Breaking the ice

Day 37. Wednesday 19 June.

It has seemed curious to us, as mentioned previously, that Lofoten appears to refer to the islands generally below Austvagoy, which is where Svolvaer and we are located. Our trips have mostly been to those lower islands, prompted by the list of ‘must sees’ provided. So today we decided to head north to try to find out why.

A simple answer is that there is much less infrastructure (larger towns), greater distance between towns and fewer tourist attractions. That is, unless you count magnificent mountains rising straight up from the sea, green forests and hills, residual snow down almost to road level, scenery, scenery…but no shops, galleries, rorbru or a café that serves other than brewed or capsule coffee. As senior hipsters we have insisted on espresso coffee: it was just not available, that we could discover, north of Svolvaer. Someone will, I’m sure, remind us it’s a First World problem.

After a long drive, we arrived at Lodingen, having passed over the tiny island of Husjorday – basically a nub of land connected to bigger islands by two bridges.  There was not much happening in Lodingen, although ferries passed to and from regularly. A brewed coffee was enough to provide the adrenalin rush needed to become crazy brave, and to find a swimming beach.

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We did it!

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The beach had a small toilet block with a change room facility, so we avoided being arrested for indecent exposure, although D in his black speedos was still borderline. He was disappointed that he didn’t have red ones – he’d have liked to dedicate the occasion to an appropriate Australian icon.

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We must admit that there was very little time spent immersed – any longer and there may have been bits brittle enough to drop off. And just an aside: Benbecula is Latitude 57 degrees 26 minutes 50 seconds, while Lodigen is 68 degrees 24 minutes 35 seconds – and the Arctic Circle is at 66 degrees 33 minutes. T & D have established the Lodigen Senior Australians Sea Swimming Club as the first two founding members. The challenge is out there.

Having thawed out, the picnic lunch of whale salami/bread/cheese was in positively balmy sunshine. The return to Svolvaer included an impromptu side trip which ended up at Sortland on the island of Langoy. And this was the very first view (in the distance) of any sort of Norwegian military presence (apart from the bunkers at airfields we’d commented on previously). Is there an Army?

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We really had no idea where we were going – D was in any event somewhat distracted by being followed by the Politi for 50km of the journey. Again, no espresso machine to be found, but we did score some nice salmon for our final evening meal in Svolvaer. But any interesting observation is the number of houses that dsplay the Norwegian flag, usually as a pennant.  We’d noticed this first on the train trip from Oslo to Flam.

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Tomorrow we board the Hurtigruten ferry ‘Nordlys’ at 10 PM to head north to Kirkenese – arriving on Sunday 23 June. It’s unlikely that we’ll have internet connection during that time so this may be the last post until we arrive in Oslo. T’s knitting should have advanced and she might actually do some music homework. Not sure how D will fill his time and 3 days without news will be a stress.

Exactly where are we?

Day 36. Tuesday 18 June.

After yesterday’s long day on the road, visits closer to home are planned. Our target is the Lofotmuseet, in the area now known as Storvagan, on the site of the city of Vagar which in the 1800s was the location of a major fishing enterprise.

The site contains 11 buildings, plus is the start point to a 2 km historic walk. As rain threatened we decided to do that first. The ‘trail’ is aptly described: a narrow foot pad through knee high grass, with directions provided by small wooden signs that did not include any text, and were often discreetly positioned so that they were hidden from casual sight.

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That system worked and we missed the sign to the statue of King Oystein, but fortunately met two very helpful young boys who were able to redirect us in excellent English: one claiming proudly that they were the best in the class at English; the other later told us he could speak four or five languages (his arithmetic apparently not as good): English, Arabic, Norwegian and one other we missed. We asked why they weren’t at school: tomorrow is the last day before two months summer holidays. So with a bit of help we found the king – he also scored the indignity of a large gull sitting on his crown.

