A Norwegian voice woke us from our terribly broken sleep. There was nobody around so we figured it must have been a recording over the ferry’s PA system. When it finally turned to english, it was stated we were arriving at our port, the southern point of the Lofoten Islands. We had made it! 4:30am and in 3 days we had hitchhiked 1000km. We had hardly slept because we had stayed up until 12:45 for our ferry, then tried to sleep while seated. We stumbled like zombies from the ferry as cars drove by. We had no plans for the islands as scarce internet over the last few days had made it difficult to study the area. We had managed to check the weather and it was meant to be amazing, a rarity when it came to the unforgiving arctic climate. We walked along the road north which our phones told us would lead to the picturesque fishing village of Reine. We did not even try to hitchhike. Our brains were switched off and we had no idea what we were doing.
After walking at a snail’s pace and attempting multiple tent location searches, we still had not made up our minds what to do. We could hardly function but the opportunity of photographing Reine so early in the morning and in such beautiful weather urged us on towards the town 4kms away. Walking beside the road we suddenly stopped when the mountain gave way to reveal the view of the town before us. A thick blanket of fog sat over the entire fishing village, leaving nothing visible. It was completely clear skies all around the village however. We easily made the decision to walk to a carpark which sat beside the sea and pitch our tent. Through blurry vision we set up and instantly fell asleep despite the warming sun.
Our sleep was interrupted by the heat of the direct sunlight on our tent and we woke in a pool of sweat. We were in the polar circle! How can it be this hot?! (we found out later it had reached 25 degrees celsius!). It was now 11am, and we had somewhat regenerated with our 5 hours of sleep. Packing up quickly and eating our apple and musli breakfast, we decided to try to hitch the remaining 2km to Reine and the second car, driven by a local man, pulled over. Hitchhiking was apparently common here! As we drew close to Reine it was an amazing sight. Large pointed mountains rose ominously from the arctic turquoise sea. Dropped in the town, we were sure we had made the right decision as we could not get the photograph we were hoping for. We were in desperate need of replenishing our food stocks and as there was no supermarket on the small island. we discovered the closest shop was 4kms away on the main road back around the bay. From where we stood it, was only 500m away across the water… We chose to walk however, as we thought we may discover something along the way.
It was a beautiful day and all the fog had lifted. The walk was comfortable, albeit somewhat hot. Reaching the supermarket we stocked up on enough food for a few days. The increased price ( due to being somewhat isolated and very touristy) swallowed our entire budget. We used the supermarket’s second vital commodity- wifi! We made a plan for the remaining afternoon. We would go to Bunes Beach, one of the many white sand beaches the islands were famous for. There was a problem with getting there though; the beginning of the hike could only be reached by ferry and it left in half an hour, the whole way back in the centre of Reine. We contemplated whether to run or hitch and agreed we would try and get a lift. 5 minutes later we were picked up by the second car that drove past! It was a nice French dude going to Reine and he dropped us exactly where the ferry left, a location we surely would not have seen and we actually walked directly onto the ferry just before it left, 15 minutes early.
Departing the ferry in an even smaller village named Moskenesoya, we walked down a long jetty. As we were organising our packs with the food we had just baught, a very tall, long haired, bearded Norwegian guy (he looked like Jesus haha!) came over to talk. He was super friendly (and we are so sorry for not remembering his name!) and easy to talk to. Being the only permanent resident at the small village over summer, he volunteered to help travellers as they arrived. He shared his valuable knowledge of the area, suggesting we could actually set up camp in his front yard as there was thick fog covering the beach, and while we ate lunch we chatted. We followed him to his very traditional ,cute wooden house and he offered to show us inside. As we walked in, a Spanish traveller and a Lithuanian traveller walked out. They were staying with him also and two French ladies were setting up tents in his yard. It felt as if we were walking into a non-official hostel as the house was ornately decorated to accomodate guests. His house was very welcoming and he showed us the different facilities and offered us a room (insanely nice dude!). We decided we would walk to the beach and decide, based on the weather, if we would stay there. Our friend was very humble and relaxed and happy with our decision and wished us an enjoyable hike. We walked down the small gravel road in the summer village which was situated between steep jagged mountains. This place was already living up to its expectations…
The hike was only 45 minutes and led us through green rolling hills with the odd summer house nestled along the shallow turquoise bay. Once we passed the few holiday houses, the road took us up a narrow sand path with bright long grass either side. Behind us the sun was completely clear and the temperature above 20. Climbing the hill however, there was an impenetrably thick blanket of low cloud. It was explained to us that the fog rolls in off of the ocean and gets stuck on the mountain tops, sometimes for days. It tumbled towards us, dissipating just beyond the peak. Once we were over the peak and staring down at the beach, we could see no further than 100m before us. A strong wind whipped up from the ocean. We asked ourselves, how can it be so different in comparison to the other side?!
We walked down the hill to the beach and scouted for a camp space. There was already over a dozen tents on a flat grassy area before the beach. Due to the poor weather, we didn’t get the opportunity to take any photographs and instead opted for an early night. By 8:30 we had cooked dinner and were inside our tents falling asleep as rain began to fall heavily.
