IMG_8826

Chapter eight. “Where the streets have no name”. Crossing the arctic circle.

June 20, 2013

Everybody took part in loading me onto the truck. First, Robin got all of us upset saying there was no room for the bike. Silly me to think that such a huge boat would not suffer a bit taking my bike. Luckily, we found a place in a box under the truck intended for tires, apparently. There were old worn out tires. Robin said he did not know where to put them. In the end, the Lithuanian took one of them and promised to hand it over to the gas station, as long as I could fit in. The girls helped Robin to stuff the disassembled bike to the box. But it wouldn’t close. Robin was bustling around the truck, moving the tires on the other side. I shoved my belongings to the backpacks, trying not to think that everything was in vain, the door would never close and I would freeze to death in Mosha. But my head was throbbing with one thought: «Tromsø!»

Finally, the united efforts of the Lithuanian, Robin and the girls succeeded. I warmly said goodbye to my unexpected helpers and dragged the luggage and myself into the cab. The engine started and I tasted that sweetest feeling in my stomach, the one you usually have when the car rushes down a steep hill after climbing it.
IMG_8562
IMG_8567

IMG_8569

IMG_8570

IMG_8573
I love asphalt. What I love even more is asphalt surrounded by mountains and fjords. The section of the national E6 highway leading through Nordland to the north is the most beautiful asphalt road I’ve ever seen in my life. The day and night I spent on the way to Tromsø were full of mountains, one overwhelmingly amazing sunrise and a lot of laughter.

First, it turned out that Robin and his colleagues had seen me back on the way up to Grong (according to the company policy, they drove in a line of three), before I met Einar. The one who saw me first called the others to warn them that there was a cyclist on the road, so that they were cautious. So that’s why now Robin called the other drivers saying he’d picked up the cyclist, “she is with us now”.
IMG_8578

IMG_8582

IMG_8586

IMG_8591

IMG_8594

IMG_8597

IMG_8599

IMG_8603
We were going up and down very steep ascents and descents at an extremely high speed, which took my breath away. We stopped at a gas station to get some coffee, then drank it with sandwiches in the truck and made spliffs. Gradually we climbed to the top and vigorously passed by the sign «Arctic circle», which I barely had time to notice. We drove through the fairyland of fog, snow and wild northern landscapes. It darkness and the fog made everything around quite creepy and vague. Creepy and beautiful. I imagined myself there alone, having climbed up those serpentines miraculously on my bike. Ugh, I would definitely pop off if I had to put a tent there. It was nine degrees and snowy, and all of that in mid-July – cool! Really cool if you sit in a warm cabin of a huge truck. I almost did not want this road to ever end.
IMG_8606
IMG_8610
IMG_8613

IMG_8618

IMG_8616
But we crossed the plateau and began to go down. Relaxed, we chatted, smoked out of the window, and then I stopped in the middle of a phrase and stared ahead. The sky behind the next turn was on fire. “Is that a sunset?” – I thought at first. And then – “At 1 am?”. No, that was a real polar sunrise burning in front of us.

At this point, probably for the first time in my life I had no thoughts in my mind, no drivel, nothing at all. My first polar sunrise caught me by surprise.
IMG_8621

IMG_8625

IMG_8626

IMG_8634

IMG_8636

IMG_8643

IMG_8651

IMG_8648
At night we arrived to Fauske, it was nine above zero as well there, with vapor coming out of our mouths, the locals were just starting to get drunk. It was so unusual: it was well after 1am, but it was as bright as in dayshine. I felt that it was morning. But we were just going to stand up for the night at a Scania service center. Complete disorientation.

I spent about an hour in “our” cab chatting with Robin and his other colleagues from the other two trucks, sipping Coke, eating chocolates and laughing to tears. It had been awhile since I had so much fun. All thanks to the oldest driver, a man with audacious sense of humor making you fall in love with him at once. I laughed so hard I even spilled some Coke on the floor. Anyway, it was time to go to bed, the boys needed rest. They made my bed on the top bunk of the cab. I wrapped into my sleeping bag, opened the window in the ceiling not to feel cramped, watched the blue morning sky over my head for a little while and fall asleep.
IMG_8654

IMG_8658

IMG_8662
Here’s Robing in my helmet.
IMG_8665

IMG_8668

IMG_8671

IMG_8674

IMG_8677
The next morning I washed my head in the sink of the men’s room at Scania center (no other option allowed), I’d say it was the quintessence of my journey. No, really, it was fun. We woke up at 9 am, took our time to prepare for the road, I gathered my things littered around the cabin and made some sandwiches. The bag on the photo was for garbage. I snitched it from the train, could not help it. Then I charged the phone through the laptop.

