By van over Christmas to the North Cape – Part 9
All the best comes from above. While the journey has been free of dramatic incidents so far, something had to happen at some point.
Unexpected often comes, or as they say so beautifully. When we wake up in Alta in the morning, we don’t know yet that this day would be full of surprises. But one after the other.
We just set our alarm yesterday. We don’t get to Alta that soon, so we definitely want to visit the Altamuseeum. The most famous museum north of the polar circle is an open-air museum. The stone age rock carvings that can be visited in the form of a tour on the outside area can be dated back to up to 6500 years. The search at Google the day before revealed that the museum opens at eight o’clock. But as today we still want to cover the last part to the North Cape, we already get up at seven o’clock. Quickly we have a coffee, rave over the view and then pack everything up and off we go.
The museum is only ten minutes away from our sleeping place. When we drive to the big parking lot at five to eight, we are a little surprised that only one vehicle is parked near the entrance.
We manoeuvre the van over the closed snow cover and park a short distance from the entrance. Left of us, we see a sign, which sounds funny when you try to pronounce it with a played Norwegian dialect.
While we briefly talk about the fact that the term “functionally inhibited” sounds much better than “handicapped”, we walk to the entrance of the museum. The light is on, the door opens and we are standing in an entrance hall with a restaurant and a souvenir shop. In front of us there is a glass front with a revolving door, through which one obviously gets into the open-air museum. From the kitchen of the restaurant comes a young woman who has heard that someone is in the museum. A few sentences in English and it quickly becomes clear that it is the wrong season to look at rock paintings. As we learn, the outside of the museum is closed during the winter months, as most of the artefacts are covered by snow.
I’ll say it this way, if you’ve ever driven over three thousand kilometres to any place and then one of the main attractions is closed, disappointment may be the wrong word for what you’re feeling. Kathy doesn’t think it’s that bad and quickly disappears into the bathroom of the museum. In the meantime, I take a look at the souvenirs and am fascinated by what a tourist is willing to spend all his money on.
Positive thinking: We are on our way as early as never before and arrive with some daylight at the North Cape.
On the parking lot in front of the museum there is a small breakfast. The day before we had bought bread and some sausage and cheese. Also the Norwegian pastes, which are available in all imaginable flavours from the Alutube, are meanwhile part of the permanent kitchen inventory as bread spread.
Kathy is driving today because I want to do some things on the laptop. We drive briefly in the opposite direction out of Alta, because we saw during a short tour the evening before that there is a nice photo spot at the other end.
Capture some nice pictures and off we go. The last 230 kilometres are waiting to be driven. We had never looked at a weather report before our trips and we handle it the same way today.
We drive a bit out of Alta on the country road and are fascinated by the colours and nature. Unfortunately we mostly drove in darkness and today we realize how beautiful the surroundings look while driving.
So after a few kilometers we are back at the next spot to take some pictures. But now we’re really off. We drive out of the Alta region and the further we drive north, the snowier the roads become.
But snow-covered roads have never been the problem. As long as you don’t try to brake, but drive with foresight, it’s like driving on normal roads. You can actually shoot over the country roads at 100km/h without having the feeling that there is only snow or ice under the edges.
However, the weather gets worse the closer we get to the coast. From originally stable -6°C we now reach 0°C and partly even +1°C and higher. Where now every frostbite will be happy about rising temperatures, it becomes critical for the driving physics. At these temperatures the upper layer starts to thaw on the road, while the ground is still frozen. With the onset of snow rain, the whole thing becomes a mirror-smooth layer that is no longer so easy to handle. Added to this is the darkness, which makes the whole thing even more difficult. Then it happens at the height of Kafjord. We see lights in front of us, and a queue of cars that stand before a complete closure.
In the meantime, more than an hour has passed. We are glad that we have our parking heater. Although it is around 0°C, the whipping gusts of wind let the van cool down quite quickly. Meanwhile we have everything at bad weather. Rain, sleet, lightning ice and squalls that are so strong that they make the van rock.
