A tour to the most beautiful island in Norway

May 1989

I spent the whole of 1989 in the Norwegian army. 9 months of it up in the north, 2000 km from home. I liked Northern Norway and this is one the reasons why I now live in Scotland. Scotland and Northern Norway has a lot in common.
I brought with me my bike and I did some smaller day-tours. I quickly found out that I should do the North Cape and back to the army camp tour. I decided on a 1000 km tour on 12 days. As both a training trip for the North Cape tour and a desire to visit Senja, I did this 310 km long tour some weeks before I did the North Cape tour.
Senja was for me the magic island. It still is because Senja is probably the most beautiful island in Norway. Senja is Norway in miniature. Just like Isle of Arran is Scotland in miniature.

This tour was my first ever weekend tour on bike. It was also a long tour (310 km) on two and a half days. I did some huge mistakes on the tour and that makes 310 km in three days a pretty impressive tour. I was carrying a fishing rod + fishing gear, tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, big rucksack and two big bags on the bike. It was far too much and I was really suffering on the tour. Unfortunately, I did not learn by my mistakes because I did use the same setup on the North Cape tour, four weeks later. Stupid boy !!!!

Please note that the bad quality of the pictures is both due to my incompetence as a photograph and the bad quality of the camera.

I started from Setermoen one Friday afternoon. The tour took me down the Bardudalen valley. After some miles, I had to change over the packing. The tent and the sleeping mat was moved down to the bike from the rucksack. I continued down this flat valley for 25 km before a small hill took me up to the crossroad to Sorreisa. The road went up a small vertical hill to a small lake which I followed to the end and then into a new valley which then dropped down to a lake and the fjord at Sorreisa. I took this picture just before the lake at Sorreisa.

Heading to Sorreisa with the mountains of Senja in the background.

I took the road from Sorreisa towards Finnsnes. The cycling was OK with some small hills along the sea. But I was very tired at this point. So tired that I seriously wondered how I was going to reach Finnsnes that night. My plan was to press on towards the west-side of Senja that night. That was 50 km from Finnsnes..... and I was still 20 km short of Finnsnes. I eventually reached Finnsnes, very tired. Finnsnes is a small town and 70 km from my start at Setermoen. Something happened at Finnsnes because I got new energy. I headed towards the Gisundet bridge.

The bridge over to Senja.

This is a 1200 meters long bridge, taking me over to Senja. The views was very good and I cycled on the undulating road across Senja.

.....what happened next is something I have tried to figure out for the last 20 years. I entered what I can only explain as a close down of my mind because I went to sleep for the next 40 km. Those who train very hard talks about getting high when they endure hardship. This is probably what happened to me here because my mind shut down while cycling over some moors and up a valley. I only know this was a moor and a valley when I returned the same way two days later. I only woke up on the top of this valley and I wondered where the heck I was. The previous two hours was erased from my mind.
I have never ever taken drugs in my life. But I believe this is the only time in my life I have been doped outside a hospital. And by natural causes. I would not say this was a scary experience. It was certainly a very interesting experience which still intrigues me. It also very probably saved this tour from being a disaster. It most certainly delivered me to the intended destination of the day, 110 km from my starting point.
After the top of the valley, and waking up again, I pitched my tent at the end of the descent, just 5 km away from Straumsbotn and the west coast of Senja. The landscape was very nice and I found a superb campsite where I pitched up my tent. I slept well that night.

There was some rain in the air in the morning, but I continued out the undulating road towards the small bridge at Straumsbotn. The road between Straumsbotn via Hamn to Ballesvika is one of the funniest and most spectacular roads I have ever done. It was at that point the most spectacular road I had ever done and my jaw dropped down to the road. That alone was worthy the whole tour. The road was pretty flat and down at the sea at the Atlantic Ocean. On the left side, there was some spectacular mountains. The road had a lot of blind turns too and it was a blast on a push-bike. Unfortunate, it was too short. I stopped over at Hamn for some food before I went in to Ballesvika and the first of the four pretty dreary mountain climbs of the day. All the mountains was around 200 meters above sea level and the climbs started from sea level. There was some rain in the air too and I was not that pleased. The first climb took me over to Gryllefjorden and a spectacular view over his fjord and the small village of Gryllefjord.

Looking towards Gryllefjord.

The fjord was very narrow and surrounded by vertical rock-faces. Gryllefjord at the end of the fjord is very special.

I almost lost control of the bike on the descent down to the sea and that scared me a lot. It still does, 20 years later. An accident here and I would had gone over the edge and 200 vertically down to the fjord and a certain death. Anyway, the road descended down to the fjord and followed this fjord for a few km round to the very scenic village of Gryllefjorden. Back in 1989, there was no ferry to Andoya from Gryllefjorden so the place was a bit forlorn, though scenic. I enjoyed a bottle of lemonade before I climbed the steep hill over to Torsken.

Torsken, the end of the road.

Torsken has a nice name and probably a nice church too. Besides of that, it was a disappointment. I thought Gryllefjorden was far prettier. This was the end point of my journey and I soon headed up the hill again towards Gryllefjorden again. It was starting to rain quite heavy too and the descent down to Gryllefjorden was a bit hairy. The run around Gryllefjorden and the climb up the mountain over to Ballesvika was a bit unpleasant due to the rain. The run down again to Ballesvika was hairy due to side-wind from the west. The tour over Hamn back to Straumsbotn was dominated by some heavy rain and not nice. I therefore pitched up a tent near the bridge and decided to do some fishing. Then a seal popped up and that was the end of my fishing adventure. The rain ended and I decided to visit the local village of Straumsbotn. This was a previous ferry port. The ferry had ceased it's services some years before and it had left a ghost town. There was nothing there but some angry seagulls. They did not like my presence at all and pelted me with droppings and stones. I was zig-zagging back to my tent under during these hostilities.

The sun arrived the day after and I was leaving early on the 150 km back to Setermoen. The climb up to the valley was done pretty quickly and I got a nice descent down the other side.

The inland of Senja and a total contrast to Gryllefjord, 50 km away.

The typical inland landscape was a total contrast to the wild west coast of Senja. I quickly figured out why they call Senja the Norway in miniature. The landscape was pretty and I really enjoyed it. I was soon at the bridge over to Finnsnes again and I left Senja in the knowledge that this deserve it's reputation as one of the prettiest islands in Norway.
I stopped in Finnsnes for some minutes before I took the road towards Finnfjordeidet and some nice inland cycling along a lake and some fields. The road was dead flat up the Malangen river valley to Olsborg. The road to Bardufoss was rising along the valley past Bardufoss and to Setermoen again.

A fine tour and an adventure was at an end. I loved that tour and I have fond memories from it. I will remember Senja and Gryllefjord to the end of my life. I will probably never ever see those places again. Which is sad. But I have only got one life and no money.

This tour is highly recommended.