Tears sting my eyes. For once though, they’re tears of joy. I can’t believe it. I’ve actually done it.
I walk down to the beach to wash the porridge off my pot. I see what looks like a person sitting on a ledge. I’m confused. I didn’t see anyone pass me by. I walk closer – and the person spreads their wings. A huge eagle lifts off into the sky, as I gape after it. I laugh in disbelief. Its wingspan is bigger than I am tall. I get Red ready for the ride. It’s 700m uphill, and 30km in total from where we are. I’ve read biking travel tales of this last stretch of the trip. It’s supposed to be grueling, never ending inclines and ice-cold wind pushing against a traveler heading north.
All the cars passing me by are shifted in the first gear. Some sound worse than I do when they groan past me. I wave at every single one coming back down from the Nordkapp. I have a silly, huge grin on my face. I’m actually going to finish this trip. Most people wave back, some give me a thumbs up. I am ridiculously happy in the few moments when the wind comes at me from behind, practically pushing me up the hill. I’m happy even when it doesn’t.
I never admitted to myself that I could pull this off until the last 30km. From that moment on, even as I pushed and heaved and pedalled and sweated and groaned my way up this rocky island, I did not stop smiling. Grinning. Laughing in spontaneous bursts, never angry at the icy wind hitting my face, cracking my lips, instead even thanking it for letting me face it. The reindeer ran and jumped when I flew past them. Seagulls glided through the air next to me, suspended above the ground by nothing than their wings and the steady hum of wind keeping them afloat.
I thank the sun – she’s watched over me this entire time. Even when every weather report and every person would tell me she wouldn’t be there tomorrow, it would rain, it would snow, it would be cloudy – she has never left my side. Even now, she keeps this redheaded, cycling madwoman warm. “I love you!” I yell up at the sky. The sunlight reflects on the patches of white snow on the mountain top.
The writers of those travel blogs really weren’t kidding when they said the last part is the hardest. I’m drenched in sweat. And still, the hill goes up, up, up. There is nothing to hide me from the onslaught of the biting Northwind.
Then I see it.
A building against the backdrop of thick, grey clouds.
I pedal on. Just as I reach the last uphill part, the wind turns, and pushes me up the hill, towards the little ticket booth. I’m going 5km/h when I reach the window. I’m close to tears. I’m so happy. “Hello there! Where did you come from?” the lady in the ticket booth asks. I’m laughing, I’m crying, I can barely answer. “Berlin, Germany!” I pause to catch my breath. “Please tell me you’ve got hot coffee up there.” She smiles at me. “We do. Go on, go inside and warm up then.” I don’t have to pay entry. I crawl past the ticket booth. I slowly make my way around the building.
There it is. The Nordkapp Globe. It’s straight ahead, the steel beams black against the blue and grey backdrop of the sky. I get off Red, back on, I pedal closer, I pick up Red, lift it up on the platform and can’t stop laughing. A couple marches up to me. I ask them for a picture. He takes my phone. I kneel next to my bike. I’m so exhausted. I’m deliriously delighted. “A pose worthy of a hero,” the man says. I pick up Red, and carry it down the steps. My hands are turning red from the cold. I go around the building, and push myself and Red into the Nordkapp Museum.
I can’t get off this stupid rock of an island. I can’t even get back down to Honningsvåg. The fog is too thick to even see the headlights of a car going back down the mountain – I shudder to think of how little I would see (and be seen) heading down with just teeny tiny bike lights. “It’s not safe,” Rasmus agrees. I’ve befriended the staff at the museum.
I feel a little like an elf wandering around the place.
I live in the Nordkapp museum now, I’ve decided.
The staff greet me in their room. It’s where I was allowed to leave my bike for the day, as I sat in the cafeteria, staring at the Globe. The Globe does not enjoy being stared at, and wraps itself into a cloak of thick, wet fog. I eat my sandwich, and wander around the museum. My body and mind are refusing to brave the cold.
Eventually, I do decide to leave and head into the staff room to get my bike out. As I pack up, a few of the staff members start talking with me. Soon, I’m sitting in a circle of people, talking about adventures and traveling, about being alone and about what drove me here (my bike, ha. Ha.) It seems like everyone is happy to let me sleep on one of the couches in the staff room. Suddenly, a woman comes in. “I’m sorry, there’s been a misunderstanding, you can’t be here. Not in the staff room. And you can’t sleep here.” A few of the staff protest. “She rode her bike 3000km to be here, and you want to send her out into the cold and rain?!” Vygis is horrified, but the woman doesn’t budge. “It’s policy. You can drink your tea, but then you go back into the museum,” she says to me. Ah, life. One moment you’re warm, nestled into the side of a couch with a warm mug of tea, the next you’re out in the pouring rain again. I shrug and do as I’m told. I don’t understand why she’s so adamant. I understand that rules serve a purpose, but I’ve learned that if people really want to, there are always loopholes. This lady does not want to find the loopholes.
