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

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How to winter bivvy on a budget

The last two years i’ve enjoyed going on campouts throughout the winter. In the UK this rarely gets too extreme (sub-zero temps are rare) but it is undoubtedly a very different undertaking for someone who has only tried a summer microadventure.

frosty leaf

The obvious answer to this is to pony up and invest in some decent winter kit. A three or four season sleeping bag and maybe an arctic puffa jacket. The trouble is a decent down sleeping bag will set you back several hundred pounds at least. One of the things i truly love about microadventures are that they are pretty inclusive and expressly don’t require a major financial outlay. What to do then?

I have some thoughts on how to stay cozy on those cold cold nights without breaking the bank. I’ve assumed here that someone owns at least a bivvy bag, a sleeping mat and a summer sleeping bag.

Sleeping bag solutions
Ok, so a 1-2 season bag isn’t going to cut it in the winter months. How about buying (or borrowing) a second 1-2 season bag and put one inside the other? Decathlon (one of my favourite shops) do a 2 season synthetic bag for £30.

If you don’t quite want to lay out for (or have to store) another sleeping bag but need a bit ‘extra’, how about a sleeping bag liner. Silk is ideal but expensive so why not try a micro fleece for £15?

Boxhill awesome Campout

Sleeping mats
Some kind of insulating mat is a good idea even in summer months but on frozen ground it’s a good idea to double up (or is that down?). Foam roll mats are relatively cheap but if you want to maximise your ‘bang for your buck’ try something like this aluminium backed roll from Amazon for only £5.70.

Insulating yourself from the ground will make a huge difference in winter.

Hot water bottle
A few pounds will buy yourself a hot waterbottle that you can fill from a stove just before bed. It won’t last all night but it will start you off toasty. You can also get some chemical heaters that may make a useful contribution.

Shorne Woods Country Park

Pack on the layers
I’ve heard quite a few times how not wearing much to bed somehow makes you warmer. The basic laws of thermodynamics refute this i think. In a frosty situation wear many layers, even your coat if you have to. In the morning you can get up and move around to stay warm.

Get some extra socks to go over your normal socks. If you have a spare jumper or coat, put it down the bottom of your bag to keep those toes toasty.

WEAR A WOOLLY HAT, a scarf (or a buff) and some light gloves if need be. If you have a hoody pull it up. The neck and head areas lose a lot of heat otherwise.

Don’t breathe in your sleeping bag
I realise that this is a tough one but try to keep at least your mouth and nose exposed to the air. One of the enemies of warmth is being wet and breathing inside your sleeping bag may keep it damp.

You’ll need the BIG rucksack
Quite a few of the tips i’ve suggested here will add considerable bulk to your microadventure kit – 2 sleeping bags, 2 roll mats, extra clothes, a stove etc.

There is an old trope – light/small, effective, cheap – pick two. In this case i’m suggesting we go for effective and cheap.

Good luck microadventurers! If you have any of your own tips, let me know. 

Boxhill awesome Campout

Microadventure: Bath Skyline

I’m lucky in that my job occasionally takes me around the country (and sometimes even abroad). So when I had a speaking engagement booked in Bristol it was obvious to see if I could squeeze in a #microadventure.

Bath microadventure

My adventure friend Emma is lucky enough to live in Bath (conveniently close to Bristol) and was kind enough to scout a few locations for us. By the time I arrived though, lady luck did initially look a bit against us. It was raining steadily and all the pubs were completely full due to the Bath vs Bristol Rugby match. After a swift half and a gastro pub dinner (we are classy microadventurers!) we were on our way climbing up the steep atmospheric streets of Bath.

Bath microadventure

I like to think that I’m not overly superstitious but when crossing a field our head torches caught what seemed like a thousand devil eyed creatures charging towards us. Don’t panic, it wasn’t devils, it was cows but they were definitely running our way which is worrying enough. I did my usual tactic when confronted by cows which is to stand my ground and wait for them to stop. They stopped. Big sigh of relief all round.

