One of the strongest memories we keep from our last trip in Norway while hunting for the Northern Lights, is hitchhiking over the Arctic Circle from the city of Fauske trying to go north; an epopee that kept us stuck for 26 hours in the same spot under heavy snow and forced us to sleep in a toilet! Hopefully an hitchhiking marathon that we won't repeat anymore :)
Getting stuck over the Arctic Circle
It was still autumn, the end of October 2012, but winter had arrived in advance, so it was plenty of snow in the surroundings. The weather was quite bad even when we were there, it was alternating snow storms to cloudy sky. We weren't planning to hitchhike far away, it was just 130 km and less than two hours driving, to reach our Couchsurfer Stine in Drag, and her cosy house.
It was quite cold outside, as it's normal in North of Norway, but when you are standing on the same spot for hours with your thumb out, you feel the cold even more. As you can imagine there isn't that much traffic over the Arctic Circle, and that day even less than nothing: an average of a car every 5-10 minutes, and nobody was stopping or going our direction.
Eventually we had to change our strategy since Oti is easily getting cold and her hands can't stand low temperatures for long time and really turn pale. We were a few kilometers out of a village, but we were lucky to have a very clean, unused public toilet just a few meters away from us. And the best is that it was having even hot water! So in order to relief the cold, we started to make turns, to be able to stay a little bit indoor and warm up our hands in the sink under the hot water....well and actually even our feet :)
October in the far north Norway means that days are already starting to get very short, the sun is setting around 3pm and darkness means that you can't hitchhike anymore. Soon our hopes to find a ride started to fade away together with the sunlight, and we had to think of our best option to pass a "comfortable" night.
Finding a good place to spend the night
We left our hitchhiking spot, and started to explore the surroundings. A couple of kilometers away we found an industrial area, with a supermarket and a big hardware store, where there were in exhibition 3 wooden cabins. We just looked at each other and thought that it would be an amazing luck to find them open. Unfortunately they were all close, except the smallest one: good for a temporary shelter, but too tiny to fit inside and sleep. We tried our luck at the supermarket, but we had a language barrier trying to communicate with an Arab employ that was speaking no English. At least we were able to understand that not far away from there was a train station. But also this option turned out to be only a temporary relief, because after the last train around 10pm the arctic station closed for the night.
At that point we had only two options left: to sleep in the tent with a snow storm outside, or to go back to the disabled toilet and sleep there. Obviously we opted for the second alternative.
Sleeping in a Norwegian toilet!
We gathered some cardboard boxes from the dumpster in front of the supermarket and we reached our temporary "hotel room". With the boards we were able to create a clean and insulating surface covering completely the floor, on which to put our sleeping bags. We made ourselves at ease and it wasn't that bad! Luckily we were in Norway, and we found out that the toilet was cleaned daily and never used: in 26 hours we stayed there only one person stopped to go in the toilet and he even didn't use "our" toilet, but the male toilet. So basically our "residence" was possibly unused for weeks. It has been a memorable night, we slept good and warm and refilled our energy for another day on the snowy road of the Arctic Circle.
Back hitchhiking in the snow
The following day hitchhiking was still not a piece of cake: after many hours trying to stop cars with no success, it was almost 1pm, that means two more hours of light before sunset. The silent fear of being blocked there another night was starting to pervade us.
But eventually the unexpected happened: a man stopped! He was going only half the way in our direction, so it was a very risky and difficult decision: after one hour driving, it was going to be almost dark and not much time to be able to catch a second ride to our destination. So in these few seconds we had to decide if it was worth to take the risk of being dropped in the middle of nowhere in the Arctic Circle and possibly spend the night there, leaving behind the "comfort and security" of having a place to sleep at night in our beloved toilet.
The hardest decision and our saviour
We decided to take the risk, and the decision payed out eventually. We had so much luck, that we were payed back of all suffering and hours of waiting time. But how scary!
We have to send one more big thank to a man of whom we don't even know the name. The driver that picked us up was very silent, we weren't communicating too much, basically we weren't able to build an hitchhiker-driver relationship. In the meanwhile, it started to snow very bad and the driver had to slow down, we couldn't see even 10 meters away from us. We were really worried to be dropped in the middle of nowhere in these conditions. But once again the unexpected happened: the Norwegian man got worried too, and felt the responsibility of our lives and proposed us an alternative. If we were not in a hurry (what a question!), we could have gone with him on the other side of the Fjord for a business he had to get done, and right after he would have drove us to our destination 100 km away. We never feel comfortable accepting rides out of the way of the driver, it means also adding extra polluting km to our consciences, but that time we had no doubts and clearly we accepted! So that meant for the man driving 100 km out of his way to drop us at our destination, and 100 more to go back for a total of 200 km. Just amazingly generous! Even after the great help he gave us, we weren't able to communicate too much with him in the car, but wherever he is, he can be sure that we will keep him in our memories from Norway for long time to come!
For fellow hitchhikers reading this story, we have to point out that hitchhiking in Norway isn't that bad! Average waiting time is about 30 minutes and people are really helpful. But as you know very well, "Shit happens" and it helps you to build up your experiences!