Still terrified on a campout

Since discovering this microadventure malarky back in July 2015 I have slept out under the stars (not in a tent) a minimum of once a month (and often a lot more often) since. A majority of these have been with other people but quite a number have been on my own.

I love a campout with others, in fact I organise trips pretty regularly in autumn, winter and spring, but going on my own is still very special. Why is it special?

Because I still find it damn well scary, that’s why!

https://flic.kr/p/W65Uup

Yesterday I was lucky enough to be sent on a work trip to Aberystwyth in Wales and while I was here I thought it would be lovely to walk up the coast and campout on a clifftop. After weeks of hot and balmy weather, fate waited till I was at the seaside and made it rain with high winds. Not ideal campout weather but you go with what youve got. By the time I was looking for a place to bed down, the rain had at least stopped but there was a ferocious wind and I found a disused lime kiln on a beach that looked like perfect shelter. The downside being, it was right next to a house.

Aberystwyth microadventure

My normal procedure is to get out of sight and wait for dark before I unpack my bivvy and sleeping bag. As it was quite stony in the kiln I did get my therm-a-rest out to sit on. Just as I did, a dog appeared and gave me a friendly sniff, then another dog hove into view and finally a teenage girl, presumably from the house, walked by. Oh no, i’ve been spotted! I then had a nervous couple of hours wondering if the grown ups in the house were going to come and tell me to bugger off or worse.

This is the thing, the sane me, currently sat in a cafe all warm and snug knows that nothing bad was going to happen. The ‘me’ at the time, however, had the wind howling, the gulls crying and a deep feeling of vulnerability. Were a bunch of guys going to come out of the house, maybe a bit boozed up, and beat me up? Was an angry farmer going to chuck me off his beach? [Can the beach be owned??].

Obviously my night was was totally fine, apart from seeing a mouse that did make me jump. Rodents aside, I had an uneventful night listening the the waves crash on the beach. I got up early, packed up, made coffee and got out of the area.

After nearly two years of sleeping out I think of myself as a fairly ‘seasoned microadventurer’ but this just highlights that the magic is still there.

I think I actually love the ‘edge’ that putting myself in these situations creates. A little bit of fear actually makes these feel like an adventure and as experienced as I might be, they are still special. I can’t wait for my next one! Who needs a comfort zone all the time!

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Lofoten Islands (Norway) on a budget

Reine, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Norway is an amazing country but it is also a pretty expensive place to visit. I did, however, manage to visit the wonderful Lofoten islands (from London in the UK) for six days without breaking the bank.

My basic plan was to try to only spend money on the travel (flights and ferry). This would entail wild camping (which is free) and taking all of my own food for 5 days. Being a major cheapskate, I also made up my own dehydrated breakfast and dinner meals (see appendix for details).

Lofoten 2017

I booked a very early morning flight from London Heathrow (after spending an uncomfortable night at the airport) to Bodø (via Oslo). The flight touched down at 1430 and I had exactly one hour to make the ferry. I’ll be honest that I never thought I’d have any chance of making it! The consequences of missing the ferry would be to wait for the midnight sailing (eek). I’m delighted to say that Bodø airport was very efficient in delivering my rucksack and is also only just over a mile from the ferry terminal. I was comfortably on the ferry in 40 mins. Win!

Note on travel costs: I was a little late in booking so my flight costs of £280.00 could almost certainly have been cheaper. The ferry was about £20.00 each way.

Lofoten islands

Arrival
I got off the ferry at Moskenes, located towards the western end of the Lofoten Islands at 1830 in the evening. My first, and really only worry, was trying to find a gas canister for my stove. It was going to be a tricky trip if I couldn’t boil any water!

I’d done a bit of research and the nearest place to buy camping gas was in Reine, 4-5 km away. I shouldered my pack and started my walk, some of which was on the road and some on a path (actually the old road).

Lofoten islands

Lucky for me, the gas station in Reine was open and actually sold the type of canister I needed. Slightly unfortunately it was an enormous one that i’d never use up during my trip. My map of Lofoten seemed to indicate that there was a campsite in Reine but it turned out that this was total fiction! Not a major problem as I walked back towards Moskenes where I had spotted a couple of camping spots by the side of the path. I was sorted!

