There appears to be a lot more four-legged travellers around now that I’ve gotten a little south of the polar circle. The night I arrived on Dønna I saw so many deer and rabbits bouncing about that I lost count of both. The beautiful graceful leaping of deer is much more pleasing to the eye in its elegance than the dumb clumsy lumbering of reindeer.
And they weren’t just moving at night. The next day in town a deer was casually crossing the road with humans and cars nearby. Then on a narrow ridge made of rock for the road that connected two islands, I saw a guy on a bicycle coming towards me, and a deer running away from him like it owed him money.
I stopped in a futile attempt to seem less frightening to the animal. For a while it ran straight towards me, on the rocks just outside the shoulder of the road. Then the deer spotted me, panicked some more, stumbled a little and smashed - rather ungracefully - into a boulder, but recovered with hardly any loss in speed. Less than 20 meters away it took one huge leap right into the sea to swim to safety.
Poor thing. Hopefully it wasn’t hurt too much by the collision with the rock. At least it was still running fine after reaching the other side, and quickly disappeared from view.
[I hate posting ugly photos where the only purpose is to show you what I saw in classic holiday slideshow fashion, but I'll make an exception here if you want to see a swimming deer.]
I went to the island partly to shoot the famous Seven Sisters mountain range; a row of seven sharp mountain peaks. The weather did not co-operate, however. Due to the low clouds, none of the sisters were visible:
The following evening, while pedalling back on the Fv17 on another island connected by ferries on both ends, I saw a deer to my right. It raised its head from the grass at the sound of my freewheel whirring in the stillness of the night. I’d already seen so many of these animals in the past couple days that this wasn’t notable in itself, but as soon as I’d passed it, I turned my head to the left, and there was a moose standing in the opposite field.
That made me chuckle. When I turned my eyes back on the road, a fox was running away a little ahead of me! They were all within about fifty meters of each other, seemingly getting along just fine. I cycled another couple hundred meters, and three more deer were hopping off to one side and a second fox slipping from the road into the bushes. What kind of party was I interrupting here?
Seeing animals on the road is one thing I’ll miss about the midnight sun and white nights of the north. Within just a few days it’ll be so dark there’s not much choice but to set up camp for the night. The vast majority of animal spottings during this and other trips have been during low traffic at hours that will soon be covered in darkness. I could (and may) still ride with the headlamp, but it’ll be very unlikely to see anything like that, with the exception of an occasional pair of gleaming eyes floating in blackness.
Fast forward another couple of days. I was near Lysfjord, south of the Holm ferry stop, sitting on a rock by the sea. The sun just about to dip below the horizon. My camera was clicking every five seconds, capturing a time-lapse of the scene. The green dome of my tent among the trees behind me marked my campsite. I wasn’t usually already camped by sunset. I’d actually arrived the night before, but a lazy afternoon had just morphed into a full rest day because I hadn’t felt like continuing.
In the water below, I heard a splash and a wet snorting sound. I looked down to see two whales surfacing to breathe before diving again. Not big whales, only harbour porpoises, which are hardly more than dolphins, really. After some seconds they did it again, further away. They were swimming along the shoreline, close to the rocks I was sitting on. Perhaps going to catch some fish, which also often seemed to start moving at sunset. They were visible three times before disappearing from sight.
I didn’t touch the camera. From previous experience last summer, I knew the best I could do with my landscape lens was a dark blob in the water that would look like a rock or a little wave. Not worth interrupting the time-lapse.
Plus, you know. It was just a couple whales, swimming around at sunset, in the Norwegian Sea, on my little bike trip.
Nothing special about that at all.