think you were heading to. I am planning to head to Trondheim and then peel off the E6 to the West, the coast road, the E39. So that’s my plan for tomorrow. I’m expecting it to be wet but I have good wet weather gear and I can hunker down and get going, so lets see how the next days go. The 28th is the day I catch the ferry. In summary, it took 3 ½ days for me to get to the arctic circle from the bottom of Norway and I have 7 days to wind the way back down. I’m really happy with this place and let’s hope I can find other places like it on my journey down south. Using cabins transforms motorcycle travel in Norway.

Just south of Trondheim

Tuesday 20th June: That date makes tomorrow the Summer Solstice, the longest day. I heard somebody ask on the radio ‘what are you going to do to celebrate?’ What I’m going to do is be in the Arctic Circle where the sun won’t set at all but I am not going to stay up all night just to make sure that it doesn’t.

Today started off in that campsite just south of Trondheim. I woke at 6.45 and got going, packed things up which was so easy because everything was dry. I made a coffee, had a couple of cereal bars and left at 8.45. It always takes two hours to break camp – surprising. Then I was on the road. I put Mo I Rana into the GPS and it said that I’d be there by 4.30. This seems a reasonable time compared to when you first read that a trip will take 7 hours which seems very long, too long. There was though a bit too much traffic. I stopped for petrol and wasn’t sure whether to stop again. In the end I did stop at a scenic layby. I talked to an older German man there travelling with his partner on a motorcycle (or was it two?). They were taking a much more leisurely approach. He showed me his map of Norway. He’d drawn circles of every place he was going to stay, every few inches, whereas I’m travelling at least twice as far as them every day. So I headed off.

Eventually I decided I needed some food and drink so stopped at a little town and went to a supermarket where I bought a kind of cappuccino milk carton and a roll and that helped and then I headed off again. It was a long, long way, endlessly on this road, though it was beautiful but I was a bit tired I think. But then the heavens opened. I could see it coming. Beautiful mountainous views on either side and lakes and snow up on the peaks.  But the rain just fell down. I was wearing my waterproof gear already. It was so heavy and made visibility so poor that some people pulled off the road. I did for a moment or two but it was pointless. I kept going and then it stopped which felt so good. All the time the petrol was going down but I just don’t trust the petrol gauge. I had ridden 230 miles but the gauge was showing just under half a tank and telling me I could ride for another 120 miles. One day I will have to test it with some spare petrol.

At this place where I am now – which I will explain later – its not as far as Mo I Rana, maybe 30 miles south of there. I was wet and tired so stopped. I rode past this big campsite in the town which had a few tents but lots of cabins and a lot of them had motorbikes parked outside them and I thought ‘OK this is possibly a place to stay, in a cabin, like other people on bikes are doing’. I searched for a petrol station, found it then thought that I would stay in a hotel. I promised myself I would if it was wet – and it was raining again and I was wet.  I found the hotel that I am in now. Its called the Fru Haugens hotel in Mosjøen. Its £112 for a room but I had no hesitation. The bike was wet, I was wet. I came up into this economy single room. I took all these wet clothes off, had a shower, dried my clothes on the radiator, dried my helmet. Plugged everything in. Ah – it was such a relief, so welcome. The only downside is that they are remaking all the roads in this town and right outside my window was a man with a mechanical whacker and a digger, this incredible racket just outside my room.

I ventured off through this small town to a brand new supermarket in a shopping centre that’s open till midnight and bought food for dinner in my room. I thought having spent £112 on a room I am not going to spend more money on an expensive dinner here. The guy on the digger stopped and I felt my spirits lift – but then he started again and my anxiety wound up again. Finally, he stopped and went home and I breathed a sigh of relief.

