Loneliness was the defining feature of the trip. At one point I realised that I had not encountered anyone for six days. Objectively speaking this is not a long time, but subjectively it was an epoch, the longest I had even been without company or contact. At the point of this realisation I was cycling through a particularly gloomy pine forest; I began to see indistinct movements behind the trees, shadows scuttling in my peripheral vision. My subconscious was convinced that I was being hunted by a sinister entity, possibly a troll. On one isolated night, a tree collapsed meters from my tent: the sound of splitting wood jolted me awake, convinced that the beast had caught up with me and that I was about to be torn limb-from-limb.
During the day I would incessantly talk to myself, this was largely to break up the monotony of the view, which was often spectacular, but laid out on a colossal scale: you could spend all day cycling towards the same mountain, along the same fjord.
Perhaps it’s time I list some of the good points before you conclude that I was either a) just too stubborn to quit, or b) a closet masochist. Each morning I swam in a fjord. I met Nynorsk-speaking Norwegians and helped carve benches for a Viking ceremony. I walked to within a few meters of a curious adolescent moose and watched Norwegian Sea eagles (the largest by wing-span) fight over salmon. I drank snowmelt, slept on pebble beeches, cooked shellfish on driftwood fires, and peddled through the perpetual sunset of the Arctic summer nights. Each day was simple and purposeful: cycle, sleep, repeat (for 27 days) and voila, we reached the Artic circle (I was joined by Nico for the final week). We camped at the edge of a wide fjord, in its glassy depths gigantic starfish, pincushion urchins, and the occasional languid cod were visible. The mountains behind my now cramped one-man tent (Nico and I are both over 6ft) were dusted with the remnants of winter snow. Suffering on overland trips is often rooted in boredom, the monotony of an aching back and burning legs. These days blur into memory. The highs stick.