Updated: Oct 14, 2019
One of the beautiful things about going on adventures is the spontaneity: not knowing where the next path will take you or what will happen.
The unknown can be daunting, but so exciting.
Two years ago, I had explored Southern Norway for just a few days and I fell in love with my surroundings. I found peace and happiness within myself. And I felt I needed to go back. So I chose the Lofoten Islands to pursue this dream of mine. I dreamed of being out in the wilderness, fully immerse myself in adventure, be completely free and go wild camping and then do it again the next day. I could go wherever I wanted and decide where to pitch my tent.
I found so much beauty in adventure, that I thought, what if I add an extra element of challenge and do this alone and go on my very longest week of wild camping. I always imagined myself attempting to sleep in the dark wilderness, and the smallest sound outside my tent would terrify me. Maybe someone is about to unzip my tent and kill me or perhaps a bear is hungry and waiting for me. So, I had put it off. But I thought, hey, anything can happen anywhere! And if it's anything I learned in my previous solo adventure experiences is that people are kind. Sometimes we want to think the worst, that we don't give ourselves the chance to see the good.
I created my own challenge and commited myself to my solo adventure. I said no matter what situation I was in, whether in a relationship, on a budget, or had others that wanted to join, I would still commit in doing it alone so that I could focus on something new and see what comes of it.
Now is the time to pursue what I was putting off.
I spent some time researching where in the Lofoten Islands I wanted to go. If you look at the map, you’ll see that the Lofoten Islands is in fact, a bunch of little islands scrambled into one big mass and a lot of sea in the in-between bits!
How was I going to get around? A lot of blogs online said this would be very difficult without a car. But I took the challenge. It just meant I had to figure out how to get from Point A to Point B and walk more, possibly get on a few boats. And of course there was a lot of things to fear. What if I get lost and get on the wrong trail? Or get stuck in a severe storm with no way out. The blogs said things like "Once the ferry leaves, you're stuck there! The ferry won't be back until the next day. You're alone to deal with whatever weather comes your way." And being caught in the middle of the vast, surrounding fjords can be a nightmare of a storm you don’t want to be caught in.
I printed out ferry timetables, which don’t run often at all. Sometimes just 3 times a day.
I made notes on the maps of NO WATER ZONES, NO SUPPLIES ZONES, so I knew when I needed to resupply or go find water in the wilderness. I bought water purification tablets just in case. I also made notes of where I needed to go in case of worst case scenario while camping under a storm. This meant, finding a giant boulder miles away from where I had planned to camp. Although a bit nervous, I actually felt excited for all these challenges.
Instead of wondering all the What Ifs that could go wrong, I started to imagine what's the best that could happen.
I flew from London Gatwick(via Oslo) to Bodø. From Bodø I took a 3.5 hour ferry to Moskenes(Lofoten). From Moskenes I took a bus to the Village of Reine. I explored the area within Reine for the first 2 days. These villages included: Reine, Sakrisøy, Hamnoy.
I packed a 55L rucksack as light as I could, although it wasn’t really. I also had to carry my own camera gear and charging equipment. And carrying liters of water always adds to that. For food, I packed my own snacks in London to save money since Norway is crazy expensive. I bought minimal cold food for 3-4 days when I got to Lofoten at a fuel stop. This consisted of wraps, salami, cheese, and ham. Oh yeah, I was sick by the end of it. On the last day, I had no more appetite to eat so I was living off of my last bit of snacks. I put off cooking equipment because I wanted to pack as light as possible. But I definitely craved a nice warm meal after a few days.
PLACES TO STAY
I spent my first two nights in this incredibly beautiful AIRBNB called Catogården in the village of Reine.
My room was the blue room. It was a dream. The mountain view was incredible. I could already feel a sense of tranquility since night one. The room even came with a sleeping mask placed on the bed because the midnight sun was taking place. How cute!
I chose to stay here for two nights before going wild camping so I could take my shower and relax after my flights and before going wild camping. I also had two days to explore the other nearby villages and focus on my photography. I met some very lovely and kind people at this shared airbnb.
