Like other international students from UiT, I was looking for a chance to travel around Northern Norway while spending as little money as possible. I wanted to leave Tromsø for short and I decided to go to Senja which is the second largest island in Norway after Hinnøya.
Text: Augustė Jasiulytė
First I thought of sleeping in a tent, so I went to Tromsø Kommune hoping to rent sleeping bags and matrasses. However, when they told me that they don’t have a winter tent and looked at me with a pop-eyed glimpse, I decided to look for other options and spotted perchance The Norwegian Trekking Association (Den Norske Turisforening, in short DNT). It is a solid association that has an experience of more than 140 years in promoting outdoor activities. The DNT has more than 500 cabins all over Norway. There was just one self-serviced hut in Senja and you need to be a member in order to gain access to the hut. After reading the benefits, I decided to join DNT. The membership for 2016 cost just NOK 330 and I paid in addition NOK 100 deposit for the key that opened over 500 cabins all over Norway! Most of the cabins are open for all but only members can enjoy discounts and benefits.
I wanted to save money and time so I took a boat from Tromsø to Lysnes, not Finnsnes, and then hitchhiked from Lysnes to Silsand. At first I thought I would have to go all the way on foot or travel back to Tromsø because there were simply no cars on the road! The island was silent and remote. Senja is a perfect island for people who want to enjoy the distant and dramatic nature of Norway without other tourists. Actually, it seemed like there were no other people at all. Feeling much colder than in Tromsø, I began to walk from one bus station to another to get some heat in the body. Eventually, a very old man who was going to the chiropractor stopped and gave me the ride to the Silsand. He spoke Senja dialect so it was both interesting and challenging to understand him. From Silsand I continued hitchhiking to Svandalen to the only DNT cabin in Senja. I was lucky and managed to hitchhike a taxi! I explained to the driver that I was a student and could not afford the taxi. The driver gave me a free lift up the place where I could see my cabin on the hill. The hardest part was to get to the DNT cabin. I did not have the skis or snowshoes and there was so much snow, so I used a lot of time and effort for the trip to the cabin. I was falling in snow continually with my heavy backpack. Moreover, I have never travelled in winter conditions before, as well as I have never tried to ski, so I thought by writing this article, I want to relate my failures so that others could learn something from them. My biggest advices if you don’t have a car and experience while travelling in winter are:
- Take skis with you (although it will be more difficult to hitchhike if you prefer this type of travelling)
- Don’t take too many stuff with you (ask yourself if you really need so much clothes or food, otherwise, plan your meals)
- Don’t spare money on proper clothing or borrow them
- Plan your trip as soon as possible in advance and don’t feel ashamed to ask people a lot of questions!
The cabin was well-equipped with everything that a trekker needs for cooking and sleeping. I lit the stove, melted snow in the pot, boiled it and made a cup of coffee. When I came, there was a family in the cabin that were teaching their hunting dog but they were on their way back home. Short after they left, there came a woman with her two daughters. Since it was winter and I didn’t have neither skis nor a car and I could not see a lot of the island, I took a trip around the cabin on the frozen lake and came back after four hours freezing cold and tired, but I was happy.
The next day I hitchhiked from Svandalen to Finnsnes. There was a pleasant and kind pensioned teacher that stopped and it was a pleasure talking to him. I was certain that I would rent the skis from the local government because I ringed to them in advance but unfortunately they didn’t have them. It was a big disappointment because I had all my stuff left in the cabin so I had to go back and could not hitchhike to some other place. When I was on my way to hitchhike back to Senjabu, the same teacher stopped and was very concerned that I didn’t manage to rent the skis. When I took my stuff and told him I wanted to hitchhike back to Tromsø again, the man stopped and told me that he hadn’t seen people hitchhiking in 3 years here in Senja! I didn’t manage to lift a car from Finnsnes to Tromsø. It was too cold and dangerous to stay on the road and the sun was getting low, so I took a bus that cost me just NOK 130. I could enjoy the spectacular views from the window for almost 3 hours! I was a little sad that I didn’t manage to see the fjords and explore the island, but it was my first trip in Norway in winter conditions and I‘ve learned a lot. I am for sure coming back to Senja in the summer!