Monday, January 21, 2013



Dude!!. Where's my sidecar?.

Top of the World. The northernmost part of Europe. Right?.

The road to Nordkapp, Norway .

Well hold on, not so fast. 
That's not technically correct since Nordkapp is on an Island, the island of MAGERØYA in Norway. It's not part of mainland Europe, but for this post, it's the most northerly point I have ridden to on my trip so far. And that's good enough for least for the moment anyway.
And, due to it being the most northerly point in Europe that you can drive or ride to, I kind of, well no, I did intentionally set myself up in advance of actually making it up there, albeit in being originally planned for arrival in October and not December or January because I knew that (a.)it was probably going to be a cold and difficult ride, and (b.)it wouldn't allow me to back out if the going got tough since I already advertised that I was going to do it. I would have to see it through no matter what.

Bunkers MC, Alta. Dec 26th 2012.

I know myself quite a bit by now, and I was a little nervous about the whole 'unknown' factor of it all, so my reasoning was that if I announced my future travel plans as an article on my blog, then I would have no other alternative or choice but to follow through with those travel plans, lest I lose face with myself and also my readers and followers of my trip here on my blog.
Self doubt and insecurities abound sometimes, and I'm certainly not immune to them, especially since choosing to travel alone like I do. I don't have or use an iPod while riding to take my mind off things, so I'm alone in my helmet with my own thoughts all the time with nothing but myself to paint the picture. 
It's like I'm on ALL the time. 
For the most part, I like it that way. I've made friends with myself after drinking myself broke and come to understand a lot of what's going on inside of my head. And, I also get to feel, 100%, the whole meaning, IMO, of what being a motorcyclist is all about since I have no other distractions other than whats happening as I ride, how cold it is, how hard it's snowing, how my right foot is starting to get a little numb, how I really need to pee but at the same time I just want to keep the momentum going and finish the last 60 km to my destination. How amazingly beautiful it to actually BE up here in Sweden and Norway, riding on an awesome 2 WD sidecar outfit and be able to see what I'm seeing, how much money I have left and how far I have to actually travel on it, how much I love winter and how much I really don't like riding in the heat very much at all.
All sorts of thoughts go through my head as I ride, I talk to myself a lot on my rides.

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It was only a ride of 4000 kilometers from Rotterdam in Holland to Nordkapp in Norway. Thats provided I did it without making too many detours, but yet it took me almost 4 months to complete the journey. 
However, the one thing that last years leg of the trip has taught me is about time management. 
Don't try to manage it if you don't have to.

When I left LBS Sidecars in Elsendorp in the Netherlands in Sepember of 2012, I had what I always say that I don't like to have, and that was a plan. A time sanctioned itinerary of where I had to be and roughly when I had to be there. The reasons for this were twofold.
First, I had already for a 3 month visa for Russia which started on Nov 15th and ended on Feb 15th, so until I arrived in Stromsund, that was foremost in my mind and seemed to me at the time to dictate how much time I allowed myself to spend at a given place or town.
I mean, for a while after I left the Netherlands it seemed like my travels were becoming rush rush rush ride to each destination. As soon as I got to one town a day or two later I had to pack, hurry up and start moving on the next 400k to the next point on the planned route. It was becoming like a checklist, Town A, check, Town B, check, Town C, check. And I wasn't too happy about that.

The second reason was an invite from the Black Bears MC in Yaroslavl, Russia to attend their winter rally on Dec 5th, so my intention was to get to Nordkapp in the middle to end of October and be down around the Helsinki area of Finland by mid to late November. Plenty of time, right?.
As it turned out, I didn't even make it to Nordkapp by the end of November.
In fact I didn't even leave Stockholm until November 2nd due to a rear shock issue and a clutch/ driveshaft bearing issue that delayed my departure from Stockholm by nearly 10 days. 
Meeting Margareta and Birger in Ljusdal, Sweden was the first defining moment for me after leaving Stockholm and it had to do with a comment that Margareta made over breakfast that morning. Over breakfast she was asking me about my trip and about RideAwayCancer so asked me if I intended to visit the hospital in Umea, Sweden. Since my route was not taking me east to the coast road but north to Kiruna I replied no, I probably wouldn't have time. So Margareta replied "You don't have time?. You're on a 7 year Round the World trip and you don't have time?". Well, knock me over with a feather. That was when I started to re-think the whole "I have to be in a certain place by a certain day" schedule that I had given myself.

