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Tales from a Motorcycle Saddle.


"On a Wing and a Prayer"


A story of a motorcycle trip to North Cape in Norway, the most northerly tip of Europe, for a mid Essex charity.

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It is 2.15 a.m.  The wind has relented but still causes the tent to emit a crack, sometimes a “wop” sound as the nylon whips.  It has stopped raining. “Now, that’s a novelty” I think.   My nose is cold and my eyelids, too.  Visible through a mesh vent is the orange and blue material of the outer tent, giving a false, but much longed for suggestion of sun and warmth.  As I turn over and tuck my scarf behind my neck to stop any errant draught, I hear the rain start again.  Does the sun ever show its face here or is the midnight sun purely a marketing ploy by the Norwegian Tourist Board?  I settle down again, composing a letter to them, signed Damp and Cold, HonningsvågI knew I had to visit North Cape.  I knew also it had to be by motorcycle and tent to give the trip a spirit of adventure.  For how long had this ambition been felt?  Perhaps thirty five years.  Two friends convinced me to go ahead, despite having insufficient funds.  “Have faith”, they said, “funds will come in.”  Well, I did, and they did.  Not everything went to plan, but God kept His promise that a friend encouraged me with: Psalm 91. v. 11. “For He shall give the angels charge over you, to keep you in all  your ways.”

A typical camp.

If you are hoping for a travelogue of Norway, full of social and economic history, then you will be disappointed.  Pop to your local library instead.  What you will read here is a journey undertaken for personal satisfaction with an added incentive of raising money for a good cause.  Read on and share interesting conversations, beautiful scenery and, oh yes, damp feet for several days.

You will also read excerpts from  “From Cape Cold to Cape Hot” by Richard Pape.  Written in 1955 it describes in graphic detail his rush to be the first man to get a car to North Cape in Norway.  Nordkapp, as it is known in Norwegian, is the most northerly tip of Europe and is around 700 miles inside the Arctic Circle.

His task was necessary as he was intent on completing this task in a British car, and there was talk of French and Germans trying also.  He was a man of incredible focus, determination and strength.  He achieved his goal despite wrecking his first car just inside the Arctic Circle and also, having no road or even a track to North Cape for the last five miles.  In many ways his journey had only just begun, as he then headed south, all the way to the Cape of Good Hope, Africa.

My trip along the smooth E6 and E69 bears no resemblance to his, except for the destination and the weather on Mageroya, the island where North Cape is.  The extracts from his book are headed: Pape:  A letter from the director of Kongelig Norsk Automobilklub written on April 9th 1956 to Pape runs thus:

“This is to certify that Richard Pape is the first man who in his car has fulfilled the trip from the North Cape to the South Cape. We want to congratulate with the fulfilment of the task and are glad for the assistance we were able to give in connection with this historic venture. We hope that thousands of motorists from all nations will follow the track of Richard Pape.”

Perhaps Oscar M. Bade, the director of K.N.A., in hoping that thousands would follow, might be surprised to know that 250,000 visit his beloved Nordkapp each year.
This is how Pape describes the northern part of his trip as he prepared:

I studied maps of the world as I had never studied them before. The charwoman who did my rooms complained about the wallpapering of maps with bits of sticky tape. The North Arctic Cape seemed a hell of a long way away; 600 miles above the Arctic Circle in latitude 71 degrees North; the selfsame latitude which circles the world, passing high north of Soviet Siberia, and almost above Alaska in the Arctic Ocean. I would start from the North wall of Europe, Nordkapp, a few feet from the edge of that imperious silhouette, 1,000 feet high sheer cliffs which plunged into the Arctic Ocean. 

An inspiration.

A place far away among the rainbow hues in the land of the midnight sun. A part of the world where, in winter, the Northern Lights throw a halo of flaming colour on a landscape of sheerest white, the world of reindeer herds and Lapps.
Many miles behind me would lie the town closest in the world to the North Pole; from where I would stand I would look over the Arctic Ocean in the direction of Svalbard, fairyland of the Arctic, the gleaming land of snow and ice, and jagged mountain peaks, the very land that skirts the eternal winter of the North Pole.

Romantic stuff!  So, sit back, pretend you are a lone motorcyclist in a foreign land and enjoy.

Click here to see my sponsor form and to find out why I was drawn to North Cape.

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