We were dropped 30 minutes south at Volda and departed from our friends to head north. It was a sunny day, and as we waved goodbye to their van, we were suddenly alone again. A rush of despair overcame us but we quickly fell back into our natural hitchhiking rhythm. We were soon writing a sign and searching for a good location. Our plan was simple; to travel north, and quickly. We hoped to reach the Lofoten Islands, a daunting 1000km/19 hour drive. Due to the Schengen visa system we were limited to an accumulative 90 days inside most European countries and were past our planned timeframe for being in Norway. Because of this we were in a hurry. The only problem was – we had lost half of our first day as it was already 1pm.
Walking along the “Norwegian highway” (70km is mostly the speed limit on western Norwegian highways because of their small size and winding mountain routes) we soon walked to the outskirts of the small town where we found an appropriate pull in spot for cars. It was just past a ferry terminal and traffic was heavy. 30 minutes flew by before a familiar face drove by smiling and waved. The car pulled in and we were surprised to be greeted by Cindy, Daniel’s cousin (who’s pub we had just come from) and his wife. Cindy was dropping her brother at a small airport in the next town and offered us a 20 minute lift. We accepted her offer gladly and were on our way!
After being dropped at a supermarket in the next town, we stood at a bus stop holding up a sign saying ‘North’. Quite a few cars drove by and it was almost an hour before a young guy pulled in and offered us a lift to a better location on the other side of the town. He was an absolute champion and decided he would drive us a further 45 minutes, and across a ferry (which he insisted to pay for!) to a larger town. He told us it was no worry as he would visit his grandfather and had to buy ammunition for hunting because it could only be purchased there. Along the trip we asked him if he knew somewhere close by to buy a tarp for underneath our tent and we ended up going to a large shopping centre where he bought his ammunition then took us to a store where we bought our tarp. It was so kind of him and as he dropped us on the exact road for us to head north, we generously thanked him.
Standing beside the highway cars flew past at 90km an hour. It was not ideal but luckily enough we were a hundred meters in front of a large pull in section. We held a small piece of cardboard saying ‘North’ and were doubtful the speeding cars would notice it. Thankfully one did. A new BMW 4WD stopped and we ran towards it. Before reaching it a friendly mum had already opened the boot and told us to put our bags in. She was driving home with her daughter 30 minutes north and kindly dropped us an extra 5 minutes along the highway to where we had to catch a ferry. We arrived seconds before it departed and ran on board. Sitting in an empty seating area, were were almost halfway through our 30 minute ferry when a ticket inspector walked in and looked awkwardly at us before continuing. Perhaps I was stupid and feeling too guilty, I yelled out and asked to pay. 20€ later and over budget for the day, we docked at 6pm. 90km of our needed 1000km. Oh boy..
Walking off the ferry, we tried to show our sign to the leaving cars as they exited. No one showed us any attention. As a result we had to walk for an hour to the other side of the town where we found an appropriate bus stop from which to hitch out. An hour into our wait and a German and Columbian hitchhiker walked over and we began discussing hitchhiking. They had been travelling for 5 weeks with no money whatsoever! It was quite impressive. We explained our luck with hitching with the SMO3DJJ van the past two weeks and they confessed to having experienced troubles. Norwegians are very friendly people, but they are sometimes cold to begin with. They were knowledgeable enough to understand four hitchers in the same location was problematic and continued walking. It was another hour and our longest wait yet before an old sedan carrying 3 younger men looking like they were out of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas pulled in.
They had come from a jazz festival and were heading home a short distance north. We were happy to take a ride outside of the town as we were beginning to get tired and being 8:30pm, we needed a location to camp. They were cool, travel-positive guys and continuously reaffirmed the intentions of our trip. Being dropped at an deserted intersection which felt far from anywhere we said goodbye and began looking for a camp. I walked over to explore under a small bridge where the highway crossed over a shallow river and after confirming there was no evidence of homeless activity, felt satisfied it was where we would sleep for the night. As I began returning to where Kayla stood beside the road, I noticed a car had pulled in! I ran over and the extremely kind man had pulled over on his own behalf and offered to take us a further 60kms.
He had been a journalist his entire life and while we sadly cannot remember his name, he was very generous! He offered for us to stay in his hometown and travel with him to a island where he was born. It would have been an amazing experience had we not been in a hurry to head north. We drove over an enormous cable bridge where he dropped us at another intersection; one with a large pit stop which had toilets. We decided to walk a kilometre away to where we found a oddly-built 50m stone road crossing to an island. It was here we cooked a pot of pesto pasta and watched as the sun set close, to midnight. The sky was once again painted with rich pinks and yellows as we crawled into our tent and closed our eyes.
