QUIN adventurer, Declan McEvoy has successfully lead four co-riders on a Scandinavian odyssey, covering close to 6,000 kilometres over three weeks.
After a solo polar adventure at the start of this year, Declan returned, this month, to Norkdapp in Northern Norway to recover the faithful motorbike that took him there. This time, he was accompanied by his wife, Jacinta and their friends Dave Barry and PJ and Hazel O’Gorman, all from Quin. Declan is no stranger to extreme conditions and arduous challenges, having biked up the west coast of Africa and, previously, set a new Guinness World Record for riding the length of a frozen Lake Baikal. His most recent voyage marked another first as he guided a group of relative novices on a journey from high above the Arctic Circle, at the most northerly point of the European continent, through seven countries in snow, rain and baking sun.
In contrast to his winter journey, which involved camping out in temperatures of minus 20 degrees, Declan and the team found themselves in warmer conditions and even experiencing 24 hours of sunshine for part of their voyage.
In advance of the trek, Declan shipped four other motorcycles from Ireland to Norway. As always, he was blown away by the kindness of strangers. He recounted how a chance meeting on his previous trip to the northerly-most point on the European continent had resulted in a generous offer of accommodation – one that he gladly availed of on this trip.
“My mid-winter Arctic expedition had ended in the town of Alta, where I pulled into a filling station to warm myself up with a coffee,” Declan said. “I had rode 250km in sub-zero temperatures and mostly under the cover of darkness. I badly needed heating up. As I dragged myself down off the bike, a random person curiously approached me. He was amazed that someone would be on a motorbike in such extreme conditions but then the Irish plate amazed him even more. We got to chatting and the long and short was that he offered me a bed for the night. However, I already had accommodation so instead I suggest we meet for a beer the next day and meet we did. Interesting chap, he had sailed single-handedly around the North Pole. We engaged each other with worldly talks and later parted our ways.” A couple of weeks before his return, Declan had texted to suggest meeting for another few beers. “He told me that he won’t be home but that he’d make up five beds in his home for us, and leave the key, out and we could stay as many nights as we need.” With one kind turn deserving another, Declan added: “I’ve assured him that equally he would always have a bed should he ever find himself on the west coast of Ireland. It’s how life should be.”
Despite the summer season, Declan and company encountered snow showers and temperatures as low as two degrees en route to Nordkapp. Mission accomplished, the team then set out on their return journey to Ireland, a mere 5,500km. Exploring the stunning scenery, the team found themselves “ferry hopping” through Norway’s northern islands. “There are so many mountains and the Norwegians don’t believe in going over or around a mountain, they prefer to go straight through them, so tunnels abound some very short and one in particular at 24km is the longest road tunnel in the world,” Declan said. “We made our way down through the Lofoten Islands. Tunnels, bridges and ferries link the islands all with stunning scenery and we had the weather too.”
The odyssey also involved catching up with contacts forged on previous trips. These proved invaluable when one bike needed a change of tyres. “I badly judged the rate of tyre wear on one of the bikes,” Declan said. “I thought it would make it back to Ireland but apparently its tyres are soft-compounded rubber and we barely made it to Trondheim.” A friendship forged in Africa provided a solution. “In Senegal last year I met with some crazy Lithuanians,” he explained. “We became good friends and maintained contact. They live in Norway so guess who got us tyres and fitted the them as well and put all five of us up for the next night? Fair play to Mindaugas and Gitana. And the next night, 300km further south, was spent with Tomas, anothet of the crazy Lithuanians. We were fed and watered very well in both homes. Isn’t humanity great?”
The five then took in the famous Gieranger Fjord, navigating the hairpin bends of Norways famous Trollstigen mountain pass, before travelling on to Oslo.
As someone used to roughing it, Declan found Norway a little restrictive, as well as expensive. “We’re lucky to have five nights in the homes of various contacts, otherwise we camped a number of nights and we bit the bullet on other nights, necessitating the need to remortgage our homes to pay for a hotel bed,” he said. With strict speed controls as well as parking restrictions, Declan concluded, that, “Whilst it’s a stunningly beautiful country it’s just too ordered a society for me”. After crossing the spectacular Öresund Bridge from Sweden, the group began what Declan called a “mile munching mission mopping up over 2,000km”. That saw them traverse Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and France in order to catch a ferry from Cherbourg.
Back on Irish soil, Declan was characteristically philosophical about his latest expedition and curious to know if his taste for adventure had rubbed off on the others.
“Fair play to them all for putting up with me,” he remarked. “I’m not the most patient person and I’ve got my own ways of travelling and living on the road. But we didn’t kill each other and there was no ‘day-three’ syndrome, in fact we all got on very well and supported each other… I’m not sure what’s next for this crew. Maybe I whetted their appetite, maybe I burned them out. Time will tell.”
As for Declan, he is already contemplating his next adventure. The destination is still unknown, but he can reveal that it will require plenty of “solo and extreme cold planning”.