A woman in the wild – The Lofoten Story vol.2.
This is the second chapter. You’ll find the first one here.
(Listen to the music while reading blog post. Big thanks for this amazing The XX song for Írisz Takács. The destination I think you should go to with your loved one: Bali.)
‘Meli, have you already seen a tent? I mean, not from a distance. Can you pitch it?’ asks Zoli on Margaret Island, while Gergő and him are both eyeing me rather suspiciously.
‘You really think I couldn’t pitch a tent in a proper way?!’ I ask them pretending badly that I’m offended.
‘OK. Well, here you are. Let’s see then.’
After a bit of messing here and there, my face is wearing some perplexity and they save me and show me how to pitch that tent properly. And I’d swear they both wear a devilish smile under their beards.
OK, yes, I did see a tent before. Only that at that time I always had a confident man standing beside me like a bastion, like a safety net and I could entrust him with the technical details while I polished my nails and rouged myself (which I didn’t.). This adventure on Lofoten attracted me that much partly because I wanted to prove myself I was capable to do it alone, f.ck the stereotypes. And it felt so good.
My plan was to go beyond the Arctic Circle with a tent, a sleeping bag, go hiking, hitchhiking flowing with the wind. Not that I’ve ever done something like this. But I have a mantra I tend to repeat in similar situations: ‘I want to do it. I can do it. I will do it.’ These three sentences saved my ass before several times lately.
Camping in the Norwegian wild
I have learnt a lot. Unexpectedly lot. Mainly about myself, but this is for another blog post. At the end of the five weeks spent in Lofoten, I was capable of finding a place for the night which is not too rocky, not too swampy, not inclined, no big stones there, but has access to water for washing, bathing and drinking, where I don’t disturb others and last but not least, preferably with a great view.
But it was a long way to go.
On my very first night in Norway I just pointed a quite sexy place on a peninsula for overnighting and so far this was OK. I pitched the tent on the top of a small hill, the ocean murmured beside me, the view was amazing. Around 11pm I am sitting in front of the tent, pretty contentedly with myself, when Ingrid, a local woman comes with her daughter, we change a smile and start a conversation. Which I quote hereby: ‘You found a really nice place for the night! But you sure know that this will be an island by tomorrow morning, right?’ ‘Ooops.’
So I’ve learnt soon that the difference between high tide and low tide there is somewhat 2.8 meters and the ocean could make a peninsula become an island in 6 hours without effort.
(This was my peninsula-island.)
Norway is a paradise for wild campers, according to the ‘Allemannsretten’, ‘Every man’s right’ everyone has the right to camp in the nature, anywhere in the country (with permission even on somebody else’s property), in case one doesn’t disturb others and be at least 150 meters from houses.
And no doubt this is a great news regarding that everything is pretty expensive there. Starting with accommodation. A simple wooden cabin (rorbu), no luxury, with two beds costs about 1500 NOK per night. After this, I didn’t dare to ask about the hotel room prices.
By the way, do camping has another big advantage that every woman can appreciate much: you only need to do the cleaning once in a fortnight and it doesn’t take more than three and a half minutes.
Oh yes. And sleeping in a bed after five weeks of sleeping in a tent is so weird that on the first night back in the civilization I almost got up in the middle of the night to pitch the tent somewhere instead of sleeping in my comfy room.
I’ve written a lot here in the blog about different kind of fears, especially the fears before a journey. But I chose Lofoten as a destination partly because it had seemed rather safe and this was something to consider as a solo woman traveler.
And yes, during the five weeks I didn’t feel unsecured for a second, no fears at all, no bad feelings.
OK, well, to be honest, once I did. When opening the tent I set my eyes on a black spider sitting on the top of my sleeping bag. Let’s say I’m not best friends with spiders so it gave me the creeps. Certainly I tried to get rid of him by putting him on a map, but he escaped and disappeared in the tent. Classic. Hitchcock knocked on my door for the screenplay.
Nothing to do in this case, you shrug your shoulders and tell the spider you have only one condition in exchange for the accommodation: if he doesn’t eat you, you won’t do it either. And welcome home.
And one more thing: beyond the Arctic Circle in July the sun doesn’t set (more on this later). And it may seem stupid, but we girls are only afraid of the dark. Or indeed, we are rather afraid of our fantasy we project in the darkness. But if there is no darkness, the imaginary shadows, badass perverts and killers with knife disappear from the bushes.
I am not an experienced hitchhiker, didn’t do it at high school or university, I first hitchhiked in my life last year on the island of Madeira. But exploring Lofoten this way seemed so appealing (and cost-effective) to me that I decided to travel on foot and by hitchhiking only. Before that in Portugal I had some bad experience, didn’t get hurt but got frightened a bit, so before I first put my thumb out in Norway I just kept repeating that everything would be all right.