It was hot. We turned Guns N ‘Roses up to eleven and raced down to catch the next ferry. I threw my legs on the dashboard and lied there smacking my happiness. It’s like falling in love – Norwegian roads, vigorous truck, music shacking the cab, spliffs, sandwiches, dazzling sun, mountains and a looooot of sea.

But also, a lot of long tunnels that I hated so much. Robin tried to cheer me up as we drove through them. We never caught that ferry because we’d chosen the wrong way. We even had to crawl back the narrow serpentine to turn around. But while waiting for the next ferry, we stopped at a gas station stocked with drinking water, coffee and cigarettes. We breathed the frosty air, stretched the stiff limbs. At that point, I had completely forgotten that I had a bike stored disassembled in the truck, and that I’d been actually using it as means of transportation. This is how much I liked to drive over the mountains on the truck.
IMG_8677-2

IMG_8680

IMG_8691

IMG_8715

IMG_8719

IMG_8722

IMG_8723

IMG_8747

IMG_8728

IMG_8731

IMG_8755

IMG_8757

IMG_8752

IMG_8753

IMG_8761
I had mixed feelings. Longing for Tromsø and the desire to get back on the bike with a complete reluctance to have to get out of this huge, warm, comfortable cabin, where I could smoke, throw my feet above my head and sing along the disk that I’d been given by those guys.

We passed Narvik. I sent a text to the might-have-been host that I was going straight to Tromsø and would be happy to come some other time. He wished me a good trip. In Narvik Robin was shifted by the older one – he left his truck went to ours. Robin took my place. And I spent the rest of the way listening to Norwegian talks, lounging on the bed behind the seats. Robin gave me spliffs and candy. I even took a little nap against the conversations, I was dreaming that I was being taken away to the strange, melodious voice. I was trying to guess what they were talking about and sometimes it seemed I breached the border of rational perception of language and began to penetrate right into the plot, without interpreting and comparing the sounds.
IMG_8795
IMG_8764

IMG_8771

IMG_8781

IMG_8783

IMG_8788

IMG_8810

IMG_8813

IMG_8814

IMG_8821

IMG_8824

IMG_8827

IMG_8826
And then we came to Tromsø.

I got agitated. It was not like before, when I had to worry where to put my luggage, where to spend the night. It was a long-awaited meeting. As a first date when you want to find some common ground, see something familiar in the unknown. And also, the fear, that it will not work out.

The guys dropped me off at another entrance to the city, we hugged goodbye and exchanged phone numbers. Robin was going to a surprise party for a friend of his, which he’d been organizing all the way. The older one was going to see his family. I wanted to wangle an invitation out of one of them. But I decided that I’d already spent a very comfortable day, those guys were very kind to me, and it would not hurt to have some kind of suspense. So I wrapped in the jacket and entered Tromsø.
IMG_8835

IMG_8836

IMG_8838

IMG_8840

IMG_8841

IMG_8843

IMG_8846

IMG_8850

IMG_8849

IMG_8853
IMG_8855

IMG_8854

IMG_8857

IMG_8859

IMG_8861

IMG_8864
Agitated, I smiled at everyone I met and waggled my head wheeling about the downtown. It’s Robin who showed me how to get there. And he also gave me a pack of delicious tobacco that I really loved.

Then I went to waterfront to have a cup of coffee. It was the cheapest in the whole Norway, by the way. Only 20 krones, we even laughed about it with the bartender. I got a text from Gabriel at couchsurfing. He apologized saying he could not host me that very night, but there was a place at his friend’s. At the same time, I got an answer from another couchsurfer, but after a short texting with him I decided to wait for the unknown friend of Gabriel after all.

Serban turned out to be a Romanian immigrant who worked with Gabriel. Finishing my coffee on the waterfront, I was fussing over what kind of person was standing in front of me. I wondered if I could trust him. But an hour later I had a gorgeous home-cooked meal, a shower, a cold beer, soft sofa, news broadcast in Norwegian, Russian illicit cigarettes and funny stories from the life of Romanians in Tromsø. I was struggling to identify a book character, or a movie star that Serban so strongly reminded me of. He was very funny. I like people who can make me laugh, more than others.

That night I was falling asleep with a mere happiness – I did it, I’m in Tromsø now.
IMG_8856
IMG_8858

This post is also available in: Russian