Author Topic: Israelguy's impromptu Lofoten Islands [LIVE] - chasing the snow and Auroras  (Read 14855 times)

Offline IsraelGuy

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I'll be brief in my first post as I don't have an infinite amount of time - I'll try to update when I can but not sure what my internet situation will be.

Impetus
Lofoten Islands and Reine have been on my radar for a while - it seems like an incredibly magically place to visit. This is one of those places that's been on my 'my wife's not interested' list (thanks to the 5 flights to get there, subfreezing weather, etc), so it meant finding a time she would be ok with me going (for which she has my eternal thanks).

Dan and SF's trip brought it back on my radar (and I can't wait to see their TR), and I was actually planning on going around the same time as them, but work / life got in the way and I had to scrap those plans. Anyway a narrow window opened up for me this week, and being that I don't think I'll have another chance for a lonnnnng time I jumped on the chance.

Timing
This is not the ideal time to be traveling to Lofoten. Truth be told, best times are extremely relative and depend on the heavily unpredictable weather in Lofoten. When I finally determined to go on Thursday/Friday (yes I'm not exactly and advanced planner by the nature of my work and family life its just not possible and I've just learned to live with that), and to be fair at that point the weather called for slightly colder temperatures, a little rain interspersed between Sunday and Monday, and clear skies Monday night, which just happens to coincide with some solar activity that 'should' produce some auroras, hopefully. Anyway by the time I booked things Saturday night the weather had changed and is now calling for a lot more rain.

Additionally i wanted to be traveling during a new moon in February so I had clear skys and plenty of winter - the end of March after rain is not the same, and I'm risking a lot of the snow being gone, the moon being too bright for some of the astroshots I wanted etc, but such is life.




Other Background
I had some extra camera equipment coming via a friend from the States, but unfortunately it didn't make it, so I'll be slightly limited by this. Hopefully it won't be too much of a loss.

Routing

Then WF from BOO to LKN



Gotta catch my flight to Athens - more to come soon


Offline CS1

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Can you stopover in Greece again on the way back again? Excellent photo opps there, too.
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Offline IsraelGuy

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Can you stopover in Greece again on the way back again? Excellent photo opps there, too.

Would love to but no time- leaving Wednesday, getting into TLV at 3:25, work at 8 :)

But Santorini is on my list

Offline Something Fishy

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Nothing you can do about the weather unfortunately. We had rain around 80% of the time, and grey and blah for most of the rest. We still managed to get some great shots...

For auroras, make sure to go hunt them even if the weather is foul. What's rapidly becoming my all-time favorite picture was taken on a night with terrible weather - but then a small hole opened in the clouds for a few short minutes and we got the shot.
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Offline Something Fishy

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Oh - and one more thing. Nothing will prepare you for the smell of Lofoten .

I'll let Dan take it from here .
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Offline IsraelGuy

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Nothing you can do about the weather unfortunately. We had rain around 80% of the time, and grey and blah for most of the rest. We still managed to get some great shots...

For auroras, make sure to go hunt them even if the weather is foul. What's rapidly becoming my all-time favorite picture was taken on a night with terrible weather - but then a small hole opened in the clouds for a few short minutes and we got the shot.

Sound advice.
I like shots around Hamnoy and Reine with auroras, but I'm thinking I'll hit the beaches near Vestvagoy depending on the radar

Offline IsraelGuy

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Oh - and one more thing. Nothing will prepare you for the smell of Lofoten .

I'll let Dan take it from here .

Yet another reason no wife on this trip
Looking forward to it

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Taking off from Istanbul


Athens from the ground isn't terrible either


Offline yakrot

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Nothing you can do about the weather unfortunately. We had rain around 80% of the time, and grey and blah for most of the rest. We still managed to get some great shots...

For auroras, make sure to go hunt them even if the weather is foul. What's rapidly becoming my all-time favorite picture was taken on a night with terrible weather - but then a small hole opened in the clouds for a few short minutes and we got the shot.
I really love the shot u are referring to

Offline IsraelGuy

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I really love the shot u are referring to
Where can one see such mysterious things?

