It’s a cold grey August morning in Finnmark when I pack my things that lay spread out in my room at Nordkyn hotel, go to the backyard and load the luggage on my motorcycle. The wind swirls in the parking lot and freezes my hands as I’m getting ready. It’s going to be a dark day and I wouldn’t be surprised if we get some rain today. I’m feeling so far away from everywhere!, here in this small fiord on a corner of Nordkinn peninsula. It’s one hundred kilometres of bleak uplands on a perfectly deserted road to Ifjord, then I’ll take route 98 for continuing my way to the southwest of this cold, wild and beautiful region.
Long before waking up it was already dawning. But these extremely long summer days are drawing in quite fast these dates. Today for instance, daylight will be ten minutes shorter than yesterday and ten longer than tomorrow; and in less than a week, nights will be one hour longer; and as I’m now travelling south, by the end of August this mess of long days without nights will be over.
I leave the hotel before noon, yet I don’t see many people around town as I ride along the main street, mostly deserted. Beyond the the town limit there is a slope, and on the first corner I look back for a last farewell to Kjollefjord… probably forever. How blue I get when leaving places where I’ve felt good! It is like dying a little. But I’d rather not think about this, not get sad for what I’m leaving, but to cheer up for what may come. Or so happiness books say. Drivel.
Now I lower the helmet’s visor, fit the scarf and give gas to Rosaura for covering in one go the peninsula’s barren highlands. It’s a cheerless day and I don’t feel like photographing. Lonely roads don’t need much attention and invite to thinking. And it comes to my mind: maybe the real danger of Norwegian prices for the tourist is not so much to afford the expenses while here –after all, any budget can endure a few days– as not being able to check them when finding cheaper prices in the next country. I mean, after Norway, how to escape the feeling that everything is dirt cheap? Thus, won’t we spend with unadvisable largesse? The numbed thought may go this way: what does eighty for a hotel room mean when we’ve just paid one hundred twenty? Nothing! What is five for a coffee when it was ten in Norway? Negligible! And so it can happen that, by the time our subconscious gets used to the new prices, we’ve squandered more money out there than our real expenses in here.
Nonsense. Trifle thoughts of an idle biker huddled up behind the windshield while crossing the wastelands of Nordkinn.
When I get to Ifjord I check the odometer: it’s been 120 km along the paramo having barely crossed three or four cars. Now on route 98 there’ll be a bit more traffic. But before carrying on, I stop by the hotel where I stayed two nights ago and fill up the tank in the gas pump, the only one available in eighty kilometres around. Low clouds travel swiftly the overcast sky pushed by the wind, which also shakes the treetops and makes for an uncomfortable feeling. When paying for the gas, the man remembers me and asks: did you like Gamvik? I did.
But I shouldn’t detain me any longer nor stop for lunch here. I don’t know yet what’s ahead of me or where I’m sleeping tonight, as no acommodation shows up in my wireless gadgets. I hope I’ll find something. I get on Rosaura and leave Ifjord behind, heading Lakselv, on the southern end of Porsanger fiord. I estimate today’s ride in about two hundred kilomeres. How far now those short stages of eighty or one hundred, back in France and Italy! These desertic Scandinavian lands make for much longer drives. Still I don’t change my cruising speed; my goal is to become aware of the world around me, not to beat records. Besides, I avoid silly setbacks if I respect the speed limits, which in Norway are normally set to 80 km/h, often even 60 for no apparent reason. It’s funny the contrast I see with Finland: despite the limit there being 90, yet Finns rarely overspeed, and often even underspeed; they’re usually in no hurry. Norwegians, however, like to step on the gas and drive more aggressively. Oddities.
As the day draws on, the cloud cover gets thicker, more even, and eventually it starts drizziling. I stop to put on my rain pants, then carry on riding; and I get lucky: after a while, right to the west end of Svaerholt peninsula, I come by a rental huts that suits me to a tee, and in the perfect timing also! A road sign says I’m in Borselv, and I believe it; my map says the same, though honestly, there’s nothing here, nothing at all but this campsite, in the middle of a thin taiga, hosting a group of hunters. Maybe that’s the only thing around this area: hunting.
The gal who tends to the premises is kind and serviceable; she allocates me a cabin near the showers and, when I tell her I don’t have a sleeping bag, hands me a thick duvet good for a frost. Will you use the sauna?, says she. Absolutely. That’s right what I need, because for the last while on the bike I’ve got cold. My riding gear is not really fit for rain: Cordura is no raincoat and after a short while it lets water through; my boots also, I don’t know where, soak through; leaving aside my ‘rain’ pants: I never remember to get a new pair.
My hut is as usual, small yet enough: bunk, table, chair, double window and a powerful heater. I hang my coat to dry, then buy me a beer and go to the sauna, which is already warmed up, luckily. How I enjoy, between round and round of stifling heat, to get out and lay on the cold damp boardwalk! I get the drizzle on my skin with sheer carelessness, sipping my beer, knowing that I’ll be sweating again in five minutes. This is relaxing.
When I’m done with the sauna I realize I’m hungry, so I go to the main building, which is restaurant-bar, reception and shop. By the bar there is a smal blackboard with a few choices for meal, just three or four. I order salmon, then grab another beer and sit at a table. While waiting, I examine the local: it’s a nice place with a lot of character, ample, all on old wood worn by use and carved with scribbles. All kinds of stuff and souvenirs hang on the walls: banknotes, postcards, old posters. There’s a group of froggies on hunting wear sitting at a table, and on a bench in a corner, half hidden behind a table, there dozes the bulk of a man. The scene reminds me a bit those films taking place in the Rocky Mountains.
The cook, who’s also the barman, another Frenchy, quite a chef, brings me the fish garnished with potatoes and vegetables, and I, with sauna hunger, polish it off in a blink. It is superb, one of the best salmon dishes ever. Meanwhile, the dozing man has waken up and gapes at me for a few seconds, then joins the other froggies. When I’m done, I pay and go back to my cabin. Now it’s raining, which means there won’t be a stroll today. Besides, it’s been a long day’s journey and I’m rather tired. Instead, I read for quite a long while. The cabin has already warmed up and I feel real cozy, sheltered from the cold and the rain. I fall asleep with the relaxing murmur of the water that falls on the roof, on the ground, on the taiga, on the whole planet…