Leaving Ringstad, driving to Nyksund village & walking Dronningruta (The Queen’s Route) the following day.
After saying our goodbyes at our WorkAway in Ringstad, we were back on the open road for the first time in ten days. We hugged the coast clockwise, our first stop just short of the small town of Staume. We paused a while near a small museum so we could walk up to the The Man from the Sea statue, a tall installation figuratively representing the local fishermen of the area. The 4.5m high cast iron statue initially divided the community, it being loathed and loved in equal parts, but as the symbolism of its form was more understood and disseminated, it has slowly become an integral and respected part of local lore. The elongated form allows a high view out to sea, keeping watch over fishermen at work. Its giant feet deeply rooted it to the land, as an anchor would a ship. It holds a light aloft, to help guide the fishermen safely back home, a crystal that glows blue in arctic winter light. Even its controversial penis signifies the continuity and family-focused nature of the local fishing communities, with skills, knowledge and craft being handed down over generations.
There was a photographic display of other artists’ works, but very few of them were of the same emotive quality as The Man from the Sea. We would see a few others in later days and be a little disappointed at each, from either their small size or from a lack of imagination perspective. We moved on, followed the road along the winding coast before turning left up another finger-like peninsula to reach Myre. After a quick shop for some fresh provisions we pushed on northwards, where the road became a hard, pitted dust track. For five slow miles we bumped along it, with the sea on our left and high cliffs tight on our right, until we reached our goal; the once-abandoned but now quirkily revived village of Nyksund.
We squeezed into a narrow strip of hard-standing alongside a few other motorhomes, just a few hundred metres beyond the busy car-park. We all lined up neatly with noses looking out to sea, snuggled in tight, like a display row in a showroom. Happy with our spot, we walked across the causeway into the centre of Nyksund for a quick explore. Nyksund was a traditional fishing village that, due to the use of larger fishing boats that were unsuitable for its small harbour, was depopulated and eventually abandoned. The town lay empty for over thirty years before a German man organised to have discontented youths from Berlin live and work there to help reactivate and redevelop the site. It has since become a haven for artists and other creative types and that in turn has brought an influx of tourists, supporting the cafés, restaurants and guest houses scattered around the harbour; a self-perpetuating cycle.
There were several nice art galleries in town, but only a few artists displaying works that we found of interest. We browsed some small shops, filled mostly with junk and postcards. A large mural brightened up one small square where locals chatted as they cooked sausages on a gas stove. Many of the buildings were still in their renovation phase, with boarded up windows and in desperate need of paint. The town as a whole was still in need of much more investment and time; we found it scruffy and tired, but perhaps others believed that was an essential part of its charm. We climbed the small hill to visit the community church, a quaint timber structure with a simple, yellow interior, bright and airy. From here we saw three expedition kayakers loading up and leaving for a multi-day excursion, waving goodbye to well-wishers on the shore as they paddled out of the calm harbour into a choppy sea.
Seeing the thriving community in Nyksund was interesting, but our main goal here was to walk the Dronningruta, the Queen’s Route, one of the top rated hikes in Norway. The mountainous circular loop could be joined only a short distance from where we had stopped, so we could start the hike straight from Benny in the morning. That evening we had one short walk to stretch out legs as the red sun fell into the glowing sea. We wandered over a small rocky hill that offered us a wonderful view back to Nyskund village and of our comfortable wild-camping aire. A tail of fluffy clouds glowed pink above the stone causeway and the distant grey mountain slopes looked lit from within.
We slept well, too well, and awoke much later than expected. Ten days of actual work must have made us a little more weary than we’d realised. We ate breakfast, packed up a lunch and finally started our trek around 11.15am, under a bright, hot sun and cloudless sky. Like at Besseggen Ridge, we’d lucked out again with perfect weather on the day we had a long, iconic hike planned. The route rose sharply from sea level, up a well-worn dirt path flanked by low, pink heather. We were soon sticky with sweat and silently cursing the sun cream running off our foreheads and into our eyes. When we could see them through blurred, stinging eyes, the views were quite spectacular.
After the steep scrambled climb we reached a long grassy plateau with panoramic views out to sea and beyond to rows of faint snow-capped mountains. This was the area of the Vesterålen Islands that we’d just left and, further behind, the distant Lofoten Islands where we were heading to next. We followed the marked path, seeing only a handful of other walkers, and a few fell runners, spread out across the mountain. We’d expected the renowned route to be busy, especially in such glorious weather, but we were happily surprised to have it mostly to ourselves.
We ate our lunch on a flat rock looking out to sea, picking out a few small lighthouses built on the rocky skerries far below. A few boats glided past, looking insignificant in the expanse of ocean surrounding them. Far below to our right we could see the small fishing village of Stø, overlooked by some sort of radar monitoring station. We descended down a steep path to reach the road just outside of the village, before turning left to follow the walk back along the coastline.
On this lower return leg we soon crossed Skipssarven beach, a wonderful curved stretch of white sand set at the bottom of high cliffs. We had noticed it before from the cliff top before descending to reach Stø village, and it was even more pristine and inviting up close. There were people camping on the grass just behind the beach, and with such a quiet and beautiful spot in the bright sunshine we were momentarily jealous of those who sleep under thin canvas in such natural surroundings. Later we would remember why we no longer do, and our jealousy would turn to pity once the wind and rains returned and we saw other campers struggle in a deluge.
This stretch of coast was littered with large trunks of smooth, grey driftwood, scattered around the stony beaches. Some had been dragged up to be utilised as makeshift benches, other parts formed bridges through the muddy areas of the well-worn path. It was all much easier walking on the low part of the walk, and we quickly ate up the miles back as the view slowly changed. Before reaching the last uphill stretch to close our loop, we reached a small, shallow lake set not far from the sea. With no other walkers nearby, we decided on a quick cooling dip, and stripped off and slipped into the water. It was smooth and warm and we relaxed a few minutes before redressing just as a group of seven walkers appeared over the stony hillock behind. We shared a knowing smile with each other as we nodded our casual greetings to them.
We closed the Dronningruta circular route shortly after our swim, with a last climb up a narrow dirt path lined with rocks and twisted tree-roots to the sign-posted saddle between two small peaks. From here it was an easy downhill back the way we began, until we reached the gravel road that took us back to Nyksund. The sun was still shining but the wind was now whipping up white horses in the sea and it chilled us when we walked in the shadow of the mountain. We returned to Benny a little over five hours after leaving and passed a second quiet night in the same aire, very contented with our iconic and very beautiful 17.5km walk.