On my way to Northern Norway

Day 46

Today I said farewell to Annika, who flew back to Germany today. It felt a bit strange to sit in my car alone again after leaving her at the Kiruna Airport. The weather was as dull as many days this winter: Again it was quite windy, a grey layer of clouds covered the whole sky and with ± 0 degrees it was warm again. What a lousy winter we have this year!

After leaving Kiruna Airport I headed to Karesuando, where I planned to spend the night. I tried to get a room in the hostel, but I was told, that it’s closed and there was not a single accommodation on the Swedish side (Karesuando). I was also told that there’s a hotel on the Finish side (Kaaresuvanto). 10 minutes later I asked for a room in this hotel, but since the only available room should costed 250 Euros (!) for a single night, I preferred to continue my journey. Visiting Karesuando seems to be a bad idea in winter time. I followed the river Muonioälven, turned left in Palojoensuu and left again in Enontekiö. In Palojärvi, just 10 km before the Finnish-Norwegian border I saw a sign showing a shop, a restaurant and rooms for rent. First I was not too hopeful, because many rooms, camping places and cabins are closed over the winter, but I was lucky. I did not only get a real fine hamburger, but a whole cabin for 36 Euros, just a seventh of the hotel room.

And the cabin is nice, cozy and warm, only WiFi is lacking. I’m sitting at my computer, writing this blog article while many storm gusts howl round my little wooden house.

Tomorrow I want to continue to Norway: First Kautokeino, then Alta. The first fjord since some a whole month.

Through the Finnmark to Alta

Day 47

After a nice stay in Palojärvi i continued my trip. Just 10 km later I crossed the Finnish-Norwegian border and entered the Finnmark, the northernmost part of Norway. It was still very grey, very windy and quite warm with temperatures round zero. And that’s how the road looked like in the open, where the wind covered parts of the roads with snow drifts.

Soon I arrived in Kautokeino, where the Sami culture is quite big. Most signs have the Sami language first, in some of the front yards are fenced reindeers, women wear traditional Sami dresses and on the outside of many houses are reindeer skins hanging for drying.

I made a short break to make some photos of the church and the graveyard.

After a short rest I continued northwards. The landscape was first as flat as a pancake but gradually started to become hilly. Almost all I could see was grey birches and white snow, almost like a black-white painting. The yellow central dividing strip of the road and here and there a traffic sign were the only visible colours.

After an hour the hills got larger and finally a found a parking place, that wasn’t in the middle of a birch wood. Even if the thermometer showed 0 °C it was extremely chilly due to the strong winds that even shook my parked car and I had to protect face and hands against the coldness. Just one picture into the valley showing a small village.

The hills got steeper and sheer rocks appeared, some of them covered with turquoise blue ice that seemed to glow from its inside. The landscape started to get a bit colourful.

Now the most interesting part of the road began. I was a bit disappointed that I couldn’t make any photos, but the road had so many curves and bends and not a single parking bay, that I didn’t dare to stop. Suddenly the road was bordered by steep black-brown rock walls, it was almost like driving into a canyon. Then the road went down, the landscape opened again and suddenly I was surrounded by a green pine forest. After some hours of seeing only black-white it was amazing and felt like driving into another country with another climate. Minutes later the cloud layer broke and the sun lingered through the gap illuminating a snowy mountain at the horizon making all finally colourful again.

This looked so nice, that I decided to stay to nights in Alta. Now I only needed a cheap room. The employees at the  tourist information had some difficulties in understanding that their job is to help tourists, but that’s another story … . Finally I could convince one of them to find a room for me. I drove back to the camping place in Øvre Alta, where I stay in a nice, small cabin without water but with internet (that’s more important!) for two nights. But before it went dark I returned into town and took two images near a partly frozen bay.

Ascent of the Komsa

The second day in Alta. The afternoon I parked my car at the end of the street Tilfluktsveien. My plan was to go up to the top of the hill Komsa. The winter ways turned out to be ski trails and I since I went afoot, I went beside the trail. First I thought about getting my skis, but soon I found a trampled path that brought me to the top of the Komsa. Thank you, locals, for knowing the best way and tramping this path! On the top of the Komsa it was very windy and I sought shelter behind the radio station to change the camera lens. Nearby stood two sheds with parabolic antennas. The green camouflage pattern revealed the military usage. I have to admit that I was a bit nervous standing there with my camera and the long telephoto lens, especially when I aimed directly to the sheds to catch the mountain view above. I’m quite sure that it’s strictly forbidden to take pictures of military installations in Norway as in many other countries. After taking some images (landscape, no military installations!) three soldiers appeared and approached. They went into my direction and they seemed to be in a hurry. (Gulp!) But they just said “hoi”, passed by and entered the wooden house of the radio station. (Phew!) There were not at all interested in my photographing and probably just wanted to avoid the chilly wind. I was reliefed and wandered around a bit. The stormy wind was chilly but the views where so beautiful.

Two other photos of today.

One: The Nordlyskatedralen (The Northern Light Cathedral) in Alta, a remarkable building.

Two: Wakan, an Alaskan Malamute, that will participate the Finnmarksløpet, a 1000 kilometre dog sled race that starts in Alta in a few days. Good luck!

