Your mileage may vary

Another aspect of travel preparation: Getting a feeling for distances. I tried to get a feeling for distances by designing a map:

I marked some larger towns on the map and used Google Maps to calculate the distances. Then I wrote the distance on the connecting lines. Are you wondering what the numbers mean? It’s miles! But neither statute miles nor nautical miles, it’s Swedish Miles or Norwegian Miles which nowadays are exactly 10 kilometres. There are commonly used in everyday language and no one would say “It’s 30 kilometres to Boliden”, when you could say “It’s three miles” instead.

But numbers are dangerous. The numbers on the map are just miles on the shortest way between point A and point B. Not more. There’re saying nothing about detours, weather conditions, photo breaks and the fact that you’re not allowed to drive faster than 60 on many Norwegian roads. And the map says nothing about all the small nice places – known and unknown – that I want to visit. And a lot of roads to these places are dead ends, you’ll have to drive back the same way doubling the mileage.

But numbers are interesting too. Take your magnifier glasses and seek for Inari. Found it? You see Kirkenes—Inari is 20 miles. OK, that’s not too bad. But have another look for Vardø. Vardø–Mehamn is 61 miles, more than 600 kilometres even if it’s just 14 miles as the crow flies. That’s because my car is neither able to fly or to swim and I have to follow the roads. And there are a lot of fjords in Norway forcing you into endless detours. Sometime you can already see your destination but have do drive two other hours to arrive. Sometimes that’s great, sometimes you just want to arrive at some chosen destination.

That’s why I added the red dots between Tromsø and Kirkenes. That’s the stops of the Hurtigruten, the famous Norwegian ships. If I’ll take the big tour even to Kirkenes – one of the things I will decide much later – I definitely will take the Hurtigruten to cut down the miles sometimes. And I’m looking forward to that too, it’s always nice to be on a ship.

Now I have only two days job left, then my free time starts: 108 days till Easter Monday. But I won’t start the journey before the 8th of January. That gives me some more weeks for additional planning …

Starting the journey

Day one and two

Round half past nine I started “Nordkalotten 2015”, my long journey through Northern Sweden, Norway and Finland. The first destination is Stokmarknes, which is 880 km away and according to Google Maps it takes eleven hours, nine minutes from my home in Skelleftehamn. I’m not a long distance driver therefore I divided the journey into three parts.

Day 1: Skelleftehamn – Solberget

When I started sky was completely cloudy and overcast but right after Vidsel the sky started to clear up and the temperatures dropped from -8 °C in Skelleftehamn to -21 °C in Solberget (with a daily minimum of -23 °C). On the journey I had to cross the river Luleälven three times and on one of the long bridges I could see the sun slowly going down.

I’ve been in Solberget many times and I’ll be there again in February. This time I stayed only to sleep and continued the next day. I one woke up when Sesam, the tom cat and secret owner of Solberget lay down on my feet in the dead of night.

Day 2: Solberget – Abisko

The evening before temperatures increased and it started snowing. When I woke up almost 10 cm fresh snow covered the ground and my car and it was only -2 °C. Half past nine I continued my journey heading for Gällivare, Kiruna and Abisko. It was cloudy the whole time but fortunately almost no snow fell. That made driving as easy as on the first day. Just some kilometres before Abisko sky cleared up a bit. I was lucky and could hire the same nice room where I already stayed last February for a week.

Tomorrow I’ll enter Norway and continue to Stokmarknes.

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.

From Sweden to Norway

Day three (part II)

After leaving the reindeers behind I continued to the Norwegian border. But first I made a picture of the strange looking railway station in Vassijaure, the last photo from Sweden for some time. Soon I reached the village Riksgränsen and right after it the Swedish-Norwegian border. I took the first parking opportunity and made the first photo in Norway of my tour.

Just some miles (a Scandinavian mile is 10 km) later I could see the first fjord. And shortly after this another typical Norwegian happened to me: A construction site with a “follow me” car because due to work in the tunnel the road was only one-way.

