Norway do-it-yourself - Tromso and Lofoten islands

Premise:

For a long time we wanted to take a trip hunting for aurora borealis and in contact with nature, exploring places far from each other and trying to save as much as possible in a country where the cost of living is very high.
Given the long planned trips and the very low temperatures, we chose to rent a car by booking it online months before (for the details of the costs click HERE )



I'm sore, a little shaken but happy. In the last few months I have made a promise to myself: to achieve the fateful 30 years, to celebrate that inner child adventurous and full of energy that I do not want to ever grow old, I would have to do something I had never done before. Painful, but not too much (they said): plant an earring in my left lobe.

For a series of coincidences I could not do it in Madrid, on the weekend I had organized to celebrate my entry into the "-ent", and then I just have to do it now, just before leaving for Norway. Giulia takes up the two-euro cannula needle bought at a pharmacy a few days before and, fast and firm, I plant it in my flesh. I remain still, despite a bad dog. Am I in pain? Is it the needle that is oversized for the work it has to do? Is the effect amplified by my innate fear of needles? I do not know, but he hurts and gets a few drops of blood.

Despite everything I'm happy. Little do I care about the burning and the fact that for the next ten days I will have to wear a female earring (because I did not even have one, so I asked a loan on Julia), finally I can say I have honored my deal, and this fills me a lot. < Now we are ready. Ready to go to Milan where our flight will start at dawn, which will take us north to hunt for northern lights.

We arrive in Tromso in the afternoon, with a delay of two hours due to the chronic lack of punctuality of the SAS company, we go to the highly recommended Smarthotel to leave the bags and decide to take a ride through the streets of the city. Tromso welcomes us under a cold snowfall accompanied by strong gusts of wind, but it is so beautiful and orderly that we do not notice. We wander without gloves to take some pictures, get our hands free, and we have to be careful not to slip in some places because of the thick layer of ice covering some parts of the road and sidewalks, where efficient snow plows have not been able to clean. The atmosphere is magical, the houses are mostly wooden, well maintained, everything is very neat and the city is surrounded by the sea and the mountains.

Before returning to the hotel, we decide to go to the supermarket to buy some beer, since it is allowed to eat food brought from outside in the dining room and to consume water, coffee and tea provided by the hotel for free. Here a bad surprise awaits us: the cashier tells us that it is not allowed to buy alcohol after 8:00 pm (and not even to consume it on the street after 6:00 pm), and since we are late for 6 minutes (yes, it was 20:06, you got it right) he can not do anything about it. Rules are rules.

With a bitter taste in the mouth we return to the hotel to eat some of the food that we took in our suitcase from Italy, since in Norway prices are often very high and we wanted to avoid spending a fortune to feed ourselves. Download an app that allows you to predict when there will be the best conditions to see the aurora borealis (it's called "Aurora", but there are many others), and we realize that it will be around two in the morning. Despite the tiredness, we decide to go to bed and set the alarm at 1:30, so you have some time to reach a dark spot where you can try to see and photograph the legendary lights of the north.

Last night we managed to see the aurora near the park around the university, on the west side of the island. On the shore of a snow-covered beach we stopped the car and Giulia jumped up and jumped for joy shortly afterwards: in the sky we could see the glare, not very strong, but unmistakably attributable to the northern lights. The atmosphere was magical! Despite the extremely cold wind, we mounted the tripod and tried to take some pictures, succeeding in our intent. They were certainly not photos from National Geographic, but they were still very good, and the thrill of being able to see the lights in the sky already on the first evening was great.

Happy and smiling we tried to move to a darker place, to better see the colors of the lights, but when we found a good area the aurora had already decided to reduce its activity. "Not bad, we will try again tomorrow" we said, heading to our warm and soft beds to rest about four hours: the next morning early we would have to wake up to hike with a sled pulled by beautiful dogs that would lasted almost the whole day. We had known immediately how hard it can be to drive a sleigh we would have certainly slept a few more hours ...

18:00

After just over half an hour by bus we meet our guide who takes us to a small shed. We and some other tourists looking for adventure enter and we are immediately assailed by a very strong smell of ... dog!

"these are the right clothes to face the day, choose the size and change" the girl tells us kindly to help unwary foreigners like us who are not familiar with the arctic clothing. They are very heavy and technical garments, of excellent quality, with laces, straps and belts that make you crazy to wear them, but they are also very effective. It is clear that even if they are not visibly dirty, they are not washed every day, because the penetrating smell of an animal originates from them. Not bad, they will make us already "friends" on the nose of our four-legged companions. When we approach them, they greet us with big parties, they are very affectionate ... so that Giulia and I distract us to play with them and we do not listen to a word of the guide who is explaining how to conduct a sled.