Lofoten islands 2017

Day 2
In London, the weather in late May was pretty balmy, in Lofoten, which is well above the arctic circle, it was quite cold – 6-8C. On my first night it was also very rainy and windy and when I woke up I was reluctant to pack up and go until it stopped. My little one man tent (MSR Hubba HP) was pretty snug and comfy and I managed to safely make coffee and porridge in the porch. The rain stopped about 1030  and I headed back into Reine.

Lofoten Islands 2017

My original plan to was to get the ferry from Reine to Vinstad but i’d stupidly forgotten to look up the timetable before I left and had missed the morning ferry. The timetable is written very oddly (to me at least) and I didn’t think that there were any other ferries that day so decided to walk around the fjord/bay. Note: I later discovered that there was an afternoon ferry that I could have gotten. Doh!

Lofoten Islands 2017

The Lofoten islands are famous in the winter months as cod fisheries (cod spawn here), following which the fish are hung out to dry. These drying racks are around all of the little villages that I saw and yes, the places do smell a tad ‘fishy’.

Lofoten Islands 2017

One thing became pretty clear to me was that there really isn’t much open here. I won’t complain too much as I did have literally world class scenery to look at but it’s worth noting that in bad weather there aren’t many indoor activities. Luckily for me the weather was sunshine and cloud without any rain. What it wasn’t though was very warm and I was grateful for a cafe/bar to open in Reine in the afternoon. I splurged what I think must have been a million pounds on a pretty decent cake and an awful coffee. I did take the opportunity to use the wifi to contact to the family and brag a bit on facebook and instagram.

Lofoten islands 2017

Lofoten Islands 2017

When i’d had enough of looking at mountains soaring out of the sea I retreated to the same campsite as the previous night and hunkered down.

Day 3

Lofoten islands 2017

I woke up early on this amazingly sunny and beautiful day in order to get the early ferry from Reine to Vinstad. Despite it still being the ‘winter’ season, the boat was full to the gunnels.

Lofoten Islands 2017

Lofoten Islands 2017

Lofoten islands 2017

After arriving at Vinstad, I walked (along with a a small group of fellow tourists) up through this small community, over a small pass to the breathtaking Bunes beach.

The beach seems, at first, to be quite small but it is only an illusion created by the height of the substantial mountains that surround it. I rushed down as soon as I could, dumped my bag and then with only my phone and a towel headed for the water. I wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to swim (or in this case briefly dip) in the Arctic Ocean.

Lofoten islands 2017

It was cold, but oh so glorious! Plus I saw an avalanche (my first)!

I ended up staying at Bunes beach for more than a day and a half, walking around the beach, gazing out at this amazing beauty or reading my book. The weather was wonderfully sunny all the time I was here although it was never warmer than 8C and the wind was often high creating quite a wind chill factor. There is a drop toilet at the back of the beach (without a door) but I avoided it as much as possible.

I’ll confess to being a little disappointed that I wasn’t the only person to sleep on the beach overnight. I really fancied being alone here. To be fair to my fellow campers, they all kept themselves to themselves and I wasn’t disturbed at all.

Day 4

Lofoten islands 2017

[Note: These strange hollow iron balls were washed up on the beach. What are they? Pretty sure they are not cannonballs.]

After lunch, I packed up my stuff and headed back towards the ferry point. I decided to attempt to walk further down the fjord as there was a tall and amazing looking waterfall at the end.

Lofoten Islands 2017

Lofoten Islands 2017

As I caught the ferry back to Reine, the sunshine was replaced by cloud and it got distinctly chillier. Back in ‘civilisation’ I had a sandwich and coffee (another million pounds) in the cafe and then headed back to my usual wild camping spot for the night. The night was pretty windy and rainy! The tent was solid though!

Day 5
This was pretty much my last full day in the Lofoten’s but bearing in mind that I needed to catch a super early ferry in the morning I didn’t want to go far. I therefore decided to walk to the end of Norway itself! Well, the western most point that can be reached by road.

Lofoten Islands 2017

I walked through Moskenes (apart from the ferry, not much here), Sørvågen (more stuff here but all closed), Tind (more or less nought) and finally Å (yes, just the one letter).

Lofoten Islands 2017

Lofoten islands 2017

As with just about everywhere else in the Lofotens, the views were just spectacular but it did feel quite special to be at the end of the road. Å also boasted some actually open places too. The stockfish museum (which I didn’t go in) and a wonderfully rustic bakery selling a delicious cinnamon roll and totally wonderful Barley bread. The coffee was awful but you can’t have everything!

