Lofoten

Written by: Kasia

A lot has happened recently, from personal turmoil, a complete change of lifestyle, to finding a new job and moving. That's why at the end of July I happily hopped into my friends' car and during the next 40 hours of travel I felt more and more relief and inner emptiness. As if all the fatigue and anxiety filling me for the last few months were now left far behind. I did not know at the time what would take their place...

The last few months... or how I have unexpectedly gone with the flow

I never imagined becoming a nomad, not having a home or any idea where I would sleep next week. Because I thought the word HOME was the most beautiful and important word in the world, it was perfect and wholesome to me, it embodied fulfillment and peace. I always looked at my globetrotting friends with a little disbelief, the way they packed their lives into a backpack and embarked on their world travels.

"The only constant thing in life is change"

All my life I lived in one city, I went to one cafe, for years telling the same waiter "the usual please". I always preferred watching movies I've already seen, reading the same books for the 10th time. For weeks I was anxious about every new day at work. I always treated objects like talismans, I meticulously selected them at flea markets and from my travels; I used to make and remake them myself, so they would enclose my emotions and memories. And I thought it would always be this way, that its's just who I am.

Recently everything about my life has changed unexpectedly. The pampered apartment, full of things with soul, was packed into the basement, and I moved into the wide world with cardboard boxes full of paterns, one "private" backpack and a cat.

Great relief...

When my friend called me and proposed a trip to Lofoten Islands, I agreed without even checking where they are. I must admit that I did not look at the map until halfway through the trip. Recent weeks have accustomed me to constant change and convinced me to go with the flow so much that I decided to get in the car and see what will happen. My attitude was far from the optimistic "adventure ahoy!", and more of an indifferent attitude driven by the realization that I have no idea what will happen, so why would it matter where it will or won't? I got in the car with a rucksack filled with woolen clothes and dressed like I was about to penetrate the polar circle: wearing a hat, jacket and thick socks, I was ready to face the unknown. As the only person in our group of seven I luckily slept for most of the trip and woke up in Norway.

Our first stop was the Trollstigen Road. As a globetrotting ignorant, I did not know exactly what it was, but with no hesitation, according to the plan of going with the flow, I got off in the small town of Åndalsnes and began to climb up. Leaving the car after two days of driving, we all thought that the entrance onto the ramp (Rampestreken) will be an afternoon stroll. We were wrong. Thankfully I remembered what I like the most about hiking in the mountains: fast-traversed, very steep sections, which when passed at an appropriate pace cause an accelerated heartbeat. The moment when the heart flutters like an enraged bird who wants to break free from a cage.

Even though I thought that we were only going out on a leisurely hike, I still took some mountaineering equipment with me. When I was a child my parents taught me that in the mountains one must be prepared for everything. So I stuffed my backpack with a cap, protein bars, water with electrolytes, a flashlight, bandaids and a raincoat. The cap proved to be the most useful from the whole set. It turned out that the summit, or rather what we considered the summit, was completely devoid of trees and very windy. I learned this lesson well I made sure the woolen cap was my backpack on our next hike despite the 30 degrees heat.

Field testing the Paterns sweatshirt, i.e. view from our first mountain trip... Åndalsnes in the valley below.

What to do...

I am a huge fan of civilization and a total city slicker, I love to spend my summers in cafes and enjoy breakfast for an hour. I worked for a Swedish company, where I heard about Scandinavian design at every turn. Additionally in this fashionable era of hygge, just like everyone else I was bombarded with pictures of beautiful interiors and neatly organized landscapes. And I am ashamed to admit that this vision was what I was expecting to find when we got to our destination. Boy was I wrong.

The cities in the far North surprised me with their post-soviet-eque climate, with city squares chaotically embedded in concrete and disordered architecture. Empty streets without shops and cafes, post-apocalyptic sidewalks with grass peering from between the cracks in the pavement. Of course, I also saw red, gray and black houses, but something always found its way into the frame and did not allow me to take truly instagrammable photos :)

Because I could not wander around the charming streets, I had to wander the mountains. After the breathtaking views of the Trollstigen Way, and most importantly, after I felt my heart beating again in my chest, it was clear that in this summer I would try to climb everywhere and anywhere possible.

I climbed the mountains dressed from head to foot in paterns merino wool, which was simply made for such activities. It breathes, wicks away moisture, is thermoactive and - this is extremely important in the outdoors - it does not absorb odors :)

For our next stop we chose a campsite in Fredvang, close to the nearby attraction - the beautiful Kvalvika Beach. Around noon, we were tempted by a gigantic boulder lying in the middle of the valley, and we decided to climb it. This only whetted out appetite, so while standing at the top of this small hill, we decided to conquer one of the larger mountains in the area. The great advantage of hiking in the mountains in this part of Europe in August is that there is no night there. I remember well the terrifying visions of spending the night in the mountains, as told by my father, every time I got up too late for our mountain trips. But even sleepyheads can climb the Lofock peaks :) So we took our time and at 4pm we attacked the summit.

