Back home. Strange feeling. We have hardly even begun trying to write down some kind of conclusion to the trip, the time since our return having been rather hectic. Just as good an excuse as any, except laziness which might very well be the actual reason. This however being our last tripreport, time for warping back to St. Petersburg, Russia, July 17th 2001.

We had a good time there, complete with tourist attractions, vodka and 20 hours of daylight.. The weather was brutally hot and humid, so we were glad to get back in the saddle to head towards Helsinki. Once again, we had received word that the road between St. Petersburg and Finland was infested with bandits and/or corrupt cops. None seemed to be on duty that day however, and an uneventful bordercrossing was followed by a pleasant reception in Helsinki where a local biker guided us through the center to our chosen hotel. The by now usual program for major cities inevitably followed, consisting of culture, siesta, practical things such as Internet and of course sampling the local products, both solid and liquid. We also ventured into a finnish film festival. The films shown seemed to confirm the stereotype that introspection is a finnish national sport. We liked Helsinki a lot, in part because everything seemed so easy and well organized, in marked contrast to Russia.

Up north we rode, through lush landscapes dotted with lakes and reindeer, stopping for the night at campsites where we would indulge ourselves by renting a wooden cabin, cooking up a feast and lounging in the saunas for which Finland is justly famous. Very pleasant. Close to Rovaniemi, we met an Italian biker, Marco de Ambrogio, who was himself about to complete a ride around the world (Alaska to Ushuaia, then Japan to Northcape and back to Italy). At the same moment, one of Ellen's luggage boxes had fallen apart, so our enty into Rovaniemi started with chatting up a friendly guy who was busy building his house, had the right equipment and did a great welding job for free. Shortly after Rovaniemi, we crossed the Arctic Circle. From here, the straight distance to the point where we had crossed the Arctic Circle in Alaska is about 6000 km. We had ridden over 54.000 km to this place. Must have taken a wrong turn somewhere….

The scenery changed drastically as soon as we got into Norway. Flat woodlands turned into ragged mountain scenery, as we made our way up to the North Cape. We got ourselves another cabin in Skarsvag, about 13 km from the Cape, cooked dinner, and rode up to the North Cape around midnight. No need for lights, it was bright as day, even if the midnight sun was hidden behind a rainy cloud (We didn't know yet but that same cloud was about to stay on our tails until Copenhaguen).

We were mildly surprised at the number of tourist buses heading for the Cape in the middle of the night, and even more surprised when we got there and were asked to pay something like 50 US$ per person to drive the last 500 m to the rock outcreep that forms the most northern point and is supposedly notable only for its ridicously overpriced restaurants and shops. I wrote " supposedly ", because we decided that this would be one tourist trap we wouldn't fall for, especially because the friendly Norwegians had already extorted a lot of toll money from us in order to get this far.

Instead, we parked the bike somewhere we weren't supposed to, and walked to the edge of the cliff just before the Cape. Good enough, if not better than the real thing, especially because here we were alone. A place like that feels mystical, in a way more so than we felt in Alaska or in Ushuaia. After all, it was our last continental extreme, it was night, raining, cold, and the landscape was both spectacular and unbelievably bleak. We introspected for some time, didn't come up with anything particularly wise to say to the world, and rode back to our cabin for some more celebrating. Carpe diem etcetera.

I now had the feeling that we were truly on the way home, after all, itwas only another 3500 km more or less straight south before the trip was over. The aforementioned raincloud stayed with us faithfully all the way through Norway, it was raining every single *%&#¦*+/ day. Still, the riding was great, even if the fjords were a bit hazy in the rain.

We continued with the same system as in Finland, staying in cottages in small camping grounds along the road. No bars, no restaurants, no old churches or other architectural wonders, nothing, it was something like a moving retreat, from one cottage through great landscapes to the next cottage. Different, but nice. We had planned to camp but the weather was too nasty and riding days were long. Some hardcore bikers we are.

We arrived in Oslo on the 2nd of August and took the ferry to Copenhaguen where once more we were meeting up with my family. It was very pleasant , as usual, Copenhaguen being a rather cosmopolitan town with lots of things to see and do. After five days of good living, we got back on the bikes, leaving Copenhaguen in pouring rain, heading for Germany where we had the privilege the same evening to sample a wine called Monkey valley' monkey rock in the monkey bottle. Points for originality, if not for taste. Two days later we were in Luxembourg. One year on the road, five continents, 37 countries, 58.500 km. We still haven't quite caught our breath, but as soon as we have, we will have a few things to say about life after the trip.

Stay tuned, some more to come
Ellen & Manou