There was an almost immediate change in the landscape as we crossed from the densely forested rolling landscape of Finland into the far more rugged, mountainous and dramatic landscape of Norway. This was going to be an interesting country!
We decided to try out Norway's national parks to see if they would be on par with their Finnish neighbours. After quite a struggle to find the main access point to Stabbursdalen National Park we were greeted by a ramshackle collection of cars, vans, caravans, campfires and large animal carcasses skinned and dangling from makeshift structures. We had no desire ourselves to be strung up so decided we should beat a hasty retreat! Norway 0 - Finland 1.
Our journey continued northwards until we reached, what is claimed by the local tourist office in Hammerfest, the most northerly town in the world. We couldn't find a music, beer or DIY festival so had to satisfy ourselves with a wind battered stroll around town. We bought some delicious local prawns off the harbour, although the old boy selling them took some convincing we only wanted a small bag and not several kilos. Eventually we had to take matters into our own hands and weigh them out ourselves!
We traversed the far north of Norway stopping in various small towns along the way and taking windy walks until we reached the comparative metropolis of Tromso where we enjoyed some of their excellent local beer brewed by a company called Mack. Apart from the price of £8 a glass I would highly recommend it if you can get your hands on any.
We diverted from Tromso onto the island of Senja for which we had stunning weather and got the bikes off the back of the van for the first time in weeks to tour around bits of the island. I had a rather strange encounter with an old lady as I sat resting on a small hill overlooking a particularly charming fishing village. She took it upon herself to ruffle my hair and pat me on the head as you would a small child, she then babbled on in Norwegian for a while and drifted off down the hill with her family. Strange!
It was on Senja that the locals first started talking to us about snow and winter tyres so we thought we should pull our fingers out and head south. Firstly though, we had to tour the Lofoten island group which was well worth it. The weather suddenly turned unseasonably warm so we could remove the thermals and make do with just the 3 jumpers! We did some great walks here and found some amazing overnight camping spots. We also decided to treat ourselves to a meal out at a lovely little restaurant which served the most delicious whale steaks, a real local speciality.
So after a couple of days driving we were crossing the Arctic Circle again and well on our way south towards Fijord Norway.