This is the second part of my road trip from Oslo to Vesterålen.
Day 3 Brønnøysund- Mo i Rana
This morning we woke up at Torghatten camping and strolled up to Torghatten after breakfast. Torghatten is a large rock/mountain with a tunnel through it. It is a fairly easy place to explore and quite popular with the tourists. If you have time to make the detour, you should take the half hour it takes to walk up and down, and enjoy the views.
I had serious plans about doing some early morning/late night photo when I stayed at Torghatten camping, but it was too grey when I woke. Every pro and amateur landscape photographer knows that you (usually) have to stay up late or get up early to capture the really good light. However you never know when it is gonna come, and there are lots of grey days. Holidays are the right time to stay up late or get up early and try and capture that light, as you don’t have to be ready and sharp for any work the day after. However, it’s also the time to get plenty of sleep… but it is always difficult to get out of a warm bed when you know the outside world probably offers disappointment and being eaten by mosquitos. Yet, the few times I actually get up early and go out, I never regret it, even though I usually do not take any really good photos.
After our morning trip to Torghatten, we continued to Horn to make the ferry over the Vega archipelagos. This is a real detour but as the archipelagos are on the UNESCO world heritage list they had to be visited. Vega municipality consists of over 6500 islands of different sizes and made it on the world heritage list a few years ago due to the islander's unique lifestyle and their relationship to eider duck, their eggs and down. Eider ducks live and breed in many other places than Vega, but the people of Vega has had a long lasting relationship with this bird for more than a millennium. Sagas tell stories about Viking earls killing each other over the right to collect eider down, and with a price tag of approximately 50000 NOK (~£4500) in 2016 for a duvet, it might not come as a shock that people are willing to kill each other over the right to collect this precious down (though I have not heard of any recent murders over eider territory).
The people on the Vega islands used to build nesting houses for the eider females (males don't produce the down) and made sure predators were kept away. After the little ones leave the nest, the down is collected in July. There is only a small amount of down per nest so it's a lot of work for very little down. Farming on the coast of northern Norway has never been a main way of getting food or income, but simply a supplement to the fishing that brought in the cash and main source of food. Collecting down was a woman's job beside taking care of the farm, the kids, the elders, cook, chop fire wood etc., when the men was out fishing further north for months in the summer. This way of living is now gone. However, there are now people employed to prepare and guard the nest sites and gather down after the birds have left the nest. If you want to read more about Vega, check out http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1143.
Other than a tiny museum where you can learn about the eider ducks, the Vega islands were a bit boring. Don't get me wrong, it's beautiful there, but there are so many magnificent places up north, and Vega is a real detour and might not be worth it.
From Vega we took the ferry north to Tjøtta where you find a large churchyard for Soviet prisoners of war in the north of Norway. Originally Soviet prisoners were buried around Norway, but in 1951 during the cold war, the Norwegian government feared that Soviet spies would travel around the country pretending to be families of the fallen soldiers wanting to visiting their graves. This paranoia turned into 'Operation Asphalt' where they dug up graves mainly in the North and shipped them to Tjøtta. More than 8000 bodies were shipped in bags under the cover of asphalt. This was also supposed to be done in the south, but as this grave desecration upset a lot of people, including the Soviet, it was not done on the same scale.
We had dinner in Sandnessjøen, which I can't say much nice about. The town centre cannot even be called charming. However, the nature around it, and especially the mountain chain 'De Syv Søstre' (The Seven Sisters), are quite remarkable from all angles. You can hike on the ridge and do all the peaks in a day about 20km), but many do just one or two. We had to make a ferry from Levang-Nesna so there were unfortunately no time for any climbing or hiking.
Last year we only drove half of the Helgeland coast road, and followed the E6 road to Mosjøen and then came in on the costal road at Levang. Last time we missed the ferry and had to wait for two hours, but this time we knew what to expect and timed it much better. The stretch from Nesna to Myklebustad and the view over Sjona fjord is in my opinion the most beautiful stretch of the Helgeland costal road. We took the 21:20 ferry giving us perfect light as we drove down the mountain. Instead of continuing on the costal road, we drove east and stayed the night at Yttervik camping just outside of Mo i Rana. We got a nice cabin with views over the fjord. You can also rent boats and it seemed to be a popular place for fishing.
Day 4 Mo i Rana – Sigerfjorden (Vesterålen)
This day started with the rather shocking Brexit results and a pit stop at Mo i Rana city centre to buy breakfast which was later consumed at a traditional 'rasteplass'. I often get asked to recommend cheap places to eat in Norway, but there are none. If you want to eat cheap you have to make your own food. All over Norway you find these small places by the side of the road that has toilets (but not always), benches and tables so that you can sit down and eat your food. They usually try and put them in nice places. You can bring a table top barbecue or a gas burner if you want to make your dinner there.
After finishing breakfast we packed up and continued north. The E6 goes north over the arctic circle before it follows the Saltdal valley. One of the things the tourists seem to love it the Polarsirkelsenteret (Arctic Circle Centre) as it has “an abundant souvenir shop”, but let’s face it; the arctic circle is just a circle on a map, and nothing more.
The next 'large' town you get to is Fauske. There are many small places that are worth a visit and plenty of places that offers great hikes. However, the aim for the day was the ferry over from Bognes to Løddingen so we did not make any stops. If you find yourself with enough time and you are a fan of Norwegian literature, you could consider visiting Hamsunsentet http://hamsunsenteret.no/en/ . The fastest route to get to Lofoten or Vesterålen when you drive up is to take a ferry from Skutvik to Svolvær if you are going to Lofoten, or Bognes-Løddingen if you are going to Vesterålen. Driving via Narvik is a huge detour.
Last year we took a slightly different route where we followed E6 to Mosjøen before taking the coastal road. This is also a route that offers beautiful views. The old part of Mosjøen is very charming, and there are some really unique places to see when you continue North. One of these places are Saltstraumen, the strongest tidal currents in the world! You can really see how strong the currents are when you drive over the bridge and you can often see large vortexes.
Regardless of which route one choses to take, you are guaranteed beautiful scenery. After taking the ferry to Løddingen we drove to our summer house in Sigerfjorden. If you guys are interested I will write a post on things to do and see when visiting Lofoten and Vesterålen.
Thanks for reading,