The wind nearly blows me off the road. Tomi is yelling something, but the wind is too loud for me to understand what he’s saying. Every gust rushing through my wheels feels like it’s strong enough to sink me. Tomi pedals closer. I can see him on my left, but I don’t want to turn my face. The shards of ice hitting my face cut into my skin. My nose is ready to fall off. Suddenly, the wind quiets down. Tomi is shielding me from the wind with his own bike and body. His bike swerves each time the wind hits him. “THANK YOU!” I yell across the roaring gale. I think he nods, but I can’t hear if he’s answered. Multiple buses pass us by, the drivers waving, smiling. They don’t know that the wind rushing alongside their cars nearly tosses us off the road, each time they pass. I smile anyway.
It takes us 4 hours to get down the mountain.
We barely reach a speed faster than 6km/h. Tomi gets off to push his bike at one point. “Go! Save yourself, leave me!” He’s joking, but the weather conditions are truly fantastically awful. We take a short break by the road. Tomi offers me some chocolate. It’s the last piece. He laughs. “It’s okay, take it! But you don’t happen to have some chicken and fries on you, do you?” He describes his perfect day to me, what he’ll do once he makes it back home. “Oh, I’m going to shower. And wash my clothes! And then, when I get into warm, clean pyjamas, I’m going to lie in my bed, and eat yogurt and chicken and then I will sleep. Oh, yogurt….” I tell him I, too, want to shower. “And I really want to wear a horribly inconvenient, long dress and walk around, drink coffee, and not touch my bike!” We’re simple people, with simple needs.
We finally make it to the tundra. I can see Honningsvåg in the distance, and turn to say goodbye to Tomi. He wants to camp at a toilet next to the tunnels leading off this island. I want to go back ‘home’, back to the tundra where I stayed the night before I left for the Nordkapp. “But woman! I tell you, the toilet is warm!” He shakes my hand. “It was a pleasure braving the weather with you,” he says. Then he’s off, off to his warm toilet next to the tunnel.
I pitch my tent in the tundra.
This time, I set it next to a rock, to prevent some of the rain and wind from getting to it. I’m soaked. I spend the rest of the evening eating and heating up some of the snow melt, which I fill into plastic bottles. The bottles shrink, annoyingly. But still, they keep my feet warm and toasty inside my sleeping bag. Hands-down best camping trick I’ve learned on this trip. I snuggle deeper into the sleeping bag. “I’ve made it to the Nordkapp,” I whisper to myself. But to be honest: I’m much happier down here, hidden between the hilly folds of the Norwegian tundra.
She’s back, and she’s on FIRE. The sun dries my clothes, which I’ve put out on the moss. I make myself the coffee I was craving last night, and enjoy a few peanut butter and honey sandwiches for breakfast. I’m going to meet up with Zuzana for lunch. I met her up on the Nordkapp, while I was (illegally, as I would soon after find out) sitting in the staff break room, sipping at my tea. “How did you get here?” I showed her my bike, and explained I’d gone on a 3000km trip to get here. She’s absolutely taken by the story. “That’s amazing! And why did you do it?” I tell her about the empty side of the bed back home. She nods. “I understand.” It’s curious how everyone understands an act of madness when it’s done for love.
Before I head to Honningsvåg to see Zuzana, I decide to keep my part of the European elections challenge and take a dip in the ocean. The icy water hurts my feet when I step in. Normally, I’m not shy about getting into cold water. But this water is pure snow melt. I can see later on film that I’m underwater for less than a second, but it feels like a lifetime. I quickly get back out. A man in a boat once told me:”Water is never cold!” He’d said that to me after I’d fallen off my water ski. He refused to let me back on board of said boat as long as I called the water cold. Ever since, people around me should beware when I say the water is “refreshing and delightful”.
To warm up, I climb on a few boulders around my tent. My hands have gotten disturbingly used to touching the rubber of my handlebars. The granite feels wonderfully rough and right on the skin of my fingertips.
I head off to Honningsvåg. I’m late, but Zuzana doesn’t seem to mind. She has a huge smile on her face and waves as I pedal towards her. We walk along the harbor. The little fishing boats bob up and down, along with the waves. She’s made soup for lunch, and we chat. I tell her – and later, her fiance as he joins us – about my battle with the Nordkapp manager, and the weather up on the mountains.
We talk about relationships, the struggles of repairing them, and how sometimes, it’s necessary to care a little more for yourself than for others when fixing a relationship. A counter-intuitive approach, but it’s working for Zuzana. “I really want to make things work, and I care a lot for others. I’m a curious person, and I want to understand people, why they do what they do. But for a few years now, I’m learning to ask myself that first, and it makes me happier.” As we talk, she keeps giving me these wonderful little wraps. It’s a luxurious delight to eat as much as I want. Zuzana keeps saying that I’m inspiring, and that talking to me is helping her figure things out in her own life. I keep wanting to tell her not to compare herself to me. “Adventures are relative.” We all do the best we can. I can tell she’s already a strong woman, learning how to navigate her way through life. I can tell she’s doing the best she can.
She takes a picture of me before she has to go off to work.
As I wave goodbye, I hope she’ll find the answers she’s looking for. I’m sure she will – and if meeting me helped her find a bit of clarity, then I’m even happier we’ve met.
A T-Rex runs down the streets of Honningsvåg next to a kid on a bicycle. T-Rex nearly falls flat on its face in an attempt to turn and save at me. I have a huge, silly grin on my face. The kid on the bike does, too. It’s my last day on the Nordkapp island.
The sun made a brief surprise appearance just for me on my little stretch of tundra as I made porridge and coffee in front of my tent. I sit and think whether there’s anything else I would regret not having done or seen here. “I bouldered, check… I swam, okay, dipped in the Arctic Atlantic, check… I climbed this hill, check, I climbed that mountain, check….” I decide to add “collect seashells and walk to the beach barefooted” to the list. I step into the puddles of melted snow. My feet are cold, but the sunshine is warm. I don’t care about the cold. I just want to enjoy the feeling of soft, fluffy moss and prickly evergreen shrubs between my toes. Admittedly, by the time I reach the rocky beach, the soles of my feet are complaining. By the time I get back to my tent, I’m happy to check off “walk barefooted” and put on some shoes.
It’s hard to pack up my tent. It took me 3000km to get here, and it feels like I could live on this tundra till… Well, winter, if we’re being honest here. But winter is a long time gone, and so will I – soon. The tent disappears back into its little green bag. The bike get packed. The three of us get going, across the Norwegian tundra, back into civilization.
I ride down the streets of Honningsvåg. A cruise ship has just arrived, and a steady stream of tourists and buses shuttling them off to the Nordkapp beginnt to flood and clog the streets. “My goodness, I ride my bike 3000km to the end of the world to get some peace and quiet, and it’s full of frigging cruise ship tourists,” I think to myself. A group of elderly tourists turns and stared angrily at me. Seems I’ve gotten so used to talking to myself that I just uttered my complaint out loud. I hurry on to the edge of the city. “We’ve done it, Red.” It’s drizzling again. I prop Red up against a bench and scour the rocky beach for any object of interest.
I find the leftover pieces of a king crab. I prop it on my hand.
“Red, I’m so sorry to have to tell you this… But Mr. Crabs is dead.”
I think it’s a good thing I’m returning to civilization soon.
As I ride back into Honningsvåg, my tire pops. Again. I shrug it off this time, and settle into the little bus station to wait. I’m going to change the tire in Alta – after a nice, warm, comfy bus ride.