In the very beginning there was a bunch of people with a lot of ideas (most of which totally infeasible) and never-ending travel plans. All of those people worked seasonal work in the hotel and restaurant field in Levi and were about to finish the winter season at the same time in April. No one was completely sure about their exact plans for the time after that.
One day they were hanging around together and playing with the feasible travel destinations and holiday plans, when The Idea popped up. #levigoeslofoten was born.
Besides me, Miia, Nanna and Tiina the core squad included also two of our other friends, Iina and Harri. The final group got determined just a few weeks before the departure as my and Tiina’s roommate from last Levi season, Elisa, and her friend Emma signed themselves up for this grand adventure. Plans were made, meetings were held, car was rented and money was gathered. On a Sunday afternoon at the end of April, after I had finished my last day at work and the journey mascots had been placed to the windscreen, the small road trip was finally ready to begin.
The atmosphere was merry, cider cans repeated their happy “chup” sounds and everyone was singing with the songs that were playing out loud from the stereos. That day, which had been marked to the calendars with bright colors and exclamation marks months ago, had finally come and everything felt surreal.
One thing I’m never going to forget was the moment, when the daylight little by little started to turn into the warm shades of sunset and the hills behind the car windows got higher and sharper. I (and I’m pretty sure that I wasn’t the only one) could feel my eyes getting wet as we reached Narvik and the last rays of sun disappeared behind the snowy mountain peaks at the beat of “While Your Lips Are Still Red” by Nightwish. At that moment I could easily identify with Moominpappa and his saying about feeling oneself so happy that you don’t even fear that moment going away. That’s exactly how I felt – living in the moment, enjoying of every single second and wanting to be nowhere but there.
After staying the night in Narvik and having a breakfast at our small, cozy hotel we started the second part of the journey to reach our final destination. The weather was sunny and the snapping of cameras was incessant as the mountains slowly started to surround us. I had always known that the landscapes in Norway and in Lofoten are stunning, but all of those photos seen on Instagram are nothing compared to the moment you finally see those views through your own eyes. It’s ridiculous how small and happy you can feel yourself when sitting in the car, your nose pressed towards the window and your eyes hoarding the scenery everywhere around you (and how silly you must have looked like, and how you don’t care about that as everyone is doing the same and you can be happily silly together).
We had rented a house from Reine, a small fishing village situated on a southern promontory of Lofoten Islands. Reine has been mentioned to be the most beautiful village of Lofoten and I think none of us could really contradict that – the surroundings were simply breathtaking! So was the smell of the dried fish that could’ve been found hanging everywhere around the village…
Lofoten is one of the best places in the world for producing the stockfish due to the weather conditions and you didn’t really need to put much effort to find it. Amounts of dried fish hanging in the wooden frames were amazing and a quick googling revealed that most of the production is exported to the dinner tables of Italy, Croatia and Nigeria. In Norway the stockfish is used mostly just as a snack.
As we only had two full days at the destination we didn’t have time for everything we would’ve wanted to do, but in my opinion managed anyway to make the most of the days. Timing for the trip was pretty good as the summer season hadn’t started yet and we were able to enjoy of the views without hundreds of other tourists and drive around without getting stuck in the middle of the caravan cars on the narrow roads. On the other hand that meant also that pretty many small cafés, restaurants and souvenir shops were still closed, but that didn’t really bother us.
There’s something I need to say about Norwegian standards for different hikes – their level of difficulty can not be compared to the classifications of any other country. We decided to go for a relatively short, approximately 2-hour hike that started just a few hundred meters from our house. It had been marked as medium-level hike and we left there blissfully unaware of everything that we were about to face in a few minutes.
The beginning of the track was marked clearly with a sign, but… well, that’s pretty much it. After a few meters the trail disappeared and there was nothing but bushes, rocky ground and steep ascent up to the mountain. Someone else might have turned around at this point and go back home, but not we – everyone pointed out that this is crazy and we shouldn’t keep going any further, but at the same time none of us even slowed down.