Purple sandpipers

Day 49

Today in Olderfjord: I only went to the beach to make a photo of the mountain reflecting in the fjord …

… when I came across a huge flock of resting birds that turned out to be Purple Sandpipers. Cautiously I changed the lens and tried to get nearer, nearer, nearer. The birds got a bit nervous but didn’t fly away. But suddenly – I didn’t move at all – the whole flock arose into the air, wheeled over the sea in a large circle, divided into two minor flocks and one of them came back to the place where I stood landing just some metres in front of me. Just great!

 

 

Hammerfest and Honningsvåg

Day 49

Quite early I left Alta yesterday and continued the E6 in direction Kirkenes. To the left I could see the Altafjorden but soon the street turned right and went a bit up. Half of the Finnmark is above the tree line and so are parts of the E6. But it’s still amazing that you leave the coastal area with green pine trees and wet snow and after a bit of driving up you are in an area with snow covered mountains and just some downy birches here and there.

But after a while the road went down again and I turned left to visit Hammerfest. I made a short stop in Kvalsund before I drove over the bridge onto the island Kvaløya where Hammerfest is situated at the western coast.

I know the name Hammerfest for ages, I guess it was mentioned in my children’s encyclopedia. As many other towns in Norway Hammerfest is a modern town, since it was destroyed almost completely in WW2. For me the name sounds quite German, both “Hammer” and “fest” are German words as well. When I had a look in the tourist information I thought, that Hammerfest is a German town, because all people talked German. But that’s probably only because the Hurtigruten was just in town and many tourists that make a cruise with one of these ships come from German speaking countries.

After a shorter strolling through town I continued the road to Forsøl in the north of Kvaløya. Again the road went through treeless, snow covered hills and mountains. But the rocks at the coast showed moss and other creeping plants due to the mild coastal climate.

I returned and planned to continue my journey to Honningsvåg, one of the northernmost towns in Europe. Driving back was not easy in the beginning because the streets where wet and it was hard to see something against the low standing sun, even with sun glasses and flapped down sun shields. But soon the road changed direction and driving became easier. Now I continued the E6 a bit and turned left into the E69 (that’s where I made the pictures of the Purple Sandpipers) that leads to the town Honningsvåg and to the Nordkapp. It started to dawn and even to snow a bit.

After a while it was dark. I could see grey snow, dark rocks and the dark sea. After a while I couldn’t see anything anymore, just the reflecting tape round the plastic marks and the tunnels. Meanwhile we had +3 °C and it rained. (I guess, it can be alike in summer …) Already from distance I could see the lights of Honningsvåg. The last tunnel went beneath the sea and came out again on the island Magerøya. Some minutes later I was in Honningsvåg.

Now I had three wishes: Food, internet and a room. It took a while to find the only open restaurant, a pizzeria. Check! There I was allowed to use the private WiFi to get internet. Thank you, guys! Check! And there, with the help of Annika who was online I found a room in a hostel. Expensive but hey, we’re in Norway. Check!

Now, the morning after, I will have breakfast and then I will pretend to be a real tourist and visit the Nordkapp, the northern most point in Europe you can reach by car.

5000 km

Day 50

Hooray, I had a travel jubilee today! My journey Nordkalotten 2015 turned 5000 km this morning. My car found a fine place for the jubilee and I just stopped on the road to take some pictures (when I took the picture of the 000.0, the car was still rolling). Dear Saab 9-5, thank you for supporting me on this long trip. What would I do without you.

By pure chance it is also day 50 of the journey, that means I had an average of 100 kilometres a day (including all the days where I didn’t even touch my car).

Finally: The North Cape

Day 50

To be honest: I never planned to visit the Nordkapp (The North Cape), but when I was in Alta I continued to Hammerfest and after that I travelled to Honningsvåg and from that place it’s only 29 kilometres. So I visited the North Cape yesterday.

The first part is a normal road showing some beautiful views. I also completed 5000 km on this road.

If you go to the North Cape in winter by bus or your own car, you have to drive the last part in convoy. Convoys are starting at 11 and 12 o’clock.

When I came to the convoy place I was an hour too early. Time to try to make a rest on a wooden bench (it was degrees above zero again), but the wood was too wet to stay.

11 o’clock we started. The snow plough came first, then two minibusses, then me and two other cars. The street seemed to be alike as the first part: Snow and mud, partly frozen and some steep passages. The weather changed every single minute and I looked into a rainbow while following the other cars.

When we arrived I parked my car, almost jumped into the building to get an entrance ticket and ran to the famous landmark to make a photo with the rainbow without any other tourists. Even although the rainbow started to vanish I was lucky and I got my pictures. Only my own shadow was unavoidable.

But more than of the landmark I was fascinated by the weather. You could see single rain showers wandering over the sea like extraterrestrial animals and I never saw the weather change so fast and so often than yesterday at the North Cape.

I wandered round and made some photos, both inside and outside. I saw fog and approaching and I saw the many tourists, that came in big busses with the second convoy. I had a look into the tiny chapel in the basement and I ate a waffle with Norwegian cheese, jam and whipped cream.

And of course I made a selfie.

