Fierce Blizzard in the Arctic Tundra!
Abisko was my last town in Sweden. I took a day rest in a hostel there. It was just nice, when I was done shopping with food and drinks in the supermarket there, I only have 8 Swedish Krona left, which can buy me.. nothing! Hehe… and I had some Norwegian Krona with me. So I really have to leave Sweden the next day. But when I woke up in the morning the next day to prepare to cross the border, there was a bad snowstorm outside. The wind coming from the west, which means I really have to fight the wind all the way to the border of Norway. I went outside to feel how strong the storm were, it was actually really strong but not so cold. It was only somewhere around 0c. So I said to myself, “Lets face this storm head on!”. While I was preparing, the hostel owner told me that the road up in the mountain in Bjorkliden is closed. Awww… I then asked him if I stay another day here, can I pay with Norwegian money. He said its okay but the problem is the hostel is fully booked and I cant stay there anymore. “Ahaa no worries mate, Ill camp somewhere in Bjorkliden”, I told him. He then told me to becareful of the weather and as usual I gave my automatic scripted answer, “Don’t worry, Ill push slowly”.
I then rode very slowly to Bjorkliden which is very very near. So I took my time snapping photos and really took my own sweet time along the road. I don’t really feel like struggling fighting the wind that day, I was just looking for any nice spot to camp. I then arrived Bjorkliden and found out there was a long queue of cars on the road ahead. The road was closed, but I just sneaked in with my bicycle. I didn’t plan to go far, I rode for another 5km on thick snow and found a good spot to camp. The storm never stopped blowing. As usual I did my normal routine, boil some snow, cook dinner and sleep. Early the next morning, I woke up and I thought I heard the sound of wolves. My mind was half awake, my hand automatically trying to reach my knives and wanted to go outside my tent. My mind was thinking that the wolves were trying to steal my bicycle hehe. Then when I was fully awake and my brain started to function fully, I realized that it wasn’t wolves, it was the sound of dogs and sound of kids screaming and laughing. Ahh… someone is enjoying the dog sledding! When I looked from the window of my tent, it was some happy family having fun with dog sledding in the frozen lake. After done with breakfast and packing, I cycled towards the border of Norway. The weather was calm but very cloudy and the road was really in bad condition.
Upon reaching the Norwegian border, the headwind started to blow fiercely. I kept moving forward and it was going uphill and the snow was really thick. I couldn’t cycle anymore, too tiring so I pushed my bike slowly to the border. I was surprised to see the border is really simple. This is actually my first time crossing land borders in Europe here between Sweden and Norway. Before this I entered European countries all by flights, Iceland, Scotland and Sweden. There was a simple custom building for people who need to declare goods. The wind kept blowing but I kept moving crossing the border. I then rode further for some 2km after the border. And all out of a sudden, the wind started to blow really really strong! For a while, I kept going fighting it. But in a split second, things changed into a really brutal situation, the wind produced a horror sound like a screaming woman, the air was filled with flying snow and I couldn’t see anything. It is impossible to see even 5 meters ahead. If there was a car or a truck, I could easily get hit… the visibility was zero. I was fully covered, I was wearing my balaclava and snow goggle. But I felt so painful, sharp ice and snow hit my body so hard until I could hear the sound of them hitting my body and my bicycle. I felt like I was being shot rapidly by thousands of bullets from a machine gun. It took me a few seconds to realize that I was in great danger. My heart suddenly shouted at myself, “Blizzarddd…. runnn!!!”. I quickly turned back, there was only one building that I can seek refuge, which was the custom building 2km behind me. There was nothing in front, only tundra. While I was riding back to the border, I couldn’t breath! The blizzard was really strong and I felt like I was drowned in water. This time, I was really panic and afraid. My heart was beating so fast and I was questioning, will I make it to the custom building alive? Or I have reached my time? I tried so hard to breath but not even half oxygen got to my lungs. I really felt like dying and 2km feels like so far away. There was no one there to rescue me. Finally after a few minutes (which feels like forever) I reached the custom office. I didn’t even park my bicycle properly. Right in front of the door, I simple jumped and threw my bicycle on the road and ran towards the door. I still couldn’t breath and really felt like dying.
Once I got in the building, I ignored everything, lied against the wall, closed my eyes and took a few deep long breathe. I was making a loud sound while breathing, I really need the oxygen. After a while when I opened my eyes, I saw a few custom officers were looking at me with shocking face. I then asked them the permission to stay indoor for a while, telling them what happened as I was on my bicycle. They were all shocked to hear that I was cycling in this weather and told me that Im crazy. They were really nice people, they let me to stay indoor and gave me some coffee. After a while, one of the officer told me that the road is now closed in both sides, both Norway and Sweden. Im now stucked here at the border for god knows how long. He then told me that he will drive me to Narvik, the closest town in Norway from here. But I have to leave my bike here, stay a night there and come back here again the next morning to take my bike and ride down from the mountains when the weather is clear again. Really nice guy, he gave me some tips on cycling in Norway and contacted the cheapest hostel in Narvik to reserve me a bed for the night. After a while waiting, he then drove me to Narvik. Thank god, the blizzard started when I was still near the building. I couldn’t imagine what would happen to me if the blizzard started when I was in the middle of the arctic tundra, I could have easily died in the no man’s land. When he drove towards Narvik, the condition was really scary, the blizzard was still going on the whole day.
Upon reaching Narvik, I went to the cheapest hostel to put my bags and was really starving. When I went around town to buy food, I discovered that everything was closed and it was 11.10pm. I was late by 10 minutes! I then went to a small café and saw from the glass window that the worker inside was still cleaning the shop. I was really starving, so I knocked on the door and begged her for food. She said everything is closed but I told her that I could eat anything that she gave me. I really need to eat something as I was really starving. She then went inside and talk to her boss and they were so nice to give me some chicken salad for free. Again for god knows how many times I got lucky, people seems to help me everywhere here. I slept well for the night and woke up early the next morning to have a quick breakfast, get a Norwegian simcard and took a train back to the Swedish border to get my bicycle again. Upon reaching the border, the weather was really nice, blue sky and no more strong wind in the mountains. I then took my bike and enjoy the amazing ride down from the border to the fjords of Norway through the 30km of Arctic Tundra. Once I reached the coast, I was riding really slowly, my eyes were fixed looking at the beautiful Norwegian fjords all around me. I then decided to camp in the snow to enjoy the fantastic view of the fjords. I was surprised that it was still cold here, some -10c at night but I was rewarded with beautiful view of the dancing Aurora Borealis all over the sky of Northern Norway.
I would like to say thank you to all the kind, caring and loving Swedish people that helped me out on my journey while I was riding for weeks and weeks through the Swedish forest and the extreme cold. Thank you so much for letting this homeless traveller to sleep under a roof and get warm and having a long hot shower, cooking delicious food for me, showing me direction, providing me tips and making me smiles and laugh. Helping a traveller is really a great thing and noble… and now you guys have helped me through my tough but interesting journey in Sweden, I hope that one day there will be someone to help you out when you’re in need. I believe that God hears the prayer of a traveller, and I will pray for all of you who have helped me out. I’m now riding through the fjords of Northern Norway at the time of writing, but I will never forget the kind hearted Swedish people!