From bed to sun rise in 11 minutes?

Today I woke up 7:26, sun rise should be 7:37. That’s eleven minutes to get into warm clothes (-11 °C!), get the camera, change the lens, change camera mode, get the tripod, put all stuff into the car and drive to the peninsula Näsgrundet. This should be one of the last days where I can make a photo of the sun going up behind the light tower of the island Gåsören. Eleven minutes were slightly too short and I arrived two minutes late. So I was a bit in a haste but at least could capture the motif just in time, even if the light tower is not perfectly in the center of the rising sun. But anyway, it was really nice to be outside and I continued being outdoors.

 

108 free days

Yesterday I worked the last day for a long time. Now I have holidays. Long holidays! The first day I’ll work again will be the day after Easter Monday and that means that I have (just a moment, I’ll have to check it again to believe it: 12 + 31 + 28 + 31 + 6), that I have a 108 day holiday starting today!

108 days – isn’t it great? Um – err – I don’t know! The last months were quite tough with much work (both privately and on the job) and I’ve been in “survival mode” for many weeks – and still I am. I don’t realise yet, that today my longest period of free time since pre-kindergarden times started. Probably it will take some more days until I really understand.

Yesterday it was sleeting – a bit of snow, quite much rain. But in the afternoon it got colder and rain changed into snow. Today it’s round -5 °C and we have ca. 8 cm fresh snow. In contrast to the last weeks the snow will probably survive, since the weather forecast promises temperatures below zero for the rest of the month.

My friends know my passion for winter and snow and of course I went out and took a walk round the lake Rudtjärnen. The whole lake is covered both with ice and fresh snow and I saw the first two skiers today. They tried to cross a part of the lake but they had to stop to scrape the freezing slush from the bottoms of their skis. The ice under the snow is still wet. No surprise after yesterdays rain.

Later this morning I took the car to the peninsula Näsgrundet where you can see the island Gåsören with its red-white lighthouse in two kilometers distance. It still snowed and long waves rolled on the beach, broke on the shallow shore and flushed away the snow of the nearest rocks. And in the background lay Gåsören covered with the first noteworthy amount of snow.

It took more than 60 shots of this motiv, until I found the right place and – much harder – the right time with surf in the air and the red spotlight of the lighthouse on. I’m still not content, but it’s the best shot today.

The rest of the day: Celebrated laziness – it’s my first day off!

In round about three weeks I will start my long trip through Northern Sweden and Northern Norway – the reason why I took such a long period off duty, and by the way the reason why I started this blog.

Back to Haukenes

Day nine

Today I drove back from Andenes to my friends in Haukenes where I’ll leave on Sunday or Monday. I didn’t choose the direct way on the eastern side of Andøya (82) but the detour on the western side via Stave and Skogvoll. There where some fantastic views, mostly at places where I couldn’t stop. But anyway, some images of today (and two of yesterday):

Let’s start with some houses in Andenes build on stilts (The greenish colour on the second photo comes from the polar light).

Andenes next morning and Bleik, where I took a long walk on the large sandy beach.

A small graveyard and a real tiny light house.

A man hanging up fish heads for drying (for the african market).

And last not least some landscapes when sun went down again.

That’s today in a nutshell.

Tromsø: At the shore

Day 15

Just strolling at the shore, at the seaside. Grey windy weather, the opposite of my day in the mountains yesterday. Just walking and letting the mind flow. My thoughts? I don’t know, i didn’t listen. A further step, balancing on stones, wading through shallow water, avoiding the ice, collecting some shells, looking around.

Just relaxing.

The bird is a Purple Sandpiper (Latin: Calidris maritima, German: Meerstrandläufer, Swedish: Skärsnäppa). My thanks to Patrick and Kevin for the identification.

The idea to stay another night in Tromsø and not to drive to Absiko today was good: Parts of the way to Abisko has been closed since yesterday evening due to the snow storm and are still closed. It’s still not clear whether they’ll be open tomorrow again. I guess I’ll give it a try.

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!

