From Trondheim, we caught the overnight train to Bodo, the other side of the Arctic Circle. The sleeping compartments were much nicer than on the Cologne-Copenhagen train - just 2 to a compartment, well insulated, with complimentary ear-plugs in case of snoring. The carriage steward was very friendly and helpful. In fact, he produced a crow-bar from somewhere and was able to part me from my tee-shirt for the first time in several weeks (see photo).
Safely sedated and straight-jacketed in top bunk under the Norwegian Mental Health Act for wearing tee-shirt continuously for 4 weeks
The next morning, we awoke to much wilder scenery in beautiful sunshine. We pulled in to Bodo Station just in time to catch the ferry across the road for the Lofoten Islands. These are a string of islands which are part of an archipelago about 40 miles off shore. They have been, and to some extent continue to be, one of the most important sources of cod fishing in Norway. Their mountains rise out of the sea almost vertically and rise up to 3000 ft with their jagged ridges making a spectacular sight from miles away.
The sky was cloudless and the sea flat calm for the 3 hour journey across the Norwegian Sea. This part of the coast benefits from the Gulf Stream and, despite its northern latitude, doesn’t experience extreme cold at any time of year. We were basking in warm sunshine all the way in temperatures that were, paradoxically, much higher than we had experienced further south. Slowly, the islands came into view, the scale of their grandeur gradually becoming apparent. Sea mists floated in, abutting against the headlands, being forced in slow motion upwards before gradually dissipating in a spectacular natural display. Beautiful though the southern fjords are, this was the raw natural beauty we had been looking for.
We stayed 2 nights in A (pronounced “awe”) which is an old fishing village preserved very much like it has been for hundreds of years. During the cod season, from February to April, this is an area of intense activity. Fish that have migrated from the Baring Sea to spawn are landed in colossal quantities, hung up and salted on outdoor racks to dry before being exported to southern Europe where the main market is. Fishermen in days gone by would travel from all over Norway & Europe for the season and live in small red-painted cabins, or robuer, on stilts at the edge of the sea. These are now rented out for holiday makers during the summer.
We took one which happened to be opposite a derelict fish-processing factory. Squatters in the form of a huge colony of kittiwakes had moved in and had used every available window ledge of the boarded-up windows to build their nests and raise their chicks. After the short period of semi-darkness which passes for night, we were awoken early in the morning by a cacophony of screeching as daily colony life swung into action. Every so often, the level of noise escalated to Concorde take-off levels. This would usually be when one of the juveniles transgressed onto someone else’s territory, provoking the spontaneous formation of a posse of morality marshals which relentlessly pursued the offender, crazy cops fashion, until he well and truly got the message. Community policing at its best, I thought, and much more effective than ASBOs.
It was peak season in A and there were many day-trippers driving in and out. However, on the second day, we were able to easily escape the crowds and walk along a beautiful lake with the mountains towering up around us. Wild fruits were everywhere - raspberries and blueberries in particular.
We got back in the evening just in time to see a full moon rise from the mainland mountains in perfect visibility 40 miles away. What could be better than this, we thought to ourselves. Little did we know that Vaeroy, a much smaller island to the south, held more delights.