I put in the Arctic Circle Centre into the GPS. It will take just over two hours to get there so its not very far. That’s fantastic and that will be Wednesday. The downside is that Thursday morning it will start raining – all day. But the app on my phone has a little symbol for rain which is perhaps psychologically misleading because it looks really dark. Now I have got, for the rest of my time here, to do these manoeuvres to avoid the rain. I even thought of going across the border to Sweden where there is not as much rain but when you look in more detail the amount of rain is much greater so I won’t do that but I do want to figure out some strategy. Maybe its just riding in the rain and staying in hotels. It makes the trip more expensive but maybe it’s the way to go. Anyway, it’s the Arctic Circle tomorrow on the summer solstice which is fantastic and then head back down south. Tomorrow is the 21st and my boat sails on 28th so I have 7 days to wind my way, perhaps down the coast.

Travelling north through Lillehammer

19th June: I slept pretty well in the end and woke up around 7.30 and tried to move as fast as I could although I took the trouble to make a filter coffee and ate a cereal bar–that was breakfast. The tent was wet, the bike cover was wet but thankfully everything inside was dry. I had to pack everything up before it had properly dried out. Amazingly, even though I woke up at 7.30 I didn’t actually leave until 9.45. I took ages to pack everything away, particularly when I was waiting as long as I could for things to dry out a little.  I headed off via Honnefoss and it was raining, drizzling, wet. I stopped twice to put on more waterproof gear and warmer clothes but once I had got everything right, I was very comfortable despite the cold and rain. I was thinking that when its super-hot (as it was in Portugal last year) you can take off as many layers as you want and open as many vents on jackets as you can but you still suffer with the heat. But when its cold and wet you can actually keep it out pretty effectively with the right gear. Perhaps that’s the impact of global warming on how I am approaching motorcycle travelling. I stopped in Lillehammer at a petrol station and had a welcome coffee and a roll. There was a bunch of six or seven bikers from Poland. I knew they were from Poland because they had it written on the back of their jackets (I just can’t imagine British bike riders doing that).

I headed off from there with a full tank of petrol and maybe about half an hour later, travelling north on the E6 (the E4 seemed to turn to the E6) the traffic thinned out and the weather even got better. I had looked at my weather app and I could see that where I was heading, Trondheim, was 25 degrees and in full sun. Where I was, was raining and about 14 degrees so that motivated me to get going. Gradually as I rode north the weather did get better and the traffic changed to only big trucks and travellers in camper vans – or at least that’s how it seemed. And lots of bikers. I went through a national park and it felt as though I could keep riding for ever. The road was really good, not too tricky; the weather was good, not too hot or too cold by this time, not too much traffic; the bike was running well. Everything was comfortable. I stopped about 30 miles south of Trondheim – in Støren I think is the place, found a supermarket and a campsite which is good enough. It’s a bit noisy because its close to the E6 but its also close to a river. I like the place. Its relaxed. A lot of people come here to fish. You need 10Kr for the shower so maybe I won’t bother because I don’t have it. I just had dinner: noodles, smoked salmon (again), and red peppers with a garlic olive oil dressing. With a beer I found in the supermarket and yoghurt and a couple of sweet things.

Storen campsite near Trondheim
Tablecloth stapled to the table

My entry here was so much more poised than yesterday because it was 22 degrees and just about sunny. There’s a lot of space and thankfully no mosquitoes. In fact I think I have brought here one or two mosquitoes that were squashed in my tent and somehow survived the day. So much nicer. The weather app is telling me that on Thursday it will rain all day but in the south it is sunny again. So I am trying to plan a route and a timing to avoid as much of the rain as I can. I won’t linger but if I travel back sound on Wednesday I might avoid some of the rain. I have promised myself that if its dry I will camp but if its wet I will look for hotels to stay in. That seems a good simple approach to travelling in Norway (I had not discovered cabins at that point).

