We flew from Oslo to Trømso to meet up with Severin.
Well, a little misunderstanding brought us on a bus+ferry journey in the afternoon, passing through fjords and snowy landscapes to reach his place in Skjervøy and finally celebrate 8 years of friendship! The man greeted us with his famous “reindeer kebab” recipe. Skøl!
We caught up after all these years and drafted a plan for our road trip across Finnmark – the northern state of Norway.
Coastal landscapes of northern Norway
The next day, we took a stroll down the main street of Skjervøy. The first thing that hit us in the face was the overwhelming feeling of white. Snow is all over the place, roads, sidewalks, houses, there is not an inch that’s not covered by it. It’s much more powerful than the snow in a French ski resort or in Montreal during the winter. And people adjust! Cars have iron nails tires, people have sleds instead of bicycles to get groceries.
Once our mind got used to all that snow, we realized that the small island has very steep hills that keep human activities by the water. And like most small coastal towns, Skjervøy revolves around fishing and salmon farming. Severin was telling us that the processing plant and the harbor are really keeping the economy up.
We finally packed the car with some extra clothes, coffee, and Calvados to keep us warm and hit the road towards Alta, where we planned on spending the night at Knut and Anne Mette house.
Knut is a former colleague and friend of Severin. We tried his homemade Cod gratin, shared stories and played games. We also learned a thing or two about fish, cross country skiing and Norwegian culture.
The following day consisted of some more driving on the plateau of Kvalsund and along a pretty big fjord to reach Nordkapp – the most septrional point of Europe. It was a Sunday and people were out and about, driving snowmobiles or wind-skiing if you can call it that!
We stopped at a couple of fishing villages on the way and Severin worked his fisherman’s magic to get a full cod straight from the fishing boat. We learned about the dry cod which were hanging all over the houses. Unfortunately, not ready until spring they said..
However, Coddie, a wild cod who came back to lay eggs in the fjord, was almost 7kg and costed us barely 12euros. Severin cooked it at our Airbnb studio and got fresh fish for next 2 days!!!
To reach the most north cliff and claim our moment of fame, we had to follow a convoy that leaves twice a day, in the AM and in the evening. We went twice but our night session was the most interesting!
At 8.30pm, the weather was shit so we had to wait at the meeting point for a bit, and while practicing night shots outside of the car, I noticed the Northern Lights in the sky! Youpiiii! The clouds had cleared out a bit and we could see the green waves dancing above our heads! We were a bit caught by surprise for this first encounter but it was amazing!
The convoy started with a big snow truck at its head. Six other cars drove up the last 15km. The spot was quiet, strong winds were swiping the top of the cliff where the lookout stands. It’s rather cold and you hear the waves crashing against the rock but can’t see it. Every now and then a touch of bright green peaks out from behind the clouds and across the sky. It’s hard to describe but it’s impressive!
Our journey downhill and back to the town was hilarious and sketchy, to say the least. The storm was kicking, blasting snow in all directions. Even with the convoy, visibility was maybe 2-3meters at most. While Severin was sharing with us some local knowledge on winter driving such as: slow down but never stops us or you will get disoriented in a storm, only follow the red tubes that mark the road and not the other cars, don’t fall behind the convoy… it was like the others cars were trying to prove his points. One after the other, almost all cars in front of got in some type of trouble. We made it back eventually and had a good time commenting all the tourists bad driving skills while Severin was handling the wheel like a champ!
After a good night of sleep, we went back up to Nordkapp to see it in the day.
The weather was nice this time and the place definitely mighty! Quick facts about Nordkapp: it’s where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Barents Sea (part of the Arctic Ocean); it’s also 2,102km away from the North Pole.
Deep inside Finnmark
We left the coastal side of Norway to get inland where the tundra starts. It’s Sami country so we were looking to learn more about their culture and History. Karasjok and Kautokeino are two small towns several hours drive from Alta where the Sami culture still thrives.
Our first night was spent in a neat cabin near a frozen lake where Severin and I indulged ourselves in Calvados and Sauna.
We reached Karasjok the next morning but we got pretty unlucky with cultural tourism: both museums were closed and the local parliament was in council so we couldn’t visit that either. We still managed to spot raindeers and drove some 25km east to Finland trying to buy dried reindeer meat, a real delicacy if you listen to the locals. We managed to learn more about the Sami in Tromsø on our way back
Kautokeino got a bit more interesting.
We arrived pretty early so we spent some time at Jühl’s Jewelry and workshop. Their story is pretty rad and they built this custom house over time, adding levels as years went by, filling up rooms with collectibles from their travels. It is many things at once and it is marvelous.
I convinced the crew to go for one last hunting of the Northern Lights outside of the city. Severin had foreseen that the conditions would be better deep inland to see the phenomena rather than by the coasts where winds and clouds are constantly changing. And we got quite lucky again!
Severin also managed to take us to the Thon Hotel, voted one of the 10 best hotels in Norway, where his pal Knut (not the same that lives in Alta though) is the Director. We enjoyed the comfy rooms, great service, and outstanding breakfast! Thanks Knut!
On our last day, we drove back to Trømso through Finland and managed to find Ben, a super hospitable host on Couchsurfing who let us crash at his place for the night. We traded beers, pizza, and stories during that evening. Shame that we didn’t stay longer, the view from his place over the fjord might have been quite stunning during the day. Next time.
Norway was pretty rad.
Very different from everything we had seen this year. So big kudos to Severin for giving us such a Grand Tour, for your “fixing” skills, for the good times, the funny moments and the serious conversations. Thanks for taking us on this road trip, we won’t forget it! And thanks for stopping so many times at Circle K to refill your special “free coffee” cup. I’m gonna need one!