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!

Whale watching in Andenes

Day eight

To cut a long story short: It’s been a great day!

After watching the beautiful polar light last night I got less sleep than preferred because I drove to Andenes to participate a whale safari. First I had to drive round two hours. After that I had to wait, time I used to put my cameras in waterproof bags. Finally we where equipped with overalls and live vests and entered the big rubber boat. We left the harbour and headed an area where whales have been seen some hours before. This part was a bit tough since we drove against the wind and some waves where quite huge letting the boat rise and fall some meters into the wave troughs again.

But finally we reached the area and directly saw the first whale fins and the first steam blown out through the whales blowholes.

The next two hours we saw a lot of whales, sometimes we where almost surrounded by them. Mostly we saw orcas (that are called killer whales, too) and humpbacks, but some fin whales as well. The orcas are following the herring and I probably came just to the right time to see so many of them. We even saw orca calves that are yellow or even orange instead of white as long as they are breast-fed.

(Oops, the room where I get internet is closing soon, I have to rush a bit …)

For me the most amazing view were the huge humpbacks diving down showing only there big tail fin. And the orca child swimming near its mother. And now to the photos:

As I said – it’s been a great day!

Links:

Sea Safari – Whale & Bird watching Andenes (under construction)

Photoing whales

It’s hard to take pictures of the whales. Sometimes there where quite near, less than 10 meters, but mostly there are farer away and you need a good system camera, a good tele lens and much practise in focussing. The most of my photos were out of focus, but alas not all.

Some of the photographers that joined the trip had real huge tele lenses and I guess the value of the total camera equipment onboard was the same as my house in Skelleftehamn.

Whale names

Latin English German Swedish
Orcinus orca Orca / Killer whale Orca / Schwertwal Späckhuggare
Megaptera novaeangliae Humpback whale Buckelwal Knölvalen
Balaenoptera physalus Fin whale Finnwal Sillval

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.

A day in Tromsø

Day 13

Today I woke up in our seal trappers hut which is located in East Greenland. First we sat outside and did our daily work as for example making firewood, then we took our wooden boat and rowed out to hunt seal. The other guys are nice but they’re quite stiff and don’t talk very much.

Ok, back to reality! Today I woke up in my small cabin outside of Tromsø. I went into the city crossing the Tromsøysundet on the big Tromsø Bridge. The weather was anything but a photographers dream: Dull, grey, windy and with showers of wet snow. Anyway, if I’m in Tromsø, I have to take some pictures …

Even in Tromsø thaw has set in and parts of the streets were very slippery. I was glad to have my “snow chains” with me that I can easily attach to my boots if it gets too icy. But I was inside, too: First in the big library, then in the Perspektivet Museum where they had a great photo exhibition: “Kom, for alt er ferdig”. Finally I visited the Polarmuseet and that’s where I took the photos of the seal hunting and the hut above.

At 14:20 the Hurtigruten ship Vesterålen arrived and landed in Tromsø.

I already was on my way back and when I took the photo of the church Ishavskatedralen 15:22, it started to get dark again.

Disclaimer: The usage rights of most of the images in this blog are for sale, but I have to exclude the first three photos that I made in the polar museet, because I’m not allowed to use these photos beside of publishing them in this non-commercial blog.

Over the storm-beaten Norwegian fjell

Day 16 – about storms, waiting long, a dead battery and Northern Lights

Today I left Tromsø and tried to reach Abisko. But I couldn’t say if I should reach it today since two parts of the mountain road were still closed.

The first part was extremely windy and I could feel the squalls shaking the car. Again the question – was it smart to drive a car in this weather? But soon when I came to Fagernes and started crossing the mountains – the fjell – it got much better. Then I arrived in Bjerkvik where one road goes to the Vesterålen and the other to Narvik and Sweden. Just after I left Bjerkvik, after a tiny bend the storm stroke again. I left the road to Narvik and turned left following the E10 to Sweden. The car climbed the steep passage up and than I saw a queue of cars. Stop.

