Sunday, May 20, 2007

The tale of the wallet, the ferry and the vowel

Today was to have been straightforward, and elevated by some of Norway's most beautoful scenery. Running in an arc south-west of Harstad, the Lofoten Islands offer mountains rising out of the sea for hundreds of kilometres. From near the southern end, I would pick up the southbound Hurtigruten after 9pm and ride it overnight down to Sandnessjøen - back on the mainland.

It began well enough with a 45 minute drive to my first short car-ferry of the day, although yesterday's sunshine had disappeared completely. Back on the road, travelling through Storland, it was a similar drive to the next ferry, but that one isn't synched to the first for a smooth journey - it's a 90 minute wait, but that would still place me on the Lofotens proper by around 2pm, with lots of time to drive down to the tip and return to Stamsund for the 9pm to

While waiting for that ferry, I struck up a conversation with Andy, a Welsh-born tour operator, scouting routes and hotels in the area. Norway's offerings are the most expensive his company has in Europe. I said that I wasn't going to buy anything more expensive than a T-shirt here as everything else just priced itself off the map, especially after dealing with the basics of accommodation, food and perhaps petrol. We were both surprised that such a wealthy nation
had such poor roads, not in the league of Poland or Italy, but it didn't seem as if even town roads were well looked after. None of the pedestrian crossings or other road-markings look to have been repainted in years. On reflection it's very possible that all the crosswalks will be replaced by under-road tunnels, given that appears to be the main strength of the roads department.

The scenery does start to unfold with startlingly rapidity and constant surprises as you travel through the islands. After lunch at one of the gastro-pubs in Svolvaer ( a town which diminishes its position of natural beauty with what appears to be a garbage tip by the water.

The next major stop was the Viking museum, where a Viking longhouse, supposed the largest in Europe had been a reconstructed on its hilltop site. I imagine there are larger ones in Asia and South America that they decline to mention...

We kept going south, twisting, turning and island-hopping (via bridge now) down to the Moskenes region and ultimately to the small fishing village known simply as Å (pronounced Oa, just like the home planet of the Guardians in the Green Lantern..oh never mind).

It was about 6pm and time to drive the 60km back to Stamsund to await the ferry. Not a huge distance, but the roads are slow-going. When I found the ferry departure point I saw a Hurtigruten ferry had just left and thought Oh shit I've confused 1930 hours with 9.30pm. A quick check of the timetable showed that I had simply seen the northbound ferry pulling away and I still had the southbound vessel to await.
At this time thought I'd go look for some dinner...which was the point at which I realised that I'd lost my wallet. (Sounds like a Tom Lehrer song now...)

The last time I remember seeing it was when I got out of the car in Å. We hadn't walked a great distance, and then I got out of the car again just before leaving greater Moskenes to take some photos. Still, I had 60km to cover before then and whether I found the wallet or not, I was going to miss my ferry. I didn't know who I could call, as none of these places seemed to be big enough to have their own police station, and it was going to be hard for me to
describe where I'd gone since I didn't have exact place names to go off.
Nothing at the edge of Moskenes, and 10km further along at Å, I had a bigger area to cover. The only two things on my side were the everpresent light, and the rain, which would minimise some random person's chance of being out walking and picking it up.
Miracle of miracles, I found the wallet lying in the rain next to a building where I'd stopped to pick up Bondi's poo. A weight lifted off me, and I ran back to the car and drove up the road to Moskenes harbour where other ferry boats leave for Bodø. A ferry was there, looking unattended and there was no one about, and Hurtigruten's nearly inscrutable* timetables seemed to indicate that there would be nothing till the following afternoon. (Which are only fractionally translated into English, and which are a month to a year out of date)

I had the thought that I might be able to get another ferry from Stamsund or Svolvaer. Driving around landwards, via Narvik was about a 14 hour journey, assuming that the short-hop car-ferries were operating.
I found a late-opening corner store in Reine and asked for some advice. Tomorrow afternoon's ferry was the only real option, so I'd have to stay locally overnight. The store owner kindly called someone and within 20 minutes I was in a rorbu or fisherman's hut, perched oh-so-prettily by the water.

1 comment:

  1. I absolutely LOVE the picture of Bondi sitting on the rocks with the mountains in the back ground! Extraordinary!!!!!!!

    He is such a cutie, I just want to give him a big hug and smooch!


    I would love for you to stop by my blog to say hi! I really enjoy reading your adventures and seeing all the beautiful photos.