I walk further out of Reine after an initial 2km lift with a French couple who dropped me off at the Coop supermarket. On one of the typical bridges connecting two small islets around Reine I take a picture of one of Lofoten’s most well known sights: an enormous mass of rock towering above a few typical local fishermen’s cabins or rorbu, separated from each other by a deep blue bay. At a bus stop a little further I meet the two Swedish girls again whom I shared a power outlet with in Vindstad earlier that afternoon while visiting Bunes beach (the huge scale of the beach is difficult to understand from the pictures, but suffice it to say that the waterfront is 1km long here!). The girls are trying to hitch a ride to the same place where I’m going. Kvalvika beach, apparently one of the most beautiful remote beaches of the Lofoten islands, is just 20km away from Reine and accessible only by an easy one hour hike away from the main road. Just as we’re discussing the viability to hitch a ride from the bus stop where we’re standing a tiny car pulls up and a moment later the Swedish girls are gone. No room for a third person and accompanying backpack unfortunately. I move to a better spot and half an hour later a black Volvo stops. As Sven offers me a beer from the USB-charged cooler in the front seat it turns out to be Jupiler, and after 3 and a half weeks on the road I finally meet a fellow countryman! We switch from English to Flemish and while driving it turns out that not only is he an Antwerp based architect, we actually have some friends in common. Not something you would expect more than 3.000 km away from home somewhere along the 68th latitude north! He’s on the way back home, taking his time to complete an epic 10.000+ km road trip to the North Cape and across entire Scandinavia. After a very enjoyable ride he drives a few kilometres out of his way to drop me off at the starting point of the trail to Kvalvika, but not without pushing a few beers and a little bottle of prosecco in my hands. “Enjoy a festive evening tonight,” he says with a wink. “Don’t mind if I do,” I reply with a smile before he speeds off again.
By the time I reach the west-oriented beach the low evening sun illuminates the scene beautifully. Around its entire circumference a dramatic, rugged mountain chain protects the little bay from inland views, but its reputation means a lot of camping backpackers find their way here when the weather is good like today. As I pass tent after tent pitched on the grassy edge of the beach I almost imagine myself on a rainbow gathering. Instead of joining the happy campers though, the highest of the surrounding peaks catches my eye. Mount Ryten, a 542m high beast that rises from the sea on the north side of the beach is waiting to be tamed, and I make it my life’s goal to see the sunset from up there in my sleeping bag. About an hour and a few litres of sweat later I plump down my 25 kg backpack, now stocked with several beer cans on top of the 5 days worth of food, against the little tower of rocks that marks the highest point of the mountain and promptly open the prosecco. It tastes like victory.
I wake up at 3.45 to see an incredible sunrise. It’s super clouded but the sunny top of Ryten shines above the low-hanging clouds as if pointing a middle finger at the campers on their grey, dreary beach down below. I am literally the only one sleeping up here, and for a happy 45 minutes I feel like the king of the world. Then I return to my warm, cosy sleeping bag once more, with a smile on my face and an unforgettable memory in my head.
When I wake up again it’s 10.30 and sweat is collecting on my brow. The clouds are still down there, and I’m still up here. I strip down to my boxers and put the sleeping pad and sleeping bag outside. Sleeping in on Saturday is a tradition I won’t easily abandon.
Late that afternoon the wind changes and the clouds finally reach my stronghold on the edge of the abyss. The wind picks up and shivering I retreat to my nylon castle for the rest of the day, with a good book and some Badbadnotgood in my earphones. I only come out again in the evening just long enough to see a misty sunset somewhere above what used to be an enormous blue body of water. After 5 minutes of trying not to be blown off a 500m cliff while taking the perfect photo I call it a day and assume my familiar foetal position. Not before setting the alarm clock at 3.45 though.