I switched the car off (Bad idea, Olaf!) and waited. What’s happening? Are we waiting for a convoy? Is the road still closed? I waited. After half an hour it got cold in the car – outside it was stormy and -9 °C – and I turned the car key to start the car again. No reaction beside of half a second light on the dashboard and some disturbing noises. I tried again, and again. The car was dead! “Sh**!” was my thought.

I asked the car driver behind me. No, he doesn’t know anything about cars. The next one. Yes, I should check the contacts of the battery first. That’s what I did but they looked ok. While considering what to do next, the guy came to look as well. He checked the battery contacts once more and came to the same conclusion. Just seconds later a big red car approached from the back, stopped some centimetres beside of mine, a guy jumped out, two jumper cables in his hand, fixed them to the batteries of our cars, asked me to start and my Saab started like a charm! I just could say “tusen takk” – Thousand thanks and back in the queue vanished the red car. This guy is my hero today! I was both grateful and very relieved.

Now I focussed on not stalling the engine under any circumstances. As all other cars I continued waiting. After about two hours of waiting some really official looking cars came from the back and minutes later a guy picked all the “normal” cars to follow. We had to wait another fifteen minutes (“do not stall the engine!”) and then we could follow a snowplough.

Even now where the road was open and ploughed it was an adventure. You could see snowdrifts everywhere and the strong wind still blew loads of snow through the air. Sometimes you could hardly see the hazard lights of the car in front of you. Some new snowdrifts started to cover the road again. It took time until we crossed the Bjørnfjell – the Bear Mountains and came to the Norwegian border where another long car queue waited on the other side for their turn.

Now I was in Sweden and the other road segment was already ploughed and open so that we quite easily could continue driving, still minding the snowdrifts and the stormy wind. Finally I arrived in Abisko where I am in the same room like two weeks ago –it  seems like ages ago.

It really feels like home being in Sweden again – the Swedish language, the Swedish mobile internet without expensive data roaming and – last not least – the Swedish prices! After a short rest a went to a restaurant and ate and drank for 85 SEK, less than the half of what it would cost in Norway.

After that I took a photo tour. The sky had cleared up and a long band of Northern Light covered the sky over Abisko.

Translations:

EnglishGerman
squallSturmböe
dashboardArmaturenbrett
jumper cableStarthilfekabel
stall the engineden Motor abwürgen
ploughedgepflügt, freigeräumt
snowdriptSchneewehe
hazard lightsWarnblinker

Nice evening in Kurravaara

Day 20 – a nice stay over night

Finally my car was up and running again and my mood improved almost instantly. From Kiruna it is only a short trip to Kurravaara where a friend works on a campsite. It was so nice to see him and meet some of his workmates. We finished the evening with a short and hot sauna. So relaxing after the stressful day.

On the photos: First the bastu – the sauna, then my home for a night.

It’s great here but I want to visit the market in Jokkmokk and have to carry on tomorrow. But I’ll be in Kiruna again at the end of February and this could be an opportunity to make another visit.

We’ll see …

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Arctic SnowHotel

I’ve seen the famous Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden, the SnowCastle in Kemi, Finland, but I didn’t know the Arctic SnowHotel near Rovaniemi, Finland. Today morning I saw tourists at Loma Vietonen showing photos and since it wasn’t so far away I made a detour today and visited the Arctic SnowHotel. It’s much smaller than the Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi and perhaps less impressive, but I liked it anyway. The ice bar is a beautiful room and much cosier than the bigger pendant in Jukkasjärvi. Behind the main building you can find something really unique: An ice sauna. Beside of the stove and wooden benches this steam sauna is completely build of ice. Each usage will melt away 3mm of ice, therefore each sauna can be used only 50 – 70 times until the walls get holes or just too thin. But there’re spare saunas waiting to be used.

Some images:

The tame reindeer by the way was extremely curious. It came directly, sniffed with its soft nose at my hand in hope for some goodies. It poses there some hours a day for tourists and lives the rest of the day with other reindeers nearby. I came in time, it will loose its antlers within the next two weeks.