Lofoten islands 2017

The sun was still out and I decided to take the footpath from Sørvågen up to Stuvdalsvatnet, a lake surrounded by mountains. It is a bit of a stiff climb but the view is stunning. The path continued up to a mountain hut called Munkebu but I decided not to go that far.

Lofoten Islands 2017

Lofoten islands 2017

I have to say though that this was a glorious way to spend my last afternoon. I was a tiny bit disappointed to learn that you could neither swim nor camp here but considering this is where everyone gets their drinking water from it was fair enough. It was my initial plan to not stay in any formal campsites but my hygiene situation was such that I decided to relent tonight. I’d only had a sea dip since i’d been here and I was starting to find myself a bit unpleasant!

Lofoten islands 2017

The campsite fee turned out to be the equivalent of £13 which in effect was what a shower was costing me. Annoyingly there was a ‘pub’ but of course like most things here, it wasn’t open. At least it stopped me spending £10 on a pint of lager!

Day 6 – Going home

Up at 05.30, I had my usual porridge and coffee before quickly packing up my stuff for the trip home. I was at the ferry in plenty of time, indeed I was second on the boat for the trip back.

Lofoten islands 2017

The ferry trip was uneventful (I slept some of it), as were the flights. I spent a bit more time in Bodø than on the way here but it didn’t strike me as all that exciting (sorry if I missed the good bits).

Summary

Well, firstly, I really can’t recommend the Lofoten Islands enough. World class, breath-taking scenery in every direction! Going in late May before the ‘summer season’ started did mean that it was still pretty chilly even on the sunny days and that very little was open.

It’s possibly worth noting that I didn’t really go very far (in terms of miles) on this trip, partly because I was walking with a 16-18kg rucksack at all times. I made a decision before I came that I wasn’t going to bother with the infrequent bus service. It did limit me, but I can’t say I regret it as it was all awesome more or less all the time where I was.

I’m also fairly happy with managing to keep costs to a minimum. I did end up having a few cafe visits but this was OK for me. I actually came back with some food so i feel pretty good about how much I packed. I wasn’t in any danger of going hungry on this trip!

If it had rained for days on end I think it could have been quite grim, considering I was living as a hobo. If you had a car, you could at least go for a drive or go somewhere that has things to do but car hire is quite pricey and it is harder to wild camp.

In short, don’t delay, just book your tickets now! It is a must-see place.

Appendix 1

You can get some pretty tasty dehydrated expedition food these days, however, they are also mostly quite expensive, i.e. £5-6 a meal. This really adds up over the course of a week so I decided to make some of my own.

My food list for the week:

Porridge
100g porridge oats
15g milk powder
2 teaspoon Sugar
1 dessert spoon of sultanas
1 teaspoon peanut butter

Add twice the volume of boiling water, stir, wait 7 mins, stir again and eat.
I keep the porridge in a platic food bag and use a large mug to keep it in shape. No washing up!

Bulgar wheat surprise
100g Bulgar wheat (mine has some quinoa in it)
40g of roughly ground lentils (they take too long to cook if whole)
half a stock cube
dash of chilli sauce

Add twice the volume of boiling water, stir, wait 20 mins, stir several times. I again use a food bag and a mug for stability. Nothing to wash up. [Note: I found this filling but quite bland, next time I plan to add a spoonful of curry paste]

Wed 24
Breakfast: on plane
Lunch: Oslo airport
Dinner: Bagels and peanut butter
Snacks: Crimble macaroon x 2, Snickers bar
Thur 25
Breakfast: Porridge
Lunch: Bagels and peanut butter
Dinner: Bulgar wheat, lentils and pepperami
Snacks: Crimble macaroon x 2, Snickers bar
Fri 26
Breakfast: Porridge
Lunch: Malt loaf
Dinner: Bulgar wheat, lentils and pepperami
Snacks: Crimble macaroon x 2, Huel bar
Sat 27
Breakfast: Porridge
Lunch: Malt loaf
Dinner: Bulgar wheat, lentils and pepperami
Snacks: Crimble macaroon x 2, Huel bar
Sun 28
Breakfast: Porridge
Lunch: Malt loaf
Dinner: Bulgar wheat, lentils and pepperami
Snacks: Flapjack bar, huel bar
Mon 29
Breakfast: Porridge
Lunch: Moskenes/Bodo
Dinner: Oslo airport
Snacks: Huel bar