Driving to Andøya Island where we wild camped near Stave and visited Andenes
Leaving Nyksund, we drove deeper into the Vesterålen, through Sortland again and north to the island of Andøya. We drove first to Bleik camping with the intention of staying there, but found it to be just a steep, scruffy field all really crammed in with caravans, and it didn’t appeal to us at all. We moved on instead to Stave camping, where we had previously eyed up the opportunity to hire one of their grassy mound hot-tubs and thought this could be the time. But on arrival, this also disappointed; the site was small and rough and the hot-tubs dirty, as well as being on the wrong side of the main road for casual dipping into water at the beach. Their flyers had sold us a dream but delivered much less, so we preferred not to give up our money to either campsite and went looking for a wild camp spot.
Not far along the road we spotted a large patch of gravel at the end of a long pitted track. It was far enough from the road to be quiet, and our position would be discreet, so we slowly bumped up the short road and settled in. We were later joined by a solitary German lady and her inquisitive sausage dog, parking up near us in her very old motorhome. Much later, in heavy rain, a BMW pulled up near us and, as we wondered what they were planning, out came a small tent and they pitched it on the sodden gravel as they readied themselves for a damp night. With their tent up, they remained sitting in their car most of the night until it was time to brave the cold tent for sleep.
The weather had been awful all day, with a solid, low-lying mist that never burned off, but blew around quickly, teasing us that it might leave, but returning just as quick as it departed. We had vaguely planned to undertake either a puffin tour or a whale-watching trip, but the visibility was so poor we decided it was not worth the trouble or expense. We had found a local hill walk instead, and were waiting for a burst of motivation to go. Late morning we saw a brief weather window and chanced it, all the while thinking that we’d most likely turn back on the walk if the mist returned and closed in. So we quickly packed up and drove off, carefully rolled though the huge craters of our entrance road and headed for the start of the walk. We passed two cyclists being followed above by a tracking drone, filming their progress through the damp fog. We doubted it was the most iconic footage they recorded during their cycle tour of Norway.
We parked on a small stopping place and quickly bounced up the obvious path leading though some light trees, before the weather had a chance to change its mind. We were heading for Måtind, a small hill at only 408m high, but an isolated grassy bump with steep cliff faces on three sides, making it seem far more imposing and spectacular than its height suggested. The low mist was thick and fast flowing, like a bubbling white soup. Nothing was visible in the valley below us, and only a few local green peaks rose high enough to escape the blanket of white and be lit gloriously by the sun. Occasionally, with a stiff bluster from the wind, the fog escaped the valley bowl and spilled over the saddle of the mountains in a fast moving wave, encompassing everything in its perfect whiteness. We got caught a couple of times in this foggy overspill, but it cleared again quickly like a retreating wave on a beach.
Reaching the higher areas above the top level of the fog afforded a magical view across the top of the cloud blanket. We couldn’t see the pristine beaches we knew were directly below, but the fragile, ethereal nature of the meandering fog created for us its own special spectacle. There were no other walkers around anywhere on the hills, the fog in the valley forming a barrier between us and them as we climbed ever closer to the highest point. We enjoyed a long stop at the top, marvelling at the wide-ranging views above the fog and our glorious isolation on this island peak. Once we began heading down we were soon engulfed in the white mist, our skin chilled in its cold grasp, and the path was difficult to see. We made it safely back down without seeing much of anything, very glad to have had our special time above the whiteness. We were also pleased to have manufactured ourselves a decent, interesting hike on a rather grim day when it would have been so easy to stay snugly inside Benny.
The next morning we thought it important to visit Andenes, to close off the loop of where we would have been if we had impulsively jumped on the departing ferry at Gryllfjord, back on Senja Island. If we had taken it, this ferry would have deposited us in Andenes a few weeks ago, to continue the main national tourist road. Today our route took us past another built viewpoint where we stopped a while to look out to nesting gannets and cormorants on some nearby rocky islands. We then drove on into Andenes and stopped briefly near the tourist office for a look around, but we saw nothing beyond what we had expected from a ferry port town.
Deciding we had seen enough of Andøya, we departed for the south, passing by Sortland again on our way to overnight at the marina at Lodingen. This stop was a quiet, pretty place, with vastly oversized plots that caused no end of confusion to late arrivals who thought it would be fine to park on empty parts of already occupied spaces. It was popular and over-subscribed but they could easily accommodate many more motorhomes with a more sensible approach to spacing; we parked central to our designated plot and had five metres each side remaining unused, and twice a newcomer tried to fit in between us and the next parked van, but were moved on by the site warden. We had a rather futile walk into the town then a short clamber up to the small lighthouse behind the aire, before retiring for an early night.
We were heading back east in the direction of the airport at Evenes, where we had a very special visitor flying in to join us on our travels for a week, and together we planned to explore the Lofoten Islands.