Finally, after waiting for 3 weeks to find out if the Bybus Winter Panorama tour was going ahead, I got word from Bybus that they were going ahead with the tour and the day came. I and two Israeli guys were picked up at 9.15am outside the Thon Hotel, in Svolvaer. We drove over to Svinoya to pick up 8 other people.
It was bright and sunny for a change, a great day for the tour. You could see the mountains in all their glory, with the snow glistening in the sunshine. Once we were all in the van, our driver Johnny, explained to us what the plan was for the day. We were heading to Kabelvag, Henningsvaer and Stamsund, making a few other stops on the way and would be back at around 3pm.
Our first stop was at Kabelvag Cathedral, a big, orange coloured church which you see in all the postcards of Kabelvag. It was so quiet at this time of the morning, that you could hear a pin drop. You’d nearly be afraid to say anything in case you’d disturb the people lying in their graves behind us. We carried on to the pier in Kabelvag. Now that was lovely. What a picture! On one side of the pier was a picturesque view of the town with the mountains as a backdrop and on the other, was the open sea. We saw a sea eagle and some of us had a look at it through Johnny’s binoculars. The whole scene made you feel like you were part of a winter fairytale. It was so calm and peaceful. We stayed here for about 20 minutes, taking in the view and on our way back, we were greeted by this very sociable cat, who just loved our attention.
The next stop was an appointment with a king. There is a viewpoint not far from the pier, with a statue of King Olsten standing on top. The fishermen who worked in the fishing villages, used to sleep under their upturned boats. King Olsten, who collected taxes from the fishermen, wanted to keep them happy. So he had rorbuers built for them. It was a bit of a struggle climbing up the steep slope to the top, with 6 inches of snow on the ground but we just stepped into each other’s footprints on the way up, so it was ok. The view from the top was good but not as good as from the pier. We made our way back down again, after a short while, knocked the snow from our boots and got into the van.
The next port of call was Henningsvaer. We were still lucky with the weather by this stage and Henningsvaer was bathed in sunshine. Johnny dropped us off at the start of the village and he said he would pick us up at the far end, by the pier in 20 minutes. So we had a walk around and a few of us took photos. Henningsvaer is called the Venice of Lofoten. It’s one of the island’s most important fishing villages and has a population of about 470 people. I was talking to 2 English women from Bedfordshire, who were on our tour and they were on holiday for a week. They were planning on taking the Hurtigruten to Tromso that night and staying there for 4 days. One of the guys from Israel said that he saw the Northern Lights on the Hurtigruten, on his way from Bodo to Stamsund. He took photos of them and on his camera, you could see the Northern Lights very clearly. The lucky sod!
Henningsvaer was very quiet and there weren’t many people around. Well I guess it was a Sunday morning. When we got back to the van, Johnny had laid out sandwiches for us:salmon, egg and tomato and prawn sandwiches, along with tea and coffee. The sandwiches were very tasty and the tea and coffee were very welcoming as it was pretty cold outside. You could see your breath on the air.
So after demolishing these, we headed off again towards Stamsund. On the way we got to see one of the Artscape Nordland sculptures, the one made of glass and steel. Artscape Nordland is an international art project which started in 1992 and was completed in 1998. It invited artists from 18 countries, to design and create sculptures for 33 of Lofoten’s municipalities. These contemporary pieces of art are found out in the open, located in beautiful and varied landscapes all over the Lofoten Islands.
This glass and steel sculpture reflects the mountainous scene on the opposite side of the water. The shape of the sculpture is a bit like a triangle with one side concave. I think it’s very well designed and made. There was another stop that we made before we got to Stamsund. It was an unscheduled stop. We were passing this frozen lake and the edges of the lake were breaking up into floating pieces of ice and one of the Israeli guys asked Johnny to stop, so we could take a few photos. So he did. At the time, the sky started to cloud over with dark, grey clouds and with the broken up pieces of ice, the whole scene looked like a moonscape.
The temperature had dropped very quickly and it was bloody freezing outside. I couldn’t stop my teeth chattering. So after taking a few photos, I was glad to get back inside the warm van. When we got to Stamsund I must admit I was glad that I decided to stay in Svolvaer because even though Stamsund was pretty, it was very small. We stayed here for about 10 minutes and then made our way back towards Svolvaer. We passed through “Cowboy Town”- Leknes and Borg, where the Viking Museum is. It’s the biggest Viking Age chieftain’s homestead in Scandinavia, where a full scale replica of the chieftain’s house has been reconstructed.
We got back to Svolvaer at about 3.30pm and I had arranged to be picked up at 4.30pm by Rodrigo, who helps run the Northern Lights Basecamp, where I stayed for the night. It was a good tour and I think in the summertime, Bybus actually have a similar Summer Panorama tour which goes to more places. I haven’t put their link on this blog because they seem to be developing their website and there is no information on it at the moment.