Every so often, something fully encompasses us. It grabs us at the core and becomes the only thing we think about. It almost haunts us. This is a what we call a tell-tale sign and if you don’t give it a shot, there’s a good chance you’ll be lookin back thinking of what could have been...
This adventure comes from a couple of students with no lack of imagination. Their names are David Campbell & Tadhg Bradford. The two stumbled into some photos of a unique region in Norway and they were hooked. After some planning, they and their crew were about as deep into adventure as you can get. Even better, David would later come to write a song about the trip, the experience, and the friends that shared in the entire adventure.
Words By Tadhg Bradford & David Campbell:
In the fall semester of 2017 my friend, David, and I went on exchange together to Oslo, Norway. We had a one week break from school in late September and we used it to travel up north to an area called Lofoten. This region is an archipelago of mountainous islands surrounded by water that is so blue it could be mistaken for the Caribbean if it wasn’t for the frigid temperatures. There are many small towns dotting the islands that all rely on the fishing industry as their source of income. The towns are connected by winding roads and long skinny bridges. Lofoten is extremely beautiful. As a result of increasing attention it is gaining on social media it is quickly becoming a large tourist attraction. This increased tourist traffic is resulting in a negative impact on the environment which is a source of some conflict with the locals but luckily our trip was late enough in the year that we avoided the tourists' scene and were able to experience the beautiful nature undisturbed.
In total it was a group of three people going on the trip, myself, David and our friend from Germany called Jo. Being so remote it took 2 days of traveling including driving, flying and a ferry to reach Lofoten. My friends and I were studying at the Norwegian School of Sports Sciences in a program called outdoor studies. Since we were in the outdoor studies program, we were allowed to borrow camping equipment from the school. In total, we borrowed a variety of gear including an amazing tent which was our home for the nine days we spent up north. The trip started with an early morning flight from Oslo (where we were living) to Bodø. Bodø is the closest city to Lofoten and is very quaint and small. Once we arrived in the city we walked from the airport all the way into the city where we spent the afternoon exploring. As night fell we went looking for a place to pitch our tent. In Norway, they have an amazing law that allows you to camp anywhere so long as you are over 150 meters away from the entrance to a building. We walked back roughly in the direction of the airport and soon found a field on the outskirts of the city where we pitched our tent. We slept there that night but quickly realized that we were under the flight path of planes coming and going from the airport and were woken up repeatedly by the roar of jet engines. The next morning we rented a car from a rental dealership at the airport, we were pleased to learn that they upgraded us to a hybrid Toyota Yaris. That car was very fun to drive served as our principal means of transport for the rest of the trip. Once we had the car we had to rush to board our ferry to Lofoten.
The ferry takes approximately three and a half hours and took us to a town near the tip of the island chain called Moskenes. Once we arrived in Lofoten we started looking for a place to camp. We eventually found a nice patch of grass that was beside a parked camper van. The owners of this camper van were a Dutch couple who had driven all the way from the Netherlands to Lofoten, about 2000 km. We struck up a conversation with them and became friends almost instantly. Since we had slightly different itineraries for the next three or four days we decided to exchange contact information and meet up again later in our trip. The next morning, we started a hike with them but their path diverged from ours after about a kilometer and we said our goodbyes. The hike that we were attempting was intended to bring us to the peak of the mountain called Hermannsdalstinden, which is the tallest on the island. It is a 2-3 day hike but, at the end of the first day the weather turned bad in flash and we decided to not risk it in the harsh conditions. All was not lost, however, and we camped next to a beautiful cabin called Mukenbu hut. In Norway, there is an organization called DNT that maintains hiking trails and cabins. The cabins are available to members but unfortunately, we had not paid for access. Nevertheless, just the exterior was beautiful and provided an excellent focal point for some pictures. The next day I woke up early and saw the most beautiful sunrise of my life, I was on the top of a smaller mountain and could see the ocean on all sides as the sun came up over the horizon.
Over the following days, we continued hiking, seeing more amazing views. We hiked the short but very intense trail up to the peak of the mountain, Reinbringen. This is one of the most popular hikes due to the amazing view but due to the increase in tourist traffic, the trail had been damaged and closed for construction. Confident in our own hiking/climbing skills we ignored the closed signs and climbed it anyway albeit with more caution than normal. Next, we hiked to Kvalvika beach, which is made of white sand and is situated at the base of huge mountains. We spent a couple of days here hiking the surrounding trails and did some amateur rock climbing above drops hundreds of meters high into the ocean.
During all these days one thing had still eluded us, the northern lights. Our trip was in early October and was at peak season to see the lights. As each day passed without seeing the lights we got more and more nervous that we wouldn’t see them. It got to the point where we took turns sleeping with our head outside the tent in case we woke up in the middle of the night and saw them. On the sixth day of our trip, we met back up with our Dutch friends in the morning. Lofoten is a small area and we were running out of things to do so we brainstormed and decided to try horseback riding together. We traveled to the ranch only to discover you had to book a day in advance, so instead, we decided to just relax by an old lighthouse and try to catch some fish for dinner. We were unlucky and didn’t catch any fish but still had a good time being outside and spending the day together. When it began to get dark we started looking for a place to camp together. This was harder than it sounds because we had to accommodate both a camper van and a tent. We drove around the islands for almost 2 hours looking for a good spot and were beginning to get frustrated when we arrived at the perfect place. Just as we arrived I looked up and saw a tiny flash of the northern lights in the sky! We stopped in our makeshift campsite, jumped out of the cars and watched this sliver of light play across the sky for ten minutes before it disappeared. We were a little underwhelmed but still ecstatic that we had managed to see the northern lights and in a very content mood we set up our tent. We all began to cook dinner together outside and about halfway through our meal we looked up and saw the lights were back and stronger than ever. Huge strips of dancing green light were stretched across the sky. It was truly the best experience I’ve had in nature my whole life, here I was with the ocean on one side, a huge mountain on the other, surrounded by good friends with the northern lights dancing around the sky. The lights danced for hours before they finally died out and we called it a night. The next morning, we parted ways with our new Dutch friends as they began their drive home. At this point, my friends and I were extremely content with our trip and still had three days left.
We spent the next day at Unstad beach which is a world-renowned surfing spot. We rented surfboards and did our best to surf the waves. I was probably the most experienced surfer out of the three of us but was by no means skilled enough for the conditions on that day. The waves were huge and powerful, I was only able to ride one for a short time before it swallowed me up and sent me spinning underwater. David and Jo fared even worse and were not able to make much headway against the rough surf. An elderly local noticed our plight and advised us to not tempt fate anymore, we heeded his advice and went to return our boards. Even though we didn’t score very many good rides, we still came away saying that we've surfed north of the Arctic circle. We used the 2 remaining days to drive around and see a few more sights but for the most part, we relaxed and took in the beautiful scenery. Then it was time, we took the ferry back to Bodø.
Once the ferry arrived in Bodø we went straight to the airport where we returned our car and boarded our flight home. We ended the trip content and happy knowing that one day we'd all like to come back experience this awe-inspiring place once more.