We went to Mari´s wedding to Tore in Steigen at the weekend. I had a vague notion that Steigen was not far from Bodø, but to the north or to the south? And how far? This in spite of the fact that Mari has been living there for some three years, and whenever I talked to her, there was reference to the fastboat that provides transport to Bodø. Here is one such fastboat – a catamaran:
Clearly, then, this was a remote place, even by Norwegian standards.
I had a foggy image in my mind of a road and a jetty, a jetty where Mari would sometimes park her car when flying out of Bodø.
“Steigen”, you say – about 2200 souls; but we were headed to Nordfold, a hamlet on the inside of the peninsula, in a closed fjord. Nordfold has maybe 300 inhabitants, a jetty, a large warehouse, a Coop and a relatively modern church. This is where Mari and Tore have been living for the last few years, getting to know everybody there – and involving quite a few of them in the wedding preparations
The “Nordic Star” – about to pick up 50 wedding guests.
The scenery is stunning, and makes you feel small. While the fjords around Oslo and along the south coast are on a human scale – you could swim across many of them – here it´s a different story. As we leave Bodø harbour and head north-north-east, the captain of the “Nordic Star” revs the twin Volvo Penta 300 HP engines and takes us to a 15 knot cruise. In a short while we are exposed to the elements. The fjord opens onto the sea to port, with breakers rolling in, and the distance to shore on starboard is suddenly a good mile. Wind and spray carry across the deck, and only a few of us remain outside to breathe the salty wind and escape the smell of diesel below decks.
Just out of Bodø
After an hour or so a string of low islands appear to port, shielding us from the sea, and matters calm down, before we enter the fjord proper and the waves subside all together. Shortly before entering Nordfold, the skipper points to a narrow fjord cutting into the rocks on starboard, on the far shore, and explains that a single man lives on an old farm right there. He is provided with supplies at infrequent intervals. We don´t envy him.
Nordfold turns out to be tiny, with what amounts to one road running along the coast. Running along the coast is a narrow strip of arable land, before the mountain rises steeply above it all, a soft mountain, but a mountain still. The space for human living is clearly delimited. This strip is where the houses, the fields, the sheep will be found. The question quickly forms in your mind – how do people even make a living here? And what of the past?
Well, the answer has to be the same both for the past and the present – fish. In the past, fish straight from the fjord – throw your line in, and chances are you will soon be staring at a 5kg cod – and fish from Lofoten, a relative stone´s throw away. In the present, salmon farming is a vital source of income and activity. I talked to two men in their late thirties whose livelihood stems from the 1.7 Billion NOK Cermag salmon farming company. Cermag is poised to invest a billion in new plants in Steigen in the coming years. This clearly is the future – unless global warming upsets the plans in some as-yet unforeseen manner.
It was a lovely, low key wedding in 14 degrees centigrade, under a tent on the lawn, with live music (great performance from Soetkin) and a representative from the Humanist Society performing the ceremony. As always these speeches make you think about your own wedding and marriage, and afterwards you can´t remember a word of it. Build on each other´s strengths, maybe? Great there and then.
The wedding dinner was a mixture of local and not-so-local content. Fish is abundant in the north, wine grapes less so. The groom had pulled ashore some 80 kgs of kveite (halibut), and this constituted the main course. Delicious. The starters were deep-fried balls of baccalao, and for dessert we had troll cream (!) – whites of eggs beaten stiff flavoured with tyttebær – cranberry.
Some stayed up until 7am and had a dip in the fjord at 6 o´clock. But not all.
The majority of the guests stayed in private houses generously made available to them!
Going home on Sunday the sun came out, and with the wind behind, it was a pleasant ride down to Bodø. Again the scenery stood out – and also looks great from above.
View towards Bodø
Just after take-off, looking north
It is worth noting that Steigen is very different on the west side, facing the open sea. Take a look yourself.
It was a great experience – and unique. Thank you!