Expectation vs Reality: A Midnight Trip to Nordkapp

But what on Earth is Nordkapp, I hear you ask!? Nordkapp, pals- or North Cape- is known as the Northenmost point of mainland Europe (although technically it isn’t quite). Thousands of years ago it was a sacrificial point for the Sami people who continue to live here to this very day, but the first tourist arrived in the 1600s- an Italian priest who travelled by land all the way from Italy. When he arrived he wrote in his journal: ‘Here I am now on the North Cape, the extreme tip of Finnmark, really at the end of the world.’ Pretty cool thing for a priest (or anyone) to do I’d say, and honestly the description of Nordkapp being located at the end of the world isn’t too far off in my opinion. The cliff towers ominously over the icy meeting point of the Atlantic and Arctic oceans and it does make you feel very small to know that if you were to sail onwards from there you’d eventually be met with a whole load of snow and ice for miles and miles until you reached the North Pole. The closest port is in the Norwegian town of Honningsvåg, and it was here that our ship docked very late in the evening in the middle of June, after cruising down from the Arctic waters of Svalbard. (Svalbard’s in the picture below, if you fancy taking a look)

Expectation: Land of the Midnight Sun

(Reality: Land of the Midnight Solid White Sky)

The oddest thing about Norway in the middle of June, aside from the fact that it’s full on freezing cold, is the fact that the sun stays up 24 hours a day; it’s not called Land of the Midnight Sun for nothing. However, the word ‘sun’ would have been a strong one to use on the day in question. After donning as many layers as possible (which was definitely still not enough), I headed to the gangway and surfaced onto land to be met with a solid pale grey sky and an icy breeze complete with Lilliputian bullets of horizontal rain shooting directly into my eyeballs. It was quite painful to tell you the truth. Land of the Midnight Sun you say!? PAH…good one, Norway, good one.

Expectation: A contemplative but exciting drive through rolling Arctic scenery

(Reality: a noisy rabble at the back of the coach not too dissimilar from catching the 1A bus to school back in the day and low visibility due to rain)

Honningsvåg may be a tiny town, but in comparison to it’s size the number of tourists it attracts- the majority of whom arrive on cruise ships- is rather on the humongous side to say the least. Still, unless you hire a car (which after surfacing from a cruise ship at 1 o’clock in the morning is not a likely event), you’ve pretty much got to reach Nordkapp with a bus; so that is exactly what we did. A whole load of crew members crammed onto a bus in broad but gloomy daylight in the middle of the night, with the galley department joyously occupying the back seat and rowdily yelling ‘GALLEY GALLEY GALLEY!!’ the whole way there. I’m not gonna lie, pals- the galley department don’t get a whole load of time off of the ship so no wonder they were excited.

The journey took us out of the town with it’s brightly painted houses attempting to brighten up the grey backdrop of the sky and past rows of fish drying in the open air on big racks called hjell…it was all very strange to tell you the truth, and driving further out into the land around the town I was suddenly struck by the fact that there were zero trees to be found ANYWHERE. I’m not sure exactly why this surprised me so much, considering we were well into the Arctic Circle by that point and therefore in a place where trees just plain are not up for growing, but it makes for a barren but exquisite kind of a landscape that’s for sure.

Expectation: not an animal in sight. Too cold.

(Reality: animals)

In Summer there was barely any snow to be seen- just dull green and brown land rolling away into the rain-spattered distance- and it was only when I squinted at a patch of land which appeared to move that I realised there was something else dotted across the bare wilderness.

REINDEER!!

And not just any old reindeer, but little baby white reindeer as well! Now THAT was a brilliant moment. The reindeer in this part of the world are owned by a grand total of five Sami families, and the beautiful beasts are allowed to roam freely across they land as and where they feel like. For the rest of the journey it was my own personal mission to spy as many reindeer as I possibly could, and I’d like to point out at this stage that those guys were happy as Larry skipping across the scrubland in the drizzle. I mean- THIS WAS THEIR SUMMERTIME, FOR GOODNESS’ SAKE!! Imagine that.

Expectation: Land of the Midnight Sun (I really did think it would brighten up by the time we reached the actual North Cape)

(Reality: more greyish-white sky and the beginnings of hypothermia)

Now pals, going back to the Land of the Midnight Sun title, for some reason I’d expected that there would maybe be a glimpse of the actual sun itself, and therefore was crossing my fingers for a view that was something like this one below.

