More about the Midnight Sun

Why do people applaud natural phenomena?

That’s not the start of a riddle, it really does baffle me when people clap in the presence of natural awesomeness. My brother John told me years ago about visiting Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park and seeing people clap, and we saw the same thing when we visited last year … so I guess it’s probably happened nearly every time in the intervening years. And it happened at Nordkapp at midnight last night when the sun stayed high in the sky. Well, not really all that high, but definitely well above the horizon. And it was awesome. But I didn’t feel like clapping.

My mum asked me a couple of questions and maybe other loyal readers are wondering too …. Have we seen the Northern Lights, and can we see any stars at this time of the year inside the Arctic Circle.

The Northern Lights are a winter phenomenon, occurring when the sky is dark. We’ll have to come back in winter to see them, and apparently in Tromso they are at their most spectacular at 6pm.

I must find out more about them, but at the moment I’m still trying to get my head around the whole ‘sun doesn’t set for 10 weeks in summer’ and then the ‘sun doesn’t rise for 6 weeks in winter’ thing. I know it is to do with the earth’s tilt, and I’m sure there are plenty of Youtube videos about it all that we’ll watch when we get home. Or I’ll ask Dr Karl. He probably know lots about this stuff.

And the stars. We haven’t actually seen a star since we left home. Even as far south as Copenhagen, there are only a few hours of night at this time of the year, and the sky just never gets dark enough to have any visible stars in it. Within the Arctic Circle, the sky is always light, although at midnight it’s not quite a bright as during the day, and it does cool down by a few degrees overnight. Our Lonely Planet Guide gives lots of dates of when the sun sets in various parts of Norway. It will set in Nordkapp around July 29th, for the first time since mid-May. And then the first star/s will be visible in late August.The sun sets for the last time in late November and rises again in mid-January. I know, I know – it’s all just strange for us who live in places where our days and nights only vary by a few hours depending on the season ….. and to people who live close to the Equator and have equal durations of day and night all year round it must be almost inconceivable.

And I’m by no means an expert, but if anyone wants to know anything else, ask us a question in the Comments and one of us will try to answer it for you.

We got to Nordkapp yesterday afternoon and paid the hefty fee to go into the Information and parking area. On the way there Greg had been looking out for possible camping spots, but I was fairly sure that there was only one place for us to camp last night … at Nordkapp itself. And we did. There is a field just outside the toll booths into the Nordkapp area and people are allowed to camp there, and lots of people with RVs just stay in the car park overnight. We went and looked at the lookout and read a few of the many obelisks, markers, monuments and other assorted items of interest, took photos and I sent a postcard to my 6 year old nephew to let him know that we’d seen Santa’s reindeer and would keep an eye out for Santa. There’s a pretty good chance that we’ll find him in Finland …. Lapland to be precise.

So then we pitched our tent and waited. For our dinner to cook … for midnight …. for the sun to go down (or not). And it was well worth the wait. We were lucky that it was a reasonably clear sky with not too many clouds. Tour buses kept on arriving and disgorging passengers from cruise ships, motor homes and motor bikes rolled in and one young German woman arrived on foot. I had a good chat with her and found out that she was there to start walking the E1 Walking Trail, which is a 4900km route that starts at Nordkapp and finishes in Sicily. The route was officially opened just last month. She hadn’t been able to find the start, so I took her to the stone marker and took a photo of her with her camera. We had a nice chat about walking  – she has walked the Camino de Santiago, so have we – and I took her to our tent, gave her some water, we wished her  ‘Buen Camino’ and she started off on her very long walk.

Greg put a few more photos on the post below this one, to show where we have been so far this trip, and to give an idea of where we would be if we were in the Southern Hemisphere. I’m just going to state for the record that I have NO PLANS to camp at 71 degrees south, or anywhere within the Antarctic Circle. I’m not that brave. Or silly.


