2 SENIORS GO NORTH
We - Michael 61 and Günter 67 years old - had the idea in the fall of 2019. For many years we have been cycling through Europe - from Copenhagen to Berlin, from Bolzano over the Alps to Munich, along the Loire through France, from Trento to Tuscany -, ... We commute or commuted by bike from home to work. In the fall of 2019, we decided to ride from home to the North Cape. There is hardly anything more beautiful than experiencing nature on a bicycle. On the road by train or car, the landscapes rush past us, hardly noticed. In addition, we are environmentally friendly on the road, an average car emits about 2,000 kg of CO2 on a comparable route (8,000 - 9,000 km). We will start June 20, 2021 in Düsseldorf / Wuppertal at the end of May and drive to Flensburg, through Denmark to Hirtshals. There we will take the ferry to Kristiansand, Norway. The route then leads to Bergen on the west coast of Norway and on to Trondheim to Bodo, from where we cross over to the Lofoten Islands. We cycle to Tromso and probably reach the North Cape in mid/end August. Afterwards we will go back. The route described is pretty much 4,500 km. We have not yet decided which route we will take back. However, our wives expect us back in September. We have acquired robust e-bikes, so we have an additional support to muscle power when coping with about 27,000 meters of altitude (outward journey). Different routes with focus on bicycle suitability, power supply for our bikes, overnight accommodations, route length, ferry connections, etc. were investigated. Inspired, also by the British "Captain Tom" we also want to support a social project or a social institution. We decided to support the AIDS-Hilfe Wuppertal. For the musical accompaniment of the tour we wrote a song. The lyrics of the song try to summarize our attitudes, ideas and expectations for this adventure. More about that later ...
We will report on our experiences on an ongoing basis. Please stay tuned and be part of our adventure.
Michael & Günter
Donation account of AIDS-Hilfe Wuppertal:
IBAN DE68 3305 0000 0000 9189 04
Keyword "2 SENIORS GO NORTH".
We are ready!
The preparation began probably pretty much at the turn of the year 2019 to 2020. The felt-tip pen gradually connected the cities and towns on the road map of Germany, Denmark and Norway that we had brought along. We sat in a vacation home near Lake Geneva and sketched the first rough route from the Rhineland to the North Cape. In February 2020, we ordered sturdy bikes to tackle the challenging route. From now on, the preparation "picked up speed". In the following months, we subjected the bikes as well as ourselves to weekly strength and endurance tests. Weekend after weekend we rode the roads and cycle paths of the Bergisches Land - around Wuppertal - and the Lower Rhine - around Düsseldorf. In total, we probably covered around 4,000 km in all weathers.
The inspection and maintenance work with renewal of wear parts, such as brake pads, chains and gear cassettes, are also completed. The panniers are ready, the necessary clothing and other equipment is "largely" selected. It only depends on the pack size and the maximum kilos! The Corona pandemic and the necessary vaccinations have shaken up our plans once again. Also the countries (Denmark and Norway), which we will visit, did not show themselves uniformly regarding openings to the tourism. This week we will receive our second vaccinations and after a transition period we will be considered fully vaccinated. We are very happy and also our environment is probably quite happy when we are finally on the tour. The last weeks were strongly marked by only one topic, "2 seniors on the way to the North Cape".
Best regards, we will keep you informed.
Günter & Michael
Sunday, June 20, 2021
The 2 Seniors spent the last days saying goodbye to families, friends both in Düsseldorf and Wuppertal. There were talks about the tour, info cards were distributed, donations were collected, there was singing and laughing. Today the time has finally come! The big tour starts! Here is a last photo before the start which shows how determined Michael and Günter are on their way. We are already very excited about everything they will tell us from the road!
First tour report
After a great and very emotional farewell to our families, friends and neighbors we started on our tour on 20.06.. The first big part of the tour led us to the German-Danish border. We drove 550 km, partly in heavy rain, over heavily traveled country roads and along huge agricultural properties. This was partly quite monotonous and we "ate" the many kilometers. We made side trips to towns worth seeing such as Münster, Bremen, Schleswig and Flensburg. Here we were often asked by passers-by on the street or during the ride on the bike about our trip. Where are you coming from, where are you going? At the latest when our destination is mentioned, the conversation picks up speed. Which distance, how many km, how long will it take until you will reach the North Cape. In Bremen Jürgen spontaneously donated 10€ for our project of the Aidshilfe, which surprised and pleased us very much. With beautiful weather we start this Saturday the trip through Denmark.
