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arctic circle

The Polar Circle and Mo i Rana

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The Polar Circle and Mo i Rana

The fair weather continued for days as I cycled southwards in idyllic Helgeland. Rain quickly became a distant memory. I didn’t even need to protect my gear from water whenever I camped, often leaving out the rain fly on my tent. Instead of camping ground showers, I started bathing in the ocean. The water was still too cold for actual swimming, but dipping in the Norwegian Sea to wash off the sweat after a hot day was extremely refreshing. I was always full of endorphins while drying off.

At one point I realized I had unceremoniously crossed the Arctic Circle in the ferry from Jektvik to Kilboghamn. I guess I can now say I’ve officially reached “The South”. After spending two great years in Inari far in the north, I won’t be coming back to these latitudes for a long time now. Probably for many years. Farewell, land of reindeer, long winters, magical northern lights, and vast open wilderness.

Sunset between mountains by the fjords in Norway.

I took a detour off the Fv17 to visit Mo i Rana. Mostly to find a bicycle shop for some spare parts. I had needed to tighten my brakes so many times due to wear that I figured I should buy spares soon. I wasn’t sure if the pads would last even to Trondheim - the next real city after Helgeland.

I entered the outskirts of Mo i Rana in the middle of the night after a long day of cycling. Just a few kilometers from the city centre, I was getting worried I couldn’t find a camping spot anywhere in the somewhat inhabited country suburbs.

Right then I came across a boathouse by the fjord, where someone had painted a big picture of a bicycle on the wall and some exclamation in Norwegian. I tapped the words into Google Translate and it came out to mean “Go for it!”. Presumably an encouragement for pedalling, but there was also some convenient level ground and grass nearby. I pitched my tent there despite being unusually visible from the road. At least whoever owned that particular boathouse surely wouldn’t mind a quiet and tidy world biking visitor.

Town in Norway at dusk reflected from the fjord.

The next day in Mo i Rana I got my new brake pads. You may remember how I feel about cities, so there’s not much else to report about that visit.

Except that on my way out, while waiting for the afternoon sun to dip lower so I could get on the saddle, I met a lovely old Swedish couple. They were on one of their numerous holidays of driving in Norway. These days even camper vans were no longer comfortable enough, so they traveled by regular car and slept in real hotel beds.

We shared a rest stop table and they generously gave me a huge piece of Danish to go with my cup of tea. We talked about various things, from pastries to taxes. They were both trying to make the world better in their own way through teaching and politics, and seemed to possess the wisdom to succeed.

It wasn’t a very long meeting, but random encounters like this are one of the best parts of bicycle touring. And traveling in general. You get to meet so many friendly, helpful, kind-hearted people that your faith in humanity receives a constant uplifting. While countries and cultures do have many differences, the underlying human nature is still more or less the same. If only more people took the time to see the world, we would have much fewer problems with prejudice and nationalism.

And that’s another way lovely old Swedish couples can change the world - just by being their friendly welcoming selves.

Sun setting behind a mountain on an island.

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