Monday, 29 April 2013

Getting out in Lofoten, going "out out" in Lofoten, and getting out of Lofoten

It's been a hectic few days here in the North of Norway. I've been staying on-and-off at Svolvær Sjøhuscamping, which is a budget guesthouse right on the harbour front. The setting is great, it's really well-looked after and actually very well-appointed in every respect - I'd recommend them fully! As is often the way in these places, I got chatting with Matias, an Argentinian backpacker, and Christine, daughter of the owners. Christine was kind enough to invite me to a reggae night in Kabelvåg on Friday night, called "Dread Light District".

A reggae night? In Kabelvåg????
Damn straight. It was one of the best nights I've had in Norway.

4 bands played, firstly a group of keen local youngsters - most of them students at Kabelvåg's art college. Chatting to the lads afterwards, Lofoten sounds a tough place for aspiring musicians. Band members continually leave to continue their education elsewhere - as a result the guys had a whole new line-up for the evening, and had only rehearsed twice. Despite this they really got the crowd involved and played a great opener.

The three remaining acts all hail from Tromsø - Bislaget, Dread Men Walking and Skada Vara. While Skada Vara were great headliners, I preferred Dread Men Walking's set of upbeat reggae and ska. The crowd were loving it!

For the encore, all the acts performed together - it was hard to tell where the band stopped and the crowd started. There aren't that many people in Lofoten outside of the season, but I think everyone was at this gig! What a good night!

The next day, I was struggling. So after a late start, I set off up Fløya, the mountain behind Svolvær. This is a relatively small peak, but it rises straight out of the sea so the climb up (passing the celebrated 'Svolvær Goat') soon saw the hangover off!

The Svolværgeita, a popular goal for rock climbers

The views from the top were something else - I'll put some of the best shots on Flickr in due course. Once I gained the summit, I traversed around the ridge, aiming to climb the next peak around. However I soon realised that the sun's heat was making the snow unstable, so I picked a safe spot to bail out (although not without setting off a small 'sluff' of wet snow first). On the way down I met some guys who had been making a TV show, and were climbing on the goat that day - a good effort so early in the season.

I camped out that night. In Norway, as long as you're 150m from the nearest house and you're only stopping for 1 night, you can camp pretty much anywhere. I found a rocky outcrop sticking out into the sea at Kabelvåg. Great view, and I found some more live music that night too. The locals are so friendly - probably because they've barely seen anyone all winter! It was an unexpected bonus night, and I finally made it to the tent at 3am ready to crash out. Shame it snowed on me at 4am!

My campsite

Sunday promised to be the best weather day of the week, so I was up early for some ski touring on nearby Småtindan. The skiing on Lofoten is legendary, and we got some great runs in that day - nothing too difficult but the 4am snow had its uses! Blue sky day and fresh tracks on perfect slopes - yes please! If you're thinking about skiing in Lofoten, get some local knowledge and guidance first - we had to be pretty careful of wet, avalanche-prone snow lying on blank rock slabs.

Once the touring was done, I realised I'd screwed up - being a Sunday I had missed the bus. "Never mind", I thought. "I'll hitch". Yeah, right. With two large bags, on a Sunday afternoon, I had no hope. My 10km walk home took me past the beautiful Lofoten Cathedral, so I grabbed a quick picture before slogging it out up and over the hill. Just what you want after a full day's ski touring!

Today the weather's been turning, and I was cream-crackered from my escapades over the weekend. As a result, I jumped on a bus to Narvik earlier (260NOK, 4hr20min journey) and am now preparing to sleep out again before heading to Riksgränsen tomorrow. That's right, it's got an 'ä' in it - because it's in Sweden. FlyDrive Norway in Sweden? I'll explain more later. It's time for bed.

Safe travels, Phil

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