The museum was terrific, telling a story of the fishing industry that made sense of a lot of what we’ve seen and heard, both here and previously in Norway, the Faroes and Iceland. The buildings covered all aspects; the original rorbuers (fishermen’s huts) were an eye-opener: 8 – 12 men sharing the space, and if you just count the bunks, that makes for interesting evenings.

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The original manor house, which has had a varied career since the last owner went bankrupt in 1901, was a wonderful contrast in lifestyle and privilege.

A shorter touring day (although 7 hours on the go didn’t seem short) had us back in the apartment by 5.30, ready to walk down the hill to Borsen Spiseri on the little island of Svinoy, which is reputed to provide excellent stock fish dishes.

Fortunately, the light rain stopped for our hike to the restaurant. D had investigated alcohol + driving regulations and, as expected, the two are not tolerated (>0.05=prison). We’d booked a table at Borsen, according to rave reviews, in order to do THE THING, ie the codfish (aka stock fish when dried).

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Our Polish waiter was engaging, affirming our wine choice (cheapest – but not cheap – and Spanish) and then mentioning that his sister is currently living and working on a working visa in a Queensland city, near a desert, population around 80….yes, it’s Bedourie! Well, Bedourie is, from memory, a channel- country town on the fringe of the Simpson red desert, has very hot springs that we couldn’t immerse in, a night rodeo that we went to in 2017, and camel races that we missed by a few weeks. She is ‘killing flies’ and doing something related to bar work; he was amused and bemused that local policeman drinks at the bar and then pulls over the other customers! Sounds accurate. We shared a marinated reindeer entrée, sweetish due to the red onion marinade, accompanied by a striped beetroot shaving and  little red ligna berries, a local wild product, on a bed of rocket.

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Then came the 2 cod dishes: Royal & Risotto. What to say: yes, the fish flakes beautifully, white and succulent, but the flavor is SO SUBTLE. Accompanied by stronger flavours from the prosciutto (Royal) and chorizo & mushroom risotto, the meal was very nice but…We know that we prefer bigger flavours. Seems like big effort: hydrating the dried fish for a week, changing the water daily, then adding a bit of salt before cooking.

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However, as an ecological whole-food source over many centuries, it works and D was able to enjoy another serving of steamed, buttered potatoes. As we walked home, we thought of the flavours of bream, flathead, leatherjackets, trout…that we enjoy without big accompaniments. What would Norwegians make of T’s fish curry (+100 spices)?

There was a small group of three at an adjacent table – D thinks two were American and one Canadian. From casual snatches of conversation, he would like to add another law to Godwin’s Law but hasn’t yet come up with a name (Pelosi’s’s First Law?). The law is similar: As a discussion on problems in contemporary US or world politics grows longer, the probability of  Trump being blamed approaches 1.

 

 

 

On the road again

Day 35. Monday 17 June.

A road trip today – 130 kms south to the town of A on the island of Moskenoy, via recommended stops of course. But it is a late start: the thumping above is muted this morning, allowing a ‘second sleep’ – this hardly matters as there is no night and we can just skew our day to the right. Just to prove that not every summer’s day in Lofoten is blue, today was shades of grey and rain is forecast mid-week.

The trip takes us onto three new islands: Hamnoy, Flakstadoy and Moskanoy and through a few towns.

Coffee at the bakery at Leknes, about halfway on the outward journey. Unlike our visit late Saturday afternoon, it was packed, but the coffee was as good. And a lone local gull demonstrated that it favoured human food scraps; this is the first time we’ve seen this behavior on our trip.

The glass blowing at Vikten Glasshytta had drawn a small but very appreciative audience.

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Spectacular workshop gallery & location and T was taken by the architecture as much as by the glass. Now has plans for a beach shack.

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Along the road to Nusfjord, looking for the third of the ‘sculpture in the landscape’. It was not there – just one of the problems with large scale, sketch maps where the symbols cover a couple of square kilometers on the ground! We eventually found it a smallish ball of ??? sitting on a circle of white pebbles. It’s a pity that none of the sculpture pieces have information, but maybe that’s the point, letting them just BE within the landscape.

