is getting easier; less food, no water – I am wearing a lot of the clothes I packed… Beyond the thermal underwear, my legs have uniqulo long johns,jeans, thick winter padded overtrousers, three pairs of thin socks and my old lace up timberland boots. These boots are completely unsuitable if it rains badly but the plan is to stick plastic bags over my socks and put them back on. The weather has been kind to me so I hope I won’t have to take that option too often. On the top half is thermal vest, uniqulo long sleeved heattech vest, an old red and black flannel shirt, an occasional thick jumper to wear inside the tent and when riding, my Hein Gericke double lined cordura jacket and if cold or wet on the road my new rain jacket which was a birthday present along with the hiking tent from my dear wife.
I calmly assembled stowed and arranged everything neatly,with no hurry. Breakfast, a cheese roll and half a carton of grapefruit juice and off. The choice for the route was either the nearer and prettier road over the mountains into Norway via Sweden or a little further up via Finland. Sweden won and I didn’t regret it as it was the most stunningly beautiful day of the journey, punctuated with long stretches of stones to ride over as the roads are constantly damaged by the winter, summer the only time they can be repaired. The long days promote obscenely fast growth here, freshly unravel so fat you can almost see it happen. Tiny tree seedlings pushing through the soft sphagnum mossy cushions in unbelievably high density. I saw a water vole, or he spotted me first and shot into his nest in the icy stream.
Three hundred miles that day, two petrol stops looking for WiFi as well, no joy. Statoil offer WiFi, not free as I was led to believe… I buy some food at the Coop, a Scandinavian variant of our beloved institution. The town is busy strip mining a mountain, on the other side a newly installed ski lift, pinned onto the freshly mined surface. Little of nature remains here, neat traffic speed bumps and tower blocks with tiny square windows. A young Norwegian coos at the infant he left tucked into the back seat of his porsche and roars away from the Coop. The disgruntled pensioner kicks his leg, almost hitting the saddle and rides out of this last Swedish town.
Lunch, pull over on the mountain, sit on a warm rock next to a thick slab of dirty snow, watching the steady flow of camper vans hissing past me. Some wave at me, I wave back. Waving happens away from cities, bikers do it as a matter of genuine courtesy. It happens all over the world, like graffiti…. I suppose to reassure the originator that he or she actually exists.
The train with three carriages passes in the other direction, the snow above and below us,the frozen lakes below that, the dwindling trees now little bushes and spindles of silver birch poking up through the moss, the snow covered mountains and the high cloud crowning it all… this happening all at once in the intense low sunlight, all without any of us making it happen.
Time to stop, a slow day, three hundred and sixty miles to Nordkapp, I need a shower badly and pull into a campsite high on a hillside, paying the lady her little wooden hut.
It’s still bright at eleven o’clock so I take a stroll up the mountain, return to watch two episodes of the twilight zone and some of Tarkovsky’s film Stalker, a puzzling work, only a third seen so far.