Archive for June, 2009

Day 181. Tysnes to Buvag

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

Distance 33km | Time 8hrs | Ascent 0m | Descent 0m

Day 181.1 Rounding Tysnes peninsula and heading across the bay to Tranoy and  the mountainous Hamaroy islandI woke quite early again and got up pretty quickly as the tide would be going out soon, and I did not want to be stranded with the kayak hundreds of metres from the water. I eventually set of at 0930 and I just had enough water to paddle out of the bay at Tysnes before it dried out.

It was another incredible weather day and I opted for shorts and my paddling jacket. It was great to be liberated from the confines of the drysuit. It was far too warm for it and the water temperature was just about in double figures now.

I rounded the peninsula as Tysnes which was a mass of islands. However I am finding out that the map and GPS may say they are islands but often then are only islands at the very highest of tides and usually they are connected to the mainland by rocky spits covered in seaweed or even grass.

Day 181.3 The impossibily steep Tilthorn at nearly 700 metres heightI initially started straight across the large open bay to Tranoy lighthouse but diverted to the shore by Hornneset instead. This point was not such a big detour and it took me to the base of Tilthornet, 693 metres. This was an unbelievably steep spire of a mountain. I have only seen such mountains in books before. I must have had two glaciers carving away at each side of it and they melted just before they broke away the wafer thin ridge.

Day 181.2 A puffin in the bay between Tysnes and TranoyIt was incredibly calm as I crossed the remainder of the bay. So calm I could now see puffins at nearly a kilometer away. Only occasionally could I get within 20 metres to them. The bay was studded with islets and skerries.

There were some shags on some of the tidal islets and it was the first time I had seen them since the open sea by Lyngen. Shags are extremely wary and fly off when I am around 300 metres away. Shags have pretty much stayed as they are for the last 60 million years without evolving too much so obviously they have a successful survival and their carefulness is part of this.

I saw one sea eagle again today. The last week had really been the domain of the heron rather than sea eagle. I am sure that as the coast becomes less sheltered again the herons will disappear and the sea eagles will return.

I did not go into the village of Tranoy but went round the outside of the peninsula to Tranoy Fyr lighthouse. I was a large and graceful concrete building. I landed in the mass of islands and walked up to the lighthouse and had lunch nearby. It seemed this also had a small café or tourist concern but like Helnes Fyr near Nordkapp it was rusting and ramshackle and looked abandoned.

Just as I left the lighthouse and started to cross the next bay to the island of Hamaroy with its impressive mountains, the wind increased. It was initially a force three but as one stage was a force five. It was directly against me and my speed at times was down to 3 km per hour. It was a slow crossing but slowly the kayak cleaved through the oncoming waves splashing me with just about everyone.

I was making for a beach on the far side of the bay I could see. It seemed to be on the island of Selsoya. As it neared I could see it was indeed on the island and there was a broad channel marked on the map between this island and the mainland which I could paddle through. I went into the bay where the channel started.

Day 181.4 The very beautiful and idyllic Selsoyvika bay had a huge area of white sand and small islandsIt was a large and very beautiful bay of extremely white sand. The whole bay was covered in the sand with numerous skerries breaking through the white. Where the sand was covered by the water it was a green and turquoise colour. The whole bay must have been nearly as kilometer across and was the most beautiful bay I had seen so far including yesterdays archipelago. I slowly paddled between the skerries over the white sand making for the channel

The channel was however high and dry with mounds of dry white sand. I don’t think it ever got covered. Selsoya island was not and island but a peninsula. The isthmus was about 500 km of sand and grass. It was too far to portage and it was only an extra 3 km round. I was glad I had ventured in here however as it was perfect.

Day 181.5 Coming into Buvag harbour with Hamnesfjellet in the backAfter exploring a bit I got back in the kayak and paddled round Selsoya and a few more rocky islands towards the high craggy Hamnesfjellet mountain, 880m. To my north was the same very jagged skyline of Austvagoy I had seen yesterday. It was an impressive sight. Soon after I passed Selsoya there was a larger inlet with the small harbour of Buvag. I decided to spend the night here as the wind was still against me and a force three.

