Sunday, January 27, 2013

NORDKAPP.......Top of the World.

"It's All Downhill From Here".

The first time I ever heard the name Nordkapp being mentioned, the very sound of it conjured up images of a Shackleton-esque like expedition, scraggy men with beards, in big thick puffy Arctic subzero (sounds better than cold weather) anoraks with fur lined hoods, icicles hanging off the ends of their mustaches, sounds of a dog sled pack yelping, their howls and yips being carried across the icepack by a whipping wind that feels like a thousand needles hitting you in the face all at the same time.
Many people think that Shackleton was English, but in fact he was Irish, born in Kilkea in Co. Kildare, 55 miles away from my home town of Bray in Co. Wicklow. 

Shackleton's mother Henrietta's family hailed from the same city as my own mother, CorkHis father Henry's family was English, and at the age of 10, Henry Shackleton moved the family from Ireland to Sydenham in the suburbs of London partly because of his unease of their Anglo-Irish ancestry following the assassination on May 6th, 1882 by Irish nationalists of Lord Frederick Cavendish, the newly appointed Chief Secretary for Ireland, in an event known famously as The Phoenix Park Murders. 
Ironically, it wasn't Lord Cavendish that The Irish National Invincibles were after that afternoon, Cavendish just happened to be in the company of the man that they WERE after, Thomas Henry Burke, the Permanent Under Secretary. 
See?. My mother always told me it's all about the company that you keep.  

Ireland has had more than a few intrepid explorers in her day, the great Tom Crean was another, and, like Shackleton, an Antarctic explorer also hailing from Co. KerryNicknamed "The Irish Giant" Crean was a member of Captain Robert Falcon Scott's 1911-1913 Terra Nova Expedition. After Terra Nova he joined Shackleton on his failed attempt to cross the Antarctic and was a central figure in the rescue of the Endurance's  crew after the ship became lodged and destroyed in the polar ice in 1915. After Endurance sank, Crean was a participent in a dramatic series of events including months spent drifting on ice, an open boat journey of 800 nautical miles (1500 km) from South Georgia to Elephant Island in Antarctica. This solidified his reputation as a tough and dependable polar traveler and earned him a total of three Polar medals.
A remarkable achievement in the days when men were men and life was tough.

Zermatt, Switzerland. Dec 1977.

My own first "Continental" voyage of exploration was at the age of 15 when I hoisted a backpack on my back, hitched a ride to Europe with a truck driver friend of my fathers, and ended up in Germany where I promptly bought myself a Eurorail pass and for the next month explored the cities and countries of Europe by day and by night figured out that if I jumped on a train that had a travel distance of around 6-10 hours I could sleep on it, thereby avoiding having to pay for a room in a hostel and also ending up in a new city in a new country every few days. If only I were that smart now.
It seems I got the wanderlust bug early, and upon reflection like Crean and Shackleton, I seem to like my travel destinations a little bit on the cooler side too. On the Zermatt trip I bumped into a group of climbers in a cafe that evening and got invited to go with them to climb the The Matterhorn the next day, which I did. And I still have my original Meindl Boots that I went to Europe in, and they still fit me too.

My Meindl Boots, bought in 1977, all original except the laces.

Since Nordkapp is the "Top of the World" in a way, I got into a very reflective moment I guess and took a look down from the top at a lot of the things that happened that helped to get me to this point in my trip and my life. A penultimate moment in my travels, Nordkapp turned from fantasy into reality without me really planning it, it was more of a blind leap of faith, I honestly just pointed myself in the direction of Nordkapp, and momentum and help from some really great people carried me the rest of the way. I was hoping I would get there and reach the globe, but I honestly didn't think I would make it given the time of year I chose to travel. As it turned out, it wasn't as bad as I had thought it would be, and certaitly nowhere near as tough as any of Tom Creans exploits.

After arriving at the gate and the last 9 km of road that leads up to the Nordkapp Visitor Center, I felt a huge wave of emotion come over me.
I started to reflect on all the events that led me up here to begin with and all of the people I met along the way that had, in their own way, contributed to me finally being able to reach what I once considered a fantasy or in my case, the folly of the solo Adventure bike rider. I took it all in, the vast emptiness, the silence, the remoteness of being up there all alone, and for a while wished I had gone up there the night before and camped out at Nordkapp. It would have been a challenge as the weather gets very inhospitable up there. A challenge for sure, but not impossible. Nothing that Tom Crean hadn't done before in the early 1900's when they didn't have GPS, proper maps, or tents made of high tech lightweight materials and MSR compact camping stoves. If I thought it would have been challenging now, I can just imagine what those guys went through in discovering the Antarctic and the Poles with none of the comforts and high tech gear that are available to us and todays travelers and adventurers.

