Deforestation in Skelleftehamn

When I moved to Skelleftehamn in July 2010 I directly fell in love with the nature around. The Baltic sea with the stony shores, the islands and the pine and birch forests. One place I really love is Storgrundet, which is name of both an island and the tiny sandy beach at the mainland. It’s my favourite starting point for kayaking, because you’re into nature directly, but I guess I have to wait some more days until I’ll be able to start there, since the sea is still partly ice covered. Two images of yesterday:

Storgrundet – a beautiful place. The way that leads to it however has changed. Last autumn it was framed of dense forest, now many of the trees are cut down and the way is framed by piles of tree logs. It brings to my mind that almost all forests in Sweden are no wild untouched primeval forests but commercial forests. There’re not only used for collecting berries and hunting moose, but for hugging down trees, too.

Now I’m sitting a bit on the fence – on the one hand I like wooden houses and furniture made of wood and I love to fire a cabin or a sauna with birch logs. On the other hand I really loved the forest around and when I walked cross-country today, I felt a bit sad seeing the clear-felled areas. I’m glad that the terrain is not too easy to enter with forestry machines. There are some really big rocks and many shallow ponds and swamps. I guess that’s why there’re a lot of single trees left. But it’s not the same anymore.

Now, that many trees are gone, you can look much farther and I realised, how many swampy areas were hidden in the woods. Now they are quite visible and they look fascinating and desolate at the same time.

I do not have anything against using the forest and cutting down trees, but anyhow I felt sad, when I walked through the destroyed landscape today.

Winter journey in a nutshell

It snowed in Skelleftehamn tonight. It’s hardly a secret, that I love winter, snow and coldness. In Skelleftehamn however it would be too warm, because the Baltic Sea is near.

Therefore I decided yesterday to take a day off today, take camera and car and travel towards winter. In the inland the climate is colder and hopefully there would be more snow. I started at 6:45 in darkness. The first part was no fun to drive. Road salt is used on the big road to Skellefteå and the road further west. With temperatures slightly below zero you always have a film of muddy saltwater on your windscreen while the wipers still are partly frozen and will not work properly. That in combination with approaching cars with bright lights makes it hard to see and much concentration is needed.

That instantly got better when I left the big road 95 (that would bring me to Bodø in Norway) right after Jörn. The smaller roads are covered with ice and hard snow – much easier to drive and the windscreen stays clear. And it looks much more like winter than a wet road. And while in Skelleftehamn even the duck pond is open, here the lakes and some small streams are ice and snow covered.

I continued the road and drove to Storklinten, a small ski hill. Well, it wasn’t so interesting yet with only round about 10 cm snow, but the lake nearby – Lill-Klintträsket – was really nice. It started snowing and the tree covered hills farther away seemed to vanish into a white nothing.

The way to Storklinten is a dead-end road and I had to return. I continued the larger road to Myrheden looking for motives. And I found one. The small river Ålsån:

I was glad I had my chest waders with me, so I could come quite near to the motive. And there were a lot of motives this day. For example reindeers. The first small flock was extremely shy and cautious. It didn’t dare to pass my car and left the road starring at me suspiciously from behind the small trees. You can see that they digged for food in the snow, the noses are snow covered and one of the reindeers even had a twig hanging in its antlers.

Further on the road: Town signs with funny looking names (there was even a village called Hej, which is Swedish for hello), more snow covered roads and trees and two extremely well educated reindeers going beside the road in single file.

I’m looking for motive especially, where there are crash barriers beside of the road – there the street will probably cross a river or a creek. Some of them are open, many broader ones with less current are already covered with ice. And on one of them – far away – I could see a reddish animal and some dark spots. A fox? Birds? I looked for the next parking opportunity – sometimes a real challenge – and walked back.

I was right: There was a fox. And some kind of skeleton, perhaps a roe deer or a reindeer. And some crows. And an eagle! It doesn’t happen often, that I see eagles nearby where I live. I made some photos with my tele lens. Zooming in I could even see some magpies hopping around hoping for a snack. The scene was much too far away to get good pictures, but anyway, I want to show you this one:

After a while I started to get hungry. My car too; the red R-lamp has been glowing for a while. Anyway, the town Arvidsjaur, todays destination, was not so far away anymore. As people in former days first fed their horses before eating themselves I first tanked my car with E95, then myself with beef, mashed potato, mushroom sauce and salad. Then I looked around in the city which I think is really nice. Especially in winter with snow – round 20 cm today.

Even if the “real winter” is not here yet the days are already quite short: Sunset in Arvidsjaur was a quarter past two! At three o’clock I started to use the car’s full beam, half an hour later it was quite dark. Time to head home. I couldn’t see any motives any longer and I navigated to the main road. Now driving became exhausting again for a while since it started to snow quite heavily. And if you use full beam while snowing you just see a tunnel of snow flakes swooshing towards you. It’s a big like old televisions science fiction series, when the spaceships activated their warp-drives. And as in space there is no up or down. The second photo may give you a faint idea.