Arriving in Kristiansand and first camping

18th June: This is Sunday night and I’ve already lost track of what day it is but I didn’t sleep as well as the first night on the first ferry. I was awake at 5 with stuff just running through my head but had breakfast with a croisant and a coffee which was hot and then packed up. They wanted everybody out of the cabins in good time before we docked so it’s enjoyable to sit on the sunny deck with most of the other passengers, watching Kristiansand come into view and eventually we rode off the boat.

It went very smoothly: up onto the E 18 motorway turning sharp right toward Oslo then I stopped for another coffee and bun and then stopped again to get petrol and then stopped a third time to change into some rain gear because it had started raining. There were traffic jams, slow moving traffic so I had lots of practising at filtering (which I don’t normally do) and eventually I launched my plan to find practically the only supermarket in the country open at Drammen railway station which was on the route. It was a little convenience store crammed full of stuff as well as people. I bought food and drink for dinner and then eventually, eventually after riding all day on the motorway got onto the small scenic roads that you come here for and I found a campsite just outside Honnefoss. It was drizzling when I got here and putting up the tent it started to rain. Added to this, swarms of mosquitoes must have heard about my recent arrival. So what with the rain and the mosquitoes I felt really stuck in this tent. I didn’t want to unzip it because of the mosquitoes buzzing just outside so luckily I had the smoked salmon that I bought, a carton of orange juice and some mushrooms so I just sat here in the tent huddled eating with my bare hands the smoked salmon and the raw mushrooms washed down with orange juice. I think this must have been the low point – of sorts – of the trip.

Camping near Honnefoss

It’s a nice campsite and the person that works here is very friendly. It also seems super quiet. There are other people around, lots of mobile homes but it’s slightly down at heel so you don’t really get a sense that there’s people around. However, the shower and bathroom are very close to where I am and they’re individual with lots of room so that really doesn’t feel like it’s roughing it and awkward like those communal facilities often do. I have just had a shower and I’ve dried myself with paper towels because my towel is somewhere in a bag on the bike covered over the rain cover which I’m so pleased I’ve got it because the bike would just be soaking wet. My helmet and everything is under that cover so hopefully it’s going to be alright and hopefully it’ll be cloudy but dry in the morning. I put tomorrow’s route into the GPS (to Trondheim I think) and it’s going to be 6 1/2 hours riding, so I’ve got a feeling I will not get that far but the Norcamp app I’ve got with a huge number of campsites is really good and there’s campsites everywhere by the main roads here so I can just stop when I feel that I’ve done enough riding. Then another long day up to Mo I Rana and then the Arctic Circle and then I can stop and I can breathe a sign of relief I’ve done it and done what I said I’d do. Then I can be a bit more mindful on the way back. I’ll writing this on the 20th of June and it’s super light if my eye mask is deep in the luggage on the bike somewhere and the sun rises at some crazy time so I don’t know how much sleep I get maybe if it’s dry I can head off early. If it’s dry I will crack out my stove and make some coffee; if not maybe I’ll grab some at a petrol station. So this is my first day in Norway and true to form is it’s raining so let’s hope for better weather.

Later that same day: on Holland Norway Line

17th of June again Saturday: I spent the day on Dutch motorways which are really tedious. I remember at Harwich asking a guy who was Scottish but had lived and is living in Holland is there some interesting place to stop by on the way to Emden and he said no. Another man said he was going to take a coastal route around the North Coast of Holland across what looked like a long bridge in the water which is actually a dyke which is a key part of their key water defence sea defences that this structure he said stops Holland from going underwater. I rode the length across that structure which is quite interesting. The side towards the land was this big expanse of water but the other side had a tall bank so you couldn’t see the sea on that side so it didn’t feel like you were actually riding in the middle of the of the ocean which I thought it might but then once over that actually it was a really tedious – really, really tedious motorway journey from there through Groningen to Emden. Not only was it tedious but all of the landscape was industrial. You see the odd field of cows but really most of the landscape was ugly, ugly industrial. I stopped just across the border at a service station in Germany. Its the kind of automatic petrol station deserted food trucks so I stopped and had some water to drink and some old peanuts and cleaned my visor and then headed off the last 50 kilometres to get to the port.

