Text: Jeremy Fischer
We all have dreams that remain untouched due to an overwhelming fear of sacrifice and the unknown. I live a comfortable and structured life in sunny Los Angeles, but I often find myself bored, dreaming of an adventure amidst the Norwegian fjords and the northern lights. Well, this past August I decided to make a drastic change in my life. I spontaneously quit my job, packed my bags, and bought a one-way flight to Southern Norway, with the goal of meandering my way into the Far North. I hadn’t looked into accommodation, nor did I know a soul in the country. And to top it all off, I was going alone. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, and I couldn’t be more excited.
I had heard of an epic view atop a massive rock named Trolltunga, resembling The Lion King’s Pride Rock. I wanted to experience this for myself, so I eventually made my way to the small town of Tyssedal. I then walked about two kilometres up a pretty steep incline on the main road in town, when I heard a car coming my way. I eagerly stuck out my thumb and the car stopped. An elderly man, Sigbjorn, and an elderly woman, Evy, offered me a lift, and I gratefully got in. They drove me the remaining five kilometres to the trailhead, all uphill, as they were on their way to pick berries nearby. Sigbjorn spoke a decent amount of English and Evy spoke none, but they were very friendly.
The beginning of the hike was an incredibly steep climb up the mountain. It then leveled off before getting steep again, and then finally leveling off into a much simpler climb. I eventually came across a flat, grassy area near a small stream, so I pitched my tent here, as I had started my hike quite late in the day. It was amazing sitting here, cooking myself dinner on a mountain plateau, drinking fresh glacial water, and watching the sunset over an epic view with a glacier in sight. It was unworldly. I woke early the next morning and made the last leg to Trolltunga, only to find myself completely alone. I lingered for a very long time, enjoying every moment, imagining myself as Simba atop Pride Rock. I eventually made my way back down, and upon reaching the end of the trail, fog swooped in and engulfed the mountain. The timing couldn’t have been better. I then hitchhiked back to the centre of Tyssedal.
The Norwegian hospitality
I sat in front of the local grocery store, pondering what to do next. Just then, Evy emerged from the store and noticed me. Despite the language barrier, I managed to understand through hand signals that she was offering to let me stay in her home that night. I very happily agreed. We went back to her lovely house, and I got a true taste of hospitality at its finest, an amazing feeling that I had nearly forgotten. She let me use her computer to call my family via Skype. She even let me shower and shave, which I hadn’t exactly gotten the chance to do yet, so she was doing both of us a favour.
She then invited her friend over to the house, a fluent English speaker, so we could have a translator. She cooked me traditional Norwegian pancakes, which I became addicted to, and she fed me Trollkrem, a sweet cream made from the berries she had picked the day before. She even brought out her guitar and played me Norwegian songs. The following morning, she packed me a bag filled with fresh food, let me wash my cooking cutlery, and drove me to the bus station. I also managed to understand that she was asking me to send her a postcard from Tromsø, and I promised her I would. And I kept that promise.
I arrived on a Saturday night, and I decided to give my tent a much-needed rest, so I checked into the local HI hostel. I then went out in search of a drink. I was walking around in the city centre when I noticed a party on the top floor of a building, with two girls smoking outside, one dressed as a princess, the other as a duck. Anyone wearing a costume surely knows how to have a good time, so I approached them and asked if they could recommend somewhere fun to get a drink and meet some locals. Lucky for me, they asked me if I wanted to join their Disney-themed university party upstairs, and I very excitedly agreed.
As there was a guest list and a costume requirement, I pretended to be one of their friends, who by chance couldn’t make it that night, and we decided that my costume would be a “foreign exchange student.” It was such a great feeling to look around and see a hundred or so university students dressed in Disney costumes, but sadly no characters from The Lion King. It was a nostalgic taste of America that I had missed. We spent the night drinking, playing Disney Trivia, and we eventually moved to a local bar called Lille, which I would later frequent. In the end, I happily slept on a new friend’s couch in a legitimate apartment, which sure beats a bunk bed in a crowded dorm room, even though I had just paid for the hostel.
Falling in love in Norway
The next day, I walked into a coffee shop with two new friends from the hostel, after having just climbed the local mountain together, Sukkertoppen. Here, I was lucky enough to meet a beautiful Polish girl named Karolina, who was having coffee with a friend. We all sat and talked for a few hours, and Karolina and I eventually exchanged numbers, with plans to meet the following night. I eagerly met Karolina the next night and she took me to a familiar bar, Lille. I don’t know if Lille is the most popular place in Ålesund, but everyone just loved bringing me there. It was wonderful sitting under the candlelight, sharing stories, music, and pictures. As she left to get on her bus back home, I asked, “If I stay another night, would you want to see me again?” She said yes.
I met Karolina the next night, again at Lille. It was so magical that I actually ended up staying two more nights after that, again filled with visits to Lille. We had a great time, from romantically picnicking at the Aksla lookout point with the sun setting over the city, to just sitting in the communal hostel kitchen together into the early hours of the morning. As strong feelings were developing, we eventually agreed that it would be best if I left. Since I would be leaving at some point anyways, neither of us wanted to get too attached, so I reluctantly headed to the bus station, with wonderful memories of this amazing city that I will never forget. I was lucky enough to have one more magical, yet very spontaneous night with Karolina a few days later in Trondheim. We promised to keep in touch as she headed back to Ålesund and I prepared for the Land of the Northern Lights.
