Tuesday 9th Sept
56 days on the road:
8 countries visited
We decided to stay two nights in the campsite near Svolvaer in the Lofoten Islands just to let the tent and everything else dry out. (I thought I might be tempted to start collecting pictures of turf covered buildings, having seen post boxes, sheds and public loos; so, how about a dog kennel for starters?)
That evening, we did learn a little lesson. There is no point using a Camping Gaz stove to dry out your tent because all that happens is that the water from the flames condenses on the inside of the tent and you end up damper than ever. Meh!
Saturday we decided to drive all the way to Å, (pronounced O as in soap) which is near another Hell; we liked the idea of going from one Hell to another…. The route there was as picturesque as we had been lead to believe and the sun was shining. The Lofoten Islands are deservedly considered lovely, and well worth a visit. It was a shame that the view became hazy, as I am sure we missed some stinking views.
We stopped to get some supplies in at Leknes where, rather weirdly, there were hoards of people dressed up in cowboy gear. It turned out there was some kind of western event going on. Resisting the temptation to hoe down, we drove on for the next 50 or so miles, wondering what the warning signs along the way meant. Great! Major road works that were so major, that they had a timetable to let the traffic through. After sitting in the queue, watching all the digging and cutting and rock moving for ages, I asked how much longer it would be before we could move.
25 minutes was a bit long, considering how long we had already waited and how long it would take us to get back. We cut our losses, did a U turn and looked at a couple of beauty spots, one of which just looked like a run-down village (later, we found out the sign meant a battle site), and then we gave the local Viking museum a shot. It was great, complete with interactive displays, a good little film that made us finally understand why anyone would want to move to Iceland from Norway (political wrangling between chiefs), a great reconstruction of a chieftain’s longhouse (where you could touch everything)(who wouldn’t want to play with swords?)
and a model Viking boat, which you can help row if you come during the summer Viking festival.
The young people who were acting as guides were dressed in costume, highly informative and great fun. As is often the case in this part of the world, they are pleased and surprised to come across Brits (we have met very few others on our travels and the Norwegians LOVE our accent!). Not a single student wearing a plastic horned helmet anywhere.
On Sunday we drove east for 250 miles, (trees, trees, trees, VIEW, trees etc) the last hour and a half of which involved us looking for an open campsite that lets tents in. We are starting to feel unusual (or mad) as we are nearly always the only ones in a tent.. We finally found somewhere to stay a bit south east of Tromso. Phew! (again).
Then on Monday we drove on to Alta and what a difference a bit of sunshine makes. Apart from being stuck behind a range of camper vans and the inevitable roadworks, it was a fantastic journey
The northern fjords were stunningly beautiful and I loved the whole journey. (I suspect the Lofoten Islands would have been even more impressive, had the air been clear.) We stopped at the Alta museum, where there is the largest set of rock carvings in all of northern Europe. It was a fantastic experience, hugely interesting and a lovely walk on top.
We managed to find a campsite at the first go (wow, amazing), just south of Alta and, as we set up, saw someone else in a tent (we are not the only mad people up here after all, yeh!), who turned out to be a biker from Belgium.
He is a lovely bloke, who is riding around on his Triumph Tiger Explorer, needing his freedom after caring for both his parents, who both had dementia for several years. We always though Belgium was a very dull place, but after hearing about the three day carnival that happens every year in his home town Aalst, where the men dress like women, they dance around in big hats, wearing bells and they wear masks and burn effigies, it does sound a tad more exciting. He did point out that was the only thing that happened all year.
On Tuesday we decided to do something that finally proves we are bonkers. We drove to Nordkapp and back, just to say we had been there. We were warned that it was boring and expensive, but it was just too tempting to go there to say we had driven as far north as you can go in Europe. What nobody told us was that it was a truly beautiful journey,
I suspect no one else we spoke to did it with the autumn colours starting to show. I got very excited, because I started seeing reindeer. We had seen one or two, but only little glimpses, like a tail or an antler. I ended up seeing a huge heard, probably about a thousand animals, which was very exciting.
I loved the whole journey, which was just as well, because, when you get to Nordkapp, it costs you a fortune to go in and there is very little there, apart from; a gift shop, a cafe with (very nice) buns and coffee, a couple of sculptures, a non existent view (OK, it was foggy) and some extra stuff that you have to pay extra for like films about the northern lights (just to rub it in, I felt because it has stayed cloudy for days). Yep, we had a 300 mile round trip to buy a pin, some stickers and a couple of buns. It was REALLY foggy on the way back and we spent the whole time hoping we would not hit a moose. Who cares, it was a lovely day and we went to Nordkapp! We now have boasting rights with all the other overlanders.
This is our last night in Norway, and it has been fantastic!