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Nordic Paradise: Volume III

THE LOFOTEN ISLANDS


REINE

To this day, one of my favourite locations during our route up to northern Norway was Reine, which is located in the Lofoten Islands. It was a pristine, winter wonderland with snow covering every inch of land. We first visited on 14th February, Valentine’s Day, which seemed very fitting as I truly fell in love with the place. The scenery was absolutely breathtaking, and it was the first time I’d properly experienced snow. It made our UK snowstorms seem pitiful in comparison!

Beautiful scenery near Stuvdalsvatnet (on my final trip). Reine, Norway, 2022.


During my first visit to Reine, I volunteered to join the hike up to Stuvdalsvatnet, a lake situated near Tindstinden. Several eager guests and I had just left the port in our bus when, in true expedition style, disaster struck. Our bus had veered off the icy, snow-covered road and one of the wheels had got stuck in the camber near the curb (or where the curb would be, had it not been for a metre or so of snow). We gently skidded to a halt and waited with bated breath as we all intently listened to the wheels spin on the ice. It wasn’t looking good. Everyone fell silent and sat patiently for updates on our situation, slowly removing layers while we waited. Unfortunately for us, and everyone else leaving the ship on different excursions, we were the first bus to depart, so naturally, a queue of buses had formed behind us. After 15 minutes or so, we all decided to make our way off the bus, in the hopes that alleviating some of the weight would relinquish the pressure on the wheels. Alas, it did not work. So, in true explorer style, we started our hike early and set off on foot up to the lake, excited guests already titillating amongst themselves about the morning’s drama.


We first walked to the fishing village Å (pronounced like oar) and had a little look around but there wasn’t too much to see as the whole area was covered in beautiful, pure white snow. After that, it was time to start our hike up to Stuvdalsvatnet, where we all soon realised that we would have to carve our own paths in the deep, powdery snow. All lined up like little oompaloompas, spikes adorned and walking poles in hand, we ventured upwards towards our destination point, trekking through the deep snow. I was chaperoning the rear of the group, so I was the last to make it up to Stuvdalsvatnet. It was worth the wait! The lake was simply stunning. The group stopped for a little while, enjoyed a coffee and a power bar or two around the lake before heading back down, everyone still buzzing from the excitement of BusGate earlier in the morning. What’s an expedition without a little drama, ey?


Before we got back to our replacement bus to take us back to MS Maud, we all decided to try and set a record for the most guests to make snow angels and it was SO MUCH FUN! This was definitely my favourite moment from my first Norwegian voyage! Reine had really captured my heart in so many ways. It was a stunning place, and the sheer volume of untouched snow made it feel like a winter wonderland. All the excitement of the morning really added to the atmosphere!








Video of everyone making snow angels! Reine, Norway. 2022.


On my final trip to Reine, I volunteered for the extended hike up to Tindstinden and boy, was it worth the small slip, trips and falls in the snow! The surroundings were simply stunning and the snow still covered much of the surrounding area, even in late March. It is approximately 490m above sea level and me, Otti and Tim led the team up to a clearing near the top of the mountain. We couldn’t quite reach the summit due to time constraints but had a fantastic time along the way. Everyone was so proud of themselves for achieving such a difficult hike in icy conditions.

Reine in the sunshine, Lofoten Islands, Norway. 2022.


Guests hiking up to Tindstinden, Reine, Norway. 2022.


Dream Team! Up Tindstinden, Reine, Norway. 2022.


Loving life! Reine, Norway, 2022.


I had an absolute blast each time I visited Reine, and it continues to be one of my favourite Norwegian locations - I will definitely go back and see it during the summertime! Reine, you have my heart <3.



***



SVOLVÆR

During Lofoten day, we also visit Svolvær in the afternoon, straight after a jam-packed morning in Reine. Svolvær is the largest city in the Lofoten Islands and is dubbed the fish capital of Norway. It is extremely obvious why, as when you sail towards the port, you can see hundreds to thousands of stockfish hanging on drying racks around the edges of the city. To tourists it smells very fishy, but to locals, it “smells like money!”. During one of my trips to Svolvær, Becca, the astrophysicist on board and I, walked through the local town to experience the history of the area. We walked all the way to the Fiskarkona statue, the Fisherman’s Wife. She stands tall at the edge of the harbour waving her husband goodbye and wishing him a safe return.


Looking out over a stormy sea at Fiskarkona, The Fisherman's Wife. Svolvær, Norway. 2022.


Situated around the statue (and the entire city) is A LOT of stockfish. Thousands of decapitated heads and bodies hang out on drying racks to mature over the months leading to summer. Norway is the second largest exporter of fish in the world, and most of the fish hung around the city are packed and exported to other countries. Interestingly, stockfish are hung by their tails on the drying racks to stop tourists from stealing them. You’d think it was to deter birds and other wildlife from eating it but actually it is in fact to deter thieves of the human variety.


The famous stockfish hanging out on drying racks around the towns in Svolvær, Norway. 2022.


On our second voyage up to North Cape, we weren’t able to dock in Reine on our designated day due to the stormy weather conditions, so we spent a whole day in Svolvær instead. This led to an exciting new excursion guests could book onto, which was a catamaran tour of Trollfjorden.


Our hybrid catamaran for the afternoon sailing into Trollfjorden, Svolvær, Norway. 2022.


Now this really was an incredible experience. Normally during our voyage, MS Maud passes Trollfjorden at night and shines a large light on the entrance to the fjord for passengers to see. During the winter months, Trollfjorden is too narrow for the ship to sail down, turn around and come back out, so instead we can only view it from the entrance. However, in a wintry turn of weather events, guests and myself, along with half of the science team, jumped onto the hybrid catamaran and sailed silently through Trollfjord, right to the mouth and back. During our sailing, we spotted harbour seals, moose (elk), white-tailed sea eagles and simply breathtaking scenery. It was a fantastic day, and I could not have asked for a better way to have experienced venturing inside a Norwegian fjord. Trollfjord, you are beautiful!


Entering Trollfjord, Svolvær, Norway. 2022.


Admiring the view in Trollfjord, Svolvær, Norway. 2022.


Sailing back to the port in Svolvær, leaving Trollfjorden behind. Norway. 2022.


The scenes in Trollfjord were astonishing and I’d never experienced anything like it. Guests and I were stunned into silence and just absorbed the sheer beauty of the fjord and all its intricacies. I definitely recommend visiting if you have the chance!


Still no cetaceans to report, but onward to my next location… Tromsø!












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