Second tour report
The tour section through Denmark started on 26.06.2021 with the city of Kolding. At the border we had to undergo a first corona check. Here our electronic vaccination passport paid off. We were happy! The first hurdle was taken! In a shallow up and down we cycled along the almost dead-straight country roads heading north. The sun and the increasing wind accompanied us on the way. Impressive cities like Aarhus and Aalborg showed us the carefree life of the Danes.
In an Irish pub, among many British fans, we experienced the elimination of our national soccer team and the end of the era of our Bunds-Jogi. We met friendly and open-minded hosts in our accommodations. With an eye on the upcoming entry into Norway and the Corona requirements, we took a break day in Hjörring. Laundry and oiling the bikes were also on the agenda.
We are now looking forward to Norway!
Third tour report
While we reported in the first two tour reports about encounters with people, accommodations, roads and interesting cities, now the challenges on the demanding route sections and the impressions of the fantastic widths and depths of the fjord landscapes of Norway are in the foreground of our third report. The ferry from Hirtshals arrived in Kristiansand around noon in sunshine.
Already on the first day of our journey through Norway we suspected that this tour would exceed our expectations. In front of us a spectacle of partly still snow-covered mountains, waterfalls, lakes and fjords opened up, which in interaction with clouds and sun conjured up ever-changing landscapes.
While we were able to book the accommodations for the first two sections of the tour in Germany and Denmark two weeks in advance, the booking of the accommodations in Norway was mainly based on the possible route length for us, as well as on the route profile. Reassuringly, one can find a sufficient density of "hostels" in southern Norway. This should change already shortly before Bergen abruptly.
On the distance covered up to here are very many skiing areas, consequently the offer of affordable accommodations is quite extensive.
The climbing in the mountains, often to bypass the numerous tunnels, brought us now and then to our limits. But the rapid and breathtaking descents put a smile back on our faces in no time.
Michael & Günter
Fourth tour report
An air that smells of freshly brewed tea and is as cool as a just tapped Pils. We are driving through the Norwegian archipelago. A day route that takes us from Nautesund to Sobovag. Below, the fjort lies quietly, flanked on both sides by rugged, steep cliffs. Many of these roads on which we are heading north were literally carved out of the rocks. Small huts with a jetty to which boats are attached lie along the water. Further up, fancy wooden houses have been built on rocky outcrops. Green hills and in between again and again waterfalls, which feed the mountain lakes, round off the magnificent nature pictures. Day by day we are working our way towards our next stopover "Trontheim". The search for suitable accommodations for us in the evening, takes with under more than 2 hours. Now and then we have to leave our original route, because there is no accommodation to book.
Ferries are increasingly indispensable for connecting the islands and crossing the fjords. Now and then we have to use ferries, which fortunately are free of charge for cyclists and their bikes until here, twice a day.
The fifth Sunday was a rainy day. So far we have been spoiled by the weather almost continuously. But on this day it rained almost incessantly. It was cold and the wind was gusty, but fortunately from behind. We had 95 km, about 1000 meters of altitude and two ferry rides ahead of us until we reached our next accommodation. That morning we realized that we had neglected to charge our batteries. Good that we had used the bikes little during the two-day stay in Molde, so the recharge did not take so long instead of otherwise up to 4 hours. Despite the adverse conditions, we managed the route quite quickly, were in the evening allerding quite finished.
Now we are looking forward to Trondheim and its sights.
