Vardø and the Varanger Peninsula

Chris picking cloudberries (aka bakeapple in Newfoundland) Rubus Chamaemorus

2013/07/26: 12 km and Boat to Vardø
2013/07/27: 58 km to Hamningberg
2013/07/28. 40 km to Vardø and Boat
Vardø is the easternmost town in Norway. It lies on the east side of the Varanger peninsula, which has a truly arctic climate, as opposed to sub-arctic climate of most of northern Norway. We hopped off the boat here with a notion of an out and back northward jaunt that could perhaps be made into a continuous coastal run to Båtsfjord ….if some kind of boat support could be found to connect two road-heads, or if it were feasible to push bikes along a snowmobile track.

Inquiries at the tourist info produced glimmers of hope for a boat, but nothing concrete. We camped north of town near fish drying racks on the island of Vardøya, and we picked bowls full of cloudberries. Next morning, we breakfasted on these before visiting the Vardø Fortress and braving our first undersea tunnel to the mainland to start riding north.

We met a southbound Aussie cyclist, who had just taken boat transport from points north to Hemningberg, having done the reverse of what we hoped to do. He gave us the card of the owner of the fast zodiac (inflatable) he’d used, and we made several unsuccessful attempts to reach him. Onward connection or not, this out-and-back ride was feast for the eyes: open moorland, rocky fells dropping straight to the sea, sharp igneous dykes with ferns tucked between them in damp dales, and beaches where herds of reindeer gathered.

Reindeer on the beach

Along the busy road to Hemningsberg

After admiring a well-preserved old fishing community, and considering camping on a gale-ravaged shoreline, we opted to tuck ourself further inland near a fast-flowing creek. As evening wore on, several anglers walked by our tent on their way to fly-fish in what we soon realized was a prime salmon stream. One of these anglers gently told us that –in spite of Everyman’s Right– we were not meant to be camped so near a public amenity. No need to move now, he said, but keep it in mind for the future.

In the morning, we headed back south to Vardø, leaving time to see the haunting Steilneset Memorial to the victims of the Witch Trials held here beginning in 1621.

Representation of a chair at the stake where witches (14 male and 77 female) were burned.

Then we boarded the boat for Honningsvåg.


2 responses to “Vardø and the Varanger Peninsula

  1. I’m fascinated by many things in your recent posts, but have to know why such an expensive tunnel would be built to go undersea to a tiny island…. Who or what is on the island?

    • The town of only about 2000 (guessing) people is on the island. But there is also some modern radar stuff and old WW2 bunkers so maybe it was and is of some military significance. Maybe cheaper than keeping the ferry service going? I read it was the first undersea one they built, but there have been many more since …several of which we will have to brave in the next few weeks.

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