The results can be seen after the first few meters: as soon as we leave, I'm lucky that the dogs follow their master's sled, not giving me thoughts on how to make that thing spin, but after a few corners the difficulties begin. Our trajectories become particularly imaginative, and lead us to observe very closely the few trees that surround us. During the climbs then, the driving becomes particularly difficult, because our leader has decided to give everyone only four dogs per sled instead of six, as usual, to avoid losing control of the same due to the particularly icy bottom of these days. The result is that every climb I have to push a lot to help the dogs, risking losing a lung from the breath that remains to me. However, the effort is amply repaid by the beauty of the landscapes. Immersed in unspoiled nature, we see snow as far as the eye can see, surrounded by imperious mountains and eternal valleys that seem to have been put there to remind us how small we are and how short our existence is.

Halfway through, during a break, we also see a herd of reindeer passing a few meters from us. We realize that we are in a very special place.
On the way back we go much faster, having finally figured out how to drive a sled decently, making turns in skidding and some jump (little welcome to the back of Giulia, who at that time was sitting very low, in the passenger seat). Some other tourists are overturned too, without serious consequences, but we do not. We feel ready to face a whole life with a sled instead of a car.
Returning to the base camp, we gather around the fire to taste tea, coffee and biscuits, and I realize that I struggled so much that you can see the sweat under the arms on the thick technical jacket for rent! Having to recover a lot of liquids, we decided to go to the most famous pub in Tromso, just greeted the nice dogs and returned to the city.

Olhallen has around sixty different beers on tap, produced in the adjacent Mack brewery, which is the northernmost in the world. The atmosphere is beautiful and the beer is excellent, although definitely expensive. But liquids must be reintegrated in some way, no? And then we make an exception to the rule of "save as much as you can" for once and let's enjoy it a little.

Tonight we will go out again for another raid in search of the aurora borealis, sacrificing other hours of sleep. We will not regret this choice at all.

23:00

We are back, heading to the room, after seeing a splendid sunrise! We stopped in a grove just after the Tromso bridge. On the right, we found a pitch to leave the car, we crossed the icy road in the most complete darkness, knowing that it is not really the maximum of safety. After a few meters on foot we found a dark place, with a good view and we were amazed.

The flashes were lit a lot and inevitably fell a few tears of joy when the sky also gave us the so-called "dance dell'aurora" as a grand finale of the show that nature seems to have prepared for us. Facing the darkness, the cold and the tiredness has amply repaid us tonight.

This morning we woke up early to face the long journey from Tromso to the Lofoten islands and ... bad surprise! While I was bending over to open the suitcase, my herniated disc was rebuilt. Panic: the last time I was in bed almost 2 months before recovering.

Giulia looks for a pharmacy while I remain motionless to contemplate the ceiling of the room and the wall in front of me, where there is written in large letters "you are smart". When Giulia comes back into the room they are full of self-esteem, but still very sore, and only a massive dose of Voltaren and Paracetamol can partially alleviate the pain. In any case, let's start! We struggle not to stop every 50 meters: behind every corner we expect breathtaking landscapes that deserve hours of contemplation. Water, ice and sky come together in a thousand shades of blue, and the sun that accompanies us makes the glistening snow, leaving us speechless.

About an hour after the start, we see two girls hitchhiking on the side of the road, in the middle of nowhere. Giulia urges me to stop and give him a ride and I, a little bit because I was curious to know that there were two guys who decide to hitch in Norway in the middle of winter, and a bit to not make me feel guilty about leaving them alone freeze, I stop. Let's get acquainted with Aish, an Indian, and Fliz, from Turkey. We find out they do not have a precise destination, and when we tell them that we are heading to the Lofoten Islands, they are happy to be driven around by us, even if they take them far enough from where they would have taken the plane (or the ship I do not remember) two days later.

A few hours later, while the sun is starting to fall, we are forced to stop abruptly on a pitch. Despite the sky is not yet completely dark, we see a spectacular aurora, which seems remodeled at the computer from how beautiful it is! It covers the whole sky and suddenly begins to dance dramatically, showing in some moments even violets and pinks, as well as a very bright green. Maybe it has nothing to do with it, but Giulia and I want to think that the two hitchhikers have brought us luck, we would never have imagined that we could see such a marvel.

19:00

We arrive at our campsite, where we stay in a lovely cottage completely in wood, cabin style, overlooking the lake. We can finally make a hot dinner, thanks to the kitchenette, and we feel in paradise! With a full belly we go out again to look at the sky from the small pier not far away, before returning and sleeping like stones.

