Trip to the Arctic Circle in Scandinavia during the Covid-19 Pandemic – Part 3 – County Road 17 (also known as the Atlantic Highway or Kystriksveien), Norway

Day 24: 30 July 2020 – Had a very attractive morning walk in the forest north of Skatval Ski Lag, where we believed we found some Yellow-orange Fly Agaric mushrooms (Amanita muscaria var. Formosa) which are hallucinogenic with some debate about how poisonous they are.

Yellow-orange Fly Agaric ( Amanita muscaria var. formosa), Skatval Ski Lag, Trøondelag, Norway - ...behind every picture, there is a story...
Yellow-orange Fly Agaric ( Amanita muscaria var. formosa), Skatval Ski Lag, Trøondelag, Norway

After wards headed north on the European route E06 to Steinkjer, where we replenished both groceries and also diesel for the vehicle, unsure what facilities would be available before reaching Bodo some 630km (30 mile) away.

From Steinkjer made our way north on the E06 for 5km, before turning off on the famous county road Fv17, which we stayed on until we reached lake Grungstadvatnet where we found an absolute brilliant overnight parking by the lakeside.

Lake Grungstadvatnet, Trøndelag County, Norway

The parking even had a composting toilet, which is the norm in northern Scandinavia for most public conveniences (wc’s) and indeed for the majority of houses outside of the towns and villages in the arctic. In Sweden they are called ‘Utedass’.

WC at Lake Grungstadvatnet, Trøndelag County, Norway

The days drive was extremely pretty, if not as dramatic as to the sights seen thus far with only a small part of the journey being along the coastline. There were many more fields than we had seen since arriving in Norway; however, the size of each is relatively small) and the forest is never far away with all the hillsides covered in trees.

Countryside between Steinkjer and Lake Grungstadvatnet

The map below illustrates the route taken on day 24 of the trip:

Day 24 Route

Day 25: 31 July 2020 – The day was very grey with a mizzly rain and cloud hiding the hilltops from view. After a late departure, the plan was to undertake one ferry crossing across Bindalsfjord, from Holm to Vennesund and then find somewhere to stay for the evening.

The route on Fv17 to Holm involved driving alongside the southern bank of the narrow Innerfolda which is the inner arm of Foldafjord until we could cross the fjord using Foldabru (Folda bridge).

Innerfolda, Trøndelag County, Norway

This took us to Foldereid, where we travelled north on the west side of Kollbotnet (which is an arm of Sorfjord, which in turn is an arm of Bindalsfjord). County road Fv17 then swings westwards towards Simlebotn (another leg of Sorfjord); however, the fjord is crossed by the Simlestaumen Brigde (bru). The middle of the bridge is the county boundary between Trondelag (south) and Norland (north).

Simlestaumen Brigde, Bindalsfjorden, Nordland County, Norway - ...behind every picture, there is a story...
Simlestaumen Brigde, Bindalsfjorden, border between Trøndelag and Nordland Counties, Norway

Continued northwards to Holm where you have to board a ferry to cross to Vennesund in Sømna municipality, which is a peninsula offering some of the best agriculture in the region. This in turn resulted in their being few suitable parking places for an overnight stay out of sight of residential premises – please refer to an earlier blog describing good practice when ‘wildcamping’ or ‘freecamping.

From Holm, County road Fv17 is another one of the eighteen National Tourist Routes in Norway and is called ‘Helgelandskysten’ which runs to Godøystraumen which is almost at Bodo and is 433km long with 6 ferry crossings.

Following Fv17, we ran out of road on Somna when we reached Horn and therefore crossed by ferry to Andalsvagen to the municipality of Vevelstad, in Norland county.

Vevelstad is significantly more mountainous than Somna with county road Fv17 running alongside Vevelstadsunsdet (an ocean straight between the island of Hamnoya and Vevelstad). After 15km we had not found any parking places and came upon Forvik which is a ferry port. To carry on Fv17 requires a ferry to the Island of Tjotta which is a one hour, / 12km crossing.

Forvik to Tjotta ferry

The island Tjotta is extremely small and by bridge leads to the much larger island of Alsta. After travelling circa 17km we found a suitable parking place for the evening with the added benefit of a nice walk for the dogs. A couple of other people also parked at the same place, but left their vehicle and slept in the open air in hammocks hanging from trees next to the coastline.

Norway has many very good places for ‘wildcamping’; however, the distances between them can be considerable and places can be taken if it is later in the day. Hence, if you find a suitable place, consider before you continue on your journey.

The two maps below illustrates the route taken on day 25 of the trip. The journey starts on the lower map and moves up the page as we travelled north:

Day 25 Route

Day 26: 1 August 2020 – Drove circa 3km and pulled up at the car park for Alstahaug church / the Petter Dass museum. The site houses the medieval church and also a modern museum giving an insight into the poet-clergyman Petter Dass.