Offline Something Fishy

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Where can one see such mysterious things?

I'm not sure where yakrot saw it, but I have it up on Facebook and Instagram.
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Offline IsraelGuy

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I'm not sure where yakrot saw it, but I have it up on Facebook and Instagram.

Wowza

Settings? :)

Offline benjie1305

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Great start! Excited to see your TR and how it'll compare in activities to SF's.
Work hard, Play harder!

Offline benjie1305

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I'm not sure where yakrot saw it, but I have it up on Facebook and Instagram.

You love FB and Instagram now!  :P
Work hard, Play harder!

Offline 3yummyboys

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I'm not sure where yakrot saw it, but I have it up on Facebook and Instagram.


Amazing shot! Details?

Offline 3yummyboys

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I'm not sure where yakrot saw it, but I have it up on Facebook and Instagram.


Amazing shot! Details?

Offline tzifanya54

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I'm not sure where yakrot saw it, but I have it up on Facebook and Instagram.
Unbelievable pic!

Offline IsraelGuy

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Booking
Getting to Lofoten you can fly into two airport - Lekenes or Svolvear , thereís also EVE but itís kinda out in the middle of no where and I didnít want to waste hours driving.

Leknes was a little closer, and to get there you have to fly on WiderÝe from BOO (BodÝ)- which on this route you canít redeem miles for as itís subsidized by the government - so revenue for the last leg. To get to BOO best bet is by going through Oslo, and as SAS is that airline that flies this route *Alliance it is.

I wanted to maximize time in Lofted with being back by Thursday, unless I wanted to spend shabbat there (which I didnít) the Saturday night flight (early Sunday morning) was really my best option. Unfortunately by the time I got around to being able to book there was no economy availability, so I unfortunately had to slum it in business. If I had to choose one way to fly business though the way there wasnít a bad choice considering its 18hrs + there, vs 10+ hours back.

I used United miles (45k) from TLV to BOO, Widereo was pretty cheap across the water. Using the close in workaround worked fine, but I couldnít do it online and had to spend 45m on the phone Saturday night changing my flight date. I was a little nervous as I had to leave for the airport in a hour but it worked out, and saved myself $75 - thanks DDF/DDS!
I have some expiring miles and more points, so even though there was some YQ it was a good option for heading back (ideally M&M would have been better on the outgoing leg as there would have been a discount for those living in Israel, and I could of almost had a business ticket for 22000 vs the 20000 I paid for econ on the way back, but I had no way of transferring in the extra points on time, and to my knowledge you canít buy M&M points anymore.

Check-in
Usually not even worth writing about, but of course as I got my tickets and was walking away the agent called me back and asked me to weigh my carryon bag. As it had clothes, my large winter jacket, tripod, food for three days, etc., it weighed in at a cool 16 kg, which she was not too happy about it. She wanted to check my bag, but being as I had 4 flights plus 1, I wasnít having that. I said I could transfer things to my backpack, which she also asked me then to weight, which came up total to 27 kg. Manager got involved, yada yada yada, eventually I convinced them by taking jacket out of the bag which I could wear (and course wouldnít) and taking the tripod out and sticking it my backpack it shifted the weight of the bags enough to please them. Of course after I walked away I just put everything back the way it was. The point is the agent knew I was going to go on anyway with the weight, she just gave me a hard time about it. I know its in the interest of safety, but it was of course annoying.

Flights

Lounge: TLV
The Dan lounge has grown on me a little since living here, and although at peak times it can feel super congested and downright annoying, tonight it was rather pleasant. Got some refreshments and headed directly across to my gate. If there was special boarding for business class I missed it, so I waited in line.




TK TLV-IST

Unfortunately ended up on their A321 with the domestic-style business seats - still beats the heck out of most of the rest of Europe, but lie-flat would have been nice for this leg as it was prime sleeping time.






