Norway. Fjords and mountains and endless bends. On a bike. Ducati Hypermotard 1100. Why, the combination is totally – t-o-t-a-l-l-y – irresistable. For the life of me I can not figure out why I didn’t do it earlier? Perhaps because I never had anyone to go with before? This year around, another story. When our happy trio sat down for the first time back in March, you had an idea these guys won’t start weeping when it gets cold and wet, and big belly laughter will never be far away. Indeed I now stand confirmed. Baz & Zeg, princes among men.
Never mind the planning; here’s the three pistols. And off we went.
Once the tears stopped dropping inside the helmet – the goodbyes to my girls – I found us booming along the 51 to Helsinki. We all had the same feeling of crazy liberation in our souls, barely believing that this was finally coming true. A wild animal was eating my heart. I had to pop a wheelie and shout WOOHOOO. Look out world. Look the hell out.
Aside from buddies, my special companion was one Ducati Hypermotard nice and clean and prepped to the toothbrushed max, with original Ducati accessories (obviously). And can you see the sticker on the front wheel? Rubber’s fresh from the factory, man. I’m gonna lean over on this trip, you mark my words. And in that ridiculously small rear bag I managed to fit 4 socks and 4 pairs of underwear…
In Helsinki, we hogtied our brutes to the train. By the by, message to the greedy dog known as VR; we are not happy about paying full car price for bikes. VR, you suck. But we were on a deadline – there was a funeral to get back to and massive impatience to see Lapland nownownow, on the road. We woke up in Rovaniemi. It was a medium-sized miracle to see our bikes still upright after the rollercoaster night train that nearly derailed about seventythree times. Best way to travel? It is not by train.
It is by bike. To the amusement of the mosquito-bitten Rovaniemi crowd, we changed into riding gear at the train yard, and burned rubber past Santa’s workshop. Then it got cold. Then it started raining. Our situation started out as uncomfortable, changed into bad, and eventually settled on miserable. In SodankylÃ¤ we cured our frostbites with hot tea. KaurismÃ¤ki was not around, so we hauled our blue asses out of town and up to Inari.
My two Kawasaki-riding friends were cheating in their cosy Gore-Tex suits, but a hardcore biker (me) will always be smelling of leather, preferably by Dainese. While leather is really cool and totally Valentino Rossi, it is also really cold, and if it gets wet, you buy a new one. Why, I had no intention of getting my Gran Premio wet, so every time the drops fell on my nose, I had to pull a rainsuit – again, preferably by Dainese – on top of my leather suit. This is not as easy as it sounds, and takes acrobatic skills. By the time the trip was over, I had mastered the procedure. Right now, not by a longshot. But let’s not kill the rainsuit – or the condom, as it was soon nicknamed by the evil little men in Gore-Tex. Not only were I dry as the desert inside it, while even the Gore-Tex guys got a little moist in their pants during the worst downpours, it also worked as a windstopper, keeping me warm. Well, warm is not perhaps the right word. Alive. Just about.
You may now think that, since it was cold and raining, we were down and out like Bruce Springsteen in Nebraska. Hell no! We ripped Lapland apart with furious joy, and neatly avoided aquaplaning and running into Rudolf the raindeer and all his numerous friends. Just before Inari, the sun came out, the roads dried up, and the lake came in view all mysterious and glorious and religious. I had a deep Kalevala moment inside my helmet, half-expecting Iku-Turso to jump out of the dark waters and drag us down. Eerie. Where is VÃ¤inÃ¤mÃ¶inen when you need him?
I had booked a cabin for us at Inari, right next to the lake, and upon arrival we immediately booked the beach-sauna away from the Germans. Naked Finland swam in Inari. We then got imaginative and drank beer and watched football on the world’s smallest TV in our cabin. Baz put us on Facebook, and Zeg snored like a walrus in a gravel factory the whole night.
Morning gave way to a chilly fog… ie, chilly while off the bike. When you moved at 200km/h (100 if the girlfriends read) chilly turns to ice age. But it was early morning and our inner fires were still burning bright and all cylinders were firing, and the Lapland roads were so easypeasy and straightfreight you could take a nap and dream about Miami for fifteen minutes and still find yourself on the road when you woke up. This changed the minute we set rubber on Norwegian soil. “Yeah!” is probably the word I’m looking for.
Soon, the drizzle and fog turned to rain. It didn’t matter. The scenery was now what one would consider exotic, and 3 pairs of eyes gobbled it up. Little did we know it was just a tiny taster of things to come.