I took the convoy back at 1 o’clock (the earlier one) and I was alone. But so I had time to take the car on another road and drive to Gjesvær, a little fishing village in the northwest part of the island Magerøya. I had to stop again, the light on the far mountains was just breathtaking and the photo is just a poor copy of reality.

There’s apparently no tourism in Gjesvær under the winter but I could see several fishing boats going out and coming in.

After a short strolling I returned back over the fjell until I was at my hostel in Honningsvåg again.

The North Cape – is it worth a visit?

Even if I’m usually not attract by touristic attractions I do like the place somehow.

Yes, it’s neither the northernmost point of mainland Europe (that’s Cape Nordkinn near Mehamn), nor even the northernmost point of the island Magerøya (that’s Knivskjellodden), but it’s a symbol! A symbol for being at the north peak of Europe and as long as you travel by car it is the northermost place you will reach.

I wouldn’t travel far just to reach the North Cape but when you are nearby I think it is worth both the travel and the entrance fee of NOK 255. If you have your own car, take the first convoy and you will get a chance of taking pictures without a zillion other tourists, at least as long it’s not too foggy.

For me this is kind of a peak of my journey Nordkalotten 2015 and now I’ll travel southward again. Probably Karasjok today and Kirkenes tomorrow. What I will do after this depends on the weather. If winter still is much too warm as most of the time I might return to my house in Skelleftehamn and take it easy for two weeks before I drive to Finnland again the last free week. But we’ll see. No plans yet …

Honningsvåg – Kirkenes

Day 51

To make it short: Yesterday evening I arrived in Kirkenes, that’s almost 600 km from Honningsvåg, where I started after breakfast. And 600 km in Norway is quite a long distance.

I took the E69 to Olderfjord and the E6 to Karasjok. I wasn’t in the mood to have a closer look at this little town so I just continued. The 92 to Finnland and the 970 along the winding river Tenojoki. The sun went down and I became hungry. I  found a little pizzeria and was glad, but it was already closed since 18:00 Finnish time which is 17:00 middle european time. Bad luck! To get something to eat – this part of Finnland is quite  uninhabited – I bought a chicken wing in the grocery nearby. I continued the trip and crossed the border once more, being in Norway again. I stopped at a house that had rooms to rent. Would it be open in winter? Yes – but the room in the quite smelly and ugly house costed 850 NOK, that’s 99 Euro! I refused and continued my trip. After driving many, many hours I was hungry and tired. On a parking place in the middle of nowhere – meanwhile it was pitch dark – I nibbled my chicken wing and went on. I planned to visit a friend in Kirkenes but didn’t succeed to contact her yet. Anyway I would continue the journey to Kirkenes the same day and perhaps sleep in the car until I could contact the friend. That’s where my mood went down a bit – just a half cold chicken wing for dinner and sleeping in the car without any company.

Finally I arrived in Kirkenes, but I lacked the current phone number of my friend. At least the internet revealed the postal address. Finally I found the house – a flat-sharing community – but nobody seemed to be there. But I was lucky: Just before I entered my car again a woman left the house and helped me to contact my friend, who was staying at another place for some days. I took the car and 15 minutes later I arrived. Great! Now I didn’t only had a warm place to sleep but also company which I was very thankful for, because travelling alone is a bore sometimes.

Good travelling is having a cozy place to sleep, good company, enough food, internet for blogging and every now and then a hot shower.

A first day in Kirkenes

What a beautiful morning! -6 °C and blue sky. I was accommodated near the Kirkenes Snow Hotel where my friend I’m staying with works. I had a look into the Snow Hotel first, It has an impressive lobby with tables and a bar and round about 20 rooms where tourists can stay over night.

After looking around I drove into the centre of Kirkenes and had a walk at the port. First I discovered the commercial fishing part: Big piles of traps for the big King crabs and fisher boats lettered with latin and cyrillic letters. But not far away you could see the touristic part: The Hurtigruten ship Kong Harald that landed nearby.

I walked at the shore a bit and tried to make photos of the big ice floes that lay ashore but clouds had approached and the light was a bit dull. So I took the car and took the road E105 to Му́рманск (Murmansk). No, I didn’t plan to travel to Russia but I wanted at least to see the Russian border. It’s not far away and soon I parked my car just in front of the border.

I’m child of the cold war. It was great to see, that there is a normal border now (even if you need a visa for travelling to Russia) and that you are allowed to take pictures. On the other side this border seemed to be more the “end of the world” to me than the North Cape. On the right-hand side there is the lake that is marked with orange warning signs. This is part of the Norwegian–Russian border that crosses this lake. You shouldn’t set foot on the lake, but at least I went to the shore to take a picture of the Russian custom.

Maybe I will cross this border one day and take the car or the bus to Murmansk, who knows …

It already started snowing on the way to the Russian border but on the way back the snow fall intensified. It was still easy to follow the road but hills that very a bit farer away where hardly visible.

Back at the snow hotel it was still snowing a lot and quite windy but warm as well: +1 to +2 degrees. Some of the 140 huskies were still out on tour while the rest of the dogs could take it easy.

The forecast for the next day promised sunny weather. We’ll see …

 

King crab fishing

Yesterday I was on one of the tours, that the Kirkenes Snow Hotel has in its program: King crab fishing. These huge crabs are caught in big crab traps.