Bath microadventure

We made the skyline and were able to find a mostly convenient spot away from the path with some trees to rig a tarp. At least by now the rain had stopped and there were even a few stars about. As well as a shelter the (camouflaged) tarp also made us very tricky to spot. The night was cold but it was dry and I was warm enough in my sleeping bag plus a few more layers.

Bath microadventure

The morning was bitter cold but a warming cup of coffee and a bit of malt loaf did the trick of reviving us enough to get going.

16 campouts in 2016
Instead of just coffee I had been tempted to bring some booze as this was my 16th campout of the year and the target that I set myself in January. In just over a year I’ve gone from someone who had never slept outdoors without at least a tent to what feels like a microadventure veteran.

The question did arise as to what I should do next year – 17 challenges in 2017. Some early thoughts:

What was definitely a wonderful bit of luck was the amazing sunrise over a frosty field that welcomed our walk back into Bath. About five minutes after this it started raining. Every gorgeous sunrise just fills my heart with joy and makes it sing.

Bath microadventure

Bath microadventure

Bath microadventure

Bath microadventure

A fantastic night out to complete this challenge. I’m sure i’ll be doing more campouts but I’m sure I won’t be keeping score from now on.

A huge thanks to Emma who was such a great adventure companion!

Tour de Turret – The plan

A couple of months ago I did a 2-day cycle (and campout) to Ditchling Beacon and back with the awesome Fiona Quinn. It was something that i’d not done before and the total of 110 miles felt like quite an achievement for me. But of course, when you break through one barrier, you need to line up the next one.

One bike, four days – where to go?
At the end of my two day trip I was very very tired and the prospect of doing another day on top seemed pretty daunting. So obviously I’ve set myself the goal of doing a four day cycle this time. It scares the hell out of me and there is a real jeopardy of not finishing. However, it is this very fear that will make  this trip worthwhile. Please let this statement be true!

With my current levels of bike fitness (just infrequent commuting into town) I didn’t want to push my mileage too much. I figure, therefore, that 50 miles a day is challenging but doable. The next question is where to go to and from? I very much like the idea of cycling home so if London is the destination where is 200 miles away? My answer is Nottingham!

A Theme?
Very much inspired by the wonderful adventure themes of Helen Proudfoot (Ham sandwich, Wellington Boot and Sauce to sauce) I was keen to do or visit something memorable. I am quite happy to be gimmicky!

I like a bit of history and in particular I quite like to visit castles. Call it a weakness if you like. So if I started in Nottingham, how many castles can I visit on the way? The answer is less than I imagined (most castles are in ‘trouble’ border areas or the coast). If I dodge about the midlands and squeeze in Windsor it looks like I can get in eleven castles. It also helps if I extend my definition to include folly’s, fakes, towers, fortified farms and in Nottingham’s case just being on the site of an iconic castle. The goal is therefore:

Nottingham Castle
Elvaston Castle
Ashby de la Zouche Castle
Tamworth Castle
Maxstoke Castle
Kenilworth Castle
Warwick Castle
Broughton Castle
Boarstall Tower
Windsor castle
Tower of London

I wanted a cool name to go with this trip (obvs). My ideas included ‘Battlement bike-ride’ and ‘Crenelation cycle’. It took the wonderful Helen to come up with ‘Tour de Turret’ which I think we can all agree is the winner!

I’ve booked a train up to Nottingham and given myself four clear days to cycle back to London. It’s now or never. Here goes.

tower-of-london-aerial-view-132125153

Microadventure: Happy Valley

This is almost pure microadventuring for me: arrive late and leave very early. It was a campout organised by Laura M on behalf of the YesTribe. I put the kids to bed and by the time i got in the south croydon area that ‘happy valley’ is in it was already dark.

Happy valley camp

From the bus stop I had to make my way down some dark paths, through a remote car park (please god let this not be dogging night) and finally into the valley itself. For some reason I thought it would be fun to try and not use a torch (there was a little moonlight). Fifteen minutes of stumbling later I found the spot we’d agreed on but where was everyone? Was that a feint light of a head-torch through the trees? I crept through (ahem, crashed through) the undergrowth till I found my buddies. I was ‘home’.

We sat round in almost a circle, ate cake, biscuits and crisps and told a few stories by torchlight. I love this!

