Arturs Kiselevs started out in the tourism industry with a student job as Santa’s Little Helper in Finland. Now he’s a partner with Easy Travel Team and leads expeditions all over Scandinavia, including Flash Pack’s recently launched adventure to Norway. He lives in Bergen with his family.
There’s something very unique about the people who travel with Flash Pack. I’ve run so many trips over the past six years and met people from all over the world, but Flashpackers are not even close to the other groups that I’ve guided.
They are very like-minded. They love to travel, they are all professionals and they are highly educated, so they have similar lifestyles. When they get together, they get along really well – crazily well, I can’t even explain. They bond very easily.
When you go to London or New York, it’s all about the city. But in Norway, it’s really about nature, the cleanliness of everything and being outdoors. We start in the open rib boat then we go on a hike, followed by tackling a glacier and finally, sea kayaking.
Usually when people fly in, I meet them them at the airport and after that we go for dinner. Already then, I see Flashpackers start to relax and make friends. We try some Norwegian food; usually some fish like salmon or cod and local meat such as lamb with seasonal vegetables. We can also try Aquavit, which is a strong Norwegian whiskey made from a potato base.
The next morning, we get up at 6am and I usually deliver breakfast baskets and coffee to the Flashpackers before we head out to an open rib boat on the fjords, stopping en-route at the Tvindefossen waterfall. Legend has it that if you touch the water here, you’ll stay forever young. I tell the group, “My actual age is 65 but you wouldn’t tell it because of this waterfall!”
Our itinerary takes far from the tourist spots. For example, when we go to Torvis hotel in Marifjøra, overlooking the mountains and fjords. It’s so quiet and beautiful here, everyone says, “Oh my God, this is crazy.” Mostly, they come from big cities, so they’re used to hearing the highways or cars passing by, with lights everywhere. They’re always amazed by the peace and quiet.
Even as a Norwegian, there are still places here that astound me with their natural beauty. The Stalheim viewpoint overlooking Nærøydalen valley in western Norway is one of my favourite views and every time I’m there, it takes my breath away.
“When Flashpackers get together, they get along really well – crazily well, I can’t even explain. They bond very easily.”
The climb over Jostedalsbreen glacier is a highlight of the trip. We take a boat across to the start of our hike and we take it slowly, step by step. Everyone has managed so far, but how challenging you find it depends on how fit you are. People are usually a bit wary of using crampons, too. They’re like, “Is this going to work?”
At first they don’t trust them but once you start walking on ice, you get it – and we have two professional guides who show you exactly how to support yourself without getting hurt. We walk for two hours on the ice, passing incredible caves and crevasses. Depending on what the group is capable of, we can actually get pretty high up on the glacier.
Norway is an oil-producing country but we try to give back to the environment with our love of nature and by living locally, in an eco-friendly way. All the water here is drinkable, even in the rivers. At the start of a trip, I give one bottle to everyone and say, “You have to give it back to me at the end.”
Our hike to Leim goat’s farm is the most local touch you can get. Anna Karin, the owner, shows us around the land and share stories of how she runs it, and then we all share a delicious lunch that comes directly from her garden. We get cheese from the goats that Anna Karin has milked herself, along with homegrown tomatoes, salads and goat’s meat sausages.
“Even as a Norwegian, there are still places here that astound me with their natural beauty.”
My favourite part of the Flash Pack trip is really the way that the groups bond and act as a team. Not everything goes smoothly on a trip; the bus might be late or something. But with Flashpackers, I just explain to them and they are so calm and professional; they’re not stressing out. Many of them are solo travellers and they have a completely different attitude.
For me, it’s really easy to work with them. I can’t say that I’m on vacation – during those four days of our trip, I still have to organise everything and make sure it goes like a good Swiss watch – but still, I feel very free with the group and I can speak to them about anything. We just get on and enjoy the beautiful nature of Norway together.
Fancy breaking free in the Great Outdoors of Norway? Join us for a wilderness escape right here.