Travels to the end of the world (Sofia – Nordkapp)

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Let the compass mark the North

There is a place where time flies so slow that the year is in fact just one day and night, and this place is not in a parallel universe, but here on the Earth. One only needs to go North and keep his faith. Is there any better paradise resort for two unhurried snails? Once absolutely convinced that there is a country where the sun stubbornly rejects to set for months and afterwards, exhausted by its heroic effort, gives place to a snowy night that reigns for similar amount of time, we don’t waste any second and run to the shop to buy a compass. Afterwards it is easy, we just have to follow the red arrow, we don’t need anything else. We decide that even a tent is not a priority. At the end of the day we are heading towards a place where there is gonna be no night so pillows, blankets, tents and accessories of the kind are not needed….A hectic preparation ensues. It is the beginning of the summer and we are determined to get as fast as possible to our dreamed snail resort. A quick raid to Bitaka market (the first open-air mall of Sofia) a land of wonders and infinite opportunities, proves to be a shrewd move and we get everything that we need in just a few hours. Who seeks will find! This amazing place run by city-dwelling gold diggers is a real demonstration that the word ‘rubbish’ is not derogative and the rubbish does have a value, as we came to know a few months later, more than we could imagine. However, we do hope that more people will re-consider concepts as ‘litter’ and ‘excess’ and will think twice before throwing things away just for the sake of satisfying the monstrous thirst of that extorting omnipresent villain ‘consumerism’.

After 7 days we sleep beyond the sunset
Sleeping beyond the Artic circle

Once perceivably fully-equipped, we find ourselves at the exit of Sofia where a wave of early hitch-hikers inhabits this otherwise desolate place and kingdom of plastic bags flying over thorny fields. Few minutes later and we are at the back of our first car and do not have even the slightest idea that for eight days we are going to virtually sleep and eat on four wheels before eventually reaching Lapland and the territories north of the Arctic circle.These eight days were colorfully intense and exhausting, but a main ingredient of our adventure. For a few hours in a car with a stranger one realises that ‘boredom’ is a relative concept unable to take root in the hitchhiking soil.  People often don’t just want to share their cars, but also their houses and certainly their stories. The stories are not always trustworthy, but when hosted in a vehicle and set on a several thousand km hitchhiking trip with a budget of 10 Euro a day one knows that the border between true and false is blurred. Raymond is a Terminator of unknown ethnicity (throughout the long way from Riga to Tallinn he deliberately overloads us with contradictory information – he is Belorussian, then Latvian, afterwards Russian and eventually Estonian, leaving us unable to sort the equation) who has a metal skull, but no scars on the face, since his broken bones were sucked out his right eye and afterwards the transplants put back through the same place. And Pesho from Pali Lula (Burned Pipe), a cargo driver, has myriad of properties all across the globe, hundreds of exotic lovers, escaped from the jail in Teheran and has a magic house that is cool in the hot summer and warm in the freezing winter, because he veneered it with a special stone.

Silence in Lapland

On the road the cars are like mushrooms after a rainy autumn day – abundant. There inevitably must be a few bad ones somewhere out there, but the trip is usually good and after more than 168 hours – somewhat intense. Finally we reach a place that is exempt from the laws of physics, where the speed of light is approximately 120km per hour. Behind us the sky is violet with a pale moon, ahead orange, crimson and sunny. We stare at the sunset through the front window and it lasts for six hours, eventually becoming sunrise. A pack of rain deers greet us blocking the road at the imaginary line where the Arctic circle lies.

The midnight sun
Last day of the midnight sun. July 2011.

The magic of the midnight sun exceeds our expectations. Beyond the tranquility of the rainy Finish taiga, we continue walking North through the tundra, bathing into freezing lakes and rivers underneath awhite sun, determined to get to the end of Europe. In this land of lemmings, mooses, rain deers and wolverines, the only real threat is posed by a ferocious predator lurking for prey of any size – the mighty mosquito…We lose a lot of blood, but at the end,extremely exhausted we manage – Knivskjelloden! We are at the northern edge of our world. In front there is a grumpy, hostile and treacherous big water, that crashes persistently into the lonely bastion rock of Nordkapp, that we can barely see 1500 m south of us, and splitters into thousands of little foamy drops reaching high towards the top. It is four in the morning. The beautiful, fluffy cloud that came from the horizon is gray from the inside and definitely not so adorable. Cold, brisk wind blows from the sea and howls inside the empty beacon next to us. The mist gets thicker, its starts raining and the peacefully grazing rain deers disappear. Since Knivskjelloden can be reached only by foot and the walk takes a few hours down the mountains to the shores of the Arctic Ocean, returning to the desolate road on the top is not an option. The situation looks desperate. By means of the sky the sea will get hold of us on the ground and there is no escape… Suddenly we spot a brown hare that jumps behind the corner. We cannot believe our luck. A landslide of rocks from the surrounding hills has formed a natural shelter. It is quite uneven, but we are not picky. In our little den, the rain feels friendlier and brings sleep. We have not had a chance to realise how tired our bodies are. Through a little ‘window’ in front the strange leaves of a plant reveal the strength and direction of the wind. The last thing we saw that day were the waters of the Ocean that ventured to the North Pole of our planet.

Reindeers in Norway
Reindeers in Norway

48 hours later we woke up and stiff walked out of our super water-proof stony shelter. The clouds were gone, but only for a little while – we were heading to England. What followed on the way south were mountains, sea, fjords and sun. An incredibly beautiful goodbye.

Tripline – a cartographied version of this travel

Travels end world 2
North cape after the long storm.
HITCHTAKERS. This travel was possible thanks to: the waiting couple, a fast guy, Pesho from Pali Lula, a Romanian family, Gabi, a butcher, Mario and Luigi, an angel lady, Michael (the TIR from Zakopanie), Jesus, a friendly truckdriver, Gregory and Anna, a guy in a Jeep, somebody with Russian strada, Karol, Risp the Latvian, Laurinas and his friend, Zhigis and his beautiful family, a serious man, a cool guy, Raymond, a finnish couple, 2 workers, an exhibition builder, the informer, a young rocker going to a festival, somebody we wish “everything good to you”, Jesus, a photographer, a church assistant, Johanni, one man, a truck driver, three party men,  ARCTIC SERVICES, a Norwegian girl, a lady, Edmund, a friendly reggae nurse, a Spanish couple, a white caravan, Rondi, a cool girl, the Icelanders, one Icelander, Obladi, Hugo – the nurse, a guy, a special man, 2 brothers, the “national” girl, a hard-to-convince couple, a friendly lithuanian worker, the icecream guy, the friend of Mariana, 2 girls, a Polish builder, the Icelandic horses rider, a yatch traveller, a family on their way to buying a guitar, an Iraki doctor, a young guy out of his way (and out of ours), a father and his son and, finally, Daniel from Stockholm. Thank you!
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Boris, Marta and Burma roam the world at a speed of a snail. Two humans and one cat that found their way to India overland.

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