“It has only just begun, later you will fly free like birds”, says Frenchman Eric Courly, the organiser of Honda’s mammoth #AdventureRoads tour from Oslo to Nordkapp, the most Northerly point of Europe, and some 3570km away from our start in the cosmopolitan city of Oslo.
That’s exactly where myself and 39 other riders, plus back-up crew technicians, doctors, and route guides are heading. But this is only day one, some 550km or so, and we have just ridden the stunning Beitostolen Pass, a sweeping mass of hairpins on the way through the Jotunheimen National Park to our lunch stop.
It’s the first-time Honda has ever run an event as big as this, and we are the guinea pigs for what will later be offered as a regular tour.
We’re a rag tag mix of journalists (only two from the UK – myself and MCN’s Deputy Editor Richard Newland), bloggers, and a few random celebrities you’ve never heard of, plus Monster Energy Honda Team factory rally rider Paulo Goncalves – runner-up in the 2015 Dakar.
The morning has been all about briefings, riding in formation with 39 other riders, and making sure we fully understand the consequences of the speeding fines here. A rider who recced the route was fined 500 Euros for being just 12kmh over the 80kmh speed limit. That’s a 49mph limit to us, or 100kmh/62mph limit on the motorways.
The Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin DCT that I have is fully laden with a touring pack including panniers, crash bars, a taller screen and spot lights, plus I’ve fitted some Spada luggage, and the 28kg of kit that I flew over with yesterday for the start of our trip.
It’s a lot of kit to carry, but it’s coping well with plenty of bungee hooks and a good size top box to stow away cameras and laptop.
Like all the bikes on this Adventure Roads tour, my bike is fitted with the touring pack but is otherwise standard, except for the addition of a navigation road book system similar to the ones used by Dakar riders, called Tripy, a back-up Tom Tom for use in emergencies, and a sat phone tracker that lets the organisers know where we are, and can also be used as an SOS beacon in an emergency.
It’s windy as hell as we head off free as birds in convoy past landscapes that look like Switzerland, before heading towards snow-capped mountains in the distance.
The DCT Africa Twin chugs along and at this pace, it’s comfortable, friendly to ride and completely at home, the rain being kept of my Alpinestars gloves by the handguards.
The scenery becomes more aggressive with granite cliffs running alongside aqua marine lakes and what looks like a snow cloud in the distance. MCN’s Richard and I stop, he changes into a winter glove just before the temperature plummets from 10 degrees down to 7 degrees and we ride into the snow storm.
Backing off, with roads so shiny you can see your reflection of the bike in front in them, and snow completely covering the sides of the road and the screen of the Africa Twins, we make our way carefully along the Trollstigen Pass with white clouds enveloping our view, until we spot our Dakar riding friend, Goncalves at a café up some 1500 metres high on the route, hiding from the snow. If he’s taking a break, so can we.
We clean our visors, then head down to Geiranger out of the worst of the weather, dodging coach drivers intent on scraping their buses on the verges, using the + and – buttons on the Africa Twin’s push button dual clutch gearbox to get some engine braking on the 8% decline into Geiranger for the one hour ferry along the fjord to Hellesylt, popping on the over run as we descend.
The bikes are heavily loaded with luggage, it’s wet, and they need careful navigating down the greasy, tricky pass. You can smell clutch and brake pads cooking from the other vehicles, but not our Hondas.
The ferry is packed full of Africa Twins and Nordkapp support crew as we pass spectacular waterfalls and forgotten farms high in the cliff tops. It’s quite a site – the cliffs, and the fleet of not so gleaming Honda’s after 400km of mixed weather on day one.
With a last fuel stop (we routinely fill the bikes around 220km just to be sure as petrol stations are few and far between here) the landscape changes again, the smell of the Atlantic Ocean takes over from the overwhelming smell of pine earlier this morning, and we’re here, the west coast of Norway in a town called Fosnavag. Some 13.5 hours after we left this morning we’re ready for a beer, write this blog then bed. Tomorrow we head further North, ready for day two the long, long road to the iconic destination of Nordkapp.
Tomorrow will be around 9 hours and 40 minutes riding, and 463km to Trondheim.
And what better way to start the day again tomorrow than on the capable Africa Twin, that’s mine for the next seven days.