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In early July 2015, nine Liverpool Canoe
Club members successfully completed and anti-clockwise circumnavigated
Austvågøy, one of the main islands in the Lofoten archipelago in
The weather gods were kind to us and throughout the 143km of relatively easy paddling, we only had one short problem area to contend with. At the North Western point there’s a harbour town called Laukvic and, as we travelled westwards along the coast towards the harbour, we spent about 30 minutes negotiating some confused sea set up by clapotis reflecting back off the cliffs, even though there was only a slight swell and little breeze.
We paddled amongst dramatic scenery and wild camped throughout bright sunlit nights on secluded island and white coral beaches.
Getting there took
most of a day we flew from
Would we go there again? – Yøubetcha!!! More Photos…….
We set out from the campsite at first light. Correction, there is no first light, it is light 24/7, light enough to read by at any time of the day or what is meant to be night. It was early morning and it was raining slightly, a dull wet miserable day. But what scenery, mountainous peaks their tops lost in the mist – we were off – the circumnavigation of Austvagoya had begun!
As we passed the small pretty town of
We paddled round the acres of fish drying racks and the fish houses, the smell was overpowering but once upon a time fishing was all the town had. After that more paddling until we then entered our first fiord and paddled North East, between our island and the next huge island. it was like something straight from Peer Gynt – which is just what the tourist boats played as they entered Trollfiord.
Our campsite for the first touring night (or day) was on an island, the preferred camping ground for LCC. It was still wet, cold and miserable but it would have been impossible to feel miserable in those wonderful surroundings.
Andy Garland More Photos…….
We awoke after our first night's camp to a clear, fresh,
crisp day with no condensation but the clarity of the air reminded me of being
So after a large bowl of hearty porridge (thanks Brian) and a few brews we slipped the boats down the shore and into the water. We set off with a following sea and the wind helping us on our way, marvelling at the stunning scenery of deep rich green valleys and dolomite looking mountains. There were quite a few quaint red fishermen's cabins called Rorbuer. Some of these date back to 1797 and have been handed down through generations of fishing families. As many as ten to twelve men inhabited these at a time. Hmmm, lovely smell of all of these fishy oily clothes in the hut! No sooner we had set off and it was time for elevenses.
We stopped at a small peninsula called Vasskraa but with the
chilling wind we sheltered in the lee of the large glacial boulders. So,
we were all happily tucking into our nic-nacs and in no time Peter and
Caz spotted some otters. Ian could see a waterfall in the distance and
thought that it would be a good time to fill up with water but decided against
it as the boulders were covered in green moss. So we were only 3 K away
from the highlight of the day which is Trollfjorden. This is the most
visited Fjord in the Lofoten Isles. So very quickly we were turning to
the left of the main entrance and surprisingly it was extremely narrow
considering large ships enter this. I would say 100 metres in
width. It soon started to open to a massive 800 metres
wide. Massive steep walls surrounded even bigger mountains 600
metres high on the left and 1100 metres high on the right. We felt
quite small in this massive fjord but even smaller when a cruise ship came
behind us the size of the ship,
As we got deeper inward Jeff spotted a waterfall and thought he would go for an early morning shower but as soon as he got under it the overwhelming weight of water imploded spray deck. He come rushing out saying, "that is refreshing!" However, Kirk would not be outdone by this so he went for a go too. There was a few screams from him and lots of laughter from the rest of us. We paddled to the end and had lunch.
Soon on our way again heading north to the narrows. A
large cruise liner passing us on her way north but coming the opposite way was
a cargo ship so the Captains thought, "who can make the loudest noise on
the ship horn?" Paddling
against some current hugging the left hand wall keeping out of the way
of the current and major shipping. Two kilometres and we were out soon
thinking about a campsite for the evening. Andy had spotted a possible
campsite on Google Earth prior to leaving so we would have to pass under the
Soon after going under the bridge the sea boiled with fish jumping and the bird life was having a feeding frenzy. We could see the island in the distance but much to our surprise the walls were sheer. After checking the charts this was the camping island. Oops...
So the main Team went to the left and the second Team went to the right behind the island saying we would meet at the north end and hopefully finding a camp spot which I am glad to say we found a five star camp site which was the only camp site in the area. A perfect end to a perfect day.