WALKING ON THE E10
One of my challenges during my stay in Reine was walking on the main road, the E10. Sometimes it felt safe and perfectly fine, but sometimes, I had to climb over the street railing; it felt too close to the edge making me nervous as I looked down. And sometimes, I had to do the opposite, there was no room for pedestrian walking, so I had to carefully just walk on the E10. I hitchhiked once on the E10. I worried about missing my flight. There was no taxis, cabs, buses, cars, nothing early in the morning. Eventually a very kind Norwegian guy stopped and gave me a ride back to the ferry port and even drove me to the nearby airport to catch my flight. For a moment, I was skeptical, but I trusted my instincts. Norwegian people are very kind! I was so grateful for his time and genuine kindness.
Some beautiful spots during my exploration:
WILD CAMPING IN LOFOTEN:
My camping route: I took a ferry from the village of Reine to Vindstad. From Vindstad I hiked to Bunes Beach and camped at Bunes Beach. For the second half, I took the ferry back to Reine from Vindstad and took the ferry from Reine to Kjerkfhord and hiked to Horseid beach.
I used this very helpful website for more information on the hike and route: http://www.68north.com/outdoors/hiking-bunes-beach/
VINDSTAD TO BUNES BEACH
In Reine, I waited for the ferry to Vindstad in a tiny, open waiting area. The Arctic wind was really starting to get to me. I was constantly trying to find closed spaces or having to wait until a cafe opened to warm up. It was July, and the weather felt a lot colder. The ferry was small with room to sit inside, luckily, but my rucksack had to stay outside in the rain..
At arrival. there was only a very few people that got off at Vindstad. The trail was pretty straight forward to start with. I followed the trail and was surrounded by charming houses along the coast. I couldn’t stop for long because of the rain. I had to focus on getting to Bunes as fast as possible worried that the weather could worsen and I still had to pitch my tent. I looked around as I walked along the trail, trying to spot boulders just in case the weather got really bad. The thing about camping inside the fjords is if you get caught in a storm, you are trapped. All the rain and wind gets trapped in the surrounding fjords making it dangerous especially in the winter where a lot of avalanches take place.
I was on my way. I felt like I was in some sort of survival game. Suddenly, I was alone in the wilderness and my awareness level went up to 100%. My constant thoughts were: find the trail, beware of weather, locate safe areas, determine wind direction, pitch tent under the rain, locate streams and waterfalls, find water. These were just some of my wilderness things to do list on my mind.
I was running errands like a wild cave woman. But I loved it.
When I finally had a view of the beach, I was standing at the top of a rocky mountainside. Now, I just had to get down. It was still raining and the trail started to get a bit confusing. Occasionally, I had to take my hoodie off so I could see clearly. I noticed there were two tents in the distance near the back and grassy area of the beach. I started to hike down, to then find out I must have chosen the wrong trail because I started to struggle in the thin, muddy and rocky path which ended up not being a trail at all. I had followed a couple climbing down but realized it was the wrong decision. I then noticed another pair climbing on the other direction and they seemed to easily get down. When I looked up, it would have been another climb to get back there so I carefully resumed my climb down. It started to get difficult because of the weight of my bag. I imagined myself climbing down so easily without the bag. But the bag was my burden coming down. If I tried to hold on to the rocks and then pull myself down, the bag would push me down. My hands, all muddy and wet. Usually, in a team of two, one goes down, the other holds the bag, passes it, and resumes. But alone, meant figuring out the best way to do this. Some rocks were loose. I’d step on them gently to feel if it was safe to step.
On one big step down the rocky hillside, I slightly slipped using my hands to grip on a rock. My thumb almost taking a 180 degree turn and almost breaking. I was in agony. I wanted to scream in pain but I had to keep going. I was grunting in pain, slowly climbing down while holding my injured hand and finally made it to the grassy area. Now my mission was the get my tent out of the bag, and set it up while it was windy and raining. But even just pulling the tent out of the bag would reset the pain of my almost broken thumb. I was trying to pitch a tent with practically one hand.
The wind kept blowing my tent whenever I tried to lay it out. Another backpacker crossed my path, startled me. “Hello!” he said. Startled, I jumped and said hello back. Where did he even come from? I must have been so stressed that I got scared. He and his friend were in a tent not far from mine. It was just the three of us on this side, and I noticed a couple other people on the other side of the beach.
After I set up my tent, I quickly took off my boots, and pushed my heavy bag in(it had already gotten so wet despite the rain cover) My hand was weak from the pain, that I failed to even push the bag in and had to try again using all the strength from my left hand. The rain pouring down. Finally, the bag was in and I quickly zipped up the tent.