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The fourth and final sculpture was a big cairn shaped as an imposing regular cylinder. There had been either some vandalism or deterioration, as some of the stones had fallen, but not enough to ruin the effect and the colourings were perfect.

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We passed by Flakstad, sort of missing it from the road, but turned back to check out the church, built from Russian timber and with a Russian ‘onion’ below its spire. It was, of course, all closed up – open at 5 PM, and none of the music offerings fitted our schedule (there are festivals and concerts in July & August).

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There were two obelisk memorials on either side of the entry path, dedicated to soldiers who’d lost their lives at Narvik in WW II – we assume they were from the area. A third gravestone, fairly new, was very sad. The family, who had lived in the late 1800s, were listed: the youngest child died in 1852 aged a couple of months, the next aged about two died a couple of years later, and then an eight year old died in October 1862, a ten year old in November that year and then the mother, aged 38, in December. We wondered what had happened in 1862 in the area…flu??? The father died at much later around 60 years old.  For a small hamlet, the adjoining graveyard was huge.

Outside Ramberg we stopped for a walk on the white beach: then we spotted a couple of Orcas surfacing – they were quite a way out but magical anyway. The water looked inviting, but the weather precluded any real thought of finally diving in. D was tempted to meet the challenge, but squibbed it.

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By now, around 3 PM, rumbling tummies reminded us that it was time for lunch. T wanted a hearty soup so we entered an unpretentious Kafe – lowering our heads to get in. One customer later unfortunately forgot to do so. We opted for fish (cod) & chips, and were delighted: so often the expectation of fish and chips is not matched by the reality.

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Onto the much photographed village of Reine, by which time the strip of land between mountain and water had become almost non-existent.

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There, the art gallery Eva Harr beckoned, but we are reluctant to pay for admission to commercial artists’ offerings particularly when we don’t know the artist or the style and subject matter. Maybe we are spoilt.

Our last call was A, at the end of the E10 main route and home of the Lofoten Fishing Museum, where every aspect of this historic industry is explained. Needless to say, as we arrived after 6 PM, everything closed up, but that did mean we could wander through without an entry fee.

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Having visited most towns and villages in Lofoten, we are struck by the amount of tourist accommodation available, much in the form of the ‘rorbuer’. And how organized is the tourist industry! Another noticeable feature is an almost complete lack of rubbish/graffiti and the waterways, despite the volume of diesel traffic are pristine. Full marks to whatever they do here to preserve the environs.

Driving has been overall pretty easy – other drivers are careful, perhaps even overly so, and the use of passing bays on narrow roads has worked well. There was one scare today – a car overtaking a bus, heading towards a head-on collision with us. Fortunately a combination of heavy braking by us and an on-the-ball the bus driver who also braked avoided a nasty situation.

Rain began to fall lightly as we returned to Svolvaer, with the temperature hovering around the 11 to 13 degrees that it had been all day.

Rest Day

Day 34. Sunday 16 June.

This blog is a cooperative activity: we take turns in writing the first draft, we both edit/add to that, and we jointly select the photographs. T suggested, for the previous post (Happy Days) that we independently draft the blog and then compare the results. There was an interesting (and frightening?) similarity in the result!

Our resolve to have a slow day, and do some admin, finally happened. T wanted a brunch of mushrooms, lemon, wilted spinach…so we duly headed into town to source same, to find that all the stores were closed: the only supermarket open in the whole of Lofoten was a ‘Kiwi Mini Pris’, just up the road. An understanding local explained the facts to us, as well as giving directions; our host later added that this was not a religious thing, but rather to give everyone a day off. The mini part was accurate: it was a section of the main store, but it was able to provide the items we needed to survive until Monday (D had re-supplied beer ahead of Sunday).

So after breakfast, with no expectation that anything would be open – we were right – we wandered into Svolvaer, still hoping to do some galleries! Nothing open, not even the local church, then across the bridge to the tiny island of Svinoya, with an endless view.

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There were more rorbuer, the quaint, red fisherman’s cottages, but many of them seemed to be of more recent construction to cater for those wanting that unique experience.

