From the North Cape of Norway to Cape Town of South Africa: Diary (Day 1 to 25) and Photos from Days 19 to 25

If you missed this undertaking that began on September 8th, 2019, Jonas Deichmann is attempting to break a world record; riding 18,000km from the Arctic to Cape Town. He is accompanied by the photographer and long-distance driver Philipp Hympendahl. There will be many mixed-surface roads along the way. You can read more about Jonas’ adventure at this link.

Additionally, you can view photos from Days 6 to 18 at this link. There are a ton of photos further down this article. All photos by Philipp Hympendahl or Jonas Dichmann.

The Diary

Day 1:
A incredible start at Cape North. A perfect sky and not a single Person as we checked the arrival times of the Tourist buses before. A bit of delay due to last minute issues so we set of at 9.45 am. The route went spectacularly along the Arctic Ocean with lots of hills and headwind. Only 186 km but a wonderful day on the bike.
Day 2:
We set off before 6am and turn away from the coast. Reindeers constantly cross the road and we try for a long time to get a nice picture with them. The road now leads through complete wilderness. Endless forests, lakes and rivers and very few people. Before lunch we reach the border with Finland and immediately feel that the Finnish build roads a bit differently. They don’t build curves but instead straight across the hills. Slow Progress but beautiful wilderness. At night we find a river and make a campfire on the beach

Day 3:
The headwind continues as we are riding through endless hills. We are surprised by the t-shirt weather which make the wind more bearable. We both feel very strong and take turns in the wind. In the evening we cross the Arctic circle and reach Rovaniemi, the only proper City in the North of Finland. 290 km against the Wind, feels good to be on track.

Day 4:
A late start at 8am as we have been super tired after the late arrival the day before. We say goodbye to our filmmaker Pål who had been with us the first three days. At noon we turn off the main road to take a shortcut. I had looked at all Finish roads on maps before to ensure they are paved but after 10 km it turns into gravel. Slower progress but a beautiful road through forest and lakes. Due to the slow going we miss the closing time of the supermarket and arrive at 10pm in a small village. We cannot find anything open but at the small hospital the night shift nurse invites us to the canteen and brings some bread. Such nice hospitality. Next to the hospital we find a verandah attached to a warehouse building and sleep there.

Day 5:
A very early start and 60 km without breakfast to the next City. After breakfast it starts raining heavily with strong headwind. We push for a few hours until we find a gas Station. Philipp is suffering from the conditions and needs to get warm. We continue into the rain for another 60 km to the small town of Juuka where we find a roof in front of a shop and sleep under it. It’s 290 km to Russia now and we are hoping for better conditions tomorrow to make a push to Svetogorsk.

Day 6:
We start at 6am into a cold and rainy morning. Quickly the road turns into gravel and makes progress slower. We have now reached the Finish lake district and there is one big lake after another. In the afternoon the wind finally turns and we have the first tailwind since Cape North. We continue pushing into the dark to get into Russia and reach the border at 10pm. Luckily the border crossing is fast and directly behind we find a decent hotel in the industrial town of Svetogorsk. 298 km in over 12 hours on the bike.

Day 7:
A late start at 7:30 since we are tried from the late arrival and don’t want to miss the hotel breakfast. The first 40 km go along a small road with one road construction after another. Constant stop and go and gravel. However, once we reach the main road we get perfect conditions. Smooth tarmac, sunny 15 degrees and a strong tailwind that pushes us with 40 kmh winds towards St. Petersburg. I was concerned about the city crossing but it turns out to be super easy. Careful drivers, smooth roads and good cycling passes. This is definitely different from the cities I know from crossing Siberia two years ago. On the way out of St. Petersburg, we quickly stop at the office of my Tool sponsor, the Hoffmann Group. They have prepared a great reception and 20 people came on a Saturday evening. Thanks! We still continue riding another 60 km and stop at a hotel. Looking for food we get dragged into a birthday party. Russians really now how to celebrate but after an hour we say goodbye to get some much needed sleep.

