Around 3.30pm we left the Sami capital Karasjok, in Northern Norway, for the 265 kilometre drive to Kirkenes across the Finnmárkkoduottar (Finnmark plateau) with an ETA of around 7 pm – arriving just in time for dinner.
We were anticipating a pleasant drive through a reasonably uninhabited and maybe a little lonely piece of road but nothing prepared us for the isolation we encountered.
I suppose we should have realised that as Karasjok had a population of only 3,000 inhabitants (but 60,000 reindeer) and was regarded as “the big smoke”, there was very little likelihood of hitting a settlement of any reasonable size before arriving in Kirkenes. However, it was quite a shock to see no signs of habitation whatsoever across the wide vistas of uninterrupted and rugged landscape. It felt like it was the loneliest, wildest place on earth.
We had been travelling for about an hour when we realised that we were getting low on fuel. Surely there would be a petrol station soon? We hadn’t seen one since we left Karaskov and the needle was nearly on empty.
As we drove the landscape became increasingly severe and forbidding. There was nothing but haunting rocky hills as far as the eye could see. We travelled on feeling very nervous as now the onboard computer told us we had only a few kilometres to go before we were completely out of fuel. What fools we felt!
Just to add to the drama it became foggy so the visibility was really poor. There was no phone connection. We had seen no other vehicles for what seemed like hours and then it rained! It was all very stressful as we had visions of getting marooned at the side of the road in these awful conditions with no prospect of getting rescued.
All of a sudden we came down a long and winding hill and spotted a hotel near a river. “Great” we thought, at least we could stay the night there even if we couldn’t get fuel. However, the hotel was closed and no amount of knocking aroused anyone to open the front door.
At least we now had phone connection and we were able to use a phone app to find out where the nearest service station was. Unfortunately there wasn’t one before Kirkenes and we definitely would run out fuel before then. Then we saw that there was a closer service station in the neighbouring country of Finland and we ended up diverting from our original route in our quest for fuel.
Again the road was extremely deserted and feeling very anxious we drove the last 20 or so kilometres with the tank supposedly empty.
We were never so glad to see such a godforsaken place. The lonely and deserted service station was like something out of the movies. There wasn’t a soul there, the sign was swinging in the wind and the the trees were swaying creepily.
On one of the browsers there was machine which accepted credit cards to prepay for diesel. To our absolute horror it wouldn’t accept any of our credit or debit cards. Thank goodness it accepted cash and thank goodness we managed to scrape together 40 Euros in cash!
We drove back to Norway to sleep for the night before heading the following day into Kirkanes – the final destination of our Norwegian adventure.