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

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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).

Five years in Sweden!

Today I have been living in Northern Sweden for exactly 5 years,

first in Skellefteå, then in Skelleftehamn. For those who are able to read German I’d like to recommend today’s article of my German Blog nordwärts:

Jubiläum – 5 Jahre Schweden

All others have to wait for the enormous article “Ten years in Sweden!” that I’ll write some day …

From Nallo to Vistas, Alesjaure, Abiskojaure and back to civilization

This article is part of the series “2015-08: Kungsleden hike”.

August 30 – September 2: Day eight to eleven of the summer hike through the mountains of Swedish Lapland

Nallo – Vistas

After two days in Nallo Annika and I were eager and keen to move on. After our breakfast we said goodbye to stugvärd Janne and started to ford the stream behind of the hut. Fortunately the water level dropped to normal again and quite easily we could cross the stream.

Then we went along the Nallú, a fantastic mountain that changed its appearance every other second because of the moving clouds and the changing light situations. We never tired of looking at this big mountain that seemed to accompany us a long way.

After a while another stream that we had to cross, came down from the lake Nállujávrrit. While I managed to splash through with my high rubber boots, Annika decided to take of her shoes and wade through it in her sandals – brr, the water was really ice cold!

We continued the hike through the fast-changing scenery. Quite soon we saw the first trees and realised that the big mountain ahead was the Vássačorru, that lies behind the valley Visttasvággi, where our next destination, the Vistasstuga is located.

Soon we crossed the Visttasjohka on the chain bridge and arrived at the cabin to meet the stugvärd – the warden.

Oh look: Coke and beer are priced down! That’s because the season only lasts three other weeks. After that the huts are closed down until their reopening for the skiers in February or March. But because none of the cans would survive the frost, all liquids has to be drunk in the next three weeks or poured away. We decided to save some cokes from this cruel destiny.

We were placed in the outhouse – the main building was in the act of being renovated. There we sat on the front stairs, ate, drank and looked on the river Visttasjohka. And we took a bath in this cold river. Chilling but refreshing! Finally the sun came out. I crossed the bridge to make a photo of our cabin.

Later – it started getting dark – we got a visitor: A big moose stood beside the river. I went out, where I could observe this huge animal, how it ate leaves and grass, less than 10 meters away. It looked at me but wasn’t disturbed by me at all, it even passed quite near until it vanished between some trees. This was one of the moments were I was glad and touched as a “normal person”, but a bit grumpy with myself, that I was too lazy to carry my big tele lens for better and sharper pictures. I never experienced a moose so near and so fearless.

Vistas – Alesjaure

The trip the day before was short: only 9 kilometres, this day it would be twice as much: 18 km. The first kilometres were a bit boring since they went through birch forests and quite muddy passages. But after a while the landscape opened and we could see the mountain Siehtagas with its glacier Siehtagasglaciären. In front of the mountain there were alpine meadows and small birch forests. In front of that the turquoise water of the Visttasjohka glimmered in the sunlight.

We went up again until we again were over the treeline. This part of the valley Visttasvaggi is beautiful and very varying. The first rest we made in the lee side of a huge cuboid rock. We weren’t the first – someone built a bench by laying a plank over two stones. The second rest we made at the Tjatjajaurekåtan (there’s not much left of it).

After a while I saw some reindeers grassing. There were shy and quickly went away when I came nearer. We saw (probably) them again when we had a view at the sami village Alisjávri that lies at the lake with the the same name. From that it’s not far to the mountain huts of Alesjaure – the Swedish version of Alisjávri. The Alesjaurestugorna are the biggest mountain huts of the STF – the Swedish tourist association. I prefer the smaller ones as e.g. Nallo, but it’s fine to have a shop, a drying room and especially a sauna. And we used it all! It’s nice to go to sleep after being in the sauna and having a wash in the river Aliseatnu.

Alesjaure – Abiskojaure

I didn’t make many pictures of this part of our tour. I was a bit bored of this part of the trail and found nothing special in the landscape. Just some photos of human evidence: Tent poles for a lavvu and a crossing over a long reindeer fence.

It was the first time, that I was really impatient and just wanted to arrive. Some kilometres before Abiskojaure we came below the treeline. Most of the birch trees still were green but you could see, that autumn is near. No wonder, it was the 1st of September, beginning of autumn for the meteorologists.

