The north pole seems like the closest anyone can get to outer space. In the winter the stars are always out and the aurora fills the sky. In the summer the mid night sun takes over. However as much as the arctic feels like another world it is also a true representation of our planet: the landscape reaffirms our presence.
In late May of 2012 my girlfriend Ines and I decided to bike 500 kilometers across the northern archipelago of Norway, from Tromso to Lofoten. The day we departed we found ourselves in a full-blown snowstorm. We didn’t see very many people and a car might have passed us once an hour. The majority of the time we biked through the wilderness. Each night we would pitch our tent near the road and cook delicious steaming soups.
A Norwegian fjord is really the most recent example of a landscape after the ice age. The water in the fjord is black and cold. The mountains form formidable barriers of steep and sharp rock. As Ines and I biked along these fjords the only way out was through a tunnel or out to sea. The little land between the water and the mountains felt precious. In Norse mythology there is a great deal written about giants. The giants were always at war with the gods. The giants typically lived up in the north and were known as the frost giants. I thought about this as we biked. A rock in my hand looked really similar to a the cliff towering above me. The trees did not grow very high. Most of Norway has very little soil and so what grows takes a lot of patience and perseverance. Walking through these shrubs I could imagine I was walking through the forests back home. I would often lay on my stomach and look into these worlds. I understood how people felt like giants here. One of the lures of the arctic is that there are so few people. What is to stop you from thinking that you really are a giant if your all alone? If you run into some people and they ask you why your acting like a giant, well you just convince them they are giants too and go on with life.
I could not have thought of a better way to explore Norway. The bicycles gave us the chance to feel the arctic climate and forced us to sleep and eat outside.