I continued on the E10 to Bjerkvik. Shortly before Bogen i Ofoten I took a side road and took a picture of the beautiful sunset colours above the snowy mountains. Soon I reached Bogen and made two other pics:

… and another image in Kongsvika in the dusk:

The whole trip was amazing, mostly because of the varying landscape. Sometimes the road follows the coast line of a fjord, sometimes it crosses the fjell – the mountains. Once temperature dropped from 0 °C to -15 °C within two minutes just because I left the coast and entered the fjell.

I changed plans and made an additional stop in Lødingen where I am right now. When I arrived it was already too dark to take pictures, but I had a nice two-hour evening walk. First I followed the coast line (including wading, almost slipping on the ice and a bit of simple climbing) and then followed a forest path back to civilisation. It was great just walking through the lonely nature after having been sitting in the car for three days!

Tomorrow morning I’ll head to Stokmarknes and take a (late) breakfast with my friends. I’ll stay there for some days and I’m really looking forward to be outdoors instead of sitting in the car.

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.

Car trip to Tromsø – partly nightmare, partly relaxation

Day twelve

Today I said goodbye to my friends that I stayed with the last week and headed to Tromsø in the north which is round 400 km away. I thought about driving as long as I like, making a over-night stop and continuing the next day.

The weather was quite bad. The temperature has increased to +5 °C, it rained and it was quite windy. But travelling was relatively easy until I came to the first mountain passage. And this part turned out to be the most terrible car ride I had in my whole life!

The nightmare part

The rain – sometime mixed with wet snow – became more and more intense, until rain was just bucketing down on the frozen roads. Sometimes I drove through deep puddles, pushing a bow wave like a boat, sometimes deep slush covered the narrow roads that oncoming cars tossed onto my windscreen temporarily reducing sight to zero.

But mostly the roadway was covered with a thick layer of wet new ice that was slippery as hell. So slippery that I hardly could accelerate or break or steer or do anything without starting to slide. Thanks god for the traction control of my Saab. I wouldn’t have managed without it.

Do not forget, I’m not talking about broad Swedish streets, I’m talking about narrow Norwegian streets, that only consists of tiny bends and sharp hairpin curves, roads that constantly go left and right, up and down. And that’s the main road I’m talking about!

And I’m talking about other car drivers. Car drivers that don’t mind the weather but drive as usual: Too fast! And I was way too slow for them. If they were behind me, they glued their car to my rear bumper and I used every parking place or bus stop to let them pass.

I was stressed, I was frightened and I was frustrated! Was it a smart idea to make this winter journey or was it just stupid? Should I skip Norway and head back to Sweden, where roads are broad and straight? I started to understand why many Norwegian roads are closed when weather is bad. I decided not to continue to Tromsø, but to drive back to Abisko, where the streets are better and in addition to that weather is cold enough to avoid these awful wet and icy roads.

The relaxed part

But first I had to continue the same road, regardless whether of staying in Norway or driving to Abisko. But alas, the weather became better and better and so became the streets. Now it was not only easy to drive, it was fun! It felt like I could continue for hours and hours without any effort. And so did I. 19:45, eleven hours after the start in Haukenes, Vesterålen I arrived in Tromsø.

Wait a moment, eleven hours of driving? For 400 km? No, not really. First of all I stopped at two different bays and walked at the sandy, muddy and ice covered shore lines. I love these walks and consider them extremely relaxing.

In addition to that I made a detour. OK, I’ll be honest: I missed the road to Tromsø and had to head back 19 kilometres to Breivik.

And I made a stop and ate a big burger with fries and drank a coke. Driver’s junk food!

Now I’m sitting in my tiny cabin on Tromsø camping and I’m writing this blog article. The radiator tries to heat the cold cabin but it will take some time until it is warm. But I’m wearing my down suit and even my sleeping bag, both are extremely warm and cozy. A cheer for good equipment and overdressing!

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

Retrospect one

Today is the last of January and day #17 of my current journey “Nordkalotten 2015”. Time for a litte retrospect. Thoughts. Opinions. The good and the bad parts.

