Scandinavia with a child and a van - Svartisen Glacier, Arctic Circle, LofotenPosted on August 14, 2023 • 13 min read • 2,622 words
After we arrived in Norway yesterday at the campsite in Røssvoll, our journey through the north continues here.
The next morning the sun is shining again and at 7:30 a.m. we are sitting outside having breakfast in our T-shirts. Who would have thought that you could have such excellent weather so close to the Arctic Circle.
We really liked the campsite here. The pitches are all arranged in an oval around the playground. So we sent the little one running around again while we were able to comfortably finish breakfast.
Today we want to spontaneously visit a glacier again. We did something similar last year in Norway at Nigardsbreen. We had already seen the Svartisen Glacier in a few YouTube videos beforehand, but we really did not realize that we would also pass here. So after breakfast we set off through Røsvolldal to the dock of the Svartisen Rana boat. This boat shortens the hike to Svartisen Glacier from 7km to 3km and currently runs at 10am, 12pm and 2pm. You should check the current timetable again in the morning of the planned day. The times can change frequently due to weather and season. The crossing then takes around 10 minutes and the return journeys take place at 12:15, 2:15 and 5:15 p.m. Since the forecast for the afternoon has rain and thunderstorms, we plan our outward journey at 12 p.m. and the return journey at 2:15 p.m. A good 2 hours for two times three kilometers sounds like a good plan, even with our little one in the carrier.
The drive through the very long and wide valley in front of the glacier takes quite a long time from our campsite and we only arrive at the pier shortly before 11 a.m. We pass the remaining hour until departure with some cookies for lunch and some fun and games for the little one. When the time finally comes, she really enjoys boating again and is excited about the hike to the glacier.
Knowing that time is short, we set a brisk pace for the climb over the smooth rocks. Pretty soon we have left the older passengers from our boat behind us and are following a second couple who are traveling with a baby.
Since we want to hurry, we postpone some photo and video stops until we return and move quickly over the rocks. It is definitely tiring with our luggage. So here are just a few views from the way there, because we cannot miss a photo stop or two in this impressive landscape.
After three kilometers we arrive at a small refuge from which you can go even closer to the glacier. From here you already have a great view of the Svartisen. Nevertheless, we try to get closer to the ice across the terrain. The path is now only poorly marked as the icy wind blows down from the glacier towards us. We cannot really get any further here and instead return to the refuge. After our haste, a short break should definitely be in order.
So we unpack our bread and enjoy the view of the glacier from the wind-protected benches with our little one. She is very excited about the amount of ice and water in the glacier river. … until I look at my watch and realize with horror that it is already 1:40 p.m.
Do you remember the scheduled departure times of our boat? - Exactly! 2:15 p.m. and 5:15 p.m.
So our boat is already leaving in 35 minutes and it took us about 1 hour and 10 minutes to get here. The hectic pace is now correspondingly greater. We pack everything up in no time, put the little one back in the carrying frame with a few slices of bread to satisfy us and off we go. We go back the way at a real rush. Whenever possible, we sometimes resort to running instead of walking. All the sport and trail runs finally pay off in practice. At least we gain some time back (which we of course immediately use for equally hectic photo stops). After all, we skipped it on the way out because we assumed having enough time on the way back.
When the lake where the boat is supposed to wait for us comes into view again, we can see on the horizon that the boat has already left the parking lot. Since the crossing only takes about 10 minutes, we have less than 10 minutes left for the last kilometer.
We hurry down the mountain — the little one squeaks happily from the somewhat wild tour in the carrier — and we reach the pier about a minute before our boat.
The other couple with the baby had probably left earlier and greeted us with: “Oh, we didn’t think you’d make it in time!” A little trail running experience pays off. Checking the clock earlier would certainly have helped, too.
While the boat takes us back to the parking lot, we look back towards the glacier. The gloomy rain and storm clouds that the weather forecast had predicted are actually gathering there. We also overtook the older gentlemen who we had overtaken earlier on the way back. They did not make it in time for the return journey at 2:15 p.m. and will now have to endure this weather for better or for worse.
Just as we arrived back at the parking lot and put our luggage away, it started to drizzle. A little later, as we are resting in the car, drinking coffee and the little one is playing on the bed, a rain comes down that is similar to the storm from the beginning of our trip. You can only feel sorry for the poor hikers who are still at the glacier and have received this rain. But maybe they should have just read the weather report, we definitely wanted to go back on this earlier boat for a reason.
At this point I have to add an anecdote. I did not know beforehand that this would have meaning again during the course of the trip. In the morning in Røssvoll at the campsite we noticed the rented motorhome from Freudenstadt. Family with 3 children. They had just finished their breakfast when we set off with Dumbo.
They arrived at the parking lot at Svartisen before our boat left. But the people of Freudenstadt skipped the boat and instead started the 3-4km walk to the other side of the lake. As we rushed back from the glacier to catch our return journey, they came straight towards us. So they ran completely into the rain.
As we recover in our Dumbo and watch the rain, we realize: They left their roof window wide open — and it is pouring rain here. But what can you do? The motorhome is of course locked and the strange group is about 7km away from us on the glacier itself getting completely soaked… Someone probably needs to practice camping and reading the weather report again.
After this exciting hike we continued on to the Arctic Circle Center. After the excitement, our little one fell asleep straight away and so the afternoon was very quiet again during a rainy car ride. On the way we see reindeer again at the entrance to the Saltfjell plateau. Unfortunately, we cannot take photos of them in the heavy rain. Luckily you have already seen them in Sweden on Vildmarksvägen.
The Arctic Circle Center is a great tourist attraction and offers all sorts of souvenirs. The Arctic Circle describes the latitude on Earth from which there is a polar day and a polar night at least once a year. So at least one day without sunset or sunrise. The exact position changes a little over time. Nevertheless, from here we have arrived in the true north.