Luckily the snow shower ended soon and the rest of the trip was just about coming home.

400 km and 500 meters – 11 hours 30 minutes – a straining but great one day trip winterwards.

Back again in Skelleftehamn: Snow is gone, it’s pitch black and it’s raining cats and dogs.

Hello Winter – good bye winter

So typical – I leave and winter comes

It’s not the first time that winter comes to Skelleftehamn when I leave it for a week. Yesterday I travelled to Germany and – of course! – winter came again.

The night before it just rained and the small layer of snow was completely gone but when I woke up it had started snowing again and the snow started to cover the grass in the front yard.

When I arrived at the airport it really looked like winter. A snow layer of 10 centimetres covered the parking place and thick snowflakes continued falling down.

At the airport you could see the snowploughs driving to and fro to free the runway. While I took these pictures I heard an announcement: Because of the weather the plane from Stockholm couldn’t land, it will make another try. The second try went well and the plane rolled to the terminal.

Destination Stockholm. We sat in the plane waiting for departure. It took more than an hour until the runway was clear and the airplane de-iced. Above the clouds the sun was shining and the snow was left behind. The sunset laid beautiful colours on the cloud layers.

Stockholm. On Facebook I could read, that 20-30 cm snow already has fallen at home and that it continued snowing. Even today it might snow the whole day according to the forecast. So it might come half a meter of snow or even more to Skelleftehamn. It’s so typical, that I’m abroad, and even more typical that the winter weather will end when I return.

I will update you about the weather, even if I cannot provide you with photos.

Lake-effect or not?

Postscript (5 January 0:00):
No, it’s no lake effect, just ordinary snowfall. More snow to come, but probably not much.

 

Skelleftehamn has a quite exposed location when it comes to snow. I experienced it several times, that quite huge amount fell it a short time.

The so called lake-effect snow occurs, when the Baltic sea is still open and winds blow onshore. Mostly it is very local and interestingly enough it is mostly ignored completely by the smhi, the Swedish weather service.

Today it started snowing round 13:00 and snow fall increased. Some neighbours have already started ploughing and on the road lie round about 15 new snow from today, mostly from the last hours.

In January 2014 came 70 to 80 snow within two days, December 2012 fell 83 cm snow within 24 hours. Even last winter came a lot of snow straight, but I wasn’t home.

I’m curious how much snow we will have tomorrow morning and when it will stop snowing. And finally it’s cold enough for the snow to stay with forecasted temperatures between -14 and -23 °C.

For certain I can make my first ski tour this winter, perhaps to Storgrundet, the nearest island.

Jämtland hike part II: hejdå Sweden, hei Norge!

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

Annika and I are in the mountains in Jämtland and have just reached our first destination: Blåhammaren, where we slept in a 14-bed room.

Tuesday, 13. September

Sleeping in a 14-bed room can be quite demanding, especially if you have this kind of snorers in your room, that could awake a frozen mammoth. However Annika and I were really lucky, no snorers at all! After our breakfast we had to decide where to continue our tour. From Blåhammaren you can hike back to civilisation or continue to two other destinations. Most of the hikers continue to Sylarna which is very central and part of the Jämtland Triangle, a very popular three-day-tour, that connects Storulvån, Blåhammaren and just Sylarna. We were keener to cross the border and hike to the Norwegian lodge Storerikvollen and so we did.

With an altitude of 1086 m Blåhammaren is the highest tourist station of the STF – the Swedish Tourist Association – so first the trail ran over the treeless mountain plateau, over rocks and moss, crossing some swamps and brooks. After a while we descended and the first yellow coloured birch trees came into view again.

Swedish summer trails are marked with red coloured dots on rock or tree, while winter trails are marked with poles bearing red crosses. You really shouldn’t follow the winter trails in summer unless you want to stand in front of a lake or find yourself deep in a bog – both are easy to cross only in wintertime. But quite often there’s a year round trail which makes navigation extremely easy even on less walked routes.

One kilometre behind Endalen, an emergency shelter, where we rested for a short while, the Sweden-Norwegian border came into view. It’s hard to mark a border less spectacularly than this one: A sign amidst of a pile of yellow painted stones, that’s it. The large bridge that crosses the river Enan (Sami: Äjnänjohke) directly after the border offers far more spectacularity.

We detected a real nice resting place on the other side of the river, where we planned to enjoy the warm summerly weather, but two other hikers – by the way the first ones we met that day – coming from the other side chose exactly the same slab of rock to rest. Luckily we found another place, at least as nice as the first one. We unmounted our backpacks, took of our boots and dangled our feet into the ice-cold water.