Buvag was a picture postcard hamlet with a small wharf and some 20 houses behind some sandy beaches and grass foreshore. Much of the grassy foreshore looked like it had been grazed by geese. The whole area was covered in wild flowers especially a yellow pea family flower and pinks.

Day 181.6 Looking out of Buvag harbour to the jagged peaks of the Lofoten Islands to the north westI found a nice place to pitch the tent on this grass and then spread things out to dry. It was only 1900 by the time I was sorted out so a relatively early finish. I found a picnic table and wrote the blog in the wind for two hours until 2100, occasionally looking across the vast Vestfjord to the jagged Lofoten skyline to the north west.

It had been a great day. It was great to have an early start and finish instead of the bad habits I picked up in Finnmark and Troms, where the finishes were very late and the next morning equally so. It was also a very scenic day with a remarkable mountain and a stunning beach at Selsoyvika bay.

Day 180. Ramsund to Tysnes

Monday, June 29th, 2009

Distance 38km | Time 8.5hrs | Ascent 0m | Descent 0m

Day 180.1 The crystal clear waters at the south of Ramsund in the large basin where coral can be seen growing a metre deep on old shellsI woke quite early and go up at 0800. I had the tent down and everything in the wet bags and the kayak by the water by 0930. However I still had to shop and it did not open until 1000. So I waited around outside in the still but overcast morning.

When the shop did open I bought enough food for 5 days and packed it up into day packs and put them into compressions sacks and then dry bags. I now had 6 days food which would be enough to get to Bodo.

Before I set off I made some small adjustments to the rudder system and it was now starting to work much better after Bjorn of Bjornskajakk had made some modifications. I cast off at 1200.

I set off into a sudden headwind and crossed the sound to the west side and continued down to the opening at the south end. There was a large basin here and the west side of it was quite shallow. The water was crystal clear and I could see down a metre to the coral growths on the bottom as if were air. The coral seemed to grow on old shells and especially old sea anemone shells.

At the south of Ramsund I entered Vestfjorden, a vast body of water with Narvik at the head and enclosed to the North West by the Lofoten Islands and to the east by the mainland down to the town of Bodo. There were lots of large fjords and sounds which branched off Vestfjorden.

Vestfjorden is essentially the open ocean but it is also one of the main breeding grounds of the cod. The cod come here in their millions to spawn in the early months of the year and this gives the life blood to the Lofoten islands fishing industry

Day 180.3 Lunch on a beach near Finnvik on the east side of Vestfjorden with the mountains around Narvik in the backgroundInitially my trip took me across the narrow eastern end of Vestfjorden to the leisure house hamlet of Finnvik on the east side. The wind and the tide were against me and I made poor time across the fjord and along the coast a bit. I pulled in at this sandy bay for lunch. While I was there the wind died off completely and the remaining cloud burnt off to leave a perfect day.

Day 180.2 A pair of noisy Redshank kept me company during lunch near FinnvikI must have been near the young of a pair of redshank as these birds buzzed round me and tried to distract me during my half hour there. They never feigned injury or a broken wing like the oyster catcher but made a lot of noise instead.

After lunch I paddled west up the coast to the end of the peninsula at Skarstad. There was a modern sculpture by the shore here which was remote, extravagant and did not enhance the surroundings. Much of the slopes each side of the fjord were ice scoured rock and were quite bereft of trees or other vegetation. It was not as barren as the Ishavet coast in Finnmark, but certainly not lush like the sounds of Troms.

Day 180.5 The idylllic beaches and islands at the mouth of Efjorden was paradise in the hot sunAfter Skarstad the coast veered south into the long Efjorden. At its mouth were a cluster of small low islands and the larger island of Baroya. I paddled south of Baroya through this small archipelago. It was enchanting. The islands were low ice scoured mounds, some with trees on and nearly all had a beach of bleached coral. Between the islands were shallows up to 10 metres deep of crystal clear water where on the sandy bottom corals were growing. The whole sea had a hue of green. I stopped on one sandy island for a stretch until the tide came up and washed over it.

