Monday, February 4, 2013


"I should be there in no time, just follow the squiggly blue line", I mumbled. 
Only 730 km, easy. 
Under normal conditions. 

In any season other than Winter it would be. 
And without hundreds of twists, turns and mountain passes. 
Oh, and without riding on an Ice Hockey rink all the way down to Alta. 
AND without being a photographer too. 

Honningsvåg, Norway. Jan 2013.

I hadn't even made it 10 km out of Nordvågen when my Kodak radar, or in my case my Nikon radar went off for the first shot of the morning, a lovely image of Honningsvåg, the warmth of the street lights were contrasting nicely with the dull blue grey snow clouds that were rolling in and about to cover everything with a layer of the fluffy white stuff that I love so much. 
It's one of the things I sometimes struggle with, do I stop and take the shot or do I keep going. Sometimes I have to force myself to stop, which I shouldn't, but I do. I mean, when a 240 km journey takes me 8+ hours I sometimes feel like I'm going to need a helluva lot more than 7 years to get through my 
7 continents in 7 years trip.

Nordkapp Tunnel, 6870 meters (4.25 miles) long.

E69 South of Honningsvåg, Norway.

Being a photographer has it's drawbacks, namely, for me at least, there's not a minute goes by when I don't see something I want to stop and take a picture of, and that can be a bit of a problem at times.
On many occasions, usually at the end or close to the end of my days ride I have forsaken a shot or a location because I just didn't have the energy or enthusiasm left to stop one more time. Or because I just had to get to where I was staying for the night before it turned into the next day.
Or because it was just too damn cold to take off my gloves and take out the camera again while my fingers froze and then the pain set in to them after a few minutes of handling a cold bodied camera in -20. They get cold and painful really quick, and even though I have heated grips, once cold they're hard to get warm again. It doesn't happen immediately. They start to get warm, then the pain comes, then goes in a minute or two then all is good.

Basically that was the scenario all the way down from Nordkapp to Alta in Norway. I was initially thinking of heading east from Nordkapp to Murmansk in Russia, but had no idea of the condition of the road road from Murmansk to Moscow, so I wanted to leave that for another leg of the trip and wait until I had a little more info about it.

So instead I headed back to Alta for a week or so before I headed south into Finland and the city of Rovaniemi, the official Home of Santa Claus. I had wanted to spend a little more time there before I left the North of Norway for this year anyway.

Alta Church, Alta Norway, built in 1858.

Alta Cemetery with a 2 second exp. 
There's an accidental spooky feel to this shot, I didn't plan it that way. It was just so dark I figured a 2 second exposure would lighten the shot up a bit, and then I saw how it turned out. I didn't alter the colors in edit either. 

There were still a few places I wanted to photograph in Alta, the new Northern Lights Cathedral being one of them.

Controversial since it's inception, the residents of Alta questioned the need for a  120 million kroner ($21 million) church, which by now has run well over budget and has been delayed by a number of construction issues.

It was a spur of the moment decision when I just pulled up inside the construction gate of the Northern Lights Cathedral one evening. 
Well, at least it seemed like it was evening it was so dark, but then I checked the time and it was only 3 in the afternoon. One of the construction workers came over to me and told me I couldn't photograph there, so I tried to explain to him that all I wanted was a few pictures for an article. So he said "well, let's go to the foreman's office and see what we can do".
Upstairs in the office I was a bit of a celeb as the foreman recognized me from an article that came out in the local newspaper, Altaposten. That smoothed out any ruffles that might have been there in the first place and off I went with a hard hat and a Day-Glo orange vest into the bowels of the yet to be opened Northern Lights Cathedral.

The original drawing and design description, from what I saw look very interesting and definitely not your average looking Cathedral. According to the architects website there is an area inside the building where visitors and churchgoers will be able to observe the Northern Lights.

The Cathedral is slated to be opened this month and I'm looking forward to seeing if the final design is near to the original. If it is it should be quite a spectacular looking building.Have to wait until December to see it though, as I won't be going up there before then.

