Lets go for it! Pulling our kayaks from the van we lifted them to the water. It was 10.30pm.
Seumas and I arrived into Nordkapp late after an entire day driving. It had been a week since leaving Scotland but at last we were here, there was no further place left in Europe to drive. Before rounding Nordkapp I was determined to get as much information on tides and local conditions as possible for we knew nothing. Driving into Skarsvåg; Europe’s northern most town we arrived at a small centre signed as ‘The North Cape Experience.’
Un-wittingly we had hit the jackpot of information we sought. The owners Jonathan and Elisabeth were not only welcoming but gave us a tonne of knowledge. ‘Hey, the weathers good now? Why don’t you go out for a paddle?’ Jonathan said matter of factly, laughing for a second as it was so late we then remembered there was no night here, we could go paddling.
And so with horned helmets on we set off into the midnight sun to explore Europe’s northern coast.
A long gentle swell rolled into the bays from the open ocean ahead of our bows. In the late evening the light was low and soft on the ragged cliffs at our side. It felt wonderful to be back in the boats together in spontaneous exploration.
Before long we had escaped the narrow fjord leading to town and there appearing ahead was Nordkapp. Capped in cloud the imposing walls of the peninsula struck out against the sea defiant against a millennia of rough water and wind. The forecast was rough and so for the next few days we could scout and explore ashore before heading out in an attempt to round the headland.
Both of us had been forgetting we needed sleep for several days and with the excitement of being at sea once more I hadn’t noticed how tired we were. We should go back? Seumas called over the waves before I realised how late it was. It was close to 2am when we returned with long shadows of a never setting sun cast at our back dancing golden on the waves.
Jonathan took great interest in our journey around the north, he was one of those people who seems to burst with energy and motivation offering all sorts of help and even a lift by speedboat to land near the very tip. Once ashore we could walk to the large touristy centre at the top and scout our progress. He had been right, a stiff northern wind brought a rough chop to the sea, it was a good call to wait.
Climbing up from a small secluded bay we had soon risen to the tops of the cliffs. Far below we could see Jonathan’s rib disappear back toward Skarsvåg. Ducked against the wind and looking down to the waves we turned our paces north toward a distant building perched on the top.
Nordkapp itself is a rather touristy place. A large museum and centre stands before a fleet of tour busses and throngs of travellers. Beyond the imposing building a large iron globe marks the very edge of the cliff, a popular place to watch the non-setting sun. So far we had been lucky as these cliffs are more often than not shrouded in fog.
A little further along the coast is another peninsula: Knivskjellodden. This is the true northern point of the mainland, not Nordkapp- yet for most it is too inaccessible to reach. For Seamas and I it marked the last crucial headland before returning into the shelter of the fjords. Much to my relief the tides looked manageable even in the stiff wind.
Returning to town we spent the next few days exploring the local headlands and helping Jonathan to paint a fishing boat. We had struck up an unexpected friendship and spent much of our time relaxing in the North Cape Experience office. On our third day the weather window we were waiting for finally arrived.
As we set off toward the cliffs I was surprised to find I was nervous. Perhaps it was not knowing what to expect, or more likely it was my far less stable kayak than the plastic Scorpio I had become so used to but I paddled timidly behind Seumas. Soon enough however we were pushing against the wind with confident determination.
Loaded for a couple of day we hoped to camp beyond the headlands on a small sandy beach, our biggest unknown was whether the swell which dramatically broke on the rocks would allow us to land.
We didn’t stop to pause beneath the cliffs of Nordkapp, the wind was stiff and unrelenting forcing short steep waves against the tide we rode on. Over the spray we whooped in celebration, we had rounded the famous north cape at last. Once in the shelter of the many small inlets we slowed down to enjoy the dramatic walls at our side, in the cold grey air it seemed as barren and harsh as I could have ever imagined.
Knivskjellodden was easier to paddle around than it was to pronounce, although the tide brought steep waves they broke no more than a metre and a half which felt comfortable in compassion to the Patagonian ‘gnar.’ I could see why people chose Nordkapp of this point as behind us it stood tall and mighty where the true north was low and rocky in its wake.
Much to our delight the small sandy bay proved a perfectly sheltered landing. Chasing sea eagles which soared like flying ironing boards along the coast we dragged our boats ashore and settled on a place to camp. Soaked by the spray I was quickly freezing cold.
With the tents set Seumas and I spent hours exploring the driftwood on the shore searching through the treasures the sea had washed up. Neither of us had ever seen a beach quite like it which was buried almost in its entirety with weather logs washed from Siberia. Playing with our finds we made tables and a see-saw at camp to amuse us as evening grew closer.
Once changed and warmed up a little we decided to wander a little further and climb the small peak rising behind our tent. From there we lingered on the edge of the cliff watching sea birds soar on the wind and gazing south to archipelagos veiled in delicate curtains of rain. This was exactly the adventure we had hoped to find here, not too difficult but beautiful and rewarding.
Sitting in the door of our tent and watching waves crash on the shore we relished the warm glow of the sun as it crept out from below the clouds. Seumas broke out a few bottles of beer brought all the way from home for this moment. Sláinte. To Nordkapp, we cheered.