1. The activities

I loved all days where I was outdoors, especially in the mountains. The walking tour in Stokmarknes, the snow shoe tour in Tromsø, the ski tour in Abisko today, all were great fun! I could do that again and again.

The whale watching tour in Andenes was a great experience, but that’s a thing I don’t need to have every week.

It was great to spend time with my friends J and R in Haukenes. Thank you so much for your hospitality and for the great ecological food. Caution: I’ll come again!

I love Tromsø, but the weather was dull and I wasn’t in the mood to visit a city. I seem to prefer the outdoors more and more.

It was great to see so many Northern Lights. I think I saw them 8 times already, but I didn’t take photos every single time, only in Stokmarknes and Abisko up to now.

I enjoyed many other things: Meeting people, short walks, long talks, good food, much sleep and other things that may not be newsworthy but are part of a long holiday.

Conclusion: All fine but I’ll try to travel less by car and be more outdoors in the nature.

2. The car driving

The landscape is so beautiful and that’s the fun part of the car driving. But always when you have the most beautiful view you can bet you’re not allowed to stop to take a photo. Furthermore I think it’s a bit boring to drive alone.

To be honest: Driving car in Norway in wintertime is not favourite thing and I underestimated the difficulties. I really wish I’d have a car with four-wheel drive!

The car ride cross the Norwegian mountains in rain storm on wet, icy roads was awful! I never want to experience such again.

The car ride in convoy cross the Bjørnfjell to the Norwegian-Swedish border was really exciting. But driving in storm was exhausting and I was glad to arrive in the cozy room in Abisko after the long trip from Tromsø.

I love my new roof box, many things are out of the way and even the loaded car with the roof box on top doesn’t consume more fuel than the empty car home. A real surprise to me!

Conclusion: Definitely less driving in Norway when weather is bad! Or is there anyone out there that will give me a big jeep for free?

Kilometres so far: 1968.9

3. The accommodations

Should I feel guilty or have a bad conscience? I planned to tent quite often. But how many nights did I sleep in a tent by now? 0 – zero – nil! I should mention that I had good reasons: My tent needs tent pegs to stand erect. I even have special snow pegs that are great – if you have snow! Most Norwegian ground was snowless but deeply frozen, I would have needed a pneumatic hammer to ram in the pegs, and since we had a quite a lot of wind it was just impossible to erect the tent safely.

Now I’m back in Sweden, we have enough snow and I start thinking about the tent-thingie again. But on the other side: It’s so comfortable to sit in a chair, to take a hot shower, to use the laptop with wireless internet, to cook standing.

But I have to start to cut costs as well. I only have some friends on the way, most often I have to pay for a room. And that adds up within 82 days of travelling. I’ll guess you’ll read some tent stories in the near future …

Conclusion: Starting to tent but enjoying houses and huts, too.

4. The weather

First of all: I love winter! I adore winter!

I love snow. Huge amounts of snow. All less than a meter is a nothing!

I love crisp cold air, the colder the better (at least for some days). All above -35 °C is not really cold, is it?

I love bright clear blue sky in daytime and a starry night with or without Northern Lights.

I even love snow storms, especially if I’m inside in the warmth … . Being out I’m not too fond of strong winds and consider stormy weather as exhausting.

Let’s see: There was nothing for record hunting yet. The all-journey minimum was -23 °C, that’s nothing, I was looking for -40 °C below (That’s why I have a huge down parka, down pants and an extremely warm sleeping bag with me).

And the snow? 70 cm in Abisko? I’ve had more snow in Skelleftehamn every single winter the last years. And even now there’s much more snow in for example Älvsbyn (130 cm now, more to come) which is less then two hours away from my home. It feels a bit strange to make a long, long journey and have more snow near home.

On the other side there where many days with clear sky day and night, especially on the Vesterålen. Let’s see what the next weeks will bring …

Conclusion: Wait for two metres of snow, wait for -43 °C. Curse if it doesn’t happen and repeat the journey next winter …

5. The equipment

All equipment works great. I just have  to attach a new lace to the zippers of my photo-backpack, that’s all. But neither was it cold enough to use the expedition-style down clothes, nor did I use tent or petrol stove. But pot, bowl and spoon came in handy in the hut in Tromsø that had an electric cooker but no dishes and cutlery at all.