The seat was comfortable enough, they didnít have a business kosher meal because I booked 6 hours beforehand, but I woke from my nap to find that the chef had gone into economy and found an extra kosher meal. It was very nice of him and not something he had to do.

The meal was actually phenomenal to me-but maybe it was just because I was hungry. There was some cold potato dish that was terrible, but the chocolate brownie was great, and their was a roll with lox, cream cheese, and I think cappers, that was way tastier than I thought it would be.

Lounge:IST
Iím in between cards right now so donít currently have any lounge access through cards. Thankfully flying business gave me access to the Turkish CIP lounge. Iíve spent quite some time here overall, and I really do love the lounge. They have great amenities, suites for sleeping (although I wasnít eligible because my flight was too short), showers, and a masseuse (although I didnít see him on duty at 3am, but who can blame them). I love the decor and the lighting as well,






although it wasnít so conducive to sleep which is what I really wanted to do. Anyway after closing my eyes and not sleeping I just resolved to get some work done and after a brief chat with miles and more Australia had my return tickets booked.

The baggage lockers are actually super convenient - why don't all lounges have this


TK IST-ATH
Boarding at IST has also been troublesome for me. The first time I went through with my wife we got off our plane really looking forward to visiting the CIP lounge for the first time, but to our horror when we saw the ďLAST CALLĒ message in red next to our flight we ran as fast as we could to only get there an hour before boarding, but we were too exhausted to go back to the lounge and get back to the gate again. Unfortunately we learned too late that all the flights pretty much say that in IST.
Any who this time they sent us all the way to a 300 gate (across and down a floor) only to last minute change us to going back to gate 219 which was right next to the lounge. Right as I got to 219 an agent on a segway rolled up and directed us instead to 217, back again the other way-youíve got to be kidding meÖ

Anyway boarded the flight; I had read some grumblings about an odd 773 TK had with Virgin airways business seats-its always fun to try new products so I kind of hoped weíd have that model, but alas it was back to the regular standard TK business seats (which donít get me wrong, I think are actually pretty darn decent). Flight was uneventful, tried to get some sleep but failed miserably, so watched so read a little more of my book about Lofoten. They also had Wifi which was nice, so I got some last minute tips from SF, and perused the forums. Note though that even though as J you get free wifi, you can only register one device. Didnít realize this so I was stuck browsing on my phone. 

One item of note- they asked me about my meal and I said I had ordered kosher but it probably didnít come as it was last minute. The purser still apologized profusely and took down my email address to report it. They didnít do anything wrong here, but they made me feel really nice by acting like they cared. Made me realize its much easier to be appeased by the attitude and acting like you care than the result - would kosher food have been nice? Sure, but I booked last minute so its not something that was in my expectations - but even so he made me feel like Turkish cared-was a nice touch.


Got off the plane in Athens, and unfortunately they have you essentially exit security and come back in again, but luckily we got in a few minutes early to Athens so I had plenty of time. The security check here was specifically interested in taking out DSLRs (never heard of that) - they made me unpack my body and all the lenses, and open each lens cap on both sides so they could look through the glass. It would have been nice if it also came with a free appraisal but hey if they want to be a little safer sure.

Still unfortunately no time for lounges in Athens, but thanks to my Golan Telecom plan I had data in both Turkey and Athens, so I video chatted with the family and boarded the dreaded 4 hours in European Ďbusinessí on Aegean.

A3 ATH-OSL
So in classic style, business is just regular seats with the middle blocked, but at least it was a semi-separate cabin (as opposed to SAS as youíll soon see). No wifi, no nothing, and only after sleeping uncomfortably on-and-off for the first 3 hours did I realize the bar on middle seat actually goes up a little (not like on LH as I recall) and I could actually squeeze in a little to lie down. Too bad I had already woken up enough that I couldnít go back to sleep.




I asked for coffee and they gave me the option of espresso, cappuccino, or regular brew. Cappuccino on an airplane? Iíd never seen that before (maybe I just never asked?) but it made the flight feel somewhat cooler.

