Back on the mainland, after a wonderful but occasionally tough time on the Lofoten, I set out from Bodø to follow Kystriksveien, the scenic coastal road No. 17 winding along the stunning coast line of Helgeland. Blue sky, bright sunshine, and moderate temperatures were perfect conditions for cycling, and I lapped up the sun and warmth. Kystriksveien passes through most varied landscapes, starting out with sculptured, snow capped mountains in the north, which became greener and gentler the further I proceeded south. The Helgeland coast is not remote wilderness, but a cultural landscape with lush meadows, burnished rocks and skerries, that has been formed and cultivated for centuries. Hundreds upon hundreds of small islands and islets are spread out along the shore like pearls on a string, displaying beautiful bays and charming fishing villages. Thousands of dandelions lined the country road, shining brightly in the sun and highlighting my way. The change in nature, especially the fresh green of the trees and brush were pleasant for my eyes that had come so accustomed to all shades of brown, grey and white over the last few weeks.
Just south of Bodø I crossed Saltstraumen, the most powerful tidal current in the world. Four times a day the sea water forces its way through the narrow sea strait and causing enormous maelstroms. However, I must have passed it at turn of tide, as this is the only time when the water is calm and navigable. I had stopped at Kjellstraumen for the night, but as the campsite turned out to be so beautiful I stayed for three nights. I was assigned a tiny wooden cabin, which felt a bit like a hobbit house, as even I had to stoop to enter it. It was quite old but beautifully restored and lovingly furnitured. I really enjoyed my stay, witnessing a magnificent midnightsun and sitting outdoors working on my blog.
The temperatures were rising rapidly, having me go from winter on the Lofoten to summer in three days, and allowing me for the first time to take time over lunch as breaks in cycling did not make me cold instantly. Due to the long inlets and fjords I had to take the ferry several times, eventually crossing the Arctic Circle again on the passage to Kilboghavn. Unfortunately, the spot marked by a globe was hidden in fog, so I missed out on consciously experiencing that precise moment.
On one day I had slightly miscalculated, confusing harbours on the map, which can happen quite easily as the coast line is so scraggy, it is difficult to not mix ’em up. Instead of reaching a campsite I ended up in the middle of nowhere, and I had to search for a camping spot. Which turned out to be not as easy, as there were rocks and stone beaches on the one side, and impenetrable woodland and private properties on the other side. Deciding to ask for camping permission on someone’s fields, I had to knock on several doors before at last someone answered it. That family kindly allowed me to pitch my tent behind a barn on their farm, even filling up my camel bags with water. I had a difficult time getting the tent pegs into the ground, as the place was partially cemented, which I did not notice when pointing out that spot. Even more time passed until I had my stove up and running. Took me half an hour and lots of spilled fuel until it finally burnt steadily and I could cook some soup. It continued to rain heavily through the night but fortunately lit up in the morning. I finally got the hang of that stove and I was able to prepare a decent porridge for breakfast.
Next day’s leg was quite demanding, as I had to pass Mount Sjonfjellet on a long and steep climb. I had gotten so used to the relative flat roads on the Lofoten, that I did have my work cut out on this one. I was lucky, though, that after all the rain in the night, the sky cleared up and I had a fabulous view from the mountain’s top all over the surrounding islands and my evening’s destination, the pristine little harbour town of Nesna.
The Norwegian architecture is amazing. I came upon admirable and intriguing constructions throughout my way. From elegant buildings, over impressive bridges, to something as mundane as the road side toilets, everything is unuasually and fantastically designed. Easily the most magnificent bridge I literally came across had been Helgeland bridge, one of the longest cable-stayed bridges in the world, which had been voted Norway’s most beautiful bridge a couple of years ago. The crossing, however, had not been so easy. As the wind was blowing stronger that day again, for the first time on this trip, I actually had to get off my bike and push. The wind itself had not been the problem, though, but the immense impact of the trucks’ slipstreams (or better vortex shedding) that hit me everytime I was passed by one. It left my bike shaking in their wake, drawing me across the lane into the upcoming traffic. Not good. Deciding that this was becoming too dangerous, I lifted the bike on the sidewalk. Even there the blows were still quite forcefully but at least I was out of harms way.
Just having managed to cross that great man made piece of architecture, I passed beneath the next masterpiece of beauty, this time nature made: the distinctive mountain chain known as the Seven Sisters, once formed by glaciers during the Ice Age. Although legend has it, that the seven sisters were trolls, who once lived on a remote island, watched by a faithful maid. When they were discovered by Nordland’s adonis, horseman Hestmannen, he instantly fell in love with the maid and sisters. As he pursued them, arriving at the island’s shore in full armor, they fled south. However, as nature wants it, in the south, the sun makes it well above the horizon, and once the seven sisters were touched by the sun light, they all turned into stone. Many mountains on Nordland’s coast feature peculiar formations, and have thus inspired many fairy tales.
Due to my prolonged stays at Honningsvåg and Tromsø, and the occasional rest day, I felt a bit behind schedule and pressured to make it to Bergen on time to catch my flight to Aberdeen. Therefore, I had decided to deviate from the original route and hop on the Hurtigruten ferry in Rørvik, sailing over night to Trondheim. That last day in Helgeland had not been fun, though. It was a long leg, leading through boring, solitary woodland and loads of steep climbs. The departure time of the Hurtigruten boat hanging dreadfully over my head, I pressed on, hardly taking the time for breaks.
I finally reached Rørvik with a growling belly and two hours to spare. As there seems to be always a supermarket conveniently located close to the pier, I had time to get provisions and to make up for missed lunch. The ferry arrived punctual as usual and while the cruise passengers stretched their legs for a short walk through town, I checked in and went straight for the jacuzzi. When Ms Nordkapp cast off, I already soaked in the steaming water, the evening sun blazing down on me, and watching the beautiful skerries passing by.