When I got inside the tent, I breathed heavily, letting go of all the stress I had just faced.
I kind of, laughed a little bit, thinking, whoa. That was something. But I made it. I conquered my first set of challenges. And I was proud.
Inside the tent, I changed my wet clothes into the only other pair of dry clothes I had. The rest, I had to dry inside the tent, which was another challenge as I was surrounded by wet clothes, making my tent feel cooler.
I heard a woman's voice shout from the outside, "Hello!?"
I responded confused, "Hello?"
She said, "Your boots are outside and they are getting wet!" I thought I had left them inside the tent cover but the wind must have blown the cover out of them. Big mistake! And yet, this woman who had no idea who I was, was helping me from the outside. Now my boots were also wet and I had to leave them inside to dry.
It was clear I wasn’t going to experience midnight sun under this gray sky. But I had to be patient. I was so hungry.
I made my wraps. And I was eating more salami slices than I should have. I started to count them, so I could calculate what was the max I could eat each day so I wouldn’t run out. Same with the cheese and ham. I also counted all the other snacks so I had my limits.
I listened to the sound of the rain, every hour, unzipping the window side of the tent to get a view. After midnight, I felt cold. Sleeping became a challenge. Not only because it was bright outside because of the 24 hours of sunlight, but because I made the mistake of not bringing the adequate sleeping gear. I had assumed that with midnight sun, the tent would keep warm enough. The weather also said it wouldn’t be less than about 13 degrees. For some reason, I thought a 3 season tent, a a sleeping mat, warm layers, and a bivy bag would be enough. But I had forgotten about the Arctic wind. The Arctic wind became my enemy. My nights were spent shivering. I must have gotten about 1 hour of sleep in 4 days. I tried to find ways to insulate myself with my bag, with all my layers. It was summer. Why was it so cold!?
The dark clouds didn’t help. I had all the right hiking gear but not enough warm sleeping gear. I felt silly for not buying that £300 compressible sleeping bag. I debated it, but I was on a tight budget. I was unfortunate that the week I went, the weather got really cool. The week after I left, it went up to 25 degrees. I learned a lot for my next adventure.
PEOPLE ARE KIND
The next morning, I couldn’t wait to get out of the tent, even if it was cloudy. I walked a little bit. The waves crashing. Seagulls flying. When I walked back to my tent, the woman backpacker next to my tent was sitting by her tent. I said,"Hello!"
She said "Good morning! Would you like a warm cup of tea?" Just like that. I smiled and said “...sure, thank you!” Her friend was there too.
She even offered me her own mug and used a plastic container for her own tea. It felt nice to have something warm. They were cooking and making breakfast. They too had come from England and they had done a fair bit of backpacking and wild camping. They were taking a long break from the desk life. And setting off to their next location after breakfast. They made my day so much brighter.
The small things brought a smile to my face. Random acts of kindness. These moments with strangers were short, but kind.
Once they left, I was completely alone. I had planned to summit Helvetestinden and get a better view of Bunes Beach and sleep midway up the mountain. But the strong winds from the North would come and go. The clouds constantly moving in darkness with elusive moments of sunlight appearing every now and again. I decided to stay put until I trusted the weather. I realized I’d enjoy myself more if I had another day to relax after all the stress I had experienced the day before. I packed my day bag with my camera gear and personal equipment and decided it was time to fully explore the whole beach despite the cloudy conditions and take advantage of some moody skies.
When I walked to the back side of the beach, it was hills and hills of sandy grassy dunes. I spotted a seagull and thought it looked beautiful the way it was standing on the grassy hilltop surrounded by sand.
I made my way towards it and was about to take the photo. Through the camera viewfinder, the seagull stared right at me. Ferociously. Suddenly, it was gone
I started to walk away thinking, 'ah well, missed it.' But when I looked up, the seagull was making a straight dive for me! Direct, full speed, targeting me with it’s full power. Oh sh*t! I thought. I quickly ducked, feeling the heavy whoosh sound of the dive on me, the wing flapping on my head. The seagull, a lot bigger than I could ever imagined. I actually felt scared out of my mind. I looked around to see if anyone would help me if I’d get severely attacked. I started to walk away faster, running. But she wasn’t done with me yet. She attempted a couple more times to dive on me, and then, doing her very angry bird call. She was calling her friends!? I had decided to come alone on this trip and out of all the things that could happen to me, I was going to get heavily doomed by seagulls! After running back towards my tent, I was free. I then thought, why would the seagull want to attack me like that? I then realized, oh no. I must have gotten close to her nest. I had no idea. And I never got close to the seagulls near the dunes again. I don’t blame her. If someone came near my nest, I’d dive into those suckers. Good news, I was left unharmed physically.