The people working here are lovely. I’m outside my tent, which I’ve set next to the building. It’s still windy but the sun is making a spontaneous appearance. I briefly consider leaving now, but it’s 2am in the morning, and I just want to sleep. Rasmus keeps me company, and tells me of the bike trip he would like to do. It’s supposed to go throughout all of Europe, following our ancient history. “I want to see Stonehenge, and that cave with the paintings in France.” I think the idea is brilliant. Another brings me sandwich and a bottle filled with hot water for my sleeping bag. It gets terribly cold at night, in spite of my two down jackets and the sleeping bag. “It’s the end of the world as we know it….” I sing to myself, as I fall asleep.
He has this delightful way of tilting his head, when he says “Oh no…” His smiles are soft. His eyes look tired, a little sad even. “Why do I go on these trips?” he repeats my question. “I feel closer to God on my bike, on these trips than in a church,” he finally answers. His name is Tomi. He’s also come to the Nordkapp by bike. He’s made the way from Poland, so even though we’ve gone down different routes, we’ve both had to pedal about 3000km to get here. We’re hiding from the rain.
It’s cold and windy outside.
It’s funny. After a while on this trip, I stopped complaining about the weather. The wind just was, the (very rare) rain just was – I would simply put on my jacket and take the present conditions as they were. Tomi has made a similar discovery. “After all this time on the road, life just condensed to the bare necessities. You go through your day, looking for water, food, shelter. Warmth, a place to camp. The road North. The weather is just another thing to deal with. And when the sun peaks out from between the clouds, I say hello to the sun.” He smiles.
We talk about this odd feeling I’ve been getting, especially the last few days of this adventure. It’s felt as if the lines between my Self and the Outside World are disintegrating. And yet, as the difference between me and the world around me disappear, I’ve felt like it’s never been easier to know what I need. What I want. Who I am. In the city, it’s hard to know what your own thoughts are. Out here, my own voice has become a glorious roar. (Figuratively, obviously.) Tomi nods when I tell him this. He’s gone on 4 of these expeditions already. For him, this experience is easiest to explain as that it has gotten nearly effortless to speak with God.
He’s a teacher in Poland. His students learn about IT and religion from him. He’s a Christian, and I show him the northermost chapel hidden in the deepest part of the museum. “It’s beautiful,” he breathes softly. I agree.
The chapel is blue, glowing crystal structures give off a faint glow.
The altar is nestled into the heart of a boat, standing upright on the northern side of the chapel.
We continue our argument with the manager at the Nordkapp Museum. She’s adamant about us not staying here. The wind is blowing at 32km/h, but just as the wind, she remains relentless. “You cannot stay here. I’ve been really nice to even let you stay by the side of the building,” she says, arms crossed. She seems frustrated at our reluctance to accept her terms. For a while, Tomi continues to try his luck at persuading her to let us stay – even if just a few hours on the bathroom floor. “No. You know, I respect you for cycling this way. I’m a long-distance dog sledder. And when I go on a race, I pack my gear, I get ready for my tent to be blown away, and if so, I sleep in the snow.” Tomi and I hear the message between the lines loud and clear: she thinks we’re weak for wanting to stay inside the museum. Weak for not wanting to get back out and brave the wind, the fog, the rain, the cold. Didn’t we know what we were getting ourselves into? We agree to leave by bus – there’s no wind in Honningsvåg. Tomi gets up. He’s frustrated, and lets it out on the piano. The tune of “Hallelujah” floats through the auditorium of the museum. The cruise ship tourists applaud when he finishes. He comes back and sits down back to me. “I’m better now. No more anger.” I laugh. “You play the piano, and I write to feel better.”
Eventually, I decide against taking the bus. The lady finds me and asks why I’m not on the bus. It’s about to leave. “I’m taking my bike. I’m strong,” I say. I guess, that not only am I strong, but I also have an ego problem, seeing as I really did just feel the need to inform her of said strength. She shuffles around on the spot.
“Take my phone number,” she finally says to me. “If something happens, call me and I’ll drive you down.” It feels like a pause in this battle of will we’ve been having for the past 20 hours. “I’m sorry for causing trouble,” I reply. She nods. “Look, I get that you’re cold. But I need to protect my staff. I don’t want them to get into trouble, and fired. I don’t want to lose my job either.” I nod, and accept the phone number.
Suddenly, Tomi shows up next to me. “Let’s go be crazy!” he yells and swings himself on his bike.
Together, we brave the wilderness outside the museum doors.