MAP thus far:
-Waiting out the Storm-
Due to a nearby storm, the winds and swell of the sea were more than we were interested in challenging ourselves with. We decided tot take shelter at Sandvika Campgrounds that offered showers/bathrooms and a warm kitchen to cook and eat meals in.
During our time at Sandvika, we caught the public bus to Henningsvaer, the “Venice of the Lofoten islands.” We are all impressed with the public transportation here – clean, efficient, on-time, and the buses seem to go everywhere! We wander the quaint touristy streets of Henningsvaer and watched as local fisherman pulled down dry cod to package and sell, a staple in Norway.
In Kabelvaag, we borrowed bikes and rode up to a lake nestled in a valley surrounded by cascading waterfalls beneath snow covered peaks. We also rode to a bakery where we ate a vegan poppyseed cinnamon swirl, before continuing on to navigate the busy streets of the larger city of Svolvaer.
-Watching the Swells-
After two days of enjoying a break from disassembling the tent and packing up the boats with our gear, we decided it was time to continue on paddling. We made our way around the Southwest point of Austavagoy island before turning northward. We were both excited and a bit nervous to round the towering peak that sailors salute in respect as they pass by. The waters were choppy but nothing like we had experienced to this point. Our main concern was a narrowing of the passage under a bridge where we were told there was a tidal race.
Timing is critical and we aimed for 2.5 hours before the high tide in which the water was to be moving fastest in the direction we were headed. We managed the passage with minimal worries but did have a choppy section and some unexpected significant current against us, swerving our boat. We questioned the fella who gave us the timing advice and thought slack tide may have been better, but if there is anything that we have learned about the sea and Northern Norway is nothing is predictable and no two days at sea are ever the same.
Our destination for the night was an archipelago that would hopefully provide some protection from the strong northern winds and large, unnerving swells as we turned into open seas that stretched thousands of kilometers to Greenland. We had been told the islands looked like the Caribbean. With the choppiness picking up, we found our very own private sandy beach blocked from the wind where we enjoyed listening to the birds in their little visited nature preserve.
As we set out the next morning, the tide was going out and we quickly realized, with such drastic differences between high and low tide here, that passing between the islands would prove impossible with the shallow water, sandy mud bogs, and massive sea weed balls. We retreated and rounded the islands from the open water once more, making a line for the mainland. Once again, we found ourselves navigating what felt like very unpredictable, angry waters and unanimously decided to pull into the first harbor we came upon in Laukvik. This tiny town of just a couple hundred, who told us many stories about the powerful waters, had a monument at the center of town for their sailors who didn’t return from these perilous waters – one harrowing story involved a fishing boat coming into the harbor with such massive waves, a wave going out caused the boat to hit the rocky bottom of the sea floor before being crushed by the following wave, killing the thirteen men of all ages on board.
Our first goal, after tying up our kayaks in the harbor of this quiet town at 10a m, was to find a warm place to sit with hopefully a hot drink to bring back up our core body temps. The only restaurant didn’t open until noon. We have found this common in Norway, where late nights, with no darkness, often mean later starts in the am.
Curiously, there were small black signs on a dirt road pointing us to “Keans Beans.” Sounded like a coffee shop to all of us so we walked down the path, following the signs like bread crumbs in this quiet, tiny town. We arrived to a dark, dusty boat house of sorts under construction with a sign on the wall that said “Don’t be scared of the noise, come on in!” Making our way through the boards and supplies, we found a small door with the same logo posted on it and looked at each other… Should we open it? Justin risked the operation in question and when the door creaked open, to all of our surprise, a smiling Scottish man greeted us inside a warm, well lit room filled to the gills with burlap sacks of green coffee beans!
Kean traveled to Norway a few years ago and loved it so much, he decided to stay. He acknowledged what the coffee drinkers in our motley crew had observed as well, the coffee is not anything to write home about, for the most part. He started a coffee roasting business and sells organic beans to local businesses that he roasts himself. Thankfully (for melissa and the others) he also brews coffee for folks to try.
We sat around chatting about Norway and coffee for hours, warming our cores, before a family traveling from Croatia entered the room and bought 6 bags of coffee! We bought 2 bags and said our farewells, knowing we would bump into him again in this small town while we were figuring out our next moves.
-Laukvik’s Tough Decision-
That evening, we camped on a small gravel lot alongside nearly a dozen other camper vans and watched the midnight sun as the town prepared for its yearly summer celebratory fair.
Our next move involved finding some coverage from the northern ocean currents and winds. With heavy hearts, we all agreed that we did not feel comfortable paddling in these open water conditions as it involved more anxiety than we desired. We decided to take a bus eastward, tucking back into another fjord on our way to Tromso. Busses are frequent in Norway and travel to nearly every town, stopping for folks alongside just about any road!
We dissembled our foldable kayaks and embarked for the two-plus hour scenic ride the following morning. We meandered along bays, over bridges, and through many long, underground tunnels, some of which went under the sea to cross to another island! Our bus, which was in a hurry as the driver continually stressed we were ten minutes late (which was absolutely unacceptable by Norway standards), pulled over after an under sea tunnel crossing. Melissa, with her impressive ability to read a situation, whispered that there way something wrong with the bus, after observing the driver’s mannerisms. I quickly countered with “Nooooo, not possible.”
Within moments the driver came over the intercom and said we would be waiting a few minutes while he looked at the bus. Melissa turned to me with an “I told you so” look.
The passengers all stepped off for a stretch break while the driver had his head under the engine deck to top off the coolant. Impressively, less than ten minutes later, we were back on our way and enjoying the beautiful countryside while the driver stressed about our delay even more.
-Where is John when you need him?-
We chose to stop in yet another small town named Gausvik, as satellite maps made it look like we had a decent beach to build our boats and set off from once more. We quickly unloaded our massive amount of heavy boat luggage as the bus driver yelled for us to hurry up as he fought a downhill fight to make up time. As the bus peeled out, leaving us on the side of the street with a pile of bags, we agreed to first scout out the nearest path to the water before schlepping our stuff. The tide was annoyingly low (meaning a long distance to carry the boats to water), the wind was whipping us in the face, and our hunger was strong. We slowly lugged our stuff down a dirt road and found a small grassy area to eat, hidden from the wind, and “have a think” as Sophie and Tom say. We half-jokingly talked about how we really needed to find a John to help us, after John from Kjeldebotn came to our rescue a while back.
As we were pondering where to build our boats, Melissa caught the eye of a woman walking her puppy, and of course ran up to pet the pup and strike up a conversation. The woman, seeing our tough situation, happily invited us to carry on down the road to her house where we could seek some shelter from the wind. We excitedly carried our stuff a few hundred meters further to be welcomed by her silly puppy once more, as well as her bubbly husband. Lo and behold, his name was… John!
-Home Sweet Peninsula Oasis Home-
Ann-hilda and John happily told us we could make ourselves at home on their gorgeous peninsula. They are both nurses and their kindness and compassion are inspirational.
We built our boats and set up our tents for the night after learning from John that the best time to pass through the next narrow bridge passage would not be until 4:30am when the tidal currents were going with us. Patience – a lesson the seas have taught us time and time again. We were invited in for hot drinks and were given delicious homemade rhubarb marmalade and crackers to snack on.
We enjoyed conversing and watching John fillet fish he caught with a couple who was staying at there AirBnB. Talk about a steal of a deal place to stay – They have a secluded hot tub and lap pool surrounding by a wooden shelter and huge windows overlooking the sea!
Onward we go into the serene beauty of Northern Norway. <3