I had run out of my last drop of water from both my bottles. I was slowly dehydrated. And it was time to find some more. The lovely backpacker who offered me tea earlier mentioned there was some in the left back side of Bunes Beach in the waterfalls before she left.
Getting up there seemed simple from a distance. But I ended up having to do a few back and forth walks to avoid falling off the tall edges. High tops of slippery sand falls. I was as careful as I could be. Constantly taking care of myself. Once I approached the waterfalls, I observed which one would be less life threatening to reach my bottle out to. Eventually I made it, carefully filling both water bottles up with the fresh waterfall water. I took advantage of all the water and brushed my teeth and cleansed my face.
I had run all my wilderness errands! I was happy. And the sun was finally shining. I enjoyed the warmth. Patience paid off. And I was about to experience my first midnight sun in the beach.
MIDNIGHT SUN AT BUNES BEACH
It was almost midnight and the sun was still sitting right in front of me, right in the center of the sea. Perfectly balanced. I was amazed at my sight. The sun slowly orbiting behind the mountains, to slowly shine ahead of me again, within hours. I watched the entire cycle beautifully unfold and I couldn't get enough of this strange, unique, natural phenomenon. I was focused, mesmerized, in deep contemplation.
It was still bright, but the sun was now resting behind the mountains for just a few hours. I attempted to sleep. But I was cold, once again. Shivering. I slowly started to feel ill, wishing I had more warm gear. How was I going to put up with this for another couple nights? I was feeling energy-less.
Early in the morning, I packed up my supplies and tent and hiked back to Vindstad to take the ferry back to Reine. The sun was shining beautifully. Strong. It was the first time I felt really warm that I shedded most of my winter layers. I could finally appreciate my trail surroundings.
My next plan was to take the ferry back to Reine and then to Kjerkfjord.
Back in the tiny village of Reine, I went to the one small outdoor store and asked about warm sleeping gear. But they had run out. I planned to buy something warmer and then head back out to the wilderness. What was I going to do now? I was getting desperate for a shower and sleep. I was feeling more ill and decided I needed to book a cabin to recover. It was frustrating as I planned to be on a budget, but when you’re that desperate for recovery and a warm place to sleep, I had to do it.
I booked a room in the beautiful Reine Rorbuer and made the most of it. I showered, I napped, washed some of my clothes, treated myself to a proper meal, and restored my energy.
The next morning, I wanted to finish what I started so I decided to go back into the fjords for wild camping. I realized it would be my last night so it meant just putting up with not sleeping a lot.
KJERKFJORD TO HORSEID BEACH
When I arrived to KJERKFJORD with the ferry, I had a longer and more challenging hike ahead. It was sunny this time. There was a lot more groups of people that got off, but quickly spread out in the vast area. I hiked up the mountain, slowly, taking my time and taking in the views. The best view was at the top before climbing down to Horseid Beach.
This hike felt slightly more challenging and a lot longer.The descent was full of boulders and rocks all shapes and sizes. Thankfully, it wasn’t raining this time. There was a lot of streams, muddy sections. Sometimes I’d have to do a long jump to avoid falling in. And a few times, I just fell in. Boots soaking heavily into the mud. I felt like I was on a very remote adventure now. I enjoyed the quietness. The valley to the beach was endless.
I had a site of Horseid beach but it still seemed hours away. The paths would constantly change from grassy to muddy, to wet to sandy.
When I was finally walking on the sand, it meant the beach was near. I spent some time trying to decide where to pitch my tent. I wanted a nice view with the sun directly hitting me, with enough view to look at the sea, and maybe some hills or boulders to prevent the wind from directly hitting me. I found this spot, and although the land was slightly uneven, it was the best spot I could have chosen:
MIDNIGHT SUN AT HORSEID
This was my absolute favourite evening of camping in the Lofoten Islands and I was lucky to experience the Midnight Sun for the third time. Each night, it was a different scene. I felt like a little kid over and over again, waiting for Christmas day. This was also my last night of camping in Horseid Beach and I wanted to enjoy every bit of my surroundings. The silence, the stillness, the magic. The sound of the crashing waves. Embracing the warmth of the sun on my face after some rainy days.
