Ice fishes, a deadly meteorite and an almost secret cave

The present day I spent with my friends Lasse and Martine. Well, not the first part because I was awake earlier and went down through the forest to a small bay of the river Skellefteälven. The bay was covered with several thin layers of ice. I fell through with each step and the only reason why I dared to go there, was that I know that the water is quite shallow. The atmosphere is always a bit spooky – decades ago this place was a forest but I was cut down because of the water regulation. In summer you can still see the cut-off trunks standing in the shallow water.

After an extensive breakfast – ok, let’s call it brunch – we made a trip to two special places. Look at the next image which is probably the awfullest photo ever I published. But the history is quite interesting.

Let’s go back to the 20th of May 1900: Ludvig Lundgren just left the house in Kvavisträsk to visit Fredrik, his neighbour. A bad idea, because just this day the place was hit by a meteorite. Ludvig wasn’t hit directly but found unconscious just 50 meters away. He died some days later probably of the consequences of the pressure wave. This is probably the only documented case of a deadly injury connected with a meteorite impact.

The next photo (back and white for technical reasons) is a place hardly known even to the locals. It is hidden in the middle of a forest and probably almost undiscoverable without knowing the GPS coordinates.

This cave is connected to World War II where it was used as a hiding-place for locomotives. Up to eleven engines found place in this hole in the mountain. It was locked for many years but now both the gate in the fence and the big folding doors of the cave are unlocked and you can enter it. We didn’t have any flash lights with us but the three LEDs of our smartphones where bright enough to see floor and walls. It was both fascinating to see this place as terrifying.

It is always great to travel with Lasse since – as a journalist – he knows so many fascinating stories and interesting places. Without him I’ll probably would have continued to make pics of ice and snow. A welcome variation!

On the way back (and what a way with frozen tracks so deep that the car was steering itself and occasionally hit the ground) we saw a lot of reindeers. They don’t pay attention to cars, but as soon as you open a window to make photos or even leave the car they probably will leave the place. But quite often they will stop again and watch you carefully. That’s the chance for photos. (None of the pictures became really good, but I’ll publish them anyway).

Thank you, Martine and Lasse for yesterday evening and for this nice day!

Reindeers – many, many reindeers

Day three (part I)

Today I got up early, no wonder after more than 10 hours sleep. I packed my things, cleaned the room and left Abisko heading westwards. It was still twilit and I was quite alone on the road.

That changed after 18 kilometres: A huge herd of reindeers blocked the road. I slowed down and slowly, slowly drove through the reindeers. Right after the reindeer crossing I found a parking place. Good to exit the car and take some images of these beautiful and gentle animals.

The reason why the reindeers were hanging around was probably the pile of big bags lying beside of the road. I guess they contain reindeer food.

After half an hour of taking pictures and watching I entered the car again and continued my journey to Norway.

Jokkmokks marknad

Day 22 – the winter market in Jokkmokk

The first weekend in February is the traditional date for the winter market in Jokkmokk – the Jokkmokks marknad – that took place the 410th time this year. Quite a long history – the first market, long before Jokkmokk exists, was 1605.

I’ve been in Jokkmokk on Thursday, which is the quietest day. From Murjek, where I’m just now, it’s round an hour car drive to Jokkmokk. I arrived 9:00, quite early. Most marketers just started to unfold their market stalls or to unpack their goods. I went down to the lake where the dog sledging was prepared. Most of the dogs were still in their stables in the car trailer, but they longed to come out and to run. But it was only a matter of time until ten dogs where attached to the sledge and the first tourists could take a small tour over the lake.

Tore Sankari, FinlandI went back to the market and met Tore Sankari, one of the marketers that I already met in Byske some months ago. He has been trading fur and many other goods for more than 45 years. But he told me, that the market is smaller than usual this year. Some of the long-established marketers didn’t come. And I could see as well, that some of the streets, packed with stalls some years ago where empty this year.