Landing in Oslo its always nice to be the first one off the plane to get through customs / transfer security. I really only had about 45m until my flight took off, and being that OSL is notorious for having stopover issues I was a little nervous. If youíre checking bags they still sometimes make you exit through, pick up your bags and recheck them for your connecting flight, which with only 50m isnít so easy. Anyway luckily I still had my carryons only so I walked though the international terminal, went through my 4th round of security screening at the transfer point, and then went to the SAS counter to get my ticket (it didnít print the last flight in TLV for some reason). She took my ticket getting into Oslo (ruh-ro) and gave me my fresh SAS ticket and I headed to find the magic doors to domestic transfers.

I was looking along the way for a place to get a sim card and kept getting vague info and no real answers, so no luck at this point. I got this fancy closed triple automatic doors with a bunch of people standing around waiting. I asked what it was and apparently if youíve got a transfer from what I can surmise you can pick up your bags within the terminal to recheck - I know OSL was working on a new system for this, maybe thatís what this was, though Iím honestly not sure. Anyway an agent came up to me and told me if I had no checked bags and was going through to just scan my ticket for the domestic transfer and be on my way. Great! Except of course as my ticket scanned it said no valid transfer found. She said maybe try the inbound ticket, which I then realized the agent had taken. Maybe it would have worked, maybe it wouldnít have, I guess Iíll never know.

Anyway she told me I had to go out, exit through baggage claim, and recheck in. Grrrrr. I had 35m to takeoff at this point, and was a little weary, but fine letís just do it. Headed down the stairs, was directed properly in perfect English by an agent whoís job this clearly was (Iím starting to like the Scandinavian hospitality and efficiency here) and waded through baggage claim to exit and recheck. I thought that this would probably be an excellent place to find a sim card, but I was worried about missing my flight to BodÝ and figured I would try once I got back in the terminal or in BodÝ. Went though Fast-Track checkin for business class, my 5th security check, and entered the domestic terminal. Walking along I finally found the electronics store someone mentioned to me earlier might have sims, but they didnít and of course recommended I try in the International Terminal or outside of baggage claim :) Greaattttt.


SA OSL-BOO
Headed to my gate which was literally the last in the terminal (of course), and waited and boarded my flight to BodÝ. Unfortunately, SAS on the 737-600 doesnít have a business class, they just have a SAS plus apparently (even though my ticket said business), which is no different except you get free snacks and drinks. No real division between first and economy, and no better seats, . All in all, flying business class on this route was a little bit of a wash. I donít mind it because it was the only award available so last minute, it gave me access to the lounge in Turkey (where I personally wouldnít have felt super great about spending 4 hours in the terminal here in the middle of the night), and easier security lines, but all in all I would have been fine flying in X, would have much preferred to save the J for the LX flights on the way back, but oh well.



The little blue placard is all the 'divides' the cabins


Flying over Norway on the way to BOO the ground is white with snow, and looks incredible. Iím super excited to get to Reine, and hope thereís still some snow when I get there.

Arriving in BOO I need to try and track down a SIM, see if I can contact some of the other rental agencies on Lofoten to get a better price, and probably book a place to stay for the night. Should be fine as I have 2:30hrs until my flight to LKN. Also will try to download Google maps area offline over wifi in the airport, as it doesnít seem the plans here offer much in the way of data. I really just need it mostly for navigating, and as a safety precaution considering Iíll be doing a lot of traveling on my own.

Hereís to hoping we get some Auroras and cloud breaks - More to come!

Offline IsraelGuy

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Not the most accurate of websites but certainly looking a little more promising - seems like the rain will let up from time to time- now we just need to worry about the clouds


Offline Something Fishy

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Wowza

Settings? :)


Amazing shot! Details?

Thanks!

Picture was taken with a Nikon D800, 14-24 f/2.8 lens, 20 seconds, f/2.8, ISO1000.

(Let's not derail IG's TR too much here...)
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