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Off The Beaten Track: Midnight Sun| Shell US
Motoring journalist Angus Frazer took on nature at its wildest and drove 1,000 miles to Europe’s most northerly tip, where the sun never sets and the road goes to the world’s end.
Even though the hour is late, no pools of darkness gather in the ditches at the side of the road. In the sky the sun still shines. It floods the vast landscape and the endless road with such strange light when, at this midnight hour, all should be in darkness.
I’m heading to the place they call the world’s end. Nordkapp, or the North Cape, is the most northerly point of Europe that you can drive to. It lies at a latitude of 71°10’21” N on the island of Magerøya off Norway’s northern coast, some 1,093 miles by road from Stockholm, where I began my journey. Up here, between the 14th of May and the 29th of July, the sun doesn’t set.
Around me lies some of the emptiest, loneliest terrain I have ever seen. Sometimes it seems to squeeze right in on top of us, massive walls of rock towering high above. At other times the land retreats into almost nothing at all, great voids of faded scrubland stretching off in all directions without a tree in sight.
No matter how many miles slide by on the odometer, nor how many hours and minutes tick past, the sun refuses to set. Keep the sun on the left, keep your foot on the gas, and keep following the satnav north. Those have been the rules for two days now and still the journey continues, the scenery growing ever wilder, the road ever more remote with every hill crested.
There have been some wondrous sights to see through Scandinavia. Everywhere, everyone has been out enjoying the summer sun, making the most of it before time slips through their fingers, the light begins to dim and the first chills of autumn are felt.
But I’ve done enough for tonight and I’d be wise to stop in the town of Alta. Beyond it, the map shows a great deal of nothing. It’s late, but there’s still food on the menu – as long as you like reindeer steaks.
Morning comes. To say it dawns is not quite right, as the light never went away in the first place. By the time Magerøya falls into view, it’s almost lunchtime. My crossing to the island is not as romantic as it would have been a few years ago, because in 1999 a 4.2-mile undersea tunnel replaced the car ferry.
ON TOP OF THE WORLD
I head straight to the main tourist attraction at the end of Europe’s most northerly road. At Nordkapp I promenade around for a bit by the railings that stop visitors tumbling off the edge of the world. I take in the air and stare at the endless ocean.
I take advantage of the endless day, driving the island’s near-deserted roads until well after midnight. It’s a surreal pleasure to be moving across this strange, lonely, landscape at this hour in total daylight.
The next morning I stop off at the picturesque church in the capital of Honningsvåg, after which there’s just one more place to visit before I return – what must be one of the world’s most northerly fuel stations. As I fill the tank, the satellite navigation locates me at a latitude of 70° 59’ 6” N.
There’s no highway to carry me back to Stockholm, just a long, challenging road. Sure, it’s a long way back, but if I keep the midnight sun on my right and my foot on the gas, I’ll do just fine.