In a country with few people, Ibestad is one of the most sparsely populated municipalities in the North of Norway. A total of 1,400 people inhabit the two island communities, situated outside the town of Harstad, 1500 kilometres north of Oslo.
The landscape is characterized by snow-clad mountains even in summer, wooden houses, birch and pine woods and red boathouses set towards the blue sea. In summer the sun never sets. It is a landscape made for the painter and tourist.
It is also a landscape for the elderly. Ibestad ranks first as the municipality in Norway with the highest number of inhabitants older than 80 years.
When I grew up there was not much to do. You could choose from playing football, do orienteering or play in a marching band, or get a boyfriend old enough to own an old car with wunderbaum in the front window, driving the winding, narrow roads back and forth.
I played girl soccer, read my school books and played tennis against the barn.
Occasionally the monotony was broken by the monthly ”countryside movies”, showing black and white Tarzan pictures from the 1930s although this was the 1980s. Some movies were actually from the 1980s. Indiana Jones and Flashdance rocked my little island world.
Then as now, the biggest asset of my home place is nature. A landscape of mountain tops towering 1000 meters, cloudberry mires and quiet birch forests with lingonberries and blueberries, the occasional roaming moose and a multitude of freshwater lakes with mountain trout.
Some lucky ones even have berries in their garden, except they are not garden berries. They are cloudberries, and their ”garden” is moorland. Otherwise the cloudberries is a 5-minute walk from your house.
I always go to the cloudberry mires when I am up North in late summer, but his year the cloudberries were few and mostly unripe. My mother says she has not seen bumblebees this year, and the cloudberries need their hard work to get pollinated.
From my mother‘s garden I can see the mountain Drangen rises 1022 meters above sea level. Although I have grown up in a place with as many mountain tops as a pipe organ, I have never ventured there myself. I guess the time was ripe.
I ascended the lowest range of the Drangen mountain, Sula, 848 meters above sea level. On my way up I first pass the pine woods, then the birch woods, and lastly I reach the moorland with its low mountain flowers.
Up there I was alone, except some hardworking bumblebees and grazing sheep living on the edge. We all had the same view. Sharing the same mountain.
I inhale the panoramic views, have some dried cod and chocolate milk, while looking down at the miniature-sized houses so far below.
I run down towards my parked car, down there at the sea. I want to go home, home to oat pancakes that my little son has made me. I enter the door just in time for him to go to sleep and he wholeheartedly shows me what he has made.
Food is always a big part of mye stay up North. In the absence of mature cloudberries I make a bowl of comforting porridge. Rice porridge topped with sour cream porridge, served with cinnamon, sugar and a little butter. Sour cream porridge used to be the most festive of all Norwegian porridges, eaten at weddings, after giving birth or at haymaking. Today the only reason you need is spending a rainy day on the cloudberry mire, or having conquered your first little big mountain.
How to get there
Flight to Evenes/Narvik airport, then ferry from Stangnes in Harstad to Sørrollnes
Where to stay
Modern boathouses at Engenes, Andørja
What to do
Ascend Sula, the trek starts at Skog or Breivoll
Fabelparken, perhaps the most beautiful playground in Norway
Silsand beach in Fugleberg
Tour de Andørja
Go fishing at Andørja adventures