Alas folks, it just plain was not to be. We stepped off of the bus to be greeted with even more stinging rain and the iciest wind I have ever been blasted in the facial area with. Coming from England, I should really know by now that you absolutely cannot rely on the weather, but obviously I hadn’t learnt my lesson and as I mentioned before was actually wearing stupidly thin layers of clothing. Gradually my clothing layers increased as people got more and more concerned that I would drop dead from hypothermia and donated extra garments, what a kind bunch.

A little collection of us battled forward against the wind that was attempting to manhandle us back onto the bus and made it against all odds to the large monument of the world that sits almost at the edge of the cliff, most of us in hysterical laughter out of sheer exhaustion coupled with the realisation that we were putting ourselves through this icy cold experience at 2.30am simply so we could have our photo taken with a metal globe on a cliff. I mean…when you think about it, that’s basically what we were doing, and when you think about THAT…well it’s more than a little bit silly, isn’t it!?

Expectation: a quiet gift shop in a log cabin, manned by Norwegian old ladies who don’t get visitors often.

(Reality: an arena-sized visitors centre, packed full of people. Also, a Thai museum)

After approximately 15 minutes exposed to the Arctic Chill and attempting to view the edge of Europe (which actually was rather beautiful in a very bleak way), we admitted defeat and retreated to the visitors centre which sits behind the globe. I mean, the wind practically blew us inside, but I was full on grateful that’s for sure.

We were met with warmth at last and approximately the entire population of our ship. The visitors centre is a ginormous cavern of a place, with a massive gift shop, restaurant, cinema (don’t worry it shows films about Nordkapp, not the latest Marvel films and all that jazz), and a post office, and considering it’s one of the most isolated spots in Europe, it was absolutely HEAVING. I was also intrigued to discover that there’s a tiny museum of Thailand there, in honour of the King of Thailand’s visit in 1907. Now of all the places in the world you’d expect to find a Thai museum I hope you’ll agree a Norwegian visitors centre is not one of them.

Expectation: A midnight feast with a view!

(Reality: a midnight feast with a view of rain)

I got rather claustrophobic and had to go and sit down with a coffee and a waffle to recover from the stress of it all, joined by my pals Sandy and Christian who had taken it upon themselves to sample one of every single species of cake the Nordkapp visitors centre had to offer. So there we sat, thawing out at almost 3 o’clock in the morning with a platter of cakes in front of us, watching the wind whip itself across the cliffs of the End of the World in broad daylight. Mildly shellshocked. Exhausted but not sleepy thanks to the presence of the sun. Dazed, and very much confused.


As we drove back to the ship, the harsh and hilarious reality of the evening’s excursion became even clearer whilst I was spotting more reindeer through the rain pouring down the window; my photographer friend Aleš remarked…

‘These reindeer must think humans are so stupid you know! Every day hundreds of them drive past just to go and look at a big cliff, then they turn around and drive back again! What’s the purpose of it!? To buy a keyring!?’

He had a point.

The fact that it cost us approximately €70 for the round trip plus entry was doubley, tripley ridiculous.

Was it worth it? Well, money-wise the idea of paying to see a cliff edge is blatantly a complete and utter rip off; not only is Nordkapp Europe’s Northenmost point, it’s probs Europe’s Northenmost rip off as well. All I’m saying is I’m glad I’m the type of person who can see the funny side of things. Though to be honest I’d probably have been quite disappointed if I’d gone all the way to Honningsvåg and not seen the actual end of Europe. Would I go again? Probably not, unless it was in the middle of winter to see the Northern Lights. Am I glad i went? Actually, yes. It was a freezing cold, ridiculously expensive, hilariously funny evening which took me several days to recover fully from and I will therefore remember as long as I live.

LOGISTICAL STATISTICALS

  • The sun is up at Nordkapp from mid-May till the end of July.
  • The cost of a ticket (including parking) is 275NOK which is roughly £25, and lasts for 24 hours.
  • To drive from Honningsvåg to Nordkapp takes around 40 minutes, although during winter when the area is covered in snow you’re only permitted to drive the road in convoy, following a snow plow. Not gonna lie, that actually sounds pretty full on awesome to me. The convoy leaves Honningsvåg once a day and returns a few hours later.
  • There is one public bus running daily between Honningsvåg and Nordkapp; this is scheduled to travel with the convoy.
  • Dress appropriately pals! Unlike me.
  • There are hotels and Airbnb’s in Honningsvåg (as well as an ice bar FYI), though it’s actually possible to stay at Nordkapp itself if you have a mobile home. What a laugh!

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