My sister Magali took me to Lapland. She had a drum to pick up. We landed in the Swedish mining town of Kiruna, an illuminated Tuesday afternoon. The warm light just took us by surprise. Our shadows were particularly ‘élancées’, the light was unique, an Autumn light in the middle of Summer.
Well a light that took us to Johanna, a 33 years old Sami singer, friend of my sister, and her cousin, Fredrik, a maestro in the art of making Sami drums and knives. Here we go. It’s the quest of a Sami drum who took us here. It has been two years since Magali has asked Fredrik to make a bespoke drum for her. She hadn’t found the opportunity to make the trip before this Summer and when she suggested we could go together, I said yes.
Johanna is our host. She answers all our questions about the Sami, the only indigenous people of Scandinavia. They would be more than 50,000 living in Norway, Sweden, Finland and in Russia too, near Murmansk. We have no plans but 9 days ahead of us and a car…
The archipelago of Lofoten in Norway jumps into a conversation. Johanna goes surfing there. Surfing, yes, surfing in the Norwegian Sea. The spot is beautiful and we must go she insists. We set sail the next day. It’s 24 degrees, the sky is blue, the road empty and when we reach Narvik in Norway, a Norwegian road worker tells us to keep our eyes wide very wide open once we pass the first tunnel of Lofoten.
We were warned but still, the magnificence of the landscape makes us almost feel breathless: lakes meet mountains meet sea. It’s just beautiful, dramatic and smooth, violent and peaceful.
After 6 or 7 hours drive and more than 500 km we reach the surfing spot, Unstad, a little town at the end of a valley facing Iceland or more exactly the storms coming from Iceland, hence the waves and the surfing.
The beach lays like an encave between two huge mountains, the sea is as clear, the sands are fine, welcoming, comfortable. Everything seems so pure, so giving, so generous.
The only place where we can stay is a surfers hotel with cabins.
By chance, the girl in charge makes a brief apparition with her swimsuit (she had gone surfing and had forgotten something), she gives us the keys of a fully equipped cabin. It’s surfers paradise in the Far North. The night is gently falling on this magnificent part of the world. No bar, no restaurant, no shop. We live on our last shopping.
The night falls and I feel a weird feeling of isolation. Is it the long and “grandiose” road, is it the fact we are at a sort of end of the world? Is it something else? I don’t know. I can feel strong and strange energies.
The morning is beautiful, the light intense and autumnal. We walk along the mountain overseeing the sea, there is a 7 km walk to the next village, Eggum, I can’t do it as I suffer from heights. I choose to stay on the beach, breathing and feeling again the strength of the place, of the earth. A few surfers are trying to catch the waves but the weather is too quiet, too nice. They spend hours waiting. It’s almost warm on the beach and when Magali comes back from her walk, we decide to go for a swim. Yes, just like that, brave the cold, the elements. We get in, we stay in, it’s cold, very cold but such a wonderful moment.
We stay hours on the beach, drying in the wind, catching the sun. There is a real magnetism about the place. Other adventures are waiting for us back on the “mainland” but we want to take as much as we can from this strange paradise, feel its strength as long as we can.
To go to Unstad, fly either to Svolvaer, Leknes or Evenes with SAS or Norwegian (for Evenes), then book a cabin or a room or a bed at Arctic Surf, Unstad, you can rent a car, take buses or even hitch hike!