The Lofoten archipelago, a Norwegian chain of islands in the arctic circle and the destination of my most ambitious backpacking trip to date. Myself along with a group of 7 friends and colleges got together and for a week to become trekking team exploring the land of breath taking views, fjords, and midnight sun.
Our journey north took us from Munich to Bergen via plane, then a night in a hostel, then a morning flight to Bodø, and finally a ferry from Bodø to Moskenes. Once in Moskenes the adventure began with a night of wild camping on a bluff overlooking the ocean.
The 5 day backpacking portion of the trip started with a bus from Moskenes north to the top of the island near Fredvangskrysset. From there we hiked across a series of road bridges to Sandbotnen beach where we had a confrontational encounter with a local woman. She seemed convinced we, at 9am, were trying to set up camp on her lawn. While the truth was we were simply passing by on the public trail to see the beach. Luckily this was the only poor experience with locals we had. It was understandable misunderstanding with the increased foot traffic the area is receiving I’m sure not all travelers are as leave no trace as we are.
After hiking Fuglhuken we spent the evening around a campfire with a fellow traveler. He was making a extended hike of Norway from Oslo north. The bright evening sun made the fire not quite so romantic but we still enjoyed in sharing some food and stories.
Sleeping in such bright conditions took quite some getting use to. I remember rolling over in the middle of the night looking for something and peaking from behind the hat covering my eyes. Oh the burn, and falling asleep after that not easy.
The next morning we set off on what would be the longest hike of the trip, some 16km from Kavalvika beach to Horseidvika beach. We crossed over slippery rocks, up over a saddle, down along an remote dirt road, through a wet swampy area, back up a different saddle then down to the Horseidvika.
We were lucky enough to have a fisherman in the group who caught us dinner a few times. We cleaned the fish then made a delicious fish soup with a recipe that involved spices and sea water. Something about single digit temperatures made hot soup taste amazing.
Leaving Horseidvika beach we shared a afternoon with kind local in Kirkefjord. He gave us fresh cabbage and potatoes, improving the soup recipe even more. Throughout the day we had on and off rain that hindered sprits but we pushed on. After spending an hour huddled together in a small shack near the main dock we took the ferry headed back to Moskenes. The trick was to successfully negotiated drop off at a remote power station on the way, which we did. There we fished a bit more then headed up to our highest camp of the trip.
It was at this camp where I learned the true importance of alcohol while backpacking. After eating and talking for a bit the temperatures dropped and the wind picked up. When it came time to handle the last duties before tucking in for the night my hands were slow moving and my speech and thinking had slowed. It was not until after a shot of particularly strong whisky that I was able to accomplish the last of my chores and get to bed.
With half the group hiking Hermannsdalstinden I spent the morning reading my book in camp and enjoying the view. The calm alpine ambiance was only interrupted when a large chunk of ice broke off into the lake letting out a rumble.
I love the back country as it makes little things like a corner store an uplifting experience. An evening in Å was perfect chance to enjoy some local fish and recuperate. I received some weird looks as I emptied the glass vessel at the up scale restaurant into a water bottle for another night of wild camping but at this point I did not care.
For this last quarter of the trip we did some spontaneous trip planning and half the group and I split off for a road trip to Abisko. We took a bus north then rented a car to make the loop through Sweden then back to Bodø.
Car camping may not be quite as exciting as backpacking but with the cold wet weather I was very thankful for a warm place to enjoy the view and the often stops for warm drinks.
Rolling into Sweden the landscape changed from the towering coastal cliffs to thin forests with scattered rock out croppings. There the was a shift in buildings and vesicles as well, things felt more rugged and it suited me. Abisko National Park was beautiful we enjoyed the gorge then hiked through the rain for another night of camping.
If you would have told me a year ago, when I lived in Milwaukee, that I’d be exploring islands in the arctic circle with friends I would have had a hard time believing you. Now that it is reality I’m meditating on the good memories and letting my imagination open up on what else is possible to see.