Day 8:
Terrible day on the bike. Constant heavy rain, headwind and cold along Russia ’s busiest highway. We followed the road to Moscow as there simply is no alternative. Trucks and cars pass as constantly at close distance and high speed. The noise and constant tension due to the danger are mentally tough. After 200 km we take an early stop in a hotel as the risk of getting sick is very high. Now we are 450 km from Moscow, looking forward to quieter and warmer times.

Day 9:
The terrible conditions from yesterday continue but at least a tailwind. I feel a bit sick after the cold from yesterday and Philipp has been suffering for the past week. We push hard till noon before stopping for lunch and a quick break to get warm. It feels good to be off the road for a few minutes as the constant traffic is tough to take. A lot of people have asked me before the journey if I am afraid of the post war countries we are riding through and I always had answered that Russian highways are my biggest concern. So far I was right. In the heavy rain we push into the dark and find a quiet hotel – in a good distance to make it across Moscow tomorrow.

Day 10:
We start into Moscow in heavy rain. The six lane highway has only 30cm of shoulder and the trucks pass at full speed. At noon the side mirror of a truck hits my shoulder. I am unharmed but its hard to focus when you escaped by just a few cm. In the city, Dennis, a local cyclist meets us and guides us along the best lanes on the 10 lane speedways towards Red Square. We stop at Kremlin for a few pictures and at a bike shop for maintenance as Philipp’s derailleur had some issues and then ride out of the city at night. In the outskirts we stop at Burger King and find a hotel.

Day 11:
We set off on the 10 lane ring road out of Moscow. After 10km we turn onto the highway towards the Black sea and traffic immediately lightens. There is a wide shoulder and smooth tarmac, the best condition we’ve had since Finland. We average 35 km/h until we reach a crossing at noon and turn towards Volgograd. The road is narrow with no shoulder and heavy trucks passing at full speed. We wanted to stay on this road for 900 km but after 20 km we decide that it is too dangerous and turn back to the Black Sea Highway. We will now follow that route to Rostov and then merge our old route again in Chechnya. We continue along the highway in heavy rain until we find a roadside Motel at night.

Day 12:
We set off at sunrise for another long day on the shoulder of a high speed highway. We face strong crosswind and hills all morning until the road turns a bit east and Wind gets better. There are metal parts and dirt from trucks in the shoulder that get into the drive train and tyres. At lunch I remove three wires out of my tires that my tubeless sealant miraculously sealed… and Philipp drops his phone during a little repair that we hope can be fixed tomorrow. In the afternoon heavy rain starts again for the fifty day running. I can barely remember how it feels to ride with dry shoes. In the evening we approach Voronezh, a big industrial town. We had planned to sleep there but traffic gets very bad and we decide it’s not wise to ride in at night. Struggling to keep up our speed in these conditions… four more days and we will finally be out of Russia.

Day 13:
In the morning we ride into Voronezh to get Philipp’s phone fixed and some bike maintenance. Its a large industrial town and we lose plenty of time. At 1pm we are finally back on the highway and push non-stop until we reach Pavlov at last light. We still feel strong and would have easily pushed further but it’s too dangerous. 1,000 km remain before we are out of Russia and up to speed.

Day 14:
We set off at 4am and a freezing three degrees Celcius. We know that tomorrow very strong winds from the Black sea are heading in our direction and want to get south before they arrive. We ride fast on the smooth shoulder and take a minimum of stops. At noon we already had 200 km covered in perfect cycling conditions when heavy rain starts. Traffic has become less and the ride is relatively safe but we decide against night riding. In the final light of day, we find a Motel after 314 km traveled.

Day 15:
We start at 4am and push hard until we reach the turning point to the East. Shortly after, the wind blows with such force from the side that we are very happy to have made the push. We would have been fighting the wind all day. The crosswinds are no blessing either as we struggle to control the bike in the empty landscape. The road is now much quieter, and the first time we can somehow enjoy Russia a little bit.

Day 16:
A big change today as the landscape transforms into rolling hills and the people too seem different. The wind is again a punishing crosswind but we ride non-stop until we reach the bigger city of Stavropol after 160 km of riding. Soon after we turn back onto a highway with no shoulder and it gets dark. Luckily we find a restaurant where the owner lets us sleep on the floor. Sleep is bad as some drunken guests scream all night and even wake us up to invite us for some vodka. At least their intentions were good.