So, when you get to the gate at the bottom of the road leading up to Nordkapp, in Wintertime anyway, you will end up with a view something like this, minus my bike of course. 

Jonas (the rear convoy driver) and I spoke, he asked me had I spikes in my tires and then went over to check with Rune, master of the snowplough and the boss of the road.

Jonas: "Hey Dad, there's a guy on a sidecar wants to go up the mountain".
Rune: "Why?".
Jonas: "Haven't the foggiest".
Rune: "Ok, his funeral".

Jonas and Rune.
Minders of the mountain pass to Nordkapp.

The snowplough driver Rune and his son Jonas, who follows in the back, are the ones who decide who goes up and who doesn't. They're the ones responsible for getting you unstuck should you get stuck to begin with, so they make sure that you're vehicle and you are able to navigate the uphill and twisty road to the visitor center. If I didn't have spikes in my tires, I wouldn't have been allowed to make the trip up.

Children of the Earth Monument, North Cape, Norway. Jan 2013.

Before you get to go inside to the Nordkapp Visitor Center, if you look over to your right you will see the Children of the World Monument.
In 1987, Simon Flem Devold, a Norwegian writer suggested that North Cape be used for a symbolic value beyond the borders of Norway. He thought "Why not bring children of different nations and cultures and let them create a lasting expression of youthful cooperation unhibited by national, racial, religious or political boundaries". In June of 1988, 7 boys and girls from as many countries converged on the cliff and created reliefs of clay reflecting their emotions.
The 7 youngsters demonstrated the congenital desire of children everywhere to have a good time and be friendly toward each other.
The children stayed with families in Skarsvåg on Magerøya. At North Cape they spent a week creating motives in clay and all 7 children had great fun and experienced no linguistic or other barriers whatsoever.
They were: Jasmine from Tanzania, Rafael from Rio de Janeiro Brazil, Ayumi from Kawasaki Japan, Sithidej from Bangkok Thailand, Gloria from Jesi Italy, Anton from Murmansk Russia and Louise from New York City USA.
From the very beginning they were called "The Children of the Earth".
In 1989 The Children of the Earth Prize was awarded for the very first time. Inger Harrington of Ålesund, Norway was awarded 100,000 Nk or approx $16,500 who has since been working with street children in Brazil.
Children from all the schools in the community of North Cape attend the annual awards ceremony and the North Cape School of Culture provides a locally inspired program.

Nordkapp Visitor Center. Nordkapp Norway. Jan 1st, 2013.

Inside the visitor center, which I omitted to take photos of, I had another of those wonderful moments that my trip is chock full of. Special moments with special people.
Michael, whose name I found out later, was at the desk, so I approached with a newspaper in hand containing a center page article about me and RideAwayCancer and asked about the possibility of riding the outfit around the back to the globe to take a 'few shots'. Well, I got the green light for that, Michael said to just go around now, take your shots and ride back out as there were 2 tour buses coming in and it would get a bit busy. "No problem" says I, "I'll be quick, just a few shots is all I need Michael thanks".

Half an hour later and I was still out back at the globe, chatting with the tourists, they're taking photos of the outfit, they're sitting on the outfit and taking photos and generally a good time was being had by all. So out of the corner of my one good eye I see Michael walking down from the visitor center toward me and I think to myself "Uh oh". Well, I didn't have to worry at all, he was just coming down to check if everything was ok and that I was getting the shots I wanted and if I needed any help. After a couple of sentences from him my ears pricked up. I could of sworn I heard the sound of an Irish accent. "Where are you from?" I asked him. "Lithuania" he said. "Oh, never mind then, your accent just sounds a bit like....". "Well, I lived in ireland for 8 years before coming here to Norway" he blurts out. Well,that explained it. From then on it was off to the races, we were best buds. Michael couldn't have been any more helpful to me if he tried.