 

 

 

Umiak I

It started like many kayak trips: I put out to sea at the tiny beach Storgrundet without any plans at all. Unlike yesterdays weather forecast it was a nice and sunny day, although not very warm. Since the sea was calm I paddeled along the seaward sides of the islands Storgrundet and Brottören, crossed the Bredskärsviken to the islands Norrskär and Bredskär, continued at the east side of Flottgrundet and headed to Gåsören, probably my favourite island nearby. Some photos:

But much more fascinating than nature, birds and islands was the moment when I looked at the horizon and saw the faint but large silhouette of a big ship. The blurred outline looked more like a fata morgana than a real object. But I wasn’t the only one watching the ship. Two tugboats came from the port to bring the ship into port.

T., whom I met on the Island Gåsören knew the ship. It’s Umiak I, an ice breaker, that can break 1.5 meter ice and still going 6 knots (ca. 11 km/h). Impressing! I do like summer, but I really adore winter and started dreaming of travelling with the Umiak I in winter and cutting through solid ice.

Later today I made a better image of the ship in port.

It’s at least so famous, that it has its own Wikipedia page! I looked at Shorelink as well, to get some more information:

  • Cargo: 9257 tons copper concentrate
  • Coming from: Edwards Cove via Brunsbuttel

Of course I had to look up Edwards Cove, too. Never heard the name before. If the internet is right, Edwards Cove is a harbour west-northwest from Nain in Labrador, Arctic Canada. If the ship would go back the same way, I guess I would ask for a lift.

Links:

An overnight stay on the island Gåsören

Saturday

The advantage of short kayak trips with overnight stay: you can start quite late. It was 7 p.m. when I started pulling my loaded kayak from home to shore. A quarter later I sat in the kayak and started paddling. It’s only four, five kilometres to the island Gåsören that shone in the warm light of the evening sun.

The first thing to do: Put up the tent before sundown. The second thing to do: Taking a picture of the lighthouse before sundown. The stomach reminded me of thing number three: Preparing food and eating. Todays dinner: Graved salmon on fire roasted bread à la plein air.

I was quite curious if I would catch the first polar light. The short term forecast of Soft Serve News wasn’t too bad. But even if the sun already went down round 9 o’clock – two and a half hours earlier than eight weeks ago – I still had to wait for the sky getting darker. After a while however I could see the first faint greenish garlands. My first Northern Lights of the season 2015/16! Great!

But then I saw something in the sky that I thought was much more fascinating: Right above the red coloured northern sky I could see a layer of lucent clouds. They looked really strange because there weren’t red or purple – they were pale white! I never saw something like that before. They looked extremely far away, almost extraterrestrial. I wondered if this perhaps could be noctilucent clouds – clouds that are found in extremely high altitudes of round about 80 kilometres. I stayed awake for a long time, I just couldn’t tear my eyes away from this wonderful phenomenon. Two pictures of the clouds:

Of course I checked my hypothesis directly, when I went home. Yes – I guessed right. My first noctilucent clouds ever. I was really lucky and I’m happy that I could see them just from my tent.

But let’s leave the Mesosphere and go back to earth again. If you tent on the island Gåsören, you can see other lights, too. Lights of civilisation: The peninsula Rönnskär is quite nearby. On Rönnskär there is Boliden Rönnskär, one of the most efficient copper smelters. You think industry is unsightly and ugly? Well, not Rönnskär by night in my opinion:

Sunday

I woke up in broad daylight although it was only half past five. I took one halfhearted picture out of my tent and then I started reading.

I started the book “Norwegen der Länge nach” written by Simon Michalowicz that was published just some weeks ago. Simon hiked from the Southern tip of Norway to the North Cape – round about 3000 kilometres.

I read in the tent – I read sitting in front of the island’s sauna — I read sitting or lying on a floating boat bridge, only interrupted by a short bath in the Baltic Sea. I followed Simon’s tour and just couldn’t stop reading. It was noon when I finally finished the book. If can warmly recommend it to all German readers that love Scandinavia or are interested in hiking. There’s a website as well: www.simonpatur.de.

I wasn’t alone on the island. Some people hired the old lotshus – the pilot’s house for an overnight stay. The first motor boats came in for a day visit. And both summer cottages – there’re only two on Gåsören – were used, too. From T. who owns one of the cottages I learned that it was international lighthouse day today. So before I packed all my stuff together and paddled home I went up the two stairs in the old lighthouse and made a last photo.

