Having seen the mountains of southern Norway, last summer, this time I decided to travel across the arctic circle to see Nordland and its midnight sun. First, I went to see Lofoten, after which Kystriksveien followed. The trip traversing Nordland was about 2160 km, the distance on the ferries not included.
Harstad/Narvik airport Evenes was my place of arrival in the North. From there I drove to Harstad for lunch in de 4 Roser. The brilliant thing was that there was a watertap and icecubes standing next to it. All free! You won't believe the amount of places I have been to that that refuse to give water with coffee. Only sporadically, like here, do you get free water served. For the technically inclined, they also have WiFi. Just ask for the password as you order your coffee/lunch/dinner. Having bought a new toy I just had to play with it! When I finished playing, and eating, I drove through Sortland, and Stokmarknes. While noting that in Norway the outdoors is subject to allemannsretten I put up the tent between Teigan and Taen on Hadseløya. Unfortunately, on my way there, I didn't find the intended site to have coffee: Uværshula.
Next day I saw Svolvær, had lunch by Lofotenkatedralen, took the ferry Melbu - Fiskebøl to see Nusfjord. That night I camped by Selfjorden in Ramberg. To get there I had to negotiate a steep bridge. Since I never experienced the midnight sun it was a disorienting, yet mesmerising, thing to see. The sun amazingly does not go down. The lack of a sunset resulted in going to bed late.
The next day my exploration of Lofoten continued on the E10, driving through Svolvær en route to the Lofotr Viking museum in Borg. Of course, in my mind no visit to Norway would be complete without it. The museum has the biggest chieftain's homestead excavated in Scandinavia, and a replica, Lofotr, of the viking ship Gokstad, that I saw in Oslo. Admittedly, it was a bit disappointing, so don't bother coming to the region just for that. Fortunately the road turned into a scene from Lord of the Rings with a towering mountain in front of me.
The fishing village Å had a somewhat artificial atmosphere, though less than Nusfjord. As in: too much of a tourist attraction. Saving money and time I decided to take a roundtrip, through Kjerkfjorden, on the ferry from Reine. As opposed to the original plan to take a lengthy excursion to the maelstrom, or a whale- and/or eagle safari, or visiting a cave. That night I set up camp at Djupfjorden near Reine, where I found the almost perfect camping site. Secluded, and with a great view. To get there is easy, get out at the parking next to Djupfjordbrua (Djupfjord Bridge), walk five minutes towards the Fjord, and presto: magic.
In the morning I returned to Svolvær, visiting both Henningsvær and Lofoten akvariet (Lofoten aquarium) at Storvågan. I then took the ferry to Skutvik, headed for the E6 so I could have dinner in Fauske. After dinner I slept at Nordnes Camp & Bygdesenter, which surprisingly has WiFi for the intrepid traveller with electronic gadgets.
The next day, continuing to Sandnessjøen and Tjøtta to catch the ferry to the Vega Archipelago, I took a detour through Mosjøen to see Sjøgata. It is a nice historical street, and in it you will find Vikgården Landhandel og Kaffebu which is a brilliant place to have coffee, or lunch. The following ferry part did not impress me. Annoyingly, to some islands the last departure was scheduled at around 15:00h. Incredible, considering the amount of tourists that were trying to make a similar trip. The Norwegian Tourist Board may want to rethink their priorities. While arriving at least thirty minutes before departure in Tjøtta there were too many cars - it is a holiday season, so who could have known, to borrow this famous disingenious statement by certain politicians- leaving me stranded. Strangely enough the last ferry, of the week, from Tjøtta to Vega leaves at 18:00h on friday. The next one is not before monday. Therefore I had to make a massive detour via Forvik, to then catch the ferry at Anndalsvågen to Horn. There I finally caught the ferry to Vega. Some five hours later than planned I was able to reach Vega. Since it was too late for the shops to be open I made some food myself. In the morning I took a tour of the island as I did not have the chance earlier. There was the E-Huset in Nes, and also the impressive Stone-age walk. It shows the changes in sea level and human skills, mainly fishing, by the local people. The island turned out to resemble a postcard from the south pacific. Beautiful white beaches.
Next stop, coffee, and Norwegian waffles with homemade rubarb and prune jam, at Vegstein before catching the ferry back.
In light of the inability to explore Vega the previous day I had to reschedule, and so my visit to Ylvingen had to be cancelled due to the limited time available. Therefore, without stopping there, I made the same trip in the opposite direction. What is inexctricably linked to visiting the Vega Archipelago is de syv søstre mountain range on the island of Alsten. It is impossible not to notice. Be sure to read up on the mythology surounding it, and its connection to Torghatten Mountain.
I travelled with the ferry from Søvik to in Herøy, crossed the bridge to Dønna, where I passed Dønnamannen on my way to see the view from Dønnesfjellet. That night the beach at Breivik was my campsite. From Bjørn I went to Sandnessjøen. Took the ferry in Levang to Nesna, continued for the ferry at Kilboghamn to Jaktvik. Ågskardet to Forøy.
In Saltfjellet-Svartisen National Park I saw Svartisen, a collective term for the two glaciers Vestre and Østre. Slept at Bodøsjøen camping - a nice camping, but it would have been smarter to sleep closer (discovered it too late) to Saltstraumen, "the world's strongest tidal current," in Bodø, which is a massive whirlpool of fast streaming water. As it happened, I had to travel the same road -nearly 30 km - three times. All to witness the maelstrom the next day. The phenomenon occurs every six hours. Back in the city centre I tried tørrfisk which, to me, appeared similar to lutefisk. The holiday ended with a brief visit to Narvik, and the stone-age engraving of some sort of deer, followed by an improvised midnight meal at Evenes airport. From there I took a plane to Oslo.
From Oslo Bussterminal I took the bus to Telemark. There I visited several great spots. Of course the birthplace of skiing: Morgedal. It turned out a lot smaller than I had envisioned. Went to see the Eidsbog Stavkirke, had coffee at the picturesque Dalen Hotel, swam in the lake to just unexpectedly miss Selma, a distant cousin of Nessie. Not my cup of tea but in Seljord I noticed the annual Countryfestival.
The short sightseeing tour ended with a stay in the Hardangervidda Nasjonalpark, in a hut close to the Haukeliseter Fjellstue. The scenery was stunning, fishing not so good. But all in all the sunny weather made it a success. Looked at the exhibition, and tried some homemade beer, at Nutheim Gjestgiveri (The art hotel in Telemark). Via Sandefjord I returned to Oslo to catch the plane home. That is, after a BBQ and a swim at the beach in Hvervenbukta.
As an afterthought, I found the roads of Nordland too narrow for my taste. The local "highway" is a small two-way street which barely has space for two cars. Combine that with a meandering mountain road and the very big trailers heading in the opposite direction are a truly frightening sight. Admittedly, driving for weeks on such roads has increased my confidence as a chauffeur, but I still prefer the wider roads in the south of Norway.
Another unpleasant part of the trip was the horrendously insatiable hordes of stinging insects, yet more creatures mimicking the ones in Scotland. Luckily I did miss the local fauna, of the polar region, which turned out to be slightly too hospitable to other tourists.