Apart from the rain and a spell of 20km on nasty gravel, it was fine. Occasionally, when the sun came out and the roads dried up, we used the tourist buses and stray sheep for slalom practice. I would like to take this moment to thank the Norwegian road makers. Bless you, for you have no peers.
Suddenly, we exited a long tunnel to the other side of a mountain and the weather cracked down on us with the heavy whip. Oh shit. The cliffs go black with anger, roads feel so walled in and narrow, vision is, well, like looking through a long steel pipe. A couple of hundred kilometers of this, and concentration is jack-hammering your brain while you beg for mercy. Should we slow down? Have a break? Hell noo. This was no longer a vacation; it had become a mission. Damn, a riding mission to hell, touch the devil, escape his claw. Or something. It did feel like hell, I tell. Stone towers cast giant shadows, deep below the furious sea pounded away to the sound of anti-music. We were tiny mice in the picture.
And into the cold wet darkness of the Nordkapp tunnel we went. 7 kilometers long, more than 200 metres under sea level. Here, of all the places in the world you least would want to break down, the engine light on my Ducati started shining like a little fucking beacon. The bike coughed. I prayed. I cursed. I prayed again. And then I cursed some more.
Talk about emerge, truly emerge. Steady on the throttle, the bike kept climbing out of the deep hole and onto the other side. Over my wounded v-twin I think I heard angels sing. Hahaha! And you know what? Deep frozen like fish sticks we checked in at our Nordkapp cabins, and the sky turns blue. Blue! My favorite color!
We had the most expensive chicken burger ever in HonningsvÃ¥g, at 25â‚¬ a bite. But it was also the most delicious thing I have ever sank my teeth into. Having expended so much energy trying to keep the body warm enough to twist the bike into forward motion, we were so famished we would gladly have settled for a marinated chair.
We tried to find a store that would sell warm clothes. But at least we found a store that sold beer and joddlarkorv – that is “yodeling sausage” in the universal language. You know I had to buy. After which I yodeled so much Baz and Zeg went out on the porch of our tiny cabin.
We had plenty of daylight left – let’s face it, this is about the only commodity Nordkapp has in abundance – and the last and best 30 kilometers of road beckoned. Ladies and gentlemen, the end of the world, also known as latitude 71 North. With a belly full of chicken burger and joddlarkorv, we roared off. As stated, it soon became apparent that the final leg of the day was a Marsian paradise, with roads so twisty and beautiful I nearly blew my heart. Nordkapp MotoGP commenced. I will never forget this stage. The Ducati dove into the bends with glowing brakes, and shot out like a firebreathing bat.
It may be a clichÃ©, but I’ll say it anyway. Man and machine became one. Yes. The previous suffering was gone, remaining was an adrenaline rush overload that still makes my body tingle just writing about it. Oh! My soul was utterly possessed! Completely unable to see the deadly drop-offs beyond each corner, I powered the life out of, in my deeply subjective opinion, the finest bike in the world.
At the end of the world, the cameras came out.
It had been an emotional day. Memories had been carved out of Norwegian rock. We took it easy on the way back to the cabin, snapping Ducati commercials and Kawasaki promotional pictures.
It was cold again the next morning, but the sun was out to embrace and the same road that had scared us witless was now our mistress. Even the Nordkapp tunnel seemed inviting…
…and altho the engine light came on again, I now figured it was due to the pressure sensor of being so far below sea level. No sweat. This was to be a sweet ride. On the way, Baz took a moment to meditate…
…and we even had time indulge in faraway beach poses.
Ah, it was pure enjoyment. It seems that fjords are standard equipment to roads, and we took no shortcuts. In the evening, we found our way to Burfjord, where I had managed to prebook a whole house for next to no money, courtesy of charming one-hundred year old lady Ingrid. It took quite a bit of gravel riding to get to this remote outpost, but no problem. I took a warm shower while Baz & Zeg went for food. Sadly, for them, the skies opened up in the biggest way, and I barely recognized the mud monsters that appeared some hours later. Yesyes, I still feel guilty about eating the juicy steaks they brought me… Anyway, the house was smashing, right by a fjord, fishing boats ran by and strange elves shuffled about in the woods.
As always, we told stories and had many beers. Mack rules! And then I had to go and try some of Zeg’s extremely potent snus, which made me dizzy and burned a deep hole in my gum. Behold one pretty biker, for your viewing pleasures.
Days will unfold, tales yet untold, hopefully soon, howl at the moon. What I want to say is, the unshaven hero bikers will return in To The Ends Of The World, Vol 2.