First we were provided with scooter overalls, big leather mittens and helmets, because we were driven to the place by snow mobile. The crab trap of the snow hotel is located at the end of the Langfjorden. Normally it would be necessary to free the hole from new ice but yesterday it was too warm and the trap, that looks like a big cage, could be pulled up directly. And yes – we were lucky – a lot of king crabs were in the trap. Bry, the guide, took four of them and showed them to us. There are fascinating animals and looking at them closer they look like aliens.

Gry killed them with a knife and they’re dead in a split of a second. Then she took the legs, that’s the eatable parts and threw back the rests that instantly were eaten by cods swimming around. We took the snow mobile to the restaurant, Gry driving, me sitting behind her and the other seven tourists in the trailer. There’s an outside kitchen where the crab lags are steamed for 16 minutes. They look red after steaming. They’re eaten with white bread, butter, lemon and mayonnaise and they taste extremely delicious. I ate lobster twice in my life and many other types of crabs and crayfish but I liked king crabs best. And there’s a lot of meat in the legs. Three legs were more than sufficient to be full, I ate four and really was stuffed. Delicious!

 

Kirkenes: A night in the snow hotel

This is perhaps the most special place of the whole Nordkalotten 2015 journey to write my blog: On the bed in the room of the snow hotel. Behind me a warm sleeping bag, beside me a snow relief of husky dogs running.

But its a perfect match to my afternoon, where my friend had a half day of and I got a wonderful private dog sledding tour. Parts of the trail where prepared perfectly, because they were part of the Finnmarksløpet – a 1000 km dog race from Alta to Kirkenes and back again that happens right now. First I sat and enjoyed gliding through the landscape effortlessly, but on the flat sea ice of the Langfjorden I could stand on the sledges blades and steer the dogs by myself – a really easy terrain for beginners like me – and I have to admit that this is much more fun than just sitting.

A great two hour tour, thank you, C.! The only disadvantage as a photographer, most of the time you see bums and tails, but if you ignore this, it’s great fun!

Later on we got a three course dinner which was very good. To be honest, that was almost the main reason, why I booked the snow hotel night. I’ve slept in igloos before, but of course not in such a huge one with a three course dinner before.

This night is a good end of my journey. Tomorrow I’ll head home. I’m stuffed with sensations and impressions and I’m longing home. But before I went into my room, I even got some polar light again after a quite long time of abstinence.

Now I have to close, the laptop runs out of battery and I start getting cold.

Good night!

 

Home again

I no can speak english anymore 2day. I do did travel far 2day. Kirkenes round half past 8, Skelleftehamn 22:22. That’s – I cannot calculate neither anymore – that’s many miles.

Tomorrow after big, big sleep I try to write something meaningful again.

/Olaf

 

Nordkalotten 2015 – the journey in numbers

The journey

My journey took 55 days – I have still some weeks holiday left but decided to shorten the trip. In this 55 days I visited Solberget, Abisko, the Vesterålen, Tromsø, Murjek, Loma Vietonen in Finland, Björkliden, Nikkaluokta, Alta, Honningsvåg, the North Cape, Kirkenes and many other places.

I slept in my tent only 3 times, had 16 free overnight stays and payed 36 times between 23 and 69 Euros.

Car

I travelled 6630 kilometres by car, which consumed 563.5 litres of fuel (if I wrote it down correctly). The longest distance on one day was the journey back home from the Kirkenes Snow Hotel that took 856.5 kilometres.

563.5 litres were burnt to circa 1300 kg CO₂. That’s the same impact as flying from Bremen (my home town) to Tenerife and back again.

Money

It’s hard to calculate how much the journey costed. Shell I include food that I need at home, too? The new battery for the car?

Anyway the journey costed round 3200 Euros, including the daily food, excluding the car battery and some equipment I bought.

Accommodation: ca 1350 EUR · Fuel: ca 900 EUR · Tours/entrance fees: ca 200 EUR · Restaurants: ca 250 EUR · Food: ca 450 EUR

Weather

The winter this year was extremely warm. Therefore the lowest temperature on the journey was a mere -24 °C. The lowest temperature while tenting was -22 °C. There were at least 20 days with temperatures above zero. The largest amount of snow I should guess was 150 cm since it was shoulder deep. Mostly the snow in Sweden was between 70 and 100 cm, in Norway a bit less and later on the journey less as well due to the high temperatures.

The temperature minimum home in Skelleftehamn was -16 °C. The last years it was less than -20 °C several time each winter.

 

Home in Skelleftehamn

I’ve been home again for some days. The weather in Skelleftehamn is between winter and spring. The sky is clear and the nights are cool (last night for example -7 °C) but as sun the sun comes out the temperatures rise soon to degrees above zero.

Parts of the ground are covered with hard snow – in my backyard i measured 45 cm – but other parts are completely free of snow and I’m waiting for the first flowers to come out and blossom.

The Baltic sea is mostly free of ice, but near the shore and in some sheltered harbours there is still a thick layer of ice covering the water. And since the night was quite cold, parts of the near harbour that was completely open yesterday was covered with thin new ice this morning.