I was home again half past two. Many experiences and a good book in less than twenty hours – that’s a fine weekend.

Translation:

EnglishGermanSwedish
Noctilucent cloudsLeuchtende NachtwolkenNattlysande moln

The light, the light, the amazing light

More and more it’s not the snow and ice that fascinates me by winter, or the coldness that tickles in my nose. It’s the light, the amazing light! It’s incredibly beautiful, but – at least for me – hardly photographable. Too delicate and subtle are the colours and shades.

I tried it anyway, when Annika’s and I made our ski tour to the island Bredskär today.

After a snow fall of 12 cm last night the sea ice was partly covered with snow and skiing was nice and easy. However, we changed our plan to go round the whole island Bredskär, since the ice on the outer side was much too soft and weak. I don’t want to get wet feet or legs, when it’s -17 °C. However a wonderful little ski tour because of the light, the amazing light!

A little expedition to the island Gåsören

Disclaimer: Don’t try this at home. Unknown sea ice can be dangerous just as very cold temperatures.

Today I had the plan to cross the ice and go to the island Gåsören which is one of my favourite places nearby. The challenge: Parts of the Baltic Sea were open five days ago due to the low water. How thick would the ice be and would I be able to go to the island?

I started at the little boat harbour Tjuvkistan and planned to go to the island Bredskär where I’ve been with Annika two days ago. This time I chose snow shoes and pulka to transport all clothes and equipment. I changed plans and didn’t head to Bredskär, but followed the ski tracks to the island Klubben instead – a better direction. In the dim light of the daybreak I could see Gåsören ahead.

It was quite cold, round -27 °C and I was glad about my fur rimmed hood, that protects the face against wind and cold air.

I continued to the next island Flottgrundet, which is hardly 300 meters away. A tiny ice rim encircled the island and I took a small break. Normally I take breaks mainly for taking pictures, but this time I had another reason, too:

Beside of the tracks of a lonely hare I couldn’t see any track or trail to Gåsören. Is the ice safe and will it bear me? Since I already expected such, I brought along my survival suit, which is completely waterproof and has attached socks, gloves and hood, so that only the face would be exposed to the ice cold water in case of breaking through the ice. All other equipment such as camera, extra clothes and food was in waterproof bags.

I looked like a Teletubbie, (and probably moved like one too) but I felt safe. Round my head I had my camera bag and so-called isdubbar, that’s ice picks, that would help me to pull myself on land, if I had broken though. I put the snow shoes into the pulka and started crossing the ice.

Round 700 meters later I reached Gåsören. I went ashore and was quite glad that the ice bore me without any problem. I unmounted the pulka but continued wearing the survival suit. I wanted to discover the ice rim on the eastern side of Gåsören and didn’t dare to do that without it. First of all I climbed onto the two meter high ice to get an overview. The risen sun started to light parts of the landscape in warm colours, while the snow in the shadows still looked cold and bluish.

The next two hours I strolled around east from the island to take pictures from the amazing ice formations round the island. Some of them were up to three meters high. It’s interesting to see, how many different colours ice can have, both the ice itself and the sun light as the day progresses. While I walked round I could see the light houses of Gåsören, the new one (the red tower to the left) and the new one (the house to the right).

Meanwhile I protected even my nose that started to get cold. The danger is that you won’t realise, when the nose gets too cold and you really have to be careful to avoid frostbite. The neoprene survival suit is surprisingly warm, but not comfortable at all. Since it’s not breathable I started to sweat and become wet. I longed for warm tea and other clothes. I went back to the pulka, undressed the suit and slipped into the cold boots. Then I took tea, crackers, camera and a huge bin bag that wrapped my down coverall. I went to the other side of the island, this time on land and put on the coverall over the other jacket. Now I really looked like a polar explorer, but was just 5 kilometres away from home. It took a while, until I got warm again and another while to realise, that this suit is almost to warm for temperatures between -26 and -28 °C. But at least I got my hot tea, some cookies and I didn’t freeze at all.

Of course I continued making photos on land. I went round, took images of the big welcome-sign, the red-white light tower and even more ice. But after a while clouds came in and started to cover the sun.

