Updated: Jun 18, 2020
20 days after I got my motorcycle license it was time to head out to my first solo road trip! I learned a lot of things along the way, and I´d like to share some of my insights with you.
You need time. There are so many beautiful places to discover, and the need to rush is a major let-down. Along the route, you’ll find yourself longing to explore to the left and right.
Avoid the highways. In keeping with point one, this is where you’ll experience the true nature of the place you’re visiting. If you’re blasting through at 110 km an hour, are you truly enjoying your surroundings or just rushing through? For a real adventure, choose the Coastal Highway (County Road 17) that runs from Steinkjer to Bodø. This trip includes six ferry crossings, allowing you to fully appreciate the landscape. The thought of having to rely on a ferry to take you somewhere might seem like a hassle, but this time off the bike will allow you to enjoy the picturesque view from the deck. In a clear case of "do what I say, not what I do" I didn´t follow my own advice - I have some friends in Mosjøen I wanted to visit along the way, so I chose the faster route.
Plan ahead. Gas stations may be few and far between, especially on the islands. I forgot about this and relied on the proximity of a gas pump. I was right to assume there was a gas pump on the island, but it had been out of function for almost a year when I visited - much to the dismay of the local population.
Grocery stores will have varying opening hours as well. To illustrate, the Kjerringøy grocers were open 9 to 22 every day. Another island I’ve visited is open 9-13 on Saturdays. They usually offer a great variety of non-food items like fishing equipment and cooking gear. Sadly, you may have a harder time finding fresh produce. Also, note that prices are a bit higher than you’ll find on the mainland.
Acquaint yourself with the locals. After all, you want the authentic experience, right? If you’re lucky, the place you’re visiting will have an active community on Facebook where you can learn more about what’s happening and also find tips on what to do. When I joined the Kjerringøy group I read a post about a woman whose back had been broken in two places. Naturally, she had trouble walking her dog, an 8-month-old Black Norwegian Elkhound puppy.
Felix joined us on a hike, and his company heightened our experience tenfold. I posted on the Facebook group about feeling stupid for running out of gas, and the locals reached out to me and my problem was fixed within two hours. We also had the pleasure of being invited to dinner by a lovely couple. A lady we met at the local grocery store felt sorry for us for carrying such heavy backpacks and brought us into her home, offered us food, shelter, a shower and anything we could need and want. Her husband had just come back from fishing, and got two lovely sea trout they served with potato and salad, both grown in their garden. It was wonderful!
The people of northern Norway seem especially easy to get to know. They’re also famous for their temper and frequent swearing. This is such a common thing that a man who was charged with calling a police officer “hæstkuk” (horse dick) in 2008, was acquitted by the court because the expression is so common among northerners, it´s part of their day-to-day vocabulary. I wouldn’t recommend doing that as a tourist, though.
In rural areas, expect a lot of animals along your way. Cows, sheep, reindeer, moose, pigs, ducks, frogs, llamas - you’ll be amazed at the characters you’ll ride by. In Kjerringøy the animals are not restrained by fences, humans are. They rely on the animals to keep the bush around the road trimmed (and they do a very good job!) The joy of meeting a moose on the other side of the curve is thrilling, but can quickly mean the end of your trip if you’re not aware of them. The standard of the road might not be the best. In rural areas, expect to find roads that only have one lane. You’ll have to share that with traffic heading in the other direction.
Now and then there’ll be a widening of the road marked with an M (meeting place). If you’re lucky, you’ll meet the large vehicles close to one of these. Luckily, the fact you’re riding a motorcycle will give you much greater flexibility than a car, but keep this in mind if you’re tempted to pass a tractor or truck. Truck and tractor drivers are often mindful of other traffic wanting to pass them and might pull aside to an M to let you pass.
Get off the motorcycle every now and then. I know, I know! You finally have time to be enjoying those curves and the views from the road. But trust me, the many mountains in the area are waiting for you to hike them. The campsites you’ll find along the road are pretty, but the ones you’ll have to walk a stretch to find are simply breathtaking. Be ready to get dirty and wet to find the most scenic spots.
Every house and boat in the region has binoculars. Keep that in mind when looking for a bush to pee in - if you have a house or boat in view, you better be sure they can see you too!
There are well-established camping grounds all over. These offer showers, bathrooms, garbage bins, etc. Some of them serve food. You might enjoy these, but keep in mind you can camp almost anywhere in the wilderness! If you prefer solitude and oneness with nature as opposed to being crowded, this option is for you. Norway has a tradition of the right of public access to the wilderness. This means you can camp on uncultivated land in the countryside. Some restrictions apply. Camp more than 150m from inhabited houses/cottages, ask for permission if you intend to stay more than one night. No campfires in forest areas from April 15 to September 15. You’re also expected to leave the area clean and tidy. Ideally, leave no trace of your stay behind. (Read more)
Excited to see the midnight sun? Yes, it's rare and cool (no hot). The downside is that there is no sunset, no color play to enjoy. You’ll miss out on moments like this:
The season to see midnight sun is longer the further north you get. Don’t be too sad if your visit is too late in the summer for the midnight sun. We were one month late and had the sun set at ten, and then magnificent sunsets. We stayed up ´til two every night to enjoy it.
I had seven days on the road, and do you think it was enough? No! I went home for a shower and some sleep and the day after Kenneth joined me on another trip! More on that later.