Two photos that I made near the small boat harbour Tjuvkistan this morning:

I could walk over the ice to some islands that still are connected to the mainland or I could take the kayak and paddle to some islands, too. But to be honest – I’m quite lazy after the long journey and I guess I stay home today and take it easy.

Nordkalotten 2015 – the animals

Let’s see which animals I got to see under my journey Nordkalotten 2015:

Moose (Elch, älg)

Three moose. The first one I saw from the inside of a house. A big male that walked on the road with a car slowly following. The other two I saw from the car.

Article: Where to go? Undecided yet …

Reindeer (Rentier, ren)

Countless reindeers. Reindeers are so common that I saw them many, many times (and I don’t count the tame or the fenced in ones). Several times I had to slow down or to stop because of reindeers being on the road. Sometimes they do not leave the road but instead start to flee. It’s a bit funny to follow the tails of four galloping reindeers with the car but it must be exhausting for them and I’m always glad when they leave the road.

The reindeers in Northern Scandinavia aren’t wild animals, they always belong to a Sámi family. You see them pulling sleds, posing for photos or even participate in sledge-races.

Articles: Reindeers – many, many reindeers · Jokkmokks marknad

Fox (Fuchs, räv)

The first fox I saw as a pair of eyes glimmering in the darkness while I drove car. The second one I saw from the car, too on my journey to Kirkenes. I took first same photos from the inside of my car. I tried to get nearer, but the fox went away and disappeared soon.

Mountain hare (Schneehase, skogshare)

I saw a mountain hare near Abisko. It looked at me from a hill above. I didn’t even try to follow, since mountain hares are a zillion times faster than me with skis in deep snow on hilly and forestry terrain. No photos therefore.

Seal (Robbe, säl)

We saw a seal in the harbour when we started the whale safari in Andenes. Since we were told to protect our cameras from spray and waves we all had our cameras in. No photo neither.

Whale (Wal, val)

Yes I saw whales and more than expected. A great experience!

Article: Whale watching in Andenes.

Eagle (Adler, örn)

Some. A pair sitting on the breakwater in Andenes. It was too dark for taking photos. I saw some flying here and there but too far away.

Ptarmigan (Schneehuhn, ripa)

Only two (which is a sign that I’ve been less out in nature as planned). One from the car, one in the valley Vistasdalen on a ski tour with Annika.

Article: A day trip into the valley Vistasdalen

Purple sandpiper (Meerstrandläufer, skärsnäppa)

Twice. Some at the shore in Tromsø and a larger group in Olderfjord. This was a short but awesome experience seeing them fly away and return to the same place again.

Articles: Purple sandpipers and Tromsø: At the shore.

Siberian jay (Unglückshäher, Lavskrika)

Twice. Some at the Polcirceln and two near Kirkenes. They were much to shy for me to get good photos, so I publish a bad one ;-)

Of course there are many, many more species in Northern Scandinavia but especially the big carnivores – bear, lynx, wolf and wolverine – are extremely rare to see. Most bears are seen from the car, but not in wintertime when they have winter rest. And to be honest, I don’t want to meet a bear when hiking in the forest.

Postscript: Husky

I didn’t mention the Huskies, of course they are animals, too. But I thought more about the animals found in the wilderness, when I wrote this article. Anyway, some links to articles with photos of huskies:

Articles: Kirkenes: A night in the snow hotel · Jokkmokks marknad

Postscript 2: The Old Norwegian Sheep

These curious, cuddly fellows belong to the Nøisomhed Gård in Haukenes, where I stayed right in the beginning of my journey.

Opening the kayak season

“4:45” showed the clock when I woke up this sunday. Seventy minutes later I stood at the shore – just on time to see the sunrise. My kayak still was fixed on its cart with paddle, camera and dry suit inside.

I put on the dry suit, pushed the kayak into the water and started the tour. When I left home it was -6 °C and parts of the sea where covered with thin new ice. Thin enough to melt under the day but thick enough to give me a hard time to break through with the kayak.

I’m always a bit nervous when I stick my paddle into the ice. Will it break one day? But until now it went well. Sometimes it was easier to take the hand and pull the kayak ahead. And sometimes, when the ice got really thick I used the paddle to hack small holes into the ice that I used as handles for pulling me forward.

But after a time I reached open water and paddled along some old ice floes that were much, much thicker.

And a bit later I came to the huge icy surface, that lays between the mainland and the islands Norrskär and Bredskär. I got out and stepped onto the ice. I think, this is the first time that I stepped onto the sea ice from my kayak. I wasn’t nervous, first of all is this old ice really thick, I should guess at least 30 centimetres, probably more. Then I always wear my completely waterproof immersion suit when I make a kayak trip in winter.

After a short break I continued the tour and headed to the island Gåsören. On the outer shore there were some impressive ice floes left.

It took a while until I could go ashore, because I had to cross another field of new ice. I took a longer rest and took of the dry suit. Ugh! Like always I sweated in the thick neoprene suit and now I smelled like a dead Puma. I took on some other clothes and first it was quite chilly. The spring sun however had enough power to warm me up and soon I took of my gloves and cap.

Most snow has melted and beside of the ice covered rocks at the eastern bank Gåsören almost looked like spring was here.

