NORTH NORWAY. JULY 2016 – On board of 47m HANSE EXPLORER YACHT
Expedition Leader: Sigrid Henjum
Captain: Piers Alvarez
Curator: Maria Alekseenko
Charterer: Maria Alekseenko, family charter
Arriving to Bodo, some days before our private expedition begins, allowed to discover the charm of this nordic city and to make a smooth plunge into Norvegian culture and lifestyle.
The main goal of this early arrival was to explorer the sea textures of the strongest and the most dangerous maelstroms in the world – Salstrauman. Twice a day the water surge through the narrow strait, forming impressive whirlpools. Thirty minutes drive southeast from Bodo, and we found ourselves right next to the Saltstraumen bridge. There is a choice to have a walk under the bridge and check this natural phenomenon from the coast side, to go up on the bridge and see the whole breathtaking picture from the top; or for the bravest ones, to go on a RIB boat and cruise just in between these vigorous swirls.
Back to Bodo, the city of painted colorful bikes, which are standing in front of almost every shop, hotel or even hairdressing salon, it s time to start exploring the lifestyle of Norland region. Walking main street or port late at night, experiencing July’s midnight sun, checking local delicacies, such as tapas and turbot in Bjork Restaurant and Seafood plate Bryggerikaia restaurant, tasting local beer Badin, and do last shopping for some items, which can be useful during the expedition, – this is how the trip commence.
Next morning we depart from hotel Scandic Havet, which has splendid view over the harbor and excellent choice of Norwegian food for breakfast. We embark the expedition vessel Hanse Explorer, being welcomed by multinational crew of 14 and our adventure starts from there.
Short after embarkation we cruise 23 nm towards small village Kjerringoy, where one well-known local activist, fisherman and regional newspaper publisher, kindly invites us to a private lunch, served exclusively for us in a former telegraph house of Kjerringøy trading post , which is today a part of the Nordlands Museum. The ambiance of lunch, full of local delicates, such as dried cod, flat bread, moose heart, etc. brings us right into 18th century, when this trading post was one of the most affluent in the area; and well-known local merchant family, living in the biggest house of the village, was able to afford to decorate the living room with a hand made wallpaper, as a sign of luxury, wealth and success.
This wallpaper now became a significant heritage, as well as local traditional wooden Norland boats , which are still in “production” in a local “shipyard”, owned and managed by one man named Ulf, hereditary boat builder. It takes only 4 weeks to build such traditional fishing boat and the price for it is around 6 500 euros.
Leaving Kjerringoy, cruising 46 nm towards Lofoten Islands, where next day we are challenged with first fishing session.
Berthed in stunning Reine, one of the most popular villages in North Norway, we are taking a transfer 15 min drive south-west, down to Sorvagen village, where a young fisher-couple invites us on board of their fishing trawler.
A day prior to our arrival they set a long fishing line of 1.5 km with herring-baited hooks in the sea nearby the village. Droplining, the name of this fishing technic, is kind of “unfair” fishing, when human efforts are minimized to catch the fish.
“However, that s most suitable technic along with longlining” – explains polish young fisherwoman, who couple of years ago left busy Warsava-city to come to this small village to live and fish with her local boyfriend. “In a big cities no one care about anyone, while here we are all a big family. I m very happy”, – she is saying, adjusting her shabby fishing clothes with a smile: “It is a bad sign to buy new fishing cloth and equipment before fishing season starts. Here people are still superstitious”, – she laughs.
And fishing season in Norway starts and continues in the months, which have “R” in the name, thus from September and till April.
We are in July, but the catch was not bad: Long Fish , Haddock Fish, Cod, Cusk fish.
Hundreds of seagulls surround the trawler to dive for fish’s leftovers, making the ambiance more vivacious.
On the way back to the yacht, we stop at the famous spot to take some must-have pictures of spending landscape and famous mountain Pick of Hell. This view reveals all beauty of Lofoten Islands, which are also famous for its white sand beaches. To take a drone and to film the hiking experience climbing one of the hills or one of the white sand beaches, such as Bunes Beach or Kvalvika Beach, would be memorable experience.
Back to the yacht, we are cruising towards picturesque fishing village of Henningsvær – the Venice of Loffoten. Tonights’ dinner on board is a feast of the freshly caught fish, as well as more local delicacy: cod tongue and cod liver.
Arriving to Henningsvær village, which has the most well preserved architecture of the traditional Norwegian villages, we are checking charming Klatrekafeen bar, where Himalayan colorful prayers flags are hanging all over to give a special ambiance to numerous hikers from all over the world, who come here to discover breathtaking hiking tracks around the area.
Overnight cruise brings our expedition group to Andenes, a small village in the north of Andoya island, known best for its wild life and sea safari. Taking Zodiac to cruise near the coast, we approach a colony of puffins, some sea eagals, auks and guillemots, who prevail in this area.
Continuing to explore the coast we disembark at pier of Bleik village, which means “white village” in Norwegian language, and has one of longest beaches in Norway with white sand.
Rest of the day is dedicated to whales. Small local whale center has a museum, which covers number of topics around the whales’ biology and ecosystem they live in. There are many businesses in Norway established around these marine mammals. While most of the world supports the anti-whaling campaigns, well prepared by different non-profit organizations, such as Sea Shepherd Conservation Society or others, here in Norway animal welfare arguments for whale’s protection are clashing with cultural traditions and customs. To refuse trying whales meet should be a right choice, based on the fact that most of Norwegians actually do not eat whale meet at all, but it s presented to tourists as a local delicacy and encourage whale hunts as a part of cultural customs of fishery. To watch the wales is much more “tasty” than to eat them. Taking binocular and going to the bow of Hanse Explorer we are watching around decade of Orcas playing around.