(I like the photo with the drifting yellow birch leave and the dead mosquito. It illustrates, why I prefer the autumn to summer: Beautiful colours and no biting insects left!)

In Norway the summer trail marks change, now the trail was marked with big bright red T-s. The red T is also the logo of the DNT, the Norwegian Trekking Association.

Do you see the dark piece of something on the top of the stone? It’s animal droppings, but I’m not sure of which species. I asked for help on Facebook and the favourite answers are reindeer and (arctic) fox.

We continued our tour until we came to another swing bridge, this time crossing the river Djupholma. On the other side of that river lies a nice sandy beach where I took a refreshing bath (the only one of the whole tour). It was only two other kilometres to walk to our destination, the cabin Storerikvollen, where we arrived round six o’clock.

Oh, so nice these Norwegian lodges are. They seem less “funkis” (the Swedish functional style) and more “hyggelig” (the Norwegian word for cozy, snug, or homelike). Just gemütlich! And we got a two-bed-room for a good price. The only thing you should know, when you visit the Norwegian side: These cabins hardly sell any food and there is no public kitchen as in the Swedish cabins. So you have three options: (1) take a camp stove with you and cook outside. (2) cold dishes! Hopefully you have all with you. (3) eat the dinner and breakfast provided by the lodges (and pay the Norwegian price).

We chose (2) and had a nice dinner with salami, crisp bread and fresh water outside in the evening sun, enjoying both our simple meal, the warm air and the beautiful view. Later the almost full moon rose above the reddish mountain chain – what a beautiful evening!

Wednesday, 14. September

The next day would lead us to the Nedalshytta, which is between 20 and 24 km away, depending on which map or sign post you rely on. So we got up quite early.

We had to go back yesterdays route 2 or 3 km where the trail divided. Now we turned south and had to ascent. Soon again we were above the treeline. When we looked back, we could see parts of the big lake Essandsjøen and even spotted – beside of some reindeers – the now tiny Storerikvollen, that we left some ours ago.

After a while we came to the river Fiskåa, where we had to ford. My rubber boots were high enough and I just splashed through the water, whereas Annika changed boots with trekking sandals and waded through the river.

Since rivers use to flow through valleys we had to ascend again and walked up along a reindeer fence. The weather was still warm and sunny, but you could see a cloud layer approaching afar. Would it rain in the evening as the forecast told us?

Only the map showed us the progress of our longest tour so far. We went a bit up, a bit down, a bit to the left, a bit to the right, down a small valley and up again. But finally trees came into view once more and soon we stood on an exposed plateau not far away from the yet invisible Nedalshytta.

Come on, just less than a kilometre to go … . Final spurt! A short while later we arrived at the beautiful lodge. Again we got a nice two-bed room, this time right below the grass roof. And we got: pizza! Perhaps not the best I ate in my life, but walk 20 – 24 kilometres with a backpack by yourself and you’ll know, how delicious a warm pizza slice can be!

The tour so far:

Continue with part three …

Jämtland hike part III: back to Sweden and finishing the tour

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

After two days in Norway we headed back to the Swedish mountains.

Thursday, 15. September

We started our day with a breakfast.

The Norwegian lodge Nedalshytta is really beautiful, but doesn’t have a kitchen and sells only some snacks, when it comes to food. Luckily we had both own things to eat and a mug with us, so would could enjoy our own breakfast: oat flakes with frothy milk! How to get frothy milk on a mountain tour? Mix milk powder and water in an empty coke bottle, shake it vigorously and voilà: schiuma di latte à la Annika.

After packing our backpacks we started our hike to the Sylarna Fjällstation. It was the first cloudy day since we started our tour three days before and anything was moist and wet. Sometimes we had to take a break to pluck some blueberries, that still tasted fresh and sweet.

We went along the Templet, which is Swedens highest peak of the Sylarna mountain range (1728 m). (Storsylen with its 1762 meter altitude is higher, but on the Norwegian side, just 100 meters from the Swedish border.) Due to the weather we first couldn’t see that much but after a while it started to clear up and the clouds released the view on the huge and barren slopes of the Templet massif. We were so lucky, that we hadn’t to go this part of the trail in fog and clouds.

Soon we arrived at a place called Ekorrdörren – the squirrel door.

We started our tour at 780 m above sea level. Now we were on 1100 meter and would have to go up another 260 meters to reach the Ekorrpasset – the squirrel pass – which is 1360 m above sea level and so the highest point of our tour so long. We started climbing up the slope but had to look back over and over again. The undulating valley of the river Åeruvedurrienjohke with it’s many hills and ponds looked like from another planet.

Our trail got more and more rocky. After a while there was hardly any way left, we just went over angular rocks with gorgeous views of the Templet, including a small glacier and the Slottet, another peak of the Sylarna.

I really love the changes of the landscape you can have within just some hours: From autumnal birch forest with blueberries over to grass covered plateaus and finally up to an asteroid-like landscape that looks like a pile of stones.