So I undressed my down coverall, went back to the pulka, packed all stuff into it and started my walk back to main land. I chose almost the same way to be sure, that the ice is stable. The sun vanished behind a layer of clouds, only a bright orange light pillar was left.

When I looked left I got reminded, that this fantastic tour was not in the arctic wilderness, but near home. The smelting works on the peninsula Rönnskär was within sight. The chimneys gave off clouds of smoke that racked southwards below the inversion boundary, but northwards above. When I was almost back on the main land I could see the red solar disk setting behind Rönnskär.

When I entered the car, it was still -26 °C below – one of the coldest days that I experienced in Skelleftehamn until now.

Conclusion: a great tour with a touch of expedition due to the coldness and the unsafe ice. Should be repeated when ice is safer and weather is warmer.

Addendum (2016-01-20)

This tour was more dangerous than I suspected. Not because of the weak ice but because the rubber gloves of the survival suit didn’t isolate good enough. Today – two days after – I got small blisters on all fingers but the thumbs, a clear sign for a second degree frostbite. My nose is a bit reddish and itches, probably a first degree frostbite.

I have full tactile sense in all parts of the fingers and the nose, but it probably will take some time until the skin heals completely.

The danger was, that I didn’t feel any pain in the fingers while being out. I just felt the cold when I removed the wool mittens. I never will make such an extended photo tour in the survival suit when it’s so cold.

Take care, photographers. Don’t risk your health for just some nice photos. It’s not worth it.

 

Short trip to Bjuröklubb

Yesterday I went to Umeå by car, but I took a detour. In Övre Bäck, where I made the photo from the “Winter tree” I left the E4 to drive to Bjuröklubb, a salient that reaches wide into the Baltic Sea.

In summer, you can walk up from the parking place, eat in the Café Fyren or follow the wooden walkway up to the light house. In winter time this place is abandoned. I took my snow shoes and went first along the shore and then up to the light house.

Temperatures were between -25 °C and -30°C and the sky was totally clear. Another wonderful winter day.

Vårvinter

Where are we – Annika and I? In the Arctic on our way to the North Pole?  Looking for polar bears?

Well, not really! We’re on the frozen Baltic Sea on our way to the island Gåsören, enjoying the blue sky and the warm sun.

But we didn’t only enjoy the warmth of the sun, but the warmth of the sauna, too – even if we didn’t fire it as hot as it should be for a real sauna experience.

We were not the only ones on the ice of the Baltic Sea yesterday.

There were ski tracks and skiers.

There were snowmobile tracks and snowmobile drivers.

There were moose tracks …

… and there were moose on the ice, too. Far, far away, but clearly visible.

“vårvinter” means “spring winter” and describes this season, where the land is still covered with snow and ice, but the temperatures aren’t longer as cold as in January or February.

Blue sky, blue sea – opening the kayak season

Finally the Baltic Sea round the peninsula Näsgrundet has been open and free of ice. Time to open the kayak season!

To Näsgrundet it’s just a 2.8 km walk from home. The kayak is tied onto a small two-wheeled dolly. I wear the same waistbelt, that I use for my pulka. Hereby I can walk and drag the kayak behind me without using my arms.

Soon I reached the peninsula and dragged the kayak onto the surrounding ice shield. After putting on my dry suit, lifejacket, neoprene boots, gloves and balaclava I was dressed for the first paddling. Perhaps I looked a bit overdressed, but despite of the springlike air temperatures it’s still winter paddling – the water is as cold as it can be.

I paddled along the ice shelf, that still connects the islands BredskärKlubben and Flottgrundet with the main land. The ice is soft and starts to get transparent, but it’s still quite thick.

Soon I reached Klubben and paddled along the icy coast.

From Klubben it’s just 200 metres to Flottgrundet and from that it’s only 500 or 600 meters to Gåsören

… at least, if you take the direct way. I preferred a detour to paddle between the ice floes. It’s a great experience. Some ice floes are quite big and welcome resting spots for ducks, geese and seagulls. Others are so tiny, that they are hardly visible, especially if they are completely transparent and clear. They sparkle and glitter like huge diamonds.

After some detours I headed to Gåsören, circuited it to look for a good anchorage and went on land (or better said, on ice) to make a small rest.