Finally we reached another chain bridge and shortly after it arrived in Abiskojaure. The sun came out and even though it was much colder than one week ago we could sit and lie on the short-cut lawn in front of the hut. I took the last bath of the journey and strolled around making some photos. After crossing a small swamp I came to a quite huge sandy beach beside the lake Ábeskojávri. A beautiful place!

The evening it started to become chilly, hardly 3 °C. I was curious if we would get the first frost of the season next morning …

Abiskojaure – Abisko Östra

… and yes, we got frost. -2.5 °C showed the scientific thermometer of the swedish weather service, when I had my first look. On the water surface of the buckets lay a layer of ice and round the leaves of lower plants I could see the first autumnal hoarfrost.

I was up very early that morning and I went to the beach at the lake again. First it looked quite normal but then it started to get foggy and misty while the sun rose behind the mountain Giron. What a beautiful sight! I stood there for at least an hour and only walked back to get another full battery for my camera. Later I met Annika, showed her the place and was glad that I could share this awesome experience.

I was a bit sad – this would be the last day of hiking through the wonderful mountain landscape of Swedish Lapland. But each journey has some kind of end and so had ours. We started our tour through the birth forests along the lake Ábeskojávri, than along the river Abiskojåkka.

After a while a famous landmark came into sight: Lapporten – “The Lapponian Gate”, a U-shaped valley framed of two mountains that give this valley its specific and recognizable shape. However, since this photo is taken from the backside, it hardly shows this special shape.

Since Alesjaure we followed the Kungsleden – the King’s Trail, but right after the bridge over the stream Nissonjohka we left the main trail that leads to the Abisko Mountain Station and turned right to Abisko Östra, the village, were we planned to stay for two other days. The way, however, was not much fun to go. A lot of all-terrain vehicles has turned the way into mud. Since I lost my lens cap and I was afraid that mud would splatter my lens, I packed the camera into its waterproof bag long before the worst mud patches. And that’s why this is the last photo of our hiking tour:

Thank you Annika, för trevligt sällskap – for nice company. Where should we hike next?

Any suggestions?

Scandinavian luxury – I

What is Scandinavian luxury?

When you drive home from a good rehearsal with the chamber choir and see a faint polar light through the front side window of your car.

When you arrive home and ignore the aurora, because you saw it already at least five times since August.

When you, just before going to bed, open the door and look outside.

When you sit on the wooden panel just in front of your front door and look at the intensifying Northern Lights, already wearing your pyjamas.

And make some photos – just half a meter from your front door. They won’t be the best, but you don’t care.

When you just slip into your boots and take another shot from the garden.

When you can experience this without being in a holiday – like it happened to me one and a half hours ago: That’s Scandinavian luxury!

About a tough women

Last year our association Mörkrets och Kylans Glada Vänner (Happy Friends of Cold and Darkness) got a special request. Josefine Steenari from Lindome nearby Göteborg had the wish to take a winter bath.

For most people it sounds really crazy to enter a pool with ice cold water with temperatures between +0.1 °C and +0.4 °C. But some people just want to try it anyway, and so did Josefine. While most people just could go or drive to the next ice hole, undress, take a deep breath and go into the icy water, Josefine needs some help, since she is almost totally paralysed. She communicate with her eyes but she has no control about her extremities and is sitting in a wheel chair.

Mörkrets och Kylans Glada Vänner was glad to help. Our first plan was to let her ice bath be part of the Winter Swimming Championship on last Saturday, but unfortunately the gangway down to the ice covered river Skellefteälven was too steep and we couldn’t guarantee Josefine’s safety.

Fortunately we found another possibility. The association has an ice hole for winter bathing in Kåge, not far away from Skellefteå. Here we met Josefine and her team on Sunday evening and after a bit of thinking and planning we all were ready for her first ice bath. Josefine sat in a special sling (I’m not sure if it’s the right word), that was attached to a log and Hans and Jarkko lowered her slowly, while I was behind her in my waterproof immersion suit to turn her a bit. Tiina counted the seconds and after round 12 seconds she was lifted up again.

I heard, that Josefine loved the experience and that the ice water didn’t felt as cold as expected. I was glad and even a bit proud to be part of the team, that could help her to fulfil her wish. One more crazy ice bather in Sweden!