Often during summer months it is possible to see Sperm Whales, as well as Humpback Whales or Fin Whales.
For the brave ones it is advised to take an opportunity to swim with them for an completely unforgettable experience.
Continuing cruising north, next day our expedition group reaches Hamn in Senja Island, which is also a well-known destination for fishing.
In the morning we have deep sea fishing session with local anglers.
Usually they try to propose best equipment and artificial colorful fish baits, but the fish does not care which brand of the rod is used. Fish needs to smell the bait, thus, the best is to use natural baits, such as parts of herring or eyes of another fishes. Halibut fish is the main target there, along with wild salmon. Just feel the nature and use your intuition instead of sophisticated equipment.
In the afternoon, changing the rods and the baits, driving around half an hour inland on the road 86, we are meeting with another local fisherman, who invites us to walk down to his summer house at the coat of privately owned part of the river, which shares waters of Lakselva river.
This hidden spot is a paradise for fly-fishing, when Atlantic salmon migrates between freshwater and seawater. Baby salmon is just jumping from the river here and there. If caught, they have to be released immediately, unless they reach 23 cm. Making an open fire for the ambiance of pure union with nature, learning new fly fishing technics and discussing, which artificial flies are better as lures, this is how the afternoon passes.
On the way back to the yacht, there is an unavoidable stop by the trolls park in Svanelvmoen. Trolls are important supernatural beings in North mythology and Scandinavian folklore. Destroying or helping people, if met at night, they are better to be entertained with talks and stories till sunrise, when they will turn into stones.
Thirteen hours overnight cruising in a rough sea brings our expedition group directly to Oksfjorden. Late in the morning arriving through narrow fiord with scenic view to Oksfjordbotn, we continue to go in depth of Narvegian sagas, meeting with local Sami family.
The father of the family, Mathis A. Oskal is a reindeer herder and also Sami singer and songwriter, with three released albums, latest of which “Duollet Dalle”, which means “Every now and then” is available on Amazon and Itunes.
While driving in the car towards their summer house, Mathis put on his CD and naturally starts to sing his Joik ( songs, in Saami language). Actually he never stops singing, ones in a while suddenly he starts to sing, while gathering dry sticks for fire or after the meal. His wife Karen and daughter Ana welcome us to traditional Lavvu, which is placed right in front of their summer-house. They keep Laavu here all summer months and enjoy spending time in this temporary dwelling.
We are sitting all together around the fire, tasting boiled reindeer and hot bouillon for main dish, and jam of wild growing cloudberry with whipped cream for desert, exploring the lifestyle of these proud people and making plans for possible future winter expedition in this region. There are few interesting facts arise during the conversation. Being so close and attentive to nature, Sami people still have around 300 different words in their language to describe different types of snow in regards to the conditions of use and tracks.
Their relationship with nature is still very harmonious and they are proud to remain so close to real values, which they transmit to their children from generation to generation. Mathis is chewing crashed ice tobacco and talking about his reindeers, avoiding telling, how many of them he has. “It s like I would ask how much money you have on your account now,” – he is laughing.
After lunch we invite all family on board of Hanse Explorer, and slowly cruising through the fiords to Bergsfjord, showing them the yacht’s facilities and introducing to the crew.
At the evening we are living for overnight cruising up to Honningsvag, exploring the sea textures and reflexes of midnight sun in Norwegian sea to add it later in our classification guide of different types of sea-surface appearances, just like Saami do classify the types of the snow.
Next day passing Magerovsundet we arrive to almost northeast area of Finnmark. Renting a fast RIB boat with three 300 hp Evinrude outboard engines, we are leaving our explorer yacht and reaching one of the best fishing spots in the area near Studentervika in front of Russevatn.
Few small summerhouses, accessible only by boats or by walking from a main road, gives a particular charm to this place with almost untouched nature and wild reindeers walking the hills here and there.
Two hours of no catch; fishing demands patience. Changing the bait from proposed artificial to some pieces of dry codfish, gives us a first catch, and than suddenly more and more. This place is very generous for Lange Fish, Pollock fish, Halibut, Haddock and Cod.
Next spot is to pick up some king crabs. That’ s easy in this region. We are taking several pieces from the catch to give to our chef to prepare for dinner. The rest go back to the sea.
On the way back we are watching some wild reindeers. Than taking a little rest on board of our expedition vessel, enjoying kind of “sunset” during white nights.
At the evening we go onshore, starting our night in a famous local Ice Bar, where we are dressed up in warm coats and served non-alcoholic drinks from ice glasses.
Afterwards we take a drive to North Cape, usually referred as northernmost point of Europe. It takes about an hour to drive there, passing spectacular landscapes, if to go around midnight and the sky is clear.
Arriving to this crowd place, best is to just walk left or right to gain some privacy and enjoying panoramic views of Barents Sea.
Next day our summer expedition ends in Alta, where we arrive after overnight cruising in order to take direct flights to Oslo.
Short-stop in the morning near Stjernoya is with the aim to crate a “goodbye” swimming memories. Jumping from the yacht’s side right into 7 degree water and running down to the sauna, which is providently installed on board of Hanse Explorer, this is the best way to end the expedition in a fresh healthy manner.
Late breakfast while cruising slowly near small wild islands near Russeluft coast, and we disembark in Alta, taking with us good memories of the country and its people and accomplishing almost all missions of the expedition.