Norwegian trolls
In my last cycle touring episode we gained insight into the Big Picture. There we proved that there is no such thing as an intelligent "Master plan" in Nature. We now turn attention to one particular form in the Nature: the humans. If we look at it objectively, there is nothing special about this form, except maybe its narcisoid self-proclamation as a pinnacle of evolution and awareness of existence. The best proof that all of that is pile of bullshit is the fact that humans are constantly nervous, worrying about the outcome of their actions, restlessly in search for something better and rarely fully at ease unless they take a drug. The latest fashion in addressing these problems is named “mindfulness” (unsuitably i.m.o.; “mindlessness” or “presence” would be more appropriate), although the tradition of it dates back thousants of years, including numerous gurus and their followers sitting motionlessly under the trees. It is a painful effort not to be constantly occupied with the mind but to take the present moment as it is - something other forms of life (a parasitic fly, for example) manage to do naturally and effortlessly.
The virus of the mind affected me as well, as I have realized it unfortunately very late in life. I have a feeling of having lost most of my time due to it. Considering the average life span for men in my country, I have about 5400 more days in disposition. It doesn't seem very much, so I thought I should make the most of it. “Carpe diem” as the Romans said. I decided to give the practice of “Presence” a try and the first opportunity to do that was on a short cycling tour to Nordkapp in Norway.
But let me first start with a little story. One of the great stories of human civilization.

The story of a cyclist and a caterpillar

Everything started as it usually does: unpredictably. During one of my regular job visits to Celje a co-worker mentioned a book called "Power of Now". I misheard it as "The Power of Love" and scoffed at it cynically. However five years later it became part of the usual everyday eco-routine called “mindfulness”. In the early stages of “Now” I tried to identify myself with some animal. During my cycling sessions I imagined myself as a golden eagle: in high patrol above Alpine peaks, fully present, not contemplating, cautious, with sharp vision and delicate maneuvering in the wind with just a slight twitches of his primary feathers. With this approach I once took a climb to Trebeljevo, coming from the direction of Štanga. About a kilometer and a half to the top, where, in a right turn, the forest ends on the left hand side, revealing pastures at the bottom, I saw a caterpillar on the ground in front of me. It was crossing the road. It was of a rather fat sort, not too hairy and was moving in manner of reversed letter “U”, so that it pulled its rear end to the front supported itself on the rear end and extended the front end forward. And then repeated it all again. In that moment I identified myself with it. I can't say if that was the same feeling as some privileged people have had experiencing a magical feeling of oneness with the Universe, observing Sirius on clear November nights and unmistakable Orion beside it, realizing that atoms of their breath are part of the stars hundreds of light years from the Earth. But it may have been so. The caterpillar’s movement undoubtedly triggered a bunch of invisible tornados, air turbulences of which some atoms I inhaled when I rode around it in a respectful wide turn, and was so given a blessing of an incredibly complicated mechanism which supports movements, breathing, blood flow, digestion, immune system, electrical signals in the miniature brain and many other unimaginable and unspeakable things that makes possible the elegant movement, existence and evolution of a seemingly insignificant caterpillar. When I rode around it and wiped it off forever from my mind, I realized, with a reproachable smile, that within a few hours I will be listening to unintelligent chatter of the reporters on the national TV and the next day reading hopelessly unnecessary articles on huge amount of daily newspaper, which will end as garbage before it reaches a hundredth of the elegance and relevance of my personal caterpillar.

Bike and baggage on the tour to Nordkapp

Cycling to Nordkapp

in Tromsø
My cycling trip to Norway was however inspired by something completely different. A year ago I watched the cycling “Arctic race of Norway” and was overwhelmed by fantastic landscapes the race was leading through. In hindsight I now realize that views from a helicopter, which was covering the race, appeared much more dramatic then the same scenery looked at from the road perspective. 
In the preparation for the flight I left the tires fully inflated, despite the usual demand to deflate them as not to risk that they explode. Air pressure drops for 1 mbar every 10 m of altitude, which means 1 bar (1 atmosphere) of increased tire pressure at 10000 m of altitude. It really makes a negligible difference and it just proves the ubiquitous fact that people in charge don't have the slightest sense of elementary mathematics. I sometimes wonder if free primary education isn't really a waste of money and time. In any case, the tires remained fully inflated throughout the tour and I never had to use the pump.

