I am very enthusiastic about riding trains. Not the ones with which people commute to work. I am in awe of the long hauls. I have already ticked off the box of riding trains in Russia, Kazakhstan, India, New Zealand, and China. In the U.S., I have crossed the country four times by Amtrak already. Now, with being back in the U.S. for some time and wanting to catch up with friends in Portland and in Idaho, it is the perfect opportunity to close a little gap of the “Empire Builder” route in the Northwest (between Portland and Sandpoint, ID) and to eventually ride on an Amtrak train in winter.
Vanuatu consists of roundabout 80 islands and is located three hours by plane north of New Zealand, east of Fiji, slightly north of New Caledonia, and west of the northern tip of Australia. Still, somewhere almost forlorn in the blue vastness of the Pacific Ocean. Ten days as an end-of-teaching-for-the-year trip with two colleagues from uni: visiting an active volcano and some snorkeling was on the list.
I have never been travelling with a bike on a plane before. But, hey, there is always a first time. Fortunately, the airport in Tromsø is small and was only 4.5 km from the hostel where I stayed at. So I decided to check it out the day before I will have to fly.
Taking a boat of the classic Hurtigruten also was way out of reach because I always thought it is a posh and therefore expensive way of traveling cruise-ship-style along the Norwegian coast. It is, multi-day packages are expensive, yes, you’d get served reindeer and even whale beef if you want.
The first cherry is me taking a boat of the Hurtigruten which is a Norwegian public coastal route. Boats run either south, from Kirkenes to Bergen or the other way round. In total, it takes a little over a week to cover the whole distance. This route is legendary and a lot of people book the whole package including a cabin and pretty fancy meals. But you can also book harbor-to-harbor tickets without any frills that only cost a fraction of the package price. I boarded the vessel in Vardø, southbound to Honningsvåg.
I generally never thought about birds that much, and I never really cared about bird-watching. Whenever I met other travellers on my way to Vardo, it weren’t cyclists, but bird-watchers. There must be something about birds in that area.
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.
As emotional it was to arrive at the shore of the Barent Sea in Kirkenes, it was easy to leave town after a rest day. Everything that was going to come would be the icing on the cake. With arriving in Kirkenes I reached my goal that only became obvious within the last 300 kilometers.
It didn’t seem to be possible but it immediately felt even more remote and lonesome after I have crossed into Norway. I passed a couple of abandoned buildings. Neiden, the next settlement, seemed almost deserted and to my disappointment the local coffee place wasn’t open. So I continued. The day was grey and eyeing the looming dark clouds on the horizon I was hoping that it would not start to rain.
Rovaniemi. It took me some time to pronounce that Finnish place name correctly. It’s an iconic place for many reasons: kids send their Christmas wish lists there because everyone knows Santa lives in Rovaniemi.