Giorgia joins a group tour to the beaches north of Bodø and finds herself learning so much more than she expected about the life and history of Arctic Norway.
My first day in Bodø started around 8 o'clock in the morning with an ice storm by the coast, and my persona standing in the very eye of the storm. When I left my hostel it wasn’t raining, so I ventured toward the Hurtigruten pier.
Suddenly round bits of the whitest ice were pouring down like they were being fired from all sides. It was hailing sweetener tablets! I hid my face in my scarf and stood motionless by a tiny cabin right there. 3, 2, 1… Soppy wet.
Read more: Exploring the street art of Bodø
Ten minutes later, and it was all gone: the ice rain stopped, the sky brightened up, and it was sunrise. I cautiously left my spot, and headed back toward Sjøgata and the city centre. It was still a bit dark, the city half asleep, but the air was crisp and the sky clearing up fast.
I soon found myself in front of the Tourist Office, and ten minutes later I was booked on the three-hour Arctic Walk organised by Stella Polaris around beaches north of Bodø.
Exploring Bodø city on foot
In the morning I had a stroll around the centre, visited the Domkirke (Bodø Cathedral) on Torvgata, walked past the (beautiful) library and the (beautiful) concert hall and, finally, made it to the harbour. I went straight to the very tip of the pier, where there’s (also) a colourful lighthouse.
I was there alone, and the pier was all silent but for the noise of the anchored boats quietly rolling in the low waves. The sky was pink, and cast a pinkish hue on all things around. It’s funny how ‘breathtaking’ can sound like an understatement at times.
The side of the pier overlooking the open sea is lined with seven large granite stones that would look rather ordinary and shapeless if it wasn’t for the large, perfectly round see-through holes drilled through them.
The stones form the installation Utten Titel (Untitled) by contemporary artist Tony Cragg.
The work, put in place in 1993, symbolises the close connection between nature and culture, but also the sea and the land. It looks perfectly integrated into the landscape.
A bus tour to the beaches
I stayed at the harbour for as long as I could, till it was time to head back to the Hurtigruten pier, the designated meeting point for the walk. The bus was already there, and so were our two guides, while the other ‘walkers’ were only just getting off the Hurtigruten and approaching the bus.
After a short bus ride it was all nature around us but for a few cabins by the water. Usually I’m not a fan of group visits and group tours, especially when I’m travelling.
Read more: Snow-coated Saltstraumen
I must say, though, that I had a great time and I learnt a lot of new things about the Vikings, moose and reindeers, the deepwater coral reef, and seabirds like sea eagles and guillemots, both fairly recurrent sights around Bodø. It was great! We visited three beaches in total: Løpsvika, Gravenbukta and Ausvika.
As we walked down Løpsvika, our guide pointed out the shells and the corals scattered all over the beach. As she explained, the corals come from the deep-water coral reef located off Norwegian mainland at a depth of up to 400 metres below sea level. They looked funny, all whitish and vaguely shaped like brains of different sizes. They came from afar.
Løpsvika also offers great views of Landegode island, located about 10 km northwest of Bødo. Its characteristic outline becomes quite a familiar sight when you spend a few days in the city.
As we all stood still, staring at Landegode, a seal peeked its round black head out of the water, then it disappeared into the almost waveless sea. It lasted a few seconds, but wow!
During the ten minutes’ walk from Løpsvika to Gravenbukta the sun peeked out without warning, and the landscape changed suddenly. It must have been shortly before 2 o’clock, and a timid tinge of orange in the sky suggested that sunset was already on its way.
As for Ausvika, it’s easy to guess why it’s thronged with people when the season allows it.
The beach is nestled in a small bay whose shape from above looks like a perfect fan. The location is super scenic, kind of similar to Gravenbukta, but more spacious and slightly more remote.
As we left the beach, the final stretch of the tour took us down a path in the grass, partially through sparse trees. We walked past what used to be a burial ground from the age of the Vikings. The tombs had been subsequently looted at some point (hard to tell when), as suggested by the shape of the earth mound, where the Vikings had been buried with their – by now long gone – valuables.
We stopped on a hill where the rocks overlooked the sea. That is when our guides produced two huge flasks from their bags, and generously poured boiling hot meadowsweet tea into paper cups aptly handed around to all of us.
We stood there sipping tea, with the sea and the mountains all around us, while the wind blew hard and the sun prepared to set. Just then a sea eagle thought it’d be nice to fly across the blue sky just over our heads. It was so beautiful.
We eventually headed back to the bus, which took us back to the pier.
The Norwegian arctic in winter
Before Bodø I had never been to the Arctic in winter. I had always wanted to, but I’d never got round to it.
Standing on the beach that afternoon is one of those memories that got instantly and forever engraved in my mind even before it turned into memory at all effects. Blame it on the silvery light, the light blue-greyish water, snowy Landegode, the sea eagle, and the seal.
There are times when everything looks perfect and mesmerising as it is.