“We are islands, but never too far, we are islands, and I need your light tonight”
Lyrics of a song that is acquiring new meaning. Polaris, our camper van is our own peculiar island, moving in the stream, which in the past 2 weeks has carried us in our island hopping journey through the 2 little archipelagos that extend of the Norwegian coast into the Arctic, like an oversized rough and rural fishing jetty. The Vesteralen and the Lofoten, so similar and so different. What they have in common is the moody weather, the sharp mountain ranges, dotted with some remainders of snow, dropping almost vertically into the sea, the narrow and windy roads, the tunnels and bridges connecting the islands and generally quite some stunning landscapes.
To my liking, the Lofoten have a tad more charm, provided by some little fishing villages that dot the roads with colourful houses, typically red and sometimes yellow, that appear to the visitor with each turn of the road, like pearls in opening oysters. This comes with the price of the overwhelming invasion of tourists, which crowds everyplace, sometimes in a disproportionate manner, given the small size of the islands, but somehow at the end of the day, everybody fits.
This also means that the Vesteralen are probably a tad more authentic and also more bare. We make stops at villages like Andenes and Bleik, where we set camp to do some washing and wait for the weather to clear up, which has a long white sandy beach, where Christian manages to take some good shots in the evening light.
We spend a nice evening in Nyksund, and old fishing village that is being restored, try a piece of the Queens hike, that goes from Nysund to Sto through the mountains and has some nice views.
Get to the end of the road in Hovden, with quite a pretty landscape surrounding it, that soon is not to be seen anymore because of the thick mist. There we meet a group of local teenagers that want to give us cod cheeks in exchange for beer, but we have to decline, not only because of their youth, but also because we don’t carry any beer. Christian goes for an exploratory walk in the mist and gets invited to the town Saturday night party, but kindly declines, as he feels thoroughly underdressed.
We decide to drive to the Lofoten, instead of taking the ferry, since the roads offer quite some amazing views and to be honest, also because it is the cheaper option. We don’t regret it.
Along the way we even find a rather odd place called Rolfs bar, which is an unmanned hut next to the sea, where you can just go in, light a fire, get a drink, play some music and help yourself as you please. All free of charge. The only request is to keep the place tidy. It is next to a modern construction, were you can unroll your sleeping bag and spend the night or simply climb the stairs and enjoy the views of the sea. I am wondering if this is the fruit of somebody’s kindness, madness, or if it´s some sort of social experiment. Not sure if we will find out.
Our first landing place is a small fishing village called Laukvik, which is quite of the beaten track. It has a nice harbour, with flat glossy water, that shows beautiful reflections of its surroundings. It´s flanked by some fishing racks, which still have some fish heads drying in the air, looking at the beautiful mountain range in the distance. Not sure if the scene is morbid, or it´s just what it is, one more aspect of the long lasting fishing tradition of these towns. Fishing and trading the dry fish, primarily cod, continues to be one of the main economical activities of these towns. Truth to be told I am the first one to enjoy a good dish of salted cod, which is prepared in so many wonderful ways in Spain and Portugal.
The rain has us grounded for 2 days in Kabelvag, a little town, where we do not manage much more than a stroll through the town, a didactic chat with the blacksmith from the museum that passionately tells us about his work and the nature of the metals he works with. The weather forecast tends to change a few times a day. I find it hard to cope with the changing weather, without being able to plan even a couple of days ahead. But nothing you can do apart from trying to stay zen and exercise some patience. The weather will eventually clear up.
It does indeed as we reach Skagsanden Beach, a marvellous white sanded beach framed by some tall mountains. We find a little crowd of camper vans parking next to the beach. People are swimming, bbq-ing, drinking and having a good time. I guess is the open sea and the rocky mountains that give that sense of freedom that floats in the air and gives the place the feeling of some sort of hippie reunion. Just missing some Bob Marley singing in the background that everything is gonna be alright.
Next to it there’s a little town of Flakstad, with no more than a handful of houses that gather dispersedly around a wooden church. Not too far we land in another micro village named Vikten, which main and only attraction is glass blower workshop, nicely located by the sea.
Also within short distance is the pretty as a picture fishing village of Nusfjord. Initially we get a bit discouraged by the fact that you have to pay an entrance fee, but finally decide that the charm of the place and the efforts they make to keep it in its original shape are worth the money.
And so we move on to Sandbotnen beach, where apparently they have the only washing machine in a million mile radius, because we have to queue for 15 hours to get our laundry done. And I am almost ready to fight with somebody that decides to sneak in at 5 in the morning and skip the queue and then leave the clothes idle in the machine forever so that nobody else can use it, Christian almost gets a nervous breakdown. So I decide to just go, take her clothes out, put them into a bag and put ours in, which should, by queuing right, been there hours ago anyway. We leave the room and spy from the distance to see who takes the bags. A woman twice my size, so luckily it didn’t get physical. As a compensation for the trouble, or just by coincidence, the gods of the sunset provide with a good one.
And our vital wanderings through these islands continue. Hopefully the compass will point to corners not to far, with good weather to take good photos and give souls favourable moods.