Don B. More Photos……
Day three saw the team waking under bright blue skies and
calm waters on the
The camp was broken with regimental precision and we set off, so close together it was as if we had forgotten to untie them from the night before (we had tied them together because we hadn’t known quite how far the tide was going to come in, we had been too lazy to carry them any further and it really wouldn’t do for LCC to be marooned on an island and look like complete muppets).
Unfortunately, at this point in time we were off the edge of the detailed maps so it was a little bit more difficult trying navigating, but we knew we had to head west so all we had to do was to make sure we entered the correct channel. However the sun was shining and the sky was blue so all was good with the team.
Just as we were getting into our stride the wind started blowing into our faces and the speed that we had generally been paddling at slowed. Looking to get out of the wind we headed close to the shore which gave the added bonus of admiring the subtle features of the rocks. Elevenses was taken early, 10.58, as there was a small breakwater that enabled an easy get out and a relief from the wind. Geoff managed to find an unusual stone, perfectly flat, circular and with a hole in it. After much discussion we decided it was a fishing weight.
Fully refreshed, we launched back into the strengthening
wind and gathering overcast skies. We paddled on, line astern so as to get to
as close to the shore as possible so as to save energy. A couple of bay
crossings in the strengthening wind
led us to a lunch stop on the
Launching, the skies had cleared but the wind was still blowing. No worries though, as it was time to carry on and pass under the bridge that joined the mainland to Holdoya. Unfortunately, as we came near it became apparent that bridge was not a bridge but a man made causeway. That left two options, land and carry over the causeway or paddle out into the face of the strengthening wind and around the exposed island. With a “death before portage attitude”, otherwise known as these boats are darn heavy, the team decided to face the exposure! Why couldn’t they have left Slartibartfasts work alone, after all he had won an award for it.
Coming around the island, the sea began to pick up as we
headed across the channel. Mid crossing we realised that the incoming ferry was
a bit closer than we wanted, and it was headed our way. Time to get a wiggle
on! We paddled hard against the wind and were soon out of the ferry’s
path as we hid behind the
We paddled on towards our destination on the
Mike Alter More Photographs…….
We were up and away at 9am. Everyone was bright eyed and bushy tailed. Well, apart from those of the group who had imbibed generous doses of ‘Scottish Medicine’ the night before. We stopped to replenish water supplies at Sanden, and then made our way along a reef ridden shallow coastline. The swell was very small, but there was still enough to produce the occasional ‘boomer’. It would have been a rather more serious matter if the swell had been larger.
Our lunch stop was to
Suitably replete, we set off again towards the island of Sandoya, which was where we planned to camp (there seem to be scores of islands called ‘Sandoya’ in Lofoten – I strongly suspect that ‘Sandoya’ means ‘little island’ in Norwegian). The island lay at the southern end of a group of skerries, through which we wove our way. The water was flat calm, the sky was blue and the water a pleasant shade of turquoise – beautiful. However, we soon became aware that the depth of water between the skerries was falling fast on the ebb tide, so we had to get a hurry-on to avoid having to drag our boats.
The island had all the things we had become accustomed to…A white coral beach, flat grassy ground for the tents and stunning views of snow-capped mountains. Oh, and copious amounts of ‘Scottish Medicine’.
Andrew Garland More Photographs…….
We set out from our stunning campsite, almost reluctantly it was so idyllic, and set our usual leisurely pace heading off around the north shore of the island in bright sunshine and no wind. We hadn’t restocked our water for a while so when we spotted some RVs on shore we decided to ask whether there was a water supply nearby. Which there was, plus some bins to dump accumulated rubbish and a picnic table for lunch. And did I mention the sun was shining? After some lunch and a snooze, which could have lasted for longer but people where beginning to notice Kirk’s ability to still snore with a hat over his face, we got ourselves sorted to set off again. It was another scorching day so at this point Brian decided to cool off with a little impromptu dip while negotiating a tricky reverse launch manoeuvre in flat calm conditions he wasn’t used to…that woke us all up with some post lunch banter!
