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Upwards and Northwards


upwards-northwards-Reine

by Trevor Payne

There was really no point in going to bed.  We would be setting off for a midnight trek in several hours anyways.  I would make a sandwich, grab a bottle of water and throw a fleece into my backpack.  Until the trek began, I'd go down to the sea and read.  My sister and I hadn't planned it out, except that we needed to head upwards and northwards.  That was after all, the direction of the sun.

While in Bergen, Norway, my sister and I had decided to travel up above the polar circle to the islands of Lofoten in search of the midnight sun.  The islands are a majestic outcropping of mountains which fall dramatically into the ocean.  We would be going during the summertime, when the sun continually casts a dim light over the mountains making them erupt into a riot of blues and crimsons.  The area is undisturbed but for the small colorful fishing villages, famous for their klipfisk or salted and dried fish (usually cod) which hangs out to dry in the summer sun. 

I booked two tickets on the Hurtigruten, a scenic express ship which takes one along the pristine coast of Norway.  After several weeks of travelling around the southern towns of Norway, we made our way to Ålesund, from where we departed on the Hurtigruten.  Leaving the coastal city behind, we embarked on our northward journey.  For three days, my sister and I watched the bucolic lands of the north drift by.  The precipitous fjords of southern Norway gave way to rolling hills and rocky coastlines.  We passed lone lighthouses and weathered islands far out in the salty waters.  Our ship made ports of call in numerous small towns which we explored before the horn sounded and our ship moved on.

After hours of sunny exploration through the northern city of Trondheim, our boat cruised on past the polar circle to a lengthening day.  In front of us we saw large mountains shining with alpenglow.  We made our final port of call at Stamsund, spent the night there in a hostel and then took a morning bus towards the scenic town of Reine.

It was upwards and northwards then.  Setting out around eleven o'clock from our seaside cottage, we hit the road in t-shirts and shorts.  It was dusk, yet still rather warm.  The sun was still shining on the northern side of the mountains although our quaint town was in the pale shadows.  Our intention was to walk the town, find a trail into the mountains and find a peak to sit atop to watch the sun dip against the water and rise again.

Lit by the pink evening sky, we followed a river trail up into the hills.  We came to the river's source, which was a small placid lake.  The trail ended at the lake.  Around the rim of the lake were walls of sloping granite which would prove too difficult to traverse by foot.  Our answer floated peacefully in front of us in the form of an old rowboat.  After some moral deliberation, we hopped lightly into the boat and I rowed us to the northern side of the lake.

We got out, tied our boat to a sapling and headed up into the steep mountains.  We hiked far up into the mountains, checking our watches occasionally to see if midnight had struck.  Midnight came and went as we climbed higher into the dusk above our little fishing village.  Finally we rested and took in the view from atop a grassy blue peak.  Well below us to the south was our small boat floating on the lake.  Beyond that was our little town, dimly lit by the evening light.  In front of us were smoothly colored, purple peaks which were silhouetted on a pink sky.  My sister sat and I took in the view.  We did not see the midnight sun that night, but hiking over the mountains of blue into an eternal sunset was enchanting enough.

The next morning we packed up our bags and walked the five or so kilometers to the town of Å.  We stayed three days in the small fishing village learning about klipfisk, taking pictures of the village and buying food from the local bakery.  We did several more hikes, swam in the frigid lakes, and hiked again back to Reine.  At Reine, we took a small ferry to a sandy beach where we spent a hot sunny day swimming with the locals.   After a week of unsurpassable scenery on Lofoten, it was time to submit to the inevitable southward journey home.