A week on Solberget in Swedish Lapland

Day 31 …

Just a short note: Yesterday I arrived at Solberget in Swedish Lapland, a place where I’ve been many times before. Since internet is slow and Solberget is not connected to the power grid I’ll take a break and
probably won’t blog, as long as I’ll stay here.

Yesterday we had an incredible starry sky so clear like I’ve hardly seen it before. Temperatures dropped down to -24 °C (still not really cold for Lapland in February but this winter is quite mild). A very faint polar light was visible above the northern horizon but vanished soon again.

Now, the next morning, the sky became cloudy and temperatures rose to -14 °C. Why I’m here for a week and what I’ll do, I’ll write later in another blog article.

Riksgränsen – not my cup of tea

Day 41

Today Annika and I drove to Riksgränsen, a place near the Norwegian border. I was curious because this is a place with a lot of snow, 151 cm were measured yesterday. Riksgränsen is 36 km away from Abisko, so we took the car. Our plan was to take a shorter ski tour but to check first if we could get a lunch afterwards. We turned right and were on a minor road with a parking place to the right and a grocery store ahead. Behind the store a sign: No trespassing. First I thought that I missed the way to the village, but no, that’s the only road.

I entered the store to ask for the way to the hostel. I should ignore the sign and continue the road. I see. We found the hostel behind a bend, but all entrances were blocked with locked metal doors. No doorbell, no way to come in. Luckily an employee left the hostel and told us that the reception is in the hotel nearby where we would get a door code. I see. We could take a brief look in the hostel that looked more like a prison with its dark corridor and the many doors. We left the hostel, continued by car and mostly I saw snow, some buildings and prohibition signs.

The hotel looked nice inside but didn’t had any lunch. Lunch was served on two places, one nearby and another only reachable by skis because that’s what Riksgränsen is made for: Taking the chairlift uphill and ski downhill.

To be honest, I never ever saw a place in Sweden that I disliked so much and that was so uninviting as Riksgränsen. It’s not about the people, there are nice as in most places all over the world. It’s about missing way signs, locked doors, key codes, outdated information and a general ugliness. What a contrast to the yesterdays ski tour through the fantastic Swedish landscape.

First we thought about driving back to Abisko directly, but then we took the readymade 3.4 km cross-country ski trail. I don’t know if it was the weather, my dislike for the place or the fact that I prefer following my own route, but I was quite bored by just following the loipe through the Swedish fjäll. I was glad to leave the place and return to Abisko were we took a lunch in the Abisko Mountain Lodge.

If you love downhill skiing, Riksgränsen could be an option for you, otherwise I would recommend to avoid this place in winter time.

 

Lapporten – Fire and ice

Today Annika and I are in Björkliden, a real nice place in our opinion. But I fell into some kind of tourist mode and was much too lazy to take many pictures today. Just two pictures of the famous Lapporten from the inside of the Hotell Fjället:

OK, one more picture, the upper storey of the hostel:

That’s all for today, a lazy day. Tomorrow we’ll be driven up to the Låktatjåkko Mountain Lodge, 1228 meters above sea level, for a overnight stay.

Låktatjåkko – between ski tour and luxury

Day 43 and 44

Yesterday it promised to be a fine day with great weather. The mountain valley Lapporten was gleaming and glowing in the early sun.

Annika und I planned to go to Låktatjåkko, the highest Swedish mountain lodge, where we planned to stay overnight and even to eat a three course dinner. It’s not far away from Björkliden where we started, but parts are quite steep. Therefore we decided to take the snow cat, that drives to Låktatjåkko every day. And I could sit in the front to take pictures.

After the first steep passage we left the snow cat, took our skis and backpacks and continued the way on our own. The view over the snowy mountains and the lake Torneträsk was just amazing.

But some steep passages waited for us and after the first longer part we made a longer rest enjoying the sun, food and our warm down jackets.

After a while we continued our tour, short in kilometres but still quite steep, at least without skins. But finally the Låktatjåkko Mountain Lodge came into view.

