Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Cycling in the rain

After Alta the next major destination was Tromsø, the largest city in northern Norway. When my brother told me that he would soon be in Sweden for a work-related trip and could meet me in Tromsø for a couple days, I sure wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to see family. With six days to cover the 400 km trip to Tromsø there was not much time to waste, so I was on my bike again after spending a day in Alta. I did manage to visit some of the mudflats in the Altafjord during lowtide, but the low number of shorebirds reminded me again that autumn was in full swing. A few Dunlin were found feeding frantically to fuel up for their southward journey. The quiet waters of the fjord held Grey Herons, Red-throated divers, Red-breasted Mergansers, Common Eiders, Goosanders, Common Shelduck, Greylag Geese and Goldeneyes. Passerines in the woodlands and gardens included Brambling, Redpoll, Willow Warbler, Fieldfares, Magpies, Willow Tit and Greenfinch. I was pleased to see some Blue Tits, as Alta is about as far north as this species has been recorded in Norway. 

The next couple of days did not reveal any additional species of interest but I was happy to enjoy the fantastic scenery of the fjords, with Langfjorden being no exception. There were also a few climbs to get over, the most notable one being Kvænangsfjellet at over 400 m. Occasionally one’s effort at finishing a steep climb is recognised by fellow road users; upon reaching the top a passing motorist gave me a hoot and thumbs-up. 

A view down Langfjorden, north of Alta.

After the descent i got my first Sparrowhawk; which was flying overhead and calling excitedly. There seemed to have been some commotion which may have involved more birds, but I did not see any others. Heading for the town of Storslett I met with some strong headwinds which made steady cycling a challenge, while the next couple of days brought rain, and lots of it. I realised I would need to make adjustments to my gear if I intended to stay dry during such periods. Things don’t dry out overnight and especially not when your only shelter is a tent that is drenched on the outside and barely dry on the inside. In an attempt to keep my feet dry while cycling, i wore plastic bags over my shoes. This would last for a while, but not for a whole day.

Before the climb at Kvænangsfjellet.

Cycling along Kåfjorden I met two Swiss cyclists who were heading north to Nordkapp. They were very happy to see me as i was the first touring cyclist they had encountered since embarking on their trip a week previously. So it was a real moment when within a couple of minutes of chatting beside the road, a group of over ten touring cyclists pasted us! Nothing for days and then everything at once! 

The Swiss cyclists on their way to Nordkapp, also wearing bags over the shoes.

With the constant rain I found myself taking cover at every grocery store along the way in an attempt to lose some moisture. During this time birding was not at the top of my priority list, but rather staying dry. A Sami handicraft shop in Manndalen seemed like an interesting alternative to the grocery stores so I was keen to take a look inside. I must have looked like a cat dragged in from the rain, because the friendly ladies running the shop immediately brought me a cup of tea and some cake. I was then given a tour of the shop by Eda, who also explained the art of making traditional woollen Sami clothing using an ancient weaving technique. Once again, warm hospitality at its best. 

Sunset over the Storfjorden north of Skibotn.

Back in the rain, i made my way to the next town called Skibotn. A break in the clouds allowed a single House Martin a chance to forage along the road, flying back and forth past me as it hawked insects in the air. Arriving in town, i was relieved to hear that my friend Mikko from Tromsø was in Skibotn for the week. He was there together with staff of the University of Tromsø presenting a field course to a group of biology students. Mikko kindly arranged for me to spend the night at the field station, and so I had the opportunity to meet with some fellow biologists. It also gave me the opportunity to dry out a bit!

The road south of Skibotn, heading to Tromsø, with fresh snow on the mountain tops.

It was another two days before I reached Tromsø, just in time to meet up with my brother who had made a significant detour to get so far north in Norway. The two quality days we spent together were too short, but hopefully there would be another chance to meet along the way. After his departure, I had a great stay at Mikko and Anna’s place while I waited for some new gear I ordered to arrive. They treated me to some excellent home-cooked dinners and took me on an unforgettable outing to pick blue berries. The blue berry crumble Anna made with the spoils of this outing was amazing; i will never look at blue berries the same again!

While in Tromsø i spend a day birding the surrounds north of the city, with Black-throated Diver and a single Spotted Redshank being the highlights.

Spotted Redshank north of Tromsø

No comments:

Post a Comment