I talked to some marketers. Many of them are old men, travelling around, buying and selling goods as fur products, knives, warm clothes and things for everyday life. I guess some of them had stopped their businesses, some other will do it in the next years. Will there be a younger generation to follow or will this half-nomadic lifestyle extinct? I don’t have an answer.

What is traded on the Jokkmokks market? I would divide it in three parts:

  • Traditional goods, Swedish and Samian. Shoes made of reindeer skin, woolen Lovikka mittens, fur products, knifes.
  • Modern everyday goods. Sweets, toys, fishing equipment, tractors.
  • Art handicrafts. Samian fashion, jewellery, paintings, thinks made of birch root and bark.

But have a look by yourself. Just some examples:

At two o’clock i went to the reindeer race. It’s always fun to see the reindeers galloping drawing a sledge with a man or woman cheering their draught animal.

Seven hours after arrival I left the winter market and drove back. Actually I thought about visiting the market twice but I left it with the impression, that I have seen all. Next day I wanted to be out in the nature again. And that’s what I did.

Loma Vietonen – a special place

Day 27-28 (and day -4372 to -4357): To the origin of my love for being way up north.

Yesterday morning I was in Pajala, which is quite near to Finland and since I had some days left before I would spend a week on Solberget, it felt quite logical to cross the border to Finland. And I already had a destination in mind, just 150 km away.

But before I continue let’s enter a time machine and go 13 years and 17 days back in time.

That’s when I flew from Düsseldorf, Germany to Rovaniemi, Finland where I got a lift to a place called Loma Vietonen. It was the first time that I was way up north (The north peak of Denmark was the northernmost place before) and it was the first time that I experienced a real winter. The first meter-deep powder snow, the first temperatures round -35 °C, the first skiing on snowmobile tracks, the first time standing on the big lake Iso Vietonen and watching my first northern lights. I saw my first reindeers, ate my first cloudberries and took my first tours with snow shoes. I tried ice fishing the first time and made a dogsled tour the first time. And I was so touched by these experiences, that I probably would have moved to Finland if not the Finnish language would have been so hard to learn. That’s when my way-up-north story really began.

Back to yesterday: I was cheerful and in high spirits when I entered Finland, turned right and headed to Iso Vietonen. I just wanted to see this place again. When I parked the car it was a bit like coming to an old aunts house – so long ago but still familiar. I entered the main building and asked for a room. And I was lucky, they had exactly one room left for me including breakfast. Great!

I sniffed around, went down to the lake, took a picture of the house I was accommodated at 13 years ago and finally took my skis and just went on a snowmobile track. It was fun just gliding smoothly without thinking. What a difference to my 100 meters some days before! A Finnish folk song came into my mind.

And in the evening I even met Aira and Mikko, who ran Loma Vietonen when I was here the first time. The same Aira who sang that Finnish folk song and I played the piano.

Today weather was warm with temperatures round zero but it was sunny and quite calm. I did a ski tour, both following the trails, loosing them accidentally or on purpose, climbed the hill Sompanen, went down again and had fun.

But it’s funny because so many things became normal since I moved to Skelleftehamn in Sweden almost five years ago. Yes, we have snow, too, and snowmobiles and Northern Lights. The next ice fishers use to sit less than 200 meters away from my house, I use my skis in the forests we have. I eat cloudberries and even try to collect them. Last winter we got 83 cm of snow in 24 hours. Some things I still love, others became part of my everyday life.

But it’s great to be able to visit this special place, where it all started. Probably the origin of my life in Northern Sweden A good reason to feel a bit nostalgic today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Kungsleden ski tour: Tjäktja

From the Sälkastugorna to Tjäktjastugan

25 February · 12 km · Link to map

This day could be a more demanding day. It’s only 12 km to Tjäktja, but first of all i goes up 300 meters and then there’s Tjäktjapasset – the mountain pass, which I remember as being quite steep. In 2005 I skied down the slope, now I have to go up, dragging the pulka behind.