The Holland Norway line is interesting. It feels like it’s a start-up but it must have lots of backing because it must be a huge enterprise to start up something like this. When I got to their part of the port there were lots of motorbikes, a great big group of Dutch motorbikers and we queued up. The ferry company does all their operations with maybe half a dozen people in big white tents that they’ve put up in the middle of a car park and they got us through very quickly. Alongside all the Dutch, there were three German guys (I think). One of them with a really nicely updated old BMW R80 I think. He put new wheels on it, new suspension had the engine bored out; really nice and very tempting to copy that. So we go down into the ship which is always fun and just as I was parking the bike up on the deck car deck the guy who owned the BMW told me I had dropped my sunglasses, my expensive prescription bifocal sunglasses, on the on the ramp as I rode on, so I ran back through the bikes coming in and they were still there and picked them up—thank goodness—before a hoard of cars would come along and surely have crushed them so that was the second thing I dropped on this trip. It could have been a £400 accident and annoyance for riding without them so it was pretty nice of that person to tell me.

that BMW

The ship the MS Romantika is a big cruise ship but its tired. The carpets are tired and the shower cubicles in the cabins are tired but it’s nice enough. I walked around and watched this ship pulling out from its birth and leaving the harbour. This is always an interesting experience as, after all passengers are safely aboard, the officials – the customs people, the police and the ferry employees leave one by one so that a scene that was bustling and crowded an hour ago is now completely deserted.  I went to the Bistro bar to find some dinner. You pay €39.99, maybe £32 to get in and then once you’re in everything is free so you could eat as much as you want from all these different counters and tucked away in a corner just when I was starting to think you can’t get a drink here was a little kiosk with a few small machines where you could pour yourself white wine, red wine or beer all on tap. I’m glad I’m here early because the white wine maybe all of it will run out and sure enough it did but not before I had enough white wine and then when they did run out had a red wine to go with my final bits of cheese that I finished but I walked out feeling completely sober and just wonder how strong this wine really was. I sat on the deck facing toward the sun which is beautiful watching the sun on the on the water. Its 8:15 in the evening now and people it’s the pets section of the deck so people walk in their beautiful dogs.

Romantika in Emden

I have started reading Neuromancer now I’m back in the cabin. Reading: it’s always suprising the way the atmosphere just creeps up on you.

We are getting in to Kristiansand at 10 in the morning. You can get breakfast from half six and then I start the trip properly but if I’m going to make these miles and want to get up towards Lillehammer then it’s another morning or maybe all day on what looked like an dual carriageway. It’s really hard to get away from them but I think by the time I turn off to Honnefoss  it should be much more beautiful roads so I’ve just got to get the balance of getting to the Arctic Circle and not just thundering along on the main roads and enjoying the riding and not drop any more things.

Thoughts from the Stena cabin on 17th June

17th June: This is the morning of the 17th of June in my cabin, so, last night, I slept like a log, better than I normally do at home. The whistling Dutchman comes on the cabin speakers at half past five, which may be half past six local time but is still half past five as far as my body is concerned. The coffee and croissant was better than I remember from years gone by; the coffee was hotter and stronger. And the croissant was slightly bigger. Even the jam was slightly thicker than I remember on a previous journey. So, one extra layer today but it could be hot. It could be the same as England was here in the Netherlands. One of the other guys on a bike told me he was going to take a route around the north coast of the country. So I’ve decided to do that because you can’t – the ferry company say don’t get to the ferry terminal before two o’clock, so we dock at eight this morning. It should be a leisurely no hurry kind of ride. But I always seem to hurry. I don’t know why. So maybe this time I’ll just try and take it easy – whatever that means. It’s a pretty early start on this trip. I know that, but once you’re up and going then it should be fine.

The usual inside cabin
All that was left of him