Friday, November 2, 2012

Crossing the Arctic Circle

From the island Røst I took the four hour ferry ride back to Bodø on the mainland. The ferry arrived in Bodø at 03:00, and with nowhere to go until the town woke up, I took shelter outside the train station with some fellow ferry passengers. The temperature was cool so it was a relief to get inside the waiting room of the train station once it opened three hours later. After spending the day in Bodø, I headed south towards my next major destination, Trondheim. The trip to Trondheim would be around 800 km, and would take me across the Arctic Circle and across the halfway mark through Norway. With autumn well underway it was imperative that I covered ground quickly if I wanted to miss the first ice of the approaching winter. The rush meant less time was spent on birding and photographing birds, and more time on pedaling!

Though it would take a little longer, I decided to take the more scenic coastal route rather than the busy E39 highway. This also meant I would have to catch several ferries linking the road system along this part of the Norwegian coast. My first stop was the Saltstraumen, the world’s strongest tidal current. Here the sea water passes through a 150 m wide and 3 km long sound that connects the Saltenfjord with the Skjerstadfjord. Every six hours a total of 400 million cubic meters of water passes through the sound at speeds of up to 40 km per hour. Not the place to go for a swim!
The Saltstraumen south of Bodø.
The usual birds were seen along the way, such as the large gulls (Herring and Great Black-backed), Common Eider, Mallard, Grey Heron, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Brambling, Fieldfare, Chiffchaff, Willow Tit, Raven, Magpie, and White Wagtail amongst others. However, I noticed a number of species that I had not seen before, especially after crossing the Arctic Circle. New species included Goldcrest, Siskin, Coal Tit, Chaffinch, Yellowhammer, Green Woodpecker and Crested Tit. Goosanders must have reached their southern limit along the way as they were scarce, while Red-breasted Mergansers were common in the fjords.  Although I had seen Wood Doves in the north, they were certainly more common as I cycled south. Seeing this transition in bird species was interesting and exciting, and made the scenic trip even more rewarding. Besides birds, wheat fields became a more obviously part of the landscape going south. Not surprising since the Trondheim county is the wheat basket of the country.

Crossing the bridge at Sandnessjøen on a rainy day.

The perfect spot for wild camping, tucked away at the end of a little-used track.

It had been a while since I last met a fellow touring cyclist on the road, so I was very surprised when I met two cyclists about two thirds of the way on the route from Bodø to Trondheim. And I was beginning to think I was the only one crazy enough to be out cycling Norway in autumn! The two cyclists were from Norway, but had been on a nine-month long tour of North and South America, and were ending their journey at Nordkapp. They knew what they were letting themselves in for, but were determined to end their world tour with a south-to-north cycle through Norway. That takes guts, when you are back in your home country after nearly a year on the road, and then still keep going. Hats off to them!  You can see more about their travels at:, though the article is in Norwegian.

The last touring cyclists i have met in Norway, so far.

Closer to Trondheim Jackdaws became very common in the towns, especially in Levanger. Here I also had the chance to see hundreds of Pink-footed Geese gather on the agricultural fields before their migration. The migration season was definitely well underway and seeing the behaviour of birds during this time was something new to me. Large flocks of Fieldfares were regularly seen gathering and passing over as they moved south on migration. I was surprised to see some Barn Swallows still around, as most of them would be well on their way to warmer Africa by this time. 

Wheat fields became an obvious feature of the landscape going south.

In Stjørdal, the last town before Trondheim, I somehow lost the designated cycle path due to road construction work in the town centre. I asked another cyclist the way to the path, and that’s how I met David. David not only pointed out that the path was just behind me, but also led the way out of town, saving me the effort of having to work out the route by myself. David was from Stjørdal and was out cycling enjoying the sunshine on this extraordinarily nice day. The weather was so good David actually cycled the whole 35 km with me to Trondheim to meet up with his family who were there for the day, and then treated me to a cup of fruit tea and a kebab. I am most grateful to David’s generosity and company along the road; it was great start to my short stay in Trondheim. David cycled back to Stjørdal that evening so I hope he made it back in good shape.

Looking back at the road just cycled.
That evening I met up with my Norwegian friend Eirik, who had just returned from a long trip. Thanks to Eirik I had a chance to wash some rather ragged cycling clothes and get a taste of Chinese food again. The next week I spend in Trondheim was a great break from the saddle, with far more time for birding...

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