Camera works like a charm and so does the laptop. The iPhone hates the cold and even when battery is on 80% it will switch off itself when its below zero. That happened just today.

Conclusion: Make an equipment retrospect after the journey to be able to travel more lightweight next time. Ignore the learnings completely and stuff the car again.

6. Your thoughts?

As always, feel free to comment. I’m looking forward to your thoughts, your questions and your options.

Small battery – big trouble

Day 20 – the car doesn’t want to start …

Why I didn’t make so much yesterday? It was less because of the weather but more because of my car. I wanted to drive to Tornehamn where I’ve been last year, but …

My car had its own plans and thought about taking a day off (or two or three). I was totally unable to start it. So I had to change plans.

I talked with a German friend and based on my error description and especially the fact that the motor started without problem, when I got a jump start some days before, he was quite sure that my old battery just died from one day to another.

So I solidarised with my car and took it easy, too yesterday. But I wasn’t relaxed at all, because I was quite nervous. T. who rented out the house promised to help me today. But what, if he couldn’t help? If it’s not the battery? If it’s the car electronic? Of something else that needs a replacement part that takes one week to ship in? How will I come to the next car garage in Abisko? Will I ever make it to Jokkmokk? And so on, and so on.

So my mood was not the best yesterday and I even fantasised of being home and taking a hot bath …

Today in the morning I rang up a car garage. They didn’t have the right battery and couldn’t help me, but they could give my another telephone number. The second garage did have the battery and even time to change it today. Great!

Later today T. found time today to help me. He connected a spare battery. I tried to start once, twice, three times, but I couldn’t start the motor.

T. connected another battery in addition to that. I tried again – and was almost successful, but just almost, the motor still didn’t start.

I remembered my start help that I bought for the journey and that I charged just yesterday. We tried that – again in vain. I started to get really frustrated.

Meanwhile the motor of T’s car was warmed electrically and T. turned his car to jump-start mine. And – YES!  – it worked! I was so reliefed! Now I just had to take care that the motor won’t stop on the trip to Kiruna.

It took round an hour to reach Kiruna where I took the way to the car garage. To make a long story short: Yes, they had the battery, changed it in short time and my car started again like a charm. Phew!

When I started planning the trip I never ever thought about how much room the car (including the driving) will take place in my journey and even in this blog. Sometimes I think, the car should write way-up-north, not me.

Other things my car got today:

  • An examination of the tyres: Yes, they are in really good shape
  • Correct air pressure in the tyres
  • A lot of fuel
  • A new light bulb
  • Cooling liquid

Perhaps I’ll take the bicycle next time. But on the other hand these might get troublesome as well:

Planning for the next seven days.

In eight days I will be in Solberget again – that’s only 40 km away. What should I do in between? I’m still unsure.

Option 1: A ski tour in the Muddus nationalpark. A nice place – I’ve been there once. Disadvantage: There is much forest in the Muddus, wonderful and real old forest as a matter of fact. I don’t have a big backpack with me, only the pulka (a sled for drawing things behind) and I’m not quite sure if it is smart to use a pulka in forests. I’ll have to check it.

Option 2: Finding some nice spots nearby and sleep in my tent, making some day trips with skis. This may be the easiest option.

Option 3: Driving back to Riksgränsen via Kiruna and Abisko. I would love to do it for some reasons, mostly the weather. But the same weather may make this option impossible.

Today smhi (Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute) published a warning class 2 (up to 25 m/s average winds in combination with dense snow showers). So I guess the roads will be closed again and I cannot get to Riksgränsen.

And the snow in Riksgränsen? According to the forecast of klart: Today 22 mm, tomorrow 19 mm, Sunday 5, Monday 21, Tuesday 35, Wednesday 19. That’s 120 cm in six days. In combination with the storms (more to come) probably neither weather for tenting or doing ski tours alone, not to mention taking photos showing something different than a greyish white.

