Returning to Scotland from Patagonia went in a brief blur of re-unions and re-stocking. We had arrived with just a few days to relax before continuing onto the second part of our great adventure- The Northern Fjords.
Throughout our Patagonian epic we had joked about the comforts of our next adventure for this time we had a van to live in and explore with. We hoped to pick and choose the ‘best bits’ of Northern Norway in a whistle stop tour of the fjords. We had three big goals.
- Kayak around Nordkapp
- Explore Lofoten
- Have a LOT of fun
With the kayaks tied on the roof and our gear safely stashed in boxes below a bed Seumas had built in the back, we were set to go. There was just one thing left between us and Norway; 4000miles of open road. Driving ‘the long way round’ all the way through Europe would be the first adventure- then the ‘real’ fun could begin.
Pausing in Brighton as we travelled south we picked up two ‘bla bla car’ hitch hikers who we had agreed to take as far as Sweden. True ‘free spirits’ Diamond and Elenor appeared and gave emotional goodbyes to their friends before piling into the back of the van. Seumas and I had to stifle a laugh as their described ‘just two bags’ also came with a huge handful of blankets, a drum and a dog.
It was a LONG road out of the UK and our tunnel crossing was delayed. We arrived into France at 5am, exhausted and desperate to sleep. Seumas had taken on responsibility of driving so far, (after all it was his van) while I navigated. Spotting a perfect open car-park close to the beach I led the way out of the tunnel into Calais.
Arriving by accident into the heart of the ‘Jungle’ Refugee camp with two kayaks on the roof was definitely an experience to remember, the guards gave us a long hard looks as we sped past waving a little too cheerily forgetting about the boats above our heads. Seeing the camp in real life certainly brought home a reality we so easily try not to picture in our day to day lives and made me wonder about the total pointlessness of our adventure in perspective to those living so much harder without a choice.
Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany passed in blur of motorways and exhausted roadside camps. Whenever we could we would enjoy our evenings on lake shores and in dense forest, hiding as best we could despite the noisy dog. Dinners were roasted on an old terra-cotta stove Seumas had salvaged from the bushes of an old building site.
As we crossed into Denmark by ferry and then into Sweden the roads grew narrower and quieter. Here cities gave way to endless wild forest, home to the moose.
We had both been to Sweden before to sail with my dad who bought his small yacht there, Seumas had once come as part of the expedition to bring it home to Scotland across the North Sea. We knew the shores of Lake Vanern, and spent much of our drive longing to camp there and enjoy a welcome swim.
Unfortunately the ‘Free spirits’ seemed to have fallen out with each other for one reason or another and spent much of their time bickering in the back seat. Before long we were heading on a massive detour to drop Diamond off with an auntie before continuing north for the final stretch of Sweden with Elenor.
Sometimes luck balances out. Our detour took us down a long dirt road which caused our first puncture but when we dropped Diamond off her lovely auntie just happened to have a nephew who was a mechanic. Kindness to strangers is second nature to the Swedish and despite much offering he refused payment for a pair of replacement tyres- instead we gifted a bottle of whisky as thanks – and everyone was delighted.
Reaching Finland we were now just the two of us- the dog and the ‘free spirits’ long forgotten we were slowed down and enjoyed the journey a little more. Parking up by a lake in Lapland we noticed the sun had stopped setting at night, we were nearly in the Arctic circle. With unlimited light we forget about sleep until long into the night and Seumas unloaded his fishing rod to spend hours casting into the water, I unloaded my kayak and paddled off into the golden light in search of a mini adventure.
Buying Reindeer pelts from a local Sami shop our beds now felt more luxurious than ever- it felt strange to imagine camping in the depths of Patagonia so recently behind us but looked forward to getting back into the wild once we reached Nordkapp.
Finland was even flatter than Sweden and I found myself spending hours gazing ahead looking for mountains that had yet to appear. Camping had become easy, our system from Patagonia now shifted to a life out of a van. The thought that you can simply drive until a nice camp appeared was a novel luxury, even if it did feel a little bit like cheating.
After a week on the road we finally arrived. A large sign read ‘WELCOME TO NORWAY’ We had made it from the southern corner of the world to the northern one. Nordkapp was getting close, the urge to get back into the kayaks was now strong. Pushing long hours along the road we blared out our high-school ‘Anthem’ on the radio and enjoyed lip syncing perfectly to the entire album of Tenacious D…..
♩ ♪ ♫Friends will be Friends, they say that friends will be friends until the bitter end♩ ♪ ♫….