Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Last town North..

8th June - 5.30am, wake to a clear sky, clear blue, you count your good fortune from the first second of the day, it's not about wishing for the comfort of fair-weather cycling, not about not venturing out when it rains, or snows but in that extra magic that comes from riding such beautiful roads and abstract landscapes in crystal clear clarity, being able to see in the fullest glory those far-off distant horizons, seeing it through every mile that draws you nearer to you destination, mindful that beyond every beautiful horizon there lies another to be discovered.

Shower, clothes change, bike check, phone check and then food from the local supermarket, bread, cheese, apples, nuts two strong black coffee's, hit the road north, always north. The road shadows the Vefsna river which seems to cling to every contour and deviation of the road, a constant companion for most of the day, around fifty miles to the town of Mosjoen, the panoramic views remaining just as incredible as days before, bathed again in sunlight, cloaked again in the deepest blue sky, the road works its magic once again. Miles trip by, not so much effortlessly but without the debilitating fatigue of the headwind and mountain passes. Stop at a service station just north of the town, strong coffees, apples, nuts, bread and cheese, the staple diet of the road.

North of Mosjoen, the 'Korgfjell-tunnelen' approaches, no question about it, non-permissible tunnel for cyclists, no decision to make, 20kms of complete darkness with the exchange off of a mountain climb, expectation set, one last rest at the foot of the climb, ascending immediately and sharply from the E6, a short moment of having that sun on your back, the first ramp heading momentarily south, a strange uplifting moment.

Preparation for the Arctic cycling challenge took in frequent visits to the brutally tough yet beautiful roads of the Lake District, Cumbria UK, roads of similar, relatively short but vertically steep gradients, crossing through a stunningly beautiful landscape on road passes that test courage let along , the Korgfjell pass would be at home there, sitting comfortably amongst Hardknott and Wrynose passes. Thoughts back to the road ahead, the roadside and distant landscape now whiter with every passing & rising mile, sun now on your face, you count your good fortune again, two weeks before the night temperatures below freezing, roads freshly covered with snow, you count your good fortune to be here in such conditions. 

The road edges nearer to the summit, passing frozen lakes that grab the side of the road, just feet away from your passing, still deeply frozen with melt holes forming to reveal hidden depths, the mind plays tricks to imagine yourself riding off the road to be swallowed into the deep water  through one of these gaping apertures, with no one else around. The road changes direction as if to force you to take in ever distant horizon, Gronfjellet peaks rolling into view, out staged by the backdrop of the Rana ice cap in the distance, this 'is the 'monument' promised by the map, views of a 'monument' scale and proportion.

Cresting the summit to reveal the distant 180 degree view of the ice cap, rolling into the wooden cafe, deep burnt red in colour, incongruous with its surroundings, across the gravel drive to a post sign indication the direction & distance to the Tour de France and a large banner pinned to a wood shelter to confirm the forthcoming passing of the Arctic Tour of Norway, the race heading over the Pass in a southern direction, taking the much longer ascent from the north and the steeper shorter descent just climbed. Into the long 20km sweeping descent to Korgen, vehicle free for the entire run, straight into the edge of town, quick rest by the grass verge before heading back onto the main E6 for the short run into Bjorka. Head through town, tcertain this is the road, check the hand-written instruction on the map, doubly certain this is the right road and then the yellow house, the colour of sunflowers.

Ronnaug, her son Alf, her friend from the cafĂ© welcome me with warmth and hospitality as through a re-union from the distant past, we share family information and photographs, and talk about Norway, Europe and briefly about Britain. It seems that Norwegian people are happy to feel slightly detached, geographically, from so many things happening in Europe and across the world. Throughout the cycling challenge, this limited experience is of a beautiful country, landscape and terrain aside, of people comfortable with themselves and with others, with an overriding strong sense of social responsibility  which was to be envied, there seems to be an empathy and warmth wherever you go whoever you meet or come into contact with. Lunch over, we bid our farewell's with a promise to keep in close contact and to see each other again, riding back along the road one last look back, a lasting impression, a house the colour of sunflowers, you count your good fortune as it comes your way in so many ways, Ronnaug checked that I had her brothers address, I promised to find his house.

The miles roll by, complicated by the by-passes to avoid the more frequent tunnels, north east into the southern edge of Mo i Rana, the last main town before tomorrow's final push to the Arctic Circle, late evening and the temptation of a hotel room overcome for the economy of a campsite and most basic of huts, swelteringly warm from the day-long sun, food from the supermarket on the opposite side of the road, bread, salami, nuts, broccoli and no coffee, shower, bike check, phone check to pick up more nice text from home Bev, Meg & Sarah, my three closest allies that give permission from home to head out north, mum from further north in Yorkshire and Keith &Fleur parents to the brave, and always smiling, Aiden Mitchell, they all seem in good form. Asleep by eleven o'clock, still day light outside, to remain daylight throughout the night, still no real distinction between night and day, still no real sun-fall or sun-rise

These sort of days don't come often, you count your good fortune in being able to pack so many good things into such a few short hours, so many uniquely positive outcomes, you set out with nothing booked, nothing pre-arranged, for good things to unfold to leave lasting impressions, where the magic happened.

Day 5 - 125 miles 

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