Destination Nordkapp – Day 8

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Day 8: Alta to Nordkapp to Alta 484.3km

After a week of riding towards never-ending horizons, our desitnation feels disappointingly close. Just 240km of road separates us from Nordkapp – mainland Europe’s most northerly tip. It’s ostensibly what we came for, but now it’s so close, it’s lost its appeal – because it’s the end of the road.

The weather matches our mood. The sunny 30-degrees of yesterday has become 14 beneath low cloud and light rain. Our excitement is tinged with sadness. We can’t afford to let our energy wane though, once we get to Nordkapp we have to turn around and make it back to Alta, meaning nearly 500kms are on today’s roadbook.

A sinuous climb out of Alta is rewarded by a desolate plateau. The stark tundra peppered with huts so remote that it’s impossible to conceive of their use. This is about as good as the weather ever gets up here, and in winter the sun barely rises at all, while snow will bury them to their roofs.

Finally the E6 runs out, becoming the E69 as we turn left along the coastline on the final run to the cape. Naked rock towers to our left, flat blue sea to the right as we speed on through cove after cove, sporadically diving into freezing tunnels where the mountains won’t allow us to go round them. The damp is cloying, and the temperature plummets each time we plunge into the darkness. With each exit there’s a new view, with scant greenery clinging to the most protected bits of coast, postcard-pretty coastal getaways perched on little islands and beaches. We stop for fuel in an industrial port, bumping in to a couple of guys on yet another Nordkapp schlep in their globally well-travelled modified Citroen Traction Avant – before the spectacular climb up onto the cape.

Predictably the cape itself is somehow lacking in impact. In itself the barren rocky outcrop is impressive enough, but after 3113.8km of views you’d pay an artist to paint onto the walls of every room in your house, it’s – well – unspectacular. There’s nothing north of here but Svalbard, and the North Pole is 2093km away. I’d be tempted to keep going if anyone had thought to build a road.

News reaches us that the police have tired of reports that a large group of riders have been less than attentive to their holy speed limits, and set several traps on the way back to Alta, so on pain of trouser-staining fines we decide to limp legally back to the hotel. It’s a slightly ignominious end to a life-defining experience, elevated by the smug satisfaction at eluding the Norwegian fuzz.

We’re outta here

The sun never having set makes it hard to describe our morning exit south as a dawn flight, but it would have been anywhere else. The plane takes us to a stop-off where half the seats empty, then refill with new passengers heading with us to Oslo, where we transfer to another bird for the shorter flight on to Heathrow.

It’s been extraordinary. 3355.3km of euphoria on roads that beat anything I’ve experienced in the last quarter century of riding all over the world. However you make it possible, you have to experience them too.

How the hell did you do that?

It won’t have escaped you that there were a lot of us on Africa Twins heading from Oslo to Nordkapp, and that we only rode one way. This was touted a pilot event being run by Honda Europe – an exploratory run for their Adventure Roads concept, which they hope to roll out as a customer event you can book in the future. But right now, there’s nothing more to tell. No tours are available yet, and neither is any clue about what this one might have cost. So watch this space – or take the initiative and make your own plan (or bribe us to send you the roadbook).

So what’s best bit?

If you are going to find your own way to Norway, there are certain stages of our trip that you really should make every effort to include in your own. Assuming you’re arriving from the south and heading north up the west coast, we’d urge you not to turn back again until you get to Bjerkvik on the exit from Lofoten. The rest is stunning and gratifying, too – but for unadulterated riding gratification, it’s the first point where you’ll be completely sated.

So, Honda Africa Twins?

We used Honda’s excellent Africa Twin on this northern adventure, and I was rather shocked by a few observations along the way. The first was how incredibly comfortable it is. In 8 days of riding there was never a moment when I didn’t want to get back in the saddle. I can’t think of many bikes that can do that. The ergonomics are effortless, it looks bloody great, and it never stuttered for a moment. Mine was the DCT version, and while it wouldn’t be my personal choice, I can just about understand why it is the choice of 40% of new buyers.

The downsides? The heated grips didn’t work, the OE tyres lack feel, and the suspension is woefully inadequate when you’re travelling with panniers and a topbox full of kit – plus a 20kg drybag. How bad it would be with a pillion added into the equation doesn’t bear thinking about. Budget for a bespoke suspension set-up if travelling light isn’t your bag. Finally, the pannier system is bobbins. The 1980s briefcase clasp locks are plain nasty, and the way they mount is poor. One rider lost his topbox (along with thousands of Euros of cameras and kit), and several others nearly followed suit thanks to the flimsy mount lock.

Gripes aside, give me some decent luggage, a manual gearbox and a suspension job, and I wouldn’t hesitate to circumnavigate the globe on one.

Catch up on Part 1 of Destination Nordkapp
Catch up on Part 2 of Destination Nordkapp
Catch up on Part 3 of Destination Nordkapp
Catch up on Part 4 of Destination Nordkapp
Catch up on Part 5 of Destination Nordkapp
Catch up on Part 6 of Destination Nordkapp
Catch up on Part 7 of Destination Nordkapp

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Richard Newland

By Richard Newland