Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Jazz and motorsport in Finland

Last night we saw a band at a free warm-up gig for the jazz festival happening in the town the following week.

Brilliant jazz in Oulu
Today we're off to Jyväskylä (Yoovaskoola) for the Neste Rally! (See last post.)

Monday, July 29, 2019

Various items from Oulu (3084)

Ben from Switzerland* (who we met on a morning coffee break) and who is on a year-long fishing trip suggested doing the five Tibetan (yoga) Rites daily to help keep us in shape so we've begun doing so.

George from Greece* (who we met at a camping site) and who is on a year-long motorcycle trip with his lady Annette (their second) answered a question I asked and so now I know why I'm doing this trip.

The fact is that life has its chores no matter what that life happens to be. And, on reflection, this is a good thing.

Ben also pointed out that the discovery of self might not necessarily be an easy discovery. And that made me think that you can leave your life behind (after a fashion, at least) but you can't leave you behind.

But you can leave the Arctic Circle behind, and we have. We've entered the fifth week. New territory for us both. We've topped the 3000 mile mark.

We're reading a (Kindle) book of short stories to each other each night - or sometimes poems (but the Pilot likes the poems more than the Pillion). The reading is a  nice thing to do.

We're doing research into festivals and cultural events for later in the trip. (A chore of sorts, but a happy one.)

We don't think we'll make St Petersburg because the cost/time involved/convenience is made too difficult due to Russian travel awkwardnesses. 🤨

We might go to the World Rally Championships next: https://www.wrc.com/en/

We're currently in Oulu on Finland's western coast.

Angelika & local copper
A lovely park
Dam & salmon ladder
Upper reaches of ladder
*Both live in Germany - when they're not away travelling for a year.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Blog comments

Dear all,

Thanks for all the lovely comments you've left on the posts. We like to see them and they're very welcome - please keep them coming.

Once or twice we've attempted to reply to them but for some reason these have failed. Please don't confuse our lack of response with a lack of interest - we enjoy learning what you think.

Thanks for being interested!

A&S xx

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Tea ♡

From the Pillion
Most treasured luggage
I want to add a little tea tale as I consider myself an Honorary Brit in all things tea. We get excited about a biscuit and a cuppa - according to Bill Bryson.

The other day in deepest Norwegian Lapland we went off-piste in search of a picnic spot. A sign with a cup and cutlery promised a nice cup of tea. Or a hot drink of sorts. We turned off what passes for an A-road here and followed a dirt track, energised by said sign, we eventually stopped near a sad-looking cluster of dwellings. An old man with few teeth but some English appeared. He gesticulated back in the direction we came from. So we turned round, somewhat disappointed.

When we arrived back at the road, I kid you not, the sign had disappeared!! I don’t mean it had fallen over or was hanging upside down, IT WAS NOT THERE ANY MORE! 

Shortly after, a car passed us carrying the old man as a passenger. He gave us a cheery wave.

The intercom went wild!

Look out for the following headline back home:

‘Too (sic) curious riders missing in the Finnmark region of Norway, feared abducted by aliens’.

Btw, this whole region is mosquito central, but the place we are in now (Tankavaara, 'Gold Rush Town') is the only one honest enough to acknowledge it:

Gold rush (2824)

We're in Tankavaara. There was a gold rush here in 1934. They didn't leave any wealth behind.

Still, we had a lovely, lovely ride from Norway into the Lakeland area of Finland. All countryside single carriageways, hills, trees and considerate drivers - and the odd stray reindeer.

Here's a nice picture for you of a thoughtful lady by a stylised lavvu* - part of the Sami parliament buildings back at our last stop in Karasjok.

 Parliamentary wistfulness

* Sami word for teepee

Friday, July 26, 2019

Parliament (2682)

The Sami Parliament building in Karasjok.

This is the Sami capital of Norway. The town is deserted since most of the people are away at the coast with the reindeer. We ate pizza in a tiny, very downbeat shopping mall in the centre. The young, large, amiable lad who served us was excited by this unexpected opportunity to practise his English. He quizzed us about our journey and our route, but seemed to have something on his mind. Finally he blurted out, incredulously, emphasising his last two words;
What are you doing here?

