Arctic Adventures (2016)
We’re on our way to Narvik (Norway) to start our holiday in the mountains of Lapland (this time mostly on the Swedish side of the border for the first time). I’m really excited to see what adventures lie ahead of us this year! Because last year’s trip was amazing!
The landscapes were beautiful and magical, and the people we met on our way went out of their way to help us. I often think back to the wonderful times we had in Rago national park and Hamarøy. Here are some of our most memorable moments from last year’s summer holiday in Norway.
Flying to Bodø we had some stunning landscapes over the Svartisen glacier and the surrounding fjords. From the airport, it’s just a twenty-minute walk to town, which makes it one of my favorite destinations (after the domestic airport in Reykjavík).
Bodø is a small town, which host the norwegian aviation museum and a small historic museum. But more importantly, it’s a great gateway to get outdoors. Depending on the weather, you can go inland or to the Lofoten islands, where in our limited experience the weather mostly seems to be sunnier.
We had a quite decent weather forecast (from yr.no) for a whole week in Rago national park. So we took the two-hour bus-ride from Bodø, and with our tent and a week’s food supply on our back, we started our way to the far end of Rago.
Already on our way up on the first mountain, we were pleasantly surprised by a field of cloudberries, which became our daily delight during the whole trip.
Even though it was our second time in Rago, I couldn’t stop marveling at the landscape. The meandering river in the lush valley as seen from the ridge becomes even more impressive when you reach Litlverivassforsen waterfall.
After the waterfall, there is still a day’s walk to Ragohytta and beyond. My plan was to hike over to the Swedish highlands, but I didn’t prepare well enough. We took the wrong unmarked path, and were forced to turn back. Hopefully we’ll be back another time to hike from Rago to Padjalenta to Sarek national parks, which together form one of the largest wilderness areas of Europe.
There are always more paths than shown on the map (which we got as a present from two Norwegian guys the year before). Rago is also great for just exploring without any paths. One side of the mountains usually flows like a wave and is quite approachable, while the other side has a steep drop. This grants great views from the top.
We set up our camp a bit north of Ragohytta where we had a huge field, a stream and two trees just for ourselves during our stay.
From here we went exploring on two beautiful and mostly sunny day-trips, before slowly making our way out of Rago over two days as the rain was coming in.
I didn’t really prepare for a second hike in advance. We had some options but I didn’t have too strong feelings about them. I wanted to go see Hamarøy because Adam Ondra seemed to like it a lot (in his movie Change he said that he couldn’t leave Norway without driving 1000km north to visit Hamarøy again). But I didn’t really find a good hike to do on the map that can be done as a multiday hike without a car (on ut.no all hiking routes of Norway can be explored). While in Rago, I checked all my saved bus and ferry schedules. I found that we can take the ferry from Skutvik (Hamarøy) to Bodø, which sounded exciting. So we booked a hotel in Oppeid (Hamarøy) and decided to just take the bus to Hamarøy with only very vague plans.
We had to get our keys at the café opposite the hotel. We asked there for some hiking recommendations, and got quite a few options. It was really nice to have a warm shower after washing ourselves in streams for six days, sleep in a bed and prepare pancakes for breakfast. So we decided to take a day-hike around Oppeid, and stay for another night at the hotel. We also had a delicious dinner at the café: a selection of locally made starters and bacalao (fish stew with potatoes, tomatoes and olives).
During our hike we met sheep, picked cloudberries and raspberries and saw rain and sun play over the waterfront surrounded by steep mountains.
We also passed the museum dedicated to Knut Hamsun, a local Nobel prize winning writer, who became forgotten due to his support for Hitler. It’s a shame because he had a captivating literary style, and I enjoy reading his stories about the Norwegian backcountry at the time of economic transformation.
After restocking our food supplies from the supermarket just opposite our hotel, we waited for the bus at the next-door bus-stop, which hosted a small library. But the bus never came because it was school holiday.
At the café, the hotel owner offered to call the municipality to ask, whether someone could take us after work. While waiting, we had a piece of cake, were given some sugar to preserve our cloudberries and got the advice to pick chanterelles at Landstrykerstien during our weekend hike. We had absolutely no experience with picking mushrooms, which always seems a bit dangerous. But we were assured that we can’t get it wrong. So we actually took the advice and went mushroom picking.
But before that, we got a lift from a women who just moved to Hamarøy recently from Bergen, where she studied economics, and knew some of the professors my husband just visited a few months before. She even drive us to the beginning of the hiking path, out of her way.
We had a beautiful sunny weekend at the beach of Straumvatnet. We found a perfect camping spot with firewood already prepared. There were no mosquitos, probably because the sea enters the lake at high-tide and it is somewhat salty.
There is also some climbing in the area at Nordland and Hamarøyskaftet, but we stuck to hiking, which was also really nice with views on the peaks of Lofoten islands.
At the end of the weekend, we headed to the village so that the next morning we could take the ferry to Bodø. We hitchhiked with a young family to a pretty spot for campers. We were getting settled, when they remembered and drove back to tell us that there is actually a ferry to Bodø in an hour.
We took the ferry but still had to find a place to stay for the night. In Bodø there was the Arctic Race of Norway, a bike race that day, so almost all hotels were full. We found a campsite at Saltstraumen, south of Bodø, with a connecting bus. It turned out that this place hosts the world’s largest whirlpool when the high-tide enters the fjord and meets the outward flowing river. It sounded interesting to check out.
But due to the bike race, the bus did not come to pick us up, and we got stranded at the bus terminal with a handful of Norwegians. Then a couple offered us, that if we take another bus with them to their home, they will drive us to the campsite at Saltstraumen, which was a 30-minute drive away from their place. So after arriving home with an hour of delay, they made an other hour of detour just for us at 10pm. We were really moved by their kindness.
The next day we looked at the whirlpool and took the bus back to Bodø to visit the aviation museum before spending our last night in town.
The next morning we got up early, walked to the airport and flew back home. But again, we had some stunning views over the fjords, where the clouds were still settled low in the valley as the sun was rising in the sky.
Some maybe useful tips based on my experiences:
- Always check the weather forecast right before your trip (e.g. at yr.no), because weather can make conditions dramatically different along the hiking path even within a few hours. It’s good to have a plan B for bad weather conditions.
- Before buying hiking maps for Norway, you can plan your trip on ut.no. But also read up on the hikes you are planning on forums to get a feel for the terrain.
- For food, we usually take Adventure Food packages (cashew nasi and curry fruit) that serve 2 people and are quite tasty. But our latest favorite is powdered mashed potatoes with mashed dried fish (we buy dried fish in Norway and put it in the blender) and optionally rasped cheese, sun-dried tomatoes and dill. This meal probably takes the least space and weight for its caloric intake.
- August is the month for cloudberries and blueberries
Now I’m off to the mountains! Wish me cloudberry fields and good weather!