View from my "hotel" on the first night
However, upon my arrival to starting position in Tromsø, I found out that my bike was lost on the flight and I had to wait three days in Tromsø to get it back. It was not cheap. The hotels are expensive in Norway (as is everything else) and as I had packed all of my warmer clothes in the bicycle box, I came to Tromsø wearing only a short sleeved jersey. Therefore I bought a light jacket.

The incident with the bike did not enhance my appreciation for Norwegians. The staff at the airport was very laconic and uninterested. While I waited for the bike in Tromsø, I walked through the town. Outside the Polar museum I saw three peculiar historical photos: a teenager with a gun standing on the killed polar bear, a boy and a girl leading a polar bear cub on a leash like a dog and a pin-up like girl in fancy shoes with high heels posing before a whale's corpse which was being chopped. Maybe these photos are a good example of Norwegian character, which I somehow didn't like. It may be a trace of Viking’s uncompromising character, shaped by harsh conditions, survival and individualism without empathy. Or maybe they were too practicing Presence. When you are fully present, there is a big chance that you will become indifferent, both to yours and also to other people's problems. 
Road after Alta
The third day I went to the airport to get the bike. The loss of three days required some changes in the plan, but I decided to ride to the Nordkapp anyway. Nordkapp is considered as the north most point of Europe. This definition is questionable (as are many other geographical definitions), since Norkapp is not on the continent's mainland but on an island of Magerøya, and there are some islands further north that also belong to Europe – the Norwegian Spitsbergen for example. But Norkapp is a distinctive place nevertheless, and many – including myself – went for it to put another notch on their life list of “been there, seen that”.

 The first day of the tour went out just fine. In the older times I would exclaim “Wow, what a day”, but now that I am involved in the “Presence training”, I try to be indifferent and don't need such pathetic exclamations. Most of the time the road was leading along the coastline of the numerous fjords. There was quite some rain from the start, but the newly acquainted jacket performed fantastically (Norwegians would say “fantastisk”). It proved to be an excellent solution, one supreme piece of equipment suitable for various conditions, for rain, cold, wind and warmer weather up to temperatures of 18 degrees, all that can be regulated by operating the full length zipper with one hand. After 166 km that day I found my place for the first night in a kind of wooden shed, a hut or a small hangar for boats. The shed was made up from a big number of smaller elements. The roof, for example, was made of about 400 twigs, which were all shaped in the same fashion. Other things produced by men are similarly following the same principle – which is basically copied from nature – things in nature are also made up from a number (in that case usually from a very big number) of basic elements. It applies to living as well as for non living forms. 
Typical Norwegian houses at sea shore
One of the particularities of Norwegian roads are the tunnels. Not a very good news for a cyclist. Tunnels are a cyclist's nightmare. Some of them are prohibited for cyclists and in that case, there is usually an alternative smaller road leading around the tunnel. It is the best option. Second best is the tunnel that is opened to cyclists, although that doesn't mean its infrastructure is more suitable to cycling (as we will see in the case of Nordkapp tunnel). Third option is the tunnel prohibited for cyclist without an alternative road. That was the case with my first tunnel. Fortunately, the tunnel was being repaired and the cars had a safety vehicle which escorted them through the tunnel at alternating directions. The safety car took me and my bike through.