Option 4: Driving to Kvikkjokk and doing ski day trips there. Hm, maybe …

Option 5: Driving northeast to Pajala near the Finnish border. Hm, maybe …

There are much more options than these five and I have to decide tomorrow. I would love option 3, since I love extreme winter weather. but it’s probably not realistic. I have to check the forecasts again tomorrow.

Addendum: Now the whole Northern Sweden got a weather warning class 1 for tomorrow: Wind gusts up to 24 m/s, that’s beaufort number 9.

Dear blog readers: Your comments? Ideas? Suggestions?

On my way to Northern Norway

Day 46

Today I said farewell to Annika, who flew back to Germany today. It felt a bit strange to sit in my car alone again after leaving her at the Kiruna Airport. The weather was as dull as many days this winter: Again it was quite windy, a grey layer of clouds covered the whole sky and with ± 0 degrees it was warm again. What a lousy winter we have this year!

After leaving Kiruna Airport I headed to Karesuando, where I planned to spend the night. I tried to get a room in the hostel, but I was told, that it’s closed and there was not a single accommodation on the Swedish side (Karesuando). I was also told that there’s a hotel on the Finish side (Kaaresuvanto). 10 minutes later I asked for a room in this hotel, but since the only available room should costed 250 Euros (!) for a single night, I preferred to continue my journey. Visiting Karesuando seems to be a bad idea in winter time. I followed the river Muonioälven, turned left in Palojoensuu and left again in Enontekiö. In Palojärvi, just 10 km before the Finnish-Norwegian border I saw a sign showing a shop, a restaurant and rooms for rent. First I was not too hopeful, because many rooms, camping places and cabins are closed over the winter, but I was lucky. I did not only get a real fine hamburger, but a whole cabin for 36 Euros, just a seventh of the hotel room.

And the cabin is nice, cozy and warm, only WiFi is lacking. I’m sitting at my computer, writing this blog article while many storm gusts howl round my little wooden house.

Tomorrow I want to continue to Norway: First Kautokeino, then Alta. The first fjord since some a whole month.

Through the Finnmark to Alta

Day 47

After a nice stay in Palojärvi i continued my trip. Just 10 km later I crossed the Finnish-Norwegian border and entered the Finnmark, the northernmost part of Norway. It was still very grey, very windy and quite warm with temperatures round zero. And that’s how the road looked like in the open, where the wind covered parts of the roads with snow drifts.

Soon I arrived in Kautokeino, where the Sami culture is quite big. Most signs have the Sami language first, in some of the front yards are fenced reindeers, women wear traditional Sami dresses and on the outside of many houses are reindeer skins hanging for drying.

I made a short break to make some photos of the church and the graveyard.

After a short rest I continued northwards. The landscape was first as flat as a pancake but gradually started to become hilly. Almost all I could see was grey birches and white snow, almost like a black-white painting. The yellow central dividing strip of the road and here and there a traffic sign were the only visible colours.

After an hour the hills got larger and finally a found a parking place, that wasn’t in the middle of a birch wood. Even if the thermometer showed 0 °C it was extremely chilly due to the strong winds that even shook my parked car and I had to protect face and hands against the coldness. Just one picture into the valley showing a small village.

The hills got steeper and sheer rocks appeared, some of them covered with turquoise blue ice that seemed to glow from its inside. The landscape started to get a bit colourful.

Now the most interesting part of the road began. I was a bit disappointed that I couldn’t make any photos, but the road had so many curves and bends and not a single parking bay, that I didn’t dare to stop. Suddenly the road was bordered by steep black-brown rock walls, it was almost like driving into a canyon. Then the road went down, the landscape opened again and suddenly I was surrounded by a green pine forest. After some hours of seeing only black-white it was amazing and felt like driving into another country with another climate. Minutes later the cloud layer broke and the sun lingered through the gap illuminating a snowy mountain at the horizon making all finally colourful again.