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Some workers didn’t get the day off: the pallets of dried fish were being moved around on the wharves.

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Being a Sunday, we of course went to church, to the Lofoten Cathedral. Due to a scarcity of preachers, services aren’t held every Sunday, and in any event turning up at 1.30 PM meant we were pretty sure to miss it anyway. Again, a lovely but understated wooden Lutheran church dating from 1898.

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We think (because the wording in the brochure is ambiguous) it was ordered by King Oystein to service the itinerant fishermen (3-4000) who were given precedence in front row seating. Why was not explained, but if the fishermen we know are any indication, it was probably because they needed saving the most or they needed most prayers for their catch.

One of the ‘must do’s’ on our list was to have a swim in the Arctic Sea, or close enough to claim bragging rights (we’re actually in the Norwegian Sea – albeit between the Norwegian Sea and the mainland) – but let’s not quibble: the water is still arctic cold. That was a target today, anticipating that the current fine weather may not hold. There are several signposted swimming spots south of Svolvaer, and we dutifully followed the signs but could not discover anything that looked like a swimming spot. We remembered passing a spot to the north previously, so headed there, to find some sand, some rocks, mirror water and a few families picnicking.

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T bravely took off her shoes and socks and ventured in to mid-calf: does that qualify as a swim?

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And, adding to our comment yesterday about the destination of the fish heads, our host advised us that they are in fact donated, rather than sold, to African countries, as a humanitarian gesture. Google didn’t seem to support that view. We have observed a number of possibly ‘African’ families here and wonder about immigration/asylum matters. One of them had 6 daughters: double our luck.

 

 

Happy days

Day 33. Saturday 15 June.

Some dear readers will recall Saturday mornings at Auchenflower basketball stadium. The steady thud..thud..thud of bouncing balls in sync with the steady thud..thud..thud of our brains. It’s a bit like that in our basement apartment each morning as the energetic two year old runs….pounds…on the wooden floor above our bedroom, back and forth. We are trying to adjust our late start/late finish routine to fit in, but it hasn’t been that easy. Noone mentioned this in the reviews!

We headed out with some misgiving, expecting that the weekend would bring out lots of other motorists. The opposite was the case – the roads were quiet and the motorists well-behaved, as in fact they invariably are. Another bright sunny day – but the temperature was around 10 degrees with a cold, icy wind.

The second island below our base – Vestvagoy -was the target, with a few ‘must see’ spots planned. We’d been to Hov, so it was other attractions on this trip.

But first – coffee. When you go into town on a perfect Saturday morning in Svolvaer and you see a bunch of musicians, brass instruments in hand, then you follow them to find out where the concert is happening. Arrived at the town square, where 3 brass bands were assembled. Coffee and music time, thinks T. Then the stars arrive: it’s a wedding! A simple private affair (with hundreds of uninvited guests/spectators): just a bride & groom & celebrant. He said ‘Ja’, she said, ‘Ja’, there was a kiss, the bands cheered, the cameras clicked and that was that.

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No coffee, so we move on. The journey included crossing two bridges of the same design as the one across Raftsundet Strait – quite spectacular. It was the day for exploring the agricultural island of Vestvagoy: fields (not sure what is grown, probably fodder), mountains, some sheep, goats, cows, lots of buttercups and again, at the fishing villages, the cod racks.

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The Lofotr Viking Museum at Borg brought an archaeological dig to life and there, T showed her serious lack of grinding strength: ‘not even enough grain for the icing’, said the miller.

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The Norse Saga told in video a story of the chief Olav Tvennumbrunni who, when politically squeezed by 2 other chiefs, decided there was no space for him, so he packed up and sailed to Iceland. After his death, his daughter returned to Borg, to marry her childhood sweetheart who had become Chieftain. It’s always good to have that happy ending.

