August 2, 2014

We had pre-ordered the airport shuttle bus to pick us up at 7:30 am, and it arrived exactly on time so we were relieved. The shuttle went on a tour of the downtown hotels to see if anybody wanted to go to the airport and, finding no takers, off we went. Check-in and security were very fast so soon we were sitting at the gate waiting for our flight to Bodø.

The flight left on time and the crew had just enough time to hand out tea and coffee before we landed. In Bodø we only had 40 minutes before our flight to Svolvær departed. We were somewhat concerned that our packs wouldn’t make the connection, but nobody else seemed concerned. So off we went in the little Dash 8-103, first to Leknes and then a 10-minute hop over to Svolvær. We waited in the baggage claim area, which consisted of the staff bringing in a cart from which everybody took their bags. Ours were on the cart as well.

Waiting at the terminal was the man from Hertz, so all went smoothly for the car pickup. This time we had a VW Golf. In Svolvær we went grocery shopping before heading on down the E10 to Å. Now the travel stuff was over and we were on holiday again. Here in the Lofotens it was sunny and warm, which meant 15° C. The road was rather winding but it passed through spectacular scenery with farms, fields, beaches, and bays all backed up by amazing mountains.

Golf by the fjord

And then there was a “ping” sound and a warning light came on in the car’s dashboard. We got the book out, and the Norwegian-English dictionary, and figured out that we had a tire pressure problem with the rear left tire. “Stupid modern cars” we thought, “bugging us about minor things like that”. But we didn’t like ignoring the warning, so we decided to do something about it. Rather than going back to Svolvær we decided to carry on to Leknes, where there was another Hertz agency. Conveniently the Hertz person was on site, so he added air to the tire. And then as a precaution, because we were going to be down in Å and not near a repair facility, he decided to get the mechanic to check the tire. Good thing he did, because there was a large nail in the tire! He removed the nail and patched the tire, and soon we were off. “Thank goodness for modern cars” we thought, “noticing little things which might become problems”.

By now it was 1:30 pm and both of us were hungry. We stopped at the first picnic area by the road we came to, and what a beautiful site it was! The picnic tables were covered by a roof and also somewhat protected from the wind. The view of the surrounding islands was fantastic, especially as in one direction we had a field of fireweed in the foreground. After lunch we carried on along the E10, passing through numerous tunnels and over numerous bridges. Many of the bridges were one lane only, with traffic lights at both ends which controlled the traffic. Near the village of Reine we were delayed by construction of what we would call avalanche sheds, but only for about 10 minutes.

Construction delay

After that it was clear sailing to Å, which is at the end of the E10. We found the youth hostel, which is upstairs from the Stockfish Museum, and got settled into our room. It was quite a large room with two single beds, a wardrobe, and a small dining table. Perfect for the three nights we would be there. It overlooked a small boat harbour, at the other side of which there was a rusting abandoned three-story building. A flock of kittiwakes had decided that it made a perfectly good cliff and had set up shop on the window ledges, and with our window open it was pretty noisy.

Å i Lofoten

After making some tea we went out for a walk around the small village. We found our way to the point and wandered around for a while, looking out onto the Atlantic Ocean. There was a family of eider ducks swimming there, the first ones we had seen on our trip. It had been clouding over and now it started to drizzle, so we headed back to the hostel to make dinner. On the way back we stopped off at the bakery, where they make fresh bread daily, and purchased their last loaf of fruit and nut bread to go with our dinner.

Fish cleaning

Before we went to bed a fishing boat came into the harbour, so we watched them under our window cleaning the fish they had caught. The weather forecast for the next few days is rather ambiguous, and it would be a pity if the rain started just when we have some hiking trails to do.

August 3, 2014

We had a good night’s sleep last night and woke up refreshed. Our plan was to drive to Sørvågen and then hike to Munkebu hut, which according to our information should take about five hours. Sørvågen was only a short drive away, so it only took a few minutes to get there. We weren’t exactly sure where to park but found a large parking lot beside the E10, so we parked there. The trail started not far from the lot so off we went. Shortly we found the actual trailhead, where numerous cars were parked, but we’d only added 10 minutes of hiking to the day.

As we started out it was cloudy and from time to time some rain was falling, but we resisted the temptation to put on rain gear. This turned out to be the right choice as the showers soon ceased. The trail headed uphill, climbing over bare rocks, through small thickets, and over mossy sections. There were several groups of people heading up the trail and also a few groups who had overnighted at the hut coming down. Climbing steadily, we soon came upon a chain which was there to help us climb. But it wasn’t there because of dangerous exposure, only because the rocks were steep and had no footholds. Altogether there were about eight sections of chain.

Climbing the chains

The trail itself was easy to follow, especially as we could see other groups ahead of us. After the climb the trail went along a level (not flat) section and then climbed a small height which looked down on Djupfjorden, a large bay north of Sørvågen. Here we saw a family of ptarmigan trotting about in the long grass. And from the top (510 metres above sea level) we could see down to Munkebu, not far away in a spectacular setting.

