Those last days on Moskenesøya passed by in a blur. Up and down the stairways of heaven I went, pushing every muscle, ligament, and tendon in my legs to their very limits. More mountains, more ferries, more freedom and air and life for my thoughts: friluftsliv for mine tanker, in the words of Henrik Ibsen. I wanted to disconnect, to feel a genuine calm, to find inner tranquility in the wilderness, to get to know another me.
Of course, on a banal level, I also wanted to see everything there was to see, to unburden myself of any questions, doubts, or regrets by the end of my eleven days in Northern Norway. Reinebringen was the most famous climb in these parts of Lofoten, albeit a challenging one with steep inclines and trodden trails. Having found a secluded spot on the quiet end of Reine’s promontory, away from the eyes of any potential pillagers, I pitched my tent and left everything heavy behind.
A hole through some thick bushes and brushwood on the side of the motorway unceremoniously marked the beginning of the summit. The trail was unreliable at parts, soft and congested from what I assume must have been the rain. It wasn’t long before my arms and legs were painted with strips of mud. After a good hour of marching to the sound of my own labored breathing, I emerged from the backside of the massif to a view not even pictures could have prepared me for.
There I stood, suspended between realms, at the frontier where the lands of men end and the lands of gods and giants begin.
In the distance, thorny peaks jutted into the air and formed a barbed and foreboding gateway. Below me, caught in the open palm of the mountains, the black waters of Reinevatnet stared up like a gaping vortex to a glassy Niflheim. Further down was the mosaic of man. Flecks of fishing villages decorated a garland of islands: Reine was the centerpiece, connected to the tiny rock of Sakrisøy with its distinctive flaxen-colored cottages, and Hamnøy was the clasp that fastened it all to the land. Here was the cosmos in miniature, and I was watching over all of it…
On my penultimate trip, I forded the Kirkefjord again, this time in the direction of a village called Vindstad on my way to Bunes, another picturesque and remote beach facing the open Norwegian Sea. Unlike the journey to Horseid Beach with Tomáš, the firmament that day was clear, and the fjord was an inviting Caribbean blue.
I felt good then, stepping onto the pier of this ghost village in the remote Arctic. Maybe it was simply the call of the wild: this romantic, kitsch notion of rediscovering our roots, of permitting ourselves to be vulnerable to circumstance, of uncovering our truest identities and feelings. In these faraway places, cut off from everything we fill our lives with—clothes, opinions, sex, indulgence, stimuli—we’re fully free to explore the crags of our inner cerebra. We learn to be fine on our own. We learn to face the fear of being alone.
Or maybe it’s bullshit, because here in Vindstad was another village I had thought to be completely abandoned, only to discover an old woman selling waffles with marmalade and whipped cream. Not that I wasn’t thankful: I dropped some kroner and sat down to pad my stomach before starting toward the low pass over the fells.
Arriving at the flat sands of Bunes, I veered right toward the looming wall of “Hell’s Peak” Helvetestinden and followed the blue trail markers up the mountainside, where wild blueberries grew rampant and called out to be plucked and savored. Each handful exploded into a flavorful burst of sweetness and tart in my mouth, and soon my fingers and lips were stained in a spectrum of blue and violet. I had deviated from the trail in search of more bushes when it suddenly dawned on me that, after a full week in Lofoten, I wasn’t actually following blue trail markers—they were streaks of animal droppings which had lost their shape in the rain. I buried my shame next to a fresh clump and pushed on.
Near the top of the peak, a speck of orange caught my eye. It was something I had never seen before: a young cloudberry, or multe, as the Norwegians called them up here in the north. The majority of them had no doubt been eaten by previous hikers, but this one, no larger than the size of my fingertips, had been overlooked. I like to think that it had been waiting for me to find it.
Upon returning from Bunes, I made one more pass through the supermarket in Reine, my base camp for the last few days. I picked up some packs of unsalted stockfish and smoked reindeer sausage—two traditional foods of Northern Norway—and I returned south, retracing my steps along the European Route 10, direction Moskenes. I didn’t chance upon another fellow traveler like I did on the way up, but that was alright, for I had found a lightness in the solitude, similar to the serenity felt after a long and hard bawl.
On my final full day in Lofoten, I made the trek to Munkebu, the mountain cottage where Allison headed after we first parted ways in Moskenes at the beginning of my trip. I imagined the excitement of running into her again, eleven days later, and sharing the stories and adventures we both experienced on the road. But she must have been somewhere up in Ramberg by now, several days’ journey away. Looking out over a vista of two humble huts surrounded by infinite nature, I wondered about the chances of her and Tomáš crossing paths.
I’ll forever treasure these moments from Moskenesøya. They belong in the chamber of my heart reserved only for the fondest of memories, like an ex-lover who no longer has a place in my life but the thought of whom still makes me flutter whenever I think of us together. There is no bitterness here, only bliss. In place of life’s troubles, I recall only joy. “If you’re up North, then you have more than one ferry to lose.”
« E du nord i landet da har du meir enn en ferge å miste. » —Kari Bremnes
2 replies on “Moskenesøya: Mountains, Fjords, and Cloudberries”
Wow really pretty photos !!
Thanks Jeremy! It’s really a photographer’s heaven up there 🙂
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