Thursday, May 05, 2011

Hurtigruten: Lofoten Islands Excursion

We knew we were in for a treat when our Day 3 dawned on our Hurtigruten 6-day sea voyage, the day before we crossed the Arctic Circle (last post). Our only excursion of the trip wasn''t leaving till 6:30 that evening, but this is what we saw in the morning as we entered the area of the Lofoten Islands:

It took our breath away. An understatement!

The brochure had said this would be some of the most stunning scenery on the journey.
They did not lie!

It so happened that this was the only day we had excursions available to us because we were too early in the season. No dog sledding, for example, which I would have died for. But this day, we had 3 options and had to choose one. After e-mailing Vagabonde and Dutchbaby, both of whom had passed this way before, we all agreed the excursion through the Lofoten Islands would be the one. And it was!

It was a 3-hour coach ride from Svolvaer to Stamsund, with a long stop in one of the cod-fish towns. Because it started at 6:30 p.m. and the weather was misty and cloudy, it was dark by the time we finished and joined the ship at 9:30. But we still saw what we wanted to see and were not disappointed.

As a for instance, we saw the Vågan church (above left), built in 1898, at the beginning of the tour and the one on the right (still doing research on it!) towards the end, all lit up (both from the tour bus).
Addendum later: it's the Borge Church in Vestvågøy, 1987,
humorously referred to by the locals as the ski jump.

Thankfully, our drying-cod-fish stop was at the beginning when we still had plenty of light.
The delightful fishing village of Henningsvaer was our stop.
Population? "More than 500" per Wiki.

Our first impressions were these 3 separate houses, which gave us their different faces:

The first two houses (above) gave us our first glimpse of the cod fish drying.
As you'll see later, it was just an appetizer!

What is is about a house that can have so much character?!

At this point, our tour bus stopped and basically gave us an hour to go view a painting gallery and then a video about the Lofoten Islands, including the entire fishing operation there. Following that, we'd have the chance to do some shopping and whatever walking around we could manage.

It won't surprise you that Astrid and I decided to have none of it but to use our precious hour walking to the real cod fish crop drying right outside the town. We had seen the racks as we drove in. So we told the guide and driver what we were doing, skipping out on the formalities. We were the only ones!

But look at our reward!

On this side of the bridge, enough stockfish (in this case, cod) to sink a ship! And why don't the birds eat them to the bones? Because they dry so quickly the first day, their skins are too tough.

See the boys cresting the bridge as we crossed over to the other side?
They're the ones (the kids of the town) who pull out the fish tongues from the fish heads.
It's a Lofoten delicacy!

And there they were, all the fish heads severed from the hanging cod fish on the other side of the bridge.
What do those eyes see, I wonder! And what or for whom are they looking?

BTW, stockfish is Norway's longest sustained export commodity, and the socioeconomically most profitable export over the centuries (Wiki). The fish heads go to Nigeria because it's what they can afford (tour guide).

THIS, my friends, is a typical Norwegian fishing village...

...and once back on the tour bus, we drove through town and saw the evidence everywhere.
Fishing is their way of life.

Then, after some more driving through the countryside, as it started to get dark, we arrived back at our ship in time to embark for a 10 p.m. departure from Stamsund.

Without a doubt, this will be one of our best memories of the entire sea voyage. Totally worth it.

[Thanks again to Astrid for a handful of her images here-n-there!]


  1. The funniest thing about your post, the entire time I was reading all I wanted to know is if it smelled like fish down there. Okay, I have no clue why because I don't care, but that is what my mind was thinking "I wonder if it smelled".

    It does look like a neat experience and something that not many people do. Love the fish drying. Something different!

  2. ET: I totally forgot to mention the smell, Jen! The tour guide had told us it was terrible but we found hardly no smell whatsoever. Maybe they were that far along...not still ripe? And no flies or bugs anywhere. Amazing. The whole experience was so educational. Thanks.