The day was rapidly getting away and the morning coffee actually happened at 4pm in a quiet, ‘closed up’ town of Leknes. It was worth the wait. T had prepared the whale salami lunch again, to be consumed with a walk at the beach, so at 5.30pm we donned puffer jackets and had our picnic while the arctic surf school at Unstad braved the elements (and a very tiny set of waves). The clouds had really settled low and T wondered whether the campervanners would get that midnight sun view.

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The penultimate destination for the day was to see the landscape art of ‘the head’ at Eggum and we were not disappointed, but the campervanners were huddled inside with their diesel heaters chugging away.

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But on the return to Svolvaer (65kms) that glass of beer/pinot took a little longer than expected. A warning alarm and light on the dash screen about 10 km out sent D into the glovebox user manual…it seemed to be a picture of a tyre issue, but when the explanation is only in Norwegain, how can you be certain? Cool as always, D checked (and kicked) the tyres, could see nothing obvious, so carefully back on the road. As soon as we came to Svolvaer, it was pull into the servo and ask a taxi driver who was fortuitously there: yes, tyre pressure. Used the air gun, but alarm still showing, so head for the Hertz agency. At 10pm, with a Hurtigruten ship in, and tourists needing a range of services, D (aka Ove) lends a hand once again giving advice and reassurance to anxious Hertz customers, and then waits patiently for Daniel to confirm the car problem (fixed by re-setting pressure system with the flick of a button and a jovial comment about manufacture).

Too late for food (potato chips will do), but not too late for that wine. For us this is a better option than fishheads – we finally discovered what they’re used for. They are packed into large wooden crates, loaded into semi-trailers and sent to Nigeria for making into soup.

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And yet another mode of transport. We continue to be impressed by the acceptance of drivers to the delays caused by motor homes, cyclists, walkers and others sharing the roads: just the one example of impatience by the two motor cyclists a couple of days ago.

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Trolled!

Day 32, Friday 14 June.

Trying to avoid too much car time, we planned to more or less restricted today’s activities to the island of Austvagoy, where Svolvaer is located. We had passed up the organized group tour of Trollfjorden yesterday, so made that our main focus today, having discovered, we thought, that a road travels that way. As it happened, Trollfjorden is actually a small side fjord off the strait of Raftsundet and only accessible by water, so we followed the road alongside the eastern side of the strait, which took us over a rather majestic bridge (called, unsurprising, Raftsundet Bridge) onto the island of Hinnoy (Norway’s largest island).

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The island as a whole doesn’t make it onto the graphic which purports to represent Lofoten in the tourist guide book for some reason, although a small portion at the very tip does. Google advises that this tip is the eastern part of the municipality of Vagan, most of which is on the island of Austvagoy.

The town – that’s exaggerating its status by a very long way – Digermulen was plugged in to the car’s GPS, which stubbornly refuses to accept our wishes. Paper maps still have a role, even if they’re sometimes wrong, inaccurate or incomplete.

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We took a detour to Hanoy, once again seduced by the thought that it was a village that might have a coffee shop – it had instead what appeared to be an abandoned ferry terminal, a small marina and not much else.

After passing through Digermulen and assessing that there wasn’t much more to see before the end of the earth, we about turned and on a whim side-tracked into the ‘town’. The little grocery store had a café attached but it was closed for a private function: as we had originally passed through, T commented on some folk walking along the road, dressed in ‘collar and tie’ and suspected that they were heading to a funeral. The tiny church seemed to have a bit of activity, so we didn’t intrude. A small ferry was docked and as quiet as the Marie Celeste and the few people in the vicinity of the store moved almost in slow motion – one didn’t move at all. The only activity was a service boat from the salmon pens that came in and bustled between two wharves. It was just a little bit eerie.

Some great scenery as we travelled along the strait – and our cameras were inadequate to capture the grandeur that our eyes could see.

There were plenty of folk on the beaches again – and in the water: the eastern side of Lofoten is protected from the wind. The water, however, would still freeze the whatsits off a brass monkey. We ventured out for a beach walk under a mountain near Stronstad where there will be a community festival next weekend, for mid-summer – we’ll miss it, of course. A couple of campers with a tiny tent, and a small very smoky beach campfire took us back to 1972!

