Thursday, August 3, 2017

Crossing the line

Friday 9th June,

Wake early to another clear blue sky, of all the days, hoping for the weather to be on your side, this was the day, it was always there, in the back of the mind, what if the weather turned, to bring out of otherwise clear view of the road & horizons ahead, all that goes with that special moment of arriving, in reaching your destination.   

The road around the edge of Mo i Rana was, as with most mornings, quiet and free of traffic, still that short time of peace before the world kicked in. Café stop, strong coffee's, bread, cheese, ham and apples, re-fuelled and already reinvigorated by the deep blue sky, sun on your face.

On the other side of town the road starts to rise, steadily at first, but to a more demanding gradient that lasted the entire day, what proved to be as gruelling as day #2 crossing the 'roof of Norway'. I had been warned about the road works, the mid section of the E6 and 40 miles of climbing coming with the added challenge of a road quite literally under topographical re-construction, removing bends and undulations on a great scale, the deafening sound of the old road being dynamited giving an incongruous chorus to such a peaceful & silent place. You press ahead, you just keep moving forward, through the sections of temporary gravel road and through the clouds of dust bellowing from the machinery.

As with every day before, there seems to be a kindness given over by the drivers of every vehicle on the road, making allowances for the one single, solitary bicycle, at no time is there any real feeling of risk or danger, leaving the mind to be drawn again to counting through the miles and growing fatigue, on and on the relentlessness of the gradient takes its toll, you press ahead.

The gradient eventually starts to ease, the landscape begins to change, gone are the trees and colour, replaced with a silver white landscape in every direction, the scale and vastness of this new surrounding taking your thoughts in equally widened directions, unable to quite comprehend or take in such a vast clinical landscape, punctuated only by the clean slice of grey, the road ahead exposed in all of its dull functional glory. The road flattens, the effort becomes less, a chance to regain some control and composure, from nowhere questions appear in your mind, riding the Arctic Circle, it's difficult to remember the original reason why, why not somewhere warmer, why not somewhere less remote. The smile grows, turning a little to uncontrolled private laughter, riding over the Arctic Circle, blue sky, one layer of clothing, isolated, remote, very remote, feel completely exposed & vulnerable but at the same time feeling safe, it's difficult to reconcile the feelings, it seems bizarre.

The sign at the roadside and small 'lunar' building roll forward into view, two German camper vans and a construction vehicle, this most isolated of building's seems to have very few visitors, why expect anything different. Side of the building, carry the bike walking through the deep snow to the monument that marks the invisible line, the line that crosses the Circle, photographs the only mark of the arrival, no one else around to share the occasion. Spend ten minutes soaking up the special landscape, a special place, air so pure you seem to be able to drink it, you float mentally through the widen open surroundings, this place is pure & magical.

The building offers a café, last piece of cake and two bitter coffee's from a thermos flask, the sort you find in cheap hotels or business meetings on a budget, you see the humour, no frills, no sparkling celebration, no grandeur, the landscape & territory is what matters and all that goes with it.

Back on the bike, look back, that one last look back, remembering the café for all of its beautiful lacklustre welcome and recognition, but a landscape that offers the opposite in return and in every special way. You count your good fortune for having this moment of solitude in such a beautiful, natural glory, and then ride away. Four weeks before, the road had been partially closed, freezing temperatures at night and snow storms during the day, you count your good fortune, and then ride away.  

'66.33 degree's North - Arctic Circle'

Distance diminishes small passions and serves to increase great ones, just as the wind can extinguish a small flame yet can also fan a great fire.

Arctic Circle: Highest Point

Arctic Circle: destination accomplished

Arctic Circle - 66.33N


Arctic Circle: the road ahead!

Arctic Circle: the road ahead.

66.33N Arctic Circle: one building for shelter!

66.33N: Arctic Circle

You take your last look back and then face south, over forty miles of descent, effortless descent, catching the wind, returning to colour, leaving the bleached white landscape to the disappearing road behind, you face into the wind and role effortlessly into the descent, it ignores your fatigue and beckons your return.

Cross the bridge, the river crashing underneath, stop at a house and point to the map, enquiring of the Silversmith's house, the man points to the road ahead, 5km on the other side of the road, the white house and workshop by the river.

Oyvind Stjernen came to the door of the white house, the white house along from the workshop, next to the river at the foot of the mountains, it seems idyllic, more so with Oyvind's family providing the warmest of all welcome's, Ronnaug Stjernen had called ahead, I had been made to keep the promise of finding her brother's house, you count your good fortune. Shower in a back room of the house, the window opening to land rolling down to the river and away to the mountains, truly idyllic, clothes change, no bike check, no clothes check, just supper with new found friends.

The workshop is an emporium of tools, pictures and machines, the roof space above opening through glass sections to a clear blue sky above, that will remain clear blue the whole night, eventually sleeping surrounded by Oyvind's artisan workmanship, handmade silverware in abundance, seemingly years of ideas and patience displayed around the loft, the trust is clearly evident.

Wake to the sound of wood being cut outside, the sound of the river and the quiet sound of voices already breaking into the day. Shower and breakfast with the family, bread, cheese, eggs and strong coffee, the window at the end of the table opening to land rolling down to the river and away to the mountains, truly idyllic again.

One last look back, after passing on a deep felt appreciation and a promise to return, a promise to keep in touch, warm embraces and one final last look back, sad to be leaving this place and Oyvind's family, the kindness of strangers is magical, it lights the road ahead and leaves a deep mark of friendship and gratitude.
Bike stop, overnight stay: Silversmith's workshop
Silversmith's workshop: overnight stay!




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