Nordkapp (North Cape). The famed northernmost point of Europe. Even the name sounds foreboding. The ultimate goal for many who venture into these far-flung lands - the End of the Earth. Never mind that there's a good tarmac road that leads all the way there (€22 toll for the tunnel per car ... each way); never mind that there are petrol stations, supermarkets and hotels in almost every town along the way; never mind that the visitors' centre with the multimedia show that you have to go through (€25 entrance fee) to reach the majestic, 300m cliffs, with dominating views of unending Arctic sea as far as the eye can see: east, north, west ... hey, wait a minute! What's that land doing there? Indeed. Norway's premier tourist attraction pulls in visitors from far and wide, and charges them a pretty penny for it, so that they can go to the edge of the cliff and say "no-one in Europe is further north than I am now". Let's for a minute forget pedantic nit-picking that place Svalbard, Novaya Zemlya and Franz-Josef Land much further north, but far closer, the next headland in fact, separated by only a 2km bay, is 1.5km further north. Nordkapp's notoriety is based on fraud, but it's a fraud that most visitors want to believe because they would rather just take the car than have to hike the 18km round trip; because Knivskjellodden is not as easy to pronounce (or as flagrantly obvious) as Nordkapp; and because you can buy a postcard and a cup of coffee there.
|Looking south (OK, actually east southeast) at the cliffs of Nordkapp, not Europe's most northerly point.|
As more regular readers will know, I don't buy into hype (in fact I try not to buy anything) and so I insisted on going to Knivskjellodden instead. When my ride (who happened to be the headmaster of the school of the small fishing community a few kilometres from Nordkapp and was full of interesting information) dropped me off at the barren, windswept car park at the trailhead at 7:30pm, a snowstorm blowing in my face and the temperature touching freezing I seriously asked myself whether this might not have been one of the more stupid decisions (in an ever-growing catalogue of stupid decisions) I have yet taken. But since I was there I pressed on - I had passed the point of no return. Luckily the snow stopped after an hour. Unluckily it was replaced by hail. But that didn't last too long either. At around 11:30pm I finally made it to the tip and felt quietly smug as not only was I further north than those camper van suckers (I've also developed this hate-hate thing for camper vans), but I didn't have to pay for the privilege either. After signing my name in the obligatory guestbook and sending a quick text to my brother (because even in the farthest reaches of Europe you get reception) I headed back to try and find a not-so-windy, not-so-boggy, almost-flat spot to pitch my tent for the night (not an easy task to pitch a tent single-handed in a force 6 wind). I survived the night and the next morning proved balmy in comparison, so I had a wander round the area to check out more of the stark landscape and do a bit of wildlife spotting: reindeer and birdlife aplenty. Then it was back to the road where I could finally get rid of my nord hitching sign which I have used since Belgium - it's all south from here on. Sunshine here I come! ... Actually, scratch that; I get plenty of sunshine up here already, a bit too much actually. Warmth here I come!