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T enjoyed photographing the variety of little flowers in the grassy seaside edge.

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A lunch stop called and from the back of the car we feasted on our version of the loaves & fishes: the brown seed loaf, olive oil, some brie and slices of WHALE salami (we’d bought this yesterday from the deli man at the Svolvaer wharf.) He had advised that at 5-star restaurants, wafer thin slices of whale salami (smoked & salted) are served with crème fraiche and some red onion. So T had prepared an equivalent with yogurt instead of crème fraiche and our bread was fantastic (of course olive oil is the real secret).

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On the return we decided to extend the journey by heading back in a loop via Fiskebol and then Laukvik on the north western side of Austvagoy. Laukvik, on the western coastline, was a blustery community/harbor and again seemed strangely deserted apart from a few customers at the Coop, and a French couple who kindly translated the warning sign on the breakwater into English for us – on a device. The warning was to enter at your own risk because of the strong winds.

Basically, it seems that the eastern side of Austvagoy is where the tourist destinations are (ie coffee, galleries…) The western side is a series of tiny villages (mostly sleeper?) but the fishing is the thing throughout, evidenced by the rows of drying cod.

T has abandoned the fantasy of getting a motorhome and meandering in Europe: the roads are too narrow, and there are too many others doing the same. D is relieved!

D has meanwhile doggedly pursued his research.

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By all means

Day 31. Thursday 13 June.

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A restful view from our doorway – great way to greet the day, even if it was at 10 AM.

Car picked up, immediate supplies purchased and wine stocks for next few days secured. Time to start seeing Lofoten. Visited the tourist information office and amidst excellent advice on activities also received some guidance on speeding, drink driving, etc…..accompanied by bemoaning regulation, especially control of alcohol. We sympathized.

T had mentioned doing some kayaking, thinking that it was just a matter of hiring one and a half-day in such perfect conditions was beckoning. So, ‘Do you have a wet card?’ asked the attendant in the Info Office. ????? In Norway, kayakers are regulated ( like everything is): they must be able to self-recover etc. etc. That’s why we can only go in a guided tour group for a price we are not prepared to pay, so that’s when the idea was abandoned. Briefly explored a tour to Trollfjorden and an add-on kayak trip but decided against (c$500), then a midnight sun kayak for another price: there is plenty to do and see otherwise! (we figure we’ll see the midnight sun on the Hurtigruten voyage)

As today was intended to be a rest, we decided on a short drive to Henningsvear, a small town about 30km south west of Svolvaer. It turned out to be the hub of active – that is, young – rock climbers, who use the imposing cliffs.

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Very picturesque, and very oriented towards the tourist/visitor, with lots of small art galleries (some wanted a fee). The drying cod is interesting: no aroma at this stage, and why don’t the birds get at it? T felt that a seafood soup calls, but with the Italian twists.

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The views were outstanding all afternoon. Water, mountains, more water…A few tunnels, a few bridges, laybys on narrow roads. And the beaches!

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Impromptu decision as we started back to detour to a little village called Hov on the island of Gimsoy. We encountered some unusual looking cyclists and motorists were patient, crawling along behind until it was safe to overtake – except in one case where a couple of motorcyclists roared out, overtaking on a blind hill. The lead cyclist was not amused: the middle finger salute said it all! We agreed.

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As we came back, we pulled over to photograph the motor home campground – wall to wall – on one side of the rad, and the tent camp ground on the beach side. A quad bike came roaring up, asking us to back up to give access to a farm gate: five young women were rounding up the horses for the night. We were invited to stay if we wished, which we did. Free circus. The young woman standing near us explained that the horses didn’t like going into their night time paddock as it was just dirt, with no grass, so would baulk at the journey.

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The round- up proceeded smoothly, interrupted by a wayward dog, which had been accompanying its master, who was on Norwegian road skis (abandoned as he tried desperately to gain control of the dog). It was unleashed and decided that it was part of the action: needless to say its contribution was negligible, and only seemed to bemuse the horses, who took no notice of it.