Day 180.4 the hamlet of Slattvik in the mouth of Efjorden was both idyllic and impressive with the granite mountains behind. Stetind in between the saddleNot only was this island paradise in the hot still sun, but it had the back drop of some impressive granite mountains, not least Stetind, Norway’s national mountain which is iconic and immensely impressive. I think this area at the mouth of Efjorden is the most idyllic I have seen on the paddle tour so far. Of course the weather helped to leave a great impression.

I thought about camping here as it was so nice but I had not really done enough today with the late start due to shopping so continued across Tysfjord. Tysfjord is known for two reasons. Firstly millions of herring come to spawn here in the late autumn and early winter. They are followed by Orca whales which feast on them for these three months.

Day 180.7 The huge impressive granite spire of Stetind is nearly 1400 metres highSecondly Tysfjord is home to the very impressive granite mountains like Stetind. There must have been some huge plutons of magma cooling slowly in the earth crust after having welled up from the mantle like a giant lava lamp in extremely slow motion. These plutons stabilized and cooled leaving granite which was then through numerous processes brought to the earth’s surface. Once on the surface they were eroded into impressive spires and walls we see today. The outcrops of granite tend to exfoliate large flakes like chips of the layers of an onion. These layers formed in the cooling process of the original pluton. The planes of exfoliation is what causes some of the mountains here to be so steep.

Day 180.6 the jagged skyline of the Lofoten Island of Austvagoy is one of the most jagged i have seenAs I paddled over the mouth of the large Tysfjord this impressive view was to the south and east. The North West however was not going to be outdone and there was perhaps the most jagged skyline I have ever seen. This was the skyline of the island of Austvagoy. It was the most easterly and perhaps the most impressive of the five main Lofoten Islands. There were hundreds of jagged peaks which rose above everything else. Unseen there were also deep fjords like the famous Trollfjord. I had paddled round these islands and into the fjords two years ago and it was what fired my imagination to paddle Norway’s coast.

As the sun moved round to the north I reached the other side of Tysfjord at 2030. There were islands marked on the map and I went in between them as I like to explore their channels. However these islands were only islands at high tide and it was already going out exposing beaches and silt between the outcrops. I could not get through and decided to pull up on a beach here and camp.

While I was putting the tent up the water vanished and it was now some 300 metres away. It meant I would have to leave here at high tide tomorrow or at 0830 at the latest unless I want to carry everything across sand and silt. No lie in tomorrow.

The tent was pitched in some metre high grass which I soon trampled down. The sun stayed shining on the tent until midnight while I wrote the blog and cooked supper. Although the sun was shining at midnight there was no warmth in it and it got quite cold.

It had been a marvelous day. It started slowly but by the time I reached the sandy archipelago south east of Baroya in the hot sun I felt I was in paradise. Then the views to the granite mountains in Tysfjord confirmed this. This afternoon was really straight out of the brochure.

Day 179. Sandstrand in Skaanland to Ramsund

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

Distance 30km | Time 6hrs | Ascent 0m | Descent 0m

Day 179.1 The calm Vagsfjord en route to the  north of TjeldsundI slept well and did not hear any of the rain which must have fallen during the night. However in the morning I was tired. I just could not bring myself to start the day despite suspecting I would be missing a good current to carry me through Tjeldsund.

Eventually I got up at 1000 and even then I was quite inefficient about packing and carrying the kayak down. With the tide at the end of the ebb and nearing its lowest I eventually cast off at 1200.

My initial aim was to paddle to Lodingen where there was a cheap guest house and I could wash cloths and more importantly buy some food for at least the 4-5 days to Bodo. I only had a day left. This meant paddling down both northern and southern Tjeldsund. Tjeldsund basically separated the Vesteralen and Lofoten group of islands from the mainland.

Initially I had to paddle along 8 km of calm coast with the occasional sand or coral beach. It was overcast but completely still and I made good time. Even at this late stage in the ebbing tide I was getting some help.

At the northern end of the sound I got a lot of help from the tide and I started to fly along. It was nearly 1400 and long after the tide should have turned so I was lucky there was this local tidal quirk. Before I knew it I was sailing past a lovely beach on the east side of the sound towards the bridge. There were people fishing in the current here and I flew past them. The tidal current must have been adding an extra 4 km per hour onto my speed.