We were greeted by the two women running the Lodge. We asked how many people would stay over night. “Just you two”. And how many people will eat the three course dinner? “Just you two”. Now the pure luxury part began. We had a sauna, we sat in the fireplace room the fire already lit and at 7 p.m. we got a fantastic dinner, just the two of us! And we just did nothing for it. Almost a bit crazy!

After a snowy and quite windy night I went outside to take some pictures. The light was so diffuse, that it was hard to see where terrain went up or down. Therefore we took a quite relaxed morning waiting for the snow cat to come and bring us down into civilisation again.

Thank you, Ulrika and Yanina for the great service and the fantastic food. This is a place where we would love to be snowed in for a while.

 

5000 km

Day 50

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

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

Finally: The North Cape

Day 50

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And of course I made a selfie.

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

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

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

The North Cape – is it worth a visit?

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

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

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

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

A first day in Kirkenes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

King crab fishing

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

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

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

 

Kirkenes: A night in the snow hotel

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good night!

 

Cross-country skiing in Äkäslompolo – part one

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Cross-country skiing in Äkäslompolo – part two

Last Friday I travelled to Kittilä in Finland, to make a one week holiday with Annika and and Medi, a friend of hers. I wrote already about the first days in “Cross-country skiing in Äkäslompolo – part one”.

Wednesday. We took the ski bus to Äkäsmylly and we were not the only ones. Some busses arrived at the parking place and spit out round hundred cross-country skiers, most of them dressed in skin-tight racing suits. And if the children were too small to stand on their own skis, they were pulled behind in a pulka sledge. That looked really snugly.

We didn’t like to start within a crowd and so we waited, until the most skiers had started. But we didn’t go very far. The Äkäsmylly Café is just round the corner and it’s really extremely cozy. An old man played traditional Finnish songs on his accordion and yes – they all were in moll. We peeked into the text books to sing along, but even if we knew the melody the Finnish language with its long and unfamiliar words gave us a hard time. But it was fun anyway!

Finally we broke away from the warm Café and started the tour. As the days before it snowed most of the day. I made less and less photos each day but today I had to make a break and leave the ski trail for this lonely tree in the snow fall. It took some time, because the snow didn’t bear the thin cross-country skis and I was up to my knees in snow.

I didn’t have to leave the comfortable ski trail for the next photo, a bridge over a completely snowed in brook.

We made our last stop in the Karilan Navettagalleria, the beautiful café and gallery that I already visited the day before.

Thursday. With 25 km our longest tour from Totovaara via Tammitupa, Karhunkota Hanguskurun and again Karilan Navettagalleria back to Äkäslompolo, and by the way my birthday tour.

I think, this is the first day where we neither used the private sauna in our lodge nor lit the fireplace after the ski tour. Instead we went to a bar nearby and listened again to the karaoke. It was just wonderful, listening to the singers – some men had really nice voices. People browsed the set lists to see what they could sing next and at least one pair was dancing to the karaoke songs all the time. Unfortunately some of the people got extremely drunk quite quickly. One of them was so intrusive and pushy that we left the bar soon. I guess that’s also part of the Finnish culture, just as karaoke.

Friday. A short but more demanding tour in the south-west with some nasty descents. I was glad that the trails were in good shape and hardly icy, although it was so warm. I didn’t make a single photo, because I started to get bored of the cloudy sky and the forest, that looked more or less alike everywhere. I enjoyed the week, but since I’m more in nature for the landscape than for the sports, a week was long enough for me and I started to long home a bit. And again I had back luck with the weather; the two weeks before were cold and sunny.

Saturday. Phew, that was early! We stood up at 4:45 local time (that’s 3:45 Central European Summer Time) and 5:35 I said good-bye to Annika and Medi that took the early bus to the airport. Then I drove home. After 425 km and six hours (some ways were in quite bad shape) I was home in Skelleftehamn again.

Addendum:

I hardly saw any animals when I was on the ski trails. That changed on my way back to Skelleftehamn: I saw a fox, a mountain hare, two reindeers, two squirrels and some black grouses, all from my car. I guess, animals are seen best when driving ;-)