After a while I dressed for paddling again, entered the kayak and returned to the starting place. With the last ice behind I had a beautiful view of the islands Klubben, Flottgrundet, Gråsidan and Nygrundet. With the blue sky and the blue sea I had the feeling of leaving the winter behind me and paddle into the spring.

When I was home again the thermometer showed +7.3 °C. Almost spring!

 

 

 

Nordkalotten 2015 – the weather

Let’s make it short: I feel betrayed by the winter this year! It was too windy and it was too warm! Much too warm. And when it snowed, I was far away.

First of all it was too warm – the average temperature of the whole February was 8 °C too high in parts of central Swedish Lapland. That’s about the same difference as between Stockholm and Rome! The whole february! And March wasn’t better. The “all journey minimum temperature” I measured was only -24 °C, I expected temperatures near -40 °C, at least once.

And it was very windy – Norway got its hurricane Ole with average wind speeds up to 36 m/s (that’s level 12 on the Beaufort scale) and gusts up to 53 m/s (that’s level 16 on the extended Beaufort scale!). But many others days were windy and stormy, too, even if not so severe as hurricane Ole.

Most trees where free of snow. Either the snow was blown away or it just melted and dropped down. That made not only the pine forests looking quite boring, but also the snow looking quite dirty, since it was covered with leaves, needles, small branches, bark and much more.

That didn’t look like the untouched, virgin winter landscape in early February but more like city parks in late April, a minor catastrophe for photographers who want to show impressive winter images. Luckily there were exceptions and I got at least some wintry images with snow covered trees, even if only a few.

Yes, it has been cold in January. Some days. In Sweden, but not in coastal Norway where I was at this time. Yes, it snowed ridiculously much in the first days in February, both in the coast and in central Lapland, but not in Abisko in the western mountain region, where I was at this time. It was a bit like being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Later, when Ole arrived, big amounts of snow where forecasted in the mountains, but I considered the weather too dangerous to drive there. As in early February I only saw the results, never the snow fall itself.

And then came the warmth. Since the 24th of February I’ve measured temperatures above zero almost every single day. And this effect wasn’t local, it took place in the whole Northern Europe. In Norway, in Sweden, in Finland. Streets were icy, snow was crusty and I was just glad when it didn’t rain.

Yes, when it comes to weather I am really disappointed. It was the lousiest winter ever, that I experienced north from the polar circle, where I’ve been travelling round since January 2003 now.

Don’t get me wrong! The journey was great, but mostly it was great despite of the weather, not because of the weather.

Last winter was quite bad, too, this winter lousy, now I hope, that winter 2016 will be extraordinary cold and snowy and that I’ll find the time to travel around again.

Links

Nordkalotten 2015 – final review

Just some final thoughts – quite unordered and far from being complete.

The good parts

Friends – I made the journey alone, but I spent time with friends. In Haukenes on the Vesterålen, in Kurravaara and in Murjek. At Solberget in Swedish Lapland, in Abisko/Björkliden, and finally in Kirkenes near the Norwegian-Russian border. Sharing time, thoughts and experiences with others is always great and I really enjoyed the time I was allowed to spend with old and new friends.

Conclusion: Share more time with friends!

Being outdoors – When I look back I remember mostly my outdoor trips. Some examples:

Each tour gave me the impression of being in the right place and doing it right. I realised again, that I just adore being outdoors, especially in the kalfjäll – the alpine tundra above the tree line.

Conclusion: Be outside – it feels good!

The inferior parts

Driving alone – This journey involved a lot of driving, sometimes the whole day. I consider this both boring and exhausting. Boring because you cannot share your thoughts (see Friends above), exhausting because I had to drive every single of the 6630 kilometres by myself. Sometimes I couldn’t enjoy driving as much as I hoped, I was just glad to arrive somewhere.

Conclusion: Take a friend, drive less or just stand it.

Tenting and short days – Short days aren’t any problem if you have a cabin or another warm place to stay. They are less fun, when you’re still driving without knowing whether you’ll find a cheap overnight stay. They are hard, when you lie alone in your tent and it’s pitch dark outside already at five o’clock. Again boredom is the main problem (see Friends above, again) and time as well since it may take much time to find a place for tenting, erect the tent, cook your meal, do the dishes and so on. That’s why I tented only once (and slept two other night in my tent too without the need to cook).

Conclusion: Take a friend or avoid tenting when days are too short.

Favourite places

Some old favourite places:

  • The Vesterålen – just beautiful and much easier to discover on foot than the steep and rugged Lofoten islands
  • Solberget – a perfect place to calm down and to make tours with the long wooden Tegsnäs skis
  • Abisko and around – an ideal place for starting ski tours between an hour and some weeks. I recommend Abisko Handcraft for accommodation.