From the carpark we did a 4km walk along the coast to Haugsneset via the stone age Kongshaugen burial mound. At Haugsneset we found some red berries which we identified as Dwarf Cornel or Bunchberries, which are edible. They are very sweet, high in pectin and full of very small hard pips. There were also crowberries which are again edible, if not bitter but mixed well with bilberries.

Route of the walk

The next stop was at the town of Sandnessjoen where there was a motorhome service point so we filled up with water and emptied the waste. In the UK, we have not found campervan service facilities readily made available by councils other than in the Outer-Hebrides. From our experience, the key observation being that there are many campervans ‘wildcamping’ (freecamping) in Norway, with no evidence of mess left. Maybe the UK could learn something!

From Sandnessjoen we left the island of Alsta crossing back onto the mainland via the Helgeland bridge. Just before the bridge, there is a sculpture entitled “Vindenes Hus” (House of the Winds), which is one of several elements of Artscape Nordland.

Made our way to up to the head of Leirfjord on county road Fv17 before travelling to the ferry terminal at Levang which is in the bay of Låvongsbukta in Nordland County.

Using the ferry crossed Ranfjord to the village of Nesna, after which we ascended on county road Fv17 to an altitude of 270m where we found a small car park overlooking the fjord of Sjona. There was also a German motorhome in the carpark and overnight a car pulled up where the passengers elected to sleep in the vehicle, which seemed quite common in Norway.

The views looking out of the Sjona fjord was amazing with numerous photographs taken as the evening progresses. The views were reminiscent of Peter Jacksons 2012 movie ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ based on J. R. R. Tolkien’s book with some of the islands jutting out of a low-lying mist. Later in the evening this was complimented with a tinge of red sky over a very still seascape.

Between Nesna and Utskarpen, Norland County, Norway - ...behind every picture, there is a story...
View down Sjona Fjord, Norland County, Norway
Between Nesna and Utskarpen, Norland County, Norway - ...behind every picture, there is a story...

The map below illustrates the route taken on day 26 of the trip:

Day 26 Route

Day 27: 2 August 2020 – At 1am the sunrise was stunning and during breakfast looking back down towards Nesna we were presented with some interesting cloud formations.

We drove around Sjonjafjord and although some distance away for the first time on this trip encountered white tailed eagles souring. These magnificent creatures are absolutely enormous.

Flostrand on northern bank of Sjona Fjord, Norland County, Norway - ...behind every picture, there is a story...
Flostrand on northern bank of Sjona Fjord, Norland County, Norway
White Tailed Eagles

Parked at a carpark circa 400m after the exit of the Sila Tunnel on the Flostrandveien by Sila Fjord. From here there is a lovely 6.5km (approx.) up the mountain of Smaltinden, which has an altitude of 782m. Visibility as to where the path goes is not easy to pick up; however, the route is waymarked so you need to be vigilant to pick these markers up (usually by painted markings on rocks). The route is not technically challenging and basically follows natural clefts in the rocks.

Once at the summit the views are brilliant, with a fantastic view down to Sila and Silavågen. Further out to Brensla, Handnesøya, Tomma, Dønna, Lovund and the peaks on the other side of Silavatnet (Aldersundtindene). The horseman (Hestmannen  -571m) can just be seen out in the sea on the island of Storseløy. Unfortunately, from a photography perspective there was a slight heat haze.

Summit of Smaltinden (782m) looking south over Sjona Fjord, Norland County, Norway - ...behind every picture, there is a story...
Summit of Smaltinden (782m) looking south over Sjona Fjord, Norland County, Norway
Summit of Smaltinden (782m) looking northeast, Norland County, Norway - ...behind every picture, there is a story...

Continued on county road Fv17, travelling northeast by the Aldersundet which presented fantastic views of the island of Aldra and Brattland.

Tha Aldersundet and Island of Aldra, Norland County, Norway - ...behind every picture, there is a story...
Tha Aldersundet and Island of Aldra, Norland County, Norway
Aldersundet and Brattland, Norland County, Norway - ...behind every picture, there is a story...
Aldersundet and Brattland, Norland County, Norway

Continued on county road Fv17 until reaching the ferry port of Kilboghavn.

Kilboghavn ferry terminal, Nordland County, Norway - ...behind every picture, there is a story...
Kilboghavn ferry terminal, Nordland County, Norway

Here we boarded our 5th ferry on Fv17 which travels 15km (9.6 miles) north up Vaerangfjord crossing into the Arctic Circle which is marked by a globe on the shore thus indicating the crossing of latitude 66° 33’ i.e.  The Arctic Circle marks the latitude above which the sun does not set on the summer solstice, and does not rise on the winter solstice. This latitude is not absolute since it is slowly creeping northwards at a rate of 15m per year.