The Lofoten Islands
After the long haul north, I made it to the breathtaking Lofoten Islands. It was my first time sleeping in a tent above the Arctic Circle and I absolutely loved it, staying more than a week. Around every corner I would see tall craggy peaks plunging into the sea, with the horizon remaining a blue and orange hue all day long. It truly was a land filled with magic. However, there was one particular experience that I will never, ever forget. I was standing at the edge of a cliff near the town of Stamsund, completely alone, with breathtaking views in every direction.
To enhance the experience, I pulled out my ipod and turned on Bon Iver's "Calgary". Instantaneously, an enormous eagle emerged just a few metres from my feet on the cliffside. He slowly rose, as if to the song, circling me. We made eye contact as he hovered just above me. He then looked forward and glided off into the blue and orange horizon. I was in such awe that I had to sit down. I waited here for hours to see if the eagle would return. It didn’t, but I witnessed three other eagles from that spot.
Nordkapp (The North Cape)
I finally made it to Honningsvåg, a large town close to Nordkapp. I walked into the HI hostel and snagged a room, where I stayed for nearly a week. Now here’s an interesting piece of trivia: Nordkapp isn’t the true northernmost point. It is the northernmost point accessible by vehicle, while the true northernmost point is called Knivskjellodden, accessible only through hiking. I decided to head to Knivskjellodden first. I walked to the bus station, passing several wild reindeer, and took the only bus (since it was the winter schedule now) to the trailhead for the hike. There was only one other person in the bus with me, a Dutch girl named Livia, who was heading to Nordkapp, so we decided to meet up later and share stories.
I then hiked north, completely alone for miles in every direction, until I noticed a peculiar looking standing stone. I got up close to it, and it read “Knivskjellodden 71°11'08″.” It was an absolutely beautiful moment knowing that I was literally standing atop continental Europe, gazing out at the sea towards Svalbard, and then simply, the North Pole.
Feeling content, I hiked back to the main road. It’s a pretty easy hike, with just one steep section. I walked south on the main road, hoping a car would eventually head my direction. About eight miles later, or 13 kilometres, as the sun was disappearing, I finally heard a car heading my way. I eagerly stuck my thumb out and got a lift back to the hostel from a friendly local. Once back, I ran into Livia and we shared stories about our day. She informed me that several buses filled with tourists arrive at the Nordkapp around noon when the Hurtigruten ferry docks, so I decided to reach the Nordkapp before the tour buses.
Early the next morning, Livia and I both took the earliest bus to a point about 12 kilometres from Nordkapp. We then walked, passing a few Sami huts on the way, and we eventually got a lift. She got out at the trailhead to Knivskjellodden, and I got out at Nordkapp. I was the only tourist there, as the Nordkapp centre had not opened yet. I just stood at the tip, under the massive globe, watching the clouds race by. As hospitality and luck are in large supply in Norway, the owner of the Nordkapp centre invited me inside, giving me free coffee even though they hadn’t opened yet. I rested for a bit before beginning my long trek back.
Shortly after I had left Nordkapp, I watched as seven or so crowded buses passed me, heading north. My timing could not have been more perfect, and as I walked, I passed a triple rainbow. Yes, they actually exist. It was the perfect end to my Nordkapp adventure. I walked about a whopping 14 miles, or 22 kilometres, before I heard a bus coming my way. I flagged it down and took it back to the hostel. I was completely exhausted, but feeling triumphant for making it to both northern tips. It was a wonderful feeling, and to celebrate, Livia and I went to the Artico Ice Bar, a bar made entirely out of ice. It really completed the northern journey.
A few nights later, as I was outside in the Karasjok Campgrounds, in Karasjok, the indigenous Sami capital of Norway, I noticed a green haze floating across the sky. This is it! I had finally reached the northern lights! I was ecstatic. I found a secluded area in the campsite and enjoyed the green haze with my cameras. About 30 minutes later, the friendly campsite owner noticed me. He came over and said, “Follow me. I’ll show you the real northern lights.”
I was confused, but I grabbed my stuff and followed him. He led me away from the campground and lights, into a very dark, secluded forest. “Just wait and watch.” After a few moments, there was a bright flash of green, as it turned red and purple before waving across the sky. I was completely blown away. I couldn’t say a word. I was in complete awe. It was without a doubt one of the most beautiful moments of my life. I stayed outside for what must have been hours, living my dream, witnessing the northern lights in its full glory.
A dream come true in Norway
Being only 18 kilometres from the Finnish border, and feeling engulfed in pure bliss, I decided to leave Norway on an incredibly high note. I was lucky enough to experience two life-changing months meandering my way to every corner of Norway, filled with beautiful memories that will last forever. It was not just a vacation to search out my dreams and desires, but it was also a journey of self-discovery, filled with epiphanies and the utmost happiness. I no longer caught myself dreaming, for I was living my dreams in the greatest adventure of my life.