The year after my flight to Finland my parents decided to do a “firm” very interesting for the period: go to the North Cape, Norway, by car.
We left at the end of July, in a “Fiat Tempra” Station Wagon tempering with the addition of a LPG tank, considering the costs of petrol for such a long journey.
The travel itinerary included going first to France and then to Germany, where we would embark for Sweden, then quickly crossing it to reach Norway and go up the country to the extreme north.
We stopped first in France because this time we were not alone: along the way they had joined, as agreed some French friends, known at the RIDEF of the year before, in the end we were 10 people: 4 Italians and 6 French.
After a couple of quick stops in Grenoble and Lyon, we headed to the newly-reunified western frontier of Germany (but I’ll talk about it in another story …), it was 1991, there was no GPS and we risked getting lost several times, finally arriving in Strasbourg, where we crossed the border.
Here we headed towards Frankfurt and in a suburb we stopped by a German friend (always known in RIDEF), who hosted us in the garden (we had brought with us the 2 stainless Ferrino tents of the previous year) and in his house. After an evening laughing, playing and joking, we left again to head to Northern Germany and then to Helsingor Being a “group” trip, cohabitation was not always easy, also because we Italians were in “minority” when it came to doing for example, spending with the cash in common, while on the route to follow we were quite agreeing. We quickly crossed Northern Germany in a single day and with a few brief stops, managing to arrive in the port area in the evening.
We found a ferry that departed in the afternoon and made the fast crossing to the port of Helsingborg in Sweden (at that time there was no bridge on the Oresund connecting Copenhagen with Malmo, joining Denmark and Sweden). The ferry on which we embarked was practically a simple transport without a bridge with space only for cars and trucks.
The disembarkation from the ship was rapid, and we immediately resumed our journey towards Halmstad and then Gothenburg, crossing the Swedish border towards evening and stopping to sleep in a tent near Oslo. Unfortunately it was raining and a real storm broke out that forced me and my twelve year old brother to sleep in the car, while our parents arranged in a semi-flooded tent …
On Scandinavia you can camp freely on farmland, just ask the owners of the land, so we saved a lot of money for several days on housing, while we headed north. A problem was to be able to wash, not having showers or bathrooms available, we arranged in the “nature” and with a couple of baths in the lake or sea (in both cases even though we were almost in August the water was freezing). After Oslo we headed north, avoiding the expensive Scandinavian city, quickly crossing Norway to the town of Trondheim.
Of this place I remember very well the wooden houses and a general sense of abandonment (Norway was not yet a tourist destination as popular as now), we wandered for an afternoon in the streets in the middle of the colored wooden houses or peeling paint, and we took a sandwich with smoked salmon in a room while my parents look at the prohibitive prices of the restaurant area (at the time smoked salmon was something unusual, not what is commonly consumed today in half the world, moreover it was salmon caught and not bred in the intensive fish farms that flourish in Norway today).
The journey continued towards the Lofoten Islands, we had to reach the islands by crossing a bridge and then moving from island to island always thanks to several bridges or by ferry, the goal was Andenes, a town in the far north of the islands, where he still practices today whale watching or Wale Safari. It took us four days to get there: we spent two camps in front of the islands, after a direct route from Trondheim that took us to the Bognes area, practically opposite the Lofoten. Here we camped on a deserted and enchanting beach, had it not been for the lack of water to wash with and the presence of swarms of mosquitoes, it would have been an incredible (and wild) place to live. Despite the beautiful experience of the beach (where adults also built a sweat lodge for the traditional “sauna”), made of hiking on the rocks, fishing attempts and crossings in the boat, we reached the point of “breaking” with the French and the group divided by the usual problems that arise in groups not accustomed to travel together: problems for the fair sharing of expenditure made with money from the cash in common, which often led us to not have enough food for us, while the French sacked stocks food without worrying about leaving us something to eat. Often then the group, claiming the principle in my opinion always questionable of “the majority chooses” (because the majority can also choose incorrectly …), bought unnecessary or expensive things like carbonated drinks, wine, confectionery and personal products, making absurdly increase the daily expenses for food.
After yet another request for money on their part to replenish the now empty common box, our streets were divided, and we left for Lofoten together with Pierre and Cathrine, a French couple from Grenoble who was more in tune with us and not he approved, for example, the group’s insane expenses, going to the disco (in Norway then …) or the expensive choice of others to stop for a few days without purpose in the rented houses of a lost village on the Norwegian coast. After only one night in the village, to rest on a bed and take a shower, we climbed the small ferry that landed in Lodingen in the Lofoten and continued the journey. While we were entering the cold waters and fish, from the ferry saw a Globicefalo, a cetacean common in these seas, which emerged for a few moments to a hundred meters from the ship and then quickly disappeared leaving me the image of a black and shiny back surmounted by a tapered tail and a short dorsal fin.