Then of course there was my extended stay in Stromsund. I think it was my time in Stromsund that made me slow down quite a bit and start to realize that it really didn't matter IF I got to my intended destination at all. Had I not been forced to stop in Stromsund in order to get spikes in my tires I would have never found out about the Stromsund MC, never had the chance to do all the repair work to my outfit there and never had the chance to meet all the wonderful people there that I came across. Stromsund was one of those  defining moments of my trip also. Great town and some great people in it. I had the chance in Stromsunds MC to relax, take some time for myself, work on the bike a little and get to meet most or all of the members of the club.

Bunkers MC, Alta Norway. Dec 26th, 2012.

After Christmas Eve dinner at the Reirsen's I had fully intended to go back to Bunkers, pack up the outfit and leave out early the following morning for Nordkapp. But again, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.
On Dec 27th, the morning of my departure my intestinal/stomach gremlin reared it's ugly head and just laid me out flat with abdominal cramps and vomiting. I could hardly move the cramps were so bad. It really took it out of me this time. By the 29th I was a little better but also determined to make it up the last 240 kms to Nordkapp, even if I had to crawl up there throwing up all the way. Having a look at the weather and the storm rolling in all across the north of Scandinavia also meant I had no choice but to leave out that morning, sick or not, otherwise the two mountains I had to ride over to get to Nordkapp would probably be closed. At least one anyway, as this storm was bringing quite a bit of snow with it.

Alta Fjord, Alta Norway, Dec 2012.

Alta Fjord, Alta Norway. Dec 2012.

E6 north of Alta, Norway. Dec 29th, 2012.

When you leave Alta for Skaidi, Norway you take the E6 north for 85 kms and you'll come to a T-junction. If you turn left on the E6 going west and travel 55 kms you will arrive at Hammerfest, a small city on the north west coast of Norway. If you turn right and travel north up the E6 for 23 kms and then take a left onto the E69 for another 97 kms, you will then end up in Honningsvag on the Island of Magerøya. From there you are now only 33 kms from the cliff with the big globe on it, otherwise known as the Nordkapp Globe.

Skaidikroa, Skaidi, Norway. Dec 29th, 2012. Timestamp: 3pm.

Now, as soon as you turn right at the T-junction in Skaidi, immediately to your right you will see a Statoil gas station and a big wooden A framed building that inside houses the Skaidikroa restaurant. So I figured this would be a good stop #1 for me since I knew there wasn't going to be any more decent sized gas stations between here and Honningsvåg, even though it was only 100 km away, but it was a barren, cold and treacherous 100 km of ross up along the coast.
Even though it was only 3 pm when I got to Skaidi it was already dark outside, like it was 9 or 10 at night. "It's gonna be a dark ride to Honningsvåg" I thought. Pity, I'll bet there's some terrific scenery up along the Fjords I'm going to miss out on photographing.
Anyway, inside the Skaidikroa was Eva-Marie Lilja, a Swedish transplant now living in Skaidi. I really only wanted a coffee or hot chocolate, but I saw someone eating a tasty looking plate of food, so of course it made me hungry. So I asked Eva-Marie could she whip me up an omelet. "No problem" she said. So Eva-Marie made me the best Swedish omelet you can get in Norway, trust me on this. And no, no food pics here, thats what Instagram is for.
Ok, I was fed, warmed from the coffee and happy from the food. Time to get back in the saddle and do battle with the Nordic Storm Gods on the winding, cold, icy and dark E69 to Nordkapp.

23 kilometers north of Skaidi, the E6-E69 junction.

Honningsvåg was my destination for the day, or night as it would seem.
Again, the image looks like it was shot at night, but the timestamp is a little after 4 pm.

One of the mountain pass gates on the E69 to Nordkapp. 
The moon is up and it's not even 5 pm.

