I had expected the water to be cold, but my first step into the Norwegian Sea was almost my last. My whole foot felt like it had been turned into a block of ice. I wasn’t sure that I could go any further.
It looked the most perfect day for a swim. The sky was cloudless and blue. The sun was shining brightly and, although the temperature was hardly tropical, it was a very decent 20°C––not bad for 200kms above the Arctic Circle.
I had picked up the first boat out of Reine to the tiny village of Vindstad on the edge of Reinefjorden. A flat and easily discernible path runs through the village, which ribbons along the edge of the fjord for about 2kms. At the end of the fjord, a left-hand trail to Bunes Beach is clearly signposted, and the route snakes uphill through a pass between high summits on either side, before the vast expanse of Bunes Beach suddenly opens up ahead. From ferry to beach is only a matter of about 50 minutes.
The scale of the beach is deceptive. From the start of the sand it can still take over ten minutes to reach the sea.
A few hardy campers who have either overnighted on the beach or mistimed catching the previous day’s ferry back––the beach cannot be reached by road––are just beginning to stir, but their tents are pitched in the lee of the big mountain, presumably where it is less windy, away from the main expanse of sand. My early-morning start has been worthwhile: I feel like I have the entire beach to myself.
Changing into my swimming togs is an entirely al fresco affair–who’s to see?––and I hurry to the water’s edge, seduced by the turquoise clear water. It looks like it should be warm. If I will it enough, perhaps it will be warm?
The sea is freezing––actually 12°C, I later discover. I decide to tackle the enterprise like I would summiting Everest. Little steps at a time. Two steps in; one step back. Three steps in; two steps back. Four steps in… no, right back to the shore. It is bloody cold.
I try again. I’m up to my knees. A little more. I’m up to my waist. Just a little further. I duck down and I get my shoulders under. That is the worst of it over. The cold is still biting, but I am swimming now. I am mindful to stay with my depth: there is still no one in sight; no one within hailing distance if I ran into trouble. I float on my back, squint my eyes against the bright sun, let the cold water begin to make my head ache.
A little moment of heaven.
© E. C. Glendenny
Travel writer, E. C. Glendenny, braves icy temperatures to swim from Bunes Beach.