From day one In Vesterålen it’s been go go go. I was expecting lots of free time while volunteering here but we’ve been kept busy in a very good way, doing plenty of outdoor activities and also hanging out with the other volunteers so I’ve become very far behind on my blog posts! It’s now time for us to move on from Bø, Vesterålen and head to our next volunteering position in the Lofoten Islands so I thought I’d do a round up of our favourite memories from life in the arctic, part two!
One of my absolute favourite things about winter here has been watching the magical northern lights. Some nights I’d go out to the fjord on my own, walking through the deep snow and sitting beside the frozen sea as the sky went wild above me. On one particularly active night the sky was filled with aurora in all directions, I couldn’t even work out the best place to put my camera as I had green balls bouncing around me, and green and purple lines projecting across the sky like the trail from a wizards wand. I spent an hour outside in -10 degrees and when I walked home I realised all my hair was crispy and had frozen!
The aurora season finished quite abruptly though, with a lot of snow storms clouding up the skies and less darkness meaning we’d have to be awake at stupid hours to see them. I think it’s probably a good thing as one drunken night our host started telling us ghost stories about the village, in particular about a couple of sisters who lived in the volunteer house. I love ghost stories unless it’s in a place where I live, so suddenly I felt very uncomfortable walking in the darkness on my own. Before I was just afraid of bumping into a moose, then it was a fear of witnessing the sisters, one of which was deaf and missing a leg, and the other was blind!
We’ve tried a lot of new things in our spare time here, like sea kayaking on the glassy sea with snowy islands and mountains all around us, canoeing in strong winds to a frozen fjord where we casually sipped coffee beside the ice, kick sledding on the largest lake in Vesterålen, helping on the eagle safari trips and jumping into piles of fresh snow after cooking in a sauna.
Craig was taught how to drive a boat and took all of us volunteers on a fun trip out to the fjord where we tried deep sea fishing. It was very exciting, and even though I don’t eat fish, it was nice to provide dinner for everyone else. Most people were catching cod, but the fish I caught didn’t look quite right. It’s stomach had totally expanded and protruded out of its mouth. Northern Norway was effected by the Chernobyl disaster so our friend declared that it must be a deformed Chernobyl fish – our host later informed us that it was because it was a deep sea fish and the difference in pressure caused this to happen! Occasionally our hooks got caught on the sea floor, 90m down in the complete darkness, so that made things a bit stressful, especially when the wind blew our boat the opposite direction to the rod! One time the rod began bending like someone was pulling back a catapult into the sea and Craig was shouting for someone to grab a knife to cut the line. It was all rather dramatic and the end of the rod was in the water when at the last second the line released and the knife wasn’t required, phew!
We also managed to dig a rowboat out of the snow and put it on the water. The village we were in was at the end of a road and home to only 25 people so at times we could feel a little trapped. But the rowboat was a great way to escape and paddle out to the fjord with a fishing line. We were surprised to catch four fish and get numerous bites. On our final evening we went out rowing and after only an hour a boat came straight for us. It was our host who told us to hop on board as he towed the row boat back to the house…It was good news though, our host wanted to take us all out for a farewell pizza, and when we go for pizza here, it means going on a super fast rib boat ride for 25 minutes across the fjord! It’s the coolest way to get to a restaurant as we all step inside wearing our big float suits looking like the locals. We did the same thing a few weeks back and when we headed out the weather was lovely, but on our return journey as the sun was going down we went straight into a snow storm. We were going super fast and it was getting dark so the front light was beaming out and shining onto all the snow which was spreading around us in white lines. Someone up front said it’s how they imagine the stars look as you shoot through space in a rocket.
There were days when it snowed really heavily so we’d make tracks in the hills behind our house for sledding which was so much fun. We had some really fast bends to navigate around and eventually one track would lead into another and we’d all be cheering for the person that made it the furthest. If we went back the next day the tracks would be frozen and we’d be in for a insanely fast trip down, heading straight for a precariously placed tree and watching the trunk whizz past our faces as we narrowly missed it.
When spring arrived the temperature suddenly bounced above zero and it was delightful. We even decided to jump into the arctic sea where the water was 2.5 degrees. It was a very quick run and jump, followed by us frantically pulling ourselves onto the jetty and Craig doing it with such enthusiasm that he almost kicked me in the face. We were expecting to have to run back to the house and jump straight in the shower but with the sunshine, no wind and 5 degrees it was actually nice and warm so we did the unthinkable and sunbathed on the jetty! That night we all went to a cabin beside the fjord for a bbq, we sat in t-shirts, basking in the sun with a beer in hand while our feet were in snow boots and resting on a thick slab of snow!
Two months have flown by but we plan on spending another winter in this wonderful place. Until then it’s time for us to catch a 6 hour bus to the Lofoten Islands.