And some new discoveries:

  • Låktatjåkko – Sweden’s highest located Mountain Lodge, 1228m above sea level, a perfect place to get snowed in
  • Kirkenes – great landscape with a fantastic combination of open and ice covered fjords, snowy mountains and much more. And a great team at the Kirkenes Snow Hotel

Things I can have at home, too

When I wrote about my paddling yesterday I was asked in a comment, why I travel at all, when I can have this right on my doorstep. I’ve been living in Skellefteå and Skelleftehamn for almost five years and a lot of winter experiences are really just round the corner:

  • Northern Lights –  I saw them many times, even if they may be more impressive more up north
  • Snow – Each single year we got much snow, quite often between 80 and 100 cm and I can start ski tours in my front yard
  • Blizzards – Last winter: 83 cm in 24 hours; I missed this winter’s snowstorm
  • Moose – There are a lot of them in the forest, but I only see the tracks and moose poop. Sometimes even some reindeers
  • Coldness – sometimes it can be quite cold with temperatures below -30 °C, but that’s seldom
  • Sea ice – the Baltic Sea freezes over each year. I can ski on the sea ice or, if parts are open, take the kayak and paddle between the ice

Things I cannot have at home

  • Polar night – we are south from the Arctic Circle and the shortest day is 3 hours, 45 minutes
  • Real cold weather – I think you have to visit other places to get temperatures below -40 °C. Nikkaluokta and Kvikkjokk can be quite cold in wintertime
  • Mountains – we have some tree-covered hills but no real mountains and no tree line neither – a pity!
  • Wilderness – let’s face it, there’s a lot of nature around but no real wilderness. If you go through a forest straight ahead you will cut a way or find a summer cottage quite soon
  • Fjords – no fjords neither, Norway seems to have the European monopoly. Some people say, that the Baltic Sea is not even a real sea but more kind of a big lake
  • New impressions – as I mentioned I’ve been living here for almost five years and I start to know the surroundings. It’s always nice to discover something new

Wishes and ideas for winter 2016

  • I want to share more time with friends, preferably outdoors
  • I want to make (at least) one longer ski tour
  • I want to sleep in a tent when it’s below -40 °C
  • I want to visit Låktatjåkko and Kirkenes again
  • I want to paddle between ice floes
  • If money isn’t too short: I want to see something completely new. Greenland? Svalbard? Labrador? I don’t know yet

It’s all right as long as it’s winter!

High+++

… that was the short term Aurora Forecast of Alaska before the server broke down. I never saw such a high level in a forecast before.

Even an hour after sundown the Northern Lights were visible on the blue sky. After a rehearsal with the chamber choir I drove to Harrbäckssand, a small beach near Ursviken. The whole sky was covered with the Aurora, as I never saw it before at home. Unfortunately it was not too bright and faded down while I tried to make some photos.

Therefore just two photos for now:

 (But the aurora continued the whole night …)

The best open air cinema ever

That was my place – “high in the bleachers” this night. After taking some photos I unrolled my camping mat and sleeping bag on the  boat bridge and laid down to sleep. I didn’t got much of it with the ice cracking under the boat bridge and the fascinating aurora illuminating the whole sky.

Half past three the aurora was still very active, but I decided that it would be nice to continue sleeping in a real bed, where I can twist and turn around.

I never saw the Northern Lights in so many variations in a single night. Sometimes there were some small, but very bright Northern Lights in several directions. It looked like a photo exhibition. Sometimes huge green and violet garlands and vortexes covered the sky. Sometimes the whole sky was filled with faint Northern Lights flickering and whizzing around as I never watched it before. Most time lapse videos are lame in comparison. And when I woke up round half past three a bright crystal star of Northern Light gleamed right above me in the zenith sending its beams over the whole sky. Just amazing!

These photos are really nothing compared to reality.

Yesterday I had a longing to the Arctic. I yearned for being on Greenland, Svalbard or somewhere in Nunavut. Tonight I was comforted a bit – it’s fantastic to be able to see them just round the corner of my home.

A great night but now I had to catch some sleep, I’m working tomorrow.

Watching the solar eclipse

The solar eclipse 2015Today I would have loved to be either in Longyearbyen on Svalbard or on the Føroyar, the Faroe Islands. Then I could have seen the first total solar eclipse in my life. But at least we had fantastic weather with clear blue sky and I could watch the partial solar eclipse.

OK, the eclipse photo first. As a matter of fact it’s a composition of two images. The sun itself, that I photoed with a so called “big stopper” that takes away 99.9% of the visible light. Also a good eye protection, even through the tele lens. But the sky is pitch black on this filtered photo, that’s why I made a shot of the blue sky and merged both images in Photoshop.

Even if it’s quite fascinating to watch the solar eclipse I want to mention the surrounding as well: I stood on the thick ice at the rocky shore of the Baltic sea. Water is open, most ice floes are away, but the shore is still covered with thick ice that is underpinned by large rocks. Therefore the ice is hovering above the sea water and the tiny waves created funny-looking icicles underneath the ice.

Back to the solar eclipse. I never saw a total solar eclipse in my whole life and I’m really longing to see one. I had checked the next total solar eclipses, to check where I can see one.

  • March 9, 2016 – Indonesia, Micronesia, Marshall Islands – nope, I want to have it way up north
  • August 21, 2017 – USA. Come on, what did I say?
  • July 2, 2019 – Argentina and Chile …  – That’s not north at all, but at least it’s winter in South America
  • December 14, 2020 – Southern Chile and Argentina … – Again? What about Europe or Canada or Siberia?
  • December 4, 2021 – Antarctica – I know, it’s hard to find a place on earth that’s even still less way up north, but for Antarctica I’m willing to make an exception. It would be great to see a total solar eclipse in Antarctica.

