Ringstad Part 2: Cooling swims at local lakes, foraging for berries on local islands, midnight camp fires and mountain hikes.
Our work continued day to day, with each day a simple variation on a theme. The weather stayed bright and clear, the views out to sea remained spectacular, the beauty never diminishing with familiarity. The restaurant was busy and the house and apartment turnover high, so there was always plenty to be done. I chipped in with cleaning a house when required, but managed to avoid the kitchen or restaurant in favour of more outdoor gardening work. Each night Nicky and I drank and chatted late with Karina, learning more of the history and future of their busy lives and business. The more we heard of the wild beauty of the Vesterålen islands in winter, its pristine snow glistening bright under green aurora skies, the more we vowed to return.
One night, after closing the restaurant, we all walked a short way around to a comfortable timber shelter and spent the remainder of the late evening barbecuing on an open fire. The site was kitted out with woolly blankets, cushions and lots of seasoned firewood, all we needed for a good night. The sun turned the sky pink over the barbeque place, reflecting the lines of coloured-in clouds on the still, dark water of the adjacent sea. When the flames died down a little, we devoured tender slabs of steak and pork straight from the metal grill, with sides of various potato salads. Afterwards we sat around the dying fire sipping red wine, chatting into the small hours under the midnight sun. Nicky and I were the last to leave, reluctantly abandoning the fire and the mesmerising pink skies around 2.30am.
The next morning, after a few hours work, the full group of Workawayers decided to take kayaks out to visit a few small islands to forage for berries, and perhaps wild mushrooms if they were ready. We all paddled as a group out to a nearby spit of sand joining two small islands and exited our kayaks, with empty tubs in hand. We walked through the low, springy bushes searching for ripe cloudberries, but we were a week or so early, as we could only find hard red fruit on each plant.
To compensate, there were many ripe wild blueberries, so we picked those instead. We then kayaked to another grassy island, again landing on a small sandy beach between pointed rocks. We all foraged for blueberries and found there to be an abundance, and ate many as we picked. The collected blueberries were later made into very enjoyable sweet dumplings by our lead kayaker and resident chef, Xervin.
Over the week, we had a few short sea dips to cool off from the heat of the day, lasting only a few minutes each time but we emerged from the chilly sea water cooled and refreshed. One afternoon we had a quick cycle to a popular sandy beach set on the end of a local lake. It was only 3km away, an easy free-wheel down past a few other small lakes, huge expanses of wild lupins and a neat strawberry farm. The tiny stretch of beach was packed with families, the parents sunbathing and the kids playing raucously in the water. We slumped onto the short grass at the side of the sand and lazed a while, then tried to have a swim in lake. The only issue was the shallowness of the water, and we had to walk a long way out to get deep enough water to cover our knees. It was perfect for small children to splash around in, but not ideal for a proper swim. Still, it cooled us down very nicely in the warm afternoon sun.
On our last day in Ringstad, we worked through the busy morning shift to help out, even though it was a scheduled day off for us. Mid-afternoon we borrowed our host’s battered old jeep to drive a short way around the coast to where we could begin a climb of a nearby peak. The 467m high hill, Vetten, had formed the solid backdrop of our stay and we had long talked of standing on its top to look down over the islands we had kayaked around, and the time was now. It was a short walk, around an hour and half up to the top, with an initial steep climb turning into easy walking for most of the well-worn route. We passed and examined a neat green cabin available for hikers to use before continuing up to the top of the hill where another small hut had been built for walkers to seek shelter. We sat inside out of the chilling wind to eat our lunch, signing the scrappy visitor book as we took in the expansive view.
Even on this rather dull, cloudy day, the setting was incredible; below us there were calm, protected bays scattered with rocky islands covered with green vegetation and nesting sea birds. It was an eye-opener to see the scale of the area in one vista. Ringstad, where we had based ourselves, was visible on the end of a small peninsula, and we could just pick out Benny awaiting our return in the car-park behind the main house. Ringstad was positioned on one of many small inlets scattered throughout this small tongue of the mighty fjord, with many other stretches of water and tall dark hills stretching to the horizon and beyond. We could see why boat traffic and travel was so important here; a thirty minute jaunt on a fast boat to cross the fjord could be a three hour drive around the difficult, winding coast road. Our high overview literally gave us a different perspective on the terrain we had immersed ourselves in.
Our ten days in residence in Ringstad proved to be a wondrous experience. We worked hard, and played just the same, taking all kayaking opportunities, swims and hikes whenever possible. The eagle viewing on the rib-boat nature safari was a visual treat, and the calm, ever-changing views of the surrounding inlet and far-away mountains were a constant delight. We enjoyed the long chats with our hosts and our quiet, contemplative row boat trip under a cloudless sky. We were hesitant to leave but equally hesitant to stay on, as we could easily have become trapped by the visual enchantments of such a place. It was sad to drive away, but life is but a series of meetings and partings, that is the way of it, as a wise frog in a muppet movie once reminded us all.