And all went just fabulously well. The Norwegians are amazing and I got a ride from tourists too, had a lot of nice conversations with very different type of people who told me very different type of stories. More on this in a coming post.
Mind the Map is not involved in any publicity of any manufacturer so everything written down is my personal opinion based on personal experience. The only reason I write exact brands is that I would have appreciated a list like this before my journey.
One of the most important things, the shell you keep carrying for weeks. It has to be comfortable, practical, lightweight and nice in colour. OK, the latter is not so important.
I had a Deuter Act Trail Pro 38 liter backpack on me, for women’s. In apple green. But only because colour doesn’t matter.
It was just divine, fit for all of my stuff for 5 weeks, and at the end of the trip I could lift the 11-13 kgs of weight like it was down feather. It was my perfect company.
I made so good friends with the tent Zoli lent me that I even give it a nickname. It became my best friend out there. It was resistant to four days of heavy rain, to the crazy North wind and to me being bitch. In exchange of this kindness I showed the best places in Lofoten to that tent.
It’s like a ballroom for one, although two persons should cuddle up closely in it (which is not bad either). It’s only 2 kgs and this might be its biggest sex appeal. Brand: Vango Banshee 200.
Big thanks for Barna for lending his flawless sleeping bag. It’s a Lafuma Warm’n’Light 800 and its biggest disadvantage is that it’s out of stock now. Otherwise it’s genius. So tiny you have to look for it in the backpack, filled with down feather, comfortable at 6 degrees, extreme in -15.
My first night was not so perfect in it though, but all my fault. It was so cold that night I tried to sleep in three socks, two trousers and approximately five layers, trying to hide deep in the sleeping bag. Soon I was noticed that it was a shitty idea. You should sleep in the less possible clothes to enable the sleeping bag to warm up by your body warmth. So next night I took a deep breath and slip into the bag in minimal pajamas, blanketed myself with the pullovers from outside. It all worked smoothly.
I had the chance to borrow a sleeping mat from Gergő and once I said this was the invention of the century. It’s very compact, weights almost nothing, in the same time it’s comfy and isolates really well so you can sleep on the ground in 4 degrees, smiling. Gergő’s mat was a Vango Trek 3 compact (160cm long), but my feet were over it and it was too cold, so when I decided to buy one for myself, it was a Vango Aero 3 Standard with a length of 185 cm.
To make a long story short, I took every kilometers on Lofoten in my old Merrell boots (and some in the also not young Teva sandals), I could count on them in rain, in marsh, in stream, on rocks and in grass. No blisters, no pain at all. But this is also very subjective, everyone swears for different boots. Some prefers to wear cross-country running shoes, while I was quite frightened to see how the ankles were not protected in those.
‘Meli and… you know… where to… I mean… how to… so what’s about the toilet in the wild?’
This is an important issue. On Lofoten you can see a short manifesto on how to behave in the nature, leaving no trace and an entire paragraph is about shitting. You need to make a hole in the soil, shit in it and cover it. That’s about the toilet in the wild.
And please note that it’s much more natural then what we are doing in the western civilization while sitting on the throne just to run to the pharmacy after for something to cure hemorrhoid.
I don’t consider myself a princess and personally quite like to clean myself in lakes, rivers and springs (yes, ice cold all of them), but my first shower with hot water in a camping after not having any for a week was an almost erotic pleasure. I didn’t mind the koronas spent on it, just let the water run on me for eight entire minutes and have to admit I was dreaming about it for long. Things considered natural become things highly appreciated when they cease to be natural.
Same with washing, you have to find a river or a lake for this reason, and it’s a definite luck that you always bump into some water in Norway because your socks become biological weapons soon while hiking. Drying up is another question in a place where it almost always rains, but life provides you with a solution eventually.
(This was my very best bathroom on Lofoten.)
Electricity is also appreciating when it’s rare. Even when you don’t have a lot of gadgets on you – I only had my phone, e-book reader and my Mom’s point-and-shoot (but as a photographer I really don’t want to talk about this, only on a couch of a psychologist…)
Speaking of being online, before the trip I thought I should solve everything by searching engines, that I had to collect databases of hiking places, campsites, wild camping opportunities, had to become member of different groups on hitchhiking and dumpster diving, had to collect all the information available, in advance.
There is no drama in the lesson learned: no need to do this. You need to solve every problem in real life, not online and when you are in a situation, you’ll know what to do. That’s so simple.
And exploring is the best part of traveling anyway.
(To be continued.)