I have to check if there’re any opportunities to travel to Antarctica to see this eclipse. But I guess, it’s coming to be expensive! Are there any rich people out there? Who is willing to sponsor me a trip to Antarctica in December 2021? Or parts of it? Please contact me, I have a warm jacket.

Sun rise 5:16

If you love to witness the sun rise you have to rise up early. Today I managed to stand up round 4:15 and half an hour later I stood at the sandy beach of Harrbäckssand to see the sun coming up. Well, sandy beach it is in summer, now the shore is covered with snow and ice. And today it was even quite cold with temperatures round -12 °C. This may be the last “real” winter day this season, but you never know, last year it snowed in May.

5:16 the first bright orange beams of the sun appeared behind the island Medgrundet.

Minutes later the sun illuminated ice, snow and pine trees with warm colours between orange and pink.

I loved the swirly ice patterns on the half frozen water of the shallow beach.

After a while I drove home again and took an additional nap. 4:15 is too early, even for me.

 

Greetings from Kittilä airport

I woke up quite early today and this was my view:

Yesterday I drove to Kittilä in Finnisch Lapland, because I’ll stay in a cabin in Äkäslompolo for a week with Annika and a friend of hers. Since they planned to take the first morning flight from Helsinki today they will arrive at 7:30. I decided to drive the day before and sleep at the airport. The airport has some short but comfortable-looking couches. However the last flight went at 23:50 and I was already tired at eight o’clock. Therefore I decided to sleep in the car. I was awake in the night twice and quite early in the morning again hearing the snow ploughs shovelling away the two centimetres of snow that fell in the night. I tried to continue to sleep, but the beep-sounds of the backing ploughs kept me awake.

40 minutes left before the plane is going to land. The trip to Äkäslompolo ist not far, just 50 kilometres. I’m longing for the cabin – and some additional day time nap.

The photo above shows the luv side of the car and that’s the lee side:

Cross-country skiing in Äkäslompolo – part one

Since Saturday I’ve been in Äkäslompolo with Annika and Medi, a friend of hers. Äkäslompolo is famous for cross-country skiing and has a total of  330 km of cross-country ski tracks. And that’s what we are here for: Cross-country skiing. My first almost real sport holiday for a zillion years.

On Saturday we used the skis only for a shopping trip to the other side of the lake. I gave my old cross-country skis a quite suspicious look, they are so much thinner than my tour skis (not to mention the broad wooden Tegsnäs skis). Will I be able to ski on these sticks or will I fell right onto my nose after five steps? But the shopping trip (no ascents or descents at all) went well. And in the evening even the grey sky cleared up, patches of fog appeared over the snowy terrain and temperature dropped to -10 °C. We took an evening walk and watched the starry night in hope for Northern Lights, but unfortunately they didn’t come out.

Sunday. Our first ski tour to the cabin Kotamaja. It gave me a quite sportive feeling when I mounted the skis right before our lodge, crossed the road and entered the ski trail. The sportive feeling disappeared quite soon, because almost all other skiers were extremely skilled, extremely athletic and extremely fast, even the much older ones. I had the feeling of accidentally having got into an olympic training race, but it was fun anyway. Earlier than expected we reached Kotamaja and took a break. And we were not alone …

We continued and headed for Hangaskuru where we planned to take our lunch. And we were well equipped: We didn’t only have sandwiches, but sausages and extendable barbecue forks as well. Yummy!

When we headed home more and more skiers were on the ski tracks, it was really crowded and it got worse and worse. “That’s no fun anymore”, I thought but rather like driving on a German autobahn. Hopefully it would be less crowded under the week.

Monday. We took the airport bus that left us at Ylläs-Lainion. The track was in inferior condition, since it had started snowed a bit, but we were almost alone and that’s more the way I like being outdoors. With relaxed but steady movements we slid through the wintry Finnish landscape. However we did not hesitate to take short or longer breaks in the cozy little huts. After round about 20 km we were home again.

Tuesday. It hadn’t stop snowing the whole night and it should continue snowing the whole day. That was the view through our window this morning:

We decided not to make a longer tour, because cross-country skiing on tracks is less fun when the tracks are covered with snow.

I took a walk to the supermarket – partly with Annika, partly alone and tried to continue a snowshoe trail, but the trail was only prepared partly and the snow mobile track, that I followed instead a while, headed to the wrong direction. So I had to return the same way. Äkäslompolo is made for cross-country skiers.

In the afternoon I took a short circular ski tour. Since yesterday fell 10-12 cm new snow accumulating to at least 100 cm snow on the ground.

On the short tour I’ve been in Karilan Navettagalleria,  a nice café, that Medi discovered in the morning, but I took only two pictures and continued my tour. We already have planned another tour for tomorrow and included the café in our plans.

Now I’m sitting in a cozy couch in a typical Finnish bar. And what’s typical Finnish? Right – Karaoke! The Finns love it and I love listing to all these melancholy melodies. Next time I have to learn some melodies and join the singers, too. They probably will laugh their heads off when I try to sing in Finnish.