Norway - Serendipity
The last few days have been frustrating as we wait for tyres. Each day we’re told, “maybe, 12pm, maybe 2pm, maybe 4pm...maybe tomorrow”. Yesterday we had some news on the tyres. Espen, one of the guys at the tourist info centre kindly called the Conti tyre importer in Norway; we were informed that Stig was now on holiday but we were given the parcel delivery number. As it turned out, the tyres hadn’t been sent express as promised but by normal post instead. At least we now know why we’re waiting. A few calls later and we’ve tracked down the tyres to a lorry in Alta about 550Km to the south. They are now due to be here Monday 30th.
Frustrated at watching our expensive Russian Visa being wasted as we wait, there was only one thing to do...spend money we don’t have and treat ourselves to a meal. Who says comfort eating can’t be medicinal?
A quick wash and tidy up and we’re off again riding into Kirkenes, our chosen venue was the horribly expensive ‘Vin & Vilt’, which is ‘Wine and Game’. The first challenge of the evening was opening the huge cast steel door which was made heavier by the fact that it was completely covered, inside and out with small trees. Yes I do mean small trees! In an attempt to make the place stand out, the walls of the entire restaurant had been covered in tree trunks cut in half length ways and then bolted to the walls, including the front door. The restaurant was empty but we were met by the owner with a smile and an offer of hangers for our embarrassingly dirty bike jackets. We were seated and offered aperitifs, shit we thought, this is going to be expensive. Oh well, too late now.
We spent the next 2-hours eating as slowly as we could, savouring every mouthful as if it were the last meal of a condemned pair. Braised tongue of reindeer to start, followed by wild boar for me and reindeer steak for Lisa. Oh God, this is good, we thought to ourselves, as taste buds dulled by weeks of pasta were once again reawakened. Our host offered wine and Lisa decided to push the boat out and enjoyed two glasses of the red stuff. Wine was not something we’d had for a while. However, at £7 a glass, a bottle was definitely more than we could afford. Besides I didn’t drink as I was riding and Norway has a ‘zero tolerance’ policy for drink driving. Even a glass could see you saying bye, bye to your license as you also watch a large chunk of currency leave your pocket for the fine. You have been warned!
Our host had defiantly taken a shine to Lisa, as he jokingly offered to scrap the bill if Lisa would join him upstairs. Lisa smiled and replied that she was too tired to make the stairs. “I will carry you”, quickly came the answer”. “I’m heavier than I look” Lisa remarked, between several darting looks at me. Our host undeterred simply replied with a very rye smile and a glint in his eye, “my dear, I’m stronger than I look”.
All offers of sexual favours declined, bill paid and belly’s full, we said our farewells to Lisa’s admirer and made our way back to our canvas home. We had promised one another that we weren’t going to eat, drink or ride for the next few days to make up for the budget we lost in this single, but wonderful evening.
The following day we received some great news from Lisa's father who’d a found a cheque made out to me a year earlier in one of the pockets of a jacket now being stored. I’d obviously forgotten about it. Alan had kindly called the issuer and a new cheque had been written and deposited in our account. The cheque was only pennies under the bill amount from Vin & Vilt. All the guilt we were feeling for our outrageous extravagance was quickly replaced with smiles of relief – talk about serendipity!
Monday arrived slowly and at 12pm so did Lisa’s tyres. We stripped both wheels off her bike and found a local garage to put on the new rubber. After a little pleading we were only charged £19 to change both tyres and we were once again ready to make a move. Unfortunately, Russia was going to have to wait, it was now 3pm and with lengthy delays expected at the border we were going to have to leave our departure until the following day in order to get to Murmansk the same evening.
Wondering around Kirkenes that evening we bumped into Jan from the tourist info centre who offered to help us while away our last few hours in Norway with a proper tour of Kirkenes. At 7pm Jan pitched up grinning in his shiny 4X4. After almost 2 months on the bikes a car was a novel experience. First port of call was ‘The Norwegian Grand Canyon’ in reality the local mine. The mine – Sydvaranger – opened in 1906 and iron ore and gangue were taken out up until 1996. The mine was an open cask pit and is absolutely bloody huge and is 10 k long!! To give you and idea as to how much earth has been removed in order to reach the ore, here’s an example: enough iron ore and gangue were taken out to build a highway 10 metres wide and 6 metres high from Kirkenes to Oslo which is 2500 km! What was removed in this 90-year period was 488 million tons of rock!! It truly deserves its commercial name as the Grand Canyon of Norway. Jan was a mine of information (sorry, no pun intended) and we began to get a better understanding of the place we had been living in for a week. Kirkenes lies at 30 north and 30 east and is as far east as Istanbul and Cairo and just as far north as Point Barrow in Alaska. Temperatures can drop as low as -52 c in Feb.
Despite this bitter cold we both agreed that to come back when the area has had snowfall would be beautiful. As the evening went on we learnt more about the area and the Sor-varanger municipality....and we were also learning more about Jan, who had become a friend and whose help and patience had proved invaluable over the last week. Only a few days after we were due to leave Jan, at 21 years of age, was going to be made the youngest ever Managing Director of Tourism for the municipality – a fact he proudly mentioned on a couple of occasions. We finished our evening with a couple of burgers washed down with a local cold beer.
Back at the campsite we said our farewells and began to pack up ready to leave the following morning – it really was a lovely way to spend the last few hours of our Scandinavian trip.