As week one breaks into week two, I’m feeling at home now. My days are relatively simple. I wake in a tipi, eat breakfast, pack up, load my Schiller Bike and push off into waters unknown. There’s a power to feeling home in the unknown, not knowing where I’ll be laying my head tonight or what surprises will appear before I next reach land, or indeed, when that landing arrives.
Every day the scenery changes, as though the same coastline is rotating away from me, ever so slowly.
After a day’s rest at the gorgeous Kongsfjord Guesthouse, a small group of local residents and guests joined Adam, Laura and Angus - my team, to wave me off. This was to be my hardest day at sea. Just a few hundred metres off the beach, after a lone seal had popped up to say ‘hi’, the swells began to do exactly why they’re named. At times the horizon was lost as I dipped and rose between peaks, all the while measuring my progress in a highly inaccurate way, by mentally checking a point on the shore - a tunnel, a rock, a valley - and ensuring that it was coming closer and then slipping into the distance behind me.
I travel slowly, especially with head wind and waves, and the average moving speed is around 3.5 mph. These endurance journeys are always as much a mental battle as a physical one, you only move if you want to. Luckily, that’s what I’m here for. After sixteen miles, two light houses, several hundred waves that would have dwarfed the guesthouse I stayed in last night, and the gradual reeling in of the fishing town of Berlevåg, I made it to the next marina, shattered.
The local online newspaper had written a piece about this journey and included the online tracking map, which blips up my position every 30 minutes or so. In the hour or so after my arrival into Berlevåg harbour at least ten people had driven, walked or cycled to eye up the Schiller Bike. It feels great to be part of a story that inspires people, and after a six hour wait for the winds to lower a group of five local teenagers still waited on the pontoon to see me off. A couple of them hopped on the Schiller Bike for a twenty metre taster ride, before my next ten miles began. As I pedalled off they waved, toothy grins wide and happy.
Outside of the harbour two Hurtigruten ships greeted each other with their regular waving competition, music blaring and crowds a cheering, the passengers all feeling part of a larger family that extended all the way out to an unseen water bike a couple of miles west.
After a while these days seem to blend into each other, but if I focus hard on the memories that have piled up in just a couple of weeks each day is noticeably unique. From ten mile crossings to hopping across a 200 metre stretch of land between fjords in homage to the path of decades of fishermen avoiding the ruthless open waters north of Nordkinn, then past salmon fisheries and across the foggy crossing to Honningsvåg, a 25 metre minke whale stalking me harmlessly from a short distance, huffing and puffing with each breach.
A generous crowd pointed me towards their ferry waiting room, saying ‘you must sleep there’ as I arrived late onto the island of Måsøy, and fishermen and leisure cruisers waved and drove close with their smartphones at the ready, wondering at this strange British creature who had chosen to travel this wide open coast in the most odd way.
I must admit though, slowly I’m beginning to love the wonder of all these strangers, many of whom become temporary friends. I arrived into Hammerfest to the incredulity of a local reporter who still didn’t believe I was pedalling the coast, even though my Schiller Bike was before here eyes and my tracking map now showed a distance of 304.8 miles.
Slowly, bit by bit, this country is becoming part of me. And there’s a whole lot more to come.