Norway 2017


Kabelvag to Sortland

 Straight out and immediately stop as everyone stops to admire the yellow cathedral in Kabelvåg.The way north was along the E10 shared with Norwegian number plates and campervans. Loads of pictures taken, all different. Red huts, snow tipped mountains and deep blue water, then another of snow tipped mountains, deep blue water and red houses, then another….you get my drift. Frankly it’s hard not to go wrong it’s that scenic. At Melbu we bought a picnic and set of west along the coast, chancing on a white sanded beach pretty quickly, a perfect spot. Around the peninsular, high mountains on the right, a strip of agriculture leading to beaches on the left and all on a quiet one track road…bliss. Into Stockmarkness and free coffee in the small university building next to the beached Hurtigerten ship now converted to a museum. Out and thanks to these ships that plie the channels, we had to climb a huge bridge and then embankment in the fjord to cross to the next island. The east coast was busier with the typical couple of fields on our left tended by enormous tractors and all the time to the tune of sit on lawn mowers. Along with diggers that seemed everywhere these were the 3 mechanical must haves in this part of Norway.

 Sortland to Nyksund

 Communal breakfast. I’d foraged in the supermarket for drinking yoghurt, muesli, butter, bread, jam, coffee, cheese, milk and orange juice. Out, then left and right for a climb through the centre of Langøya island. The day was beautiful again as we climbed through the pine trees passing a short lit ski slope. The descent was fantastic, strips of pasture either side with little farms and big tractors and it wasn’t long before we were back at sea level to be faced with a small hut covered in cod, pegged out with sticks dried hard in the sun. The road to Myre was beautiful, snow tipped mountains either side with water streaming downwards as a result of the heat, but then again there had only been fresh snow 2 weeks before in May. Steinlands Fjorden glistened to our left as we entered Myre, all but deserted as unlike the UK, in Norway nearly everything closes aside the small slot machined filled sweet shop that sold coffee from a machine and a limited supply of soft drinks. Our destination was Nyksund. Deserted in the 1970’s as the harbour was too small for boats, it has recently enjoyed a renaissance as young families from Berlin now live here breathing life into the port.  The way there was a single tracked road that clung to the coast where it meandered up and down encompassing a huge rack of drying fish to the seaward side and spectacular mountains to the right. The only issues were the light gravel and the steady stream of motorhomes out to enjoy the view. Nyskund itself was amazing, created from 2 small island the port entered by a wide channel that bent 180 degrees to finished in a pair of wooden quays lined by renovated houses and 2 old buildings covered in squawking seagulls.

 Sortland to Stockmarkness

 The west coast ride was beautiful. Loads of summer huts but most were hidden from site, either between road and coast, so beneath our view or there rooves were covered in vegetation. It was undulating, but each rise brought a new view of fjords and mountains over Eidsjorden. We picnicked near Fleinnes where someone had placed a table. Around the corner we had a fabulous view of the bridge spanning Langøysundet, before heading back to Sortland along the 82. The day ended with a lovely communal meal. Christine had bought 30 potatoes and fillings and these were baked. Linda et al did a salad and we all crammed into a cabin to enjoy the spread

 Sortland to Andennes

 Well the weather had to break, so on an overcast day we set of, over the bridge onto Møysalen heading North towards Andennes. Over another big bridge through Maurnes and around the coast. The views were more expansive now, far less trees and almost tundra like with little else about aside the campervans heading both ways along the lonely road. The road hugged the coast, going eat, north the west again. Andøy Friluftssentre came just in time. Sited in a modern building its interior sold coffee, waffles and blueberry toppings, so who were we to refuse.  Norway’s food is expensive, but are the wages, so I popped the question to the waiter who it turned out earned 140Kr/hour. Northwards, another huge and high bridge took us through Risøyhamn. The Northerly wind had got up (typical) so the decision was made to tackle the west coast of Andøya Island instead of the east simply for the mountains to shield us. The road was beautiful. Once again mountains to the right, with 1 – 2 fields sloping to the sea. As we undulated we were treated to a Sea Eagle sighting, beaches and multiple masts with ‘No Photography’ signs all over the place, reminding us that we weren’t that far from Russia. We met up again at Nordmela in a tearoom, disguised as a shop, disguised as a rundown petrol station. Rejuvenated we plodded on passing isolated settlements, campsites and endless views across the sea. It was getting late now as we passed the specular cliffs overlooking the golf course at Bleik, rolling into Andennes at 1900 to rest our heads in the hotel by the pier.

