I feel rather like a hitch-hiker standing at the roadside attempting to flag down a monster truck, except the ride I am planning to climb on is much bigger. Much, much bigger.
Risøyhamn is the tiniest port of call on the Hurtigruten’s schedule, and also one of the most beautiful. While I wait for my early-morning ride, I am entertained watching huge hares lollop in the fields; oystercatchers chat noisily by the water’s edge; and kept amused trying to anticipate where a family of otters will next surface in the still, clear waters beneath the vast bridge, which connects Andøya to Hinnøya.
The Hurtigruten appears on the distant horizon; at first an almost insignificant speck amidst grand scenery. It is not until twenty minutes later, when it is towering above me at the quayside, that I begin to appreciate what an enormous ship it is. And it is stopping here just for me. Well, almost just for me. There are actually six of us embarking at this point in all, but it seems a tiny number of new passengers; hardly worth the bother of the big ship stopping.
My reason for feeling something of a hitch-hiker is that I am only planning to take the Hurtigruten for a relatively short trip––ten hours––from Risøyhamn in the Vesterålen islands to Stamsund in the Lofoten archipelago. Most of my fellow-passengers, I know, will be ensconced on the vessel for the best part of a week, taking the entire Norwegian coastal voyage from Kirkenes to Bergen. I am joining as a deck passenger; not even needful of a cabin.
Nevertheless, I am treated with no less gravitas for my transient status, and it is with unhurried familiarity that the huge hydraulic gangway connecting the ship to terra firma is lifted up behind me, and the magnificent vessel begins to slowly draw away from the jetty, to pass beneath the Andøy Bridge. The otters have made themselves noticeably scarce.
I am someone who, when I am on a boat, likes to be outside on deck. Not for me the bars and restaurants inside; not the pampered snug interior, thick carpet and central heating. I prefer to feel the cool wind of the great outdoors; the connection with the waves; the driving salt-flecked spray in my face; the hot bubbles of the open-air Jacuzzi. The open-air Jacuzzi!
Can this really be for me? Me, a mere deck passenger. There appear no obvious restrictions; no barriers; no guards. More importantly, no reason why not.
If there is a more pleasant way to travel, I have yet to discover it. The world-view from the open-air Jacuzzi on Deck 6 of the MS Nordkapp takes some beating.
© E. C. Glendenny
Travel writer E. C. Glendenny does not believe in roughing it more than is strictly necessary.