Hurtigruten has a wide range of ships of all ages and luxury classes and due to my travel times and dates I traveled with the MS Lofoten, currently the oldest vessel in service, I believe. The boat is from 1964, wow, quite an old lady for a boat 😉 You could of course feel and see that in the simplicity of the design and the often painted over old steel, but the ship did have a rustic charm. I had chosen my cabin a bit unwisely though, since I was very close to the old sputtering, noisy engine of the ship, however, the constant sound and vibration also lulled me to sleep at times.
From Kirkenes we sailed further north with not much fjords yet but the open Barents Sea to our right and the coastline to our left. The ship calls to port every two, three hours on average. Climbing up north along the coast was quite unpleasant. Due to the constant sideways swell of the Barents Sea, the ship, which had of course no stabilizers being old and rather small, the ship rolled quite heftily from side to side. I didn’t get seasick, but I didn’t feel like eating more than half of my dinner that first night. From the second day onwards we entered the jungle of fjords big and small and the sea was much calmer. The north is rough but beautiful and at times I wanted to take pictures of every single mountain we passed.
There was also a sense of desolation and isolation though and I could not shake the thought of just how bleak and cold and miserable it has to be there in winter. One place particularly threw me and I checked about it in the Internet. An island called Loppa. It was halfway between the maybe five hundred inhabitants towns of Oksfjord and Skjervoy, which are served by Hurtigruten. It looked like there are ten or twenty houses on Loppa, even a church. Internet says there are “few” permanent residents left, but there ARE permanent residents left. Holy crap.
You need one and a half hours to Oksfjord with a whip going 14 knots like the MS Lofoten, longer of course with a slower ship. Main industry is presumably fishing, it didn’t look like there is anything else. What must it be like to live there? Why would anyone choose to live there? In summer, okay, I might still get it, it’s lonely, remote and beautiful, but in winter??? Where it never gets really bright at 70 degrees north and where it’s minus thirty or whatever degrees Celsius? I can relate to living in a place like this if it were subtropical but not if it’s subarctic. Wow.