Inside the Arctic Circle

Our "wild" campsite on Lofoten Islands

Our “wild” camp-site on Lofoten Islands

We drove into the Arctic Circle about 15 minutes after we left the campground this morning. There’s a big tourist information centre/cafe and a small sign marking this amazing geographical fact. Amazing to us, because neither of us had ever thought we’d get to such lofty latitudes, although Greg has wanted to since he paddled his folding kayak in Iceland and Greenland 10 years ago. So we drove along for a while reminding each other that we’re inside the Arctic Circle. We were at high altitude when we crossed into The Circle and it was all quite bleak and typical high country terrain, and I noticed that the outside temperature was 6C, but when we dropped lower it all looked just like it has for the last 1000kms or so – fjords, forest, farms and little villages. And the temperature has hovered around 12 – 14C for most of the day.

When it was raining yesterday, we decided not to take the ferry out to the Lofoten Islands, even though we had read about how stunning they are and how it’s the highlight of any trip to northern Norway. It all seemed to be a bit of a waste in the rain, so we headed up the main road. Today the weather is better, and we have seen some blue sky and sunshine. At Bognes on the main road going north to Narvik, there is a ferry across to Skarberget on the main road, and there is also a ferry from the same point across to Lodingen on the Lofoten Islands. Greg initially drove to the queue for the ferry to take us across to the main road, then when we realised where the other ferry queue was going, he turned the car around so we could catch the one to Lofoten.

We’re currently sitting in our tent, surrounded by wildflowers, beside the water and overlooking some magnificent mountains. It really is breath-taking.


Roadside stop for Lunch

Roadside stop for Lunch


Travelling along fiords

Travelling along fiords

Waiting for the Ferry to the Lofoten Islands

Waiting for the Ferry to the Lofoten Islands




Just outside the Arctic Circle

It started raining just before we started packing up the tent this morning, and it didn’t really stop raining all day. We had planned to drive the scenic route along the coast, which involved several (more) ferry rides, but it all seemed to be a bit of a waste if we weren’t actually going to see anything. So we headed back to the main (inland) highway, the E6, and headed north. The scenery along the main route is still incredible, at times going along the sides of mountains and fjords. It seems like every time we go around another bend, there’s another perfect postcard-worthy picture of green fields with assorted red, cream and yellow buildings, or a granite mountain with stripey white waterfalls running down, or fir trees growing all the way down to the deep, clear water of a fjord.

I’m really hoping it stops raining soon and we get some blue skies, but even with cloudy grey skies, this scenery is amongst the most beautiful I have ever seen. We are still driving through a combination of forest and farmland, mostly grain crops with an occasional small herd of sheep or dairy cows. It’s just at the end of the hay-making season, and occasionally we have seen fields of cut hay being dried on long racks – I guess the ground is too damp to leave it lying there as it would never dry. Today we drove through 2 really, really long tunnels. One was 5.9kms, and the other was 8.6kms. The Norwegians are incredible tunnel-builders.

The ‘free-access camping‘ we had planned to do hasn’t worked out as we thought it would. We thought we’d be able to just drive down smaller roads off the highway and find somewhere to pitch our tent for the night, but there are little villages, farms and houses just about everywhere. Last night we camped at the campground at Vennesund and enjoyed using their cosy camp kitchen. An unpowered tent site cost us $30. Tonight we’re in a cabin at Krokstrand, just 20kms south of the Arctic Circle. A few reasons for being in a cabin – an unpowered tent site here is $40 (!!), and a 2-berth cabin with fridge, hotplate, heater, table & chairs & covered verandah is $60. It took us less than a nano-second to opt for the cabin and forego putting up a wet tent on wet grass in the rain. Funny about that.

Update: 300Kr does not give you a hot shower, that’s extra 5kr (A$1) for 3 minutes.

Eating lunch at a roadside stop in the rain

Eating lunch at a roadside stop in the rain



Cabin near the arctic circle