Today, October tenth, two of my siblings will be celebrating their birthdays two thousand kilometres southwest of here. To that course, the weather forecast this part of France is not too good; it’s raining now, in fact; therefore I’m altering my planned itinerary in order to dodge another soak like yesterday’s. The sleep, however, has been fantastic; one of those rare ones that grant me a real rest; warm the room, quiet the hotel.
For a change, I’m taking a speedway stretch (the first one in fifteen thousand kilometres of journey) for leaving Dijon behind as soon as possible. When I’m near the city, four customs policemen on bikes swarm on me signalling me to pull over. Then, not bothering to salute, they blurt out their authority and stare at me as if to check my response. Do they have a reputation for being tough guys and I should freak out? I don’t know. I just say, ‘very good; what do you want?’ ‘To search your luggage’, replies one; ‘do you mind to open your cases?’ As I’m doing it, I ask him ‘do I have a choice, anyway?’, but he doesn’t answer. While they’re checking, I’m asked the typical questions: where do you come from, where are you going, what do you carry. They only check my bags, but not the few places where you can hide compromising stuff in a motorcycle. What the hell are they after? Whatever. As nothing is found, they mount their bikes and ride away… obviously taking a French leave. As nice as my country’s Guardia Civil; c’est à dire, churls.
It’s the heart of the summer, and from the height south-bordering the Álava plain there lies at my feet, majestic and fertile, hot and glaring, the Ebro valley; namely the Basque side of Rioja, which is somehow a territorial inconsistence, since all southern Álava is, like Treviño, actually more Castilian than Basque; but we’re deep into an autonomic nonsense here in Spain, after Franco died.
The road from Vitoria to the height descends now towards the valley in a series of fun bends which are a good challenge for a bike rider. Pity it gets so hot as I go down into the Iberic cauldron, the valley bed where the vinyards are, that I need to take my jacket off. Continue reading “Elciego and around, cradle of Rioja wine”
Along this journey to nowhere an idea has slowly been emerging from the depths of my subsonscious –where it lived as an embryo– to the surface of my awareness, rounding up there during the past few days and thus achieving the category of a goal; a goal which, like a compass, steers now Rosaura’s handlebar: to witness the maelstrom, that fabulous and awe-inspiring vortex formed in some water streams at sea.
My next target is, then, Saltstraumen (20 km from Bodo), home to Norwegian coast’s most powerful whirlpool–and perhaps also the largest konwn in the whole planet. However it be, see it or not, Bodo will be my last stop in this country, where my stay is getting too long. If on one hand the spectacular and unexpected landscapes here (among the very best highlights in my travelling life) are captivating, on the other hand I’m being kicked out by these prices (among the highest in the world, as of today). So, after Salstraumen I’ll take the first road that cuts straight to Sweden.
For going down south from this lovely house by Myrlandsfjorden where I’ve stayed the last two days, there are two alternative ferry routes: via Svolvaer-Skutvik or via Lodingen-Bognes; and though the first one looks shorter, my friendly hosts recommend to me the second, since it’s faster and cheaper, plus departs more frequently. So, I bid them farewell in the morning and off to Lodingen I ride, where I arrive one hour later, luckily in the very moment when the vehicles are boarding the ship. Continue reading “Through the looking-glass”
No other time in Norway have distances deluded me more than today. On the map, getting to the west end of Lofoten from my idyllic house by the Myrlandsfjorden seemed like a reasonable morning ride; but when I was about half the way I realized that the whole afternoon would slip out of my hands if I didn’t turn back, and besides I’d get wet, since the more I rode to the west, where the islands lean over the open Atlantic, the worse and cloudier the weather was getting.
On the other hand, strange though it may seem, that much beauty presently blunted my senses; all those bends of the road, all that stopping the motorcycle every few kilometres for taking photos, for walking to the corner of a path, to the tip of a promontory, the seashore or the end of a jetty, and better enjoying this stunning nature, turned out overloading my perception. Continue reading “Lofoten: once in a lifetime”
Right south of Andenes (on Andoya’s north end), the jagged crests of the Bleik mountains sticking their sharp, uneven fangs into the dark belly of the clouds on a cold grey rainy morning make for one of the most chilling sights along my trip in Norway; and such a sight makes me take the eastern, leeward road for going down the island, since I assume the weather along the west route will be more rainy and unpleasant.
Further down, there is the bridge between Strand and Sortland, impressive for its height and length.
Norway seems to have a very practical policy regarding bridges, since you can find the same model repeated over and over. There must be more than hundred of these ugly but imposing colossus linking together the myriad islands of this uneven and beautiful litoral.
Whomever has had the curiosity (and patience) of reading these chapters, where I’m narrating my changing and uncertain Journey to Nowhere and giving an account of the vicissitudes and impressions I’m finding on the way, will be by now familiar with the Trollfjord, one of the Hurtigrutten coastal route’s ships. Two times earlier I’ve run into her by chance: first on the very septentrional haven of Kjollefjord, and second on that of Tromso, where I was tempted to buy a ticket for a part of the route. According to the tourist office employees, probably the most beautiful stretch of the Hurtigrutten is the passage along the narrow Tengelfjorden channel between Hinnoya and Austvagoy, 20 km long and less than 200 m wide at its narrowest point, flanked by mountains whose peaks rise above the sea more than one thousand metres. Continue reading “Hunt of the Trollfjord”