Lofoten Islands Winter Travel Plans

Reflection of Olstind mountain peak in harbour at Reine, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Photo: Winter twilight over Olstind, Reine, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  February 2012

My days here in California are quickly coming to an end.  I had been planning this upcoming trip for a while, but it only seemed like it materialized itself at the last minute; mainly because I had been struggling to accommodate several varied destinations and weather conditions.  One part of this trip will be a bit more adventurous than anything I have attempted in recent years, but logistically, it is proving to be somewhat frustrating, and with only a few days until I leave, I still haven’t figured everything out yet.


For my third February in a row now, I’m heading back north to the Lofoten islands for several weeks of hiding from storms and hunting for Northern Lights.  My journey begins here in California on Thursday, but I won’t reach the islands until Saturday.  Luckily, an old friend is providing a night’s accommodation for me in Bodø, thus allowing me an escape of the ferry waiting room floor, before I make the somewhat unusual choice for me to fly to Leknes instead of taking the ferry.  This is mainly because the ferry schedule didn’t work out very well with my arriving in Bodø on Friday evening.

I will be alone my first week on the islands, though have some rough plans to meet up with a few readers of this site, and I will be sleeping in my rental car.

Next, I will be meeting up with Australian photographer Rod Thomas (+ a couple other Aussies), with whom I traveled with on the islands in April/May for a week of photography and northern lights chasing – weather permitting.  I’ve promised to give the boys a good workout and drag them up some mountains…

After they depart, I have a few more days on my own before I need to head east to Sweden for the next part of my journey.


Part 2 of my winter in the north will be a ski tour of the northern section of Sweden’s Kungsleden trail – from Nikkaluokta to Abisko.  I should note that I can barely ski downhill, and have never done any ski touring proper.  Combined with a probably over-heavy backpack of camera gear, this is definitely going to be an adventure for me.

I’m not exactly sure how it will go, but I’m excited!


Assuming I survive the Kungsleden trail in one piece, I’m heading back to Lofoten for another week or so, once again living out of a car.  My second visit on the islands will keep me there until March 9, and be 5 weeks total north of the Arctic Circle for me.  Wow!


Leaving Lofoten in early March, I’ll be heading back to Wales (assuming the British let me in) for a couple months.  Just my normal routine of weekly hikes and wandering around Hay-on-Wye.


In mid May, I’ll be making a short trip to Poland.  The main purpose of the visit is to attend a wedding, but I’m going to try and combine this with some hiking in the High Tatry mountains and perhaps a bit of city living in Opole and Wrocław.  I really liked Opole on my brief visit last spring, and Wrocław is a city I’ve heard lots of good things about, so hopefully everything works out.


After Poland, I’m back to Wales for a couple week before flying home to California in early June.

I’m kind of disappointed to miss Midsummer in Europe, Germany in particular, as this is one of my favorite times of year and I love the bonfire celebrations.  But unfortunately, I’m not able to stay that long.  Maybe next year with luck.

Part of this is due to the fact that I’m giving some serious thought to hiking the complete Kungsleden trail, probably starting in early August.  I’m sort of looking for a new destination to focus on, after Lofoten, and start a new website like 68north.com.  So I’m thinking northern Sweden might be that place.  I’ll see how things go…


Pints of Guinness at TBEX Dublin

TBEX Dublin 2013

Pints of Guinness at TBEX Dublin

Photo: Pints of Guinness at TBEX Dublin.  October 2013

It’s been one of my goals in the last year or so to try and figure out where I actually fit in in this world.  Am I a photographer that blogs?  Or am I a blogger that takes better than average photos? Or something somewhere in-between?  I don’t quite know.  I will never claim to be a good writer, but I think with my travels and the information I like to share, particularly about sometimes obscure places in the world, that I am more than just a photographer.  Though I guess most every photographer must be something more to make a living these days, even if said living is sleeping on a fold-out couch at 32 years old.