After I stilled my hunger and thirst I entered my kayak again and returned to the Näsgrundet, this time on the direct way, which is round about two kilometres. When I got out from my kayak and stepped onto the ice that surrounds the peninsula, I heard a noise: A snow mobile crossed the same ice shield I paddled along some hours ago – in same distance to the open water. Spring, meet winter!

After taking of the lifejacket and dry suit I went home, dragging the kayak behind again and enjoying the springlike temperatures. No warm jacket anymore, no woollen cap – no gloves and no warm boots. Round 40 °C warmer than 12 weeks ago – glorious!

A cruise from Skelleftehamn to Bjuröklubb

It doesn’t happen often, that you can make boat trips from Skelleftehamn, were I use to live. Only one week once a year the Laponia Rederi from Luleå comes down to Skelleftehamn for some cruises. Last Saturday Annika and I took the opportunity to attend a five hour cruise to Bjuröklubb, where I’ve been quite a lot, but never by ship. When we arrived in good time before 11 o’clock people already started entering the small ship.

We boarded, too and thereby lowered the average age some years. I sniffed around the boat and got the permission to enter the bridge for some photos.

Five minutes before schedule the ship put out to sea, cruising along the industrial peninsula Rönnskär.

While Annika and I were standing on the top deck looking at the sea, the islands, the sky and the waves, all other people stayed inside and started focussing on the main topic: the lunch buffet. Anyway I have to admit, that especially the salmon was extremely delicious, and the bread as well.

I once thought about making a kayak trip to Bjuröklubb, an exposed peninsula and the easternmost point of the county Västerbotten. It would take me some days, since for one thing I’m slow and for another thing I would follow the coastline and never dare to take the much shorter direct route long away from the mainland. The ship, however was fast and took the “directissima”. Therefore it took only 90 minutes to cruise there.

At the small harbour we all went ashore and the ship continued to a larger harbour nearby where it waited for us. We got a guided tour and went up to the lighthouse where we left the croud for a good reason: Just that day was the International Lighthouse and Lightship Weekend, the only day where the lighthouse – which is still in use – is open for visitors. I went up, waiting for the other visitors – max 4 at the same time – to leave and made some photos. Not only the cut glass mirror construction was incredible but the colourful reflections of the sunlight, too.

Since we already left the group we took a hike to the other harbour, where we entered the ship again. Why it took us more than half an hour to walk for just some hundred meters? Well, there were blueberries, there were raspberries … and we picked and ate a lot of them.

The crew untied all the ropes connecting the ship to the land. I’m sure they are nautical terms for those ropes, you are free to post their proper names in the comments. Then the ship started, fetched the other passengers at the other small harbour and headed back to Skelleftehamn. Annika and I sat on the upper deck and enjoyed sun, clouds, wind, and waves as well as the view on the islands Skötgrönnan and Gåsören.

Ninety minutes later we arrived again in Skelleftehamn, where we came off the ship, while one of the crew played farewell music on the accordion.

Conclusion: A relaxed cruise and the opportunity to play tourist in my adopted homeland for one day.

ɥʇnos uʍop ʎɐʍ – part II

Two days ago I started a journey southwards. After half an hour in Stockholm, where I changed trains, I sat in the X2000 to Malmö – a four and a half hour trip. I looked out of the window to have a look at Stockholm and saw the train crossing the Årstaviken on a high rail bridge.

Then I got tired and tried to fell asleep. Then the landscape got a bit boring. Then it got dark. That’s why my camera stayed in its backpack for a long time. Then our train started to delay more and more. Will I be able to catch my connecting train in Malmö? I knew, there were later trains the same day in case of missing this one, but I was a bit nervous anyway. I was tired and just wanted to end this part of my journey as soon as possible.

Two or three minutes before the departure of my connection we arrived in Malmö. I left the train, and started to run: Where’s track 2B? To the left – to the right – holding left – running down the looong escalator. Where’s the train? Oh – the track changed. Where’s track 1A? The other end of the same platform. Jogging again. Where’s the train? Oh – not here yet. Phew!

