Day 183 Sandsletta, Lofoten to Botnhamn, Senja Island, Norway.

fullsizeoutput_9bf5Sadly, as you will already know, England didn’t win the football. In the end, we were gathered with about twenty three other campers of varying nationality, mostly Germans, but also Dutch, French and Norwegians. It seemed that Howard and I were the only ones supporting England, which was sad. We took our defeat in good spirit, having lived through this agony for the past fifty or so years, it came as no surprise really. Howard did concede though and treat us to apple pie for pudding, which was some consolation, I suppose.

This morning on the campsite, it seemed that everyone was being especially nice to us. More people smiled and said ‘Guten Morgen’ or ‘Goedemorgen’, than at any other time. I guess that they were just feeling sorry for us, or perhaps surprised about how well we took the defeat. One eagle-eyed Dutchman commented that we did have a Croatian flag in our boot window. We explained that we had travelled there earlier this year, and had loved the place and the people, just not their football team!

We were also sad this morning, because it was the day we were leaving Lofoten. These islands really are sublime – such beautiful scenery and quirky little fishing villages. We loved them, despite the summer crowds, and are certainly a place I would love to see in another season, especially in the winter.

Before we left, however, we got our final ‘fix’, and travelled the short distance up the fjord to the northern coastal town of Laukvik. On the approach road was a small cottage with a B & B sign outside. The outside of the cottage was decorated in pieces of driftwood and whale bones, including the ribs and vertebrae, and pieces of fishing equipment. It sounds odd, but it really looked most effective, and made one wonder how it was decorated inside.

In Laukvik itself, we sourced a coffee shop near the harbour. I spotted a sign for ’Kaffebrenneri coffee roastery’ and ‘Keens Beans’. I remembered that the baker back in Kabelvag had told us about this wonderful independent organic coffee roaster along the coast. The inside of the coffee shop was gorgeous, very eclectic with comfy sofas. We chatted to the owner and coffee roaster, and as we selected a cinnamon bun, we told him that his coffee had been recommended to us by a baker. ‘Ah – that will be the baker who made the bun you are about to eat’, he replied. Turns out they are good friends, and in Lofoten, I imagine everyone one knows everyone, and mutually supports each others’ businesses. After coffee, we had a quick look at the cod-head drying racks by the harbour – huge triangular affairs, and unusually, still with the cod in place. I cannot describe to you the unbearable stench that exudes from these drying racks – but let’s just say, it isn’t pleasant. After I had taken some photos, Howard remarked, back in Oscar, how much the smell lingered. I didn’t take that as a compliment! 

We wove our way along the narrow northern coastal road until we finally reached the main road, just before it crossed the bridge out of Lofoten – a sad moment. We hadn’t made any fixed plans for our onward journey. We had looked at a coupe of campsites on the way to Tromso, and had thought we would see how far we got before we decided which one to aim for. An hour or so later, we stopped for a pee at a Sami restaurant, and sat with the map whilst we had the statutory cup of flask coffee – the trade off for using their restrooms. In the end, we decided that rather than splitting our journey over two days, we would go the extra mile today, and reach the island of Senja, where we had planned to visit before picking Oliver up. This way, we could spend two nights here, and explore the island tomorrow, before catching the ferry across to Tromso on Saturday morning.

Not long after leaving Lofoten, we passed a sign to Andoya, one of the Vesterelen Islands, home to 333 Sqaudron of the Norwegian Air Force. This squadron was formed in 1940 by members of the allied Norwegian Air Force, after Norway had succumbed to the Nazis. They based themselves in Woodhaven Harbour in Wormit, Fife, now home to the Wormit Boating Club. From Wormit, they flew Catalina Sea-Planes up into the North Sea, providing vital information to our convoys. There remain close ties with Wormit and the 333 Squadron, and is why both the skiff rowing boats are named in their honour – ‘Catalina’ and ‘Flying Boat’.

The drive along the main road was amazing. From a very dreary start, the sun suddenly came out, and the scenery looked wonderful. For much of the drive, we were beside fjords, and in the sunlight the colour of the water at the edges took on a vibrant turquoise colour. It looked more Adriatic than Arctic! It was hard to believe. At one point in the drive, we were incredibly close to the Swedish border, near Narvik, and in the distance we could see the mountains of Abisko National Park, that we had visited at New Year, two years previously.

We eventually arrived at Senja in the early evening, just as the flies were coming out. We took up our pitch by the fjord, armed with our trusty electric bat. It made us reflect on this morning’s antics as we were packing up the van in our previous campsite, which also had been beside a midge-ridden fjord. Inspired by Howard’s downloads of ‘Our Girl’ off BBC iPlayer (you know the programme, about the female army medic), which we had only just watched two nights previously, we had taken on the role of army personnel. So, as I rushed out of Oscar to dis-assemble the table, I had shouted across to Howard to ‘Cover me!”. At which point, Howard rushed out with the zappy electric bat, swotting madly at the little buzzy things. Unbeknown to us, this whole episode was being watched by the Dutchman in his Possl van. As we retreated into Oscar away from the flies, we saw him giving us the most perplexed look. ‘Poor English’, he probably thought, ‘All because they lost the World Cup!’.

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