  3. The light on those island mountains would be reason enough to go there. Ohh. Then the mist, the red buildings, the village, the cod!! the bridge, such beauty and character, it's beyond imagining. How it must have felt to be there, oh you lucky women.

    Happy Mother's Day!

  4. Oh, you lucky women.....(Ruth said) I do feel blessed to be with you and witness the beauty of this all.
    We saw some stunning scenic things, the Cod-fish was just amazing.
    Seeing all the mountains, because of the fog we only saw I think 1/3 of it all, I just checked, it is only 2700km from home....40 hours drive by car.....
    The bridges are true pieces of art and so are your posts on your blog.
    Thank you again for all the effort and work.

  5. Ruth: All of it, sister. Yes. It is an amazing place. It still takes my breath away, and that's just looking at the pictures. Thank you!

    Astrid: We both are such lucky women. I'm so glad we were able to share it together...something we'll never forget. HARTSTIKKE BEDANKT.

  6. Oh my... where to start! Such marvelous images... all of them! What an experience to have and to document it so beautifully... I LOVE the bridge images, especially the bottom one of that particularly collage3 with the view if the mountains through the bridge. The red codfish house collage is perfectly out together! And I love the first image in the series of your reward for leaving the group... such adventurous women you are to take off on your own and the reward was indeed worth it!

    My stomach flipped over at the thought of pulling the tongues from the fish heads... what a job!

    And I love, love, love the boat collage... of course you know I like them all but some always wind up being my favorites! Also, I think I've commented before about Astrid's appearance in your collages with her red jacket making it so easy to spot her... you do seem to know exactly where to include her in the collages and her placement is a perfect addition to the first of the collages where she makes an appearance in this post! :-)

  7. Victoria: Your comments are always so encouraging, my frieed. Thank you. It's always fun to see what grabs your eyes, often the same things for me. And yes, I love finding Astrid in my photos whenever I start processing them. Now that the red coat is put away for now, I wonder if you'll be able to spot her as easily over the next few months? :)

  8. what an interesting excursion this is. so culturally enriching.

  9. Hey Ginny, those first images took my breath away, too! As did the fish heads, but in a different way! But I am glad for all your sharing, always.

  10. All your pictures are beautiful but a few of them made me feel cold. :)

  11. LOL! One of my 1st questions was about the smell, too. Glad that it wasn't too bad during this journey. I've never seen anything like this before so I have to thank you for showing me a part of this world that I may never get to see in person.

  12. PC: You'd love the entire Norwegian trip, with all your wanderlust. I highly recommend the sea voyage AND this particular excursion.

    WS: Thanks, Susan. I still marvel that we were able to see it all!

    Tim: HA! Thanks, and yes, it WAS cold during most of the trip but we were just fine. I actually prefer cold to hot! :)

    Mad: For us, the smell was hardly noticeable, so it must have been just the right temp and wind. We had been told it really could be bad. It all was new to us, too, so I'm glad I can share the experience. Thanks.

  13. I would have loved that excursion! Those cod hanging there drying really got me, I wish I would have been there to see it. I remember when in Valduz, AK six years ago I was mainly fascinated by the fishing harbor and watching those weather beaten men cutting up enormous halibut. I could have watched for ever (my family, however, couldn't. Am I the odd one?)

  14. Carola: Anything related to the sea like this is totally fascinating for me, so I understand what you mean. Next time we'll take you with us. :) Thank you.

  15. I'm allmost wordless.
    This is a fantastic report.
    Not only your brilliant photos, but also your facts and descriptions from your short visit to these Islands, voted by National Geographic as among the top 10 Island destinations on our planet.
    You have been there - while I've only seen it long distance from Bodö and from flights up to Tromsö;-)

  16. Tor: It often happens this way...that the tourists see more of our own country than we do ourselves. Maybe one day YOU will see these islands for yourself. Totally worthwhile!

  17. I truly CANNOT imagine shopping when the real prize - seeing and taking the photos you took - was available is beyond me! This is a truly a place of storybooks... I am spellbound.

  18. Margaret: You are a woman after my own heart. My sentiments exactly! Thank you.