This leg covers maybe the most beautiful part of Norway, from Lofoten and then further to Vesterålen, Andøya and Senja. Fjords, steep mountains popping out of the ocean everywhere, but still remarkable flat and easy for cycling. I had high expectations for this stretch of road, and was not disappointed (except for the headwind).
Day 32 - Moskenes to Svolvær
Distance/accumulated: 131.0 / 3051.7
Avg/max speed: 20.4 / 49.9
Elevation gain: 985 m
A lot of activity from other travellers starting to leave the campground during a rather cloudy morning. From Moskenes it was pleasant cycling to Reine, except for all the traffic on the road. After Reine it was raining on and off, and the steep mountains were well hidden behind fog and clouds. Shortly before Flakstad I met the German guy on scooter again. Not really a surprise after so many consecutive days we've bumped into each other. But this would be the last time, because he was now going back to Bodø to pick up his girlfriend and then spend two weeks in Lofoten. We said a final goodbye, before I went on to Leknes. Shortly before Leknes there were a undersea tunnel, and it was a bad mistake to cycle in the main lane. Cars where numerous and in high speed, some even used the horn on me. In the bottom I switched to the left shoulder, which turned out to be perfect for cyclists. After Leknes the weather turned better and instead of headwind I had tailwind. The remaining part to Svolvær was thus easy and fast cycling. I camped there hoping that it would be possible to stock up on food next morning, even on a Sunday when literally everything is closed in Norway.
Day 33 - Svolvær to Buksnesfjord
Distance/accumulated: 117.8 / 3169.5
Avg/max speed: 19.0 / 46.1
Elevation gain: 645 m
As expected I could not find any Sunday open food stores in Svolvær, and I had to pay the outrageous price they demand for the food in gas stations. I hate Sundays, less food to choose between and at a much higher price. I continued to Fiskebøl in strong headwind, but to my big surprise there is a new E10 road with multiple tunnels which avoids the ferry to Melbu. Thus the frequency of this ferry is cut to the bone, and I had to wait almost two hours for the next ferry. After Melbu I continued in strong headwinds first to Stokmarknes, where I found a nice and clean toilet in the Coastal Express Museum, and then further to Sortland. The wind had consumed a lot of energy, so I bought a hamburger with french fries there. The campground in Sortland demanded 150 NOK for a single tent and person. Such an outrageous price was simply out of the question (I was not in that big need for charging batteries anyway) so I continued cycling for a couple of more hours (no headwind fortunately) before I found a nice spot to camp on a rocky beach near Buksnesfjord. Free of charge and serene surroundings.
Day 34 - Buksnesfjord to Straumsnes (Senja)
Distance/accumulated: 102.5 / 3272.0
Avg/max speed: 17.5 / 52.6
Elevation gain: 620 m
It was a sunny morning, so I was not in a hurry to leave the rocky beach. But assuming strong headwinds again, I needed to calculate enough time to reach the 5 pm ferry from Andenes, which also was the last departure of the day. I thought I had plenty of time, but as the hours went by on the rather flat but scenic road on the westcoast of Andøya, I eventually realized that the devastating headwind was delaying me so much that the ferry departure was at high risk. But arriving Bleik, only 10 km before Andenes, I knew I would make it and had time to eat some snacks and take a few photos. Andenes was a much bigger town than expected and I cycled almost 4 km through populated areas before I finally was at the pier.
The expensive ferry (150 NOK) crossed open sea in strong northwest winds, thus making it a very rolling experience, and I have to admit, a bit nauseous too. After a couple of hours we sailed into a fjord, well protected from high winds and waves. The scenery around Gryllefjord was spectacular, rugged peaks rising almost vertical from the fjord. Safely on land again I was both happy and surprised to see that the food store in Gryllefjord was still open. I used this opportunity to stock up with food, not expecting to find any other stores in the remote parts of Senja. Then I continued cycling for 20-30 km in an awesome landscape, which even made a guy like me emotional. Ever since I saw that child TV-series "The kids on Senja" about 25 years ago, I have dreamt of going to Senja. Now I was here, with a strong feeling of reaching some sort of climax during my trip. In combination with exhaustion after endless of kilometers the last month, I got this tingling feeling that almost made me cry, not of sadness but of happiness. A strong feeling of being alive, and the wonderful experience to finally see a dream come true. Emotions put aside, I found a nice place to pitch my tent near the bridge at Straumsnes.
Day 35 - Straumsnes (Senja) to Tromsø
Distance/accumulated: 130.2 / 3402.2
Avg/max speed: 20.8 / 58.5
Elevation gain: 1100 m
Again I had to plan ahead so I would reach one of the few ferry departures between Senja and Kvaløya. Wishing to spend as much of the day as possible on the wonderful island of Senja, I aimed for the 15:45 departure. That gave me quite a few hours to enjoy the scenic national tourist road (RV864) covering approx 60 km along the multiple fjords and valleys of Senja, most of them connected by tunnels and/or minor mountain passes. The highest pass is only about 300 meters in elevation, so the road is much more pleasant than one would imagine is possible in such a complex terrain, mostly thanks to the tunnels. During the day I became more and more convinced that Senja would be a much better setting for "Lord of the Rings" than New Zealand ever was. At least it's the most beautiful place I've ever seen in Norway.
I arrived Botnhamn earlier than planned, giving me time to eat a meal before the ferry departed. The ferry arrived Kvaløya 16:30, and as my uncle suggested, I cycled RV858 instead of RV862. That is about 10 km longer but less hilly. It was a good choice, because I had strong tailwind much of the way, covering the 70 km to Tromsø in less than 3 hours. Expecting a tasty dinner and a soft bed was motivation good enough to put up this high speed at the end of the day. And it was so nice to see them again after all these years. Last I visited them in Tromsø was 17 years ago, and my uncle was joking that if I waited another 17 years, they would probably be dead.
Day 36 - Tromsø
Distance/accumulated: - / -
Avg/max speed: - / -
Elevation gain: -
I was supposed to leave after an early dinner, but some technical problems with my bike forced me to stay another night in Tromsø. Not a bad option at all !!!
To avoid restless legs, I walked their dog around the neighbourhood. In the evening we had beer and akevitt on the balcony.
Previous leg: Namsos to Moskenes
Next leg: Tromsø to Nordkapp