The mountains in this part of Norway are completely devoid of trees, which allows for easy navigation and provides beautiful views. The lack of a well-trodden path means you can adjust the route depending on your needs. Whenever I wanted to feel my heart racing, I simply charged straight up like a cutter, up to my ankles in wet moss, grabbing stunted bushes or a helping hand or foot of my companion :) But when needed to take it easy I could take one of the sheep paths and relax on route someone already tried and considered safe.

The Lofoten mountains are not very tall and usually not very steep, so it often seems like the summit is moving away from you every time you think its within grabbing distance. We climbed high up early enough to admire the view of the wild, untouched bay below. I looked down and thought about those who had looked at the exact same landscape hundreds of years before me. The higher we climbed, the more beautiful the views, and the rocks became steeper, so that the final section resembled mountain climbing more than casual trekking. Finally we reached the summit, where our heads started spinning, we could not believe our eyes. However our delight was effectively drowned out by a very strong wind, and my mother's prototype of paterns woolen caps were once again put to the test.

We started our descent at about 10:00 PM in the rays of the setting sun. The air, totally clear up to that point, ensuring the surreal sharpness of vision, began to thicken, and the moisture rising in it softened the landscapes. The way back took us more time than we planned, because fatigue and difficult conditions (an almost vertical wall, soft moss underfoot and alluringly beautiful views) meant that reached the foot of the mountain around midnight. We only had to walk several dozen more meters across the beach, take off our shoes and cross the shallow river to reach the campsite. Or so we thought. Imagine our surprise, when we arrived at the beach only to find ourselves surrounded by water, and the water in the river, ankle-deep at midday, now reached up to our thighs. The tide was coming in. We had no choice, the water was becoming deeper with every moment, post-haste we took off our shoes and plunged in the river, ending an eight-hour trek with a cold bath.

Below you can see the beach which becomes flooded at high tide.

The sunset begins at 10:30 PM and lasts until 01:00 AM, flooding the mountains with orange light.

In the following days we took regular trips in the mountains, trying to avoid more water adventures, at least in the sea. Because avoiding fresh water in the Lofoten mountains is impossible :) Observing the rocky slopes, you can see black streaks - it's water slowly coursing through moss and ferns. And whole mountainsides are carved by picturesque streams.

One of the campsites we stayed at had not showers, so it was in the mountain streams that we bathed in while hiking down from the summit. The streams were surprisingly warm, as if it was heated while seeping through the ubiquitous moss. A woolen paterns blanket worked perfectly as a towel. On the way to the summit it was a picnic blanket, it became a scarf at the top, after bathing in the stream it was the best towel, and at the end of the trip it transformed into a dress as we were walking back to the campsite. In my tent I used it as a comforter.

Before going on vacation, living as a sort of expat in Warsaw, I stayed with my friends whose shower has broken down. I observed then that taking a shower every day became a mindless activity I payed absolutely no attention to. But when during this shower crisis I had to bathe in the kitchen, without shower curtains, in the night, with a small lamp in the corner, pouring water into a small tub standing on the carpet, and then washing every part of my body, choosing the right strategy to do it, with each day this process became more mystical to me. In fact, I found it very relaxing and I really felt that I was washing away all the weariness of the day. The Lofoten streams had the same effect.

Brooks and spongy moss streaming water when compressed under the weight of our bodies were not the only water reservoirs in the mountains. There were small picturesque lakes in most of the passes we saw. We took a day off after one of our more tiresome hikes. We climbed the pass to one of the lakes we spotted the day before, and there we proceeded to spend the day lazing around. Lying on completely flat stones, we saw how our lake, located several dozen meters above the sea, connects with it in the perspective view like Maldivian pools in five-star hotels connect with the ocean.

That view and many other images I store under my eyelids made my grateful for a lot of things: my legs that can carry me up high in the mountains, my eyes that I can admire the views, my skin that is not afraid of the icy water of the tide and my heart fluttering in a cage. I feel gratitude for my parents who have taken me on mountains treks ever since I was a little girl; and I'm grateful to myself that I have not forgotten how everything always looks much clearer from above. In times of crisis, I kept thinking about how I am part of this beautiful nature and, like every part of nature, I deserve love and respect. With these thoughts and my heart filled with new hope, I return home... although I now have a much different understanding of the word than just six months ago, a home filled with love.

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