When we reached Andness we immediately went to the visitor center. Here you will find the link http://www.whalesafari.no/?lang=it). At the time the Visitors Center was a very spartan wooden structure, recently opened and equipped with a tiny museum, where we booked the boat trip (ours was a former whaler), paying a very high price (my parents they never told me how much they had paid for 4 people ….), and they had in exchange for boat trips to see cetaceans, food (sandwiches, tea, coffee and biscuits at will throughout the day), and in case of no sighting a second guaranteed exit. Of the crossing in the ship I still own the VHS result of the shooting with the video camera of the time made by my father, who knows if the video can still be seen?
In the end, after registering for the next day’s excursion, we spent the night with the usual tents and the next morning we showed up at the center for the boat ride. The weather was good, being early August, but it was pulling a strong wind that forced us to wear all windbreakers and beanies with visor for the strong sun. Our guide instead, a nice and talkative Norwegian, who seemed not to notice the wind “cold” for us, wore a simple sweater and shorts of fabric.
We taken place on the deck of the ship, surrounded by the most disparate foreigners (French, Russians, British, Germans and Americans, in addition to some inevitable Japanese, all equipped with bulky analog cameras or camcorders equipped with a microphone), direction the North Atlantic Sea.
We left the port immediately offshore on the sea swept by impetuous winds, consequently the ocean was rough and we say that we had the impression of being perennially sinking in those swirling waters, each time the little ex-whaling boat went down and went up the waves, tilting dangerously from one side and the other, with a fairly “shivering” effect that led some passengers to take shelter under deck. The much feared seasickness did not affect us at all, but Pierre, Catrine’s companion, unfortunately suffered from nausea all the way on the ship.
As we pushed off the coast we sighted some “breath” thanks to the Norwegian that on the coffa signaled us sightings, then began a “chase” to the whole beer by the ship that rears even more to try to reach the area of ’ sighting, but once in place invariably the cetacean had already moved or sunk into the ocean.
At that time our route was punctuated by US military bombers that started at regular intervals from a nearby base and unfortunately I think that this also did not bring us much luck with the whales.
In the end the case gave us an unforgettable experience: a young sperm whale (brown and shiny with water and solar reflections) that was dozing offshore, to which we approached as quietly as possible, with the engine idling. The experience lasted a good quarter of an hour: the whale was not immersed, indeed continued to swim placidly, allowing us to admire it, photograph it, and resume it on video, until someone shouted and applauded the young sperm whale that, arched back, plunged by raising the majestic tail before disappearing into the abyss.
As the weather forecasted for an afternoon storm, the ship immediately turned around after the experience with the sperm whale and took us back to the port of Andness just as a thick blanket of fog and clouds on the horizon began to announce the storm night. Happy and amazed by the experience, that night we stayed on the way back and the next day, up the Lofoten, without taking the ferry, we went from island to island through the bridges that joined them and we overcame the Arctic Circle during the day. This time the North Cape objective was within reach of no more than 400 km as the crow flies, and after yet another supply, we crossed the bridge of the town of Tromso, returning to the mainland, after a zig-zag between the various islands. After a night spent in a small house, the next day we left early to cover the over 500 km that according to our road map there remained before reaching Cape North. The midnight sun and the polar temperatures kept us awake during the long fjord-to-fjord route, in the midst of an increasingly bleak landscape dotted with snow or ice, until the icy sea of Barent finally reached sight , around noon, the infamous North Cape: left the car in a parking lot, we walked to the iron world map that still indicates the northernmost point of Europe, around us tourists discharged from the tourist coaches or arrived with the own cars, campers, motorcycles and anything else strolled enjoying the sun that mitigated the cold wind a little bit, others were heading to the Ristornate of Scandic Hotel Nordkapp or went around in the area. To make it short, there were not all the tourist facilities or the nearby town. In essence, “the northernmost point of Europe” left us an unforgettable memory of a difficult but now reached goal, a test passed that now would not have precluded us no more goal we had had in mind after a difficult but interesting journey.
After lunch, this time crossing the Finnmark inside, we headed to Sweden and, after crossing the border towards evening, we stayed in a boardinghouse along the road, continuing in the car we stopped in a couple of equipped campsites, until we reached the Gulf of Botnia and then avoiding Stockholm, heading towards Gothenburg where we would embark on a “super ferry” that would have landed this time in Rostock in Germany. Frankly these days during the return trip to Sweden I do not have many memories, because I passed them or to sleep in the car, during the interminable days when my father milled kilometers on kilometers, or camping. Sometimes we stopped on the gulf beaches to admire the beautiful Nordic landscapes or the eternal sunset, up to the Skania and finally reaching the port of Goteborg for the night crossing, but given the length of this trip, this will be the next story that I tell you….