Amazing what you find in the hills of Norway.

3 Generations of Reirsen's are in this photo.

 I said my goodbyes to Bjorn-Erik and his Mom and left Alta early the next morning. It was only a 520 km ride and under normal circumstances an easy days ride. I had a great host in Bjorn-Erik and his family during my time in Alta and had a really relaxing stay. I wanted to spend a bit more time in Alta for a number of reasons, one of them being to go Northern Light hunting. For all the time I have spent so far up here in Scandinavia I have yet to see the Northern Lights. My last shot of seeing them is going to be Rovaniemi in Finland. Any further south than Rovaniemi and I'll be too far below the Northern Light belt.

The Northern Light Belt in Scandinavia.

And a Top of the World View.

Early Morning, Route 93 South, Norway. Jan 2013.

There's not a whole lot of anything between Alta to Kautokeino, just 130 kilometers of beautiful, cold and barren landscape covered in snow. 
Right up my alley. 

South of Kautokeino, Norway, a few kilometers before the border of Finland.

This is where I saw the sun for the first time since late November, 2012.
Riding south on Route 93 toward Rovaniemi, Finland I was approaching the Norway/ Finland border and there it was, right in front of me. 
"Hello Sun. Nice to see you. Been a while".

The further south I rode, the more beautiful the vista got. The sun, in all it's radioactive glory, was bringing everything to life. I mean, I enjoyed myself in Alta and Nordkapp, but until now didn't give it much thought that I never saw the sun up there. As a photographer it's an essential ingredient, one that can't be substituted with a flash or any other type of lighting. We need the Sun. My camera needs the sun.

On the other side of that green traffic light is Finland. I bade Norway and it's people a heartfelt farewell and thank you for all the wonderful experiences I had there. 

Now it was time to make some new ones in Finland.

Coming next week on Wherethehellismurph:

Welcome to Finland.



Charlie6 said...

I fully empathize with you Murph, the debate whether to stop or not, whether the light will be the same on the way back, not wanting to let go of the heated grips and their comfy warmth....the shedding of the gloves because of the teeny controls of the camera....kind of makes you wonder don't it?

I wonder if someone makes really thin gloves that are heated....wear those under overgloves, and use them for manipulating the camera, never exposing one's skin to the sub-zero temperatures.

Stay warm Sir, and please keep those pictures coming.


Anonymous said...

Hey Murph

So you are now south of the coldest place in Scandinavia wintertime. Good work man. As you now now -20 celius i cold, but -30 or 40 hurst and kills.

From Rovanemi going south everything will be better for you. The hard winter going to a milder winter, and i mars you get a little springtime and april can be beutiful.

Take care my friend and good luck

Lars in Ljusdal Sweden

cg morrison said...

just found your blog. fantastic. safe travels.

Touring Motorcycle exhausts said...

I just love the tunnel! A ride inside the tunnels thrills me. The beauty and the imagination that my bike is working its way underground. I hope the youngest generation will take after you. I can see he has also started early adventures and i wish him all the best. I love your photography too. I can say that you caption live pictures! They look so much alive. Good work. I am right behind you!

IRISH Murph said...

Dom, to stop or not to stop, that is the question. Is it nobler in the mind............and so on and so forth.

I'm not sure about the thin gloves, it's a good idea though. I'm doing some research up here, the home of warm gloves, to find a thin but warm glove.

Staying warm is sometimes difficult up here, but I don't mind the cold too much.


IRISH Murph said...

Hi Lars, thanks.

Yep, -20 is cold, but -30 + is very very difficult to survive in for long periods.

Appreciate the concern Lars and looking forward to coming back to Ljusdal in late summer to see you and Margareta and Birger again.


IRISH Murph said...

CG, thank you for your comment and glad you are a fan of my blog now,


IRISH Murph said...

TME, thank you for commenting,


Anonymous said...

