Earlier this year, two friends, Robbie and Andy from Sheffield University decided to pack up their bags and take on the challenge of a lifetime cycling from the top to the bottom of Europe.
The trip started at the top of Norway's Arctic Circle, then travelling down through Central Europe and Spain before arriving in Gibraltar. The total distance of the trip is approximately 6,500km crossing through 10 countries. With no cycling experience and very little time to train this was always going to be a tough ask.
Read below for the first leg of their story...
So with our exams finished it was time to get packing! A flight and bus journey later we were in Nordkapp (the most northerly point in Europe) to begin our journey south. The view of the hills and deep snow was enough to scare us both! We had only cycled together for a few hours before arriving, and our lack of fitness was apparent almost immediately. This didn't stop us; by mid-afternoon we had arrived at the island's most southerly point...exhausted!
Now to make the scary journey through the 7km undersea tunnel. The entraces and exits are so steep; after half an hour cycling it's hard to know whether you are going up or down. It was already 10pm by the time we saw daylight at the other end. Both of us stepped off our bikes on the steep 212m ascent.
The start the next morning was both difficult and demoralising with Andy's bike needing TLC and strong headwinds down the next fjord (made slightly less painful by the beautiful mountains and cliffs along the shore, the blue sea, and a visit from the local dolphins). Finally we finished our second day in our first city, Alta. The following day pushing onto Tromso, 500km south of our starting point.
The next leg, Tromso - Tondheim took another week of cycling along the coast via a detour to the famous and
beautiful Lofoten Islands. The novelty of Norway's beautiful landscape and steep mountainous roads was beginning to wear off. The very busy but narrow road that ran between the isolated settlements was full of fast traffic...quite hair-raising at times!
Crossing between the islands became more frequent the further south we went to Trondheim. We were using up to 5 ferries a day to island-hop down the coast...welcome breaks from cycling! The Arctic Circle ends surprisingly far south from Nordkapp and we were starting to think that we would never leave. Eventually, we found out we were crossing out of the Arctic Circle...sadly we couldn't celebrate as others were with their champagne...cola would have to do!
Some of the tunnels are ok for cyclists and some are not...following a road that turned into a motorway, we headed into a tunnel that was not permitted for cyclists. The traffic began to thin and we realised we were spotted on CCTV, the tunnel had been shut (whoops!) and then we heard the police sirens...we did the only thing we could...jumped over the hedge with our bikes (no easy feat!) and laid low.
With our criminal past behind us, we cycled the last few kilometres to Trondheim for some well-deserved rest.
14 days in, 4,850km to go!
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