Fifth tour report
After exactly 30 days we reached Trondheim. We drove more than 2300 km to get here and climbed more than 20,000 meters. Now we are firmly convinced that we will reach our overall goal, the North Cape. Once again we were lucky with the weather, so that we could have a look at the highlights of the city of Trondheim without any restrictions. After that, we set off in the direction of Bodo with Molde as our intermediate destination. On one of the campsites, the operator gave us a road map with the tip that we should keep to the tourist route, as this was probably the most scenic and interesting section of road in this part of Norway. The closer we get to the Atlantic coast, the steeper the rugged cliffs plunge into the deep fjords. The color of the water changes, probably due to the intensity of the sunlight, from steel blue to emerald green to dark gray. The electric motor of our bikes supports us especially on the climbs, which are sometimes so long and steep that you wonder how much you can still torture yourself in the old days. The ferry connections are meanwhile a gladly taken Strampel interruption. Some of the road sections are very busy. Often, however, the route runs along the fjords for 10 to 15 km without any traffic. The changing traffic density can be explained by the rhythm of the ferry trips. When a ferry docks, the transferred vehicles usually overtake us in column. Afterwards it gets quiet again and we are alone with nature again. Now we see already mahl the one or other moose or a reindeer both on the road and in the area.
Since we mainly feed ourselves on the route and also prepare the food, we try to get the ingredients in the grocery stores located just before the daily destinations. We attach importance to a nutrition corresponding to the requirements (carbohydrates). Regularly we conjure up quite tasty treats on the table. The one or other product of the Norwegian brewing art is also granted to us.
After the strains of the previous days, we treat ourselves to a chic hotel and a fresh haircut in Bodo. It was high time! We take care of the crossing to the Lofoten and book the first accommodations on the islands.
Sixth tour report
The crossing to the Lofoten Islands in calm seas was at first like a slalom, as there were many small islands off Bodo that had to be circumnavigated. As soon as we had left the small islands behind us, the island world of Lofoten could be seen on the horizon, even if it was indistinct at first. Now, on the open sea, the ferry starts to rock a bit and some tourists feel a bit uncomfortable. This crossing is again free of charge for cyclists and the budget is somewhat spared. We are curious whether the landscape will change again, how the traffic will be on the Lofoten and whether we will find adequate accommodation. The cost of living is here for us probably more than twice as expensive as in Germany.
Also, it seems that 2/3 of Norwegians have at least one more house on one of the numerous fjords or lakes in addition to their main residence. The remaining third seems to be on the road, at least in summer, with a camper. But not only Norwegians are on the roads and campsites. Dutchmen, Frenchmen, Swedes, Germans and campers of other nations line up regularly in the afternoon in front of the turnpikes of the campsites to get hold of one of the still free pitches for the night. Also we have again reserved cabins on campsites for the next nights. Besides the route and our sleeping places we also have to pay attention to the not so numerous shopping possibilities. They should be as close as possible to the booked accommodations, because the transport possibilities on the bike are limited and every extra load means another energy consumption for battery and energy input for the cyclist. Not only because of the price of a meal in Norwegian eateries, but also the small number of eateries themselves significantly limit the possibilities of going out to eat.
In the past few days we have also met cyclists on the route or at one of the ferries, who are also going to the North Cape. Often they are young people, but without electric assistance. The campground operator, who suggested we ride the tourist route and with whom we talked about the still missing "infrastructure" (charging possibilities) for electric bikes on the route, described us as e-bike pioneers on the way to North Cape.
The Lofoten are scenically so special that it is hardly possible to reproduce in a photograph what is captured by the eye. Within a field of vision, one registers steep cliffs, grass- and moss-covered hills, some of which are shrouded in clouds from which heavy rain falls. And from this cloud front the sun breaks its way, enveloping the just dark mountain slopes in a warm light. Likewise, the fjord water changes color from dark gray to a shimmering light blue.
Unfortunately, it rained on and off during the first three days in Lofoten and the clouds rarely gave the sun a window, making the great scenery seem friendlier. Nevertheless, we can shoot some nice photos. We are surprised that next to the countless steep mountains and the fjords there is also space for agriculture. On 5.08. we left the archipelago of the Lofoten and changed to the Vesteralen. With the change the weather has changed for the better. The sun is shining and the temperatures rise up to 25°C. The accommodations, especially the cabins on the campsites, are getting more and more expensive, but there are hardly any alternatives. Today is the 8th of August and we are on the last ferry before Tromso. There we have again booked a hotel room for two days to see the city and to give our bodies some rest. In our legs are now 3722 km and 34189 hm. The last tour section to the North Cape is now ahead of us and we plan to reach our big goal in about a week.