1st photo: Annika Kramer, 2nd photo: Norran, Karin Israelsson

Links:

Magnitude 4.3

Things you can experience in Skelleftehamn:

Ice fishing · heavy snowfall · northern lights · moose · frozen Baltic Sea · earthquakes · cold …

“Wait a moment, did you say “earthquakes”?”

“Yes.”

“In Skelleftehamn?!”

“Yup.”

Yesterday evening, when I stood in the bathroom, I heard a noise and felt a shaking like the biggest truck ever would speed through the streets. But it was a short event, I forgot it quite soon and lay down to sleep.

Today, when I browsed through my Facebook timeline, I realised that so many people from different places wondered, if this could have been an earthquake, that it really had to be one. And it was!:

GEOFON Program

According to GEOFON, Potsdam, the earthquake had the magnitude 4.3 and the epicentre was in the Baltic Sea, 19 km deep, round 60 kilometres from where I live.

Fortunately 4.3 is a quite weak earthquake and I don’t believe, that it had any impact at all.

By the way, this was not the first earthquake I experienced in Skelleftehamn, there was another one in June 2010, two months after I arrived here.

Balloon hunting

Actually I was prepared for a relaxed evening home and I was already in my pyjamas, when I saw a friend’s post on Facebook: A photo of a balloon hanging over the city of Skellefteå right now.

Some people know, that I’ve been fond of balloons since I was a child. I loved to spot them and when I was older, I was a well-known guest at the gas balloon starting place in Marl-Sinsen. Here I made my first balloon flight with the gas balloon D-KABEL in 1994. Some other balloon flights, mostly with hot-air balloons followed. Since I’ve been living in Northern Sweden this passion fell asleep – there are hardly any balloons flying here.

But back to today. I guess, it took me only three minutes to dress, to check wind direction and speed, to take my binoculars and camera equipment and to get in my car to try to track that balloon. Will I manage to see it?

I was lucky – already in Ursviken I could perceive the hot-air balloon above the trees. At the roundabout I turned right and then, after a while, left again onto the E4 to drive up vitberget – the white mountain for getting a better view. The view was fine, but the balloon not within sight, it was behind that hill. So I turned, got onto the E4 again and headed north. When I approached Boviken I could see the balloon again, it hovered on the left side. I took the next departure in Kåge and tried to come closer. Not easy, when you don’t know all those small ways and gravel paths. But I was extremely lucky, came quite near and could take a photo before the balloon landed.

I continued the gravel path and soon was side by side with the low flying balloon.

I could see the chase vehicle ahead. It continued the path and I followed. The chase vehicle succeeded to find a cross road without any power lines in the balloon’s flying direction. That’s perfect, since the pilot will get the opportunity to land quite near the road, that simplifies the packing of the balloon. I parked my car and waited for the balloon to land.

Wow – I’ve seen some balloon landings, but this was the most incredible one I’ve ever seen! The trailer of the chase vehicle was exactly in the heading of the balloon, which approached the trailer more and more. The surface wind was so weak, that the balloon almost could hover above the trailer, where one of the ground crew and I could clutch the basket and with the pilot’s help drag it down onto the trailer! The pilot has been ballooning for forty years, but never managed such before. Chapeau, P.!

Normally helping hands are very welcome after a balloon has landed, but this was a larger balloon carrying nine passengers, so I could stroll around and for example have a look into the inside of the balloon cover (of course with the Pilot’s permission).

It was great to see a balloon again and to talk to the pilot. Now I’m quite interested in taking a ballon flight here, too. I realised that I already met the Pilot on the Arctic Ballon Adventure in Gällivare in 2012. Today he told me, that this event will take place again in March and now I’ll try to get at least one balloon flight next winter. Keep your fingers crossed for my first arctic winter balloon flight.

Meanwhile the moon rose over the green pastures of Ersmarkbodarna, where the balloon has landed. Another sphere in the sky.

Thank you, Nazia, for your Facebook post! You brought me a fantastic evening!

Now it’s already “tomorrow” – almost one o’clock in the night. Something happened, that I’ve been waiting for for many weeks: It’s dark enough to see the first star! It took some efforts (hint: look up and shake your head to see the tiny changes of lightness), but I could see it: Vega in the constellation Lyra.