 Andennes to Sortland

 The hotel buffet awaited, let the crush begin, so full of salmon, yoghurt and toast we headed south along the east coast. I’d been assured by the receptionist that it was pretty as he lived there, that’s proof isn’t it. The wind had mercilessly dropped and the east was certainly different to the west. Almost tundra like it stretched to the hills on the western side and you could see why a wind would affect as there was nothing to stop it. The whale ribs greeted us at the hut by the coast, artistically festooned with flotsam and jetsam it stood out in a sea of little red huts. Dverberg greeted us with an attractive octagonal white church by the sea. Built in 1843 it’s unusual shape meant everyone was close to the pulpit. Of more interest was the soap factory come tea shop in the renovated police house where kitsch lined the walls and the cake were to die for. In the UK, we are filled with outdoor history, churches, castles and the like. Norway has little, but the round settlement created by Vikings in 300AD was fascinating at Åse. Halfway through the day now we passed the round taken yesterday up the west coast and we tackled the bridge again in increasingly strong southerly (yes really) winds. A visit back to the waffle stop was a welcome break before we split in 2 to finish the ride. The cabins were a welcome sight and for the first time the cloud came down over the mountains.

 Sortland to Kabelvag

 The rain fell as we headed south. Cyclepath and a minor road took us to Stockmarknes. Arriving at 1200 the library provided a dry warm place as the librarian brewed a fresh pot of coffee and checked out the weather forecast for us. Next to the library lay the Hurtigruton On blocks now this former steamer had plied the fjords along the western coast of Norway was now awaiting renovation into a museum including grand plans to be enclosed in a glass case. ‘Have you been on the bridge?’ asked Martyn. ‘Really’ I replied and with that bounded up the 4 flights of stairs to explore the boat. It was grand, real olde world elegance with wood panelling surrounding lounges akin to the Marie Celeste. You could even sit on the bridge in the Captain’s Chair. The 12km to Melbu completed we re-acquainted ourselves with the ferry for the hours sail to Fiskebøl and back onto Austvagøya. The final push to Kabelvag and the lovely hostel, with cake and coffee in the evening

 Kabelvag to Unstad

 The dining room at the YHA was packed, but on the bright side, pickled herring…yum. Short hop to Kabelvag in search of supermarket, instead found a fabulous bakery. Cumin bread, double yum, buns, triple yum. Shame they cost more than an entire DIY packed lunch from the hostel. The food theme signalled the rest of the day, a gourmet delight, interspersed with the busy E10, misty lanes and drizzle. First stop was a petrol station at Vinje, but this was no ordinary petrol station, it has coffee in real mugs, purple donuts and lots of cakes, the obligatory knitting shelf and a smiling hostess. After the rain sodden lane with intermittent views of the peaks it was into a play centre. More coffee, carrot and ginger soup washed down with Liptons tea. Onto Unstad, passed the Viking museum and past 100.000 fish heads drying in the sun. Did that dull the appetite? Not a chance as we dined on fish stew or Minke Whale at the buffet at Unstad Arctic Surf, delicious.

 Unstad to Ballstad

 0900 breakfast, well what do you expect from a surfing place where everyone is chasing the midnight surf? The weather had perked up and the camera SD cards were taking a hammering again. Through the 400m tunnel built in 2005 it linked this tiny community to the outside world even though there was an abandoned tarmac road over the hill, now taken over by fish head racks. Jack wondered how an earth Norway could afford this but as 0.9% of world stock is owned by Norway, their oil money is literally burning a hole in their pocket. Loftr the Viking Museum was amazing. ‘How much’ stammered a German Tourist at reception, for a 200kr (£20) admission. ‘Welcome to Norway’ I replied. Discovered in 1983 by a local farmer flowing 6 inches deeper, the site had been excavated and then rebuilt. Several artefacts were found and displayed, most interesting tiny pieces of square embossed gold leaf under the posts used to support the roof. Deemed to have been placed here at marriages, 2 were on display along with glasswork and bits of pottery. Inside the chieftain’s house, were 4 divisions and within each were young Vikings of all sorts of nationalities re-enacting life. ‘Would you like to try the soup” asked a Slovenian Girl who had spent time in UKIP dominated Margate (she didn’t enjoy that) pointing to a large pot of stewing carrot pieces over a roaring fire. ‘that’ll be 110kr’ well I know vegetables are rarely on a Norwegian menu but that was a bit much. Into Ballstad in the drizzle. 3 couples and Colin deposited at the YHA, whilst Ian, I, Martyn and Linda headed for the Brygge accommodation units by the harbour.

