An 894 mile cycle journey north on Norway’s Euro Velo Route 1 from Trondheim across the arctic circle to Tromso.
When it comes to imagined destinations, few can rival a journey in the arctic. The arctic is a place of deep and abiding longing and has been for centuries; a land so utterly different from our own experience that entering it calls for some grand rite of passage, for a journey of such beauty has to prove worthy of these longings. The Arctic TT meets this aspiration by providing a journey that takes you into landscapes of light and weather that rivals the best any north European cycle trails can offer.
The route begins in the rolling farmland and forest north of Trondheim where you pick up the old RV17 Coastal Route the ‘Kystriksvein’ The road twists and turns often in gentle fjord meanders, water lapping gently at pebbled beaches, meadows of vivid green rise to where the tree line ends and wooden cabins painted in oxblood red and powder blue jut out over the water. Further the road rises bucking and weaving across jagged terrain between ocean and the mountains whose summits remain flecked with snow even in summer.
Norway in some ways is a paradox. Wild and beautiful, but also manicured and modified by the people who live there. There is a feeling of quite control of law and order and of course is ridiculously expensive. One manifestation of this control in this oil rich nation has been the creation of miles and miles of tunnels driven through the very heart of Norwegian mountains. For a cyclist the creation of the tunnel network negates the need to cross high mountain pass, however, I can think of nothing more intimidating than cycling through narrow, dark, wet tunnels being pursued by the intense roar of traffic echoing of the tunnel walls. In Norway the mountain Trolls now live in the road tunnels!
The road often ends, as it so often does in Norway, at the water’s edge. Here you must wait until, in time, a ferry appears to connect you with where the road resumes its journey up mountain or around fjord. It’s a rhythm that soon becomes familiar; for this is a route drawn across an impossible topography, where ferry crossings – the imposed rest break – become the necessary pause and a chance to reflect on what has past and what is to come. Somewhere on the hour long crossing between Kilboghamn and Jetvik, the boat crosses the arctic circle. There is no fanfare, no sounding of the ship’s claxton, no avuncular announcement of the achievement. In truth, by this stage it scarcely seems to matter
The city of Bodo marks the end of the Kystriksvien and where you take the four hour ferry crossing across the Vestfjorden to the Lofoten and Vesteralen Islands and Senja Islands. This island hopping stage of the journey provides the most spectacular of mountainous coastal scenery and surprisingly easy cycling as the roads follow the coast or go straight through mountains themselves or drive deep down under the sea in long dark tunnels. The only real climbing required is crossing countless concrete narrow bridges with their standard 1:10 gradients or struggling on the uphill side of the nasty, noisy dark tunnels.
This is tourist Norway, picture perfect and designed to please. Mountains drop steeply into crystal turquoise waters, white sand shell beaches frame snowfields, clouds weave between impossible pinnacles of the cleanest rock. Rorbuer, brightly painted former fisherman’s sheds converted to luxury accommodation provide welcome shelter. The road continues north interspaced with the welcome ferry breaks. The suburbs of Tromso bathed in the light of the midnight sun mark the end of this incredible cycle journey.