This looked so nice, that I decided to stay to nights in Alta. Now I only needed a cheap room. The employees at the  tourist information had some difficulties in understanding that their job is to help tourists, but that’s another story … . Finally I could convince one of them to find a room for me. I drove back to the camping place in Øvre Alta, where I stay in a nice, small cabin without water but with internet (that’s more important!) for two nights. But before it went dark I returned into town and took two images near a partly frozen bay.

Hammerfest and Honningsvåg

Day 49

Quite early I left Alta yesterday and continued the E6 in direction Kirkenes. To the left I could see the Altafjorden but soon the street turned right and went a bit up. Half of the Finnmark is above the tree line and so are parts of the E6. But it’s still amazing that you leave the coastal area with green pine trees and wet snow and after a bit of driving up you are in an area with snow covered mountains and just some downy birches here and there.

But after a while the road went down again and I turned left to visit Hammerfest. I made a short stop in Kvalsund before I drove over the bridge onto the island Kvaløya where Hammerfest is situated at the western coast.

I know the name Hammerfest for ages, I guess it was mentioned in my children’s encyclopedia. As many other towns in Norway Hammerfest is a modern town, since it was destroyed almost completely in WW2. For me the name sounds quite German, both “Hammer” and “fest” are German words as well. When I had a look in the tourist information I thought, that Hammerfest is a German town, because all people talked German. But that’s probably only because the Hurtigruten was just in town and many tourists that make a cruise with one of these ships come from German speaking countries.

After a shorter strolling through town I continued the road to Forsøl in the north of Kvaløya. Again the road went through treeless, snow covered hills and mountains. But the rocks at the coast showed moss and other creeping plants due to the mild coastal climate.

I returned and planned to continue my journey to Honningsvåg, one of the northernmost towns in Europe. Driving back was not easy in the beginning because the streets where wet and it was hard to see something against the low standing sun, even with sun glasses and flapped down sun shields. But soon the road changed direction and driving became easier. Now I continued the E6 a bit and turned left into the E69 (that’s where I made the pictures of the Purple Sandpipers) that leads to the town Honningsvåg and to the Nordkapp. It started to dawn and even to snow a bit.

After a while it was dark. I could see grey snow, dark rocks and the dark sea. After a while I couldn’t see anything anymore, just the reflecting tape round the plastic marks and the tunnels. Meanwhile we had +3 °C and it rained. (I guess, it can be alike in summer …) Already from distance I could see the lights of Honningsvåg. The last tunnel went beneath the sea and came out again on the island Magerøya. Some minutes later I was in Honningsvåg.

Now I had three wishes: Food, internet and a room. It took a while to find the only open restaurant, a pizzeria. Check! There I was allowed to use the private WiFi to get internet. Thank you, guys! Check! And there, with the help of Annika who was online I found a room in a hostel. Expensive but hey, we’re in Norway. Check!

Now, the morning after, I will have breakfast and then I will pretend to be a real tourist and visit the Nordkapp, the northern most point in Europe you can reach by car.

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 …

Honningsvåg – Kirkenes

Day 51

To make it short: Yesterday evening I arrived in Kirkenes, that’s almost 600 km from Honningsvåg, where I started after breakfast. And 600 km in Norway is quite a long distance.

I took the E69 to Olderfjord and the E6 to Karasjok. I wasn’t in the mood to have a closer look at this little town so I just continued. The 92 to Finnland and the 970 along the winding river Tenojoki. The sun went down and I became hungry. I  found a little pizzeria and was glad, but it was already closed since 18:00 Finnish time which is 17:00 middle european time. Bad luck! To get something to eat – this part of Finnland is quite  uninhabited – I bought a chicken wing in the grocery nearby. I continued the trip and crossed the border once more, being in Norway again. I stopped at a house that had rooms to rent. Would it be open in winter? Yes – but the room in the quite smelly and ugly house costed 850 NOK, that’s 99 Euro! I refused and continued my trip. After driving many, many hours I was hungry and tired. On a parking place in the middle of nowhere – meanwhile it was pitch dark – I nibbled my chicken wing and went on. I planned to visit a friend in Kirkenes but didn’t succeed to contact her yet. Anyway I would continue the journey to Kirkenes the same day and perhaps sleep in the car until I could contact the friend. That’s where my mood went down a bit – just a half cold chicken wing for dinner and sleeping in the car without any company.

