Cruising in Norway: Lofoten Islands (Reine)


Sunday, June 28, to Friday, July 2

Reine appears to be a connecting point for all these outdoorsy Norwegians. When we landed early Sunday morning and starting looking for the necessities (fuel, showers, wifi), it felt like a ghost town. Then, a bus arrived and the place started hopping with kayakers, hikers, divers, and boaters. It was as if someone opened up a box and all these folk dressed in the latest outdoor gear jumped out and started populating the earth. I must say Norwegians are extremely fit and active. It’s no wonder they’re so good on cross-country skis. Of course, they could be so fit because they’re so good on cross-country skis.

Either way WE weren’t feeling particularly spry. Still wearing our long johns and gear from several days due to no showers found, we located an information office, which happened to be the local hotel reception area.

A nice young man welcomed us, gave us a brochure on what we could do in the Lofotens, told us we could use wifi, and provided information on how to get to a town across the bay (via a ferry) to see several note-worthy beaches. He also pointed us to the dive shop that offers various aqua adventures, both under and above water, and where the woman rents out showers, a washer, and a dryer (the latter two we, for once, didn’t need).

Heading back to the boat, we passed the economy’s staple here:  dried cod. When we had entered we had seen the drying racks and the ubiquitous red cabins lining the harbor’s periphery.

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Now, walking back to JUANONA we saw these eerie bodies ogling us with dead eyes and gaping jaws seemingly haphazardly stacked and mashed against the two-story windows.

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Looking around we saw (and smelled) the odiferous bodies waiting to join their desiccated kin in the huge storage sheds.

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Here they awaited the next phase of their journey, which entailed bundling into burlap bags

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for transporting to a large export market.

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many (if not all) of the fish heads go to Nigeria

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while the bodies find their way to Portugal, Spain, and Italy…

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where, when reconstituted, are cooked and served for someone’s palate other than mine.

Thinking I’d have either cod dreams or cod nightmares, we went below to sleep off the previous 20-hour passage from Sanna.

An hour or so later I noticed two sets of legs standing next to our port-side window. Sticking my head up I met Douwer and Maeika, owners of a gorgeous aluminum boat docked at the end of the pontoon. Over the next few days we were fortunate to spend some time with this Dutch couple who were on their ‘shake-down’ cruise (meaning their first cruise of their 65-foot boat) since launching her last year. With 30 years of sailing and several boats previous, they had carefully customized this boat design over two-and-a-half years, and, boy, she a lovely design both above and below. If I had a condominium, this is what I’d want it to look like! Airy, sparse but warm, functional and extremely welcoming, s/v STAYER was a dream boat.

When I first saw them and their boat I couldn’t help but exclaim ‘you two are the only ones handling her?!’ And, of course, the answer was a quiet ‘yes’. I knew, too, however they managed, this team managed it well.

Monday morning we headed to the ferry that would drop us off at Vindstad for the easy mile or so walk to the beach our friends Rick and Julie off of s/v BELIEVE and Gus and Helen on WINGS had described as a gem. On the short hop over, we met three young woman, and, as usual, it was fascinating to hear how they happened to be in Norway. One, in transition from working for the Federal Reserve Board in Chicago (I asked if she had met Janet Yellen, and she said the woman was warm, sociable, and, of course, very intelligent) to getting a finance job in investment or banking in NYC, was visiting a friend who was a musician picking up gigs when she could with Norwegian bands (she played either the cello or viola, which reminded me of our friend Helen who plays the latter although not aboard her boat!). The third was from Hong Kong who was working freelance as a translator. It was the latter who was going to the same beach we were, so we invited her to walk with us.

She was on a two-year working holiday with a British Visa. Over the course of six hours I discovered a lot about her past travels, political views, and adventurous spirit. This young woman appeared to be the most implacable individual I have ever met. I believe you could set her down in any perilous situation and she would calmly and confidently proceed to find a way out.

During the hike to the beach she mentioned her recent experiences,

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one of my favorite being her farm stay in Scotland. While fixing dinner for the other volunteer workers she was called to help a ewe give birth (they were there to help during the lambing season). She delivered a black one and a white one; and, because she assisted in the birth she got to name them. She promptly pronounced them Soya Sauce and Tofu because, as she said, she had been in the midst of cooking a Chinese dinner when called to help. Got to love it.

Another stay was in northern Scotland where she worked picking out good mussels from bad ones as they came down the conveyor belt. One of the redeeming factors of that boring work was she got to eat them (the ‘okay’ ones).

Our conversation turned to politics, which I broached carefully. She immediately gave me the low-down on the Umbrella Revolution.

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I won’t say much here other than it was extremely eye-opening and informative. I will say that she had a hearty appetite, which caused me to wonder how on earth she stayed so fit!

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With more than an hour to go [the beach was lovely

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but not a whole heck of a lot to do considering it was definitely not swimming weather (or water)], we walked back (in the far distance is Reine)…

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passing summer homes such as the one below where two friends enjoyed the afternoon sun….

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to the lone cafe situated above the road to the dock. Max discovered that a doctor from the Tromso area (further north) was running it. She had moved there for summers in 1990 after visiting with friends. A limited BUT an affordable menu attracted us

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(we all had something to drink)

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as well as the other beach-goers who trickled in as we all waited for the ferry. Some of those tried the warm, yeasty waffles, which were tempting but none of us indulged.

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Because of a passenger limit of 63, we decided to head down to the dock to ensure our place in line.

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Having been there-done that at Bunes Beach we were eager to return to Reine. Plus, we were looking forward to meeting up with Maieka and Douwer later.

There are always nature photo opportunities in this country. The water colors around Norway are almost as mesmerizing as the landscape, which means you may be seeing a lot (too many) of those. Note:  no color correction was done on the photo below.

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Back in Reine our friend left for her next adventure:  a five-hour boating excursion to some mystery cave. Chris decided to hike up the mountain for the photo op, and Max and I tried to take showers with no luck (the woman running them wasn’t open).

Spending time with Maieka and Douwer we discovered a similar philosophy of life and enjoyment of traveling. As we said our good-byes we hoped to meet up with them during our time in Norway; and, if not here, then in the Netherlands.

Returning to JUANONA Chris was the lucky one who’d been able to take a shower after his hike up and back the mountain, which he said was stupendous. And, looking at his photos, we definitely had to agree. Hmmm…. maybe a return trip here is warranted :) But, for now, other destinations beckon.

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