A bitterly cold wind funnels down from the surrounding mountains and blows successive squalls of heavy snow through the narrow streets of Honningsvag which, at 70 degrees of latitude, is Norway's most northerly town. There are pockets of sunshine between the squalls which cast light over the colourful monopoly houses that are stacked on steep, snow-covered slopes above the busy harbour. We pull hoods over our heads and snuggle into our duvet jackets to brave the weather. It's a day off cycling after making it to the North Cape ... only just!
A few days ago we arrived on Norway's northern shores where big blocks of ice were stranded on the deserted beach, waiting to be refloated by the incoming tide. We cycled north up the long tongue of the fjord, at first in wind and snow showers and latterly in gorgeous sunshine that opened up views of idyllic bays of blue-green water surrounded by snowy peaks where winter-white reindeer grazed at the beach on seaweed. Beautiful though it was, we lingered only briefly on our mission to cycle to the North Cape in a tiny window of good weather.
At three o'clock in the afternoon we set out from our last stop with a sense of urgency to cycle the final 15 miles north of Honningsvag. A small road climbed and fell and climbed again across snow-covered plateaux scoured by strong, bitterly cold winds. Small sections of road were covered with snow which we passed easily and we excitedly cycled the last few metres to the monument that marks the North Cape on a cliff top at the very top of Europe. We had the place to ourselves - just us on our bikes, the snow, the cold, the wind and the northern seas stretching to a northern horizon.
As we enjoyed our moment, our weather window was closing fast. Winds were picking up and blowing in blizzards and spindrift that covered the road back out. The evening temperature was dropping and turning wet snow to ice. The cycle back out was a real battle with the elements. In the end, I cycled some of the road back but pushed for most of the 15 miles through the snow finally arriving back at ten o'clock at night. And while I'll remember the struggle, I'll also remember the reward in the beautiful northern evening sunshine that briefly broke through and bathed the landscape in light and shadow.
You have to grab your chances when you're 70 degrees north.
More pics on flickr and see blog below for map and stats.