Days 4, 5 & 6: Lofoten
The Lofoten Islands was the part of our trip I was most looking forward to. Lofoten is an archipelago located above the Arctic Circle but has strangely warm temperatures with the help of the Gulf stream. It is made up of 6 main islands, with Svolvær serving as the main port town. It is mainly comprised of fishing villages, and was/is the main center of cod fishing for all of Norway. You can see, almost anywhere, racks of fish tied out to dry in the process of preparing stockfish - a tradition introduced by Viking people. Borg is home to important archaelogical findings in regard to the Vikings, including the largest known Chieftain house. In Lofoten, there is evidence of human settlement going back at least 11,000 years, which is incredible when taking into account the harshness of winters here. The landscape is worth beholding, and there is nothing else in the world like it. Here is my journal entry from day 4, 5 and 6:
On day 4, we flew to Oslo - and I have to say, the Oslo airport is way better than Logan in terms of, well, everything. Everything is "self-serve" - self service check in, bag drop, ticket check. We got through to our get within 10-15 minutes of stepping into the building, and Oslo is a very busy airport. Aside from how easy everything was and how awesome Scandinavian design is, we immediately knew the rest of the trip was going to be extremely expensive.
Our shuttle to our hotel - our airport hotel - cost $14 one way, and it turns out, rooms here are charged per person, not per room. That's why the price seemed reasonable at first. We decided not to visit Oslo in the short time we had, as we would probably be too tired the next day and it would be way too costly. Our room was cozy but had very little amenities. I appreciate the heated floor tiles, but I would have loved some hair conditioner. We had dinner downstairs. I suppose Thousand Island dressing is really popular on burgers.
After a good night's rest, we left for Lofoten. We also decided to rent a car for this part of the trip, and we were surprised to get a brand new, sports-outfitted Ford Fiesta, complete with red accents. Heated seats are always a plus. Our plan was to drive to the end of the islands, all the way to Å and then backtrack over the next few days. We made some stops along the way.
We stopped at a grocery store to stock up and some food; of course, Andy picked out some cherries unknowingly imported from California- they cost kind of a lot for cherries. We checked out one of the scenic beaches: Eggum, and then drove down a long ocean road. We even saw a moose within the first 45 minutes of driving along the main route.
We got to the place I was most looking forward to: Reine. This entire area seems like it just belongs in a story book, World of Warcraft or Lord of the Rings. It is really incredible and each vista is better than the last. Sweeping mountain scapes higher than the eye can see, dotted with red houses where fisherman lay to rest. To be honest, the whole place smells really fishy if you keep the windows rolled down. But, watching the sun wrap around the mountains and seeing all of these rainbows makes it alright with me.
We spent day 6 hiking the Reinebringen, a trail that turned out to be MUCH harder than I anticipated. I guess when the guidebooks say "moderate to difficult" they don't mean it the way people from the AMC in the White Mountains mean it. We probably should not have done this hike given how muddy it was. I'm not sure of the elevation, but entire trail was nearly vertical, and there were a lot of parts where you really had to guess which way the trail went, and we ended up trailblazing on parts. The views at the top made it all worth it, but it was extremely cold so we left after about 15 minutes. The way down was much worse than the way up, in part because of the turns in weather. It would change in the blink of an eye, and I'm not exaggerating. I guess I should be used to that coming from New England, but I don't think I've ever seen the weather change from shining sun, to rain, to snow, to hail within an hour before. I was definitely scared at many points and had to use every muscle and focus I could muster to make sure I didn't tumble right off the cliff. If you were to drop a rock from any point on the way down, it would've made it halfway down the trail. We actually saw an icesheet give way on our way up; pretty cool, but dangerous.
By the time we made it down, we were dirty and muddy, and my new boots looked as if I'd worn them for a month. We're now dry, warm, and as clean as we could be while camping, and are on our way toward Unstad beach. Anyway, I've never seen such breathtaking landscapes before. It could be raining, but as you turn the corner the sky will just open up. The water is a really strange blue - something out of the Caribbean. The mountain tops are always shrouded in a mist, and rooftops with moss. The streets are lined with Norwegian flags and colors, and I can see why they are so proud (even though this 24-hour sun is a little disorienting).