Especially the squirrel pass looks both harsh and impressive. Anyway, when you go up a pass you’ll probably go it down as well and even 200 meters altitude make a difference. The Sylarna Fjällstation lies near the river Sylälven that flows through a wide grass covered U-shaped valley and when we came nearer we could see three reindeers standing in front of the cabins. Back to civilisation.

We had hiked four days in a row and were quite eager to take a day off. Sylarna fjällstation would be an ideal place, since it lies beautifully and you can leave that place in six different directions. Alas, there weren’t only reindeers, but people, too. Many people. The place was crowded! There were many hikers and mountain joggers. In the big dining room sat a large group of bankers that got their three-course dinner including candlelight and fresh salad, brought by helicopter. We were unsure, if this should be a good place to rest for a day.

The information we got in the evening shocked us a bit: There were already 100 – 125 booked sleeping-places for that night (in addition to all people that would come without booking). That means, that this place would be even more crowded. Even Helags, which is more in the South had just some single sleeping-places left.

That was the moment, where we decided to escape.

We would stay overnight of course, but the next day we would abandon the tour and hike back to Storulvån, were I parked my car.

Friday, 16. September

I was awake quite early, took my camera and tripod and walked out to wait for the sunrise. The valley Endalen was covered with fog. I looked at the glacier Storsylglaciären,that covers the eastern slope of the Storsylen and a lavvu – a traditional sami dwelling. The sun however showed up quite late, there were too many clouds.

I looked at the less beautiful parts of that place too: An excavator on a flat building site, a welcome sign surrounded by building material and waste.

We started the tour being content to leave Sylarna behind but a bit melancholy, too, because we didn’t plan to leave the mountains already after five days. Annika started to count the approaching hikers, there were quite many …

After half the way we approached something quite funny:

It’s neither a sculpture nor a church, it’s a WiFi-station including a recharging unit for smartphones! It is even marked in the hiking map: “WiFi och laddstn.”. There were many hikers and even some mountain bikers resting, but no one started the WiFi. The cellular network is quite good in that part of the mountains and I guess there’s hardly a young Swede without a mobile internet flat rate.

We continued our tour and slowly hiked down the valley Endalen. After a while we were below the tree line and the landscape got even more colourful.

And just shortly before we reached our starting point, were we had left four and a half days before I spotted a lonely birch tree – almost leafless. A symbol, that winter will come even this year. Fifteen minutes later we reached Storulvåns fjällstation, then the parking place, then my car. Annika has counted almost 150 people hiking, jogging and cycling to Sylarna, just from one direction! That confirmed our decision to leave Sylarna behind.

It has been a fantastic and varying tour with many different experiences in a short time. Tack för turen – Annika!

The End.

“Wait, wait …”
– “… wait, what?”

“How can it be the end? You had two weeks holidays, not only five days!”
– “well, ok, we did continue our journey.”

After changing cloth, using the bath room and drinking a coke we got in the car and I drove the way back to Enafors, that lies at the E14 which connects Trondheim in Norway with Sundsvall in Sweden. We considered some options but didn’t decide yet what to do next. Shortly before we approached the E14 I asked Annika: “Back to Umeå or Norway?” The answer was: “Norway”. So we travelled to Norway …

Stay tuned for the next article telling more about our trip in Norway …

#snowember16 – part V

This article is part of the series “2016-11: #snowember16”.

Last night it snowed another 15 cm, increasing the snow depth in my backyard to 76 cm and finally the fence in my backgard was gone, hidden by the snow.

You see, that the picture looks a bit hazy? That’s because it snowed still a lot, when I made this picture this morning at 6 o’clock. You see that blending light to the right of the house? It’s a tractor that already had started to plough away the snow.

Some hours later Annika and I took the car to Bureå – another “snow pocket” nearby. As a matter of fact I was curious, if there was even more snow as here in Skelleftehamn.

Finally I could take a picture of the beautiful pavilion Åbacka paviljong which lies near Bureå on the other side of the E4. A huge pile of snow left by a tractor came in handy to get a higher perspective.

And we saw buried cars. And half buried tractors, and really buried cars, and a quite snowed in bicycle.

I heard from some people living in Bureå, that at least one meter of snow has fallen, but I couldn’t find such places in town.  I seemed to be as much snow as home, perhaps a bit more.

When we took a detour, left Bureå and headed to Burvik over the hill Bureberget (altitude: 99 meters!) the snow walls at the sides of the road increased. I stopped the car on the side of the street and just took some steps into the forest. Here the snow was really much deeper, I should say round 110 cm! Here seems to be Bureå’s “snow center”.