We had hoped it would pass but when we woke the weather had remained quite the same. We had planned to climb the mountain beside the beach and capture the view from above however the low cloud made it impossible to see. instead we headed back to where an 11 o’clock ferry would return us to Reine. Once over the hill, the weather was once again immaculate. Before leaving the small village behind, we chatted again to our long-haired friend at the dock. We apologised for not coming back to accept his generous offer and he was extremely humble. We exchanged contact information and then jumped onto the ferry.
Once back on land, having not paid for either ferries, we found ourselves again with no definite plans. The centre of Reine had a cafe surrounded by lush grass and we ate some tuna sandwiches there after asking for wifi. The weather was unbelievable so we decided to climb the mountain overlooking Reine. We read it was an incredibly steep 450m in elevation climb and due to having no other option, would have to take our packs. For this reason, we decided we would camp on top having read there are multiply places. The steep accent started only 2km from the city centre.
We walked south along the road out of town and almost returned to the stop at which we had camped after the ferry. To the left of the road was a sign which clearly stated; “ DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS HIKE DUE TO UNSAFE CONDITIONS. THE COUNCIL OF REINE AND ALL TOUR ORGANISATIONS DEEM IT EXTREMELY DANGEROUS” This did not seem to deter people however as we had seem multiple people walk into the bushes to begin the climb and within the first 100 meters saw plenty coming down.
The hike began by winding through thick vegetation which resembled a jungle. The path was clearly marked by the thick foliage each side. ‘How weird’ we thought ‘We’re in the polar circle’.. From the very beginning, the accent was incredibly steep and we found ourselves already breathing heavily. Our packs were proving difficult. As the vegetation began to clear and our view of the route ahead became visible, we almost agreed to turn around. The path lead up an almost impossibly steep mountain face, at an angle one might crawl, if it weren’t for man made steps. It did not seem at all manageable, other than the fact we saw multiple coloured bodies working their way slowly to the summit. With sweat pouring, we worked diligently to climb each step as the path became steeper. Nearing the summit, each step we took threatened to give way. We were extremely cautious as the rocks were incredibly loose. Finally our eyes peered out over the summit. The view was so rewarding. We felt instantly that we had made the right decision in continuing the persevere. The 1.5km climb took a gruelling 2 and a half hours with our packs and multiply times we had to catch our balance. It did not matter because we had made it. Now to find a camp. It was 6pm and we had another 5 hours until sunset.
The path actually continued further along the top ridge of the mountain for another kilometre to another summit. We began walking almost vertically again. Climbing another 50 meters the track reached a small flat, 3×3 area which was popular for taking photographs. We dumped our bags here and sat down waiting for the crowds to disperse. It was be the perfect camp ground, having just enough space for our tent and being almost flat. On two sides were vertical cliffs dropping hundreds of meters below, the other two were narrow paths which lead to different peaks. It was big enough for us to feel safe and we had little other option but to hope the weather would remain calm.
The evening light gave us plenty of time to take photos and in doing so we met two fellow Australians; Jarrod and Bodi. They were two legends from Sydney and having just got off the ferry from Bodo that afternoon, they decided to hike the mountain and camp on top also. Their only option was a similar ridge further down from us, only it was half the size and in a shallow bowl in the side of the mountain. Their tent only just fit and together we all chatted and watched the sun set. What is it with Australians and camping on summits! It was a spectacular sight as the night remained completely clear and the setting arctic sun spread a vast, orange and pink hue across the evening sky. In the distance the thick cloud still loomed over the beach and behind us, the ocean side of the mountain was completely whited out. The mountains acted as a barricade, protecting Reine in the bay below. At 1:30am we decided to give up on watching the sun dip completely below the horizon and climbed into our tents. It was one of the coldest night yet, but our hearts were warmed with joy and we found it easy to fall asleep.
We woke again in a pool of sweat because of the hot sun. We quickly packed our tent away as it was already 11am and the crowds were growing. Our tent took up the majority of the largest viewing platform and we didn’t want to interrupt the experiences of others. We had been dreading the decent and as we began we were careful to take ach step with extreme caution. This resulted in the total time being increased by half an hour and once we had reached the bottom, felt very relived to have not fallen. A small waterfall provided us with a shower before we continued the 7km to the supermarket on the other side of Reine. We restocked on our usual foods; musli, apples, bananas, and noodles before we walked some more. We had seen a photo of a man jumping from a bridge into amazing, clear water and our phones instructed us that it was on a small island along the main road. 2km later we had difficulty finding the location with our phones. Instead, we used the unique mountain peaks in the background of the picture to locate it. The weather was still in the mid 20s and the water was clear up to three meters below. We needed no excuse to jump in.
We had imagined swimming in the arctic circle would have been much colder but and as we jumped from the bridge, tourists drove by smiling and waving us on. We had been so lucky with the weather!
Tonight would be our last night in Norway. It was 6pm before we began hitching to our couch surfer’s house in a town 150km away. It was much too late to make it by our arranged time of 8pm, however we were picked up by a nice lady, a younger girl and a truck driver and managed to make it to couchsurfer’s doorstep by 10pm. 2 hours late, our joyful host Sofia did not mind and gave us an entire room for the night. We stayed up talking until she had to go to sleep for work the next morning. We cooked our noodles and crawled into bed, experiencing our first sleep on a mattress for 21 days. We wished we had more time to explore these magical islands, but our time in beautiful Norway had already well and truly exceeded our estimated time frame. It was time to move on!
(66km walked, 123km hitchhiked)