There but for the grace of cod

The last 3 days in Oslo were uneventful, filled with walks down the same trails I’d already made on my own the last few times I’d come, but with a travelling companion (TC), things were slightly different. More cheerful, certainly, considering the number of chocolate biscuits we bought.

IMG_4097

But the real thing – if that doesn’t sound terribly arrogant – began the moment we left for Bodø and onwards to Svolvaer. The small plane dipped right and I got my first glimpse of the small chain of islands that’s a jaw-dropping sight even from the air. Mountains plunge straight into the sea and on this rare, sunny winter’s day, it’s difficult to imagine the harsh conditions of the hardy fishermen who have lived their lives on the edge for centuries 68 degrees north of the Arctic Circle.

IMG_3969

IMG_3974

It’s cod season now and boats go out by the hundreds – sailing past my hotel window – before the arse crack of dawn. The rorbuer (small fishing huts housing fishermen in the winter, some of which are refurbished to house tourists these days) and the hanging rows of dried cod on enormous triangular stands are testament to a fishing industry  hat hasn’t changed in decades – centuries even.

IMG_4091

IMG_3917

A hurried check in at Hotel Vestfjord was followed by a hurried drive to Henningsvær, a town just about a half-hour from Svolvaer. It was an attempt to capture the last sunlight of the day, a wise choice in retrospect, seeing as we woke to snowy conditions that got progressively bleaker as the day wore on. It’s Easter week too and Norway is going on the snooze button for a few days; that knowledge is agonising enough to drive us to the supermarket and stock up for the meals we’d be preparing ourselves in the coming days.

The rest of Svolvaer apparently had the same idea.

The weather’s dreary yet the warmth of the people – both tourists and local – continue to surprise me, because years of travel still haven’t quite worn down the edge of cynicism and wary guardedness I have. We drove into snow deep enough that the car needed a boost from several hands. All of a sudden, several car loads of Italian skiers got out to volunteer for that job. It was over even before I’d time to process the panic I should have been feeling or the nightmarish situations in which we could have found ourselves.

There but for the grace…

The social network in a BnB

IMG_4473

Being in a Bed and Breakfast includes a (not so) hidden social element that tends to make me rather alarmed, considering I’m someone who just gets antsy and anxious in social groups for an extended period of time. Strangely, it feels akin to someone trying to reintegrate into society after long periods of isolation (or imprisonment), just less drastically so.

Anna Gerd Lind’s guesthouse a few kilometres off the small town of Leknes is such a place, where guests (or strangers, depending on how you see it) interact and sit in living spaces freely shared by her family. It is strange to live in someone’s home like you’re an invited guests – until you realise you’re in fact, a paying one.

IMG_4570

The day we arrived was dreary and rainy (with a fierce storm at night), cooping all of us in, including 2 toddlers who ran amok. I was beginning to have visions of a small town murder mystery by then, but thankfully the skies cleared for a short while, which allowed us to drive to Offersøy to climb a ridged hill and recharge in the peace and quiet.

P1060179

There are moments where I inevitably tire of (forced?) conversation yet find it difficult to extricate myself from one. But I always learn a lot about people whose lifestyles differ so drastically from mine, inevitably trying to see myself in their shoes – and failing miserably at it. AG’s daughter is a licensed reindeer slaughterer whose partner is half-Sami. Having been a heavy vehicle driver for a while, making Sami knives has since become her calling. There are three other guests who are staying the same time we are: a thin, tall Belgian who craves the outdoors like a drug and an elderly American couple who have hit it off fabulously.

I’m not entirely certain if I’m supposed to learn anything from all the interactions I have on holiday, as interesting as they can get. Because I find myself looking forward to the small, cramped space of a hotel room where the space is mine again.

Longer and more winding roads

What I’ve learned from this very short time in Lofoten is that the weather is extremely unpredictable, even for March and apparently, the Norwegian weather service. We’ve had good weather, followed by bleak, miserable snow.

Rinse and repeat.

IMG_4228

IMG_4239

There were only small, short walks that we did because of it and with our pseudo hiking poles, looked as though we knew what we were doing. A short hike up Tjeldbergtinden – thanks to a lovely employee at the Avis/Budget car rental – yielded precious views of Svolvaer and clearing skies worked wonders for photography.

I was grateful, nonetheless, more so when the road to Reine cleared for a gorgeous drive down southwest. Yet what was supposed to be a mere 2-hour-ish journey took up nearly the whole day because we stopped multiple times off the national tourist road (also known as the E10) to gawk at the landscape, even walking up a bridge which I’m not sure we were supposed to. A random turn off led to Haukland, a gentle walk around a mountain filled with Norwegian families enjoying their holiday by the beach and its crystal-clear waters.

 

IMG_4211

IMG_4564

We reached Reine finally after a series of twisty roads, checked in quickly and got going again, hoping to catch the rest of the sunny day up until the end of the road. The coastline is dotted with Rorbuer, or rather, cabins painted in red fish-oil paint built on long poles that go straight into the water, originally used to house fishermen and their fish storage.

IMG_4220

IMG_4324

The Easter break meant we were on our own and that was when a series of things started to go wrong at Eliassen Rorbuer. The hot water ran out quickly despite my army-style shower and the rest of the night was spent boiling water by the pots and kettle to refill a pail of lukewarm water so that TC could take a proper shower. The fuses blew in the morning before breakfast, killing the heating along with the cooker hood. Several switches were still working however, which meant some matter of improvisation that ended up with moving the oven to the floor near the shoes and cooking bacon, eggs and our bread there.

Which set off the shrill smoke alarm that we disabled after donning ear plugs by yanking out the damn battery.

My irate (early) phone call to the reception was met with an apologetic response that nothing would be fixed until she gets in at 9 am, and hopefully with an electrician in tow.

What was there to do but wait, on a dreary Good Friday?