Lofoten Winter Travels

Reine Lofoten Islands, Norway

Photo: Olstind rises above Reine in winter, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  Feb 6, 2012

After picking up my backpack from the luggage carousel I left the airport and walked into the cool night air of Bodø.  The streets were rather snow free for Jan 31st but a crisp wind cut easily through my jackets as I walked the well lit streets towards the ferry waiting room down at the docks.  Arriving a little after 7:00 pm and with a few hours to kill until the ferry at 1:30 am, I figured I’d sit around a read for a bit and maybe cook a small dinner.  As I approached the automatic door, it didn’t open.  Hmm.  Then my eyes turned towards a new sign that I’ve never seen before, ‘waiting room opening hours 0700 – 1700  (thats 7:00 am – 5:00 pm for you non 24hr people).’  What? Huh? Shit!  This is going to suck.  There was also a phone number listed with a note about calling the harbour authority.  Call?  No, they can’t mean me.  So I walked back to the train station which was at least open until 9:00 pm.

Once the train station closed up I took about wandering the streets of Bodø for a little bit.  I thought about sitting in the entrance way of one of the supermarkets which was open until 11:00 pm, but quickly talked myself out of that idea for some reason.  So I headed back to the ferry station and figured I might as well let the suffering get under way.  I found a spot next to another building that was mostly sheltered from the wind, leaned my backpack against the wall and crawled into my sleeping bag in some awkward half sitting – half lying position to avoid too much contact with the freezing cold ground.  The hours crept by at a sluggish pace but eventually the clock neared 1:00 am (mind you that I had begun my journey at 2:00 am the day before) and I packed my things and started looking for the ferry.  By chance I wandered back to the waiting room and saw someone sitting inside.  I knocked on the door and he let me in and proceeded to tell me that if I had called that phone number on the door, someone would automatically open the doors and let me in.  Double shit!  I suffer from my shyness sometimes often.  And so began another journey to the Lofoten Islands: tired, cold, and hungry.

The ferry crossing was a rough one but my utter exhaustion meant I at least managed a bit of sleep on the 5 hour journey.  Arriving in Moskenes at 6:30 am I thought about setting up my tent for a few hours, but the bus would come a little after 9:00 so I figured it wasn’t worth the effort.  Stupidly, and for the sole reason of saving a few NOK, I started walking the 5km towards Reine.  Now I say stupid because at moskenes there is at least a heated public toilet that I could have waited in (not in the toilet itself, but in the small room outside), whereas in Reine there is nothing.  [minor complaint: For a country as rich as Norway that is also cold and dark half the year, and especially for a highly touristed area like the Lofoten Islands, there are surprisingly few sheltered areas where one can wait to escape the weather.  Even at the bus stop in Reine, it is just a couple of wooden benches with a small roof, but totally exposed to the wind.  Nothing opens before 9-10 in the morning, of what little actually opens in winter anyhow.  So if you actually have a bit of a wait for a bus, it can be a very cold one.]  The bus eventually arrived a little after 9:00 and I was on my way to Stamsund to pickup my car.  In typical fashion, I missed shooting quite a brilliant sunrise while watching through the dirty bus windows.  Probably the 2nd best of the whole trip.  So it goes.  But I knew I needed to get to my car as soon as possible to finally have some shelter.

The car would be my home and companion for the next 12 days of all the variable weather combinations that can be possible, except for ‘good,’ of course.  I had some plans of camping, but conditions weren’t ideal so I slept in the car all but two nights where I was in a hostel; and that was really only because I needed power to charge my camera batteries.  A bit on the ghetto side and not the way I’d recommend traveling if you can afford it (which I cannot, unfortunately).  With darkness coming around 4:00 pm, I was often going to sleep around 6:00 pm; more out of boredom than actual tiredness.   At least my car was a wagon, so I could properly stretch out, unlike my last winter journey.

This trip now has me halfway convinced that the next time I’m on the islands in summer I’ll probably spend half my time walking in knee deep snow.  There is just no depending on the weather for any reliability or consistency. One summer will be brilliant, the next crap.  One autumn dry, the next raining.  You can only do so much to plan, and then the islands take over.  during my time on the islands I had a minimum temp. of -10.7 °C (06 February) and a high of 7.8 °C (10 February).  Those warm days meant rain, lots and lots of it.  Rain in winter is not a good thing, at least photographically.  Much of the snow was melted away, giving the islands a drab, gloomy feeling for days on end.  One would think that I would be smart enough to focus my attention on someplace with more favourable photographic conditions, but nope.  I’ll no doubt be back again as soon as possible to wait out more bad weather in hopes of a few elusive moments of brilliance that can only be achieved in places like Lofoten.

Oh, and on the way back, I was at least smart enough to call and get let into the waiting room at 2:00 am for a few hours sleep on the floor before heading off to the airport.  At least I learn some things sometimes…

2 replies
  1. Søren says:

    Few elusive moments of brilliance, indeed. They’re all the more valuable for it, and everybody who has visited Lofoten at least twice (in case of uncannily good weather the first time around) has a proper level of appreciation for them and the hardship the photographer has undertaken on the way.

    Viva Lofoten!

  2. Carolina says:

    Oh you poor… But at least your photos are stunning. Or the two I’ve seen so far. Incredibly beautiful. Had to chuckle about you calling the minus 10 ‘warm’. Uhuh. In my book (I’m Dutch) that is cold 😉

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