I left Annika at the bus station and took the E4 to Skellefteå where I had a meeting at one o’clock. Well, I tried to take the E4, but from the next exit on it was closed due to an accident. I left the E4 and took a secondary route. There were many trucks and other cars taking the same detour and since the road was quite snowy and it still snowed the drive was at quite a low pace. Following a truck is no fun since you hardly see anything beside of the white snow whirling through the air. That is called snörök – “snow smoke”. Sometimes it was not easy to follow the street because all meadows and fields are just as white as the road and the red sticks marking the road hardly help in the snörök.

I took it easy, stopped the car in one of the rare snow-free parking bays and made a photo from the collapsed barn buried in the deep snow.

When I came home the snow fall had stopped and the streets where ploughed. On each corner you could see piles of snow up to four meters high. And finally even my elder bush seemed to realise that summer is over and has started to cast of its leaves.

Tomorrow I’ll take a day off and enjoy the early winter. Skis or snowshoes? I haven’t decided yet.

Some other snow depth:

  • The neighbour at the other side of the street: 86 cm.
  • Some people in Bureå: 100 cm, already four days ago.
  • Someone in Lycksele in the inland: 2 cm!

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!)

Visiting the “Vindelälvsdraget”

Yesterday Annika and I went to Vännäsby , 25 km away from Umeå, to view the 30th Vindelälvsdraget which is the world biggest draught dog relay according to the organisers. It started in Ammarnäs in the Swedish mountains on Thursday and ended just in Vännasby on Sunday. That’s a distance of 381 km in three and a half days.

Some of the competitors used a sledge pulled by four to six dogs, but most of them skated on skis and had one or two dogs dragging (more or less). They came along on the frozen river Vindelälven, turned into the river Umeåälven, which they had to leave right after the bridge. Some of the teams managed it perfectly while others had to shout höger! (right) to the dogs several times until they obeyed. The river bank is quite steep and was a real challenge for the discipline of the dogs. One of them just rolled in the snow while the skier tried not to slip and fall, while some others were shortly distracted by the smell of the grilled sausage by the trail. However all teams managed to come up where there were only some 100 metres left to the finishing line.

The speaker at the finishing line was great. His talk was so “adagio”, laid back and completely free of any stress. I really enjoyed his almost zen-like moderation which was the total opposite of the normal sport presenters stressful reporting attitude. My kudos!

Some photos:

Links: Website / Information pdf (both in Swedish)

 

Sunnanvik at dawn

Last night when I returned home from town I saw the small ice breaker Baus at the pier of the cement factory. When I went out this morning – it was -17 °C outside – Baus already had left. Instead the Cement Carrier Sunnanvik had come and was anchored at the pier, its strong spotlight illuminating parts of the ice covered bay.

In the background you see the copper smelter Boliden Rönnskär. So Skelleftehamn is not only nature as my blog sometimes seem to indicate, but industry, too. Sometimes you can get afraid when you see big cargo boats coming in filled with many thousand tons of sulfuric acid. On the other side this industry creates jobs for a lot of people and last not leasts heats my house with district heating. Two sides of a coin …

Hampstärnsstugan

There’s a hiking trail from Umeå to the lake Tavelsjö, the so-called Tavelsjöleden. The first stop after 5 km is the mountain hut Hampstärnsstugan. Today it opened for the first time this season and served waffles and some other snacks.

While Annika and I had used our new cross-country skis the last days (lightweight, slim and fast) we decided to use our sturdy back-country skis today since we didn’t know anything about the trail conditions.

The trail however was almost perfect, we just had to follow the railway-like ski tracks. We would have been much faster with the other skis, but we just enjoyed being outside and of course the warm chocolate and waffles in the stuga.

While we skied round 10 km, most of the families probably came by car. It was fun to watch the small children on their sledges and toboggans dashing down the slopes, even though we had to jump away several times to avoid collision.

I love being outdoors far, far away from civilisation, but it’s great as well to be able to make such short holiday trips just out of town.

A cold and crisp winter day

Day 4 of the winter journey 2018

This morning was cold, clear and crisp with temperatures round -25 °C. The snow glittered and the sun slowly started to illuminate the snow covered trees. Today Annika would travel back to Umeå and our main plan for that day was to not have any plans at all.

Dirk, the owner of Solberget asked me however if I could have a short photo session to make pictures of his reindeer sledges in action – one of the attraction of the wilderness retreat. And I gladly accepted. Here’s a first selection of the photos i made.

When I later took Annika to the nearest train station Nattavaara the temperature dropped to temperatures round -30 °C. Good to know, that the small station in Nattavaara has a small heated waiting room where you can wait for the train.

Her train was several hours late (I’ll come back to that topic later …) but thanks to internet and mobile app we already were informed about that delay and hadn’t wait too long until the train arrived in Nattavaara.

Annika will be away for two weeks until we’ll meet again and start our main winter journey. Meanwhile I’ll do a ski tour with Jonas, a good friend from Germany who should already have arrived the day before. Which he didn’t. Well, the train delays – I promised you to come back to that topic.