These guards to the road leading over the mountain can be either open or closed, depending on the severity of the storm. I was hoping I was going to make it through to the other side before either of them closed. Even though the picture looks like it was taken at night, it was actually taken a little after 4 in the afternoon.

The 2 larger tunnels that you go through on the E69 on the way to Honningsvåg have gates or garage style up and down doors. Both are automatic. They're anti-freeze doors, designed for winter to avoid freezing of the leaking water inside the tunnel. Once you get inside the tunnel with the doors closed behind you, it's a warm and humid atmosphere in there. My mirrors and the lens of my camera started to fog up almost immediately.

During the summer the gates are left open permanently.

Honningsvåg Church, Honningsvåg, Norway. Jan 2013.

Honningsvåg Church 1945.

Honningsvåg Church was the only building that was left standing after the war ended in 1945. It was built back in 1885 and is the oldest building on the island of Magerøya. As the Germans were evacuating Norway when the war ended they had orders to burn everything in their path as they left, but the commander was, according to how the story was relayed to me, a man of faith so he himself went against his own orders and told his men to leave the church standing. He apparently didn't have the heart to burn down a church.

After the war the Norwegian government wanted to move the location of Honningsvåg back to the mainland but the residents worked hard and were determined to rebuild their town in it's original location, so they established camp in the church and began the long arduous task of reconstruction. The church even had a bakery inside and the pews doubled as beds at night. Barracks were built so more townspeople could return and help with the rebuilding of Honningsvåg. And of course thanks to those stubborn few back then, around 100 I believe, Honningsvåg is where it was originally intended to be today, on the island of Magerøya.

When I left Bunkers MC in Alta for Nordvågen there was a storm coming in from the north west. I should have left a few days earlier but I was bedridden with stomach cramps. By the time I got to Nordvågen the wind had picked up considerably and was blowing pretty good. Fortunately for me I had a place to stay there.  
At the Bunkers MC Christmas dinner that I was invited to on Dec 24th by Mama Bunkers, Eva Bjorkli, I was chatting with some of the club members that evening and got talking with a guy called Erling. He was asking about my trip and I mentioned that I was heading to Nordkapp after I leave Bunkers. We chatted a bit more and left it at that for the evening, but last thing before Erling hit the sack he came over to me and gave me a card with his number on it and told me "If you need a place to stay in Nordkapp I have a house in Nordvågen you can use. My daughter Ronja lives in the big red house at the end of the street, she will give you the key". Well, that was an unexpected Christmas present for me. I really thought I was going to have to camp out in Nordkapp. I wasn't looking forward to camping out up there, I could do it if I had to. But it would have been a real challenge. So Erling's offer of the use his house in Nordvågen just made the Nordkapp trip less of a challenge for me. Now it didn't matter if it was stormy or not, I knew I had a place to safely hide out if it got really bad. Which it did the first night I got there.

Sideways snow, Nordvågen Norway. Dec 29th, 2012.

Nordvågen, Norway. Dec 29th, 2012.

A few days later though and it was a different story. The wind had calmed down and it was absolutely gorgeous. Beautiful colors in the sky, a real peaceful feeling to the day. This was why I wanted to come to Honningsvåg and Nordkapp in the middle of Winter. To see and feel the one or two hours of absolute beauty that you can only see at this time of the year up here.
By 3pm that afternoon it was dark and cold and I was back in Erling's house with a log fire burning, the smell of the wood floating through the living room and going through the pictures from the day.

The timestamp on theses photos of Erling's house in Nordvågen is 12:05 pm.
This is as bright as it gets up here in Winter, at least up until the end of January when the sun comes back above the horizon, a little at a time. When I initially planned this trip to arrive up here around the middle to the end of October, for the most part I got the same reaction from people, and that was "Why"?. "You should go to Italy, Greece or Spain in Winter" they said. "It's warmer and brighter". "It's going to be dark all the time up there". Yep, it was too, but I wanted to see for myself exactly how light it was or how dark it was, I wanted to experience a place that really no one goes to visit on a motorcycle in Winter unless it's just for a week or so for the Primus Rally or the Krystal Rally. I wanted to just go and see for myself and meet the people who live up there and see what they get to experience. And I did, and I really enjoyed it. And want to go back again this winter and spend a little more time there, as I felt that I was a little rushed in trying to allow the time to get to Russia before my Russian visa expired.

