After my exhausting day yesterday, and having had the forethought to camp in the shadow of a mountain(!), I slept late. It was nearly 11 by the time I eventually crawled from my sleeping bag and, taking advantage of the fact that it was still sunny, plunged into the sea. I breakfasted on the rocks overlooking the blue islet studded water, the mountains of Vestvagøya rising in the distance. I tried to ignore the frequent cars driving past behind me on the road to Henningsvær. I was beginning to realise that perhaps the Rough Guide's list of "must see" places was actually well worth studying - in order to avoid them.
There was a northerly breeze, and sea mist was clearly being held back only by the "Lofoten Wall", spilling southward through the gaps on either side of the island of Gimsøya. It made for hard and chilly cycling into the wind for the 10 miles to the first bridge leading across the channel between Austvagøya and Gimsøya. This was an impressive structure - a good half mile in length and rising to several hundred feet in the centre of its long single span. It was a hard work cycling up to the middle, at which point tendrils of sea mist blew across the bridge both above and below, before coasting down the other side.
I had been quite frustrated by the amount of traffic - the steady roar of cars and camper vans accelerating past from behind took both a certain amount of attention and any sense of solitude. I thus planned to detour from the obvious route west and take the minor road round the northern shores of Gimsøya - 10 miles instead of 2 along the main road, but I was after all here to enjoy myself! And it made an incredible difference. The sun shone, wild flowers bloomed in the meadows by the side of the road, the mountains rose up high to my left and I passed a grand total of 3 cars in the next hour!
I had lunch in the rocks at the edge of a tiny sandy cove, tucked in out of the wind, sharing the cracks with a few clumps of sea pinks and the rocks with yellow and white splashes of lichen. A white painted wooden church - Gimsøykirke - stood just 20 yards inland - truly a seafarers' church. The sea mist made the islets offshore dim, but nearer an oystercatcher wandered along the beach, prodding industriously between the pebbles. The occasional gull mewed and sheep in the fields behind rattled their cowbells (sheepbells?!), but otherwise it was superbly silent. After lunch I cycled on round the coast, grateful for the gentle following breeze as I coasted south along the flat coastal strip marking the western edge of Gimsøya. I came eventually to the E10, the main east-west road again. Following my disenchantment with the Rough Guide I had almost decided to follow the E10 west via Borge rather than turn off south along the coast of Vestvagøya to Stamsund as it recommended. However, a straw poll of vehicles as I approached the turning showed that the vast majority were in fact sticking to the main road. Wondering if in fact I'd done the Rough Guide an injustice, I turned south.
It certainly turned out to be a splendid road. In moving to the south side of the islands I'd left the sea mist behind, and the sun once again shone strongly from a clear blue sky, except where cloud was spilling through the odd low pass in the mountains. The views, both behind me to the jutting promontory that was the southwest tip of Austvagøya, and in front to the mountains above Stamsund were amazing. I made my leisurely way along, stopping frequently for photographs.
The air was warm, but where the northerly breeze broke through from the other side of the mountains it encouraged hurried donning of an extra layer. I was surprised to see some local children swimming by the road in one of the streams which meandered across the peaty coastal strip between the mountains and the sea. It looked the chilliest place imaginable, with a cutting breeze blowing from the north and the intermittent shadow of a plume of cloud blowing off the top of the next mountain to the west. Nonetheless, this was clearly the summer after school activity - over the next ten minutes I passed half a dozen other children on bikes, all clearly equipped for swimming and heading for the same spot. Intrigued, for I couldn't believe that, with all the long, dark winter in which to plan the ideal summer swimming expedition, the local children would end up somewhere wholly unsuitable, I tried the next stream myself. And they were right! In meandering across the peaty plain, the water had absorbed enough warmth from the sun that it was almost hot. I had an enjoyable and cleansing freshwater swim.
The evening was wearing on as I came round the coast towards Stamsund, and more and more cloud was spilling over the mountains from the north. I'd reached the benignly pleasurable stage where, passing through the village of Skokkelvika I was able to spend a happy ten minutes composing jokes around its name, mainly involving clergymen and shellfish... Eventually I picked a scenic campsite above the village of Steine in the narrow strip of flat grassland between the steep mountainside and the sea. Slightly too scenic, perhaps, and not breezy enough, for my dinner took on a slightly peripatetic nature as I moved from spot to spot, chased by clouds of midges. I was glad to retreat into the bivvy bag and zip the mosquito netting shut, then took a sadistic pleasure in squashing all those midges which had got in with me as they tried to get out again!