Due to a snowstorm in Gävleborgs län all trains to Northern Sweden had been cancelled. Jonas had been stuck in Stockholm. He couldn’t take the train the next day neither since it was fully booked. Therefore he was forced to wait another day and then take the night train with a scheduled arrival on Monday, 7:38. This train however was stuck in Vännäs for many hours due to technical problems. Instead of arriving on Saturday, 12:40 as originally planned he arrived on Monday, 17:00. That’s more than 52 hours delay!

But finally he arrived and tomorrow we can plan our ski tour which we’ll probably start on the day after tomorrow, 7 February.

 

A trip to Murmansk – day one

This article is part of the series “2018-02: A trip to Murmansk”.

Day 22 of my winter journey 2018

tl;dr Alyosha monument · old concrete buildings · Church of the Savior on Waters · view over Murmansk · restaurant Tundra · nocturnal Murmansk

Alyosha (Алёша)When we arrived in Murmansk the day before it was already dark and we were tired. Today after breakfast we were eager to explore. We ordered a taxi to our first tourist attraction: The Alyosha Monument.

“Defenders of the Soviet Arctic during the Great Patriotic War” (Защитникам Советского Заполярья в годы Великой Отечественной войны), commonly called Alyosha (Алёша) is a monument to Soviet soldiers, sailors, and airmen of WW2.

It was build in 1974 and it’s the second-tallest statue in Russia. The 70th aesthetics and the communistic concrete appeal didn’t help to make me like this statue, but I always have difficulties with war memorials. I’m a pacifist.

I enjoyed however the view over Murmansk. It was visible, that it’s a large town (it has 300,000 inhabitants) with a large port and many concrete high-rise buildings.

After we visited Alyosha we started to walk back into the center of Murmansk, where our hotel Azimut was located. We turned right into the street Ulitsa Aleksandrova. To the left there were old concrete buildings. They were extremely rundown and I was shocked to see these building and imagine people living here. Maybe the inside would look nicer, but the outside was horrifying.

In many directions you could see these high-rise estates with rectangular concrete buildings. But we could see something else: a Ferris wheel. We went on and came to a permanent amusement park, located beside the lake Semyonovskoye (Семеновское озеро). Of course the lake is covered with ice and snow in wintertime and some locals used the ski tracks going round the lake.

From that place the next destination was quite near: the Church of the Savior on Waters (Спас на Водах), a small Russian orthodox church, built 2002.

When we came to the church I could see some people leaving, going backwards and making the sign of the cross again and again. It is allowed to enter the small church but not to take pictures. I’ve never been in an orthodox church before and I was stunned. The walls were covered with icons of saints and incense was burned. Some elderly women were lighting candles and immersed into deep prayers and almost seeking physical contact to the icons and other objects. I felt deeply touched by this lived religiosity although I’m not religious by myself. On a table some food was placed. Bread and fruit, among others a bag with three lemons. Sacrifices or donations to the priests?

I have to admit that I felt like an intruder and completely at the wrong place. I have to read more about this religion and a bit about how to behave.

We continued our promenade back and passed the Memorial Complex to the Soldiers and Seamen Who Died in Peaceful Time.

We left the memorial behind and entered the streets of the center. We walked back to our hotel and took a short rest. We passed an old theatre, painted in bright indigo but more a ruin than a building. A pity, I think it must have been beautiful in former times.

Then the hotel. I had twisted my ankle one week ago and was glad to rest the foot a bit. Time for shooting some photos from the 16th floor.

Some hours later. We decided to eat dinner and Annika and I found the restaurant Tundra (Тундра) that got excellent reviews in the internet. And excellent it was. The restaurant was fully booked but we were allowed to sit in the bar. In Russia the food is quite cheap compared to Scandinavia even in really good restaurants. The dishes are not as huge as in many places in Europe. I like that because it gave me the opportunity to taste different things: borscht and caviar with seaweed. Both very tasty!

After a nice evening at this great location with fantastic food we went back to the hotel. Murmansk is definitely not the most beautiful town in daylight but it wins a lot when it gets dark because many places, streets, parks and buildings are illuminated with lights of all colours.

We have seen a lot that day, both the beautiful and less beautiful facets of this arctic Russian town and I was as exhausted as I use to be when strolling through a big town for a whole day.

We were glad however to have another day to explore a bit more.

Some other random pictures of the day:

A trip to Murmansk – trip home

This article is part of the series “2018-02: A trip to Murmansk”.

Day 24 of my winter journey 2018

After two days of visiting Murmansk we were prepared for our trip back. The bus arrived shortly after 7 o’clock local time (5 o’clock CET) and we started our trip home.

We left town and crossed the Kola Bay. It was still dark.

Then I fell asleep. I woke up shortly before our rest at the small shop, that seems to be located in the middle of nowhere.