It was almost midnight and I watched as the sun moved behind the mountains. The clouds danced around her slowly, while drifting across the sky. I was amazed. Mesmerised. Speechless. Words can't really describe this strange, beautiful phenomenon. But it was a wonderful feeling.
I got up early the next day, after another night of no sleep. At this point, I was hungry, sleep deprived. I took my time walking back. I could see a few other tents at a distance. Everyone was still asleep. I was the first one making my way back through the surrounding fjords. I felt so small. It was the quietest feeling. I’d walk, past muddy streams, and sandy dunes, sometimes, a strange bird would fly away from behind the tall grass when I crossed, frightening me in abruptness because of the extreme serenity.
The trail suddenly started to turn left, upwards. But, I didn’t remember coming from that way before. I remember clearly coming straight down the rocky mountain, but where was the trail leading to? I felt a sense of anxiety, fearing this trail would take me somewhere else. The dark clouds settling above. I had enough time so I climbed a bit higher, but from a distance it didn’t look right. I tried to spot other trails from above. My gut feeling telling me to go back down and find the right the right trail.
Luckily, I saw the first two backpackers from a long distance. I waited until they passed the point where I had turned, and they kept going straight. I definitely must have missed a turn. I quickly climbed back down and got back on the right trail. Whew! For a moment, I felt scared. The other backpackers were friendly and said hello. I continued on. Now I had to climb up all the big rocks. I was the most tired I had been in the whole week. I hadn’t eaten a proper meal in 24 hours since I had almost run out of food and no longer had an appetite for what I had.
While climbing a rock, I met this lovely Malaysian guy, KC. I said hello and told him he could go ahead because I was going to be a bit slow. Eventually we were climbing together. He was kind, making sure I was okay and telling me where to watch my step. Eventually we got on the wrong trail, distracted from our conversations and laughter. We got caught in the middle of a stream. We helped each other making sure I wouldn’t slip. We waited for the ferry together and talked to other backpackers. After a remote few days, it was nice to have some conversation and hear more about their adventure stories.
On arrival back in Reine, first things first.. Food! I I bought a hot dog and he bought a hamburger in the petrol station. The petrol station was my ‘go to’ place for budget food. I was constantly restocking there. This time, I was with KC, having my last lunch.
It’s amazing the strangers you meet, and how much you connect.
People are kind. They really are.
I always say be kind, because everyone is fighting their own battle. Moments of kindness can really change someone’s journey for the best. Keep your heart at peace and treat others the way you want to be treated.
KC helped me find out when the next bus was arriving so I could get to the nearby village of Hamnoy where I was treating myself to a Fishermen cabin at Eliassen Rorbuer for my last night. We said our goodbyes and went separate ways for the rest of our journey. I was grateful for meeting him, as everyone else I met.
My journey was coming to an end. I checked in at my cabin. I showered, and man, that felt good. I couldn’t wait to have a long, much needed nap after days of no sleep. I set my alarm for 6PM so I could treat myself to a restaurant dinner meal.
After refreshing myself, I walked into the restaurant. The lovely waitress sat me upstairs. She smiled and said, “What can I get for you?" I replied, “..Uh...everything on the menu!”
She laughed. I told her I had been backpacking and we ended up exchanging stories. She too, an adventurer.
I took my time to really enjoy my Norwegian meal followed by a incredibly good, hot brownie. It’s amazing what you miss when you’re out in the wilderness. A warm meal. A warm shower. And then what you miss when you’re back to reality. The mountains. The sound of the ocean. The quietness. The simple life.
But it was all worth it. I was happy. Refreshed. Alive.
When I finished my last meal, I went for my last walk in the Lofoten Islands. I wanted to make the most of the sunlight even though I was still sleep deprived. I walked around Sakrisoy Bridge and my breath was taken away.
I was frozen by the sight ahead of me. Once again, the sun was doing some amazing things. A beam of light slowly shined from behind the mountains, illuminating the beauty all around. The mountains with soft shades of orange, blues and purple. The sea glittering. The birds flying beautifully above the majestic fjords.
This is the Lofoten Islands. This is living. And the world is pretty amazing.
It was the perfect way to say goodbye.
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