Thursday, July 25, 2019

A significant birthday

I spent my 65th yesterday in interesting circumstances; comfortably inside the Arctic Circle, on a coastal lane by a tiny fishing harbour that masquerades as a village (Kamøyvær). We're staying in an Airbnb run by a young Thai woman with striking looks and an unsettling persona who also works as a chef on a Norwegian luxury coastal cruiser.

On this particular day I missed those nearest and dearest to me apart, of course, from the Pillion who it is my fortune to have with me as companion on this Quixotic venture.

Photo highlights:

Lunch time...
The very friendly Polish couple running the village hotel gratuitously took this photo at lunch time and presented it to us - framed - as we left that evening. How lovely.

The running record...
Yes, we were playing BG. Here's the evidence. There's a running trip record of matches played.

View from our bedroom
Birthday lunch and dinner venue
A new antipodean human
This is my lovely daughter's lovely lady, Sarah Neeltje de Schot - down in NZ - holding her new relative. Born on my 65th birthday! What a lovely coincidence.

Life is something, isn't it?

Love to all! xxx

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

You may wonder... ♡

From the Pillion
Off the pillion!
You may wonder; What is it like, sitting on the back of a bike? You can’t read, you can’t stretch your legs (well you can, but you might cause an unexpected tumble!), so what do you do?

The whole experience depends very much on the Pilot’s riding style (full marks to this one), the distance to be travelled and, of course, the weather.

Ninety minutes is a good average time for a spell of riding before the glutes and caffeine-cravings call for a break. Torrential rain is also a good reason to stop for a cuppa.

A lot of the time I am just lost in all sorts of thoughts, but also attention needs to be paid to the road and an impending emergency stop in case another nonchalant reindeer trundles along. They do! They are also very good-natured. Sudden breaks mean I have to hold on to the luggage rail and tighten my thigh muscles to prevent my body and helmet smacking into Simon’s! So no slacking or falling asleep!

Now that we have intercom, communication between Pilot and Pillion has become easier, but because of the noise of the airstream, the conversations are usually limited to 'Fancy a coffee?', ‘Time to refuel’, ’Whooa, did you see that??', 'Flippin’ amazing!!'.

A tired Pilot and hungry and tea-starved Pillion has sent the grumpometer reading off scale a few times. We are trying out different approaches.😉

The journey so far has been amazing, interesting and challenging - and we haven’t even reached Africa!

The road to Nordkapp felt at times like travelling to the end of the world with the most stunning views. We are lucky!

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Look ma, on top of the world! (2524)

We made Norkapp today.

Truth to tell, it's a bit Disney (which we were warned about).

Spoke to my second-born from the place itself - the most northerly point in Europe. I told him it was rammed. 'Just go north' he said. That would have sorted the crowd issue, I guess.

This is not photoshopped!
In compensation for the crowds, the queue to enter the car-park, its entry fee and the forty or so coaches parked there, the approach ride was special. Ironically, it had a profoud feeling of desolation and remoteness. We're both thrilled to have ridden it; the last bit of tarmac in this direction.

Somehow, we conjured up about 500 more miles than we budgeted for.

We've been lucky with the weather.

South now!

Love those fjord roads...

From Hammerfest to Nordkapp via Kamøyvær. A wonderful ride.

Aren't we lucky!

Monday, July 22, 2019

To (and in) Hammerfest (2358)

Hammerfest is not a gathering of hardware enthusiasts, but the northernmost town in the world.

As a naval conscript from Austria, Angelika's maternal grandfather was posted here for six years in WW2 and, having known this all her life, she wanted to see the place.

We had a fabulous ride here from Kautokeino yesterday. Tundra, Alpine hills, dying birch forests, Scottish highland-like heaths, fjord coastline (oh, those fjord coastal roads!) and constantly changing microclimates; balmy in the sun, freezing out of it.

