Arctic to Africa on a bicycle! What a challenge, four and a half thousand miles cycling from Nordkapp the most northern point in Europe through the continent and into Africa finishing in Casablanca in the summer of 2019. There are five riders, who are completing this challenge in three two-week phases over a period of three years.
As in previous cycling challenges, we are using this opportunity to raise money for a worthy charity Alzheimer Research UK! A charity very close to a lot of the riders hearts.
The plans are in place; the training is well under way; the fundraising has begun and we are ready to set off or the Arctic.
The challenge will begin at Midnight on the 18th of June 2017 from Nordkapp finishing the first stage two weeks later in Gothenburg.

Day 9 Umeå to Örnsköldsvik sponsored by Kerry’s

The cell doors were opened at 7:30 am and the weary inmates emerged, both cyclists and backup crew alike. The bars and cafes of Umea had been like emeralds amongst the treasures of this very metropolitan city.
So onto day 9, a further 70 mile winding ride to the coastal town of Örnsköldsvik in relatively mild weather conditions.

With no breakfast facilities at the accommodation, the cyclists quickly mobilised and got under way, heading for the first grub spot en route.
Some of the backup crew decided to try and maintain their fitness for momentum and went for a run along the river side.
After, what’s becoming the traditional coffee at Espresso House, they hit the road.
Battling through road works and entertaining arguments with the SatNav we arrived at our destination.

The cyclists had an eventful ride too with Paul having another fall! To be fair, the ride today was far suited to mountain bikes so with the wind it made for interesting times. No injuries though thankfully.

Örnsköldsvik is quite a picturesque harbour town, with a good selection of shops, restaurants and cafes. Our accommodation for this evening couldn’t be more perfect, a bunkhouse situated right on the front of a marina, very clean with good facilities and 5 minute walk into town.
Once settled in, the backup crew headed into the centre to pick up the usual provisions (deep heat, Ibuprofen and ear buds for Paul).
Then on to meet the riders for a quick beer before showers and food. They all showed up with smiles and in high spirits after an amazing lunch of sausages-very large sausages. (The back up team enjoyed ham and cheese baguettes in the ICA supermarket car park- and they think they have it hard lol).

All in all definitely a better day. It’s hard to think the ride is well over half way and this time next week it will be done. The consensus at the moment is that it is definitely a cycle challenge – challenge being the operative word most definitely.

The forecast for tomorrow is good and as its Sean’s birthday tomorrow too, a few beers are on the cards. Roll on another 100 miles.

Gary and David

Day 8 Skelleftea to Umea sponsored by New Lodge Contractors

Previously on Arctic to Africa……

Moral was at an all time low, the weather was atrocious, roads were too dangerous but the team were battling on and now the story continues….

Up early again for breakfast at another Scandic Hotel (Sweden’s answer to a Best Western). The cereal, cheese, ham and toast were very good as usual.

It wasn’t raining!!! Yey! The cyclists set of with renewed vigour and hope in their hearts. Muscles were aching and joints were hurting. It wasn’t long before the pain was getting serious for some of the team. We all rallied together, the team was working again! Those who felt better took the wind and pulled the others along.

The backup team packed up the kit and loaded the van and then they hit the gym! 15 minutes on the treadmill, 15 minutes “floor session”, and 15 minutes in the pool and we were about ready to go. Last night we found a great café, which served proper coffee out of a proper machine, so we headed there for a large cappuccino before setting off in the truck. Heaven!

The cyclists moral picked up considerably at the half way point when we came across a cafe – all you can eat for £8; Swedish meatballs, potato wedges and salad, juice and coffee also included. We also managed a beer, result a happy team. As we finished lunch a coach load of Germans came in. I have to say they weren’t the youngest group, in fact if any were a day under 90 I would be surprised. It was a bit disconcerting that some of the ladies took a shine to Dave in his Lycra! After lunch we continued then the heavens opened and we got soaked again! Luckily this was a short shower and then the sun came out. It was glorious, this is what we had been waiting for. Cycling was a pleasure for once and the views were stunning, still trees but trees in the sun!

The backup team arrived in Umea amongst plenty of roadworks only to discover we were staying in a converted prison. A few cellmate & soap jokes followed, then we followed our tour guide Gary to a very funky bar in the centre of this student city. We are currently sat in this bar outside in the sunshine (it got here eventually!), except our table is next to a building site so we’re patiently waiting for the diggers to shut up!

