An unusual weather window opens up just as I am due to cross the mountain pass back to Norway: it’s just below zero, and things are noticeably slushy. My routine disintegrates as things which should be frozen — food, camping gear, clothes — begin to drip and defrost.
It’s a blessing and a curse; granted, I no longer have to worry constantly about my fingers and toes freezing solid, and I can stand around for longer if I feel like it. But at the same time I overheat when climbing mountain roads, my nights under canvas become increasingly soggy — and the roads treacherous with slick ice.
I climb towards the treeline and suddenly there is a pair of reindeer bumbling about in front of me. It should be a fairytale moment, I think, and in some ways it is: finally, here’s Rudolph! But in another way it’s just another couple of half‐wild animals caught in the road, unsure what to do.
As I approach, they look up, and then begin trotting away from me like sheep on a Welsh country lane, only more gangly and exotic‐looking. Having gained enough distance, they stop, wait for me to catch up, have a little poop, and then begin trotting down the road again.
This pattern repeats itself with comic regularity for about 45 minutes. Until I reach the Arctic Circle and stop for the obligatory photographic evidence to be collected.
Then it’s up above the trees and over the very modest 740‐metre pass and on down into Norway. Had the weather been bad, this would likely have been the most risk‐laden leg of the journey. But I plunge unscathed back down into cavernous valleys of wet snow and slippery ice, the road like a skating rink, typical Norwegian gradients harsh. I thank my lucky stars I opted to ride through Sweden instead of this, dramatic as it is after days of endless rolling hills and lakes.