My original plan for this summer was that I and Martin would conquer the Arctic in Ralf, that we would drive from the south of Lofoten to Nordkapp and that we would ride our bikes on every trail on the way. For a number of reasons (of which the nice one is that the terrain on Kvaløya is pretty damn terrific, and the less nice is my damn ankle and Martin’s damn health) that is yet to happen.
However, with the end of a very long and nice vacation approaching, we felt an urge to let Ralf smell freedom and for us to do some proper exploring. At first, we discussed driving to to the end of the world (i.e., Nordkapp) afterall, but driving there takes 9 hours (9 !!!) and since so few people live up there, an abundance of trails is unlikely. In addition, the weather report looked much better for Troms. So instead of heading north, we headed west to Norway’s second largest island, Senja.
[Oh, I do have to warn you, this is going to be one of those puke posts, because Norway is, well, Norway. So you may want to go and get that bag again. And I do apologize for the massive number of photos, I went a bit insane on Senja.]
Senja is located about one hours drive and one hour of sitting on a ferry from Tromsø (but during summer you should probably be about an hour early for the ferry to get on it, space is very limited). The southern part of the island is a national park. Riding your bike in the park is, as far as we know, not prohibited, but since we couldn’t find any information saying that it was allowed either, we decided to explore the northern part instead.
We found a very neat camping spot on the last stop before Greenland (a.k.a. Mefjordvær); mountains in the back and the sea in the front. In addition, no charges, a flat (huge) parking space, an outhouse close by (I hate shitting outside). Very nice.
As we arrived, dark clouds where clinging to the mountains like Roxy (a champagne colored poodle, or toy) clings to my mother (very tight), so we couldn’t really see what the background had to offer. But after a while, even the most affectionate cloud couldn’t resist the heat of the arctic sun.
And voilá, with the now shattered clouds, it became very apparent just how amazing our camping spot actually was, and how totally insane the landscape on Senja is.
Even though the clock was approaching 10 pm, we of course had no choice but to get our bony little asses off our granite couch and on to our bikes.
As a coincidence, our camping spot of course also offered a suitable small hill with a very suitable trail to take extremely flattering photos in the midnight sun.
The hill can’t be higher than perhaps 60 vertical meters, but it nevertheless managed to offer a fair share of tricky switchbacks, some tricky rocks and some serious flow.
We celebrated our excellent choice of camping spot and our decision to move to the Arctic by drinking outrageously expensive Norwegian beer, and by feeling extremely smug. Then we tucked ourselves in Ralf and fell asleep.
Wednesday morning greeted us with blue birds all over, except for one low flying sea eagle (!!!) and a bunch of angry seagulls. Our mission for the day was Barden (some 500 vertical meters above sea level). Barden proved to be a very scenic mountain.
The trail on Barden also proved to be scenic, and a little bit more challenging than I had hoped for.
At about 400 meters asl, I transformed into Gollum, went down on all four and started crawling (I have to do something about this damn fear of heights!). We couldn’t see what the trail looked like above the rock garden we (well ok, I) were crawling (Martin was walking normally) through, so we left our bikes before we continued upwards.
Just to find that, above those hellish steep rocks, the trail was fricking epic! Damnit!
Anyway, we continued to the top without our bikes. And what a summit Barden has! Puke time!
I nearly shit myself looking down. Several times.
After a quick bite and gaze at the view (and hyperventilating a bit), we climbed down to our bikes again. I could hear Martin muttering curses for not having his bike, especially as we found that the second time around, the climb around the crux wasn’t at all as bad as the first. To cheer him up, I forced him to do a “I can hold the summit in my hand” photo. He was not amused (and I totally failed getting the photo right).
Then we rode our bikes. At least for bits and pieces of the trail. Going down, it became apparent to me that a lot of rocks wanted to eat me alive or throw me into the fjord. Martin of course managed most of the gnarly sections. I think that I rode about 50%.
Back in 2013, we would never have stopped at 300 vertical meters of downhill. But this year, things are a bit different. Instead of searching for another trail to climb, we went fishing.
I have to say something about fishing in Norway. It is insane. In Sweden, you go out in your boat, fight the mosquitoes for three hours and then (at best) return with a mini bass or a pike. In Norway, you walk down to the fjord, do a few throws and haul up a saithe or a cod. At my fourth throw, I got a HUGE saithe (must have been 2 meters at least 🙂 ). I got so excited that jumped up and down, and consequently I lost it. Alas, but I did catch two small ones! Which meant that I also had to kill. I hate the killing part.
Then we put the catch on the grill and gazed at the never ending sunset. Yes, I had to have more extremely expensive Norwegian beer. You have to have beer to celebrate the insanity of Norway (and to drench your guilt).
On our last day on Senja, we decided to climb the mountain with the friendly sounding name Husfjellet (the House mountain). Choosing Husfjellet turned out to be a very (very) good idea. The mountain is 636 meters high, and about 99% of the trail on it is rideable. No, “rideable” doesn’t properly describe the trail on that mountain. About 99% of that trail is shit-your-pants-and-feel-good-about-it-good, and the view is honestly to die for (and if you fall down, you actually do die).
The first part of the trail down is a bit loose and rocky. For me, it was a splendid opportunity to exercise my skills at looking at the trail and not at the abyss and to get friendly with my fear of heights.
No, I am exaggerating. Going down the ridge was actually really fine. The trail is at least a meter from the edge, the only problem was keeping focused on the trail instead of the view.
The trail down the alpine terrain below the top offers extreme flow combined with some cruxes. In other words, charge as fast as you can, press your breaks in panic, feel your heart jump, let go and jump yourself. I had to scream out loud to cheer at myself several times. I did it good!
The final part of the trail is a pure rumble in the jungle. Sharp turns, roots and rocks, and trees that wants to eat you. In other words, massive fun.
We finished off with a quick dip in the fjord, and a disco move to give honor to those magic Norwegian mountains.
It is ok to hate me. But to make you feel better, I did get bitten by a nasty horse fly on that beach, and we did pay more than $20 for a six pack of 4.5% beer. Still ok to hate me.