If you are thinking of heading to Finnmark in the north of Norway then this might serve as a good lesson to you! I'd made good progress in the day, having woken up in Rovanniemi in Finland, I had travelled up to Karasjok just over the Norwegian border and as my target was to head to Nordkapp and it was only about 3pm, I decided to push on out of the town. The only problem was, there wasn't a lot of traffic. I began walking along the road in a northerly direction, which looking back was a little foolish.
After 16km of walking, including a lengthy uphill stretch which defied my trouser's tendency to gravitate downwards due to being on the baggy side, I decided to put down my bag on the roadside and eat what was left of some food I'd been carrying with me since Tallinn, Estonia. Hardly enough to feed a mouse really.
It was dark and it would be hard to see me as I was free of reflective clothing, I could hear in the distance an engine motoring along this road to the most northern tip of Europe. I'm not a particularly religious person but I was certainly praying that the car would stop, so when he did it, it seemed all the more worthwhile! The car in question was an old Talbot Horizon that looked on its last legs.
I was a little taken aback to see an Indian man in the car, he couldn't be further from his home country if he tried but he said he was working as a teacher in an unbelievably small place called Kjollefjord that was on a piece of land opposite the one I wanted to be on. Despite being connected by boat, I didn't fancy going up there as there was no bank, in fact it seemed there was nothing at all. He was in a rush and driving like a lunatic, we nearly veered off several corners and it didn't help that his car was crammed with stuff which he was moving from another location. Still, when hitchhiking, you take what you can and I was just happy to be moving.
There was a pizza in the back of the car and I couldn't help noticing it, so I was over the moon when he offered me a slice, I bit in and found it to be the oddest concoction of spice and anchovies, I really regretted it! By the time we got to Lakselv it must have been about 9.30pm. It was the place where our roads forked and due to the realisation of just how isolated it was, I asked whether I could continue to Kjollefjord with him but it was a further 234km and he was hoping to get their quickly with continued reckless driving. As he put it "I'm going to die tonight.", little did I know, that so might I! Lakselv had a small airport and whilst it was generally dead there were some boy racer type characters playing music in a car park, the first of their kind I'd seen in Scandinavia let alone above the Arctic circle.
It was really cold and I was definitely under-dressed for the occasion, I walked through the small town past the last house and then started to hitchhike but there wasn't a soul in sight. I was travelling without a tent and my sleeping bag was also inadequate, only going to 5 degrees when it was clearly closer to -15. Feeling rather weary and thinking it extremely unlikely that a car would be on the roads at this time, I decided to walk into the edges of a nearby forest. This was in fact the Stabbursdalen National Park but in the dark with a very basic torch, I mooched around looking for the best place to put a sleeping bag. Inspired by a Ray Mears programme and perhaps in a bit of a stupor, I started digging a hole in the snow in the hope of sleeping under the snow, a trick that I'd seen on television before, in fact beavers are particularly fond of this method of house building, it works by making a barrier between the cold air and yourself. Of course, I didn't have the technique of a beaver and mine caved in, leaving me freezing cold and desperate for sleep.
I was all fingers and thumbs and struggled to grip my sleeping bag, in a last ditch effort to stay alive, I decided to abandon the forest and go back to last house I'd seen, about a 2km walk. I turned up on the doorstep at about midnight and asked if I could stay, not a Sami couple but Norwegian answered. Luckily for me, they spoke English, the woman seemed concerned and was about to welcome me in but the man asked if they could speak for a second and closed the door. Their answer was in fact no but I managed to convince them to let me sleep in their garden shed, which whilst not as warm as a house was a lot warmer than the forest floor.