All modes of transport sighted today. As well as ‘normal’ means on the roads including prams, bikes, motor bikes and mobile homes there were some more esoteric ones such as horizontal bikes within a capsule, roller skis, quad bike, shanks pony, and (on the water) a variety of ships, b oats and kayaks.

 

 

 

We’ll get there eventually

Day 30. Wednesday 12 June.

We could almost cut and paste the start to today: an early flight (7.55 AM) so a disturbed night, again both rising well before the alarm (D had set for 5, unbeknownst to T). Our indirect journey to Bodo, the stepping off point to Lofoten Islands, took two flights with two stops, going from Point A (Bergen) north to Point C (Tromso) then south via Point D (Andenes) to our destination Point B (Bodo). Only enough time in the transit points to find coffee before the next flight: a change of plane in Tromso, but we didn’t even get off in Andenes. The original booking was a direct flight. Both Andenes and Bodo had bunkers and/or fortified aircraft hangers. There was a Navy plane at the first, and one fighter of some sort at the second.

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Bus into the centre of Bodo then a short walk to the Sentrumterminale Kai, where D pestered the young man behind the counter about our ferry, just to make sure we were at the right place for the right vessel at the right time. He was very patient and even more helpful when D re-opened one of our two luggage lockers to discover that the fee of 60 Krone (about $10) had to be paid every time the door was unlocked, even though each fee lasted for 24 hours – provided it wasn’t unlocked in that time. Needless to say, we were unimpressed, (we had misinterpreted 60 kr per locking). But the young man was happy to place our bag and food (plus the wine for tonight!) behind his counter. The older woman to whom he turned to for advice didn’t seem particularly concerned or inclined to help. Rules are rules; perhaps that’s why things are so efficient in Norway.

As we had about 6 hours to wait we took a wander into Bodo, but there wasn’t much to see after the waterfront, so after a couple of Op Shops, where T momentarily eyed off a real handknit, then back to the terminal for a couple of hours – which gave T the opportunity to pick up her own knitting.

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The queue for boarding was typical: it’s about getting THAT window seat, but as the 3 hour trip dropped off at a number of little stops, by mid-journey, there were window seats to spare. Upper deck camera moments were few, as an Arctic wind accompanied us, but at the Arctic Water Sports stop, D could appreciate the cheer of the anglers who had actually caught some fish, which they were cleaning. Interestingly, many folk wore single-layer t-shirts and bare ankles as the sun is bright, while T continues in multi-layers of wool. T just ate and drank the evening colours.

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Arrival at Svolvaer, then a walk, with the help of Google Maps, to our apartment; thankfully the sun was still smiling, as no taxis in sight. Arrived with instructions for the entry keypad, which D couldn’t get to open. Tried – hash…code…star – and every combination of those three, to no avail but lots of cursing (forgetting most Norwegians speak very good English!) Then as D was attempting to confirm the instructions his phone ran out of charge – plug in the charger and wait. Eventually T knocked on the door of the house above and the owner disclosed the secret – D had was using the wrong sequence of numbers in the code. The apartment is spacious & new, but not what we’d expected, as it’s the basement of a family home and guess what the ceiling (wooden floor of above) means…yes, pitter, patter! Ah well, the unexpected of travel!

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A meal with wine is like a day with sunshine*

Day 29. Tuesday 11 June.

The morning presented a brilliant blue sky – as it had been all night.

Bussed into the centre ahead of a midday English tour of the Hanseatic museum and precinct we’d been at yesterday, detouring for the mandatory coffee to fortify ourselves for the day. We had intended to head to the funicular afterwards but put that plan on hold for later reassessment after seeing the queues of tourists spilling down the streets.

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But most importantly, a bottle of wine for tonight was bought from Vinmonopolet. Decision was to go with a known wine that was not Australian, so Casillero de Diablo got the nod: you can’t go past a good Chilean. D carried it around for the rest of the day in the back pack, with more care than some of the babies being carried around in pouches.

