Travel: Arctic Circle, Norway – June 2013 – Day 9

Norway

If you missed the start of this journey, jump to the beginning  here:

Day Nine

TRAVEL DETAILS:

Andenes  to Svolvaer

SOUNDTRACK:

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BLURB:

Wake up Andenes – do a whale watching trip  or just head out for a perfect drive to Svolvaer.  Svolvaer itself can be explored  in a couple hours so there is no rush to get there – and it doesn’t get dark. The drive to Svolvaer is 131 miles but you should give yourself at least 4 hours to do it justice.  When you leave Andenes do not jump straight onto highway 82.  Rather, take the tiny easy coast route that will just leave your jaw hanging, and your adrenaline pumping as you drive. This is the fv 976 via Bleik. It naturally merges back into highway 82 after about an hour. Worth doing.  For dinner, I recommend Viva Italia for cheap and very satisfying pasta.  At Svolvaer sleep at the Lofoten Suitehotel.

Travel photo - epic car journey Norway - Vesterålen Islands - south of Andenes, around Bleik on the the fv 976 copyright David J Rodger

Epic car journey Norway – Vesterålen Islands – south of Andenes on the the fv 976. Image: David J Rodger

travel photo epic drive Norway - south of Bleik on the the fv 976 after the fv 974 intersection

Epic drive Norway – south of Bleik on the the fv 976 after the fv 974 intersection

Following the fv 976 the road naturally veers south and east, taking you inland, away from the coast and avoiding the seriously nutty fv 974 (you’d need four-wheel drive to tackle that baby). We’re now crossing the Vesterålen Islands from west to east, and will pop out on highway 82 which takes us down through Sortland. Goddamn gorgeous. Drive. Just drive!

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Travel photo - epic car journey Norway - Vesterålen Islands - copyright David J Rodger

Vesterålen Islands – Image: David J Rodger

Another “pull over and stare” moment. A solid GREEN mountain ride sweeping round to my left. Ragged coastline ahead with the promise of bigger peaks. And a sapphire blue ocean sparkling under the sun to my right. You can see how narrow the road is.

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Travel photo - Arctic Beach - Norway - Vesterålen Islands - copyright David J Rodger

Arctic Beach – Norway – Vesterålen Islands – copyright David J Rodger

This is why you need to pad your travel plan with extra time for this leg of the journey. Moments like this when your eyes lock onto something so utterly beautiful that your head starts to swing away from watching the road as you hurtle past. Snap decision. Pull over. There was a small place to do so. Decelerate from 80 to zero in a short distance. Rumble and bump of car wheels over rough terrain and stop. The silence then. Pop open car door and chilly air breezes in. The whispering caress of waves lapping the shore line. Sun warm against your skin as you cross the deserted road and walk down to the soft white sands. You can’t quite believe you’re here.

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Travel photo - Gnarly mountain ridge behind Arctic Beach - Norway - Vesterålen Islands - copyright David J Rodger

Gnarly mountain ridge behind Arctic Beach – Image: David J Rodger

Context: to the Arctic Beach.

Standing on the beach and looking back to where you parked, you see this immense landscape hemming the narrow strip of road against the shoreline.

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Travel photo - close up of Gnarly mountain ridge behind Arctic Beach - Norway - Vesterålen Islands - copyright David J Rodger

Close up – Image: David J Rodger

Close up. I was really taken by this mountain ridge. The gnarly, shattered peaks and tumbling scree slopes – that did make me wonder how safe the car was parked beneath.

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Travel photo - Norway - Vesterålen Islands - copyright David J Rodger

Norway – Vesterålen Islands – copyright David J Rodger

We were crossing some inland section. Hemmed in by mountains with the occasional glimpse of open land spreading off in the distance, but for the most part we weaved and snaked and hugged the road that took us through it all. This area was unique for me, because the colour of the water. It was blue, but a really special kind of blue. A blue you normally only sea on rose painting, a particular type of artistic embellishment on Scandinavian furniture. Smokey. Light in colour and yet dusky. Most unusual, and it reminded me of some of the furniture from my parents house – which of course reminded me of my mum. And then I saw a sign, the name of the fjord. No way. I nearly freaked.

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Travel photo - Gullifjord - Norway - Vesterålen Islands - copyright David J Rodger

Gullifjord – Norway – Vesterålen Islands – David J Rodger

In the same few moments that I’m processing the name of the fjord we whizz past this place. I yank the wheel to my left, cross over onto the wrong side of the road and then flip it around hard to the right and do a nifty 180. Back we go. Park up. Walk inside. Quiet. Some old dude that was an absolute dead ringer for Dick Van Dyke. Coffee? Yup. No problem. 30 Kroner and help yourself to the thermos. I smiled and did so.