 Round trip to Stamsund

 Into the drizzle we set out in glowering cloud, back towards Leknes. Onto a much quieter road that rose to produce a wonderful but cloudy view of fjords and mountains. On day 12 this was only the second proper climb of the whole trip. Down the other side and we decided to at least see if the museum at Skaftnes Farm was open as this required a 2km diversion. Good job we did as it was superb. As we drew up a large bearded Norwegian presented himself, assured us the place was open and proceeded over the next 3 hours to give a fascinating tour of the museum. Starting in the workshop we were shown the old shop, tools and farm implements used over the past 100 years. Moving to the boatshed, there were a variety of boats and within the house were renovated rooms. Highlights included beds made of wood that acted like concertinas to accommodate different sized occupants (very Norwegian) the 1960’s living room, the huge barn created from timbers dropped from a Russian boat and the coffee and strawberries provided by the host. Stamsund was a bit disappointing really, a small harbour and an industrial area. Round the headland with more great views of the towering mountains above to return to Leknes where I had coffee with Malc and Carel. For here was a most interesting way of selling cake. You know the feeling, order cake at an inflated price and get a portion that is often too small. Here you could cut of a piece that’s to your liking. ‘Does it work? I asked ‘Oh yes’ was the reply, ‘people don’t want to look greedy, so they cut of the piece they want, they could take the whole cake but they don’t’ Back at Ballstad the warden had arranged to cook a seafood feast for staying in the hostel were volunteer free divers that were clearing the harbour of rubbish, going about 5 metres down. I’d chosen not to pay the 200kr fee as frankly had eaten far too much over the past few weeks, but seeing him manfully coping on his own as the dishes pied up was too much so I volunteered to wash up. I started alone but was soon joined by a German student and a young lady drying up and then Ian and Linda joined in. 2 hours later beer and Stockfish in hand I was chatting to him with an offer to return anytime, take a cabin for free and see the Northern Lights!!

 Day to Day diary – Ballstad to Å

 ‘Ah the bicycle ferry’ Yes that’s the one I replied. My father started it smiled Dave. ‘Where do I get the tickets from?’ ‘Me’ he beamed back and so for 300Kr each we had bought a fishing vessel. For groups more that 12 it can’t be called a tour, so that’s the most we take and so it saves tax. It was also true that in Norway children are regarded as cargo so that meant no tax either. Naturally I paid in cash. We trooped down to the boat in spitting rain. Leaving at 1100 the skipper who spoke no English lashed and I mean lashed the bikes to the rails at the front. Linda and Barney crammed themselves around the table inside whilst the rest of us sheltered under a metal canopy near the bow. Jack in the only plastic chair with his helmet on just in case The sky was overcast and it looked a bit choppy as we set out. The journey was supposed to take an hour, for Christine, Linda and to be honest myself it seemed longer as the 15 metre former fishing boat (a renovation project) lurched about on the open sea. Increasingly pale, Linda and Christine clung to the side which remarkably both Linda in a hot lurching cabin and Jack in his plastic chair remained remarkably chipper. We landed at Nysfjord as the drizzle relented, the ground was swaying but we were on dry land. It was 1200 when we landed and we stayed here for 2 hours as our legs settled and innumerable mugs of coffee were drunk in the café. However, there was one advantage of coming by sea, because this village was entrance only. For 50 Kr you could explore the sheds and houses that took you through Stockfish production and the film showing a small child impaling a cods head on a spike to produce cod throat will live with me. Out the village and into remarkable scenery. Huge glaciated mountains reared up all about, most with snow as it had been a hard winter. Frequent stops for pictures meant that the group started to string out a bit. The main road west had fewer camper vans and almost no lorries which was a blessing as we took in fabulous sea and mountain views. Reine was where the red houses on stilts and the scenery took a further uplift. Better viewed from afar as 90% were rental they shone in the sun that has now risen as they perched on the edge of the sea. One last tunnel that we had to go through and into Å, the end of the road and the end of the trip.

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