Finally I arrived in Kirkenes, but I lacked the current phone number of my friend. At least the internet revealed the postal address. Finally I found the house – a flat-sharing community – but nobody seemed to be there. But I was lucky: Just before I entered my car again a woman left the house and helped me to contact my friend, who was staying at another place for some days. I took the car and 15 minutes later I arrived. Great! Now I didn’t only had a warm place to sleep but also company which I was very thankful for, because travelling alone is a bore sometimes.

Good travelling is having a cozy place to sleep, good company, enough food, internet for blogging and every now and then a hot shower.

Home again

I no can speak english anymore 2day. I do did travel far 2day. Kirkenes round half past 8, Skelleftehamn 22:22. That’s – I cannot calculate neither anymore – that’s many miles.

Tomorrow after big, big sleep I try to write something meaningful again.

/Olaf

 

Nordkalotten 2015 – the journey in numbers

The journey

My journey took 55 days – I have still some weeks holiday left but decided to shorten the trip. In this 55 days I visited Solberget, Abisko, the Vesterålen, Tromsø, Murjek, Loma Vietonen in Finland, Björkliden, Nikkaluokta, Alta, Honningsvåg, the North Cape, Kirkenes and many other places.

I slept in my tent only 3 times, had 16 free overnight stays and payed 36 times between 23 and 69 Euros.

Car

I travelled 6630 kilometres by car, which consumed 563.5 litres of fuel (if I wrote it down correctly). The longest distance on one day was the journey back home from the Kirkenes Snow Hotel that took 856.5 kilometres.

563.5 litres were burnt to circa 1300 kg CO₂. That’s the same impact as flying from Bremen (my home town) to Tenerife and back again.

Money

It’s hard to calculate how much the journey costed. Shell I include food that I need at home, too? The new battery for the car?

Anyway the journey costed round 3200 Euros, including the daily food, excluding the car battery and some equipment I bought.

Accommodation: ca 1350 EUR · Fuel: ca 900 EUR · Tours/entrance fees: ca 200 EUR · Restaurants: ca 250 EUR · Food: ca 450 EUR

Weather

The winter this year was extremely warm. Therefore the lowest temperature on the journey was a mere -24 °C. The lowest temperature while tenting was -22 °C. There were at least 20 days with temperatures above zero. The largest amount of snow I should guess was 150 cm since it was shoulder deep. Mostly the snow in Sweden was between 70 and 100 cm, in Norway a bit less and later on the journey less as well due to the high temperatures.

The temperature minimum home in Skelleftehamn was -16 °C. The last years it was less than -20 °C several time each winter.

 

Nordkalotten 2015 – final review

Just some final thoughts – quite unordered and far from being complete.

The good parts

Friends – I made the journey alone, but I spent time with friends. In Haukenes on the Vesterålen, in Kurravaara and in Murjek. At Solberget in Swedish Lapland, in Abisko/Björkliden, and finally in Kirkenes near the Norwegian-Russian border. Sharing time, thoughts and experiences with others is always great and I really enjoyed the time I was allowed to spend with old and new friends.

Conclusion: Share more time with friends!

Being outdoors – When I look back I remember mostly my outdoor trips. Some examples:

Each tour gave me the impression of being in the right place and doing it right. I realised again, that I just adore being outdoors, especially in the kalfjäll – the alpine tundra above the tree line.

Conclusion: Be outside – it feels good!

The inferior parts

Driving alone – This journey involved a lot of driving, sometimes the whole day. I consider this both boring and exhausting. Boring because you cannot share your thoughts (see Friends above), exhausting because I had to drive every single of the 6630 kilometres by myself. Sometimes I couldn’t enjoy driving as much as I hoped, I was just glad to arrive somewhere.

Conclusion: Take a friend, drive less or just stand it.