There is also a bistro here where we once again have typical coffee and waffles. However, the dinner offered here is too expensive for us. Here it is enough for today and we spend the night directly in the center’s parking lot. Not a special view, but with the rain that does not matter.
Ok ok… There is still something to see. While we are preparing our dinner, a borrowed German motorhome pulls up opposite to us. Yes, from Freudenstadt. We are then somewhat surprised when the family gets out of the motorhome with dry hair and no splash of water comes towards us when they open the doors.
The next morning we got up early and took a few more photos together at the Arctic Circle. Who knows when we will be able to get here again and whether our little one would still believe us in 10 years without photo evidence. Of course we also take a few souvenirs with us.
The journey then continues through Saltfjell and along several nature reserves. We urgently need a refueling stop. The journey up here to almost 700m gave our Dumbo a lot of trouble.
At the next gas station along the route we happened to find the Nordland Besøkscenter. This is the visitor center for the nine national parks in northern Norway.
So this is once again an unplanned cultural stop. There is an exhibition of the typical Sami huts and their culture.
The Sami huts consist of thin tree trunks placed against each other and covered with bark, peat and then grass. There is usually a fireplace in the middle and so the dwelling served as accommodation for both humans and animals.
There are also smaller huts that were set up on free-standing wooden posts and were accessible via a simple ladder. Food supplies were stored here for longer periods of time. The huts were constructed as treehouses to protect supplies from wild animals. You never see them here in everyday life, but at least there are bears here too.
By the way, grass is dried into hay in the wind here, just like in the Faroe Islands. In the visitor center museum, the exhibition explains even more information about the history of the Sami people.
But we do not stay here for long and set off again after a short lunch. We want to go to Bodø today so that we can take the ferry to Lofoten tomorrow morning.
When I turn on the navigation system for Bodø, the scheduled arrival is at 2:58 p.m. We were not planning on taking the ferry until tomorrow, but there is another one at 3 p.m. So do not hesitate, just rush to Bodø. Despite the construction site and the slow speed limits in Norway, we arrive at the ferry port at 3:05 p.m. Just as we arrive, the first motorhomes are sent back into the queue for the next ferry. Unfortunately, there is no longer any room for tall cars on the current one. Unfortunately, the next ferry does not leave until 6:45 p.m., which is actually way too late for our dinner and arrival in Lofoten at 10 p.m. We decide to wait anyway, after all we are now quite far at the front of the queue and who knows whether things would be different tomorrow morning for the ferry at 7 a.m. and we would not have to wait in line for more than 3 hours again.
And as I write these lines, we are standing in line for the next ferry and drinking coffee. See you later.
Moment! I promised it would still play a role. While we wait here, a borrowed German motorhome pulls up on the track for reserved places on the ferry. Yep, the people of Freudenstadt have also arrived here. They just obviously reserved a spot for the ferry. I cannot tell whether that is smart or not. Depending on the time and crowd, this can be an advantage. Apparently not all of the mobile homes that arrived spontaneously made it on the last trip due to a lack of space for taller vehicles. And when we are finally allowed on the ferry, we are one of the last cars that can still get on the ferry. We were, so to speak, first in line after the rest of the previous ferry. If you want to have a safe crossing, you should probably book in advance during the high season.
As always, the view from the ferry with the low sun near sunset leaves nothing to be desired. Both looking backwards towards Bodø…
… as well as towards the Lofoten the landscape is impressive.
However, the ferry ride is not as child-friendly as we had hoped. The playground according to the timetable does exist, but there is only one game board, which is broken. So our little one misses her promised playground for the next 3 hours 15 minutes, which cannot be forgotten even with favorite books and crayons. We walked around the ferry a lot, climbed the stairs and practiced acrobatics on the benches. Hopefully the little one will be tired enough for our search for a parking space after arriving around 10 a.m. and will fall asleep straight away…
Somehow this theory of exhausted children who are dead tired and immediately fall asleep is never true for us. This makes finding a parking space more difficult than expected. There were definitely other motorhomes on the ferry with us — yes, I have no idea how many actually. Like us, they all arrived in Lofoten at 10 o’clock in the evening. Apparently they are also looking for a place to stay overnight. It took us about 20 minutes to find a somewhat usable parking space. Ironically, it actually has a really good view!
So while Anne puts the little one to bed, I go for a short walk along the street to take the first photos.
The next morning it is time to sleep in, after all the evening was long enough. After a leisurely breakfast, we can finally admire in peace where we have arrived. From above it is easy to see how the roads wind over bridges between the small, rugged islands and every flat spot has been used for development.
Afterwards we leisurely make our way to Å. This is probably not only the place with the shortest name in the world (or are there places without names?), but also the westernmost point in the Lofoten. The ferry arrives a little further east and of course we want to explore the Lofoten completely from west to east.
When we arrive in Å, we first get something to eat in the museum cafe. If you are already in a fishing village, then it is about time I finally tried a salmon roll. For some reason I have not eaten it yet.
Afterwards we take a walk through the town between the great red fishing huts and enjoy the sun without all the other tourists. Because while it was really crowded on the street, it is now almost empty here. Maybe it is simply because the ferry from the mainland arrives three times a day and brings a horde of fresh tourists ashore. At 11:30 a.m. the last ferry was a while ago and the flow of people had already ebbed.
On the way here we were already wondering why the stockfish museum here in Å (pictured above) is also signposted in Italian. After all, all other names are only given in Norwegian (or German, greetings other campervans) and Italy is not around the corner from the Lofoten Islands. However, we later learned that stockfish is a huge export hit to Italy - who would have known that?