Almost three hundred kilometres on my motorcycle from Alta to Tromso make for –by far– the longest stage during the past eighty days journeying to Nowhere; and also one of the most stunning. Not the case of Talvik, though, which is a sami village (rather a market), fifteen minutes away from Kvenvikmoen (where I’ve spent the night), stretching one hundred metres along the road and consisting of a few shops where a racially mixed bunch of people who still preserve some percentage of sami blood, armed to the teeth with wireless card machines, exhibit and sell at ridiculous prices their handcraft, charms and other presumedly traditional stuff, mostly meant for the bleeding hearts and the mighty wallets. Just another tourist trap.
Far from my feelings to gloat over the decline of races and cultures; I’m an incorrigible sentimental; but precisely for this reason I’d rather not fool myself: the harsh reality is that –same as many other ethnical minorities– the sami are almost totally extinct from Lapland territories. The last of them who were pure blood and led an authentic sami way of life must have passed away a bunch of decades ago and taken their folklore and traditions with them. What remains today is only good for some sensationalist or poetic documentary.
But let’s go back to the road. Route E6 keeps skirting the seaboard, that lavishes in magnificent landscapes which, as I leave Finnmark behind, subtly change into different geology and flora; and as I move forward into Troms County –whose shores are washed by the Gulf stream— the climate becomes rainier and damper, less cold than to the northeast and the Barents sea, whose litoral isn’t blessed by the stream. I wonder if this has also something to do with the colour of the sea, turquoise-blue in Finnmark, navy-blue in Troms; though maybe this is just due to the depth, since the coast is more precipitous here, and the waters deeper.
Yet one hundred kilometres east of Talvik, when passing in front of Skorpa and Noklan islands, I pull over and stop the engine for gazing at the beauty laying right at my feet. The islands and fiords along this winding seaboard can sometimes draw spectacular arabesques. I had never travelled through a country so prodigal in astounding panoramics.
One more hour of riding brings to me a striking surprise: the glaciers. I knew there were some in Norway, but my ignorance placed them more to the south, on the mountain range bordering Sweden. Coming across them here, suddenly round a corner past Djupvik, makes me grab both levers and stop once again. They’re called Lyngen Alps, and take the name from the fiord right below. And how impressive the unmistakable blueish white of the glacier tongues on the dismal rock, like if leaning over the sea, under a dramatic overcast sky! A memory brings me back to Iceland, where I first ever watched something similar, a few years ago.
But it’s cold ‘out here’ and I have a good while of riding ahead of me yet; don’t know how long, since my goal for today is Tromso, and I need to take two ferries for that, but I don’t know about their schedules. So, I shoot my camera at the glaciers, put on helmet and gloves, then clutch, first gear and there we go.
Twenty kilometres further on, I’m in Olderdalen, having a hot-dog by the peer to liven me up and fill my stomach while waiting for the ship that’s going to take me to Lyngseidet, ten nautical miles across the fiord. I’ve got lucky with the schecules: only twenty minutes to go; though in any case the timetable is quite convenient, because there are many departures. In the meantime, I watch the parking lot from inside the warm shop where I’m eating the rolled sausage. I see how some vehicles are coming and adding up to the queue, and how seven motorcycles arrive and take the first place, as usual. They watch Rosaura a lot and when I notice their plates I understand why: they’re Spaniards; so, I get out of my shelter for some conversation.
Out of these magnificent seven –the largest Spanish bike group I’ve stumbled upon this trip– two are quite friendly and we engage in a chat. They’ve travelled from Barcelona to Cape North straight through, ‘stepping’ on the gas, doing long stages at full speed, and now they’re going back souch along the Norwegian coast more calmly. They sneer when I tell them I’m averaging 70 km/h and riding three hours a day. Such is life. They’re keeping a travel log on the go, where they tell about their trip (no English) and upload some nice photos.
As we’re talking and –as customary among bikers– checking on our machines, I realize that the last of Rosaura’s front rubber has got worn out in just two days by the abrasive pavement of Norwegian roads. I thought it would last 20,000 km, until after Norway, but no way: the tire is 18,000 now and done for. I have no option but to replace it in Tromso and pray God I don’t get ripped off, though actually acommodation until Monday is going to be far more expensive than the mechanic itself: unfortunately today is Friday, workshops will be closed by the time I get there, and tomorrow nothing’ll open because, quite coincidentally, there is an international chess championship going on, and the Arctic race –which is chasing me since Olderfjord– is coming this weekend, too.
Once the ferry is docked we jump onto our mounts and get them into the hold. The fare is quite affordable, one hundred Crowns or less. The stretch is short, around half an hour, and I use the time in taking pictures and thinking my thoughts because the other seven bikers clique speaking Catalan.
Once we get to Lyngseidet we swarm out of the hold down the ramp, and I soon lag behind; but not for long, as Lyngen peninsula is quite narrow, barely twenty kilometres, and I get to Svensby in a blink. Here we must take another ferry, which is synchronized with the other in order to allow for the slower vehicles to get the connection. The second stretch by boat is even shorter than the first, about three nautical miles. Here I talk again with two of the Spanish bikers; one of them seems to be the leader, a nice fellow. Anyway, very soon we arrive to Breivikeidet, go downstairs to the hold, put our gear on, start the engines… This time we say farewell because very likely I won’t ever meet them again. Not in this trip, at least.
Finally, fifty kilometres further, Rosaura and me cross the emblematic Bruvegen bridge, almost one thusand metres long, leading right downtown Tromso. Tied up to the berth, watching the giant bridge’s piers, the ubiquitous Trollfjord from the Hurtigrutten –the same vessel I met three days ago in Kjolle– seems to be welcoming me. Hello again, my friend.