After a nice downhill section to finish the day off, the cyclists met up with the backup team who didn’t disappoint and had beers ready. A good day all round.

Dan & Sean

Day 7 Lulea to Skellefteå

Sponsored by Oak by Design

So we thought we were all pretty down previously but today was an all time low for everyone. Despite the team having had a catch up the previous night with our Jonathon in Australia, morale was beneath rock bottom for both back up and cyclists. If it could go wrong this morning it certainly did. The weather didn’t help as it started to rain as the cyclists were setting off to drive back to their starting destination. Thankfully the weather cleared for them and when they eventually set off it was dry.

Back up had a bit of a chill once they had left taking advantage of the pool again. (When we say pool we are stretching the imagination but we were happy). We had a late set off and then began our adventure to find where the cyclists had left the truck James Bond style using various apps to find the location – can you tell we are grasping for excitement!!

Everyone met for lunch and spirits did seem a little better. The amazing pizza helped!! Knees were sore and muscles were aching. Food was eaten and the team were ready for the off and then, yes you’ve guessed it- the heavens opened!! Torrential rain, wind into the faces and wet slippy dangerous roads. If the weather was good, the views would have been amazing but heads were down and it just wasn’t fun. Conditions were bad for both teams. The cyclists tried to persevere but the weather and the fact that all roads lead them to the treacherous E4 which simply couldn’t be travelled on by cyclists meant that they had to radio in to the back up team to rescue them. We had just arrived in Skellefteå but did a quick drop of bags and turned around to head back for them. We found them relatively easily and the dance they did as the truck pulled up showed just how pleased they were. They were soaked to the skin and freezing cold. Heat was whacked up and music turned on loud to warm them through and get spirits up.

After warm showers back at the hotel and a beer with a debrief, it was great to hear the chatter of the team. Spirits might have been low but the resolve was high and all were agreed that “tomorrow is another day”. Another day without rain would just be the icing on the cake!! Our luck has got to change.

Love and thanks for your support as ever.

Kathleen xx

Day 6 Sponsored by Logic Fire and Security

An early start this morning, ready for a lengthy 130 mile day. It was a slow start with some serious aches and pains. The first 30 miles crossed the Arctic Circle and followed the Tornionjoki river, which also acts as the border between Finland and Sweden.

It felt like a very long 30 miles until our bodies had warmed up. After crossing the border our always faithful back up team were there ready with coffee and cookies!!! This is where I jumped in with the back up team and left the amazing boys to climb up from the river into the treeful Swedish countryside. Their determination is unbelievable, despite being in so much pain (mainly with their knees).

The backup team’s next job was to find a suitable stop for lunch. After 30 miles of nothing we found a fab little cafe. The owner made us feel very welcome. He provided us with coffee and food, showed us photos of a brown bear he had crossed paths with (last month), asked us to sign the guestbook, and even offered to post his food to Africa for when we arrive there!!! We waited here until the boys arrived. After 50 miles their poor bodies were now starting to get going and a beer to wash down lunch was warmly welcomed.

After dinner we made our way to Lulea. We were all excited about arriving in somewhere with a bit of civilisation. The hotel even had a pool, which was obviously our first port of call on arrival!! After a quick swim and sauna we resumed backup duties and headed to the town centre to find somewhere for dinner.

It’s still bank holiday here and the vast majority of pubs and restaurants are closed due to, as the locals say, “the midsummer piss up”. After a phone call from the cyclists to say they have had to change their route I headed off in the truck to pick them up.

The route had initially taken them onto a very busy single carriage way (constrained by Armco barriers) so they decided life was worth living after all and headed inland onto quieter roads. With already doing 121 miles, and with 53 miles still to go, the decision was to finish and be dropped off back at the same point in the morning.

Food and beer is on the agenda tonight. The back up team found an English pub called the Bishops Arms (hand pulled ales and everything), and that is where we currently are…..about to order and chill.

Amy 🙂

Day 5 Levi to Pello sponsored by Kerry’s

From the deserted ski resort of Levi we headed out South in search of some warmth. The day looked promising – No Rain! No Snow! A few legs were sore especially the knees, the warm up has moved from a few miles on day one to 20 miles today. The roads were long, straight and mainly flat. Today was about keeping those pedals turning.

