In the spring of 2013 I did the greatest travel-related thing that I have done in my life so far. I went on a bike ride.
That bike ride took me across The Netherlands – I lived in Belgium at the time – through northwestern Germany, across the Danish isles, from southern Sweden to Finland and then to the northernmost point in Europe that is accessible on wheels, the North Cape. From there on I headed south again, because I had literally run out of road to cycle on in a northerly direction. I took a boat south to Tromsø and then cycled across the majestic Lofoten Islands. I explored Fjord Norway by car with my parents who came to see me and then took a cargo ship from Gothenburg, Sweden, to Immingham, England. I cycled across England to Salisbury where I spent the summer solstice at Stonehenge. The rest of the way home ran along the southern English coast, across the Channel and through the fields of Flanders.
Cycling to the North Cape: Why, How and What?
I got the idea to spend a season cycling to the North Cape and back after reading a book on all kinds of long-distance adventures. At first I wanted to cycle from Gibraltar to the North Cape, but logistically that was too complicated and I didn’t have the money. So, I decided on a loop, starting in Belgium, cycling to the North Cape and then taking a different way back.
It was absolutely brilliant. I left on April 1, 2013 and arrived back home on June 24, 2013. The first five months before leaving were spent training (inside and outside), reading about the countries I would cycle through, buying necessary equipment and training again. I didn’t have a concrete route to follow, but rather wanted to find my way on the road, leaving myself the freedom to make spontaneous changes to my route, which I did. I made a detour to Rovaniemi, Finland, to visit Santa Claus at the Arctic Circle and I crossed the North Sea on a cargo ship – that wasn’t a part of my original plan at all.
My sturdy touring bike carried no less than five large pannier bags, which were stuffed with clothes, tools, spare parts, food, a tent and sleeping bag, extra water, a cooking stove and a wide variety of other things. It weighed more than 50 kilos.
The first two weeks or so I didn’t camp, because the weather didn’t allow for it and I didn’t carry warm enough clothes to keep me warm at night. I stayed at B&Bs, hotels and guesthouses. I started camping when I got to Sweden and tried to camp as much as possible from then and there on.
It honestly was the greatest adventure of my life – I loved it. I must say that I was lucky though. Besides breaking my rear derailleur in Sweden, I didn’t run into a whole lot of trouble. I didn’t even have a single punctured tyre!
What stuck with me most after returning home were the spectacular landscapes that I had cycled through. Cycling to the North Cape involved crossing nine countries and almost every possible type of landscape. I went from the flat fields of The Netherlands and Germany, to the islands and coastline of Denmark, to the vast Swedish forests and hills, to Finnish Lapland and ultimately to the barren tundra of northern Norway. Then I cycled along the most spectacular fjords, the truly breathtaking Lofoten Islands, saw how empty the North Sea is and crossed the beautiful English countryside. The last stretch ran along Flemish canals and through the flat fields of Flanders.