We woke early and packed our gear. We had a big day ahead of us as we had only achieved 150km of our desired 1000km. Our hitchhiking location was excellent, just beyond a roundabout where a stopping car could pull into the pit stop. The sky was clear and we stood in the warm sun, loving life and holding a new sign, Trondheim. It was a 200km hitch and we were still feeling positive after an hour without any such luck. After another half an hour we applied sunscreen and finally a new black Volvo pulled over. A kind older man travelling the entire distance was happy to greet us and the entire way we talked of his life in the navy. It was easy conversation and as he dropped us just before the outskirts of the third largest city in Norway, we felt we had finally began our long journey north.
This feeling soon dissipated. We were eager to head north and checked the weather from a local cafe’s wifi. It was unbelievable for the next few days; clear skies and 26 degrees celcius! We quickly ate tuna and tomato sandwiches and discussed our options. They were not good. The service station had no direct entry to the freeway and the traffic which did enter came from 4 different directions. We were in an industrial area before the city so a lot of the traffic would be heading into the city centre or surrounding suburbs. We needed to get beyond the service station. As a result, we chose to stand on the entry ramp where cars only had half a meter of dirt to stop. It was on a wide bend and was not our safest choice but we were desperate and it was already 2pm.
Cars apologetically shrugged, indicating that they were not driving beyond the city and we began feeling hopeless. We thumbed any vehicle which drove by and surprising a bus pulled over, blocking the entire entry ramp. We stood shocked and doubtful it had done so for us. We snapped back into reality and ran over. I popped my head in saying we could not afford a ticket and he smiled and happily said it was not a problem. Jumping into the empty bus he drove us to a bus stop on the other side of the city, still on the highway. It was a much better location and although cars were driving 90km it provided ample space for them to stop. Not long after we received another lift from a middle aged man.
He dropped us to the next town which was very helpful. We stood on the final highway intersection which lead directly north. It had been a poor day’s travel as we had only travelled an equal 150km as the previous day. Our new location was once again poor, having no area for cars to pull in. It was now 4pm and we thumbed as cars drove past. Only 20 minutes of waiting and a younger guy quickly pull in and we threw our bags into his car. He was driving a couple of hundred kilometres north to go hiking and we were happy to take the ride.
Time past quickly as we talked about camping and the outdoors and before long we were dropped at a town named Grong. It was a small village which seemed to be in the middle of nowhere. It suited us however as we found the supermarket, bought some food for the next few days of travel then went searching for a campsite. Along the river which ran beside the town and highway, we found a rest stop with toilets and a secluded, flat grassy area. It was perfect and feeling relieved to have made some distance, we cooked noodles and went to sleep.
We planned again to wake early, determined to make it the final 550kms. It was not going to be easy and while we sat outside the supermarket at 9am using their wifi, we realised we should have woken up much earlier. Luckily, we were standing just beyond a roundabout where traffic leaving the town would have to slow down and read our sign. We were picked up by a tour van. The driver, a cool Germany dude named Axel, was happy to take us 300km. He was currently working as a tour guide for motorbike trips throughout the world. He was a legend and an interesting guy to talk to. he was currently living in Spain and loving travelling. He had a strong belief in avoiding the typical societal working pattern of 9-5 and he shared the many experiences he had had working different jobs. He was driving to Bodo, the town from which we were planning to catch a ferry to the Lofoten Islands. Unfortunately however, his work schedule had him (and all his clients) spending the night elsewhere. We were still happy with the long distance we were able to cover. He dropped us at a bus stop in a town from which he needed to turn west and we quickly ate lunch before getting back to holding out our sign.
Again we were lucky and were picked up within 30 minutes. A middle aged man was happy to help us as he had done some hitchhiking when he was younger and understood the patience it required. He drove us to the outskirts of a town called Mo I Rana and was happy to drive us a little out of his way so we could get to a good hitchhiking location. From here, we only counted 26 vehicles before a young dad pulled in. He had come from a vacation with his family down south. he explained that as he had a newborn daughter, he had chosen to drive while his partner and baby flew. The car took some rearranging to fit us in but after playing human Tetris we were again, on our way north.
The trend was continuing. he explained that he had also hitchhiked when he was younger. 200km later, we were dropped at the town where our friendly driver had to continue north. We had a final 50km west to get to the ferry. We stood at a service station holding our sign and the day’s luck continued. Another father picked us up under similar circumstances as our previous driver. He was driving the car home from Oslo while the family flew. He was not driving the entire distance to Bodo, however he decided to drive us the extra 20kms to the ferry terminal. We truthfully had not expected to make it and were so thankful as we said goodbye. 550km in one day and we were so close to seeing the Lofoten Islands! The only problem was, the next ferry was three hours away at 00:45 in the morning. We cooked noodles again for dinner and found powerpoints in the terminal where we charged all our devices. We were going to make it! And while we had not planned to see a lot in the islands due to having poor wifi opportunities the past 3 days, we knew we had amazing weather ahead of us and our excitement kept us awake until the ferry came.
(39km walked, 1037km hitchhiked)