Day 179.2 Looking across the basin south of the bridge over Tjeldsund past a puffin and to the town od EvenskjerOnce on the south side of the bridge the sound became much broader and opened into a basin. There were a few coral beaches here of bleached white pulverized shell. I kept to the west side where there was still some helping current and could look over to the east side of the basin and the town of Evenskjer and its large white Lutheran church.

There were a lot of puffins in the basin here. I had not seen any since I entered the sounds at Tromso and was surprised to see so many here. There were a few low grassy islands in this large basin with brilliant white beaches but I don’t think they were suitable for puffins to nest on so they must have come in from the steeper Vesteralen islands to the north.

Day 179.3 The quaint resturant on an old farm at SandtorgI soon reached Sandtorg where there was a quaint looking restaurant. I stopped on the beach near it and had my lunch at 1500 having done the quickest 20 km of the trip so far. After lunch however the current did turn and I was down to a miserable speed. To make matters worse the wind had now got up and was from the west; directly against me.

I looked down the wide southern Tjeldsund and did not fancy paddling 6 hours slowly pulling my way to Lodingen against the wind and current. I had been there before and there was not much to look forward to except the guesthouse with a washing machine and shower and the shops when they opened tomorrow. I quickly decided to change plans and go down Ramsund instead.

Day 179.4  Waiting  for the incomoing tide to cover the coral beach at the northern end of RamsundRamsund was a smaller sound and due to its orientation did apparently not have the same current. Most of the tidal flow went up and down southern Tjeldsund. I crossed over Tjeldsund to a group of flat grassy islands ringed by coral beaches. These islands guarded the northern entrance to Ramsund. I could have gone round all of them but decided to cut through. At one point I had to wait for 10 minutes for the incoming tide to flood some 200 metres of flat coral beach. It was quite remarkable to be standing on this coral beach with spruce trees and typically Norwegian boatsheds nearby and high mountains still covered in snowfields above all that.

Ramsund seemed much easier to paddle in than what I anticipated the southern part of Tjeldsund had in wait. I just hoped the town of Ramsund had a shop open tomorrow. It would also mean that tomorrow I could cross Vestfjord at its narrowest and paddle through an interesting archipelago of islands south of Baroya rather than face a long and relatively uninteresting fjord crossing.

There was a new bridge from the mainland to the somewhat mountainous island of Tjeldoya. The island would now probably have a population of less than 200 in the winter but there would be many leisure houses from people who had old family connections to the island.

There was a bit of current under the bridge for 100 metres where I had to paddle hard but otherwise it was an easy ride up to the town of Ramsund. The town was much bigger than I expected and seemed to be some sort of naval base and there was a grey battleship parked further down the sound. I spoke to a fisherman as it approached and he told me there was a shop and guesthouse at the quay.

There was no guesthouse. The navy had taken it over and closed it for all except visiting defense personnel. In revenge and because it was sheltered I put the tent up on its lawn. There was a simple café nearby and the shop looked big enough for my needs and opened at 1000 tomorrow for sure and perhaps earlier if I asked.

In the evening I went to the café for supper and wrote the blog on the comfort of a table, while eating some fast food. It seemed a very quiet town with a few bored teenagers in the café. I suppose the naval base here sustained the town but it would also have jeopardized the community spirit of this previous farming and fishing village.

It had been an OK day. The weather was not up to much and I had been spoilt with very impressive scenery over the previous days to today’s scenery, although spectacular at any other time, seemed a tad normal. However I had done 30 km in a reasonably quick time with a lot of help from the tide.

Day 178. Lavangsnes to Sandstrand in Skaanland

Saturday, June 27th, 2009

Distance 34km | Time 7.5hrs | Ascent 0m | Descent 0m

I did not get to bed until about 0200 last night and when I woke at 0800 I felt tired still. The sun was beating down onto the tent and cooking me slowly. I opened up the ends and slept for another hour and a half. As 0930 I went up to Arve and Dagmar Johansen house for the breakfast I was invited to. They were also just getting up after having been up late also.

Breakfast was a happy family affair with all the kids tucking into boiled eggs. I had two strong coffees at breakfast and it helped with the banter. It was a very nice mealtime and it was not until nearly 1200 that I started to pack up the tent. Both Arve and Dagmar came down to see me off and I eventually cast off at 1300. It had been a very nice stay.