There isn’t that much photo material of the hike mostly due to the reason we needed our hands all the time to keep us alive. The progression was mostly desperate creeping through the bushes, hanging from every single branch and tussock we could find and trying to get a foothold from the slippery cliffs and snow banks. I hadn’t been that afraid of staying alive in a long time, knowing that any step to the wrong place or letting my grip slip might be not just painful, but also fateful. When thinking about this afterwards it would’ve been pretty smart to consider turning back at the latest when Nanna’s shoe soles started to get loose and stayed put only by tieing them with the shoelaces, but I guess we all were just too full of adrenaline (and maybe a little bit too stupid as well) to care about such small things.
Even though we did our best, we were unfortunately not able to make it to the top as the hillside got even steeper and the amount of snow increased and turned out to be too dangerous, even for us. Coming down was, if possible, more scary than climbing up, but in the end we managed to make it by sliding while keeping our bottoms tightly on the ground. Our pants weren’t that happy of this decision, though…
Oh, and about the sign in the beginning of the trail?
The most descriptive part of Norwegian hikes and people is the fact, that in the beginning of the trail Tiina, who searched for another and little bit better-marked trail up, met a family coming down from the mountain with a small child. When she asked them about the hike and condition of the trail they told it to be “just fine”. Later in the evening, as all of us got back alive, we told about our adventure for the staff of the village’s restaurant. The comments were mostly just “oh, that’s nice that you went up there, was it nice?”.
… these Norwegians.
(Well, afterwards we heard relatively many tourists need to be saved by helicopter from the trail during the wintertime and people have also ended up several times as victims of the snow avalanche.)
Next day we decided to go for another hike despite the bruises and little bit sore muscles, but this time decided to pick a trail which was marked as easy. It turned out to be far from what we would have called easy in Finland, but it was also clearly easier than the previous one – at least you didn’t need your hands all the time to stand!
This time we were about to climb up to Ryten, located about 30km north from Reine. After climbing through the outcrop in the middle of two mountains the trail descended down to incredibly beautiful Kvalvika beach.
Most of our group decided to stay on the beach and have a little rest, but me, Nanna, Elisa and Emma hadn’t apparently got enough of climbing and wanted to keep going a little bit higher. No sooner said than done!
We didn’t have time to reach the top of the mountain, but got high enough to allow ourselves to uncork the summit ciders (isn’t that a word?) we had taken with us. The sun, stunning views, fresh breeze, the sound of the ocean and still-quite-cold apple cider – I can tell you that the combination wasn’t that bad!
Besides hiking our trip to Lofoten included great food both at our house (I highly recommend you all to have a chef as a travel company!) and in the small, idyllic restaurant in the heart of Reine. Most of us tasted whale meat for the first time, but I guess everyone also came to the end result to prefer seeing the whales from our terrace splashing in the sea than sliced on the dinner table. That is, you see, what we really were able to do – see whales straight from the terrace on the backyard. Not bad!
After three nights in Reine we were unfortunately forced to start heading back home. We stopped in Svolvær, got new outdoor clothes from Stormberg’s to cover the broken pants and shoes and stayed overnight at the same, familiar hotel in Narvik. Leaving the mountains behind and facing the comparably insipid landscape of northern Sweden was heartbreaking, but one must leave to be able to come back, right?
Hilarious, qualityless jokes that were definitely unsuitable for publication, breathtakingly incredible landscapes, fresh air, sonorous sound of ocean waves and shrieking seagulls, taste of the crispy cider in the mouth, snowy mountain range looming in the horizont, strong smell of the fish, sore muscles, wet socks and broken pants, beating heart and adrenaline running through the veins, singing, clowning around and acting silly. Above all smiles, laughter and feeling of togetherness.
We all had deserved that trip by working hard through the winter. We all had waited for the holiday to come and we all had high expectations, that were fulfilled better than we would have ever imagined.
And we all were just as fucked-up.
Trip to Lofoten was the last one we were able to do as a group. Next day after coming back to Levi it was time to separate as one by one all of us gathered our belongings, packed our bags and left our winter home behind. End of something is always beginning for something new and I have a strong feeling it’s just the right time for new adventures.
Stay tuned – these girls are not going to settle down!
You can read more about our trip in Finnish from our own blogs: