What an experience it has been!! I have had some fantastic days up in the north, as far north as you can get in the world (except for the North Pole). A huge thank you goes to Odd Peder at Skaidi Extreme for inviting me to this event and for the great hospitality, this is one of the best trips I have done in a long time! The race is only a small part of this whole experience!
It all started on Wednesday morning when I left Falun at 5am to drive to the airport in Stockholm to catch a flight to Oslo and get the connection to Alta in the northern part of Norway. After a 2 hour flight I landed in Alta and the weather had changed, it was cold and raining! Stine and Lisa from the organisation was there to pick me up and some other guests and we drove another 2 hours to Hammerfest, the northernmost town in the world!! We arrived at the Rica hotel in Hammerfest at 5pm! I only had time to quickly put the bike together before it was time for a sightseeing tour of Hammerfest, an interesting little town which I would have loved to explore a bit more! After the tour we had dinner at the Royal and Ancient Polar Bear society, a club which started in Hammerfest 1963, the only way to become a member is by being here, so we all became members after we had eaten the “Beef a la Lindström” after the recipe from the adventurer Adolf Henrik Lindström from Hammerfest who was born here in 1866. It was a nice evening and I was very tired when I went to bed!
Thursday had an early start, we met at 5.40 at the harbour to take the famous boat Hurtigrutten, it is a ship that sails from Bergen in the south to Nordkapp in the north in 7 days, but you can also do day trips on smaller sections. It has always been a dream for me to do Hurtigrutten so now at least I have done a part. We travelled from Hammerfest to Honningsvåg in 5 hours. Our bikes were waiting for us in Honningsvåg, when we got changed I realised that I didnt know how to dress properly for cold weather cycling! The most popular brand in Norway must be Norröna, everyone had at least one item from them! Luckily Odd Peder had an extra pair of Norröna pants for me to borrow, and thicker gloves, I think he saved my day! We started a 40km ride to Nordkapp (Northern Cape) the northernmost point you can go to in the world! The riding was amazing, even though it was 10 degrees, rain and windy! It looked like we were riding on the moon at stages. The last half of the ride was on tar and it was a never ending story, the road just went on and on and the uphill and head wind did not help! The 40km took us 2,5 hours! It was great to see Nordkapp, at midsummer it never gets dark here during the night and in midwinter it never gets light during the day!
The day did not end with all that! The bus took us back to Honningsvåg where we got dressed in some really warm overalls and got seated in a 12 seater speed boat with 600 horsepower! I can tell you it was lots of fun when the skippers were playing a bit, and they were good at it! We stopped on the sea to pick up a net and take out some King Crabs! They were big, even though we were told that these ones were small, weighing about 6-7 kg but they can get up to 15 kg! We finished the boat tour at another place (not Honningsvåg) and we got to hold the crabs and take pictures, then some people killed them and the guide cut off the legs, which was going to be out dinner. It was all set up in a tent for us to sit around the fire while the crabs were boiling and later we were served King Crabs, bread, mayonnaise and lemon, apparently the way King Crabs should be eaten! I am not really into sea food but this was amazing! Now days we talk about locally produced food and short travelled food, our dinner had travelled about 20 meters from the sea to the pot!
The whole day had been a great experience with lots of new impressions! After a 1,5 hours bus ride we arrived at Skaidi hotel where we were going to stay for 3 nights. Our luggage and bikes were there, these guys know how to organise the logistics!
Friday was a bit of a rest day, we went for a ride on parts of the route for the race and it was a bit of an eye opener, the terrain was very different to anything else I have ever cycled on, it was bumpy! At some places there were not even a track, you just had to cross the mountain. My family have a cottage up in the mountains in Sweden, the terrain looks the same, and I have always thought that one cannot cycle there, it is for hiking, now I know better! Of course it was raining and windy too, so I still had to borrow Odd Peders Norröna pants! After some bike wash and an amazing lunch with local fish it was some time to relax.
In the evening we had the “icebreaker” an opening ceremony for the race, it was outside and there were some speaches, interviews and shows. We got a traditional reindeer stew and also a fish burger for dinner, amazing food!! The "Same" who owns the reindeers we were eating and also who’s land we will be racing on was there, Erik, Ariane and I got to know a whole lot about how they take care of the reindeers, very interesting! All the food we got during the weekend was from this area, very impressive!
The race started at 11.30 on Saturday, enough time to get a bit nervous, not for racing but for the terrain, and the biggest worry before was how much clothes to wear, it could get chilly up on the mountain! We were lucky with the weather, this was the only time during our days here without rain, it actually started raining a few minutes after I had finished! It was a hard and tough race with 3 laps of 6km + 21km + 14km, only 41km can sound short but it took me 2hours 45minutes and it felt long! It was so bumpy that my seat post kept sinking, I had to stop and raise it but still finished lower then what I should! I was daydreaming of a full suspension bike out there! At the same time as it was very tough and rough it was also a lot of fun, I can not compare this route with anything else I have ever raced! I came second after Ariane and the best was that I could take the prize money and go straight to the tent from the local bike shop and buy myself my own pair of Norröna rain-cycling pants, the best pants in the world!! I love them!
In the evening we had the banquette with dinner and another prize giving. The food on the menu was absolutely amazing! We had whale, seal and salmon for starter, reindeer fillet for main and cloudberry cream, a berry cheese cake and a berry macarone for dessert! One of the best dinners I have ever had! All the podium finishers got a locally made hunting knife as a prize, beautiful!!
It is now time to leave and start the long travel from the Northern part of Norway to Southern Africa!! Approximately 17.000 kilometers!
I would recommend Skaidi Extreme to anyone that wants a different experience!!