Arctic circle marker viewed from Kilboghavn to Jektvik ferry, on route 17, Nordland County, Norway - ...behind every picture, there is a story...
Arctic circle marker viewed from Kilboghavn to Jektvik ferry, on route 17, Nordland County, Norway

The views from the ferry were stunning especially of the mountain Telnestinden (973m).

Telnestinden, Rodoy, Nordland County, Norway - ...behind every picture, there is a story...
Telnestinden, Rodoy, Nordland County, Norway
Hills over Jektvik, Rodoy, Nordland County, Norway - ...behind every picture, there is a story...
Hills over Jektvik, Rodoy, Nordland County, Norway

After landing at Jektvik we travelled circa 6km northeast until we found a nice parking place between lake Kista and Dragvika.

Kistastraumen, Dragvika, Jektvik, Rodoy, Nordland County, Norway - ...behind every picture, there is a story...
Kistastraumen, Dragvika, Jektvik, Rodoy, Nordland County, Norway

The map below illustrates the route taken on day 27 of the trip:

Day 27 Route

Day 28: 3 August 2020 – Despite it being our first damp day since the 8 July, the weather did not detract from the absolute beauty of Norway. Unfortunately, the weather did not make for picture postcard photography; however, the mist on the mountains adds some mystery to the pictures.

The Norwegian Meteorological Institute long term weather forecast predicted a week of rain; however, we were at the northern boundary of the rain band, so decided to chase the better weather.

Travelled 20km to the village of Agskardet where we boarded the ferry and crossed Arhaugfjord (2.6km) to Foroy.

Agskardet, Norland County

From Foroy travelled eastwards along the northern shore of Nordfjord. To the south of the fjord is Norway’s second largest Glacier, Svartisen, which covers 370km2 and has 60 glacier tongues. Although misty below are a couple of photographs of two of the glacier tongues.

Stopped for lunch opposite the island of Mesoya (i.e. where Glomfjord starts), after which went for a wet dog walk up Sandagasen (212m). Along the way we picked numerous bunchberries and bog-bilberries, with the latter being more tart and stronger in flavour than standard bilberries.

Elk Scat, Sandagasen, Norland County, Norway

We also found elk (moose) scat, which was the first evidence we had encountered of these elusive animals.

Just to the west of the villages of Grimstad and Mevik there was seals in sea.

Parked up for the evening by Lake Laksadalvatnet. The days journey had involved four significant length tunnels and one ferry crossing, which is the sixth and final one on county road Fv17.

It was a shame that the rain clouds did not allow us to fully view the landscape and that better photographs could not be captured. If the rain had only been forecast for one day, we would have stayed around Jektvik so as not to miss the scenery; however, with several days of rain predicted it was more prudent to move to the better weather.

The map below illustrates the route taken on day 28 of the trip:

Day 28 Route

Day 29: 4 August 2020 – The weather was much better than yesterday with a mix of clouds and sunshine. Travelled northwards and pulled up just prior to the Vindvik tunnel entrance to take photographs of Sorfjord and the beautiful Island of Fugløya.

Sorfjorden and the Island of Fugløya, Nordland, Norway - ...behind every picture, there is a story...
Sorfjorden and the Island of Fugløya, Nordland, Norway – …behind every picture, there is a story…

Continued northwards on route 17 to Kjellingstraumen bridge which was constructed in 1975 and is a length of 662m. Here there is a carpark with picnic tables and toilet facilities.

Kjellingstraumen, Nordland County, Norway - ...behind every picture, there is a story...
Kjellingstraumen Bridge, Nordland County, Norway

We walked under the bridge where there was ripened cloud berries and Grass-of-Parnassus which was a new discovery to us, identified by the Flora Incognita App.

Grass-of-Parnassus, Kjellingstraumen Bridge, Norland County, Norway

A further 20km northwards on county road Fv17 we came to a parking place next to Fjellvika, which is a bay off a labyrinth of sea channels comprising of fjords and straights (sounds). In total for the day we had only travelled just over 50km, but thought we would take the opportunity to do some canoeing in the bay using the inflatable SeaEagle canoe.

Fjellvika, Norland County, Norway

An evening walk was taken to Osvatnet which is a small lake nearby. Here we discovered three remote dwellings. What is intriguing is both how they are accessed and how originally the building materials were transported given that there was no paths to these buildings.

Access is across the lake which is in a forest with only single track pathway through the foest

The interesting rock patterns illustrated in the photograph below was ridges in the rock circa 25mm deep and was earlier canoed over when the tide was in.