We wake up just right to admire the dawning. There is already light but the sun is still not visible. From the window of our room we admire the sun peeping out from behind the mountains, flooding the valley with a golden light that makes the landscape in front of us unreal. Despite being the fourth day in Norway, we still can not get used to the beauty of this country and we remain astonished.

21:00

Today we saw Henningsvaer and Svolvaer. The first is a very nice country, with its small harbor where we saw old fishermen who withdrew their nets on their small fishing boats, when they returned from a fishing trip.

Svolvaer instead is bigger, and here, we came across for the first time in the typical wooden structures used to hang the fish in order to dry it full. An advice: if you see that they are not empty, stay away: the smell is unbearable.

After a tour of the city, we decided to go for a drink in the famous Magic Ice Bar, the room with its interior completely made of ice, including glasses. We knew it could be a tourist trap, and so it could be defined, but we did not regret our choice. Inside, in addition to elaborate ice sculptures, we also found (and tried) a slide completely of ice, risking the neck bone several times trying to launch it as fast as possible.

Another wonderful sunrise gives us a good morning. We have to pack to head to the hostel of A (the country with the shortest name in the world). We have planned to stop at the Viking museum along the way (just before Vestvagoy), and we are pleasantly impressed by how the Norwegians managed to make the most of the history and findings of this people. The museum is interactive, with an audio guide that can be consulted from the mobile included in the ticket price, a small cinema with a short film that starts automatically every 20 minutes, and a faithful reconstruction of the Viking farm discovered in that place. Highly recommended.

As always on these islands, travel times can not be estimated using google maps, because the most important variable is not considered: the desire to stop every few meters to admire and photograph enchanting landscapes where nature is still the landlady.

Towards evening we arrive at A, and we settle in the hostel that has been obtained from the restructuring of some Rorbuer, the typical red houses / palafitte of the fishermen, and we discover that the museum of the stockfish is also part of the same complex! It is only a few meters from our room, but fortunately there is no smell. We decide that we will not go to see him, having little confidence that such a museum could be interesting, and not even having heard anyone who advised us.

Today we shot calmly, knowing that the weather would not be the best, especially in the morning.

We have seen the typical Reine, continuing then up to the ancient Nusfjord: small, particular, semi-abandoned and turned into a kind of open-air museum, which however looks like a huge tourist trap.
Returning back we stopped on a very large beach near Ramberg, where, despite the cold, some local surfer was trying to ride the low waves. One in particular deserves praise for his performance: the technique was rather poor, but his tenacity and resistance to freezing were a guinness record.
After a few photos, we warmed up with a bad hot chocolate in a local bar, then discovered that it was also quite expensive, given the poor quality (50 crowns each).

Even today the weather was not the best, although we were lucky enough to see some glimmer of sunshine. We woke up calmly and we left in the late morning. We did a quick shopping at the Joker (although the most convenient are the Rema 1000 and the Kiwi, but there are none near A) and then continued the direction of the beaches of Ramberg. The most famous is vast, characterized by the classic fine sand, and with a short trek that is on the left you can admire it from above. This is also a great place to take pictures.
When we returned we drank a beer among those bought previously that has literally exalted us: the Haakon, produced by the Mack brewery. Soon after, looking for the name on the internet, we realized that we do not understand anything about beer, or perhaps, we are the only ones in the world that understand, because the online reviews on this beer were all decidedly lukewarm. Obviously the most likely option is that we are the only experienced sommeliers of beers on the planet, and we want to emphasize this.
Once the second can is open, we are planning to organize a hitch-hiking trip, even if we do not know where, how and when, documenting step by step everything that happens to us. We will not be the first in the world to do something like that, nor the last ones, but the idea of ​​trying exalts us a lot.

This morning we woke up early so as not to be too late in Tromso. We did it, passing in areas in the mountains where we have touched the limit temperature since we are here at -19 °. Now we are in a dark lane, in the middle of the woods, just outside Tromso. As we peer into the sky for a last time looking for aurorae for the last time, we see several local inhabitants who spend their evening in a rather unique way. Sometimes with friends, but often alone, they train armed with a frontal stack in the dark of the night in the woods, some by bike, some with cross-country skis and some on foot, making us reflect on how different the habits are compared to the average Italian who spends the evening with his ass glued to the couch in front of the TV.

At 14:00 we will embark to return to Italy. Let's think back to everything we have seen, to the experiences we have experienced in the last days, and we can not help but get excited one last time, thinking that one day maybe we will return to these places. Perhaps in the summer, to see how the landscape and the life in these lands change, in any case, we advise anyone to visit at least once in their lifetime.

Want to know how much we spent for food, accommodation and excursions? Click HERE

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