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Travel photo - David J Rodger - Gullifjord - Norway - Vesterålen Islands

Norway – Vesterålen Islands

And this is where it gets even stranger. Because the colour of this table is exactly the same as the colour of the water I was trying to describe earlier. Exactly. And, the furniture in this place and the ornaments, even the slightly cute lamp shades are 100% identical to how my mum had the house.

So, we sat there for a while, supping our coffee and enjoying the moment.

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Travel photo - Insane beauty and colour - Norway - Vesterålen Islands - copyright David J Rodger

Insane beauty and colour – Norway – Vesterålen Islands – copyright David J Rodger

Pull over. Stop the car. The colours. Oh my God. The colours!!!

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David J Rodger - Norway - Vesterålen Islands - Arctic Circle

David J Rodger – Norway – Vesterålen Islands – Arctic Circle

Another few kilometers. Another reason to stop. Time has really ceased to have any meaning at this point. I feel like I’ve been traveling through Norway for months. It’s almost perfection. This state of mind.

Travel photo - Coastal settlement - Norway - Vesterålen Islands - copyright David J Rodger

Coastal settlement – Norway – Vesterålen Islands – copyright David J Rodger

We’re coming out of the interior and approaching coastal areas again. There’s patches of small and unbelievably picturesque settlements just sitting in the middle of nowhere.

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Svolvaer

Travel photo - Lofoten Suite Hotel - Svolvaer Norway - copyright David J Rodger

Lofoten Suite Hotel – Svolvaer Norway – copyright David J Rodger

So after a number of hours on the road – blissful journey but saddle sore – we finally come sweeping into Svolvaer where it hugs the easterly coast of the crux between Vesterålen and Lofoten Islands. Coming in you initially think, wow, this is a surprise – this place is MONEY. It exudes this vibe of wealth. We check into our hotel, the Lofoten Suite.

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Travel photo - Lofoten Suite Hotel - external view - Svolvaer - Norway

Me, enjoying a mug of coffee and the view. Lofoten Suite Hotel – Svolvaer – Norway

The staff are dressed in that crisp white cotton shirts overlain with body hugging, immaculate black jacket and trousers combo that speaks of customer-facing to people who expect the pseudo corporate servitude of their power-jobs. I kept my tongue firmly in cheek and thought God, I hope my credit card doesn’t scream rape.

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Travel photo - Lofoten Suite Hotel - private lounge - Svolvaer - Norway - copyright David J Rodger

Lofoten Suite Hotel – private lounge – Svolvaer – Norway – Image: David J Rodger

Our room. Part of it.

We find that our room is immense! Bedroom and bathroom, personal sauna and a private lounge with views across the harbour. It’s a far cry from rustic charm but it’ll do for a night.

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Travel photo - Svolvaer Norway - copyright David J Rodger

Svolvaer Norway – copyright David J Rodger

Svolvaer is a strange place. There is this small corner of it, here, by the marina where everything is money. Wooden decking outside a handful of cosmopolitan cafes sealed behind immaculate, plate glass windows; the decking is scattered with low slung leather sofas, heat-lamps and the inviting, cosy atmosphere of a place where you want to spend time – and spend money. Expensively appointed franchises advertise white-knuckle rib-rides out to Trollfjord (2 hours there and back) or the more serene sailing boat option (4 hours there and back). But when you step away from this corner of exclusivity. You find that Svolvaer’s more immediate history hasn’t had a glossy paint job.

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Travel photo - the real Svolvaer - Norway - copyright David J Rodger

The real Svolvaer – Norway – copyright David J Rodger

Svolvaer at it’s heart is an industrial place. Big wide streets of cracked tarmac lined with large warehouse units. The occasional weather boarded building nestled between them like a stray cat, with peeling paint and down-to-earth signage inviting you in for pizza or coffee. It’s a bit soulless, but not unpleasant. I quite liked it.

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Travel photo - the real Svolvaer 2 - Norway - copyright David J Rodger

The real Svolvaer – Norway – copyright David J Rodger

Travel photo - Svolvaer - Norway - copyright David J Rodger

Travel photo – Svolvaer – Norway – copyright David J Rodger

Travel photo - Graffiti - Mr Hmm - Svolvaer Norway - copyright David J Rodger

Graffiti – Mr. Hmm?? – Svolvaer – Norway – copyright David J Rodger

As it was. Oj and I trailed back to the main hub and found an Italian place that looked like an utter dive but served up some of the best pasta I’ve ever had in my life.