It had rained earlier so the ground was a bit damp and teeming with beetles and other creepy crawlies. In the night I was viciously mauled by a couple of slugs. By which I mean they crawled (or fell) on me and i picked them off.

Campout at dawn

We got up, packed up and were on our way more or less at first light. And what wonderful light!

Sunrise on one side, noon on the other. Perfect.

Fab morning after a lovely campout in Happy Valley

The walk back to Coulsden station over Farthing down was fantastic. This makes it all worthwhile.

This was my 13th campout as part of my #16in16  project. Not many to go now….

Microadventure: Hadleigh Castle 2016

Nearly (but not quite) a year since my first ever bivvy under the stars I found myself back at the wonderful Hadleigh Castle with a mostly new bunch of YesTribers.

Hadleigh Castle 2016

It is amazing how much has changed in the last year. I certainly remember how nervous I was last time, both of meeting a new set of people but also of sleeping out, exposed to the elements and to potential ne’er-do-wells. Now I feel a relatively seasoned microadventurer or at least experienced enough to be giving advice, lending gear and, of course, leading my own campouts.

#microadventure in a castle!

It was a nice change though to not be leading this one and I could take it easy a bit and just enjoy it. The weather looked quite threatening for most of the evening but apart from a few drops we were pretty lucky and it stayed dry.

Hadleigh Castle 2016

Hadleigh Castle 2016

Hadleigh Castle 2016

I even managed to meet up with my friend Sophia, who lives in Leigh over a wonderful breakfast.

Love this place and I’m sure i’ll be coming back again soon. This was my 12th campout of the year as part of my #16in16 project. Only four to go!

Microadventure: SUP the River Cam

It is good every now and again to try something new. If it also scares you a bit all the better right? Well on that slightly iffy principle I signed up to have a go at Stand Up Paddle-boarding (SUP). The sensible thing would have been to have had a few lessons and then planned an adventure. I skipped phase one of that plan and went straight for an expedition.

SUP the Cam

My friend Fiona had already completed the first two parts of her ‘Cam Triathlon’ project (walk and cycle the River Cam) and the SUP was the third and final leg. It was all a bit of a major faff on the logistics side but Fiona managed to organise the hire of some boards and was kind enough to give me a lift there too.

SUP the Cam

So there I was, without any training and only some useful hints from my friends, pushing the board out into the river and I was away. I have to confess that it all felt fairly wobbly and unstable and I was well out of my comfort zone. I did what I often do in these situations and do my best to fake confidence and competence as best I can. Not sure it particularly worked but you have to try!

SUP the Cam

We ambled along on a gorgeous day with loads of people out by the riverbank enjoying the sunshine and opportunity to swim, punt or kayak. I found going at a gentle pace on a calm river to be fairly ok. The excitement levels rose the nearer to Cambridge we got as the number of boats became quite an issue. It was a lot like dodgems and in its own way, quite exciting! So exciting that at one point I fell in. I can’t even blame anyone else, I just lost my balance. If you are going to get a soaking I do recommend that it is on a really hot day when it feels quite refreshing.

SUP the Cam

After we were through Cambridge it dawned on me that we’d really not gone that far and we needed to get down to some hard paddling! This is where I found that pootling along was fun but clocking up the miles was distinctly tougher. I never really got the hang of going in much of a straight line, it was essentially veer one way for a few strokes, change hands on the paddle and veer back again.

We were in the very interesting position of having more people than boards so when we got to the 10 mile mark I was a bit relieved to have someone take over my board for the last bit.

SUP the Cam

Tired but very happy we bivvy’d by the river in the grounds of a pub. This was my 11th campout of 2016 as part of my #16in16 project.

Clearly it was a bit ambitious to sign up to two days of paddle boarding with absolutely no experience or any training. I am a bit disappointed with myself, however, that I didn’t push it a bit more though. On the positive side, I did manage to paddle ten miles which can’t be too bad?

Would I try Stand-up Paddleboarding again? Probably, though it would be good to get some actual lessons on technique. On balance (literally) I think I’m a lot more in favour of kayaking. It seems more efficient and stable a way to travel on water. Time will tell.

SUP the Cam