As we left Levi we could see the terrain and forest change with every mile further south. Gone are the desolate Arctic wasteland forests where the trees looked like they had been starved and tortured by the harsh Lapland Winter. It is hard to imagine only 2 weeks earlier the only method of transport was a snow mobile!

The forests at the side of the road were vast – for as far as the eye could see there was the dark evergreen of the Scandinavian Spruce. As we moved further South the sun finally came out. The fresh glossy leaves of the birch trees shimmered brightly in the dense forest, which brightened up what has been a very plain scene.

Further South we started to see further signs of change; houses were more frequent – some even had lawns and flower beds, the sound of silence from the forest had been replaced by lawnmowers and chainsaws where folk were preparing the fuel for the next winter.

The team eventually hit a main road after 50 miles with more examples of civilisation even a burger bar! We just had to – a burger and a beer! The sun was out and blue sky’s above, not the pale Arctic blue at Nordkapp but a clear sky blue. Summer is here. All the riders were now happy, full bellies and a beer inside so we decide to go off route and follow the river road, an extra 9 miles in the end but worth it. The river was wide and wild, several small fishing boats along the way. Salmon was the prize! We managed to witness a happy angler land tea for his family while we were on another beer stop we had managed to find.

The last leg was 30 miles The knees were hurting – it was like having acupuncture with rusty pins. Cramp was setting in! Ibuprofen was the saviour and we pushed on averaging over 20mph for the last 20 miles. The pain and aches were irrelevant now we were nearly at the next stop, Pello. We even managed a sprint finish at the end.

102 miles done as the day ended, tired legs but a good day of cycling.

Back up had already surveyed the town in a very short space of time. Pello has a supermarket, petrol station and motel. It is the largest town in the area and that is about it. It is a bank holiday today – Midsummer festival – so everything is shut, another ghost town. So a Friday night party in the motel is as much excitement as any of us are going to get today.

We do now have a numpty hat for the person who does or says the daftest thing. Lee had it from yesterday and I am just about to announce today’s winner, which is again Lee! He got the most points by first asking if the airfield we passed when we set off was the same one we saw 2 days ago (250 miles further North!). Then at the burger bar he helped himself to a coffee which he thought was included in the price, but not only that he broke the handle and spilt it all over himself.

Tomorrow is a big day – 128 miles out or the Arctic – 22 miles left to go, and into Sweden our final country for this leg. Let’s hope the knees survive!

Sean

P.s Please don’t forget if you haven’t already done so to donate through the website. We really appreciate your support.

 



Day 4 Sponsored by New Lodge Contractors

After the ordeal that yesterday turned out to be, we decided that the best thing to do for both cyclists and back up was to have a lie in! The forecast was due to stop raining between 11 and 12 so the decision was made to leave it until later for today, with the course being 85 miles.

 

Between 9 and 10 everyone started getting ready and filled up on bacon, eggs and muesli, courtesy of Amy and Dan and a round of coffees from Dave ‘Pink Flamingo’ Kent.

 

We reached the start point at 11.45 and set off pretty soon after. The weather seemed to be the same where it left off yesterday which meant it took an extra 10-15 miles to warm up. Various niggles and muscle aches were more prominent today and meant the first hour was the toughest warm up so far.

 

The rain stopped after about an hour and although was still overcast and 5 degrees, it was a 100% improvement on yesterday if only for not having wet kit.

 

The scenery in Finland so far has at best been bleak; long roads, false flats and trees, although the weather has probably not improved our attitude towards the place so far. The road went on for around 30 miles before we reached a cafe for a quick coffee stop. Shortly after the coffee stop the road, which until then had been smooth, turned into a sand track which lasted for the best part of forty miles. A small section of roadworks in the middle claimed the life of one of Paul’s tyres so we had a 10 minute pit stop to replace that. With 25 miles left, the sand track started to take its toll on the riders and was working both upper body as well as our legs.

 

The 6 mile run to Levi ski resort was pleasant and after a bit of confusion about where our lodge was, we pulled up to our amazing log cabin, including open fire, sauna, fluffy carpets, and macaroni cheese courtesy of our always amazing back up team.

 

Another tough ride but we’re quickly making our way South which means more sun! A few beers and an early night before we set off on our mostly flat 93 mile ride to Pello is in order tonight and we will see what tomorrow brings! Hopefully blue sky and a bit of sun!

