Updated: Jan 1, 2021
This story was... and still is in SuperBike Magazine South Africa's September 2020 issue! In the end of the story is a web-link to a web-article. Here under a couple screenshots... which a not really reader friendly, so here also the original article! BR. Peter :]
NORTH CAPE - WHERE THE ROAD END’S
North Cape, Cape Agulhas, Ushuaia, Prudhoe Bay… Route66, Ho Chi Minh Trail, HighWay1, Manali - Leh Highway… All places and roads to go or to do for us bikers! In this story we do not go to all of them, we ride to the north, to North Cape… or as we say up here, Nordkapp! Then we go to the east to Murmansk! Where is my up here? My up here is in Helsinki, Helsinki Finland! The shortest way to Nordkapp from Helsinki is 1518km. From Cape Agulhas it’s 16299km. Only 211h and 8,8 days without sleeping and brakes! I drove down to Cape Agulhas 10 years ago, 2010 in 1680h and 70 days with sleeping and brakes. It was a 18987km version, 1st I drove 1518km up to Nordkapp!
To/From North Cape
Oslo is a good place to start a ride to Nordkapp. Views are great all the way, but the problem is if you do not have a lot of time, and most of us do not have, Norway is very slow. The speed limit is 80km/h all the way and the police in Norway is, how do you say it nicely? Pain in the ass! There is a lot of radar control and they are happy to give you a ticket with a smile! Good thing is, that you have a lot of time to look at the views. My opinion (my opinion has naturally nothing to do with that fact that I’m Finnish :) is that the best place to start a 2-week Norkapp circuit is Helsinki. Home of me, Alvar Aalto, Mika Waltari, Martti Ahtisaari, and Kimi Räikkönen. You know the last one if you follow Formula1, the Iceman! And many elderly people in Namibia know Martti Ahtisaari, the peacemaker! However, the capital of Finland is a very nice small big town or a big small town. A lot of green parks and water. But I suppose Finland is not really known from Helsinki! What I have understood foreigners known Finland from lakes, Santa Claus and reindeers! Bikers who follow MotoGP know Mika Kallio!
When the gods where creating Scandinavia Finland got all the lakes, Norway got all the mountains and Sweden was the unlucky middle country! But seriously, Sweden is also a very beautiful place with a lot of space like all nordic countries, South Africa and Russia! And if you drive a two-week nordic circuit with Russia, Helsinki is clearly the best place to start and finish regardless of my nationality. You will get a very good picture of all 3 Scandinavian countries with numerous different landscapes, views, and roads with a great extra of the east, Russia! Russia is a country, which does not leave you cold!
Lakeland & Lapland
There are lakes in every part of Finland, but Lake Finland (south-east part of the country) is literally full of lakes. Finland has about 160000 lakes, many of them are so clean that you can drink the water! According to Mama Google, there are only 677 lakes in the whole of Africa and 27 from them are in South Africa! You will not see every Finnish lake, but many of them when you drive through Lake Finland. Normally, when I am on a motorcycle tour with a group to Nordkapp, we stop for the first night at a lakeside hotel with a beach in Kuopio which is in the heartlands of Lake Finland. The bravest bikers can take here an evening and/or a morning swim in lake Saimaa. Water is never too hot!
Most of the Finnish people think only about Finland when you ask them about Lapland. But in fact, Lapland is a huge area covering the northern parts of Finland, Norway, Sweden, and the north-west corner of Russia. It’s is also more or less the same area where the original Sámi-people (people of the north) come from. The size of Lapland is about the same as Eastern Cape and Free State together, about 300000km2. Sámi people have their own language and own culture. The language is totally different from any nordic language and it has on official status in Scandinavia! In the north, you see sámi also on the road signs!
The most visited person in the north is not anyone from Sámi-people. It’s Santa! What many bikers do not know is, that the original Santa Claus was born in Myra, on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea in 300ACC, Holy Nikolaus! Today Myra is a city in Turkey, in the 300’s it was a city of Roma! So the grand, grand, grand… son of Holy Nikolaus, Santa Claus has his headquarters in the north, in Santa Village on Arctic Circle. This is today also a place where every biker stops on the way to/from Nordkapp. Here you can meet other bikers from all around the world, but naturally also Santa Claus. He works here 363 days a year. Only days in the year when he is not available, are 24th and 25th December! If you go and say hello to Santa, you can always wish a new bike or bike tour or both for your next Christmas present!