 

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The tour group was small – not sure what that says about the number of English speakers visiting – and was comprehensive and informative. D & T marveled at the stoicism of the young German apprentices in particular, who apart from doing all the hard work (starting ages between 12 and 15) were also indentured for 6 years, during which time they would stay in Bergen. The similarity with Duntroon was eerie: even more so when none of the Hanseatics was permitted a relationship with the local women. If that happened, there were penalties, the most severe seems to have been a fine of a barrel of beer to be consumed by colleagues. Sounds more like a reward than a punishment (perhaps the story has been misinterpreted in the retelling?)

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It was a cold, dark life, particularly in winter. The buildings were mostly constructed from wood, so the fear of fire was intense, As such, it was limited to specific areas: the kitchens, obviously, which had lots of stone, and contained metal box fire places that were fed from stone enclosed access. But the main working areas and the dormitories were unheated – and no cuddling to help stay warm at night.

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After this tour we wandered separately through the precinct, T being particularly captivated by the roof lines and overhangings.

Back past the line up to confirm that the queue had maintained its serpent-like length so we opted to head to Fantoft to the Stave Church using the light rail. Inside the church a delightful young lady provided a commentary – telling us also that she was to be married in the church shortly. It is not used regularly as it is now classified as a museum, but is available for special occasions (weddings qualify apparently) and for a service at Christmas.

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The church was originally built in 1150, and moved to its current location in 1883. It was burned down in 1992, but has been rebuilt as it was, reopening in 1997.

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The search for the ideal beer continues. It’s a pretty even, average field.

 

 

 

*Attributed to D, after Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, a 19th Century French gastronome.

The longgggg weekend

Day 30. Monday 10 June.

Still drizzling but D says the forecast is only ‘cloudy’, so being the optimist, he ventures out well rugged up but without a rain coat; T has chosen waterproof pants over leggings + coat + beanie…both are satisfied, but D has a few anxious moments as very light drizzle fell a few times during the day, and rain always threatened.

When you are in foreign territory it’s not easy to navigate the bus routes: where are they going? what number do I need? which direction are they going? how does a schedule match with a map? The websites aren’t much help, seemingly requiring some background knowledge of destinations and routes – and only available in Norwegian (that’s probably reasonable). At the bus stops (one on each side of the road) some helpful locals confirmed the correct bus and correct side of the road and we were away.

Decision was to head for Bryggen, the old wharf district and just meander. All worked well; we walked and climbed and looked down over the jumbled roofs, admiring the timber houses as they clung to the slope. For a short while we were able to get away from our fellow tourists.

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A gem of a café, away from the cruise crowd delivered an excellent coffee and a serious chocolate treat.

Meandering took us back down to the wharf, past the cruise ships and to the Museum showcasing the Hanseatic merchants of the Middle Ages. A very helpful attendant gave us an intro, advised that we consider taking the tour (tomorrow at 1000 or midday – we chose the latter) and suggested we finish the afternoon at the Fisheries Museum, taking the free shuttle bus. And so we did. The Fisheries Museum is appropriately housed in a warehouse, smelling appropriately and standing in water, and presents an excellent narrative of the Norwegian industry, and includes a challenging short video in which 3 generations of fishermen tell of their careers/would be career, their passion for the sea and leave no doubt about their feelings regarding the imposed fishing quota system.

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Walking our little legs off, forgetting to have lunch, ducking the drizzle, dreaming of an evening sit down with a wine…7pm arrived, a bus back to the apartment and T persuaded D to go for one more possible retailer…off he set at a clip….returned with the news…that shop was run by Muslim merchants. So, we will visit the Vinmonopolet shop (the name says it all) tomorrow and research has been done for our Wednesday travel that includes a screenshot of the location of the Vinmonopolet shops at Bodo to stock up before catching the ferry to the Lofoten Islands.

It’s a lovely evening, blue sky, cold and a cup of tea calls. Aargh! And from our balcony, who would know whether it’s 10 PM or 10 AM?

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