Rarely have I been so tense as a passenger. The last hundred kilometres are hell.
Kathy had been trying to get used to the van for the last few days. In the meantime she is actually driving quite safely and can cope well with the width of the van.
While a man with a warning vest runs past the waiting cars and talks briefly to the drivers at every driver’s window, we start the engine. The first cars already start driving when the Norwegian, who probably owns one of the tow trucks, steps up to our window. In English, which is difficult to understand, he tells us that we have to drive in the opposite lane in the bend that comes now. Without knowing what to expect, we drive off. While the road drops steeply, we see on the opposite side vehicles waiting, which have driven from the opposite direction up to the accident place. Slowly we drive behind the other cars with sufficient distance. The road is an ice surface in which the rear lights and headlights are reflected.
On our navigation device we see that it is a far right bend that we are heading towards. In the curve there is a short stretch of land, which immediately runs into the sea. When the bend appears in front of us we see what happened. Obviously a bus had slipped at the top of the curve and had pushed another vehicle off the oncoming lane. Both were now hanging at the edge of the road and had managed to stop just before the slope. Obviously nobody was injured. But they didn’t manage to get off the ice surface on their own.
We’re slowly passing the action. As we leave the bend behind us, the weather gets worse and worse. The snow is increasing and the gusts of wind are whipping the white flakes from left to right through the air. I see Kathy struggling to keep the van on track. When asked if we should swap or maybe even stop somewhere until the weather gets better Kathy replies: “This is my job that I want to master. I want to make it and drive through the last stage.”
All confidence in honour, but on the passenger seat it is difficult to relax in this weather and road conditions. While the roads get more and more curvy and we see on the navigation device that the sea is directly to our right, we drive with 50km/h towards Nordkapp. A few shorter and a rather long tunnel give us a break from the tension. I compared it with the resting points at the “hot wire”. Whenever you have finished a section, you can breathe a short sigh of relief. This is the case with the tunnels, which are protected from the changing weather conditions of the North Cape region by a lock. Whenever one of the tunnel locks opens, we breathe deeply and are happy to make some progress.
Finally civilisation again and only a few kilometres to the destination.
A few kilometres before Honningsvag the weather gets a bit better. It makes a big difference whether one drives directly at the water or has a section of protective land mass next to him. When we arrive in Honningsvag it is already shortly before six. We drive through the town and see if there is a nice bar or restaurant where we can sit down and come down a bit. But actually we could have guessed it from our previous experience. All shops are closed and the restaurants of the city have obviously taken a break for the winter months.
We break off the exploration and continue in the direction of Skarsvag. Shortly before the northernmost fishing village of Europe we see the closed barrier to the North Cape. We want to go up there tomorrow. Since Skarsvag is smaller than Honningsvag, we don’t try to find a restaurant when we arrive. We drive to a large parking lot directly at the water and park behind a camper van, which also comes from Germany. Looking through the rear window of the converted coach, we see the woman busy working on the kitchen unit, while her husband has found a place on the bench and is watching her.
We darken our windows with the bath mat insulation and hope that we won’t simply be blown into the sea by the wind. We have something to eat and a movie while I’m still working on the laptop. Hopefully the weather will be better tomorrow, so that we can drive through the barrier to the North Cape.
The night becomes uncomfortable and cold. We hear ice rain crackling on the roof of the van and the wind keeps the van swinging from left to right. A few days later we hear about a thunderstorm, which caused chaos in Denmark and moved from Scandinavia over Europe.
Have you ever had a situation where you didn’t know if you should go on or better stop somewhere? How would you have acted? Continue driving or would you have waited until the weather got better? Write us in the comments how you like our North Cape trip and what you think.
If you missed the previous part, then take a look here. As soon as the 10th part of our trip to the North Cape appears, you can read more here.
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