Approaching Munkebu

We sat outside the hut to eat our lunch. We didn’t have the key, so we had to content ourselves with looking through the windows. It looked very nice inside, bright and cozy with pine tables to eat on and good-sized kitchen with gas burners to cook on. The views from here were really good and by now the sun was trying to break through the thin clouds. There was no rush to leave so we sat for a while before finally heading back. The trip back wasn’t much easier because we had to watch our footing on the downhill sections. And going backwards down the chains was a bit strange, although not difficult at all. After we were down we decided to sit at one of the picnic tables beside Sørvågen’s lake and eat our apples before returning to the hostel.

Cotton grass

Today the bakery was sold out of everything by the time we got there, but we still had some of yesterday’s fruit and nut bread left over. Dinner tonight was much like last night’s so it didn’t take long to make. Later in the evening we walked over to the other side of the little harbour to explore that part of the town. From there we could walk out onto the breakwater to look back at the town; there were a couple of terns diving into the water and a man pointed out a school of mackerel jumping in the water offshore. Definitely an interesting sight to see.

August 4, 2014

Today it was very overcast, but we decided to gamble and go on the hike we had planned, a hike to a big sandy beach. To do this we had to catch the 10 am ferry from Reine, just up the road. So we had our breakfast, packed our lunches, and drove up the road to the ferry dock. We had two options; the shorter one was to go to Vindstad and walk across the isthmus to a sandy beach, which would take a couple of hours, and the longer one was to go to Kjerkfjorden and walk across another isthmus to another sandy beach on a longer trail.

Kjerkfjorden view

The ferry wasn’t very big (maximum 63 passengers) and so there weren’t many formalities. There was just one guy collecting the fare (unusually for Norway, cash only) and another guy driving the boat. We paid our 120 NOK each, along with a lot of other hikers, and off we went. Most of the passengers got off at Vindstad, which was the first stop, and only about 10 of us continued on to Kjerkfjorden. The village was very small, maybe twenty houses, but not totally abandoned as we saw a small child playing in one of the yards. We heard about one person who grew up there but now lives in Oslo and returns in the summer, but it wasn’t clear whether anybody lives there permanently any more.

Kjerkfjorden closeup

Our group headed out of the village following a marshy path up towards a small ridge, dividing up into smaller parties. The path was fairly easy to follow but was slippery in places when we crossed rock slabs. It took about half an hour to reach the top of the ridge. From here we could look down the other side across a grassy meadow to Horseid Beach, which filled the entire width of its bay. Going down the far side was tricky in places because there were more slippery parts and also large boulders to work around. But it wasn’t long before we reached the bottom of the rocky ridge.

Horseid Beach

Here we noticed a bird sitting on one of the rocks, and when we got the binoculars out it turned out to be a cuckoo chick. And it was being fed by a meadow pipit which was about a quarter its size! Everybody knows about cuckoos but it was the first time we’d ever seen that.

Cuckoo and Meadow Pipit

Crossing the grassy and boggy meadow followed by sand dunes didn’t take long, and it was lunch time when we got to the beach. We tested the water temperature—not especially cold—and then went back to sit on one of the driftwood logs to eat our lunch. We still had plenty of time, but nevertheless we didn’t want to chance missing the ferry at 3:15 pm so we headed back right after lunch. The skies were getting darker and as we started to climb the ridge we noticed a few raindrops starting to fall. We ignored those until a lot of raindrops started to fall, and then we put on our rain capes in a hurry. Luckily we did, as the clouds opened up and the rain came down in torrents.

By the time we got back to the dock we were very wet both from the rain and from sweat, but there was a small shed on the dock for us to shelter in. There were already some people there when we arrived, and soon the rest of our group arrived, along with another group who had walked from farther up the island. So the shed was very full. We had almost an hour to wait but it went by quickly as we all chatted away. When the ferry arrived we all went to sit inside, unlike this morning when we were all sitting out on the deck.

Waiting room

When we picked up the other passengers in Vindstad a Turkish guy we had talked to in the morning told us that Vindstad had a café selling cheap tea and coffee. We were envious because we wanted that in Kjerkfjorden too, instead of just a leaky shed. Back in Reine the rain had stopped, and we gave a ride to three of the women who had been on the walk with us. One was from Australia and the others from Korea and China. They were very grateful because the bus wasn’t scheduled to leave for another half an hour.

We arrived back in Å at 4:30 pm and as we had expected, the bakery was sold out again. At the hostel we hung up our wet clothes to dry and made our dinner, cooking up all of the food we had left because tonight was our last night here. After dinner the weather was much better, so we went for a walk along the road to Sørvågen and back again. It was a nice walk even though we were walking along the E10.

Next: Bodø and the Night Train