The weather had lots of promise and for the first time I decided to paddle without my dry suit on. It was great to be liberated from its confines but I soon noticed how badly my spraydeck leaked. I have yet to find a neoprene spraydeck which does not leak or wick water.

Day 178.1 The stunning wall on mountains on the north side of the small Lavangen fjordAlmost immediately I passed the entrance to Lavangen fjord. Looking into it I noticed a very spectacular array of jagged peaks down the north side rising in a high wall straight out of the fjord up to 1200 metres. I photographed it and then paddled over this small fjord

I only paddled an hour before I stopped for lunch by a small sandy beach with a number of boatsheds. The one I stopped at had an oyster catcher chick nearby sheltering in the grass. The parents buzzed around me noisily and then one of them feigned a broken wing. I observed them for a while and then the agile chick made a bolt for it across boulders to another patch of grass.

There were also numerous ducklings in rafts watched over by 2 or 3 mothers along the shore and an island where gulls were nesting along the stretch of coast. The gulls chicks had also hatched and a few of them ventured out of the protective grass onto bare rock but retreated again when I neared.

Day 178.2 Another look at the alpine island of AndorjaI paddled down the main Astafjord to Myrlundshaug passing many small farms along the shore. Many here had already cut the first batch of grass. On the other side of Astafjord was the really spectacular island of Andorja with it compact alpine terrain.

Day 178.3 Looking back up Astafjord to its east end from the south of Rolla islandI paddled over Astafjord to the north side and the island of Rollo as it was the shortest route down the fjord. I had a good look at this island also as I went along the south shore. It was not as alpine or large as it sibling, Andorja, but it was impressive none the less. The mountains on the mainland here were also inspiring.

Despite the high mountains and wild coasts I had not seen a sea eagle for a few days now; the last was north of Tromso by Lyngen. Obviously they need more open ocean and do not seem to thrive in the fjords and sounds.

I kayaked down the coast of Rollo past a couple of larger hamlets and then crossed Astafjord for the third time as I crossed over to the forested point of Fornes on the south side. The wind was starting to get up again and shift directions. It had been an erratic wind all day. After Fornes I started looking for a campsite.

Day 178.4 Fertile farming hamlets along the south shore of Astafjord. This one is RensaI noticed on the map a village called Sandstrand. It means sandy beach so I set my sights on this village another 8 off km down the coast. The paddle down to it was quite rural with many farms lining the shore. While long to the north were some of the steep sided Vesteralen islands.

It was indeed a sandy beach with about 50 houses the other side of a row of grassy fields. There were a lot of boat houses. I aimed for what seem a good camp spot as the sky darkened over and the wind veered to the north and suddenly increased to a force four with white caps everywhere.

I found a sheltered camp spot at once and within half an hour the tent was up, the empty kayak was stashed in the shelter of a shed and I was getting out of my wet clothes which the porous spraydeck had soaked.

I was tired but still managed to write the blog and do the pictures before crashing out in the tent soon after midnight. On my own I find there is just enough time in the evening to write the dairy and do the photos, but it take nearly two hours to complete it.

Day 178.5 Looking up the side fjord of Grovfjord to a spectacular peakIt had been an OK day; I had started very late but still did an acceptable distance. Without the drysuit and socks on I also found the rudder easier to operate which was satisfying. The weather had not quite lived up to its promise in the evening but during the day it was lovely.

Day 177. Kloven on Senja to Lavangsnes

Friday, June 26th, 2009

Distance 51km | Time 10.5hrs | Ascent 0m | Descent 0m

Day 177.1 Only two more payments and it all belongs to meI managed to get to bed before midnight last night after doing the blog and it paid off as I woke at 0700. I felt refreshed and after breakfast packed the kayak and set off at 0900. The small bay was basking in the sunlight and even the ruined house looked warm. There was not a ripple on the water as I set forth onto the large Solbergfjord.