Paul

Day 3 Karasjok to Lemmonjoki

Day 3 Sponsored by The Station Hotel Birstwith

 

The cold and tiredness has started to take its toll on both cyclists and the back up team. Everyone was quieter this morning and the usual morning banter took a little longer to appear. Thankfully the snow which had been expected had not appeared – we were all thankful for that one even though it was only 4 degrees.

The riders set off after a hearty breakfast towards the Finnish border – approximately 10 miles. The back up had a little time to wander around the Sapmi park adjacent to the guesthouse we were staying and see some of the traditional homes of the native folk. Reindeers were here too but we are quite blasé about them now.

Despite our earlier delight that the snow hadn’t arrived, as we passed the border into Finland it came – horrible and wet and the poor cyclists had a hill to climb – a nasty one which had several deceptive points where you’d think you’d come to the top only to find as you reached the brow there was more. Now we are thinking of the ride for the cyclists our perception of the area is very different. Back up were ready when they eventually got to the top with warm cars to sit in and hot coffee to warm them through. We were freezing so heaven help the cyclists.

As they set off again, we hit the road too. We travelled on for 10-15 miles along the very desolate, long, never ending road with nothing but trees and sleet! The cyclists were adamant they would be okay and didn’t want us to wait along the route, but we were getting worried for them as there was nowhere to stop then thankfully we saw a cafe sign and a then a few more after that so we began to feel happier knowing that we could carry on.

Nobody realised that Finland is another hour ahead of the UK so that caused us slight confusion. We passed more reindeer and even a solitary cyclist – it wasn’t just our crazy lot out there on the open road in temperatures of now 2.5 degrees!! There was a long stretch of roadworks to get through. No Health and Safety rules here – you just manoeuvre your way through any way you can with machines doing there own thing along the way. The roads are long and bleak with nothing much to see. The temperature kept dropping and as the back up arrived at our nights destination it was 1.5 degrees and persisting it down – a lot!! We made contact with the cyclists who were determined to battle on but we were ready with dry things just waiting for a call.

The team finally arrived dripping wet through, frozen and glum having had a horrendous day with temperatures hitting -1!! We were ready with a sauna organised, warm rooms and coffees followed by well deserved beer and Dan’s home made spaghetti bolognese. We rallied them on with tales of support from The Station in Birstwith who had now changed their flag to that of Finland in honour of the team as they pass through each different country and that they were now featured on the Instagram page of TeamARUK, the national page for all the sporting events in aid of Alzheimer’s Research UK.

It’s been a rubbish day for all today but at least the back up team have had shelter from the elements. The cyclists have been absolute heroes today. I’m so very proud of what they are achieving for Alzheimer’s Research UK in memory of Dad. I’m sure that the charity and what they are doing this for has helped them to dig deep to complete the day. I know I’ve sat and thought about it and I also know that my Dad would be the first one there cheering them on. He’d definitely be raising a well-deserved Guinness to them tonight!! Make sure you all do too (and pray for better conditions tomorrow!!)

Lots of love and thanks for your continued support – it really is appreciated.

Kathleen xx

Footnote by Sean

I can safely say on behalf of all the riders that was the most difficult and challenging day of our lives. We did consider at half way if we could or even should continue. We are glad we did it is amazing how far you can push your limits if you believe in something so strongly.

Thanks once again to the back up team you did amazing! Also thank you to all those who put comments on Fb the encouragement got us through the day.

It can only get better.

Today’s ride is sponsored by Oak by Design

Day 2 Olderfjord to Karasjok

-A.K.A Woah, that’s a lotta hills!!
After spending our last night at Repvåg following a night of music from the hosts Peter and Jan we set off towards Olderfjord, our starting point for the day.
After an all you can eat breakfast and a few extra sandwiches that we craftily stashed away for later we were ready to go.

The initial stages of the ride were pleasant. We kept a steady pace, managed to capture the reindeers ‘like a dog walking in shoes’ run and by some amazing coincidence we stumbled upon some pink flamingos – Dave’s call sign he’d received before the trip began. Even the weather had remained dry and relatively warm – well 8 degrees!! Unfortunately around the 30 mile mark Paul had a small fall but was lucky enough to only come away with a few grazes. Then, shortly after the half way point the hills started… and did not stop. It was a tough long climb but after we made it up the first 170 metres we had a small break believing that the biggest of hills were behind us. However, as Admiral Ackbar once said in Star Wars “IT’S A TRAP!” And indeed it was. As soon as we turned round the corner we were immediately confronted by another steep and long climb.

