Hello Vesterålen Islands

Thursday 12 September 2019

(Most of this post written by FIONA Illingworth, whilst enjoying her well deserved holiday with me here in Norway)

1.20 pm

We are on the ferry from Fiskebøl to Melbu. So that’s me at least saying goodbye to the Lofotens but hello to the Vesterålen islands.

On the ferry to Melbu

4.20 pm
First impressions of the Vesterålen islands are that there is much to explore. It is clear that the tourist season ended on 1 September and by the time we got to the Tourist Information place at Sortland, at 3.55 pm, it was already closed. But there was a free information brochure in English, which looks like it contains some helpful information. The islands offer walking, cycling, whale watching (would love to do this!) and I think we could easily spend a week here. The whale watching is expensive – probably cost us nearly £250 but may be an experience we will never repeat.

We’ve decide to drive right up to the northern most tip of the islands at Andenes and then slowly make our way back down south. Given that I have to be at the airport in Tromsø on Friday afternoon, we really only have 5 days here.

As we drive along the road, we keep turning corners into amazing vistas in the distance, hazy mountain recesses with the hint of sun and the promise of rainbows.

7.30 pm
We have driven up to Andenes as planned but bypassed it and driven on the smaller road to the outer side. We have passed Bleik and Stave and are parked up just beyond the small village of Stave. This island looks beautiful and there is scope for some good photographs I think, but it also feels immediately obvious that it is not as touristy. There are many fewer places to park up and enjoy the views; I imagine that might get frustrating as we drive past potential photo opportunities, with no chance to stop and make the most of them. But we will see what tomorrow brings. We thought there might be a possible sunset tonight but it is very cloudy and I am not sure we will get anything. It is also very windy so taking photographs with the tripod may prove tricky.

The weather does not look all that promising for the next couple of days but better again on Monday and Tuesday. Fingers crossed we get some good spells! This string of islands is much less populated I think and the towns/villages are further apart. There are lots of flat plains with mountains rising on either side. This most northern island is Andøya according to the atlas, Andøy according to the tourist booklet. I have noticed that the atlas has many different versions of the names used in other books. I don’t know why. There are five municipalities in the Versterålen: from north to south you have Andøy, Øksnes, Sortland, Bø and finally Hansel. Most of the hotels and facilities appear to be in Andøy but Sortland is also a large town, with many attractions.

I am hoping that we might be able to do a walk or two whilst we are here. There are many hiking trails, of differently lengths and grade. It would be good to do some more exercise. I am eating far too much bread, chocolate and cake!

We haven’t taken any photographs today, which is unusual. There simply hasn’t been the opportunity. We saw a possibility for photographs just as we turned off the main road to Andenes. The sun was breaking through the clouds out at sea and you could see some lovely shadows on the mountain peaks to the left. But, at that point, the sun was still too high in the sky. Maybe we should have gone back, but we didn’t. Just goes to show you sometimes just have to seize the moment and hold on until it comes good.

There appears to be a significant military presence here on Andøya. We have seen a lot of masts perched on the ridges of mountains, with supporting infrastructure down at sea level. There is also the space centre just up the road, so maybe much of the antennae we have seen are connected to that? Of course, none of this is mentioned in the tourist brochure, except for the Spaceship Aurora, which is widely publicised.

Andøya Space Centre

The ferry trip from Fiskebøl to Melbu was super efficient. We were lucky in that the ferry was in dock when we arrived at Fiskebøl and we only had to wait about 5 minutes. I am sure that I read that the trip took 45 mins but that couldn’t be right as it seemed much shorter. I’ve just checked, it takes approx 30 mins.

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