We hit a bit of tide against us (it was proving quite hard to predict the time and direction of Lofoten tides…!) particularly as we approached the road bridge, but a bit of eddy hopping, once we noticed, did the trick. Next up, the challenge of finding the night’s campsite, with some pretty high expectations set by the previous few night’s stunners. First up was a shallow “swimmers bay”, involving a long carry in and out for the boats and overlooked by houses, cars and other tents. Brian and Kirk weren’t impressed with this but others had one eye on their stoves and setting up camp. Eventually we agreed that the two dissenters would paddle on to check out a potentially better spot marked by our local guide Jan. It should have been a quick hop around the corner, across a large bay and find the second of two channels with a camping beach at the end. But our intrepid duo managed to miss the clear light marker to their rear on exit and got themselves a tad confused as to where they in fact where on the map. This resulted in a number of classic VHF exchanges (“we don’t think you’re in the “swimmers bay”, “we’ll just paddle a bit further and it should be round the next headland”, and “ we’re *!?*! lost!” – luckily we had switched to channel 6-9 so the radio etiquette blunder was probably quite contained….). It also saw a considerably longer paddle/wait for the teams but eventually we were able to c all everyone in to an “A1 campsite”.
Our sleeping spot was certainly more secluded and scenic than the previous one, but turned out to be just as midge infested if not more. We’d had surprisingly little trouble with the nasty little biters until now but they were certainly out in force here. Out came the nets and tents were put up and food cooked after a long day on the water, with quite a lot of eating being done on the move to escape the annoying beasts. Our intrepid fire starter Geoff managed to find enough decent building timber to start a roaring beach fire with the assistant of some of Pete’s cooking fuel. That held them at bay until a temperature drop finally saw them fade away, leaving us to watch another midnight sun with the help of some Tullimore Dew and Jim Beam.
Kirk Williams More Photographs…….
We woke to be greeted by a damp morning. It was definitely moist, soggy, squelchy and drizzly, with more than a hint of rain. Wet tents were packed and it was time to say farewell to our last wild campsite of the trip. It was also time to say ta-ra to Molly-the-Midge, Maurice-the-Mosquito and all of their charming little friends who we had had the pleasure of sharing company with the night before.
We paddled out of the bay and rounded Hopsneset headland to find that the wind and sea were a little higher than when we had arrived the evening before. After around 15 minutes of paddling through slightly choppy water Geoff eventually woke up, and announced that he had left his expensive and gadget-laden watch lying on the beach when he was packing his boat. Brian volunteered to go back with him to carry out a search, while the rest of us carried on towards the Orsvagen commercial campsite, the start and end point of our trip.
After a further 1km of paddling we collectively and simultaneously came up with a cunning plan. We jointly decided that it would be a good idea to deliberately overshoot our destination to make sure that we had covered every inch of the circumnavigation. We therefore purposefully paddled into the bay beyond our intended landing point, and pretended to look for a campsite that wasn’t there. We then feigned mock surprise that we couldn’t find it, and intentionally backtracked to the correct bay. Anybody watching us might have thought that we’d made a navigational error, but of course they would be unaware that we had planned it that way!
Very shortly later we landed on the strand that we had departed from 6 days before. However, there were only 7 of us on the beach, whereas we had set out that morning with 9…Geoff and Brian had found some surf to play on when returning from their watch-hunt! The 7 of us retired to the campsite restaurant for a celebratory nosh of ‘traditional’ Norwegian cuisine, where Geoff and Brian joined us shortly thereafter.
We had completed the circumnavigation of Austvagoya: 143km of paddling amongst gob-smacking scenery; 5 nights camping on islands with white coral beaches and 6* days on the water with a great bunch of people.
Special thanks go to Steve Gille for his daily weather updates, and Kathy Morton for the loan of a comprehensive 1st Aid kit and for arranging the weather. Thanks also to Jann from Lofoten Aktiv for the provision of advice, lifts to the pub, loan of bikes to do pre-trip shopping and hire of equipment. In actual fact it was 4 full days, plus an initial half-day and a final 3km ‘hop’.
Andy Garland More Photos……
Having successfully completed the main objective of circumnavigating Austvågøy, we arrived at our starting point at the campsite at Ørsvågvær and were treated to a night of extremely heavy rain, the likes of which was said by the locals to be very rare!
Waking up to a dull
and dreek day on Day 7 of our trip, I felt de-motivated to continue paddling in
such drab conditions. Paddling around Austvågøy had been like
paddling around “
Brian had already decided to have a day off the water to give his niggly shoulder a rest and I made up my mind to go exploring some of the area near-by. Carole eventually decided to join me and we said our goodbyes’ to the others as they donned their wet clothes with a plan to head off somewhere in the misty morning, leaving most of their heavy gear in their tents.
