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Sun Jul 26 2015: The Lofoten Islands

After checking in at our campsite in Bodo, we pitch our tent around midnight. Even though it's still bright out, we try our best not to make any noise lest we disturb the other campers around us who are surely asleep at this time of night, er day...? Eventually the sun dips below the horizon as we settle into our sleeping bags. But it didn't stay there. Three short hours later, it was back up in the sky, casting an otherworldly glow against our tent wall as if an alien spacecraft were landing beside us. Go away, Sun. We're trying to sleep!!!

In the morning, we paid for our 8 hour patch of grass rental and headed back out on the road. Part of the reason we are up this far north in Norway is to visit the Lofoten Islands. It's kind of neat how we found out about it. Our guide in Lyon France, Jean-Jacques, put us in touch with his friend in Sweden, and he recommended to us that we visit this archipelago in the north. I love how our random interactions with people we meet along the way influence the direction of our travels!

These days, everyday starts off with a ferry ride! This one is much bigger than the ones we normally take!

Most of our ferry rides through the southern fjordlands of Norway have been hop-on-hop-off affairs, none lasting more than 15-20 minutes. However the ferry from Bodo to the western tip of the Lofoten Islands is three hours long, so we have some more time to nap on the boat!

Wow! Those mountains, though...!

We roll off the ferry in the early afternoon and the weather in Lofoten is just as overcast and gloomy as the mainland we just left. However, we are immediately impressed by the tall, imposing mountains around us. Most of the mountainsides are so steep, they look like some monster has bitten through the crust of the earth from the inside and left their teeth sticking up through the landscape.

Although the geography here was shaped by the same glaciers that cut the fjords in southern Norway, these Lofoten mountains are like the fjordlands on steriods - higher, more craggy, intensely foreboding and dramatic against the cloudy sky! No wonder we have to take a ferry here. One does not simply walk to Lofoten...

Reine, Moskenes, Lofoten, Norway, Scandinavia, Earth

The first island we land on is the Moskenes. It's the western-most tip of the Lofoten archipelago and from there we start making our way east. But we don't get very far before we have to stop and explore the very pretty town of Reine, which has arrested our journey just less than 5 kms from where the ferry let us off. It's going to be a very long day. But since the sun sets around midnight, we have the time...

Red buildings? Must be boathouses. Wouldn't want to be fined a bag of red peppers now!

Reine is a pretty fishing village with a very impressive backdrop of Mordor-like mountains behind it. Unfortunately the main peak is obscured by these damn low-lying clouds but it's still quite a sight nonetheless! There's supposed to be some really good hiking in the mountains around Lofoten, but thankfully for me it's so wet and gloomy that Neda doesn't bring it up. *phew*

Some boat construction going on around Reine

More beautiful scenery as we ride further North/East through Lofoten

E10 is the main road that runs through Lofoten, but we're taking our time to explore all the little roads that run off it towards the coast on both sides. On the next island over, Flakstadoya, we found a quaint fishing village called Nusfjord on the southern coast. It's advertised as the oldest and most preserved fishing village in Norway. However, we found a whole bunch of other villages which also make that claim, so we're taking that with a grain of Atlantic Sea salt.

Nusfjord, one of many old fishing villages on Lofoten Island

What Neda would look like if she were a Norwegian fisherman

Walking around Nusfjord

A collection of fish heads drying on the rails in Nusfjord. Adds atmosphere...

Canadians in Norway: "Whadaya talkin' a-boat?"

Walking around all these fishing villages really reminded me of the Maritime provinces in Canada, especially Newfoundland. When I mentioned this to Neda, she replied, "How do you think Norwegians feel when you're constantly comparing their country to Northern Ontario, Vancouver Island, New Zealand, Iceland and now Newfoundland?"

"Well, hopefully they're not that overly sensitive about things that don't matter. You know, like how Torontonians are..."

Most expensive boathouses in the world

No, they weren't expensive to build, but they are expensive to sleep in! In Lofoten, these fishermen's cabins (called Rorbu) have been renovated and furnished to accommodate tourists. Recently, they've become quite a trendy thing to rent out for vacations. Just for fun, I checked out how much they cost: $260/night for a single, $350/night for a double. Of course it would cost that much. Of course.

I just hope they leave a bag of bloody red peppers on the pillow every evening for that price...

