Mountains in the Sea

(july 2018)

Leif: Nik and I enjoy going on adventures. During the summer of 2018 we went on our third major trip together. There exists this inexplicable force that pulls me towards Lofoten, and having been there I am longing back ever since. Perhaps it is the fresh air, the breathtakingly beautiful mountains, the vast calmness, a sun that never sets, or perhaps it was being able to experience all of that alongside a good friend. The hikes and bike rides were as always exhausting, but an integral part of allowing me to really find and attempt to be the best version of myself. For these memories I am forever grateful. I hope you too can follow your dreams and make wonderful experiences a reality.
Nik: In Oslo the train conductor said we couldn't bring our bikes on the train. On the inside I thought "Huh, I guess we won't make it up north after all." On the outside my jaw dropped a bit and I stared blankly at the lady. The train was about to go and so she let us stay and lectured us. We were beyond stoked just to be on the train! Somewhere in Sweden I ran to buy some bananas and we nearly missed our train to the arctic. Thankfully we made it, and having hid our bikes where they put skis in the winter, we ate, watched the world cup, slept, and woke up in Sápmi - the land of the Sami.
The train turned back into Norway, to Narvik. It was time to buy a load of food, pack our stuff, lie in the grass, and find a bus that would take us westward, to the ocean and the mountains that rise out of it; Lofoten.
Leif goes over the bars and nearly falls to his death. The 'what if's' shook us. We made up a rule: don't ride anything where falling would kill you, even if it looks completely rideable. The next morning. Out of the mist and into the city. The sunshine and food were appreciated, the army of campervans and air-conditioned-shopping-mall vibe not so much. We finished a litre of chocolate soymilk and got out out of there.
Justadtinden. If you are in the area, ride it! The trail is sick. We learnt our lesson and ditched the bikes before it got too gnarly.
From up here we saw a big mountain on the other side of the island, right on the water. 'Why not go there?' we thought. And so we did. I felt too inspired by our surroundings to sleep. I meditated on the edge of our boulder. This photo was taken at 00:00. Dinner, just before our tent started flying down the hill. It was late and we were weary, but the weather was good so we carried on. On Lofoten the weather is fickle but the light is not, so we hiked whenever it was good, which meant hiking in the middle of the night sometimes. There was a day here without photos. Coming down from the mountain we took the road westward, to the very end of Lofoten, to Å. Rainy wind in our faces. We got to Å soaked and frozen to our bones. We rented a tiny cabin by the water, turned the heating way up, it became our little sauna, and we were warm again.
Again the weather was good, and so we went for the summit after dinner. Can ya tell that Leif is a bit afraid of heights? This one was magical to us. We sat there, on top of a mountain in the ocean, in the middle of the night, in awe. Bushwacked along a fjord and found a little village. We set up camp early to leave our stuff behind and try to get to the top of Helvetestinden, which translates to 'hell-ridge'. Into civilization for a moment... ...and back into the jungle. As we get used to the life of moving all day and wild camping, things once normal become weirder and weirder, like sleeping in a bed, pooping in a toilet, chairs. We left our bikes behind, then left our tent behind, and went on one last hike. On the road back to Narvik we met this dude. He was from Barcelona and riding the length of Norway. Leif and I undertook that trip a few years ago, and it changed our lives profoundly. Writing this I hope he made it, and that it was meaningful to him. In Narvik again. As we tried to enter the train to get back to the south, the train conductor blocked our way, and simply said 'No. No bikes allowed.' There was a bit of a discussion, and as he looked the other way I got on. Leif went to another door and was having another discussion with another conductor, when an old man from the pub, with whom we watched the world cup final the previous night, covered one eye with his hand and asked the conductor, gently, to "Look the other way." They did. Reentering normality, slowly.
We stuck our heads out the window with joy. We were coming home with our heads full of wonderful memories; the stuff of friendship, the stuff of life. And the sun finally set. ■

Thanks to Sydvang and Fjellsport for supporting this trip.

© Niklas Bazzan Schelling