Day 177.2 Solbergfjord with the Hurtigruten ferry and the southern part of Senja island in the backgroundI crossed the fjord diagonally heading for Haug on the far side. Each side of the fjord was very green and pleasant in the sun. Just to the west of Haug was a small point which I paddled round. There were people riding horse drawn carriages on the farm lanes on the mainland. It was all very much summer. I also was making good time as there must have been an ebbing tide adding an extra km per hour as I paddled past the north going Hurtigruten ferry.

I noticed some jelly fish in the water which seemed quite warm now. When I measured the temperature, I was astounded to see it was nearly 14 degrees; a full 10 degrees warmer than when I started at Grense Jakobselv. I was hot in the drysuit.

Day 177.3 The lush southern shore of Solbergfjord had many nice farmsJust after this peninsula was a new bridge connecting the small island of Dyroy to the mainland. It was quite an engineering extravagance to have such a large bridge to serve the island with probably a population of less than 50. I paddled under the bridge and had lunch.

There are a few other people paddling Norway’s coast this summer. There is Tom Amundsen some two weeks ahead of me and two Swedish girls a few days behind me. The girls asked me yesterday what the best time was to paddle through the Rystraumen tidal flow. I replied anytime as when I passed through it was not much and they would reach it around the same tidal state if they left after breakfast. However they were earlier and had the full swirling whirlpool ridden current against them and could not paddle. They texted me to say they had to wait for at least 2-3 hours. I phoned to apologize.

Day 177.4 Crossing Faksfjord with Loksetind, 1234m, in the backgroundAfter lunch I had a nice paddle down Dyrsund. There were many larger farms in this sheltered piece of water. Summer had truly arrived here now and I noticed that two of the farms were already cutting the first batch of grass. When summer starts here it seems to explode in the 24 hours daylight and in the last weeks much of this has been sunlight.

Day 177.5 Paddling towards the very mountainous island of Andorja crammed full of alpine peaks over 1000 metresAs I paddled down the sound to the south end a truly magnificent wall of mountains with a few small glaciers grew in front of me. It was Andorja island. It was not a big island, about 20 km by 20 km, but it seemed crammed full of 1000 metre peaks all of an alpine nature. There was a fringe of farming on the fertile skirt round the perimeter of the island before the land erupted skywards.

Day 177.6 Looking out to sea with a sailing boat and some of the Vesteralen islands in the backgroundI opted to go on the inside of the island; to the east and south of it where it was separated from the mainland by a deep fjord. I crossed the open Faksfjord and then entered the narrows, called Mjosund. The tide was now flooding and there was a flow against me. The sailing boat I had been racing from the extravagant bridge to Dyroy could not keep up with me anymore and she abandoned the sails, switched on the motor. Now I could not keep up.

There was a bridge over to the island of Andorja and the smaller and neighboring island of Rolla. These two mountainous islands had a population of about 1000 people on their rugged lands yet they formed a municipality or council called Ibestad. I should imagine fish is the main income here and as I passed under the bridge two large refrigerated lorries left the island with cargos.

It was getting on now and I needed somewhere to camp soon as I liked the early starts and finishes. It was 1800 and I thought I would cross to the south of the Astafjord where I could see some hamlets basking on green slopes in the forest clearings in the sun. On the north side the high mountains of the interior of the island meant everything was in the shade. So I started over to the south.

It took a good hour to paddle the 6 km to Levangsnes. It was basking in the sun on a point where the Astafjord and Lanangen fjord met. When I reached it I could not see any great to camp except near some houses where it was flatter. Just then someone appeared and I landed and asked him if it was OK. Off course he said.

We got chatting and he introduced himself as Arve Johansen. Within a few minutes I was invited to supper in half an hour. Northern Norwegians living on the coast are the yardstick of hospitality. I put up the tent sorted myself out and went up to the house. His wife, Dagmar, had made a wonderful moose stew for the collection of chatty friendly kids and his mother. It was a very nice sociable meal with lots of easy banter and humour.

I postponed the blog until 2330 when everybody but Arve had gone to bed. They kindly let me write it in comfort at the dining table. I had it finished at 0200. So much for an early night but with this tremendous weather forecast and 24 hour sunlight I don’t really need it. It was certainly not worth sacrificing a nice evening for an early night.

It had been a really fantastic day. It was defiantly up there in the top five. It had weather, scenery and in the end good company.