Long story short, while making travel plans for the Autumn of last year, I took an interest in the TBEX (travel blog exchange) conference occurring in Dublin at the beginning of October 2013.  As I had yet to step foot in Ireland, and would be on my way to Wales from Norway about that time anyway.  Why not a brief stop over in Dublin?  I sometimes don’t require much convincing…

I arrived a couple days early to have a bit of time to settle in, get to know the layout of Dublin a bit and to partake in one of the pre-bex events, in my case, a photo tour around the waterfront of south Dublin guided by Dusk to Dawn tours.  The weather was unfortunately rather Irish, read grey sky and mist, but I had a good time none the less, and I really didn’t expect Dublin to be such a coastal town.  The tour peaked my interest for a possible return to Ireland sometime in the future.

Wednesday night, before the conference began the following morning, was the opening party held at the Guinness Storehouse.  Not knowing what to expect, I made the mistake of going out to dinner before hand.  Walking to the building through the rainy, dark streets of Dublin the pounding of drums beckoned from the distance and the dancing shadows of fire led us to the entrance.  Before entering the building, I knew I was in for a good night.

Wandering our way to the upper levels of the Guinness storehouse, I came upon a party like none I have ever been to before – though I mostly live a rather boring and eremitic life of lonely landscapes and lost places – so perhaps I don’t have the best references in this department.  But I think all the attendees had a good time  Upon taking glance of the food available, I immediately realized dinner was a mistake, but welcomed a second one with little protest – especially after nearly a month on a ‘Norwegian diet.’  And to seal the deal, free Guinness, the whole night long.  Good music, some Irish dancing and a few hours later, it was finally time for a slightly drunken stupor the 30 minutes back to the hostel.  After all, I had an early start for a day full of learning.  Had the conference merely been this party, I would have been happy.

Not quite familiar with the Dublin bus system it was an earlier than needed start on Thursday morning, leaving the hostel about 7:45 to give a bit of padding to any navigational errors or wrong routes taken.  But other than walking a bit further than necessary, the bus dropped us of more or less right in from on the hotel where the conference would be taking place.  Being one of the first ones there, I sat around and drank tea while the conference room slowly filled with other bloggers.

After the opening keynote, there where a multitude of lectures one had the choice of attending on various subjects from travel writing to social media.  After lunch provided by the hotel, it was off to another couple of talks for the afternoon.

Later that night, it was time for party number 2, this time at the Odeon theatre.  This time I didn’t make the mistake of eating dinner beforehand. There was more than plenty of food going around and another night of free flowing drinks.  Another slightly drunken stupor through the streets of Dublin.

Friday continued with more conferences and more learning.  I was beginning to get inspired by what I was hearing and was meeting some nice people.  Though I still felt a little out of place in the whole event.  It seems everyone has some cool-adventurous-world-wandering-nickname for their blog.  And me? I’m just Cody from, uhhhh, codyduncan.com.  Doesn’t sound very cool or adventurous – though my feet probably walk more miles of trail/wilderness than the rest of the people in the conference combined.  And I was definitely under-dressed for the whole affair.  But what can I do, fancy shirts are too heavy to carry when you hike in the mountains and don’t just travel through Italian cities eating nice food.

Upon planning for the conference while not quite knowing what to expect, I made the mistake of booking tickets for a 6:00am flight from Dublin to Manchester.  This was a horrible mistake, most especially realized upon arriving back at the hostel at 2:00am after another night out on the town.  I kind of had places to go, Scotland in Particular.  But still, don’t do it.

Overall, the TBEX conference was a mind opening event for me and I’m going to do my best to attend another one this year – either here in North America or in Europe, which would probably be my preference.  Attending the parties alone was more or less worth the attendance fee, so everything you learn after that is free bonus!  But really, it was good to meet and chat with like minded people, some of whom are successfully making a living at this whole travel blogging thing.  Motivation for me to ‘get to it’ one of these days and quit bumming around.

Winter dawn on Pen Y Fan from Corn Du, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales

Best Photos of 2013

The following are my favorite images of the year.  Overall, 2013 was a year of ups and downs for me and I was often struggling to come up with inspiration.  I seemed to run into more than my usual amount of bad weather, especially starting off the year on Scotland’s Outer Hebrides.  But in turn, I had some of the best right-place-right-time moments of the last few years, where amazing light and scenery appeared before my eyes.  Looking through the images I noticed that I didn’t make any Calfiornia, or US, road trips this year.  I guess I was quite focused on the Lofoten islands, making 4 trips in total this year, one for every season.  That being said, I tried to balance out the collection a bit so that it wasn’t only Lofoten images, as it easily could have been.