Meanwhile it was as bright as day. We followed the E105 that would bring us first to the Russian-Norwegian border and then back to Kirkenes. Some images taken from the bus:

Finally we came to the border. We had to leave the bus with all our luggage. I bought huge winter rubber boots in Murmansk and some books and was curious what I would have to do at the customs, but since I stood in the queue “nothing to declare” no one cared.

Next station: showing the passports. Chris, Ørjan and Annika had already went through, now it was my turn. I gave the passport to the border official, trying not to smile – no one seems to smile when communicating to strangers. The man looked at my passport for several minutes, typed things into the computer, looked at the passport again, stood up and left. He came back with a woman discussing something in Russian. The woman left again, the man continued working. Again he left, again he came back with the woman. I didn’t understand a single word and started wondering what the problem could be, I guess it was computer problems. It took round 15 minutes until I got my passport back with some Russian words, probably an apology or an explanation about what went wrong.

I climbed into the bus and we were driven to the Norwegian customs. What a difference! The handling was not only much faster, but much more friendly. The Norwegian border officials smiled, made some friendly small talk and hardly a minute later we were through the customs and again in the Schengen Area where you can move between countries without needing a visa.

Some very brief observations from Murmansk:

  • The difference between poor and rich, cared and ruined is quite visible
  • People won’t smile at you, especially the officials and salespersons
  • The food in the restaurants we visited was extraordinary good
  • Many people don’t speak any English. Exceptions found in our hotels and restaurants
  • I felt like 4 year old when I tried to decipher the Cyrillic letters.
  • I didn’t feel welcome every second, but safe all the time

Travelling to Murmansk was a very interesting experience and I would love to see more of Russia. Next time I would like to use internet services as e.g. couchsurfing to get into contact with the locals. I guess I would get another view of Russia.

 

 

Why travelling in Northern Norway can take time

Day 40 of my winter journey 2018

At 11 o’clock we left Kjølnes Fyr and started our car trip to Båtsfjord. First we had to take the road 890 to Kongsfjord and over the Kongsfjordfjellet, then we had to continue on road 891 over the Båtsfjordfjellet to Båtsfjord.

I wasn’t sure if we would manage it due to the severe stormy and snowy weather. Another guest staying at Kjølnes Fyr had a hard time driving the 5 km from Berlevåg with very bad visibility. The roads however were still open though marked with a warning “difficult driving conditions because of snowstorm”.

And yes, it was stormy and it snowed a lot. The sight on the road however was still quite good. While I focussed on the road Annika took some photos of the coast beside of the road:

Some parts however were very hard to drive, since the visibility was extremely bad. It was hard to see whether there were snowdrifts on the road and how deep they were and several times I had to stop completely to find out, where the road continued.

I started to doubt if it was possible to cross the mountain passages but we would make it at least to Kongsfjord where we could stay overnight if continuing became impossible. Annika tried to check the traffic information of Vegvesen – the Norwegian Public Roads Administration – but there was no mobile internet available.

I continued driving along the E 890 and the only other vehicle we met was a snow plough. The street behind it however seemed as snowy as before.

Shortly before Kongsfjord Annika’s smartphone was online again and she informed me about the updated traffic information: The mountain sections of both the 890 and the 891 where restricted to kolonnekjøring which means that you cannot drive alone but have to follow a convoy guided by a snowplough. The kolonnekjøring was scheduled to 14:30. The good thing: Driving in a convoy would be much easier than driving alone.

When we arrived in Kongsfjord it was 12:10, so the 28 km drive from Kjølnes Fyr had taken more than an hour. We were lucky that there is a landhandel – a grocery – in Kungsfjord that is open all year. We entered the landhandel, told about the kolonnekjøring and were invited to coffee and cookies straightaway. A big thank you to the owner for the warm welcome!

While we sipped our coffee and waited we constantly checked the traffic informations. After a short while we learned that the start of the kolonnekjøring was postponed to 17:00. That meant more waiting, but we were not the only ones. Other men in work clothes – mostly fishermen – waited as well. They told stories, laughed out loudly while drinking coffee or eating fast food. Anyway we all were still lucky. While we only had to wait some more hours many other roads were completely closed due to the weather, among others the way to Mehamn, the passage between Kiberg and Vardø and the only way to the North Cape.

Hours later: We said goodbye, cleared the car of snow and drove the short way to the boom gate. Here some other vehicles, mostly trucks waited for the convoy to start. One of the truck drivers attached snow chains to his truck.

Dusk had already been falling when our convoy started some minutes after 5 o’clock. My job for the next time was following the rear lights of the car in front.

