Photo: Pile of human faces and toilet paper under a rock on the summit of Ryten, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. July 5, 2017. 22:44
This weeks photo is literally shit, in more ways than one. First, it is a photo from my phone, so apologies for the quality. Second, it is a pile of poop and toilet paper, left in the open save for a small stone placed on top. How nice!
This was a few meters from the summit of Ryten, where I was with a client a couple weeks back. I was looking for a nice steady rock to put my tripod on and then I came across this lovely sight. There were also other areas as well, unfortunately.
This is completely unacceptable mountain behaviour and is not something that should be seen on Lofoten!
I guess this has to be another one of my annual ‘tourists behaving badly’ articles. Unfortunately this year seems even worse than the last.
I am bringing attention to this this week, as in the last days there has been a series of articles about poor behavior from tourists in the local news. See:
NRK article 1
NRK article 2
NRK article 3
NRK article 4
With the final one titled: We must turn our marketing away from Lofoten. This is coming from one of Norway’s biggest tourism agencies. A sad state of affairs. But now that the people are here, something needs to be done.
As I now hike the mountains here on a weekly basis, I can see the damage being done. For some trails that I might not have visited for a while, I am shocked at the amount of new erosion and spreading of what might have been a single trail into multiple ways, all attempting to avoid the erosion of the last path. And I myself, and this website, are also part of the problem.
The chief example of this on Lofoten is Reinebringen. The trail has now officially been closed by Moskenes Kommune. But the wording of the signs are unclear, and without proper direction; making it seem more like a suggestion that they hope you listen to. And so hundreds of people still hike this dangerous route daily; just this week there is an article that 7000 people have gone up the supposedly closed mountain in the last month alone. The highest amount of traffic ever.
A friend of mine recently contacted the mayor of Moskenes, suggesting stronger wording might be needed, she was told that the sign was good enough. Well, obviously not!
More funding has been raised to continue work on the trail, but realistically, I would be surprised so see if finished by summer 2020.
Which leads me to the typical situation on Lofoten: There are complaints about too many tourists and not enough facilities, but it always seems up to someone else to find a solution. This is due to a myriad of reasons from funding (the Norwegian government wont allow implementation of any sort of ‘tourist tax’), to who actually has the authority/responsibility to do something.
From the outside world, Lofoten is one place. Lofoten. For Lofoten however, there is Moskenes, Flakstad, Vestvågøy, Austvågøy, Leknes and Svolvær, Statens Vegvessen and private land owners, plus numerous organizations. Often, it seems they try and shift the responsibility of providing any necessary infrastructure onto someone/something else. And so nothing will be done this year, next year, or the decade to come. The nature will be polluted further, tourists will be blamed, and next summer the same articles will appear in the local newspapers and I will type another one of these articles, reminding you to behave properly.
There was supposed to have been an expansion of the parking area at Kvalvika made after lasts years chaos. It wasn’t. They are now attempting to direct visitors the parking area at the school in Fredvang, which is good! However, this is 3.5km down the road from the traditional parking area at Torsfjord, more than doubling the distance of the hike. And so what happens? People still illegally park along the road, same as last summer where I wrote about it in Friday Photo #187.
I saw a comment on Facebook today that someone counted over 60 tents at Kvalvika one night this week. 60 tents is probably around 100 people, just on a single night. All without a toilet! And that is not even counting all the day hikers. No wonder there are piles of shit to be found next to almost every rock and tree. How long can this rate of usage continue on before Kvalvika, and many other locations, become toxic dumps of faces and toilet paper?
I have been attempting to talk with some people and bring a bit of my perspective as an American, and what we have done to help protect some of our more fragile mountain areas. But I am also aware that I’m an outsider in an old and well established community, and my input, though possibly useful, might not always be welcome. However, I chose to make these Islands my home because I love them more than any place else in the world. And their future is also mine now. So I hope things can be improved for the benefit of all.
Nature is fragile here in the north. And so it is up to all of us to help keep in clean and minimize our impact.
For more information about how to behave in the outdoors on Lofoten: Download the Lofoten Code of Conduct
For a list of local toilets and waste disposal locations, see: Clean Up Lofoten Map