Lyngen Lodge owner and found Graham Austick accounts how a lost camera and a chance encounter changed his life forever and made Lyngen Lodge possible.

Graham Austick:

My vision was to create a lodge, which blended into the natural environment of the Arctic Lyngen Alps and gave travellers the opportunity to  to experience this remarkable region on an annual basis. With our increasingly busy and stressful lifestyles, it’s necessary to escape, relax and connect with nature; the lodge concept comprising of adventure, ultimate relaxation and de-stressing in a serene environment addresses exactly these issues.


The location chose me

In actual fact, I felt the lodge’s location chose me rather than me choosing it.  I spent several years travelling by charter sailboat through the region guiding skiers, on one particular trip I visited the Kåfjord region on the eastern side of the Lyngen Fjord to ski a mountain called Store Haugen above the small village of Djupvik. Climbing through the forest I noticed a wonderful clearing above the fjord. An instant vision flashed through my mind “Graham you’re going to build a lodge and provide a permanent base for skiers to come and ski”. From that exact moment onwards my life took a deviation down a road I never imagined.

I took out my camera and snapped a photo of the location – on that day I was carrying two cameras, one large SLR and one small happy snappy point and shoot camera. After taking a photo of the location with the large camera I packed it away only to accidentally lose the small one that was attached to my belt, oblivious to this incident I continued climbing upwards. I was consumed by excitement for the new and powerful vision I had experienced and immediately began constructing a visual plan in my mind as I headed up the track after my group.

I was now at the back of my group and it took some time before I caught the tail member who had stopped for a rest above the trees. I spoke to him about my idea and he was surprised by my sudden overwhelming and enthusiastic development as I’d only been absent for 20 minutes!

The day continued and we skied from the summit in wonderful snow and under a cloudless sky, returning to the boat in the harbour by late afternoon. We cast off and sailed north to our next mountain to ski the following day.

It was not until the following morning that I realised my small camera was missing. Having covered 30 nautical miles in a sailing boat the lost camera was definitely to remain where it lay somewhere in the forest from yesterday’s ski tour.


Returning home

Three days later I returned home to Austria with plenty of photographs but still one missing camera that I put to the back of my mind. A week later I was reminded of the event when an email arrived in my inbox from the boat skipper in Norway. He informed me that someone had found the camera and was wanting to return it to the rightful owner. I was given their email address and immediately made contact. I soon had a reply with the message subject “Skiers Care”. I was astounded by this correspondence and sure enough it was my camera which had been found in the forest right where I had taken the photo of the land.

Upon returning home, the vision of the lodge concept only grew stronger with each passing day and the plans took virtual shape in my mind. I booked a plane ticket to return in four weeks along with Elisabeth and my mother Pat, we wanted to search for the land I had seen and make enquiries about who owned it and the possibilities for purchasing it.


Connecting with John

The camera was found by John Johanssen, a local living in the village who had found it while out on a family ski tour. The camera was taken back to his home, disassembled, dried, reassembled and the photos looked at. There was a photo of the boat on the camera that created a chain of events that would change my life forever. That very same day the boat reappeared in the harbour and John hurried down to inquire if anyone had lost a camera from his boat. The reply from the skipper was yes and the connection between John and myself was made.

Armed with two bottles of wine, I knocked on the door of John Johanssen to repay him for his honesty and perseverance in returning my camera to me. He welcomed us warmly into his home and a friendship was instantly established.


A revelation

It was not until later that afternoon some four hours into our meeting that I told him about the purpose of my visit. I explained I was here to find this plot of land that had captured me during my previous visit. There was a moment of silence and seconds seemed to pass as minutes as I waited for a reaction. John got up and left the room only to return a moment later with a large white roll of paper. Unrolling the paper revealed numbered plots of land throughout the area. John was in fact employed by the local Kommune (council) as a property development officer and was the man who knew who owned what and what could be built where. Sheer excitement took over and I was only just able to contain my excitement, I felt like hugging this complete stranger but uncharacteristically I calmly expressed gratitude that he was providing some essential information that could really assist me further on my quest. 

I had a photograph of the plot of land I wanted to find and knew was located south of my position at John’s house. He urged me to go off on a reconnaissance tour and find areas I was potentially interested in. I would then return to him so he could help and provide the information needed on ownership.


Rediscovering the site

We left the house with the photograph in hand and headed south where we soon found the farm track that led up a bank onto a flat plateau. The Plateau was 30 meters above the fjord and had wonderful views over a grass bank down to the water’s edge. This was, without a doubt, the location and I immediately connected with the ground beneath my feet as I gazed out across the fjord to the spectacular mountains beyond.
Before returning to John we wandered further around the region and located another two pleasant possibilities that could also be considered to build a property, my heart, though, was clearly set on only one location.


Making the deal

Returning to John I was excited about having found the clearing in the forest and soon he joined us at the location. He knew immediately that the landowner was a farmer named Hans Jenssen who lived just across the river and soon made contact to explain our interest of purchase. The other two possibilities we had considered as alternative options also seemed positive possibilities,  John’s extended family owned one area and the second was for sale by the local council.

After two meetings with Hans and a short period of consideration we shook hands on an agreed sum. The rest is history!