Norway is a land of contrasts. The country is long and narrow and one third of it is above the polar circle. Nature is raw and the density of population is low. You can really be into the wild, without seeing any human being or construction. Wandering slowly from South to North you can really embrace all its diversity.
Inland, in the south, at the end of May you find high mountains still excessively covered with snow to be hiked, national parks with forests and giant glaciers. In the west, the fjords cut the coast. The sea has a peculiar color, such a deep dark blue I haven’t seen before. And everyday, you take a boat ride or two to cross the fjords, because that’s where the road goes. Just above the Arctic circle, the Lofoten archipelago is one of the most charming place I’ve ever been. Those islands are like jagged mountain peaks, emerging from the sea.
The road to Nordkapp is difficult, a really winding mountain road. The last kilometers seem interminable, and I am torn apart. I want to be there as fast as I can, so excited to finally reach my goal. But at the same time, being finally to Nordkapp means starting to go back home, the beginning of the end. My heart is beating faster as I’m getting closer.
I am entering the site, I am parking the van. At the beginning of summer, it was close to zero degrees, snowing all around. I am covering up with all the warm clothes I have and I am jumping out. The northernmost point of Europe is symbolised by a big globe statue, at the end of the cliff. I am trying to walk towards it, but I can’t. I have to run. I am running and laughing at the same time. So unreal, like a dream. And when I finally reach the very end of the cliff, against the barrier, with just the sea in front of me, I burst into tears. I am at the end of the world. I don’t care about all the tourists from giant buses staring at me. I’m crying out loud. «I did it!».
I think I have never been that happy. Ever. And my second thought was «well, now I can do anything I want».
As you drive, landscapes are changing fast. You emerge from a tunnel and you just can’t hold your surprise. You have just left a green forest on the otherside, and now you find only snow and frozen lakes in front of your eyes. There is no transition, it is always brutal and extreme. You can have mountains on your left, the sea on your right, and just a tiny road in between.
The weather also changes in an instant. Even the same place can appear so different. I’ve seen the Lofoten islands twice. The first time it was raining and snowing: I couldn’t see anything because the constant fog, the wind was making the van pitch, the books were always crinkled, my feets always frozen. I’ve barely seen anyone. It was hostile, cold and grey. Less than three weeks later, after deciding not to leave without seeing the heaven on earth it was supposed to be, I went back. And it was now thirty degrees and sunny. I spent days on the beach, reading and diving into the clear blue sea. It was finally summer, people were out. I could not recognize the places I’d been a few days before.
Nature is everywhere, preserved. When you are thirsty, you just plunge your empty bottle into a river and drink it. Nature is so alive. If you sit for a while and really pay attention, so many things happen right in front of you: the constant ballet of the birds feeding their howling babies, the sea otters stuffing themselves with fish, the porpoises swimming up the fjord, the sea eagles fighting, the migration of spermwhales.
You feel overwhelmed by nature and its mightiness. The eternal landscape, life flowing carelessness and constantly, the never-ending days: below the polar circle, the night was just a brief dusk. Above it, there was no darkness anymore, it was broad daylight all day long. I haven’t seen the night for a month and a half. Every evening, as I was looking for a place to spend the night, I was parking the van so the sun would warm me up when I sleep.
I was not closing the curtains anymore. If you don’t look at your watch, you never know what time it is. You are never tired, the constant light misleads your regular rhythm and gives you more energy. So you just let yourself live more naturally, listening to your needs. There was no time constraint, no obligation. No fear to be alone, no need to park before dark. The constant light amplifies your feeling of total freedom.
How is it like to sit alone for kilometers on an old with van going towards the end of Europe: next chapter “Driving” coming soon.
Words. Agathe Monnot
Photo. Agathe Monnot