Day 17:
Due to a horrible sleep, we are very tired when setting off. It’s already warm at 5am and we feel that we are in a different climate. All day we notice the conflict in this part of the world. Military, police controls and checkpoints at regular intervals but they have no interest in us. After lunch we take a quick power nap. Philipp slept even less last night and is having a tough day. In the afternoon it gets hilly as we are riding towards the snow topped mountains. Cannot wait for some proper climbing tomorrow.

Day 18:
Hello Georgia. Heavy climbing today as we crossed the Caucasus. Loved every pedal stroke through this beautiful mountain landscape.

Day 19:
We ride through Georgia’s wine region on a flat road with high mountains on both side. The weather is perfect with a tailwind and we make fast progress. At noon we reach the border to Azerbaijan. It’s our First Islamic country and immediately get to know the hospitality. People in villages and next to the road smile and wave to us. We get invitations we politely have to decline due to our lack of available time. After 270 km we reach a small restaurant and the owner let us sleep Inside.

North Cape of Norway to Cape Town of South Africa 2019

Day 20:
After setting off in the dark we stop at a gas station for breakfast. The owner brought out fresh bread, butter, cheese and jam. He is very excited to see some foreigners and even comes again with eggs and more jam from his grandma. Such great hospitality here. We make good progress but at noon both struggle with the heat. After 200 km there comes a big construction side that goes on for 50 km. We expected to reach Bilasuvar at 5pm but arrive at night, progress is so slow. Hoping for better roads in Iran.

North Cape of Norway to Cape Town of South Africa 2019

Day 21:
We start early and arrive at the border before noon. Unfortunately, the border is completely empty on the Azerbaijan side and the guard is sleeping. When someone finally takes care of us they are in no hurry at all. On the Iranian side its completely different. Two big lines as men and women are separated and we have no idea where all these people came from. Everything is checked and we get finally through. We push hard but only make 200 km when it gets dark and heavy rain starts. Hope to make up tomorrow.

Day 22:
Terrible day for our record quest. Heavy rain in the morning and we reach the city of Rasht at noon. Here we need to get money, sim card and a bike repair. Credit cards don’t work in Iran so we look to exchange dollars on the black market but as no one speaks English it takes some time… a similar experience with the sim card. Later at the bike shop, the mechanic heads for lunch halfway through the repair. This is not the best place to be in a hurry. Back on our bikes we take the main road towards Tehran until we find a place at night after only 175 km. Our flights from Shiras to Cairo are booked for next Friday, we need to make haste for the desert crossing that lay in our future.

Day 23:
We set off at 4am to make up for the time loss. When the sun rises we are surprised that we are in the desert. Yesterday evening everything was green and now it is rocks, sand and high mountains. The road climbs for 80 km through a valley until we reach the pass. After a short descent we reach the high plateau we will be on for the next day. Its a gorgeous desert landscape, heat and a strong tailwind. We push until late at night and stop after 320 km at a restaurant. Luckily the owner lets us sleep in a side building.

Day 24:
From the start we slowly climb 1,000 meters of vertical gain. The climbs here are very gentle but long. When the heat comes we stop for food and the owner gives us a watermelon as present. People here are very nice. At noon the sun picks up and makes the climbing unpleasant. Philipp is struggling again, hopefully he can find new energy on the transfer day to Egypt. Once over the pass we descend urgently for almost 100 km with a strong tailwind. We barely pedal and average 50 km/h. In the evening we get into Iran’s second biggest city, Isfahan. 250 km today but feels like a rest day. The weather forecast looks equally good and I am a bit sad that our flights from Shiraz leave on Friday. It would be possible to be arrive earlier but instead we will enjoy two easy days.

North Cape of Norway to Cape Town of South Africa 2019

Day 25:
Before riding out of Isfahan we stop at a hospital as Philipp wanted a treatment of his saddle sore. It’s painful but possible to ride. We set off a bit late into the beautiful desert. There are big mountains on both sides while the road runs flat in between. In the afternoon a sandstorm hits us and it is hard to balance the bike. We are happy when the road turns and the wind comes from behind.

North Cape of Norway to Cape Town of South Africa 2019

Photos from Day 19 to 25

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