As we're chatting Michael asks me "Are you going to come back here to Nordkapp again?". "Well yes", I said, "I'll probably be back again tomorrow to take some more photos and I would really like to come back up again next year too". "Ok" he says, "let's go inside, I have something for you".

Michael, bless his heart, made myself, DriveAwayCancer and RideAwayCancer lifetime members of The Royal North Cape Club. Technically, membership is only available if you come to the North Cape personally, it can't be bought online, but I made a special request for John Nikas and Grace and all his hard work with DriveAwayCancer which Michael seemed to understand.
Members of the North Cape Club have free entry to the North Cape Plateau for the rest of their lives.
Michael, if you're reading this post thank you so much for your wonderful gesture, it's very special and means the world to me, especially given the importance of my reaching Nordkapp in Winter.

At this point I would like to extend a very big heartfelt "Thank You" to all of you who played a part in helping to get me up here to Nordkapp, I absolutely could not have done this without all of your help. Each and every one of you played a part, and the sum of all the parts has me sitting on 
Top of the World right now, so I would like for you all to share in this moment with me.



redlegsrides said...

an outstanding achievement Murph!

I was wondering how you got permission to pose your rig right at the monument, what a great happenstance to meet your new buddy Michael!

Great pics as well, though you're not smiling much....intentional or the cold?

Loved the shot of the tow truck driver and his son! Someday, you must show me how to achieve that effect on the lighting.

Hope you're staying warm


Anonymous said...

Good luck Murph - looking forward for next rapport from Rovanemi Finland.

Lars in Ljusdal Sweden

Steve said...

Congratulations on reaching Nordkapp. You are one tough man! And that shot of Jonas and Rune standing by their plow is really spectacular given the difficult lighting conditions. Really happy for you on your accomplishment, Murph!

Anonymous said...

Yay, Rob, well done! That is really a fantastic accomplishment. Our Lochlann thinks you're "really lucky and hopes you bump into Santa! LoL, N

Touring Motocycle Tires said...

Nordkapp is just the place i would love to visit. Seems like quite an adventure Murph. I would really love to ride in the snow and make new friends. Infact i would one day love to meet you and go for a snow ride with you! Thank you for the info.

Backpacker said...

You know that the place where the Nordkapp marker is is not the northernmost point in Europe, like it's billed. You have to walk around to another peninsula to get to the real northernmost point, over 1.6km farther north. Here is a map explaining that:,25.713501&spn=0.128416,0.31826

Four of us walked over to the real northernmost point and took a picture of the marker, one mile south of us.

Unknown said...

Dom, that WAS my smiling face.....

Re: the tow truck driver shot, that was done in Lightroom 4, it was a difficult shot to take, all the light was in front of me plus the artificial truck lights were throwing everything off. So to get that effect well,get LR4 and play with it for a few years :-)

Unknown said...

Hi Lars and thank you.

Unknown said...

Steve, thanks. You're the only one who figured out what a tricky shot it was. The artificial truck lighting was a bear, throwing me all off.

Thanks for the good wishes..

Unknown said...

Thanks N, sent you and Lochlann some pics in your email..

Unknown said...

Nordkapp is a great place.

WHo knows, we may bump into each other someday on the road.

Unknown said...

Backpacker, thanks for writing, but if you had read my blog back a few posts ago, you would have seen that I already went into that fact in detail.
And, if you had done your research properly you would of known that we both never reached "Europe's Northernmost Point".

The reason being is that if Europe's northernmost point is allowed to be on an Island like Nordkapp is on the island of Magerøya, then Cape Figly on Rudolf Island, Franz Josef Land in Russia is A LOT further north than Nordkapp is, at 81° 48' 24" North. Nordkapp is only 71° 10' 21".

And then if Franz Josef Land is not considered to be in Europe, then Europe's nothernmost point is the northern point of Rossøya, an islet north of Spitsbergeat 80° 49' 44.41" North.

I want to try to get there to one of them at least if I can by sidecar just to say I was "Really" at Europe's Northernmost Point, but neither of them are particularly navigable. I may have to hike in like you guys did :-)

But you guys went further than most do. Most don't even bother to find out about Kinnarodden. Good job on hiking out there.


Anonymous said...

hi murph....i just starting to read your blogs today...
great journey and great accomplishment...
will be waiting for your next great adventures stories...

stay save murph...

best regards
(bali island indonesia)

Unknown said...

Agung, thanks for writing and welcome to my adventure.