Hey Murph, just stumbled upon your blog by accident and so it seems I've discovered a new favorite site.
Your trip feels very down to earth and real to me, about the every day man anyone can meet on the street (and well ok, Nordkapp in jan isn't very Average Joe but you know what I mean) rather than vague posts about the purpose of life and with pictures of a cloud... seems to hit home with a lot of people but I prefer your style by far. To me you write about things that ARE of today, not that might be. Humans, nature, warmth, cold, the open road or struggles of the mind. You've won me over big time Sir.
Keep up the good work and I'll make sure to send you as much positive energy as I possibly can.

Rock on brother,


Emelie Lundgren said...

You just make your way into everywhere dont you? Being permitted to go out to the Nordkapp globe when it's in the middle of winter and they (if I understood your post right?) don't really want vehicles out there, now at a church where you're not allowed to take pics they give you a hard hat and a thumbs up. Whatever you are doing, it obviously works. And it means WE get to see cooler and cooler pictures so keep it up please :)

IRISH Murph said...

Eric, thanks a bunch man, glad to hear that my little blog is on your favorite list !!.

I know what you mean about keepin it real, it's how I want my trip to come across to you and all my followers, that it's not something mystical but something anyone can do if they want to, yanno?

Thanks for all the positive vibes brother,

Best regards,


IRISH Murph said...

Yea, I know right?. It's the luck of the Irish and the gift of the gab as they say back home in Dublin.
No, you're normally not allowed to ride/ drive to the globe, so yea, it was special.

Glad you ehjoyed the post,


Anonymous said...

Hi Rob, and thanks for the birthday wishes ~ 48 ~ weren't we kids Just a short while ago? I probably have more life behind me than in front of me these days! Having said that the women in our family tend to be tough old ladies!!! On a sunnier note I have wanted to visit Finland since I worked with a lady from there back in 1996 so now I can vicariously! Safe and happy travels...... and thanks for the lovely pics. LoL, N

Eric Albright said...

Hi Murph...if possible, please check your Facebook page's inbox. I have some questions for you. Al of course, I'm really enjoying riding "along" on this journey with you.

Rod said...

Murph, many thanks for sharing your experiences with the rest of the world. I have been a "lurker" for a while now. I can feel the cold and the anticipation of the pain after the fact, however, the pictures, landscapes, sunsets make it all worth while! Ride safe and keep up the great work!

IRISH Murph said...

Nic, I'm still a kid, no point in growing up now, I'm too old for that.

Glad you're enjoying your cousin's photos,


IRISH Murph said...

Hi Rod,

You're very welcome and thanks for your comment. DOn't be a lurker, I enjoy hearing from you and al the rest who like my travel articles.

Glad you stopped by,

Best regards,


Anonymous said...

Naa man your blog is not "little", it's bigger and better than most that is out there. Give yourself a pat on the back for being great. Because, yea, I understand what you mean 'bout something every one could do if they want to but you gotta admit.. Nordkapp in Jan is not for the lazy, comfortable, average citizen of today, or am I wrong?



Bob Fleischer, aka Snowbum said...

Been keeping up with your blog...loving the photos....are you
having any problems with the camera (which brand and model, btw?) in the cold?
When I have been in such weather I usually kept the camera inside my jacket for a bit of warmth.
Especially enjoying seeing photos of some of the places I have seen/visited; and your descriptions
and discussions of the places and people is great!
I hope to actually see you again...and the rig and the duo-drive, ETC., someday.
Bob, snowy Tahoe

IceLapplander said...

Just stumbled upon your blog from seeing a picture of your bike, have seen in around Rovaniemi a few times. Am a fellow biker, had mostly road bikes but also a KTM 640 Adventure so yours peaked my interest. If you need a heated garage to throw it in/store it(fairly devoid of tools and equipment i have to admit) then you are more than welcome to use mine. I live about 45 km out of town towards Kemi. Contact:

Halldor Kristofer "the local crazy Icelandic".