Full of energy and fresh motivation, I left Bugoynes to make my way towards Varanger Peninsula Varangerfjord separates from the area between Bugoynes and Varangerbotn.
The 20 kilometers back to the turnoff that leads to Bugoynes was pretty easy with all the tailwind I got granted this morning. The road towards Varangerbotn led through delightful scenery of beech trees and fantastic views over the fjord glittering in the sunlight. Eventually, the road climbed up a plateau where the landscape was back to barren granite, and a cold wind was coming from ahead. The views over Varangerfjord were marvelous, though.
I decided that I felt like I wanted to go all the way towards Vardø, which is the utmost inhabited town on the peninsula. Further along the coast, at the end of a narrow and windy dead-end road, is still the settlement of Hamningberg, which is abandoned most time of the year.
I planned on splitting up for the 120 kilometers to Vardø in two days, whereas the first day would be a long 107-kilometer ride. I started from my campground in magical conditions: a wide-open blue sky. The glittering sea. Thousand shades of green that uses the very short summers up here to put all power into glistening.
I couldn’t get enough of that rough beauty! I took plenty of pictures, and suddenly a motor home honked at me. Michael, the 79-year-old from Berlin I already met twice in Finland! What a blast! He stopped at the very next parking lot and made coffee for me. We sat for another hour to share what had happened in the last few days.
I continued, but the weather changed halfway into today’s distance. It got much colder; darkish clouds were brewing in the distance, and the wind picked up and became a pretty annoying headwind, making cycling quite challenging. No trees protected me from the gusts, and the few houses in the two settlements I passed looked as windswept as you’d expect in this harsh environment. But red and yellow colored facades almost seem to rebel against the grey skies. Sunny days and warm temperatures are everything but typical here. Sheep and their lambs were scoffing on the few bushes of grass that were still growing the further east I got. I had to take breaks every 2-3 kilometers – the headwind made it hard, and my backside hurt quite a bit. Suddenly, a café appeared on the left side of the road. Coffee, waffles! I was the happiest cyclist to find some protection and warmth and needed life savers. The other guests were fishermen with windburned faces and honest eyes. Then, the remaining 20 kilometers to the homestay that I booked in advance were just flying by; it also helped that it cleared up and the wind died down. The ever-changing conditions couldn’t change my state of mind: since I was cycling along Varangerfjord and the coast of Varangerbotn Peninsula, I felt this constant wave of warmth floating over me. The high skies, the remoteness of the place, the lack of people, and the ever-present Barent Sea add some gravity to the site. I could not stop smiling and being emotional about being able to experience that. In my imagination, I cycled an inch above the ground. Conversations, mutual silence, and a panoramic window facing the sea at the homestay at the Eastern Cape of Europe only completed the experience.
Thirteen kilometers were left to get to Vardø. I was going to meet up with Kirsten there. Her get-to goal was Vardø right from the start. But before enjoying coffee and waffles together, I had to cycle through a tunnel that connects the island where Vardø is situated with the peninsula. Trond, the homestay host, accompanied me on his bike to the tunnel and continued towards Hamningberg. Cycling 3 kilometers about 90 meters below sea level had some specific feel: it was extremely noisy, cold, and claustrophobic. I was happy to get back to daylight eventually and to meet Kirsten! Meeting up with people again you have already met along the way is something precious. We spent hours laughing, sharing thoughts, experiences, and stories from along the way until Kirsten needed to take a bus that would eventually bring her back south to Helsinki. After deciding on Kirkenes as my goal of cycling north, continuing towards Vardø felt like the icing on the cake. With the location’s unique vibe, I left a little piece of my heart at Varanger Peninsula.
I am not done yet, though. Let’s continue!