Seventh tour report
Above Tromso, we had expected barely traveled, narrow roads, towns with few inhabitants, barren land, low temperatures, rain, and a lack of places to stay. However, the small town of Alta and its surroundings almost made us think we were in Florida. Greatly developed roads, large properties with magnificent houses, sandy beaches, beautiful hotels, a lot of water, only the mountains do not fit into the picture. Sunshine again and to our surprise we find suitable accommodations.
We meet other North Cape cyclists on the way, which is not surprising, since the number of roads to reach the North Cape is constantly decreasing.
On the camping site in Sekkemo we came with two Radlerinnen, which had referred the neighbor hut, into the discussion. The two friends, Trixie, German and Hanne, Norwegian, got to know each other on bicycle tours through Africa. Now they were from Hanne's hometown - Finnsnes to the North Cape on the road. However, they had taken only one week, because both ladies are still in the job. They were very interested in the project to support the Aids Aid on our tour, so that they invited us for dinner the next day. In the further course of the conversation the ladies told that one can come also for quite "small money" with the Hurtigrouten ship again toward the south. We did not want to miss this opportunity to drive through the Fiord landscape again, but by water. So we booked a part of our return trip - from Honningsvag to Finnsnes by ship. Trixie also doubled the amount donated so far on the trip.
From the third last day before we reached our destination, we saw our ideas confirmed in terms of landscape, population density, weather, etc.
Many bare rocks, plateaus and mountains without any tree cover, no house or shelter for more than 50 km, heavy rain showers that subsided as quickly as they came. Wind that seems to blow from all directions at the same time and is sometimes so boisterous that it almost blows you off your bike. Overnight accommodations seem to be plentiful. Here the Norwegians are likewise well set up. Reindeer run us now more and more frequently over the way. Elks however we see very rarely and if, only from larger distance. With joy we notice at the roadside a sign "North Cape 125 km". On 16.08.2021 the North Cape is not the place where one likes to stay. We have cycled 4303 km and 39750 meters of altitude up to here. It is cold, the wind blows hard, it rains again and again. We left from our accommodation, which we had moved into yesterday, at 5 o'clockthis morning to be as undisturbed as possible at the North Cape. On the way it rained, so we are wet and very cold. Two motorcyclists from Calw near Karlsruhe took some pictures of us with the "Globe". The banner of the Aidshilfe Wuppertal also found its attention. The sun broke abruptly through the clouds and drew two concentrated circles on the dark sea. We then drove back to the cabin, caught up on sleep and have now taken up quarters near Honningsvag. From there we leave on Wednesday at 6 o'clock with the Hurtigroute ship to Finnsnes. The next 420 km to Fauske will be done by bike again. In Fauske we will take the train to Oslo and then board the ferry to Kiel, where we will be met by our wives.
Eighth tour report
We did not regret the decision to start our journey home with a Hurtigruten ship. On 18.08.2021 we set off at 6:00 am from Honnigsvag, near the North Cape. It is impressive how the large ship winds its way through the sometimes narrow fjords and heads for the small towns located on the route. Many older passengers take detailed notes and photos of the sights, hundreds of which have already been archived on the Internet. Great to see, even from the ship, the routes we have cycled days and weeks before. Arriving at 4:00 in Finnsnes, our new acquaintance, Trixie picks us up at the harbor for a hearty breakfast, at Hanne's house.
Shortly after 7:00 a.m. we set off strengthened for the remaining 400 km of cycling to Fauske. Here we reach the first rail connection that will take us south. The day's sections, due to the many meters of altitude to be overcome, once again demand our condition. Another rainy day mingles with the predominantly beautiful weather sections. The fifth tour section from Morsvikbotn to Fauske is a last challenge because of the 10 tunnels that have to be passed on the 80 km.
We feel a little melancholy when we cycle along the water in Fauske and do the last errands for the train ride to Oslo.
On 23.08.2021 we board the train to Trondheim at 22:00, where we leave at 8:00 in the morning, after an hour's stopover in the direction of Oslo. Bicycles will be safely stored in a separate transsport area of the train. Luggage must be removed from the bike completely, as the train entrance is well above platform level. The approximately 17-hour train ride back reflects to us once again the incredible distance we have traveled in the last few weeks.
Two days in Oslo with shopping, visits to some sights and restaurant visits at the Indian and Italian round off the return journey of our Norway trip.