That’s why I started quite early this day. In my pulka: a parcel with food from the shop that stugvärd Z. gave me for stugvärd P. – one kilo more or less doesn’t count so much if you doesn’t have to carry it on your back.

When I started the tour the sky was still cloudy, but soon the clouds disappeared, sun was shining and the sky was blue. I was happy, since according to the weather forecast I expected the whole week being grey and cloudy. Far away in the early sun I could see a chain of mountain – there’s the Tjäktjapass, still far away, and it looked high and steep.

This was the first time that I had skins under my skis that help going up, especially if you carry a pulka that always wants to slide down. The trail led through a hilly landscape and I had to climb many small hills just to go down on the other side of the hill. I asked myself how I should gain altitude going just up and down. Anyway, the landscape was gorgeous, just as the weather, and when I looked back after some time I could see, that I gained more height than I thought. First I could see small brown boxes laying behind – the Sälkastugorna – but after some time they disappeared behind the hilly landscape.

I continued my tour and saw a black bird ahead. It cawed and landed on a dark spot beside another bird. Crows. I remembered, that one of the skiers that I met in Sälka, told me, that he saw a dead reindeer on his way from Tjäktja. This reindeer was killed by a wolverine, one of the biggest carnivores in Scandinavia. I approached the dark spot, the craws cawed again and flew away. There was a heap of something and beside of some patches of reindeer skin it was hardly recognisable. The sight of a frozen hump of meat is neither nice nor beautiful, but it is part of a country, where predators as wolves, bears, lynxes or wolverines still exist.

After taking some photos for this blog I continued my tour. Two other skiers approached from the other side – they just slided down in long, relaxed steps. I however had to climb up. Now, where the pass was near, it was visible that it was neither as steep nor as high as expected. After a bit of effort (I’m not well trained …) I stood on a plateau just below the highest point of the pass. And the view back into the huge valley Tjäktjajåkka (sami: Čeakčajohka) was incredible. The sun shone from a bright blue sky, a rainbow coloured sundog nearby. Ice dust fell from the blue sky that glittered and sparkled against the sun. The broad valley seemed to be endless, the further away mountains looked hazy and I had the impression, that you could walk through this valley forever.

It’s not the first time, that I stood here and gazed in amazement. I’ve been here on my first ski tour in april 2005, too, when I went from Abisko to Kvikkjokk. And now I was just as amazed as at the first time.

I could have stayed for ages, but after I while I broke away from this special place and ascended the last meters of the pass until the small hut Tjäktjatjattja came into sight. I took a break, but instead of seeking shelter in the hut I sat outside in the sun with chocolate and hot tea. It started to snow a bit – always a bit strange if you cannot see a single cloud.

After this sunny break I continued the trail to Tjäktja. The skiers I met left a nice track and the only think I had to do was sliding downwards effortlessly until I arrived in Tjäktja, the smallest mountain hut on my journey. Stugvärd P. got my parcel with food and goodies and I got a room in the stuga.

The sky was clear the whole day and it started to become a bit colder. -15 °C, when I arrived, -19 °C short time later. Time to fire the oven and to eat something warm. But later I went outside again to look at the starlit sky that arched above the Lappish mountainscape.

A day in Tjäktja

The next morning the weather was perfect for skiing: -22 °C, hardly any wind and again an almost cloudless, blue sky.

I stayed a day in Tjäktja and went up the mountain Tjäktjatjåkka, but only half the way. First of all I’m not the most experience skier, and then I was afraid of avalanches. But even going up halfway in this outstanding weather was great.

Going downhill was much faster than uphills. When I arrived in Tjäktja, the thermometer show -18.5 °C, exactly the same temperature as when I started my short day trip and the sun shone from a cloudless sky over the ravine of the stream Čeavččanjira. The next day I will continue to the next mountain hut: Alesjaure.

The next article: returning to civilisation >>

Translation:

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wolverineVielfraßjärv

Jämtland hike part I: Storulvån—Blåhammaren

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 …

Jämtland hike part II: hejdå Sweden, hei Norge!

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 …