Eggum, Vetvagoya

As we were leaving Nusfjord, it started raining. It's pretty cold out so we're wearing our rainsuits anyway, but still it's a bit of a bummer because this place must be beautiful when the skies are cloudless and blue! Although the islands that make up the Lofoten chain are pretty small (ranging from 20-70kms long), we are stopping fairly often, so it's getting late in the day. However, the omnipresent Arctic summer sun fools us into thinking its much earlier than it is.

Our next stop is to the tiny village of Eggum which is on the north coast of the next island in the Lofoten chain, Vestvagoya. Neda is planning all the routes and destinations in Norway and she said there were some ruins that we could visit here.

Not as old as we thought it was

These are the remains of a WWII German radar station. It was built in 1944 to monitor the Russians at Murmansk, just across the Finnish border. These days, the area has become quite a popular hiking destination, with the old radar station used as a meet up point. As you can tell it's raining fairly steadily now, so hiking is the last thing we want to do. Thank Odin!

Walking around the radar station. We keep our helmets on so we don't get wet.

I have no idea what we were talking about here, but usually when Neda does this,
she's normally saying to me: "Come on, it's not *THAT* far away!"

Inside the ruins are presumably the remains of the radar station. The electricity was powered by a petrol-driven generator

You can also camp at Eggum, but we don't. Lots more to see in Lofoten.

It's a pity the tops of the mountains are obscured by the clouds, they must be majestic! We're off to the next island, Ausvagoya! At least the islands are close enough that we don't have to take ferries, everything's connected via short bridges.

Riding through more small towns on the southern shore of Ausvagoya

Absolutely beautiful here!

Sidpollnes church, with the Higravstinden mountain in the background

The coastal fishing villages are endless here in Lofoten

Well we've been in Norway for over a week and a half now, so here are some peculiar things we've noted (besides the most expensive red peppers in the world):

There are a chit-ton of Tesla cars here. Literally, one in every four cars is a Tesla Model S. What is up with that?

I got a chance to Google it, one of the first links led to this fact: "Tesla Sells More Model S EVs In Norway Than Ford Sells Everything". It is the best-selling car in the country. You know the Norwegians are filthy rich when the best selling vehicle in the country is a $90,000 car. What the what?!? Like the Saudis, I heard that when their Model S breaks down, they drive it out into the fjordlands to abandon it and just go to the Tesla dealership to pick up another with the loose change they have in their pocket. Then they go to the grocery store to buy a bag of red peppers to feed to the birds outside.

Damn oil barons...

Me, trying to fit in, pretending to be a rich Norwegian. Hope I don't blow up my gas tank...

So apparently, besides Norwegians being filthy rich, they pride themselves for being environmentally friendly (ironic, yet commendable for an oil-producing nation). Plus the government has set up a sovereign wealth fund from all the oil money and subsidizes the purchases of electric cars. Citizens get an income tax deduction *and* they pay a lot less sales tax if they buy an electric car.

But they're *STILL* $90,000 cars!

Neda poses for the camera

Not just in Norway, but all over Europe there are these photo radar cameras set up at the side of the road. Apparently they only snap pictures from the front, and because we're motorcyclists, there is no front plate to record. So every opportunity we get, we zoom by those cameras at perhaps slightly more than posted limit and give the operators some interesting poses to look at. I've been told there are newer cameras that take pictures from the front *and* the back, but our license plates are Canadian, so I'm sure we're immune to those to.

At least I hope so, otherwise there'll be a ton of speeding tickets waiting for us back in Canada!

We've set a pretty blistering pace (at least for our standards) over the last 10 days, riding almost every day. We normally never do that, but Norway is too expensive for us to stay put for any length of time. However, we're feeling a little drained, so we've booked three nights at this nice campsite we found just outside of Skibotn back on mainland Norway. This area seems to have a weird microclimate, a pocket of clear, dry weather perhaps because it's in a valley surrounded by large mountains. Nice place to be for a few days.

Our campsite in Storfjord. Picture could have been taken at 12PM or 12AM...

We got to know our Finnish neighbours Jana and Janni a little bit. They come to Storfjord every summer and they said that the weather last year and the year before was beautiful and sunny. It's just that for some reason this year was very rainy. We both looked at the ground guiltily...

We're up so far north that after sunset the sun stays just barely below the horizon so it still manages to light up the sky all night. I'm a night owl and it's so strange roaming around the campgrounds and not being able to tell if it's 4AM or 4PM, other than the fact that I'm the only one walking around.

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