I had hoped that Bybus would be running their Adventure Tour to Hov, on Gimsoy. This takes you out to Hov, a remote part of the island of Gimsoy, which is supposed to be a great place to see the Northern Lights. They do storytelling in an amphitheatre and they have accommodation there, right beside the beach. They say you can see the Northern Lights from your bedroom window. But because Bybus didn’t have enough people to run the tour, I had to try and get there myself.
I was already in contact with Northern Lights Basecamp before I left for Norway, to arrange a night’s stay there and that was finalised before I left. We drove back the road we came on the bustour, as far as the turnoff for Stamsund and turned right towards Hov.You could see straight away the difference in the landscape on this island compared to any of the rest of Lofoten that I’d seen so far. It was a lot more isolated and remote. It’s very agricultural and pretty flat, with a few houses and farms dotted here and there. It reminded me lot of Ireland because of it’s remoteness and isolation.
Ten or fifteen minutes into the drive, we could feel strong gusts of wind on the car and by the time we got to Hov a snow storm had started up. Because the land was so flat, the wind had plenty of room to whip up mini snow tornadoes at eye level. The drifts of snow were covering the roads in parts and swirling around in front of us. The fields on either side of the road were blotted out in this dense cloud of snow. I love being in this kind of weather though. It’s so dramatic and you really see and feel the power of nature. I would have loved to have gotten out of the car and taken a few photos but we had to get back before the weather got any worse.
When we got back, Christina, Rodrigo’s partner, showed me my room. The Basecamp is located across the road from the beach, surrounded by mountains. So the rooms on the North side have views of the beach and the ones on the South side have views of the mountains. The Basecamp was set up 17 years ago. They have 6 rooms, with a mixture of twin and double beds and 3 apartments:one that accommodates 6 people and the other 2 accommodate 4 people. They have a 9 hole golfcourse but intend to extend it to an 18 hole one in the coming years. A small hotel is also planned to be built because they want to open the Basecamp to winter tourists. At the moment, it’s busiest period is the summertime.
Rodrigo and Christina are a Spanish couple who are helping to run the Basecamp for a year. Rodrigo told me that they had organised the storyteller to come and do some storytelling for me because part of the Adventure Tour to Hov would have included that. So he was supposed to be arriving at 7pm. My room, which was basic but clean, had a wonderful view of the mountains behind the camp. After I got settled, I had a quick wander around and was told that my dinner would be ready by 6pm. There was a group of German photographers staying there for a week but they were self catering and cooking for themselves.
The starter that they gave me was flat-bread with that mayonnaisey spread and salted whale meat, cut into strips. It was delicious actually. I had never tasted whale meat before. After the starter was soup, which actually was like Irish stew. Really tasty and for dessert, I had a creamy sort of pudding, with barley seeds in it, with a topping of blackberry flavoured juice. All of it was scrumptious and I was stuffed afterwards.
The storyteller, Johnny, arrived at 7pm. Fair play to him for driving through the snow storm. He had to drive back to Svolvaer afterwards as well! Johnny is from Svolvaer and is retired. He and his wife traveled and lived abroad and he ended up being a guide back in the Lofoten Islands. So I was his only audience. Both Rodrigo and Johnny made it a really cosy atmosphere. The log fire was blazing away, we turned off the lights in the dining room, lit candles and sat in the comfy chairs by the window, with the storm howling outside. It was lovely.
He got talking about the Northern Lights and their connection with the Vikings. Hov was a Viking stronghold in the past and in times of war, on Mount Hov, they used to light a fire to call all the Viking warriors to war. The warriors would then run down to the amphitheatre they have at the bottom of the mountain, make a sacrifice to the God Odin, run down to their boats on the beach and sail out to sea to fight. The two boat runs and the amphitheatre are still there. Apparently there was also a slab of stone found in Hov, with Viking runes on it. The original slab of stone is in Tromso University and there is still a copy of it in Hov apparently. It was a bit strange being the only person there, listening to him but I was enjoying the stories.
