An update from Herne Bay’s favourite traveller Josiah Skeats

In this edition of Herne Bay CommunityAd Magazine, we were fortunate enough to catch up with world traveller Josiah Skeats who is currently working in Norway as he tells us below in his latest submission…

“In Norway’s Arctic Circle, nearly 2,000 kilometres north of Herne Bay, is a cluster of 300-and-something islands collectively known as Fleinvær. Many are just exposed lumps of rock, some disappear altogether at high tide, and the largest is only two kilometres long. From above they look like a breaching pod of whales.

My adventures cycling around the world and sailing from Australia to South Africa have whisked me between hemispheres and allowed seven consecutive summers, but when I was offered a job with the eye-catching title ‘Caretaker of the Arctic Hideaway’ – well, I couldn’t say no!

So I find myself on one of the larger islands, Sorvær, with my girlfriend, Alice. I arrived to four hours of daylight, with sunrise at 10:00am and sunset at 2:00pm, though this lengthens by ten minutes each day, and by the time I leave the sun will barely set! These long hours of darkness offer star-studded skies that dance with the Aurora Borealis.

Alice and I are working in the Arctic Hideaway, a collection of cabins for musicians, writers and artists to find inspiration and escape daily life. It is the culmination of 18 years of dreaming by Håvard, one of Norway’s top jazz musicians. Our job is a little like running a hotel but involves the added duties of lighting the sauna, scheduling boats to collect guests, and arranging fortnightly food orders. Last night I waded through icy water to fix a water pipe that had burst in a storm.

Only one other person, Are, lives here in winter. In spite of his reclusive surroundings, he is sociable and invites me round for coffee or to make art in his studio. He speaks in a beautifully poetical manner, comparing my nomadic life to a bee flitting from flower to flower. His dog, on the other hand, is reclusive and hates all people.

On a neighbouring island lives Odd, a fisherman who was born here and is a wealth of information about the islands. Apparently, humans have lived here for 5,000 years, before the Vikings and back when you could walk on ice to the mainland. He wears a fashionable Norwegian sweater and has a weathered face from a lifetime on the sea. Every wrinkle represents a fish that got away. When he goes fishing, he’ll often stop by our jetty and deliver freshly-caught fish. Alice repays him with lemon drizzle cake.

The work isn’t as time-consuming as you might expect, so I’m enjoying exploring on kayak – each island I scramble up reveals a new perspective of the archipelago – there’s plenty of time to read if you can avoid being distracted by the otters, birds and ever-changing light, and I’m also writing a book about my bicycle tour from Herne Bay to Australia – stay tuned for that later this year!”

To keep up to date with Josiah, follow his adventures on Facebook at Josiah Skeats.

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