North Country Girl

Sunset over Andenes on the island of Andoy, Norway, 300km/190 miles north of the Arctic Circle. The northernmost point I have ever been.

Aside from that being one of my favorite Pete Townshend songs, it’s the truth. I’m an upper latitudes kind of girl. And at this moment I sit in a place further north than I have ever been: 69 degrees 18′ 51″ N, to be exact, nearly 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle.

Saying goodbye to the Lofotens on the Fiskebol-Melbu ferry

I left the Lofoten island archipelago today to head north to a neighboring cluster of islands known as Vesteralen. One of the many things I love about Scandinavia: no matter where you are, if the Bussruter says the bus will show at 1230 hours, at precisely 1230 hours it comes rolling around the corner. One bus ride, ferry ride and second bus ride later, I arrived at Andenes, at the northern tip of the island of Andoy.

Love that clear arctic light. Andenes church.

Turns out the hotel I booked online was not quite as centrally located as advertised. I asked the bus driver as I was getting off where it was and he said “It is long way. I will drive you.”

Well, okay. So he chauffered me all of about 500m to the hotel.

I’d come to Andenes in hopes of getting on the last whale safari of the season. It was supposed to be today, but high winds had postponed it till tomorrow. Alas, when I checked into my hotel, the guy at the counter not only greeted me by name (I suspect I am the only person staying here) but added that the whale safari people had called to say they were very sorry, there would be no whale safari tomorrow, either, and that they were giving up and just shutting things down for the season because the weather forecast was so dreadful for the next several days.

The hotel guy added he was also very, very sorry for me.

He seemed surprised when I shrugged and told him it was okay. It was weather. I understood.

Plus I’d seen some delicious looking mountains on the drive in. If it was too windy to head out to sea, I could still go for a hike.

“You do not mind the bad weather?” he asked, still wary.

I explained that I had spent 20 months in Antarctica. I’m used to Mother Nature changing my plans for me.

And yes, it would have been cool to see a bunch of whales (Andenes is the nearest human settlement to some of the richest feeding grounds in the world for several species), but I’ve seen whales in Newfoundland and Labrador, in western Norway and Stewart Island in New Zealand, even in Antarctica from quite a long distance away and, perhaps most memorably, in Tasmania when a gigantic humpback whale found our boat extremely interesting and swam straight for us.

Plus…have I mentioned I am farther north than I’ve ever been? That alone is a thrill.

My hotelier buddy recommended a couple good walks for me and also said he was going to find a bicycle for me to borrow to get me to the trailheads faster. I was too touched by his helpfulness to mention that I have a very high crash rate on two-wheelers, so I just smiled and nodded.

Andenes Lighthouse

After leaving my bags in my spartan but clean and functional room, I took a stroll around town. It was as dead as Svolvaer, but did have an assortment of cute buildings and a nice bench on a jetty where I sat and indulged in my obsession with bizarre potato chip flavors. Tonight’s new taste sensation: Jovial Chili. Extra bonus that the brand was “Traktor.”

Verdict: pretty much the same as the sweet chile chips I’ve had in New Zealand. Why, by the way, are American potato chip flavors so boring?

The view from my bench on the jetty. I absolutely love the light here.

Back in my room, I watched a documentary on Syd Barrett and caught up on the news. My friendly hotelier pal also gave me the free password to the hotel’s wifi so I could bypass the pay-per-use router. Sweet. Whatever tomorrow brings, it will bring it to me farther north than before, and that is achievement enough for me.

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