Now to the images, in no particular order…

Winter dawn on Pen Y Fan from Corn Du, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales

Photo: Winter dawn over Pen Y Fan, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales.  February 2013

Pre-dawn winter hikes up Pen Y Fan have become something of a common occurrence of mine over the last couple years.  Despite their low elevation, I reallylove the mountains of the Brecon Beacons in south Wales.


Traditional Rorbu cabin reflects in fjord in evening light, Valen, Reine, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway
Photo: Rorbu reflection, near Reine, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  February 2013

Normally I don’t include much architecture or man made structures in my images but as I was killing a bit of time at the end of the day before meeting up with a friend, I parked the car on the edge of the fjord, near these rob – fishermen’s huts.  I was walking in the other direction towards another photo when out of the corner of my eye, I caught the lights of the buildings come on, the occupants returning home for the evening.  This brought out just enough contrast against the heavily clouded sky.  I scaled down the rocky slope to the water’s edge and managed a few images before the rain began to fall.


Aurora Borealis - Northern Lights fill sky over Olstind mountain peak and reflect in fjord, Toppøya, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Photo: Northern Lights over Olstind, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  February 2013

Olstind and Northern Lights has been an image I’ve had in my mind for a number of years.  And this evening was my lucky night.


Stormy winter landscape at Haukland beach, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Photo: Haukland beach in winter, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  February 2013

I’m not quite sure why I like this image as much as I do.  It was a shitty, stormy day, with temperatures warming and a cold rain beginning to fall and melt away the snow.  I was largely stuck held captive by the weather most of the day, remaining in my car most of the time, but as I was driving towards Utakleiv to camp for the night I noticed rain had stopped as I was passing Haukland beach.  I got my feet wet for this one.


Wild Welsh Mountain Pony near Hay Bluff, Black Mountains, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales

Photo: Welsh mountain ponies, Black Mountains, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales.  June 2013

Perhaps a little brighter than my usual style of recent years, I still like the feeling of this image, taken on one of my after dinner hikes up Twampa for a bit of exercise.  While the ponies in Iceland seem to get all the photographic love these days, there are also some cool ones cruising around the mountains of south Wales.


Female hiker watches sunset over mountains from summit of Glyder Fach, Snowdonia national park, Wales

Photo: Sunset on Glyder Fach, Snowdonia national park, Wales.  June 2013

This was my first hiking trip to Snowdonia since 2006.  Somehow the chosen weekend seemed to coincide with unusually brilliant weather.  After Hiking up Tryfan, we set up camp on the summit of Glyder Fach.  This is what sunset brought to the hight mountains that night.


Rainbow at Sunrise over mountains from Bunes Beach, Moskenesoy, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Photo: Bunes beach rainbow at dawn, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  August 2013

This was a photo I nearly missed; due both to tiredness, and some nice light elsewhere.  But intuition took me out to the cliffs with this view and I nearly dropped my camera when this rainbow came into view.  A near perfect aligning of elements.


Open air mountain bivy on rocky summit of Hermannsdalstinden, Moskenesoy, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Photo: Bivy on the summit of Hermannsdalstinden, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  August 2013

This is probably my favorite image of the year, though more for the moment than the photo itself.  Alone on the highest mountain in western Lofoten on a late summer’s evening, I took a few images as I was getting ready for bed.  To me, this photo is what the Lofoten islands are all about.


Evening twilight over Reine from summit of Reinebringen, Moskenesoy, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Photo: Evening arrives over Reine from the summit of Reinebringen, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  September 2013

I had journeyed up Reinebringen on this day with hopes of Northern Lights appearing in the night.  They never really did, but I walked away with this image.  It was worth the effort and the cold.


Stormy seas crash against dramatic coastal cliffs at Yesnaby, Orkney, Scotland

Photo: Yesnaby, Orkney, Scotland.  October 2013

I had a few false starts (read: bad weather) during my week on Orkney, but on this evening everything seemed to come together.  The cliffs are wild and rugged, the sea stormy.  Just how I like it!