IN THE WINTER WITH THE VAN TO THE NORTH CAPE
FIRST ROW, BEST LOCATION A PLACE DIRECTLY ON THE BEACH
The longer you are on the road and stop at different places, the more you wish for moments when you feel at home in one place.
When we leave Pallas Yllästunturi National Park in Finland it is already dark, how could it be otherwise. Finland is beautiful, but we had clearly underestimated the shortness of the days coupled with an hour time difference. As much as we would have liked to see a few more corners of the region in daylight, we had to move on.
We opened our map and considered what would be a suitable starting point before the last big stage on the journey by van to the North Cape. Since we were now already six days on the road and drove an average of five hundred kilometers a day, we decide on the Norwegian city of Alta to take a break for at least two days.
Just under four hours of driving were indicated when we set off from the snowy parking lot at 3:30 pm. Kathy was feeling dewy-eyed after a shower in the restroom at the little store and got behind the wheel. I sat in the passenger seat with the laptop in front of me trying to finish another article of our blog. The next 4 hours awaited us with challenging road conditions and oncoming cars trying to replace the lack of daylight with additional high beams in front of their grilles. In contrast to the light installations of the locals, our high beams looked as if we had placed two tea lights in the headlights.
BAD ROADS AND GIGALINERS MAKE PROGRESS DIFFICULT
While we tried to illuminate the forests on the left and right of the road with our romantic tea lights in the headlights, the road we were driving on turned more and more into a bumpy road. We had already noticed at the transition from Sweden to Finland that just the roadsides become worse and worse. Now, however, the entire road seemed to have suffered from the overlong trucks and the frost.
In addition to the road damage, the snow kicked up by the so-called EuroCombis with their length of over 25 meters and sixteen wheels led to absolute blindness. Every time we saw one of the six-ton trucks coming in the distance, we braked to walking speed in order to be able to clear the windshield again without running off the road.
Initially, it had snowed a bit. Once you got the hang of the road conditions, however, you could proceed quite normally at 100km/h on the country roads. However, the closer we got to the mountain pass from Masi to Eiby, the warmer it got. This meant that the initial snowfall now turned into rain. The water immediately froze on the snow covering the lane and formed an unpredictable ice surface.
A MOMENT OF FEAR ON THE MOUNTAIN PASS
I could no longer concentrate on writing. The road conditions were worse than expected, plus darkness and icy conditions. We still had the most difficult part ahead of us. The Norwegian mountain pass that still separated us from Alta coming from Finland.
The barriers, presumably closed in bad weather, were open. Kathy slowed down a bit as we passed through and shifted down a gear. The pass road was narrower than the country road before. On the sides, we could see that the mountains reached far up as we took one curve after another.
As one may assume, ascents on mountain passes have a very special feature, they also lead back down again at some point. Carefully we drove after a demanding ascent from the highest point back towards the valley. Norwegians and Finns, who became impatient as we carefully tried to cross the passage, we always gave the opportunity to overtake at a suitable point.
Unlike a normal passenger car, you have to keep in mind that the van pushes 2.5-3 tons down the hill. A real challenge on slippery roads. Then in a sharp left turn it happened. Kathy had not reckoned with the curve and the van started to slide and broke out at the rear. We slid into the opposite lane on the sloping curve and were just able to catch ourselves from sliding over the guardrail. Although we had quite a lot of traffic coming towards us the whole time, there was no car in sight at that exact moment. In a split second, Kathy managed to intercept the van and steer it safely back into our lane. We were incredibly lucky. With oncoming traffic, an accident would have been unavoidable.
It takes a moment before we were both able to speak again. The first thing we said was, “That was a close one.” We continued the journey a little slower than before and arrived in Alta without further incident.
OUR HOME FOR THE NEXT TWO DAYS, FIRST REBUILD HERE!
Through Park4Night we had found a suitable place in Alta where we could spend the night. In the description I read “Nice quiet scenic spot not far from Alta right on the water. There is a toilet and a covered bench with fireplace. Garbage can is also available.”
This place sounded perfect and was an ideal starting point to see a bit of the city. As we turned off the main road, we passed a few harbor buildings and continued through a small residential area. We were immediately struck by the traditional Norwegian houses. Obviously, not only the small villages and towns we had driven through so far had put a lot of effort into their Christmas decorations. Every single house we now drove past was lovingly decorated and stylishly lit.
We turned onto a dirt road. Obviously, we were the first people to drive to this place in a car for days. When we got a little further, we could already see the sea. The description of Park4Night had not promised too much.
We drove onto the large square, which in the summer was probably visited by the locals as a bathing beach. On the right we saw the small toilet house and in front of us an open canopy with a fireplace. The night was starry and pleasantly bright with the city lights in the background shining into the sky. Kathy drove a wide arc around the site and we oriented the van with the sliding door on the passenger side facing the ocean. As we got out, we could hear the waves crashing ever so slightly against the shore.
For a moment we stood together in front of the van and looked around. To the right and left of us, cliffs jutted into the water and ahead of us, on the horizon, we could see some lights coming from the city on the other side. Since we had been feeling the need for hot mulled wine for two days, we had made provisions along the way. In the last supermarket in Finland, we had bought mulled wine. However, we noticed only now that the mulled wine did not contain any alcohol. We put it on the gas stove anyway and rounded it off with a shot of vodka. Since we knew that it would be a bit complicated with the alcohol in Scandinavia, we had taken a bottle for New Year’s Eve. However, now was as good a time as any to open it.
NOW WE MAKE THE PLACE OUR HOME
While Kathy covered the front windows in the van and put the stuff we didn’t need on the seats in the cab, I got the chairs out of the trunk. Just as some hotel guests mark their couches with towels, setting up the chairs always feels like a secret act of taking over a small area. That’s how I felt after this long journey to here as I unfolded the chairs in Alta, muttering softly, “A small step for me, but a big one…”
Kathy handed me the candles from the van. I placed them in a semicircle two steps away from our chairs. The gas stove was in the middle, slowly simmering our mulled wine to working temperature.
While we drink our mulled wine and look at the sky, chilling music is playing in the background over the Bluetooth box and we are overjoyed to stay now two days at this place before it went on our trip by van to the North Cape.