Midnight Sun alone is a good reason to ride up to the north! Santa’s workshop is literally on the Arctic Circle. On the day of the summer solstice in Cape Agulhas, the sun sets about 8 pm. Between Arctic Circle in and Nordkapp, there is no sunset for 1 month on both sides of the summer solstice. Especially for first-timers midnight sun is something extraordinary! Driving in the middle of the night with the sun in the sky is something you do not forget! And even for people from southern parts of Scandinavia, the midnight sun is every year on WoW! Officially I do not drive with groups in the middle of the night, but it is always possible to take a midnight sun ride if you do not have any alcohol in your blood! But it’s also great to have a midnight sun sauna with a couple of beers and saunamakkara! Saunamakkara is something very popular in Scandinavia. It’s an open fire sausage which you eat after sauna while you enjoy a cold beer! There are also other interesting activities in the Scandinavia during the midnight sun period like midnight sun skiing competition in Sweden, midnight sun marathon in Norway, and midnight sun golf tournament in Finland! But we bikers are not interested in those things! :)
Nordkapp 71.1710° N, 25.7837° E
Nordkapp, the place where the road ends in the northern hemisphere. A must-do place for bikers. No one drives up to Nordkapp because of its great weather! Even in July, the daytime temperature can drop as low as +5 degrees. Not to mention that at the same time it can rain diagonally with a crazy wind which is trying to push your bike from the road! Personally I do not know which I like better in Norkapp, extreme terrible weather or sun & shine which also happens. Sometimes the temperature can go up to +25 and the sun is shining from the windless blue sky. I have experienced both!
‘Nordkapp Highway’ from Olderfjord to Nordkapp is one of the most beautiful rides in Norway. Every (except a few tunnel kilometers) of its 128 kilometers will make you smile inside your helmet! There are practically no other residents than raindeers on the whole stretch if a couple of small villages of a few houses are not counted! At the northern end of the road, you will also find the small town of Hånningvåg, which is a bit aside from the road itself. All the trees are also aside from the road because there are not any trees at all when you start to come close to the Nordkapp. The growing season is too short up here for trees to survive! It means also that you have open curves with wide-open views! For a biker summer is summer but if you like to have an extraordinary boat cruise in winter, Norway's famous Hurtigruten line is operating a 7 days Northern Light Cruise from Bergen to Kirkenes! That time of the the year when sun doesn’t rise for 1 month on both sides of winter solstice between Arctic Circle and Nordkapp!
Annually Nordkapp has about 250000 visitors… 5-10 percent are bikers! At the same time, Cape Agulhas is getting maybe about 50000 visitors. This is a guess. Mama Google did not know any visitor numbers of Cape Agulhas! My wild guess is based on my own visits to Cape Agulhas. Instead, Mama Google knows a lot of Cape Town, and Cape Town visitor's numbers are high. About 2 million visitors in 2019! Bike-travellers enemy, COVID-19 is cutting down all visitor numbers to all places in 2020, but let’s keep thumbs and toes for a better 2021… and I keep also my dog's paws because she is a biker. Biker Bubbles and she has been with me to Nordkapp with our bike! She has her own tank bag!
Country of Tsars since 1530 and with a new Tsar again! :) First one was Ivan the Terrible, this last, Vladimir the Great can’t be too terrible. He likes biking and his good friend is the President of the best know MC-Club in the country, Night Wolves. Night Wolves Clubhouse is also open for the visitors, so if you visit Moscow someday for one reason or the other, this is an interesting place to see! Regardless of Tsars and Wolves, Russia is not a huge magnet for bikers. That has also one very natural reason. Even there are many beautiful places and some great biking roads, a major part of Russia is flat like Texas or South Africa between Upington and Vryburg! One other big reason for unpopularity is politics. Most of the bikers, even in Europe are thinking that Russia is somehow dangerous! But it’s not. In fact, it’s safer than many southern parts of Europe. Media’s Russia and real Russia are two different countries and I like the second one. I have been driving in Russia many times with and without groups and I have never had any kind of problem with Russians! Once my bike started to push out flames from exhaust pipes on Murmank Highway, but that is totally different story that! And unlike in many other countries, most Russians like bikers! And an average Russian is very friendly and hospitable under the unfriendly surface which needs to be melted first! If you communicate with a male, then you can always offer a glass of vodka! Sometimes I have wondered why the surface is so tight. I have no absolute truth to that, but I suppose it’s because of the history. Russia has a rough history and there has never really been any reason to learn small talk! For the majority of people, it has been a history of surviving!