Some passages were quite easy to drive, some passages were hard to follow due to the blowing and driving snow. (Sorry, no photos.) After 35 minutes we arrived at the T-junction, where the 890 from Kongsfjord, the 890 from Tana Bru in the south and the 891 from Båtsfjord meet. A long queue of cars coming from Tana Bru already waited. Some minutes later the convoy from Båtsfjord arrived as well. The snowplough leading the convoy to Kongsfjord passed and seconds later our queue of cars started to approach the intersection were we turned left to follow the convoy to Båtsfjord.

This part of the trip was extremely exhausting. It was dark, the convoy was slow and mostly the visibility was really bad. I just tried to follow the red lights in front and it felt like hours and hours until the snowplough turned right and we suddenly arrived in Båtsfjord. Here it seemed to snow as much as in the mountains and I was very relieved when I finally parked the car at our overnight stay. Phew – that was no easy ride and I’m really grateful that convoys led us over the mountains under the snowstorm conditions.

The rest of the day? Buying foodstuff at REMA 1000, eating fast food, falling asleep quite fast while the snow squalls over Båtsfjord continued. According to our host 30 cm of snow already had fallen that day and more was expected.

At least we arrived in Båtsfjord, probably our last overnight stay on land. The next evening we would take the Hurtigruten to Ørnes, were we would drive home to Skelleftehamn and Umeå.

(The first five photos were shot by Annika. I did the editing.)

Båtsfjord – Ørnes by Hurtigruten

Days 41 to 44 of my winter journey 2018

13 March at 19:45 the Hurtigruten ship MS Nordnorge docked in Båtsfjord. Annika went on board with all our luggage that we would need the next days, while I drove the car into the elevator. The next 59 hours we would travel many miles but stay in the same cabin. Cabin number 305. Kind of luxury. We would even get breakfast because of a campaign. On 16 March round 7:00 we would leave the ship in Ørnes and drive home.

I will not write much about this part of the winter journey but showing photos from the Hurtigruten trip with some comments.

13 March 20:30 – finally on the Hurtigruten. Shop, reception, restaurant and people cruising.

13 March 22:00 Berlevåg – the westernmost of the four Hurtigruten stops Vadsø, Vardø, Båtsfjord and Berlevåg. Some days ago we stood on the breakwater to see the ships coming in, now I stand outside on the bow of the ship to see the very same breakwater passing as we approached the peer.

14 March 05:25 – very early and quite cold in the wind. I’m the only one outside beside of people working.

14 March 05:40 – approaching Honningsvåg on the island Magerøya. Main attraction of that island: the North Cape.

14 March 06:35 – I stay outside and look at the constantly changing weather.

14 March 08:25 – two ships pass. First a smaller boat, twenty minutes later the Hurtigruten ship Kong Harald. It’s snowing.

14 March 11:15 – we approach Hammerfest. Normally the ship will lie there for two hours, but today the ship is late.

14 March 15:45 – I’m outside for some hours and enjoy the view at the landscape. Everything is constantly changing: The mountains, the perspective, the light.

14 March 20:15 – strong polar lights cover the sky. Many people are outside and so are we. I already showed some photos in the article Aurora on the Hurtigruten.

14 March 23:45 – we approach Tromsø. Annika and I are already in our cabin and ready for sleep, but I can see the Tromsø Cathedral through our porthole. (We booked a cabin with limited view to save money and our porthole is more like a tube.)

15 March 07:30 – it’s not cold but very windy on the bow of the ship. My advise for such a winter journey: take the warmest jacket you have.

15 March 07:35 – we approach Harstad.

15 March 10:20 – we reach Risøyrenna – the Risøy Channel, build between 1911 and 1922 to enable bigger ships pass between the islands Andøya and Hinnøya. Only seven meters deep.

15 March 17:00 – we approach the quite famous Trollfjord. In winter however the Hurtigruten ships do not enter it.

15 March 18:30 – we arrive in Svolvær, largest town on the Lofoten. It’s a longer stop and Annika and I leave the boat for looking around.

16 March 06:00 – the alarm clock rings. At 7 o’clock we will arrive in Ørnes, leave the ferry and drive to Skelleftehamn. 583 km by car then I’ll be home again after more than six weeks of travelling.

Between the seasons

Still a lot of snow in Skelleftehamn, still freezing temperatures every single night, still no rain since last year (if I’m right), but …

… spring comes nearer. According to smhi spring has already come to the town Skellefteå some days ago. Seems to fit, because I saw the first coltsfoots in bloom in Skellefteå yesterday. Unlike Skellefteå, Skelleftehamn is located by the Baltic Sea and the Baltic Sea is still covered with ice that cools down the air and causes the beginning of spring to delay by several weeks.

The snow piles on the first two images are remnants of the continuous snow clearing the whole winter. When walking around while taking these photos I experienced snow depths between 0 and 60 cm. Round 60 cm of snow lie in my backyard, too. At least all fences look out of the snow again.

Translation:

EnglishGermanSwedish
coltfootHuflattichtussilago