Location: Alta, Norway
Miles covered: 2710
For two days I gathered what I spotted and in each town would produce the fruits of my labour to cash-in on the country's wealth of wanton waste. Each time I stooped to collect a can I would chuckle as I pictured sepia footage of myself appearing on an Oxfam advert while a gravelly voice informs in a grave tone with a faintly northern accent "each day Charlie must collect so many cans and plastic bottles to afford the food he eats in his home made of plastic sheets. For just two pounds a month you could do something amazing..."
At the end of those two days I had made almost 200 krona (£18) which is more than I spend on food in four days. I was pleased to have stumbled upon, thanks to thumbless Derek, an alternative method of living off the land, albeit a liberally litter-strewn land. I should add that the rubbish is confined only to the roadside and the rest of the country is blissfully unspoiled. Also, for those friends and family currently wondering whether I've resorted to this vague form of vagabondage indefinitely, I stopped after two days as the stop-start cycling became tedious.
One day I met a German travel writer also on a bike. Kristen invited me to join him on a pike fishing excursion with a local man that evening. Jan-Erik was drunk when we arrived at his house. He swayed where he stood and his heavy eyelids drooped. Beers in hand, we boarded his little boat and motored into the middle of a wide and fast-flowing river. Our host told us he fished each evening to escape. He enjoyed the quiet and the natural beauty of the place. However, he never cut the coughing Yamaha motor and nonchalantly tossed his empty beer can into the water.
I spent a day crossing Finland's finger which points north-west, wedged between Norway and Sweden. From here northwards, the mid-summer insects worsen. Day and night, it is impossible to stand still for three seconds without being swarmed by a tirelessly tenacious multitude of mosquitos. These pests are large, determined and ridicule repellent. I've found the only way to excape them is to keep moving so my bicycle has become a refuge. At night I attempt to keep calm while erecting my tent but this always proves futile when they start biting through my clothes and creeping up my nostrils. I momentarily unzip the tent to throw in my kit followed by myself and then set about my first task - the systematic mass-murder of the forty or so that scrambled in with me. When I undress it is always to find a few intrepid explorers bloated on my blood and squashed against my skin. I sleep blindfolded as, although I'm a couple of weeks too late for the midnight sun, due to refraction of the sun just below the horizon it never gets dark and is light enough to easily read in my tent throughout the night.
On my first day in Norway I stopped at a petrol station and encountered a four-car convoy of Israeli feminists. They proudly, if a little scornfully, informed me that they had driven their 4x4s around Scandanavia for a whole seven days without the help of men. Moments later, as they were leaving I laughed inwardly while helping to give a push start to one of their cars. I was not noticed until after the engine spluttered into life and I was already mounting my bike and rolling away down the hill.
I now push on for the nothernmost point in Europe, Nordkapp, and hope to reach it in a couple of days.