In places like Nikel and Sputnik on Murmansk highway between Kirkenes and Murmansk life is still very tough and there you do not see much glory of any Tsars time. Not any glory at all! They both look like they are falling in parts because they are! Sputnik is an old military town and Nikel is an old mining town! Sputnik you could not find from any map during the soviet era! Murmansk Highway from the Norweigian border to Murmansk is very good as most of the bigger roads in Russia today! Now you can even drive with a Harley from St Petersburg to Vladivostok without any problem. Murmansk, it’s one of a kind! While driving in the north you have been used to see small towns and villages. Now you come suddenly to a big bizarre metropol! I have been several times to Murmansk and after each time I like it a bit more! It has 300000 inhabitants and it is beautiful and ugly at the same time depending on what point you look at it! The old city center and the suburbs around it are a bit different! The reason Murmanks exist is WW1. During that time France was fighting together with Russia against Germany, and to get military equipment from France for Russia, Russians made a railroad to Murmansk, because of the warm Golf stream, the harbor in Murmansk can be always open! Today harbor is used mainly for shipping coal! After the Sovjet era, Murmansk has become more and more popular among the Finnish bikers. Most of the Swedish and Norwegian bikers still see it as a scary place! :)
The biggest part of the area between Murmansk and St. Petersburg is called Karelia. Parts of it belonged to Finland before WW2, but to be fair, whole Finland belonged to Russia before WW1. Thanks to the last and weak official Tsar Nikolai II, Finland got its independence from Russia in 1917. That is one thing that the Finnish rednecks are happy to forget when they demand Karelia back! However, Karelia is an interesting area. When you drive there, you can see that most of the motorbikes and cars are modern and the highway is good. But if you leave the highway and drive to whatever small Karelian village, everything looks is like it was before WW2. No changes! In the villages, you can also see Ural motorbikes, built before WW2, and still going strong or at least going! An exception in Karelia from no changes is Petrozavodsk, the capital of Karelia Oblast. Russia is divided into 46 oblasts. Petrozavodsk is also a vibrant university town with lot of coffee shops and restaurants! And there is even a motorcycle club. Petrozavadovsk Night Riders!
Murmansk Highway between Murmansk and St Petersburg is 1341km long and its also kind of a miniature Trans Siberia! As well it is also a total ‘climate change’ from the messy backyard to the glorious front yard of Russia! St Petersburg is everything that Nikel and Sputnik are not! St Petersburg is full of the glory of the Tsars era. It’s international, viral, and vital with visitors from all around the world. Here you can easily hear also English what is spoken in Thrumpland. However St. Petersburg is huge with huge magnificent boulevards where you see especially in the weekends and evenings local bikers cruising with their bikes. In St. Petersburg you see also many Harleys. Before St Petersburg had a big event called Harlay Days every 1st weekend of August. But politics spoiled it as it seems to do to too many good things! Anyway, it’s very pity because Harley Days collected tens of thousands of bikers to the city every August. Naturally, there is underground, trams, busses and waterbuses in St Petersburg but it’s also fun to drive on big boulevards on the weekends and evenings. And just outskirts the city are Kronstadt, Peterhof (Summer Palace) and Pushkin which make a great 150km day tour!
Back to Finland
Depending on the group, time, and weather I often take the fun coastal road from St Petersburg to Vyborg instead of the dull main road. Vyborg is the last city before Finland. I do not now what Lonely Planet says about Vyborg today, but I always remember what I read many years ago from this independent traveler's bible. It said ‘typical unpleasant border town, no reason to stop here’. I could also have another opinion, but yes. It’s not a navel of the world. One very nice thing to do after the border crossing is to take the old King’s Road and ride like a king from curve to curve. On the way is a unique red wooden Porvoo, which is also a world heritage city and a superb place stop for a coffee! And the Nordkapp circuit is closed 50km later when you arrive at the capital of Finland, Helsinki!
SUPER BIKE MAGAZINE SOUTH AFRICA ORIGINAL STORY (as long as it is available on Yumpu :)
- pages 60-66