The map below illustrates the route taken on day 28 of the trip:

Day 29 Route

Day 30: 5 August 2020 – Mid morning about 5km north on county road Fv17 of the overnight stay we spotted 3 elk camouflaged in the trees. We duly stopped the vehicle at the end of a driveway (Fv17 is a clearway and stopping is not permitted on the road) and ran back with a camera fitted with a large 150-600mm telephoto zoom lens attached and duly photographed 3 elk’s, one being a male with huge antlers. When checking the shots taken on the camera’s display, it was found that there was no SD memory card in the camera, since it had been left in the computer when backing up the photographs the previous evening. Subsequently, rushed back to the motorhome for the memory card, which must have spooked the elk since they withdrew out of sight further into the woods.

A few hundred metres down the road there is a car park signed with walks to Storasen (0.8km) and Laukeng (2.3km). From here we walked up Storasen which is a hill 121m in altitude offering fantastic views of the area, which are well worth seeing. On the walk we spotted elk hoof prints and scat, but unfortunately did not see the elusive moose.

Tuv and Bodo, Norland County, Norway - ...behind every picture, there is a story...
View from Storasen, Bodo and Tuv and Bodo, Norland County, Norway
Tuv, Norland County, Norway - ...behind every picture, there is a story...

We returned to the motorhome and duly set off, turning sharply left to manoeuvre out of the carpark when we heard a thud and unfortunately the back wheel of the campervan dropped in a ditch. Unfortunately, this was one of the drive wheels. We realised we could actually build up the area under the wheel, by jacking the vehicle up and filling the gap with stones, of which in Norway there are plenty readily loose rocks available; thus, effectively widening the road. Unfortunately, we had blocked the carpark, so some returning walkers could not get their vehicles out until we moved our vehicle. Hence, we had a team of willing and very friendly Norwegian ladies helping us by gathering stones. We successfully got the motorhome out after about 20 minutes, without incurring any damage. We then then subsequently dismantled the roadway extension we had built so not to damage the drainage.

Built up roadway with rocks and stones

We proceeded a further 10km along county road Fv17 and was between Steinvollen and Løding when we viewed a single female elk about 200m away grazing in a field. This time we managed to capture some photographs.

Elk Cow, Løding, Norland County, Norway - ...behind every picture, there is a story...
Elk Cow, Løding, Norland County, Norway
Elk Cow, Løding, Norland County, Norway - ...behind every picture, there is a story...
Elk Cow, Løding, Norland County, Norway - ...behind every picture, there is a story...

We arrived in Bodo thus completing the 630km (390 miles) long route 17, which includes 6 ferry crossings. County road FV17 is acclaimed to be one of the most scenic routes in the world and from our experience can only concur with this. The route 17 can be completed in two days, but many tour guides allow between three and four. We took seven days, thus allowing us plenty of time to absorb the beauty of the countryside. For more details on county road Fv 17, click here.

In Bodo we purchased groceries and also a replacement tail light bulb for the vehicle, since one had blown and we had used our spare. Note it is a mandatory requirement to have spare bulbs.

We then made our way down to the port to find out about making a booking onto the ferry to Moskenes which is on the famous Lofoten islands. Advice from the web is to pre-book ferry crossings in summer, otherwise you could be waiting many hours. As we arrived at the port, we found that a ferry was in dock and all the vehicles had been loaded; however, there was enough room for us to also board. We had not planned such a quick boarding and had to leave the vehicle almost immediately. What was supposed to be a leisurely time ended up as a mad panic, since they needed us out of the vehicle in order to set-off. With both the Covid19 pandemic and having the dogs, we elected to sit outside and, in our rush, didn’t grab enough warm clothing (shorts not being a good idea).

Bodo (ferry port to Moskenes on the Lofoten Archipelago), Norland County, Norway - ...behind every picture, there is a story...
Bodo (ferry port to Moskenes on the Lofoten Archipelago), Norland County, Norway

The ferry crossing took some 4 hours and provided the most stunning scenery we have seen on any ferry; however, we were duly frozen. Note: travelling with dogs on ferries can vary. They can be left in the vehicle, but for long crossing may get distressed. You can take them on the open deck and some ferries have designated areas. On other ferries you can stay inside providing you cage the animal. This is not practical for two dogs of considerable size!

The map below illustrates the route taken on day 30 using county road Fv17.

The remainder of this day will be covered under the next blog which will describe our trip through both the Lofoten and Vesteralen Archipelago’s

Further blogs will follow covering the most northerly mainland lighthouse in the world on the Nordkinn peninsula, journey down the border with Finland, Hammerfest and the Island of Senja, before travelling back south down Norway using as many central / easterly roads as possible including the blood road near Rognan, the UNESECO world heritage mining town of Roros and the Rondane National Park.

Note: Photographs included in this blog are available for download without the watermark from the IMAGE CATALOGUE. These are high resolution suitable for wall prints and magazines. If any used in the blog are not in the catalogue, it is because they have not met the quality criteria; however, on request they can be made available. If you have enjoyed this blog and wish to contribute, please feel free to purchase pictures.

The map below is a summary of the approximate route taken over the seven days detailed in this blog.