Arctic road trip

This summer, I’ve been roaming about in Norway, with both kids, with one kid, with friends – and on my own.

Last week, Cat decided all she wanted for her 12th birthday was to go to yet another horse riding camp. And so I found myself with an unexpected four days of complete freedom, which just couldn’t be wasted.

Well, there I was, wondering where to go. Somewhere I hadn’t been before, preferably. The Czech Republic, perhaps? I’d like to see Olomouc – and Cesky Krumlov. Or maybe Switzerland? I still haven’t been in Interlaken. Then I thought about it some more: Summer in Norway is gorgeous, with just the right temperatures. Really, it’s the only place to be this time of year. The challenge was to find somewhere new. And that’s how I ended up at the Helgeland Coast, on the Arctic Circle.

So, an Arctic road trip then? Yes, but not all the way. Norway is a country of very long distances; from Oslo to Northern Norway is about as far as Oslo to Rome. Public transport and then a hire car seemed a good idea. Now, flights to this slightly out-of-the-way place cost a king’s ransom at a day’s notice in high season. But luckily for me, the railways had very good prices. It’s a long rail journey, but I like taking the train – it’s a great place to get work done. Or not.

Arctic road trip

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I like sleeping on a train, it’s something so very relaxing about the rhythmic sounds in the night. After much too short a night in my very own sleeping compartment, I hopped off the train in Mosjøen at 4:30 in the morning. It was a bit early to pick up the hire car (driving is the only way to get around up here, unless you have days and days and days and…), but not too early to get an unbooked bed at the fabulous family-run historic Fru Haugans Hotell, bless their heart. So they get a mention.

My hire Skoda took me to Brønnøysund and across to the spectacular UNESCO-listed Vega Archipelago. I drove to the city of Mo i Rana and saw a huge naked man staring out to sea. I set off to drive across the Arctic Circle, but was derailed by a sign for Svartisen, and hiked there instead. (Svartisen is Norway’s second largest glacier and straddles the Arctic Circle.) I ended up with one sprained and one twisted ankle, but that’s a story for another day.

Mosjøen

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Articles will be coming up on Vega, Svartisen and my clumsiness. Today, however, is about Mosjøen, a quirky little town in its own right, with a towering mountain, a roaring river, waterfalls, rambling old houses and piers, and a sense of humour.

The photo below shows the town’s le-vegg, laughing wall. I can’t begin to explain the little nuggets – too much would be lost in translation. Suffice it to say, I remained reading and laughing for ages. Although, I imagine the special exercise machine for yo-yo dieters – to go up and down in weight – is comprehensible to all.

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Mosjøen is not a very old town, people have only lived her for 400 years or so. The first resident whose name is known, was a man called Svein Strandsitter, meaning Svein Who Sits on the Beach, born here in 1587.

Apart from its pretty setting, Mosjøen’s main claim to fame is Sjøgata (Sea Street), a street consisting of 19th century houses, once crumbling and threatened with demolition, but saved by local activists. It’s very atmospheric among the old houses in the early morning mist, a bit like walking through history.

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Laksforsen

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Just a short drive from Mosjøen is the idyllic Laksforsen, meaning Salmon Fall. You can sit on the rocks at the bottom and watch the power of nature, getting a little sprayed now and again, and see the salmon jump. Lovely!

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I love Norway in summer. Have you ever been?