Bicycle touring isn’t always easy, but when everything falls into place, it’s pure bliss.
I had been riding completely in the zone for a while, with my mind at ease and generally feeling thrilled about life. I had the priviledge of cycling in some of the most amazing scenery in the world, taking as many photos and time-lapses as I wanted. If I was a millionaire, this is exactly what I would be doing anyway. There is no use for riches when you're already living your dream.
In this mode, even small temporary obstacles don’t matter. If you can call the longest tunnel in Norway’s Nordland small. Or indeed temporary. The Toven tunnel was a 10km feat of modern engineering right through solid rock. And bicycles weren’t allowed.
I had been previously warned of this tunnel, but a quick look at the map had showed an alternative path via Holandsvika and Kviting. It was a long detour, but 40km of scenic views was still preferable to 10km of horrible darkness. But at the nearby village I learned that that road was closed due to a rock slide. Supposedly with little plans to reopen it. The alternative to that was three days of riding.
So I chose to hitchhike. I stopped at the entrance of the tunnel, and the first car I saw was a small van. I put my thumb up and it stopped! This was easier than I thought.
I was greeted by three immigrants in a cleaning service van on the way back from work. Unfortunately the rear turned out to be too full for even just the bicycle, and the front row was already crowded so there was no room for me either. I thanked them anyway, for stopping without hesitation. They drove off and I continued looking for a ride.
The next several drivers with vans, trailers and caravans weren’t as willing to stop. Which gave me time to ponder.
I haven’t really hitchhiked before, but realized it’s a wonderful learning experience. Even besides the obvious benefit of getting to have a cheap adventure and meeting interesting people, the act itself contains valuable life lessons. Every car that passes is a type of rejection, and you need to learn to just forget about it, move on, and focus on the next car and opportunity. Dealing with a “no” becomes easier fast. There is very obvious benefit from this in many aspects of life.
And then at the end, assuming you are persistent, there is a major boost of faith (in humanity, the universe, or whatever you may have faith in) when you do get picked up by someone.
After half an hour a friendly young guy with a van and a trailer stopped. The trailer was empty so I simply rolled my bike in, hopped on board and got a ride through the tunnel. Soon I was back on two wheels again, feeling happier than ever thanks to this complete stranger’s selfless assistance.
In Sandnessjøen I got on a ferry to Dønna at sunset, and eventually found a campsite by a small quiet beach. To my delight, for the first time all summer the water felt warm enough to go swimming. Not just “splash water on myself quickly and get the hell out of there”, but actually enjoyable. I had been waiting a long time for this moment. There’s no better feeling than a cooling swim after long hot day on the saddle.
It was already past midnight, but the summer night was perfectly warm. I was in a sheltered cove with no-one around for miles. No cars were on the road. The whole island seemed to be asleep. So I went skinny dipping.
Now I don’t know if muscles can literally melt, but that’s exactly what it felt like. All the sweat, dust, and dirt washed off, replaced by total relaxation. I just floated on the surface like I was lying on a gigantic waterbed. The only sound came from a curious little [insert bird knowledge here] flapping around above me. The nights weren’t yet fully dark, but a single star shone in the sky. A taste of the millions that would soon again be visible.
It was another moment of sheer ecstasy. Oh boy. If you’ve never gone swimming naked in the middle of the night in a serene Norwegian fjord after cycling 1500 kilometers, I can’t recommend it enough.