Updated 28 October 2006.
04/08/06 - Day 7
I wake up at 7 AM and climb out of the bunk quietly to rummage through the panniers next door in the kitchen for the coffee mug and the kettle before going to sit on the porch for an hour of so of diary writing. It’s another fine, hot day today. Bjorn is up early too - he drives past the house in his VW Combivan, heading down to the huts he is building at the bottom of the slope in front of us for a spot of roofing work before the temperature rises too much. The panorama from the porch of the fjord with its islands and the mountains on either side is lovely, so I spend quite a few minutes with the camera trying to work out how best to capture it. You’ll have to come here and see it for yourself; apart from Bjorn, no-one else seems to be within a couple of miles of us.
I let Janet have a good lie-in before breakfast of porridge with sultanas and cinnamon, always a favourite on holidays. Bjorn returns and heads off into town in his van with a wave to us.
Bjorn's new famhouse
And the old one
We ride off at 11:40, stopping briefly at the Co-Op in Nambukta for bread and pasta sauce. Bjorn’s strong recommendation last night was that we should try and stop on the island of Leka, which is about 40 km from us. It is famous for being one of only a couple of places in the world where the full range of geological rock types are visible on the surface, and its red cliffs feature on postcards on sale all over this area of Norway. Last night I booked accomodation at Nausthaugen Hytter on the less visited side of the island using the RV17 guide.
The first stretch from Nambukta takes us past a small garage where a Ford Transit van is being welded back together by two mechanics, and the up a fearsome climb. Typically the road climbs very steeply for 100 metres, then drops down to fjord-side level, then climbs up to 150 metres again…
We push the bikes stolidly, passing a big landslide where a 20 ton rock has gouged a large hole out of the road before landing in the water on the other side. This must have been impressive; the road has been patched up but the rent in the landscape is going to take many years to heal itself naturally.
Landslide after Nambukta
After the first five kilometres things get much easier and all three of us can ride again, so we save face when two Dutch cyclists in their late ‘20’s catch us up. With half the stuff we have, Eric and his girlfriend are riding up to Bodø, reprising a motorbike trip they made in Southern Norway last year. They are very fit and tanned; tonight they plan to stay on Leka, so after five minutes they cheerily say goodbye and pedal away from us.
This stretch of road is very beautiful, with hardly any traffic - good for riding, but unfortunately I’m having chain trouble (jumping gears) because the bike shop didn’t remove any links from the chain before fitting it. It’s being a right pain when I climb, so I can see I’m going to have to shorten it tonight.
Pointy peak near Bogen
We stop in the shade of Olaf Bertnes’ wonderful General Store in Bogen, which stocks everything from embroidery thread to chainsaw blades, in short everything you’d require for frontier living where this is the only shop for twenty miles. P. picks out a Bionicles comic and pays for it himself, then we sit down outside on a stack of bags of peat in the shade just outside the door to make lunch out of bread, cheese, and cucumber.
Olaf Bertnes Store at Bogen
In the shade by Olaf Bertnes’ General Store, Bogen
The stretch from Bogen to Gutvik, from where we’ll catch the ferry to Leka, follows a valley that climbs steadily up to a pass before it drops down to the coast. The road is tree-lined, which is a relief because we are shaded from the hot afternoon sun. The sound of running water near the top prompts a ten-minute break for a ice-cold dip in the stream beside the road for P. and I, while Janet fights off flies and counts the minutes remaining until the 5pm ferry leaves Gutvik below us. But the splashing around gives us our second wind, and we tear down the mountain to arrive at the ferry dock about twenty-five minutes before the boat does.
At Gutvik ferry terminal
The little black ferry carries the three of us and a dozen cars from here across to the island of Leka in about twenty minutes. It’s very quiet on the island. There’s a fairly substantial community centre with a waiting room on the Leka side at Skei, which has hot showers, toilets, and apparently an Internet connection (unusual hereabouts). We cycle inland for about a kilometre to a cross-roads where there’s a well stocked supermarket. It turns out that the girl on the till is the daughter of the owner of the hut we’ve booked for tonight - she gives us some ice lollies and a photocopied map of the island for visitors, which she marks with a cross for her parents’ house.
We arrive at about 7pm. Ann is looking out for us and seems impressed with my Norwegian. She takes P. in her car to the hut, which is about 4km further on down the gravel road, so that we can pedal on unladed. Unfortunately we misunderstand her directions somewhat and can’t use our mobile phone to call her (no coverage here), so it takes quite a bit of back-tracking and searching for the turfed roof of Nausthaugen along the shore line before we find her. A sea-fog blows up suddenly to compound our confusion - it billows across the road in front of us for a while, but fortunately the building isn’t hidden underneath it!
Lost and looking for our boy in the fog
Searching for P. in the fog near Nausthaugen
Once we spot the turfed roof, it’s fairly easy to pick the right rutted track to it, and we rejoin a laughing Ann a few minutes later. Her building is lovely - built last year, and equipped to the highest standard. We like it so much we book for two nights (1500 kr). The house is nice and warm inside, well insulated with underfloor heating. We talk to Ann for a good long time about the life on the island. Sadly, but not unexpectedly, it is slowly losing people, down from 800 to 600 in the decade she and her husband have lived here, mostly because there are no jobs for young people. But its remoteness and beauty do bring in the visitors during the short summer season, just not many of them.
Finally we eat bolognaise with pasta, and bananas for dessert, and turn it at 10 pm, all worn out with the exception of P., who is sleeping on a bed platform upstairs, which he’s very excited about.
Late evening at Nausthaugen