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Travel photo Norway - Svolvaer -Bukkedauen

Norway – Svolvaer -Bukkedauen

After dinner, we had a little walkabout. Then Oj went back to our hotel suite to chillax. I grabbed my headphones and MP3 player and went for a big walk. Wow. So glad I did. I crossed this ugly concrete bridge onto a piece of land with a few houses and a pub, beyond which was a seemingly deserted industrial stretch (Bukkedauen leads to Gunnar Bergs Vei). But I kept going and discovered a really interesting place

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Travel Photo Svolvaer - Norway - derelict boardwalk

Svolvaer – Norway – derelict boardwalk

Peering down from the bridge you see this area is designed to be pretty. It just is what it is. Humans live here. Humans work here. Humans leave a mess.

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Travel photo - stock fish drying on a-frame-  Svolvaer - Norway - copyright David J Rodger

Stock fish drying on a-frame- Svolvaer – Norway – copyright David J Rodger

Crossing the bridge the breeze carries a growing smell of diesel, engine grease and… fish. I walked through a set of industrial buildings and came around the corner to find myself walking past a load of fish drying in the air..

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Travel photo - a thousand fish heads - Svolvaer - Norway - copyright David J Rodger

A thousand fish heads – Svolvaer – Norway – copyright David J Rodger

They call it stock fish. It dries out and they export it to Italy, Spain and North Africa. The smell is pungeant but not unbearable. Especially if you like fish. Mind, not so sure about the thousands of fish heads hanging there. Apparently cod tongue is something to be enjoyed. Hmm. Another trip?

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Travel photo - air drying stock fish - fantastic geometry - Svolvaer - Norway - copyright David J Rodger

Air drying stock fish – fantastic geometry – Svolvaer – Norway – copyright David J Rodger

Travel photo - WWII World War Two bunker - Svolvaer - Norway - copyright David J Rodger

World War Two bunker – Svolvaer – Norway – copyright David J Rodger

WWII Nazi Bunker. This area saw heavy action during the Second World War. This image makes me think of the novella I recently read by John Houlihan: the Trelleborg Monstrosities. Dieselpunk meets Cthulhu.

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Travel photo - spooky house - Svolvaer - Norway - copyright David J Rodger

Spooky house – Svolvaer – Norway – copyright David J Rodger

Spooky house. It feels like I’m in the middle of nowhere but Svolvaer itself is just over the water, which reaches in behind this house and continues on beneath the bridge I crossed to get onto this spit of land.

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Travel photo - Harbour pier - Svolvaer - Norway - copyright David J Rodger

Harbour pier – Svolvaer – Norway – copyright David J Rodger

Eventually you pop out at the far end of this spit of land and find yourself on a concrete peir that curves out to sea. At the far end is an enigmatic statue, a figure of a hooded woman with one hand raise, facing outwards to welcome those who arrive by sea. I found a perch at the end of this thing and spent almost half an hour just sitting there, headphones on, gazing out to sea and enjoying the moments pass. And enjoying the fact it would not get dark. At all.

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Travel photo - beautiful Svolvaer in the midnight sun - Norway - copyright David J Rodger

Beautiful Svolvaer in the midnight sun – Norway – copyright David J Rodger

Heading back towards the main town the few clouds in the sky drift away to reveal the late evening sun, painting the scene in this beautiful light

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Travel photo - giants teeth on mountain - Svolvaer - Norway - copyright David J Rodger

Giants teeth on mountain – Svolvaer – Norway – copyright David J Rodger

High above the town, forming part of the mountainous wall of rock that encloses the northern rim, is a natural geological feature that looks like a pair of giant’s teeth left placed side by side. These “small” stones are enormous. I saw a photo on the hotel wall showing a climber leaping from one to the other.

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Travel photo - David J Rodger - Lofoten Suite Hotel - Svolvaer - Norway

David J Rodger in Lofoten Suite Hotel – after midnight – Svolvaer – Norway

Why sleep when you can sit up past midnight and sup whisky whilst gazing at a sunlit harbour. Even this late at night, massive cruise ships were drifting in to disgorge tourists into the main square. It was great sitting there watching a sleepless world below.

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VIDEOS

Lofoten Suite Hotel Svolvaer Norway our room

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Wandering along the strange old pier behind the town of Svolvaer

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READ DAY 10 – Click Here

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