On Thursday, August 26, the Color Line ship that will take us to Kiel departs from the port of Oslo at 2:00 p.m. for a 22-hour "mini-cruise." Punctually at 10:00 o'clock on Friday morning the mighty ship docks in the port of Kiel. A few minutes later we already have solid ground under our wheels again, which never let us down except for repair and maintenance work hardly worth mentioning.
Our wives are waiting at the quay with champagne and handmade welcome posters. From afar we see and hear the joy of reunion that also befalls us at this sight.
A nice evening in Bremen, where we could tell a lot, but by far not all of our experiences, impressions, experiences, etc., rounded off our trip.
Numbers, data, experiences
On our tour we covered 4784 kilometers by bike and climbed a total of 46099 meters in altitude. We passed through about 35 road tunnels, of which the shortest was 50 meters and the tunnel in front of the North Cape was the longest with 6870 meters. The North Cape tunnel passes 212 meters below sea level. It has a gradient of 9% when entering in the northern direction and after about 4 kilometers it rises again to the initial level. Despite the considerate driving habits of vehicle drivers in Norway, riding through the tunnels on a bicycle is emotionally and also physically challenging. Both the tunnels and most of the bridges do not provide a separate lane for bicycles. Except for a few tunnels, most could have been bypassed. However, these bypasses are usually longer and often involve significant climbs.
The fjord bridges sometimes take on enormous proportions and one is well advised to avoid crossing them in strong winds or to push the bike along the narrow footpaths.
In addition to the bridges and tunnels, many ferry connections secure the crossing of the countless waters along the route. While the large ferries from Hirtshals to Kristiansand, from the Vesteralen back to the mainland and from Oslo to Kiel were chargeable, cyclists could use the ferry connections between the fjords "corona conditioned" free of charge. In total, we were able to use 21 ferry connections free of charge and thus had the opportunity to view the fjord landscape extensively from the water as well.
We wanted to experience the nature and landscape very closely and this as far as possible environmentally friendly. Therefore, we decided to use the e-bike. The e-bike use in Norway, for such long tours, but also requires a detailed and forward-looking route and accommodation planning. For emergencies, we carried a tent, but would have always had to choose a campsite overnight because of the necessary battery charges. To cope with the particularly demanding daily stages, it was also necessary to recharge the batteries along the way. While the nearest charging stations for e-mobiles were regularly announced at the roadside, finding an earthed socket at gas stations, supermarkets, public buildings, ferry landing stages or at rest areas already required a trained eye on the part of the e-bike riders. 90% of the daily stages we were able to ride with a battery charge of 625 Wh "watt-hours". On 6 days we recharged in the course of the day as a precaution. On the total distance, the batteries 625 Wh (Watt-hours) were charged about 65 times. The electricity costs for the total distance of the two bikes amounted to €26 at 32 cents/kWh. Compared to an average car with CO² emissions of 128 grams/km, we saved the environment by avoiding 614 kg of CO² on our tour.
Finally our personal summaries:
For me, Michael, it was an incredible experience that I would not want to miss. Both the athletic challenge with a lot of sweaty uphill "work" and subsequent wild descents, the fantastic landscapes with countless mountains and fjords, the hardly describable sky and cloud images north of the Arctic Circle, as well as the people accompanying us at home and on the road were more than worth it to make such a tour. We were on the road as pioneers of e-bike riding in Norway and as ambassadors for Aidshilfe Wuppertal. This makes me proud and leaves me with a very satisfying feeling.
I, Günter, was not sure, despite all the intensive preparations and training tours, whether I will be able to cope with the long and demanding route. It was a new experience that one can still torture oneself up the mountains beyond the age of 60. With every km we got closer to the city of Trondheim, the skepticism of not being able to reach our goal gave way. A good and supportive teamwork was another guarantee for the success of our project. All expectations - great cities and towns, breathtaking landscapes, nice people and acquaintances on tour sections, the changing weather, the colors of the fjords, mountain formations as I had never seen them before - were fulfilled on this trip. It was the dream tour up north, on the most beautiful roads in the world.
To all who accompanied us on our tour, by reading our reports, watching the pictures or videos, talking to us on the phone or inquiring about our condition, we would like to say many, many thanks.
Michael Eckert and Günter Schilbock
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