Some minutes later I entered the local train to Trelleborg where I finished my 12 hour 40 minute journey and took the short way to my hotel. I checked in, went to my room, took a shower and a photo and soon I was fast asleep.

Ten hours later: I stand on the huge ferry to Sassnitz, Rügen, Germany. The ferry crossing will take a bit more than 4 hours. Twice I am inside to buy small things to eat and to drink, the rest I sit or stand outside having a look at Sweden leaving behind, the open Baltic Sea with nothing in view beside of an offshore wind park and some other ships far away. Some places on deck were quite windy, other were wind-protected so that I can sit in T-shirt enjoying the sun. Two and a half hours later Kap Arkona, the northernmost tip of Rügen comes into view and later the outstretched chalk cliffs of Jasmund. A good hour later the ferry goes ashore in Sassnitz and I am in Germany – for the first time after Christmas 2014.

I think, travelling by ship could be my favourite style of travelling. You are not bound to your seat, you can walk around, you get food (if you want) and you can look at the sea. What a pity, that there’s no ferry from Skelleftehamn to Sassnitz. Come on, shipping companies, it’s both the Baltic Sea, it cannot be so hard …

Some images of yesterday:

Jämtland hike part I: Storulvån—Blåhammaren

This article is part of the series “2016-09: Jämtland and Norway”.

After three weeks of travelling I’m back in Skelleftehamn. The first week I was in Germany, then I travelled back to Umeå, where Annika lives. Let’s start there:

Sunday after breakfast Annika and I started our tour through the autumnal Jämtland. However the first day’s focus was on getting there by car. It takes round six and a half hours to get from Umeå to Storulvån. We made a stopover in Åsele to look in on some friends and so it took a bit longer until we reached the STF Storulvån Fjällstation where we parked our car. But anyway, we have semester – holiday – and plenty of time. It was even still daylight left, when we crossed the creek Stor-Ulvån (sami: Stoere Vïerejällanjohke) to get to our cabin.

Monday, 12. September

I awoke quite early the next morning and went out to make some photos of the beautiful morning mood and the autumnal colours of nature.

After our breakfast we shouldered our backpacks and started the tour. My backpack could have been quite lightweight if I hadn’t taken my camera, four lenses and a tripod with me. Nevertheless the weight was less than 15 kilos since we were able to buy food in almost all cabins and mountain lodges.

First it was a bit cloudy but soon the sky cleared up more and more and we got a warm autumn day with temperatures up to 20 °C, which is quite warm for the season. The summer trail led us first through autumnal birch forests but after some kilometres we were already on the kalfjäll – the bare mountains above the tree line.

In the middle of the trail between Storulvån and Blåhammaren lies the cot Ulvåtjärn, one of the “emergency cots”. You’re welcome to have a break here, but not to stay overnight beside of emergency situations. Right before this cot you have to cross the Stor-Ulvån again, this time by fording it. When Annika crossed the river three years ago, the water was knee deep, now the water level was much lower and I could just cross it in my rubber boots, while Annika went barefooted.

After a break we continued our tour to Blåhammaren. There were many reindeers on the fjäll. No big herds, but many small groups here and there. They are quite shy and cautious, but on the kalfäll it’s quite obvious, that they are the real residents of the mountains, not we human beings.

We continued our tour on the treeless mountain terrain until the Blåhammaren fjällstation came into view. Here we got two beds in a 14-bed-room and entered the sauna, that has a gorgeous view. After that Annika invited my to a three-course dinner (Blåhammaren is famous for its cuisine) where I got the most delicious reindeer meat I ate in my whole live. Thanks for the invitation, Annika!

While we enjoyed our dinner it started to get dark outside and after a while the beacon in front of the main house was lighted and the first stars came out. Later in the night we got a fantastic crystal clear starry sky, but no Northern lights. I considered about taking some pictures of the milky way, but I was too lazy and too tired.

The tour so far:

Continue with part two …

Slippery When Wet

We got roller coaster weather again. Yesterday morning we had -15 °C and in the evening about +3 °C.

Today Annika, two friends and I made an excursion to Kågnäsudden onto the ice. It was even warmer than yesterday (+7°C) and quite windy. The surface of the thick ice was very wet with many puddles of clear ice water and the structure looked like the rippled sand of the tidal flats in Northern Germany. The wind gusts blew tiny ripples over the large meltwater pools and it looked like the ice shield would reach as far as Finland.