Carole and I walked the short distance to Lofoten Aktiv www.lofoten-aktiv.no
, where we had left our flight bags earlier in the week, so we could change
from our smelly paddling gear and into walking gear. We soon met Jann Engstad,
the owner, who generously offered us free use of 2 of his hire bikes. Hopping
on these we headed off to explore the vicinity and it wasn’t long before
we reached the nearest town of
Exploring the centre of this town didn’t take all that long so we headed off on the bikes again to Svolvær, the major town on the whole island. By now we were pretty wet but the rain began to ease as we rode into town. We explored the harbour area and the main square which seems to form the hub for tourists as it has a number of boats offering punters various kinds of expensive rides to the famous Trollfjorden https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trollfjord where we had paddled a few days earlier for free! In town there’s also a number of gear shops where it’s possible to buy any kind of kit that you may have forgotten to bring. By now my sodden down jacket was beginning to dry out and we continued to wander around, discovering a war museum and an ice carving display, both of which we walked past as we felt too tight fisted to pay the seemingly expensive entrance fees. There was also a display of some old and very brutal looking whaling harpoons –ouch! they must have hurt a lot.
It was mid-afternoon when we decided to cycle back and I was glad of the 4-ring chainwheel on Jann’s bike as there was quite a pull up a hill out of Svolvær. The rain came back so we detoured once more into Kabelvåg and, finding the pub to be open this time, we sat down to dry out with a couple of cinnamon buns and some hot chocolates. We watched with envy as some of the other customers were tucking into fish soup and bacalhau https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bacalhau.
Returning to the campsite, we met the others who arrived back pretty much at the same time. It seems that Brian had also blagged a bike and had met up with the paddlers in the pub in Kabelvåg, also enjoying cinnamon buns. Brain then joined Kirk for a trip around the local museum while the rest of the crew paddled to Svolvær but couldn’t find an easy place to get off the water and explore.
All in all, we each did pretty much similar things but used different steeds. Both Carole and I looked forward to paddling again tomorrow when a return to clear conditions were forecast.
Pete Thomas More Photographs…….
Heavy rain in the previous 24 hours saw Andy abandon his puddled tent to sleeping on a pile of plaster board under a nearby veranda, leaving his human shaped form outlined in the board, like the Turin Shroud, to be preserved in the new build. We all awoke to sunshine and clear skies, 7 of us opting for a paddle and 2 for a walk in the hills.
Two days earlier we had paddled past a small island and harbour called Henningsvær and some magnificent rocky scenery on our way to complete the circumnavigation, because we had paddled past at speed in a bid to find a campsite, we decided to return at a more leisurely pace and explore the coastline.
Andy and Geoff opted for a walk with the intention of reaching the snowline above Lake Stor Kongsvatnet, on reaching the snowline it was prudent to stop as Andy’s footwear was not appropriate for snow.
The rest of us paddled west along the coastline with rocky pinnacles, ridges and lofty cwms towering above us.
We rock hopped where we could with a slight swell making it more interesting, empting gaps and exposing rocks. We had been told that more than 2 mins in the water could mean that our hands wouldn’t work properly with the cold, was this fact or fiction? One member of the team put this to the test when in a rapidly empting gap a rock appeared to tip him in, the verdict was that it was not as cold as we had thought, at least not in a dry suit.
We carried on and were treated to a display of up to 5 white tailed eagles being mobbed by fearless black backed gulls, as the eagles tried to take a chick or egg for lunch.
On reaching the
This island is connected to the main island by two bridges and a causeway and the fresh Northerly wind had increased enough to make a crossing quite exposed, requiring a little more work and effort to reach the sheltered cliffs on the main island. This done we paddled back to the campsite, where Jann the kayak man, was expected to arrive and pick up the boats.
Jann had had a few staff problems in the week and arrived late, so offered to take us into the local town Kabelvåg where we were going to eat our celebration meal in a pub/restaurant we had visited the previous day. Although expensive, the food and beer were very good. We met a very tall local who had been at a wedding party in the pub. He made Brian seem a long way down on standing next to him and photos were duly taken to great amusement for everyone involved, including the Norwegian giant who had also probably had quite a bit to drink that night.
Although midnight and the sun still up, Jann picked us up and returned us to the campsite, where the last of Kirk’s Bourbon was consumed before bed.
Carole Thomas More Photographs…….