Road to Hammerfest
To prepare for the journey, I adjusted the chain tension, added a little air to the rear tyre, lubed the chain, and checked the oil. The maintenance course is bearing fruit.

En route, we avoided deer.

HF high street
When we went out for dinner I took my gilet knowing it would be cold when the sun went down (it's surprisingly warm here when the sun shines). I forgot that it doesn't. Go down. The sun, that is.

Walking home last eve
The view from above the town is lovely.

The view :)
Did we mention Nordkapp? There tomorrow. Might be cold. 🤨

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Sami, sun and introducing 'From the Pillion'♡ (2149)

We're in a privately owned cabin in Kautokeino, Norway. (We rode in three countries yesterday; Sweden, Finland, Norway.)

From our veranda
This small town is one of the main centres of Sami culture. Chatting in a bar last night, we discovered that 90% of the residents here are Sami and 75% have some kind of involvement in reindeer herding. There's no-one around now because they're all away for the summer at the coast with their herds. In the winter, the town streets are swarmed with reindeer; it's where they live. They go away in the winter to allow the pastures here to recover. Fascinating.

The sun doesn't set here at the moment. It just kind of circles us. Not so far above the horizon during the day, just slightly below at 'night'. It makes me feel unsteady on my feet, knowing how close to the top of everything I am. When I was a young teenager, climbing a rope in the school gymnasium, it wasn't the height from the ground that unnerved me, but the realisation, looking up, that I was close to the ceiling. That's how it feels.

Last evening, 21.45 hrs

And now, the first in an occasional series of reports:

From the Pillion ♡
Following my pre-trip announcement that I didn’t want to commit to an ‘obligatory blog’, I have now changed my mind.

I really like Simon’s musings and reflections on our trip and have decided to share my ponderings now and then.

First off, I can’t stop going on about the midnight sun. It’s one thing reading about it, another experiencing it. Yesterday, it was still light at 11 pm, felt a bit overcast at midnight and was light again at 1 am. This is a bit confusing for a night owl like me!

You might wonder why we take so many rest days? Well, just ask our gluteus maximus! (maximi?)

I love riding in this part of Europe, not much traffic and lots of greenery and lakes. Tons of them.

And then there’s Mama Moose* trundling down the road with her offspring, shooting us a look that says 'You just mind your own business' - which we did.

More later. Tea’s brewing and the Pilot's taking a nap.

* Probably reindeer (Ed.)

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Spawning (1924)

We're inside the Arctic Circle now.

Pillion; astride the circumference
It surprisingly mild - though we've experienced how quickly and dramatically the temperature changes with each new weather front. Still, we'll be at Nordkapp and travelling south within the week, so we should escape the worst weather the region has to offer.

We're at a small town called Jockfall. It's situated on a river (the Kalix) at the point of a waterfall. The camp site we're staying at (in a fairly rustic cabin) is mostly frequented by fly-fishermen. The river is a salmon spawning route and the falls are climbed by fish making their way from the sea - 130k downstream - back to their place of their origin to produce their own offspring and repeat the cycle. It's quite captivating.

View from camp-site cafe bar
The locals, though some are keen fishermen, accept custodianship of the salmon and have built a 'salmon ladder' at the far side of the falls as seen from his photo, to encourage the salmon to their spawning grounds.

Salmon ladder
There is no night-time darkness here as we would recognise it and the mosquitoes roam in armed gangs, carry weapons and have tattoos.

Do check 'Noonpics', the daily trip photo. See the link on the navigation bar below the blog title (select Web View on smartphones.)

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Holy cheesus!

They make cheese here.

Shelves of cheese
Angelika lifts a cheese
More shelves of cheese 
Looked at from another angle
A rat on a motorcycle 
Info on cheesemaking
It's very tasty cheese, too. Made right here in Ånäset.

