The Atlantic Road is beautiful and dramatic. But if you take a closer look, it has more to offer than just the amazing scenery.
Text: Mikael Lunde
Olgunn Johansen is waving a finger past an islet further out at sea. “Out there. That’s where I first learned to fish”, she says, remembering back more than 60 years. That is also just about where Norway ends, giving way to the open Atlantic. “I’d go out by boat with my grandfather, who was a fisherman. He knew all the best fishing spots”, says Olgunn. “The knowledge was passed on to my father. And then to me.”
This morning, in just half an hour just as the high tide comes in, she has caught two dozen fish, her plastic bag quickly filling with pollock and mackerel.
Photo: Kyrre Lien
“Things got better after the road was built. In the old days, I’d stand here with my life on the line. But I feel much safer now”, she says, from her spot at the Myrbærholm bridge – now a favoured destination for anglers from all over the world.
The spectacular stretch of road, jumping from island to island and islet to islet across an archipelago, gave the island Averøy a connection to the mainland for the first time when it opened in 1989.
And it gave the north-west of Norway a new icon: one of the most beautiful and dramatic roads in the world – whether you arrive on a calm summer’s eve or when a storm is brewing.
In any case, it’s a scene to remember.
The construction of the road began in 1983 – and it is an engineering feat of some proportion. In 2005, the Norwegian people named it Norwegian Construction of the Century. The iconic Storeseisund bridge is the highest and most famous out of a total of eight bridges binding the road together across the islets.
Today, it’s not local fishermen, but tourists who are most commonly seen out on the islets on either side. The 30‐odd houses and cottages on Håholmen, while authentically preserved, are converted into restaurants and hotels. You’ll get there in just a few minutes on a reconstructed Viking ship departing from a jetty by the road.
There were always fish here, but the best spots to catch them have become far more available with the appearance of the bridges. Unaware of the world above, cod and trout, coalfish and mackerel pass by under them. Even seals and whales may be seen when the ocean is calm. Separate fishing bridges have been erected above the torrents to shield the anglers from traffic.
People come from all over the world to throw their lines there, quietly hoping that Olgunn hasn’t yet caught all that swims below. She knows many of her fellow anglers.
“There are many who return here year after year. We’ll talk about fishing, and so we never run out of conversation”, she says.
“When I was five or six and the water was nice and warm, I had to learn to swim. My father would take me down to the shore and tie me to a belt from my mother’s coat, and then he sent me into the water.” By then she was already fishing, too, making her own fishing lines with pins for hooks.
But it was after the road appeared that she set her personal record. A 13 kilogram Norwegian cod (skrei). “And I pulled up a coalfish at 11 kilos, which was quite brisk as well”, she adds in a characteristic, Norwegian understatement. She’s not done, though: “Some six years ago we brought bin bags here, and I pulled up seven large codfish at 6–7 kilos each. I returned home with 50 kilos of fish from one session.”
“I don’t come just for the fish. It’s the experience as a whole that draws me. It is wonderful”, explains Olgunn, who comes out here all year. She’s been fishing in minus 10 degrees Celsius – “because then the cod might bite.”
The pollock she gives to her cat, the heads she places outside her garden for a family of foxes, and the finer fish she prepares for her friends.
She has arranged with the county for her ashes to one day be spread from the bridge. “I’ve had so many great experiences here, and so here I also will have my last.”