Cycling along the fjord
On the second day there were some climbs, one of them worth of some big Alpine passes. The altitude rarely exceeds 300 m, but there are numerous roller-coaster sections requiring hard work and constant changing of gears. I reached Sekkemo at 18:00. All of my itinerary was above the Arctic circle and the days were long at that time of the year, at 22:00 there was still enough light to cycle, but I had enough after 124 km, took the opportunity and booked a bungalow for 500 krons. Plush investment, but at least I had my own porch. There was a motorcyclist in the neighboring bungalow. He was doing a 11000 km circuit in 24 days, 500 km per day. It must had been a hard work, I didn't envy him a bit even if he just sits without pedaling.
The Old cyclist's fish
The third day I came to Alta. Hotels are expensive there, so I found a place to camp in an recreational area in the woods. After Alta the road crosses a high bleak plateau around 400 m which was the maximum altitude in this tour. At the end of the day I camped few kilometers outside Olderfjord. The camping area was near a sea bay. On the sea shore I found a middle sized fresh fish which I cut to pieces and eat raw as a sushi. The fish was a remarkable catch, like the one in Hemingway’s “Old man and the sea” (which could be an alternative title for this tour of mine). Quite a good stuff, but not as good as a reindeer steak that I ate yesterday in a restaurant in Alta. The fish was a part of my scavenging routine. It started with a half of the sandwich which I found in the garbage box at the airport of Tromsø and continued with a piece of cheese found near the toilet in one roadside rest-area. If I'd taken scavenging seriously, it could fulfill all my caloric needs.
At Nordkapp
A Norwegian pair that was travelling in an autohome invited me for a beer and told me that Nordkapp tunnel was opened for cyclists. It's a very peculiar tunnel. The tunnel connects the mainland with the island of Magerøya and is built under the sea bottom. The Arctic race of Norway had a stage through it with the tunnel categorized as a category 1 climb. The tunnel is 6.9 km long, first 3 km are descending with gradient 9%, then with 1 km of straight flat part under the sea bottom and 3 km of ascent with gradient 9% on the other side. It is rather narrow, without a bicycle line, not particularly well lit and for a cyclist it's very frustrating. Cars make a horrendous noise which is heard kilometers from afar and you can't recognize if a car is right behind you or a kilometer away, nor from which direction it is coming. The best strategy is just to ride on your own straight track and with your own pace and try to ignore the cars. There is another long tunnel on the Magerøya island and surprisingly this one has much better infrastructure, including a wide bicycle lane. I found out that screaming or singing aloud in tunnels considerably eases the frustration.

On the way back to Alta
After the tunnel there are about 40 km to Norkapp, with difficult road going in numerous waves up and down. I came to Norkapp quite exhausted, but happy to have reached the goal. Entrance to the cape is free for cyclists, one of rare concessions to this particularly noble, yet under-appreciated subspecies of humans. On my way back, 10 km later, the rain started and I put up a tent in a hurry. There was a big storm during the night, I felt like drowning. In the next two days I traced back my previous path to Alta (making me a Nordkapp tunnel expert, as I rode through it for the second time). The last night in the tent was quite freezing, 2 degrees C and with a summer sleeping bag. In Alta I got an evening flight to Oslo, it lasted just above two hours.

The famous Pedersen bicycle in Oslo
In Oslo I visited “Vikingshiphusset”, a museum featuring two beautifully restored Viking ships and some other remarkable exponats. At the entrance of the museum the cashier asked me how old I was, and to my surprise, I got a 20% discount as a senior citizen. “Old man and the sea” really holds true.


And how did my “Presence training” go? I struggled to keep my mind free of thoughts. It's surprising how much effort you need just to get rid of something, like re-occurring thoughts or re-occurring melodies that revolve around your head. It is a hard work, just like in body building you need dedication and a lot of will power. The bad news about it is that it's a life commitment. It is the same as in developing muscle mass: if you don't practice it regularly or if you make a break for a few weeks, all the benefits are gone. It's seductive to give up, take a bag of chips and a beer, sit on a sofa and watch “El Classico” on TV. After all, watching football on TV is an activity in the present moment. As is solving a technical problem. These are examples of the “good use of mind”. The problem with the mind comes when it revolves about past or future events, especially the events conneted to your personality. As Anthony de Mello brilliantly put it: “A neurotic person worries about the things that did not happen in the past, unlike a normal person who worries about the things that will not happen in the future”.

Cycling summary

Dates: 18.8.2018 to 1.9.2018
Route: Tromsø – Skibotn - Alta – Olderfjord - Nordkapp – Olderfjord – Alta.

975 km cycled.
8 days of cycling.
60 h 28 min on the bicycle.
9383 m of ascent.
Maximum speed: 52 km/h.
Maximum gradient: 13%.
Maximum temperature: 20 deg C.
Minimum daily temperature: 8 deg C.
Minimum temperature at night: 2 deg C.
0 falls.
0 punctures.
5 (wild) campings.
7 nights in hotels.

Per day:
Average distance: 122 km.
Longest day 166 km.
Shortest day 69 km.
7 h 33 min on the bike.
1173 m of ascent.
Overall average speed: 16.12 km/h.