Tuesday, 31 May 2011

A Change of Gear

Olderfjord – Alta   100kms  2250’ ascent.
We left our nice warm hutte with some trepidation (or I did anyway) as we thought that we would have to wild camp in view of the longer distance.  Not even my optimism ran to 100 kms towing the equivalent of a Sherman tank even though Alan gallantly strapped the rucksack to his trailer thus reducing mine to a smaller Sherman tank!  After a warm up run of 25 kms, we encountered a service station which provided heat, coffee and a calorie filled chocolate bun. A good move as it turned out.
Then we started to climb, fairly gently, but forever! The plateau we crossed has a name. I don’t know it and the one that I would give it is not suitable for a family blog. It was a huge, as far as the eye could see; just  snow, bog and utter desolation. Alan described it as Arctic and I thought tundra was more appropriate so we have agreed to call it ‘tarctic’. And right at the highest , the most exposed and freezing cold point there appeared a scattering of small buildings complete with a church! In the conditions of the moment, they were being used by the local snow mobile enthusiasts who were apparently running races. After all what else do you do? Barbeques are futile! These guys must be hard as nails and I salute them. Talking of which (saluting I mean) we had many a cheery wave from oncoming traffic and even a photo shot from the only British registered  vehicle we have seen north of the Arctic circle.
After a few hours our coffee and cake hit was on the wane and, with little sign of a change in terrain, Alan located a ditch without snow and just deep enough to give us some shelter from the wind which seemed to have arrived straight from somewhere even colder.  Soggy sandwiches and hot coffee never tasted so good and I shouldn’t have left behind my banana skin, but I did. By now we realised that we had no chance of finding and shelter for anything as huge as a tent so we pedalled on and ..on and…. on.
When finally within reach of Alta, the long expected downhill arrived- 7%. Hurrah and whoopee but exhilaration was short lived as the asphalt ran out after a few hundred metres and we found ourselves on dirt track. How mean is that!  But it was, after all, downhill dirt track. Finally back at fjord level we came upon a campsite just 10 kms short of Alta on the shoreline with huts surrounded by trees. It was one of those half open, half closed sites and as we were deliberating our next move Mr. Cheery Chappie appeared out of the trees, made a phone call, “(Idont like these machines – you have to put all the numbers in the right order!!!!”) gave us a key and we found ourselves the thankful inhabitants of a warm hut.
On a serious note, the day has been emotionally satisfying, as I have the confidence which was previously lacking, that my body would respond positively to this challenge in spite of the previous physical setbacks . I’m sure Alan shares my relief!  So look out Europe here we come!

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