Looking across Botn to Nordvågen.
Google map the actual spot HERE.

January 1st, 2013.

The first day that the weather looked good enough to head up the mountain was January 1st, 2013. New Years Day. I was hoping it was going to be open and that I was also going to be let in the convoy to go up to the Nordkapp Visitor Center. 

About 10 km out from the Visitor Center there's a closed road that in Winter can only be accessed in convoy (if you do it legally that is), the snowplough goes first, then the cars, usually no more then 10 or 12 and then the convoy
sweeper or the rear driver, keeping a check that no one slides off the side follows in the back of the convoy.
It's a twisty, icy and difficult road at this time of year and I was told that when I get there that the snowplough driver is the one who decides who is allowed to join in the convoy. "They may or may not let you go" they said, "it depends on the weather". "If the snowplough driver feel like it's unsafe for you to go up, he won't take the risk and allow you to join the convoy". Yea but......

Well, I made it to the lower gate, I was the first one there, ahead of the snowplough driver and everyone else.

Weather looks......well, stormy to be honest. Now I have to wait and hope I can charm my way up to the Nordkapp Monument. I didn't come all this way to be told I can't go up.



Rick K said...

Murph, I look forward to seeing the pictures from the top.

Following you from Seattle


Elisabeth in Strömsund said...

Amazing! Its like I´ve been back in time.. You have really catch the north of Norway.

Charlie6 said...

Great "getting nearer and nearer" photos Murph, I especially liked the one of sunset at the Alta Fjord or was is sunrise? Very nice!

Hope you're staying warm and that you made it past that last gate!


Anonymous said...

Hej Murph

Nice picturese and a good story.
You are a Viking now, travel whit the wind - this is a ride you do my friend that many dreams of.

Lars in Ljusdal Sweden

Anonymous said...

Hi Rob,
Love the history of that little church and your pictures. Happy Birthday soon! Mine was last week and I'm convinced that's why we love winter so much (Nanny did too. LoL, N

Jim BTW said...

Hi Murph,

Many thanks for the update. When you mentioned that you often talk to yourself, I have heard that that is the fist sign of madness. I have also been corrected that it is only madness when you answer yourself ;-)

The whole idea of riding/driving a sidecar outfit in the middle of winter must make most people think you are certifiably beyond redemption but it must be a most peaceful and perhaps even beautiful pursuit. There will be few before you, if any, and few to follow your tracks in such conditions. I'd say that yours certainly fits the description of adventure travel.

I'd struggle with the cold. You are indeed a bold man. I'm not a fan of the heat either (except when the footing is crystalline salt, you know what I mean...)
but neither of the extreme cold these days.

I continue to look forward to your travelogue updates. Stay warm, have fun, enjoy the new friendships. Many thanks also for the great pics. Pics of outstanding food are allowed :-) otherwise I'll have to follow your other streams also.

Cheers, stay safe and have fun.

Jim (Calgary, Canada)

Touring Motorcycle exhausts said...

Your love for adventure thrills me. I thought i was adventurous but after landing to your motorcycle and travel blog, i realized, i still have a long way to go. No one would dare ride in such weather! But you dared! I salute you. The only thing i wish is that your bike can speak one day! I am sure it will give a dozen and one stories!

Max Wang said...

Amazing journey Murph. Keep riding and best of luck!

IRISH Murph said...

Rick, thanks, it's gonna be a good post.

IRISH Murph said...

Hi Elizabeth and thanks. North Norway was great.
SO was Strömsund :-)

IRISH Murph said...

Dom, the Alta Fjord image was a sunset. And yep, staying plenty warm, except wen it goes below -25.

IRISH Murph said...

Thank you Las, Viking Murph, sounds better than Irish Murph.

IRISH Murph said...

Hey cuz, did I miss your birfday?. Apologies and bleater Happy Birthday to you.