He finished at about quarter to nine. I had to pay for that of course, 500 NOK, but I said I might as well do it for the experience. It was worth it though. I’m sure it must be even nicer when he does it in the amphitheatre in the summer. He says that when he stands in the middle of the amphitheatre, that the sound carries and you don’t need a microphone. Rodrigo was saying that a lot of the Germans were out every night at 12 or 1 am photographing the sky, capturing images of the Northern Lights. He could also get the hour by hour weather forecast and it said that tonight the storm was expected to stop by midnight and the sky was supposed to clear. I had planned on getting up at 1am to try and see if I could see any Northern Lights. Just as I was about to go to bed at 10.30pm, there was a power cut because of the storm. So I went to bed by candlelight. It was great. I set my alarm clock for 1am.
When the alarm went off, I got up and had a look outside through the big dining room windows. There seemed to be patterns of white light coming through the clouds and I thought maybe that was it. So I went diving for my jacket and boots. One of the German women came out of her room and asked me if I could see the Northern Lights. I said “maybe, I don’t know”. So we headed outside and a few of the other Germans woke up. About 4 of them came outside with cameras and tripods and for an hour and a half we watched the sky. I couldn’t see any colours in the sky, just streams of white light coming through the clouds, where the sky cleared.
It started to rain at about 2.30am and we started to come in. So I said to one of them “Well, what do you think, was it the Northern Lights?” She said “Oh yes, have a look at the photographs I’ve just taken”. You could plainly see clear patterns of green light snaking through the sky on her camera. Wow, it was beautiful to see. But it wasn’t strong enough for us to see though with our naked eyes. The camera lens can capture colours where we can’t see them. A good one that is! So I was standing there watching them but I just couldn’t see them. At least I got to see them though through someone else’s camera. Second best. That would have to be good enough.
I went to bed then and was up at about 9.30am. Breakfast was ready for me shortly after. They have a kitchen there of course and you can have lunch and dinner, sweets and sandwiches, along with an assortment of hot and cold drinks. Breakfast consisted of cereal, bacon and egg, smoked and marinated herring, mackerel paste, prawns, cheese, salami, bread, orange juice, tea and or coffee. What a spread! It was great. So I tried all of it, including the herring and the mackerel. It was a typical Norwegian breakfast for people living on the coast apparently. For the rest of the day I just chilled, went for a walk and caught up on my journal. Just before I went for a walk, there was a flash of lightning before my eyes and a rumble of thunder which I could feel under my feet. I thought “Oh here we go, what other things are the elements going to throw at me!” But that was it. There was no storm just a freak flash of lightning and a rumble of thunder.
Until 3pm I was catching up writing the journal and Rodrigo was in and out chatting. He asked if I wanted fish soup, which I said yes to and he even put some Irish music which he had on his ipad, on the stereo system for me. They couldn’t do more for me. They were all great. I would definitely recommend a stay at the Northern Lights Basecamp. Of course when I was there it was pretty quiet but I’m sure it’s a lot busier in the summertime. But whatever time of the year you go, you will be well looked after. www.northernlightsbasecamp.com
There is apparently talk about building an airport in Hov, because it would give people more access to the island and more importantly, there is also talk about a wind farm being constructed on Gimsoy, which Destination Lofoten are not happy about. Destination Lofoten are the official tourism organisation for the Lofoten Islands. They say that people come to Gimsoy to enjoy the nature and the landscape and a windfarm might negatively affect that.
There are other projects going on now too which are related to improving the use of electricity in the area, such as using the currents in the water near Hov to generate electricity. It will be interesting to keep track of this in the future. We headed back to Svolvaer at about 3.30pm and Rodrigo dropped me off at the supermarket in town. That evening I had dinner with the students, who very kindly asked me if I wanted to join them for dinner. Marcus, one of the teachers cooked a tiny piece of cod’s liver as a starter, with baked cod, spinach and rice as a main course. It was very, very nice.