It wasn’t until the last 5 miles of the 87 in total did the downhill ride appear and it was glorious. As the hills carried us down to Karasjok not even the bitterly cold wind could beat the fact that the end was drawing closer. When we finally arrived in Karasjok we were tired and sore but definitely not too tired to venture out for pizza/burgers and a well deserved couple of beers.

Until next time,
Lee

 

Sent from my iPhone

Day 1 (cycling) Nordkapp to Repvag 53 Miles

Here we are, Europes most Northern point Nordkapp, 550 miles north of the Arctic Circle.

A remote inhospitable place. A place where Winters last 9 months – 2 of which are in darkness 24 hours a day – but in June the sun is above the horizon and weather permitting the sun circles the Horizon never setting.

The time is Midnight, the sun could be seen shining directly North. The sea and the sky blended together on the horizon, the lightest Arctic blue from the polar cap reflection. The sight was mesmerising and would have been pure peacefulness had it not been for the thousands of sightseers from the cruise ship that was docked in Honningsvag!

The five riders were apprehensively ready for the off. After a brief live video to the world and a rousing cheer from the sightseers we were off.

The ride was only 53 miles with a few long hills up and down, but the fatigue from having spent 5 days, 12 hours a day squashed in the car showed on everyone’s faces including the backup team. The first part of the ride was stunning. The sun was shining on us as if a sign of approval for our efforts from above. Every corner we turned, the vista was as dramatic as the sheer size of the area. Reindeer and moose were grazing on any sparse vegetation that could be found in the harsh tundra. They didn’t seem too bothered when a car passed but for some unknown reason when we cycled past they went into a confused frenzy usually running from the fields onto the road in from of us then running down the road tripping over their clown like feet.

Nordkapp is actually an island connected by a tunnel which was half way of today’s ride. We got to the tunnel at about 2:30am. The tunnel was 7km long and went very deep under the ocean. The first part was eerie but fast, 3km down a 9% hill, then 1km of flat which gave you time in the darkness to contemplate what we are doing and why. Then the realisation that it was 3:00am on a Monday morning and we were 212 meters underneath the Arctic Ocean riding a bike! It was cold – bitterly cold – dark and damp and the only way out was the 3km climb. One hundred meters to go, bone-chillingly cold but this time we could see daylight. We had made it but the relief was short lived as the weather had made a turn for the worse. The beautiful sun had been replaced by rain – cold rain! Spirits were dampened, heads were going down, the fatigue of being awake for 22 hours was taking its toll. 25 miles to go, the struggle was on! Hills were coming out of nowhere and we were now soaked through to the skin. The pace had slowed as every hill was now like Everest on a cold day. The turns of the pedals were getting harder and harder. We ploughed through not the pain but the fatigue and cold eventually arriving back at the hotel in Repvag at 5am greeted by our faithful back up team who had waited up all night and had a welcome beer in hand for us. Time for some sleep!

Later that day we had made the decision to do 30 more miles to make the following day shorter.

After getting up we headed by car to Honnisvag for some lunch and we all had reindeer which was fantastic and very welcome. All were happy and warm.

At 6:00pm we set off from Repvag to Olderfjord, 30 miles away. The temperature had dropped even more and now the rain was really coming down but the team were unanimous that we were going to do it. It was a costal road regarded as one of the top ten in the world, but we could not take any consolation from it as there was low cloud, rain and mist. We battled on head down riding in a chain, each taking a turn at the front taking any wind. The back up were there at half way with hot coffee laced with warming whiskey – they were our heroes. We finally finished at 8:00pm and managed an impressive 17.9 mph.

Tomorrow we head to Karasjok riding 85miles – let’s hope for better weather.

Sean

Day 5 – travelling to repvag. Another early start for our last day of big mileage on our adventure to nordkapp. There were a few sore heads this morning and wet clothes as the combination of excitement, whiskey and sleeping by the sea meant we had a few late night swimmers!!! As always spirits were high. The drive has again been beautiful. You really don’t ever get tired of this beautiful scenery. Mountains, snow and today REINDEERS!!! The sunshine has come out at last for the start of our first ride. Midnight tonight we will be at nordkapp setting off on the real adventure!!

Amy


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