No sleep till Nordland: adrenaline Norway

by sarah.stirling

Norway’s Nordland region is an outdoor adventure lover’s dream, and has 24-hour daylight in summer. So how much can you see in a sleepless, adrenaline-fuelled weekend?

Norway’s Nordland region is an outdoor adventure lover’s dream. Green offshore islands swim in indigo fjords fringed with white sand and, inland, mountain ranges descend to densely forested valleys, waterfalls, rivers and caves. Combine an Explore Norway domestic plane-hopping ticket with Nordland’s 24-hour daylight summer phenomenon and we had an idea for an adventure weekend with a difference. How much of Nordland could we see in a sleepless, adrenaline-fuelled weekend?

We flew to Bodo, Nordland’s main city and met our first adventure guide, Henry, who strapped us into a rigid inflatable boat. Soon we were flying across emerald Saltenfjord waves towards a vista of spectacular mountain ranges. Jack and I were going to ride into the world's most powerful whirlpool, Saltstraumen. The swirling dipping edge of the water drew nearer and we held onto our seats. The enormous force of nature underneath us was incredible. The ocean churned around us and Henry used maximum power to maintain our position. “Every six hours,” he shouted, “400 million cubic metres of water reaches speeds of up to 20 knots as it rushes through here. The whirlpools are 10m in diameter and 4-5m deep at their height.” 

Later, Jack and I wandered into Bodo centre to watch the sun sparkle on the Arctic Ocean during the summer night. It was the middle of the night but the sun tricked us into continued wakefulness. We lolled asleep on the short flight to Bronnoysund at 6am.
Maria, our next guide, drove us to the base of Mt Torghatten, famed for a characteristic tunnel through its heart. While we dozed on the minibus, Maria told us the mountain's legend: a troll released an arrow to kill a beautiful girl, but the troll-king threw his hat into the arrow's path to save her. The hat turned into the mountain with a hole in the middle. The 160m mountain tunnel was actually formed during the ice age: looser rocks eroded while the harder ones in the mountain top didn't. We preferred the first story. Jack, Maria and I hiked to the mountain's hole, which provided an excellent viewpoint over a vista of archipelagos, then meandered down into the view and returned along the beach to the start point.
Our next plane stop was Mo I Rana and its Setergrotta cave system. Our guide, Mariana, led us through a dense Norwegian forest to a little hole in the ground. We stood up in a vast, cave hallway. Torches shimmered on icicles. Marble passages led to ice formations, which led to a rock ‘letterbox’ and beyond it an underground river. After two hours we emerged, blinking and amazed. Mariana took us to the Rica Hotel  Mo I Rana.
The Antony Gormley statue, the Man of the Sea, looks out across the Mo I Rana fjords to distant mountain ranges. Jack and I walked to follow its gaze across the stunning landscape, shimmering in the 3am daylight.
After a few hours' sleep we gazed from plane windows onto a fish-bone arc of mountainous islands linked  by bridges. Each range swept down to white bays, tiny harbours and snug fishing villages. The Lofoten archipelago crams in more mountains per square mile than any other part of Norway, leaving a narrow strip of coastal road. Picturesque fishing villages huddle at the feet of mountains. Lofoten's famous cod racks bask in the sun, strung with thousands of fish drying in their own sea-salt.
At Nusfjord, we were welcomed aboard the Elltor, a 20m traditional wooden fishing boat. Local fisherman, Hans, took us out into the heart of the spectacular Vesfjord and set up hand-lines. We hauled armloads of huge cod, haddock and coley over the gunwale. I say 'we' but that isn't exactly honest. A pile of fish stacked up, all caught by Jack. “Never mind,” comforted Jack, hauling in two at once. “I’m the hunter-gatherer; you can cook the barbecue later.”
At 11pm Jack and I drove to the north coast, armed with fish, vegetables and tinfoil, to watch the Norwegian Midnight Sun perform its famous bounce on the horizon.
From Eggum we hiked west along the coast path. Lofoten’s mountain backbone trickled waterfalls to the south; to the north the sun sank towards the sea in a nest of pink and orange clouds.

Jack gathered driftwood and lit a bonfire and a barbecue. The sun glanced the horizon and rose again, ready for another 12 hours of daylight. Sadly we wouldn't be seeing it all today because we were going home for a well-earned sleep. But what a brilliant adventure!



Mainland: we stayed with the Norwegian chain, Rica Hotels mo I Rana.
The coastline of the Lofoten Islands is dotted with traditional red-painted Rorbuer that perch on stilts overlooking the sea. Nowadays these former fishing huts provide picturesque tourist accommodation. We were well-looked after at the Statles Rorbusenter AS in Mortsund.