In the land of the midnight sun
We’d been on the road for eight months already. Zigzagging across the European continent, from East to West, from North to South, witnessing a multitude of sceneries and cultures, from the simplest of postcard landscapes to the misty fjords of the Scandinavian Far North, from the city hustle and bustle to the calm of wide open spaces, from herds of wild animals to clusters of cars, with that ever-present contrast between man and nature that never ceased to grow as we made our way North.
After a 1,200-mile-crossing, we finally arrived in Norwegian Lapland, leaving Swedish forests and lakes behind for these plateaux dried by the winter cold and glacial winds. We crossed Sweden, from bottom to top, with the aim of going to the much-touted Nordkapp. Only 248 miles lay between our destination and us. This incredibly famous place is Europe’s northernmost point, located well above the Arctic Circle, where night no longer exists during the summer. We were there on June, 15th, the exact date where the sun is at its highest. It was difficult for us to imagine seeing the sun at midnight, especially as the sky is often grey in those parts. According to the locals, the weather is sunny only one day out of seven, and still, you’d need sunny intervals at the right time.
The road that leads to it is quite simply breathtaking. One sole strand of cement criss-crosses the landscape, playing with the dizzying fjords, getting as close to the ocean as it can, to more than 240 miles up into the void, still running along the coast where we occasionally see dolphins joining us on our journey. The wind and the rain are also often part of the trip. This partnership creates a particular kind of atmosphere, as if Man isn’t welcome here, or rather, as if he constantly has to submit himself to these constraints. Nature dominates, and she shows it. We need to adapt ourselves, and as the Norwegians put it, “There is no bad weather, only bad clothes”. This profound respect for nature is inherent to them. Landscapes such as these must be earned; the rain and the wind are but incidental.
We gently drove on to our destination, leaving no landscape unturned. There are places so remote in this region that the word “autarky” isn’t unfamiliar. Havoysund is one such place. This small fishing town was connected by roads only thirty years ago, and becomes entrapped by the ice four months a year. Home to only a thousand inhabitants, this little village is worth checking out.
We continued on with our journey towards the long-awaited place, and after a 5-hour, 180-mile drive, we had arrived. The North Cape isn’t really the northernmost point of Europe, let’s just say it’s the most accessible, as it is perched on top of a majestic cliff. Although this place is quite enjoyable (albeit swarming with people), another place exists, Knivskjellodden.
Knivskjellodden is, actually, officially the northernmost point of Europe. But in order to get there, it’ll take you four to five hours walking there and back, crossing swamps and rivers that permeate a gigantic plateau dominating the horizon.
By chance, we got to make the journey under a blazing summer sun. That day, around 10 pm, an old lady we met in a bar told us this kind of weather is incredibly rare, and that we absolutely had to see the midnight sun. We were ready in less than five minutes.
We set out at 10:30 pm under this unique sun. There was no wind, and we were alone. We had been waiting for this day for months and months, and there we were, a 15th June, two thousand miles away from home, having driven North for the past eight months and walked a bit more, to admire this astounding nature. Three hours after our departure, we were faced with a pebbled beach, landlocked between two rocky outcrops. We were there, lit up by the Northern light, facing the sea, with the sun West, and the North Cape cliff East. That magical moment became the symbol of our adventure, and will forever by etched in our minds.