Monday, July 15, 2019

It's not just us

During our rest-up at Lufta Camping we've encountered Alex (Netherlands) and Pernilla & Max (Stockholm). All are riding motorbikes (respectively, for those that care, GS800 and a pair of GS1200s) and all are headed to Nordkapp. We're a dime-a-dozen us bikers-going-northernmost.

More and more throughout the planning and now the executing phase of the trip we've come to realise that riding to Nordkapp is a 'thing', as the youth say.

Here's a photograph of the camp-site restaurant and Alex's bike. 

The weather is getting milder by the day and it looks as though we'll be spared icicles up north. Alex alerted us to a Norwegian weather website that covers this area really well.

We've agreed a change to our itinerary. Having received advice re great places to visit hereabouts (including the biggest waterfall in northern Europe and the definitive museum of Sami culture in Jokkmokk) that we can't currently take in due to our accommodation commitments, we're going to travel south from Nordkapp through Sweden (rather than Finland), eventually taking the Umeå - Vaasa ferry to Finland and so on to Helsinki and St Petersburg.

We're excited by the prospect.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Closing in on the Arctic Circle (1692)

You know the town you're staying in is a small one when it never appears on the road signs.

This is Ånäset. Last stop was Sundsvall (one night) and now, after two days' back-to-back riding, we're resting up for three nights in our own cabin-from-home.

Our next stay will be in Jockfall, inside the Arctic Circle. Apparently upon entering it (the circle, that is) one should drink a Wolf's Paw, a vodka and cranberry juice. Let's see...

If you're reading these posts, don't forget to look at Noonpics; one photo per day at noon (or thereabouts) - see the link below the blog title (select 'web view' on smartphones).

How exactly do you strike the balance between freedom to roam and being sure of a bed after a long ride?

Shame Federer didn't get over the line, but no one deserved to lose that.

And don't fret if there's no post for one day or several - I don't want it to become a chore. x

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Walking the Swedish capital

It's very beautiful and interesting.

On the road again tomorrow. Going north.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019


Take a close look and you'll see, marked, Sundsvall and Ånäset. These are our next two destinations.

From the latter, we'll have three days riding to Nordkapp through Finland and Norway.

The weather seems to be getting a little more gentle up there, which is good because we'll be spending several days in the Arctic Circle.

On the other hand, regarding the ecology it'd better if it was colder.

We might even be there on the 24th - my 65th birthday.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Stockholm (1229)

We're in the Swedish capital!

En route...

We topped the 1000 miles on the way.

'Trip B' = miles from home
We're taking an extra day here (four nights) to rest up and gather our thoughts.

It was bloody cold on the way. If it keeps getting colder as we go north, it'll be uncomfortable. We've had reports of snow at Nordkapp. Neither of us fancy riding on the white stuff - for reasons of comfort but also for reasons of staying vertical.

Let's see.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Budget food (955)

I quite enjoy improvising with food on the go. Acting on advice recieved we try to make sure that we have bread and a jar of peanut butter available for those hungry moments. I like it.

Life on the road, isn't so onerous.

Food advisor: Len Brown
Nearing the first 1000 miles - and getting colder.

Stockholm tomorrow for three nights.

I experimented with the weight distribution on the bike. I seem to have solved the front-end-bike-wobbles by moving the security chain (a hefty item) from its original storage position suspended below the rear mudguard to up front wrapped around the tank bag. The handling is much better now.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Serendipity (715)

More good fortune. Our visit to Copenhagen coincided with the jazz festival here. These chaps were wonderful.

Friday, July 5, 2019


OK, truth is we're here because I gigged, thrice, at Palette, the best small music bar in northern Germany. It's in Sleswig-Holstein, in the Plattdeutsch, the flat lands on the border with Denmark and the coast of the Baltic. I love it here.

The proprietor of said music bar, Hans-Peter Scholz, is a work of art in his own right. A 70-something cool dude who knows good music when he hears it (of course I'd think that), and creates a great vibe for guests and artists alike.

Sometimes you get lucky. I loved playing here. Angelika and I were welcomed warmly this time, too, and we've had a great stay.

Denmark tomorrow.