But no – it didn’t. The wind and the waves had started to break the ice. We crossed the ice and went to the near island Kågnäshällan. We all were equipped with either spikes or snowshoes to be able to go on the slippery, wet ice.

Right behind the seaside shore of Kågnäshällan we could see the waves lifting and lowering the ice and finally breaking it apart. The rocks round the light tower were bare of ice – too warm was this season’s winter weather.

Along the rocky shore lay large blocks of ice. They glittered in the sun because they were wet and free of snow.

These ice floes were found everywhere. Along the coast but even between the small alder trees further on land. I guess that one of the high water levels this winter had flushed these ice floes ashore where they razored the bark from the thin tree trunks.

And the winter on land? Less and less snow – much too warm – I’m longing for colder weather and snow. Probably it will come in the beginning of May …

Two days on the Hurtigruten

This article is part of the series “2017-02: Northern Norway”.

On Wednesday we left Kirkenes and started our journey to the next destination: Stokmarknes on the Vesterålen where we planned to visit good friends of mine.

KirkenesStokmarknes would be 1000 km by car and take at least 14 hours, if you take the faster way through Finland and Sweden. Anyway there’s an alternative: The Hurtigruten express route, which connects many coastal towns, among others Kirkenes and Stokmarknes. That’s why we took the Hurtigruten ship instead of driving for at least two days. In Vardø we entered the vessel Trollfjord and 16:45 we started our two day long tour.

The first night we went to bed quite early and I only took some pictures in Berlevåg. Since the ship already was moving again I decided to make a longer exposure with the camera on a tripod. That’s Berlevåg by night seen from the Hurtigruten:

We missed Mehamn, Kjøllefjord, Honningsvåg. The first place with a landing stage I saw was Havøysund, were we anchored from 7:45 to 8:00. Shortly after we met the Lofoten, the oldest and smallest ship of the Hurtigruten fleet today. It was tiny compared to the much bigger Trollfjord (which is tiny compared to modern cruise ships).

I tried to be as much outside as possible. It was cold and quite windy, not only because of the airflow, but the gusty wind, too. First I thought, that I would be extremely overdressed in my Canada Goose expedition parka, but soon I found it quite comfortable to wear it in the chilly weather.

In Hammerfest we left the Hurtigruten, looked round in town and bought food. In Øksfjord it started to get dark and the black-white mountain ranges became blue.

… and blurred if you wanted to …

… and it got darker …

Then it started to snow. Sometimes the snowfall was quite heavy especially with the wind and I was even more glad about my warm parka.

In Tromsø we arrived at 23:35 and I made some night shots of this favourite town of me.

We could have left the ship for a visit of Tromsø but we preferred sleeping. We’ll probably visit Tromsø this summer.

The next morning came and the last day aboard began. Good for me, because even if I was glad to slip the car ride it’s not my world to be on a large ship looking at the landscape rolling by. Last night snow fall has brought much snow on the top deck. I never waded through snow drifts on a ship before.

At the same time the Trollfjord anchored in Harstad, a town on the island Hinnøya.

On our way to the next destination Risøyhamn it got extremely windy, the stabilised ship started to roll and to pitch and heavy snow showers appeared, reducing the view to some hundred metres.

Suddenly the wind calmed down, the snow showers were left behind and for the first time of the whole cruise patches of blue sky and finally the sun came out. We approached Sortland, the last stop before our destination Stokmarknes where I gazed at the beautiful mountains of the Lofoten archipelago in the south.

I generally dislike the last 30 minutes of transportation, if it’s by train or by plane. I just want to arrive, and so it was on the Hurtigruten. Impatiently I waited in the inside of the Trollfjorden for its arrival in Stokmarknes, then another fifteen minutes for the allowance to enter the car deck and another ten until I was allowed to drive the car onto the very same car elevator which I used to enter the ship almost 46 hours ago.

I could write a lot more about the Hurtigruten and its passengers, but that’s another story. Short résumé: I love those ships for transportation, but cruising is not my cup of tea. (Anyway, the outside jacuzzi on the top deck is really great!)