Escaping to a Remote Arctic Existence in Norway
By KEEN Ambassador Charles Post
As an unapologetic wildlife nerd, I was pretty darn stoked for the chance to observe reindeer browsing lichen-crusted coastal hills, photograph white-tailed eagles hunting the Norwegian Sea, watch plumes of snowy white ptarmigans, wings fixed, gliding amongst wind-sculpted birch forests. Every so often the odd flock of snow buntings would erupt from the seemingly lifeless tundra. Once aloft, the dozen or so would quickly disappear, hidden by sleet and big, soft, wet Arctic circle snowflakes.
In just the first three short days in the far north of Norway, we experienced this and more.
As I write this, I’m warming my nearly numb hands in the cozy cabin of a catamaran anchored in a small leeward cove. The prevailing southwesterly winds sway us gently side to side. We are hidden from the gales raging just around the bend in this fjord. It’s been a bit of a wild day at sea. We had a fun time punching our way through the swell to explore a tiny island complete with an ancient graveyard and white church, faded, worn, but not broken; one that looked as though it had weathered its fair share of icy squalls.
It’s the grit and salt that makes this place and the wildlife that exist here so remarkable, unlike anywhere I’ve ever been.
I’m told Norwegians say there’s no bad weather, just bad gear. After a full day in the elements above the Arctic Circle, I’d agree. This place is full of weather, but without it there would be something missing from Norway’s northern fjords. It’s the grit and salt that makes this place and the wildlife that exist here so remarkable, unlike anywhere I’ve ever been.
That "rorbu" cabin life
As we headed south to Norway’s Loføten Islands, we settled into a week of life in Nusfjord, an ancient fishing village.
The cry of kittiwakes, smell of drying cod and the sea filled our bedroom. The sun’s photic frontrunners trickled into the harbor, warming our small rorbu, a classic red Norwegian fishermen's cabin. I pulled on a thick pair of wool socks, fixed myself a cup of black coffee, and walked outside onto the docks. The tide was half full and heading in slowly, one moment at a time.
By midday, the tide would rise nearly seven feet, flooding the harbor and raising our small rowboat with it. As the April sun climbed higher, Nusfjord bloomed, aglow in golden blue light, the kind I’ve only found here in Norway’s Arctic regions.
A sea of fjords and mountains
With the day well underway, we hopped in our small rowboat with bags packed for a hike in the mountains. She cut through the calm waters as my wife, Rachel Pohl, effortlessly steered us past the many fishing boats and kittiwakes. Hundreds flitted about feverishly building their moss-laden nests in the cliffs that protect our cabin and rowboat from the Arctic swell and weather.
It’s the kind of life that revitalizes the soul.
Life here in the high Arctic revolves around the cycles of the natural world: the tide, sun, wind and moon. It’s the kind of life that revitalizes the soul and left us recharged for our long journey home. Fortunately, we are headed back to Norway in August for a second chance at exploring one of the richest and most breathtaking landscapes I’ve ever laid eyes on.
Charles wore his waterproof and insulated Targhee Lace Boots while exploring Norway.
10 TIPS FOR EXPLORING ONE OF THE WORLD'S MOST REMOTE ARCHIPELAGOS
I don’t want to give away all of my secrets when it comes to a dream trip in the Loføten Islands, but here are a few things to keep in mind:
1) The baggage fees for the flight to the islands from Bodø can be a bit pricey if you have bigger bags for your skis or surfboards (yes, you can do both in Loføten!).
2) Svolvaer, a fishing centre at the top of Loføten, is the biggest town you’ll experience while visiting this part of Norway, so be sure to rent a car here, stop at the market and get your bearings before heading further into the islands.
3) Be sure to drive all the way to Reiné… slowly, so you see and experience the places.
4) Really give yourself the time to poke around, check out the bakeries and cafés. Take roads that look interesting, stop people and ask for directions (Norwegians are friendly, and many speak English, so don’t be shy).
5) A “rorbu,” or "rorbuer" (plural), is a fishermen’s cabin, which is the traditional red house that you’ve seen in photos. These are great places to stay.
6) Smiling goes a long way, and so does learning a few words in Norwegian.
7) Experience the local foods. Eat cod fish!
8) Buy an authentic Norwegian wool sweater. You’ll be glad you did.
9) Look up Pukka Travels and take a sailing trip with my friend, Captain Nic.
10) Be respectful of the place; people live here! While it may seem like the playground for adventure – and it is – it’s also a place people call home, so be sensitive to the way you drive, where and how you pull over to take a photo, where and how you camp, and what places you geotag (I generally avoid precise locations), where you hike and lead others to hike.