Tenting and short days – Short days aren’t any problem if you have a cabin or another warm place to stay. They are less fun, when you’re still driving without knowing whether you’ll find a cheap overnight stay. They are hard, when you lie alone in your tent and it’s pitch dark outside already at five o’clock. Again boredom is the main problem (see Friends above, again) and time as well since it may take much time to find a place for tenting, erect the tent, cook your meal, do the dishes and so on. That’s why I tented only once (and slept two other night in my tent too without the need to cook).

Conclusion: Take a friend or avoid tenting when days are too short.

Favourite places

Some old favourite places:

  • The Vesterålen – just beautiful and much easier to discover on foot than the steep and rugged Lofoten islands
  • Solberget – a perfect place to calm down and to make tours with the long wooden Tegsnäs skis
  • Abisko and around – an ideal place for starting ski tours between an hour and some weeks. I recommend Abisko Handcraft for accommodation.

And some new discoveries:

  • Låktatjåkko – Sweden’s highest located Mountain Lodge, 1228m above sea level, a perfect place to get snowed in
  • Kirkenes – great landscape with a fantastic combination of open and ice covered fjords, snowy mountains and much more. And a great team at the Kirkenes Snow Hotel

Things I can have at home, too

When I wrote about my paddling yesterday I was asked in a comment, why I travel at all, when I can have this right on my doorstep. I’ve been living in Skellefteå and Skelleftehamn for almost five years and a lot of winter experiences are really just round the corner:

  • Northern Lights –  I saw them many times, even if they may be more impressive more up north
  • Snow – Each single year we got much snow, quite often between 80 and 100 cm and I can start ski tours in my front yard
  • Blizzards – Last winter: 83 cm in 24 hours; I missed this winter’s snowstorm
  • Moose – There are a lot of them in the forest, but I only see the tracks and moose poop. Sometimes even some reindeers
  • Coldness – sometimes it can be quite cold with temperatures below -30 °C, but that’s seldom
  • Sea ice – the Baltic Sea freezes over each year. I can ski on the sea ice or, if parts are open, take the kayak and paddle between the ice

Things I cannot have at home

  • Polar night – we are south from the Arctic Circle and the shortest day is 3 hours, 45 minutes
  • Real cold weather – I think you have to visit other places to get temperatures below -40 °C. Nikkaluokta and Kvikkjokk can be quite cold in wintertime
  • Mountains – we have some tree-covered hills but no real mountains and no tree line neither – a pity!
  • Wilderness – let’s face it, there’s a lot of nature around but no real wilderness. If you go through a forest straight ahead you will cut a way or find a summer cottage quite soon
  • Fjords – no fjords neither, Norway seems to have the European monopoly. Some people say, that the Baltic Sea is not even a real sea but more kind of a big lake
  • New impressions – as I mentioned I’ve been living here for almost five years and I start to know the surroundings. It’s always nice to discover something new

Wishes and ideas for winter 2016

  • I want to share more time with friends, preferably outdoors
  • I want to make (at least) one longer ski tour
  • I want to sleep in a tent when it’s below -40 °C
  • I want to visit Låktatjåkko and Kirkenes again
  • I want to paddle between ice floes
  • If money isn’t too short: I want to see something completely new. Greenland? Svalbard? Labrador? I don’t know yet

It’s all right as long as it’s winter!

Greetings from Kittilä airport

I woke up quite early today and this was my view:

Yesterday I drove to Kittilä in Finnisch Lapland, because I’ll stay in a cabin in Äkäslompolo for a week with Annika and a friend of hers. Since they planned to take the first morning flight from Helsinki today they will arrive at 7:30. I decided to drive the day before and sleep at the airport. The airport has some short but comfortable-looking couches. However the last flight went at 23:50 and I was already tired at eight o’clock. Therefore I decided to sleep in the car. I was awake in the night twice and quite early in the morning again hearing the snow ploughs shovelling away the two centimetres of snow that fell in the night. I tried to continue to sleep, but the beep-sounds of the backing ploughs kept me awake.

40 minutes left before the plane is going to land. The trip to Äkäslompolo ist not far, just 50 kilometres. I’m longing for the cabin – and some additional day time nap.

The photo above shows the luv side of the car and that’s the lee side: