“Nordkalotten 2015” – The plan

I know it’s not true. But sometimes I have the impression that I travelled more in Northern Scandinavia when I lived in Germany than now where it’s right on my doorstep. I know it’s not true but at times it feels like it would be.

This year in spring I got the idea of travelling around in winter for a longer time, two month perhaps or even three. When I just talked about this idea with my employer, I directly got the answer: Great idea! Do it! That’s why you moved to Sweden! Well – that was kind of easy! And gave me another reason why I love working for Hello Future!

Then summer came and the dreams of snow and winter melted away while we had one of the hottest summers for many a long year. But now it’s September, 24 hours daylight are past and today in the morning the thermometer showed only 1.5 °C. Time to start planning my winter tour which I call “Nordkalotten 2015”. Nordkalotten is the Swedish word for “Cap of the North”, which is the European region around and north of the Arctic Circle.

You see the red ribbon on the map? That’s more or less the Arctic Circle and a bit of the Finnish-Russian border. My plan is to travel north and west of the ribbon and I already have many ideas of places to visit, for example Abisko, Gällivare, Honningsvåg, Jokkmokk, Karesuando, Kautokeino, Kebnekaise, Kirkenes, Kiruna, Lofoten, Nikkaluokta, Rovaniemi, Senja, Sodankylä, Solberget, Tromsø, Vesterålen, Værøy …

Whoa, Olaf, take it easy! The Cap of the North is huge! How many thousand kilometres of winter roads do you want to drive? You won’t see all places in only ten weeks if you want to leave your car sometimes.

So true! Well, as a matter of fact I hardly have any plans at all at present. I want to visit some friends for sure. And then I’ll try to do at least one ski tour, hopefully not alone. The rest? I’m not sure yet.

This is where you get into the game: Do you have any ideas? Know secret places? Have other tipps? Or even a place to stay? You’re more than welcome to write a comment (or if you want to keep it private to drop me a line by email).

I’m looking forward to your ideas.

More planning

I never ever travelled for more than three weeks, two weeks in the winter. Now I’m planning for two month. And beside of which places I want to visit I have a lot of questions in my mind:

  • What do I need for the car in winter?
  • Will the petrol stove work?
  • How much water and food rations shall I have with me in case that I get stuck in the middle of nowhere?
  • How can I keep the laptop warm, when I leave the car for some days?
  • Which equipment do I have to buy that I don’t already have?
  • When will the Samyang 12mm f/2.8 ED AS NCS fisheye arrive in the shops and how much will it cost?
  • Do I need snow chains or are the spiked tyres sufficient?
  • Should I buy a bigger light than my normal headlamp?

And last but not least:

  • How will it be to travel for a long time in winter, partly alone? Just great or will I be longing home to my own bed and my grand piano?

Well, I’ll see.

Preparatory consuming

In round about five weeks I’ll start my long winter journey through Northern Scandinavia. There are three types of planning:

  • Which places do I want to visit on my journey?
  • What do I have to organise before the journey?
  • What do I need on the journey?

I’m still not sure mow much I should plan the route of my journey, and I’m right in the middle of organising, but part three seems to be almost done. That’s partly because I already have a lot of equipment (and in parts more than I need …) and partly because I ordered a lot of stuff the last weeks and many small and big parcels arrived here over the last weeks.

And that’s some of the items I ordered the last weeks:

  • Top: Super warm expedition down pants from Marmot. Probably not the latest model but quite cheap and good for staying warm if it’s really cold.
  • Left: New rechargeable batteries for my GPS, for the big camera flash light and my headlamp. Most batteries I have are ten years old and I do not trust them anymore, especially if it’s cold.
  • Right: A heavy-duty green PVC smock (which is a pull-over jacket) to protect my other cloth against salt water, mud and sharp rocks.
  • Middle/right: A power inverter that transforms 12 Volt to 230 Volt so that I can charge batteries (and perhaps even my laptop) when driving.
  • Middle/left: An L-Bracket for my Nikon D800 camera that I can fix it on the tripod ball head in both portrait and landscape format.

And guess, what was the most expensive part? Believe it or not, it’s the L-Bracket which was more expensive than even the down pants!

What you see on the photo is just a part of my purchases: With the down pants I ordered the matching down parka, with the smock I ordered bib overalls of the same material.

The tripod got a new ball head and the tele lens a new foot matching the ball head. (My thanks to Jochen for the tips!)

For the car I bought snow chains, a 10 litre petrol canister and a jump starter, which is an external rechargeable battery that will provide enough power to start the car if the original battery is not working. (My thanks to Delle for the tips!)

The only things to buy that are left: A bigger waterproof bag for the camera and a roof box for the car. I know, I know, I could travel with much less equipment but since I have bought the car some years ago I love to take a lot of things with me. And know – back to planning.

Some vocabularies for my German readers:

down pants – Daunenhose
rechargeable – wiederaufladbar
power inverterWechselrichter
L-Bracket – L-Winkel
tripod – Stativ
bib overalls – Latzhose
ball headStativkopf/Kugelgelenkkopf
snow chains – Schneeketten

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 …

Postponement

Actually I planned to start my long journey ”Nordkalotten 2015” on this weekend, preferably on Saturday, but I have to change plans a bit. It’s not the car that leaked fuel to blame for it, it will be repaired tomorrow. It’s not the parcel that arrived in Germany too late and was resent to Sweden, it already came on Monday. It’s not the planning or the fact that I have to buy some minor items for the journey.

No, it’s a viral infection with fever that has caught me since Sunday. It seems to be much more tenacious than other colds I caught over the last years and I don’t know when I’m safe and sound again. I just have to wait, which is hard for me because I never have had much patience.

Of course I’ll let you know, when I’m able to plan again. Stay tuned.

Just testing the travel computer

I just have to test the computer I take with my on my journey before I leave tomorrow.

Copying images to Lightroom: CHECK
Finalising in Photoshop: CHECK
Uploading photos to the blog: CHECK

And here’s the test photo from today: The fence in my back garden.

I’m almost a bit sad to leave this fine place but the pleasant anticipation prevails.

Oh yes.

Publishing a blog article: CHECK

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.

Arrival in Haukenes and greeting the sun

Day four

Today I only had 80 more kilometres to drive making it a total of 906 since my departure in Skelleftehamn. I started early and arrived in Haukenes on the Vesterålen at 9:30. The only picture I took was the view of the town Sortland seen from the Sortlandsundet.

The reason why I wanted to arrive so early was the plans of my friends that I’m visiting here. Today it’s the first day where you can see the sun again from their upland meadow Langbakken. The last day with polar night, that means no sun at all was 8th of January, but it took ten more days until the sun rose high enough to climb over the mountain tops of the Lofoten in the south.

We went up the hillside to the lavvu – a sami tent – where we first stood outside to greet the neighbours joining us and than sat in the tent round the fire altogether and ate and talked.

And finally – much later than expected – the sun found a gap in the mountain skyline! We all jumped out of the lavvu and looked at the first sun you could see from Langbakken since late November. Hooray!

The place where I am and will stay for the next days: Nøisomhed Gård, Haukenes, Vesterålen.

 

Two images of today

Day seven

After a demanding tour into the mountains yesterday I took it easy today. Some of my “activities”: talking with my friends, cutting vegetables for the soup, sleeping, walking the dog and taking some images at the seaside. One of the traditional Nordland boat of my friends and one of the coast itself.

A first mountain hike

Day six

Yesterday on Tuesday I stood up quite early to hike into the mountains. I packed my camera equipment, hot tea, nuts and raisins, compass, GPS and a down jacket. I considered first about taking my snowshoes with me but left them home, it didn’t look like much snow on the mountains.

I started the tour and headed to Langbakken, the place where we saw the sun two days before. I was greeted by the flock of sheep, some of them so tame and curious that they came to sniff on my hand. Then I climbed the fence and cut across country until I came to another fence with a gate. I went through the gate and followed the way beside of the fence until I came to a crossing where a way climbed up a forested hill.

The way didn’t continue but I just continued the direction until I came to a snow covered lake, the Dalvatnet.

I started to regret that I left my snowshoes behind, because with every step I sank 10 to 20 cm into the hard snow. It wasn’t the last time …

I knew the direction and had two options: Either crossing the open mountain brook or to just go ahead. I chose the latter. I had to cross a field with huge rocks where I really had to by careful and check every single step. After that I went up the steep slope. And it was much, much steeper than expected. I measured 40° with my compass. I had to be careful not to slip and I took many rests to calm down. Sorry, no photos.

But finally I reached the first hill took and horizontal terrain again. Just some more steps and I took a longer rest with the tea and my nuts. I was glad about my down jacket because the -8 °C felt much colder in the wind.

I could have sat there for hours and just watch the colours change. When the sun disappeared behind a mountain top the snow looked cold and bluish. When it appeared some minutes later in a gap between two mountains the snow was illuminated in yellow, orange and purple pastel shades. I’m no poet, I cannot describe it with words. After a while I continued to another lake called Finnurdvatnet, as frozen and snow covered as the first. I love the landscape above the treeline, especially in winter when it is reduced to snow, ice and rocks and some scattered small trees.

I would have loved to go further but the hard and partly crusty snow – knee deep some times – slowed me down quite much and both my condition as day light where limited. So I started my way back and went to another lake, the Nils-Persavatnet. Starting feeling exhausted I took another rest and continued to the ridge of the Hovden. I was quite glad to hit a snowshoe track that I could follow. It made it both easier to go. But first I had to look again. The sunset in the southwest, the intense purple colour of the sky in the southeast, the Hurtigruten ship on the Sortlandsundet, The huge bridge to Stokmarknes and the white snow-covered mountains everywhere. Just wonderful!

I continued the treeless ridge of the Hovden to the peak. Then I started the descend through the forest. I don’t think I would have found the whole way down without the snowshoe track that I could follow so easy. After a while I saw the same way I took when I started the tour, but from within the forest and the other side of a ditch. No wonder that I didn’t find this path in the morning! I jumped over the ditch and headed to the house of my friends. When I crossed Langbakken the same flock of sheep – as curious as in the morning hours – came again and some sheep (the same?) sniffed on my fingers again. But I longed after taking a hot shower and a nap in my bed and that was exactly what I did when I was back.

Conclusion:

A great first tour with beautiful weather in a fantastic landscape that would have been much easier with snowshoes. I guess that even the blister on my left heel came just from the wet snow in my boots that I could have avoided with snowshoes. Lesson learned, Olaf? Lesson learned!

Some vocabularies for my German readers:

down jacket – Daunenjacke
flock of sheep
– Schafherde
cut across country – querfeldein laufen
mountain brook – Gebirgsbach
treeline – Baumgrenze
crusty – hier: verharscht
ridge – Gebirgskamm, Grat
ditch – Graben

Links:

Map with the lakes and the peak of Hovden

The first polar light

If you like your beauty sleep and travel way up north, do not look out of the window too late! I did it and lost 50 minutes sleep standing outside and another 30 minutes writing this blog article.

And that’s why I stood outside: A really bright, moving and colourful polar light covered half of the sky.

It’s still out there but I’m tired and I have plans for tomorrow. Hopefully it’s not the last one on my journey.

 

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.

Weather changes

Day ten

Today the clouds came, it became warmer, wind increased and some fresh snow fell. The perfect weather for a quite lazy day with only one shorter walk.

On the other side of the Sortlandsundet mountain range after mountain range vanished in the low clouds leaving only the nearest mountains visible to eye and camera.

I plan another lazy day here in Haukenes, then I’ll continue my journey, probably heading to the island Senja and the town Tromsø. It will take much longer time as in summer because the most ferries are closed in the winter time.

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!

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.

Tromsø: In the mountains

Day 14

Today I was up in the mountains. I took the first cable car at 10 o’clock and had a beautiful view on the town Tromsø below.

The whole day was like a symphony in colours. Starting with deep bluish purple shades and pink pastel tones the light got warmer changing the light to this incredible colour between pink and light orange. Does it have a name? I don’t know.

This time I had snowshoes with me. They weren’t necessary today but after the last mountain hike I won’t go without anymore. I headed for the first small peak called Fløya (671m), just two kilometres away. The views of the multicoloured mountains in all directions were fantastic.

I continued southward to the Bønntuva (776m), the next peak. I really love the patterns that the wind has cut into the crusty snow.

I continued a bit farther to a nameless peak (754m), mostly to make a photo of the pile of stones. Stone piles are used in Norway to mark ways, but I guess some of them are built of tourists just for fun. But the weather was perfect and the terrain quite simple so I didn’t mind the waypoints.

I was slow because I was more into looking and taking pictures, not into being fast. So I decided to turn and go back to the top station of the cable car. But not without taking some more pictures. One of them shows a ship, it’s the Hurtigruten heading Tromsø. I could see it far away more than an hour before it landed in Tromsø.

As you can see on the latter photo sun went down again and the shades turned into pink and purple again. When I came back to the fence protecting the tourists falling down the cliff it was dark enough to start the night photos. Tromsø looks really beautiful when it is illuminated in winter time and sky is still blue.

Half an hour later I took the cable car down and went back to the car. That took a while because the official parking place costs 20 NOK the hour and I was much to mean to pay 13,50 Euro just for parking.

My plan was to continue the journey tomorrow but I changed my mind because of the weather. The Norwegian region round Tromsø and Narvik will get a “liten storm” that matches level 9 on the Beaufort scale with gusts up to 35 m/s (level 12). The Swedish mountain region will get strong winds as well with poor sight and much snow. I’ll start a day later, on friday.

Just an image for the photographers: My cheap thermometer is Arca-Swiss compatible! – 7 °C today.

Blackout

Day 15

After a longer walk at the shore I returned to my tiny hut on the camping place and slept. It’s pure luxury to sleep on daytime while being in holidays. When I woke up it was dark. Really dark. I checked my mobile phone for incoming mails. No WiFi/WLAN. I stood up and switched on the light. No effect. It was chilly in the hut. I looked outside and couldn’t see much. Some warm tiny lights in other huts and cabins, a flash light. That was all. Looks like electricity is down.

Due to a technical failure in a transformer in the Ofoten (some hundred miles southwards) major parts of Northern Norway have been without electricity since three o’clock including parts of Nordland, Finnmark and Troms including Tromsø. It’s not clear when electricity will be back. I’m glad that I have a warm sleeping bag because this hut is heated by electricity, too and the temperature is already down to 11.0 °C sinking fast.

Both laptop and iPhone still have power and the mobile net is working, that’s why I can sit here and write a blog article even with a blackout in Tromsø and around. But now I’ll switch off them, I need them for checking the news and the weather forecast.

Addendum [18:17]:

Electricity came back, first for half a minute, now for already five minutes. Looks like I’ll get the hut warm again quite soon.

Addendum [20:27]:

WiFi is still down, I’m still using mobile internet and data roaming.

Tromsø: At the shore

Day 15

Just strolling at the shore, at the seaside. Grey windy weather, the opposite of my day in the mountains yesterday. Just walking and letting the mind flow. My thoughts? I don’t know, i didn’t listen. A further step, balancing on stones, wading through shallow water, avoiding the ice, collecting some shells, looking around.

Just relaxing.

The bird is a Purple Sandpiper (Latin: Calidris maritima, German: Meerstrandläufer, Swedish: Skärsnäppa). My thanks to Patrick and Kevin for the identification.

The idea to stay another night in Tromsø and not to drive to Absiko today was good: Parts of the way to Abisko has been closed since yesterday evening due to the snow storm and are still closed. It’s still not clear whether they’ll be open tomorrow again. I guess I’ll give it a try.

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

Abisko: A first small ski tour

Day 17

Finally – my first time on skis! I didn’t dare to use them in the Tromsø mountains, they are too steep for my mediocre skiing abilities. The mountains – the fjäll – in Abisko however is not so hard.

EquipmentWhat do I need for a (short) day trip? Let’s see …

  • windproof clothes
  • a down jacket for resting
  • warm woolen mittens
  • hot tea
  • goodies
  • a compass
  • a good map
  • my GPS with spare batteries
  • first aid kit
  • headlamp
  • camera equipment
  • bivy bag
  • some money (just in case)

I love it when I can start a ski tour just from the doorstep. Weather was fine, partly blue sky, partly clouds, -15 °C and no wind at all. The first time in this winter I put on my ski shoes, attached the skis, unattached them again to get the other mitten that still was in the house, attached the skis again, took the backpack and ski poles and started the tour. First the tunnel under the railway (Stockholm–Narvik) then up the street and into the open woodland. First I followed the snowmobile tracks. That’s easy because the snow is solid and it’s easy to go. But it’s a bit boring, too. So I left the trail after a while and went cross-country. The snow is new – it snowed 30-40 cm the last days and quite soft. Soon the skis were more under than on the snow, mostly calf deep, later sometimes more than knee deep.

In average the snow was 70 cm deep – that’s not so much for the fjäll, but I was quite glad that I could continue cross-country even if it was a bit exhausting. Again and again the snow around me slumped down under my weight sometimes snapping like a whip, sometimes growling like thunder. This is what avalanches are build of. It was clear that I had to avoid all steeper terrain today.

Soon the valley Lapporten, that you can see from Abisko as well, came into view again.

I hit another snowmobile tracks and followed them. An a slope ahead a snowmobile approached and I stepped aside to make place – sinking into snow almost knee deep again. The snowmobile was followed by eleven tourists that booked a dog sledding tour. I laid down into the snow to make pictures and since the dogs came to a stop I could make a photo of the husky with its snow-covered nose.

The dogs continued and so did I. But now I had a minor challenge. The track on the slope was quite steep and so narrow, that I couldn’t make V-steps big enough to go up on skis without sliding back. So I left the track and tried to go up zigzag beside the track. But after ten steps I was bogged down into the snow more then knee deep. I tried to go up, but impossible, at least for me. I returned to the hard snowmobile track, unmounted the skis and went up afoot.

Up on a bleak plateau I left the snowmobile trail and continued cross-country again in direction Lapporten. On the treeless plateaus it has been much windier and the snow was pressed and beared my weight. I continued a bit further and enjoyed the beautiful views and impressions.

But soon I headed back and skied down again through the untouched terrain. Downhill skiing was a bit thrilling: Some patches where hard and the skis ran fast but soon a patch filled with deep soft snow waited for you. It was pure luck that I didn’t fell. Four hours later I was in front of the house – right before the doorstep. A nice tour.

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.

Abisko: White snow, white sky

Day 18

Another ski tour today, not up the hills but down to the lake Torneträsk, which ist the seventh biggest lake in Sweden and 168 metres deep. But on the lake there’s a layer of at least 50 cm ice and a bit snow. This snow was so low in contrast that you could see just a uniform white without any structure at all. When I came to the first small island I could hardly see where the slope began. White snow, white sky.

I went half around the first nameless island and half across. Then it was only some hundred metres to the island Ábeskosuolu which is bigger and higher. I didn’t dare to climb the top with my skis but went around here and there. After taking a rest I continued to Abisko Turiststation, the big tourist station in Abisko. I went over the ice straight ahead.

Even on land I tried to continue quite directly, which was both quite stupid and quite funny, because the labyrinth of steep small hills was full with a thicket of birches. A snow hare looked at me from a safe distance. I guess he thought, I’m mad and perhaps the hare is right. I continued plunging through the deep snow taking many detours to come uphills until I reached the station. Arrival 13:45 – just in time to get a late lunch. I enjoyed especially the salad bar. After a rest and eating a bit too fast and too much I went back to the village Abisko, but this time on the direct way near the road and the railway line. That’s only two kilometres and I was soon home again.

Meanwhile home: A snow storm has covered Skellefteå and around with huge amounts of snow. Some people wrote on Facebook, they’d been snowed in. I looked at the photos and – yes – I, as a snow fan would love to could have shared this experience. But on the other side we had much snow in Skelleftehamn the last years, especially because the nearness to the coast. For example:

Here in Abisko wind starts to increase and snow shall come tonight, but just some centimetres.

Abisko: Where are the mountains?

Day 19

Where are the mountains? I guess they’re still there, they are hard to move. But I couldn’t see them the whole day. When I stood at the edge of the lake I could see the island Ábeskosuolu, 700 metres away, but the rest of the terrain was hidden in a greyish white. I guess it was less the falling snow but the blowing snow that hid the surroundings, because the wind was quite fresh and gusty. SMHI, the Swedish weather office published a level 1 warning for today: hård vind med snödrev/nederbörd (high wind with ground blizzard/precipitation).

Two other images of today, the first showing one of huge snowbanks that were built up on the houses lee side. The other shows the restaurant and bar from the outside with blowing snow.

Photographers note: I like the last photo of the restaurant’s outside. And I took it without a tripod: ISO 3200 35mm f/2.0 1/320 sec

 

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:

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 …

Winter wonderland

Day 21 – Deep, deep snow

Today I left Kurrovaara. The narrow street back to the main road is quite steep and covered with new snow. My friend and a teammate took the ATV to plough the snow away for me. After that I started the road up. First it went well but then came a steep passage with a bent. And there I stood and didn’t come any further. My friend had to help me. He, who is both much more experienced with car driving and knows the way by heart drove my car up to the main road. I was so grateful, without him I guess I would have been forced to wait until summer to climb this road. Yes – another argument for having a car with a four wheel drive …

The rest of the journey was quite relaxing: Kiruna – Gällivare – then not the Nattavaaravägen as usual, but via Purnu. I was curious how deep the snow was and stopped beside plain terrain – I guess a meadow or a field. I took some steps through real deep snow and stopped. I just moved my legs a bit and down I went. I was standing shoulder deep in snow until I hit firm ground. Unbelievable! I tried some other places to make sure that I didn’t hit a hole in the ground, but more or less it was all the same: Breast to shoulder deep and that means 140 cm snow in average!

So it wasn’t only the coast, that got a lot of snow (Luleå got 113 cm and broke the old snow record from 1966), but the inland as well, Many places in Northern Sweden have more than one metre snow now.

I continued the journey and made a short stop in the Wilderness Lodge Solberget, where I’ll stay a whole week later this month. Since last Thursday they have got huge amounts of snow  – a neighbour talked about 60 cm on a single day – and the wind created snowdrifts up to three metres height. So they had a lot of work to dig out doors, windows, cars and much more. Just some impressions from today (much snow is shovelled away already):

After having a fika (the Swedish coffee break) and making these photos I continued to the village Murjek where I’ll stay for some days, mostly for visiting the famous winter market in Jokkmokk but perhaps a ski tour as well if it works with so much snow.

 

 

Murjek: Through the forest, over the bogs

Day 23: Ski tour in Murjek

After seven hours winter market in Jokkmokk yesterday I was in need of being in nature again. And today it was sunny, wind was calm and it was not very cold. Perfect weather for a relaxing tour. Half past nine I’ve packed my stuff and clipped on my skis. I followed the snow shoe trail, continued and came to the scooter trail along the power poles that I followed a bit.

As usual in winter when there is a lot of snow, many trees are in camouflage, disguised as geometric figures, abstract objects or strange animals.

Quite soon I left the scooter trail and took a unploughed way in direction northwest. On the way lay at least 80 cm snow, beside of it even more. But with the skis I hardly sank more than calf deep into the powder. That changed where the way ended and I crossed a forest. Sometimes I was knee deep in snow, later occasionally even up the hip if a small birch tree hid under the snow layer and I broke through. But soon I left the forest and came to a huge swamp or bog.

I followed the open land still heading north west. I thought about going up the hill shown in the photo above but I could see that it was a bit further away than expected and in addition to this completely tree-covered. I hardly would get a nice view up there. So I decided to change direction. Sometimes I was in woody patches with big trees quite easy to traverse. Sometimes it was a thicket of birches. These fellows use to bow under the heavy snow load until their treetops are under the snow. There they will freeze so that the birch trees builds arcs and bows. That sometimes can give you a hard time to find a way and sometimes I had to go over the birch trees to get ahead. Tree climbing with skis …

I tried to avoid these thickets but that’s not easy, you cannot see it on the map. But I was glad when I finally reached another huge swamp where I started my way back to Murjek. Perhaps just in time because the sun slowly started to go down.

I love these monotonous wastelands, but now I wanted to came home. I was hungry (I had no chocolates with me), the water in the plastic bottle started to freeze, my gloves where wet and half frozen and I started to feel exhausted. But I had to go some more kilometres according to GPS and map. Finally I came to a crossing – a crossing of snow mobile trails with a signpost showing the way to Jokkmokk, Vuollerim, some other places and – finally Murjek. Guess which trail wasn’t used since the last snowfalls …

… yes: 100 points. Murjek!. Even if I could guess the trail it was no help, the snow under the skis was as deep as before. Larger birches formed an archway above the trail.

That’s the last photo, I wanted to reach Murjek before dark. I followed the trail for some time until I came to a fallen tree that lay across. But on the other side I could see fresh scooter tracks. And the snow was stable. Finally I just could glide over the surface – glorious.  Now I headed for the small kiosk in the train station to buy some food (and yes, some sweets, too) and continued the main road to my nice and cozy room.

Résumé: 12.9 km, most of the time pathless. Great weather. Always great to be outdoors. Next time: A thermos again, because it was a bit colder than expected: -8 °C, when I came home. Plus extra gloves plus extra socks. I didn’t need the socks today but some tiny patches of the bog are still a bit wet under the snow and you never know …

Now the sky is completely cloudy and it started to snow a bit.

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?

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.

The storm arrives

Day 26 – February 7

After the yesterdays ski tour I took it easy today and just made a minor car trip to Högträsk near Murjek. You could see that on some places snow mixed with wind has created huge snow banks.

And you could see as well drifting snow, because the wind started to increase.

In the afternoon the wind gusts became stronger and stronger. The roads in Norway and the Swedish mountains already were closed again due to a severe storm and even the Northern Swedish inland got a level 2 warning forecasting: Gusts up to 25-28 m/s. We almost waited for a power blackout and it came – but surprisingly only for a minute.

When I went out I was immediately covered with cold snow powder. Whether it fell from the clouds or was just whirled up from roofs and ground I cannot say. And I was still unsure where I should continue my journey the next day …

Where to go? Undecided yet …

Day 27

On Sunday I left Murjek and continued my journey. To be honest: I would have loved to be in the Swedish-Norwegian mountains in the storm, and even another storm and masses of snow where forecasted. But …

  • … some roads were closed and other road were strongly discouraged to use
  • … beside of some expensive hotels no rooms were available in Riksgränsen
  • … and tenting would by suicidal (at least with my lack of experience)
  • … the avalanche risk could be extremely high
  • … I couldn’t make any photos in full snowstorm
  • … I couldn’t make any tours neither

So I had reluctantly decided not to drive to the mountains.

I left Murjek and went on to Nattavaara, where I turned right to Purnu (where I made the deep snow images some days before). I realized that I had not so much petrol left. Should I be forced to drive to Gällivare only to refuel the car? No, I was lucky – there was a small petrol station in Hakkas.

I continued a small road heading to Satter and Ullatti, and it felt nice to visit new places. I haven’t even heard the names. Sky was blue, with temperatures round -10 °C it was not so cold and you could see, that there’s much snow. But you could see the impact of the storm and quite warm weather, too: Almost all trees where bare of snow. As a matter of fact it looked like it was end of March – a typical vårvinter (spring-winter) day. As a photographer I dislike this weather. The snowless trees look a bit boring and there’s a lot of needles, bark, twigs and other things on the snow which doesn’t look nice on photos. But some pics anyway …

I continued to Tärendö, that has a town sign in three languages: Swedish, Samian and Finish. This shows that there are more languages spoken than Swedish in this area of Lapland. I liked the small petrol station that looked a bit “Wild West” in some way beside perhaps of the two completely snowed in cars.

I turned left and took the way to Saittarova. I thought about sleeping in the tent and looked for a parking place where I could go into nature a bit. But instead of finding a good place I found a moose. A moose that didn’t ran away when I backed the car to take a photo. But seconds after the photo the moose and another one paced with big, large steps into the forest.

After this nice incident I continued to the crossing and turned right into the 395 to Pajala. Shortly before Mäntykero I hit my place: A parking place and a flat swamp area with some pine trees.

I parked the car and left the comfort zone …

Appendix: Some words about Ole:

The storm Ole, that hit Norway and Sweden yesterday has been one of the strongest in the last ten years and had wind gusts over 50 m/s (that’s 180 km/h). For comparison: Beaufort number 12, “Hurrican Force” (orkan in germanic languages) starts already with 32.6 m/s.

Link: Så voldsom var «Ole» (yr.no, Norwegian)

2015-02-09 22:02

Leaving the comfort zone

Night 27

Last night I decided to tent and just before the village Mäntykero I hit a place. I started to pack my pulka with the most important stuff: Tent, stove, food, camping mat, warm sleeping bag, camera, head lamp and some more. My plan was to go into the snowy landscape some hundred metres to get some distance to the road.

But the way was hard! The snow hardly bore me and every time when I pulled the pulka I went down knee deep into the snow. With skis on! Then I had to climb up just to stand knee deep in powder again two meters later. I guess, it took me almost ten minutes to go 100 meters.

Earlier than planned I stopped and decided to erect the tent. I started to “bulldoze” an area 3 x 4 metres with my skis on to harden the snow and make place for the tent. Normally this snow should stabilise quite soon, but not this sort. It stayed loose for many, many hours. When I tried to put a tent peg (the huge ones for snow) into the ground I could easily push it down to the frozen swampy ground without meeting any resistance. Like pulling a tent peg into a basin of styrofoam pellets! I had to put on much more snow and tramp down again and again to harden the snow. I was so glad that it was only 80cm of snow at this place, not 150cm or even more. And I was glad that we didn’t had any wind at all.

Finally the tent stood – more or less erect. Two skies and poles in four corners and only some pegs – no wind to come. The next thing to do: Cooking, because it can take a long, long time in winter time.

The short version (some outdoor topics following later): It took much time to cook but finally I got my instant noodles with pesto. But I disliked them, they were overcooked and not far away from disgusting. Remember: When you eat warm food outside you will burn your tongue in the first half and eat cold or even half-frozen food in the second half. One of the lesser comfortable things of winter tenting.

Finally I wasn’t hungry and thirsty anymore. It was round half past six and beside of some lights from passing cars on the street it was pitch black.

Um …

Well …

Boring!

I had no book to read (could by a cold pleasure, too), I had no friend to talk with, it was quite dull and just boring. So I decided to sleep half past seven. It went just so-so. I woke up quite often and couldn’t sleep. The iPhone is useless in the cold so I used it diving deep down into my warm sleeping back but only for a minute or two.

I had to go out several times and that was the fun part of the tenting. I could see how it started snowing (only two cm), I could see the moon illuming the snowy flats, I could see the temperature drop down to -22 °C (almost record on this quite warm winter journey!) and finally after many one- or two-hour naps I could see the lilac clouds heralding the sun rise.

Again it took time to cook my “muesli” and some water for tea but because we hadn’t any wind at all I could cook outside – luxury! Eating was fast as usual before food starts to get cold or even freeze.

Then I packed my stuff, unpacked the tent, put it all into or onto the pulka and went back to the car. As I hoped, I could go in my old tracks without sinking to deep. Therefore I was back in the car quite soon. I tried to brush away all snow before loading my equipment into the car. Three hours later after standing up I started the motor and continued my journey to Pajala.

Conclusion:

I love winter tenting when I’m on a tour over several days, but I consider it time consuming and uncomfortable when I’m travelling by car and only use it as a cheap sleeping opportunity. But most of all do I prefer to do it with a friend, because that’s much more fun and even the time for erecting the tent, cooking and so one reduces dramatically.

Plan for winter 2015/2016: As many ski tours with old and new friends as possible!

Outdoor details:

Some stories, thoughts and tipps.

I asked myself, how should I tent, when there is much more snow, lets say two metres. Digging down? Fixing the tent to some trees. And what do you do, if you have deep and loose snow and storm. I don’t know.

I’m using a multifuel stove and use petrol as fuel. I have to admit, that I dislike my stove, it acts like a diva and it’s not so easy to find the right combination of pressure, opening and closing valves and preheating. And it always smells a bit petrol. Yesterday Lars from Vildmarksmekka gave me the tipp to use a common Trangria in combination with “Tenol”, a mixture of methyl alcohol and ethanol. He has used it without any problems with temperatures down to -37 °C. I have to check out this.

Lars tipped me off that I could use much longer skis to avoid sinking into the snow. Much longer means at least three meters! I think that’s great for open terrain, but I don’t want to get stuck in a birch thicket with them.

Note to myself: Buy better food! Food preparation takes a long time outdoors and it’s disappointing, if it doesn’t taste well. Avoid “Snabb makkaroni”.

I have a extremely warm sleeping bag and an Exped Down Mat as a camping mat. The sleeping bag was always too warm for -15 °C, but fine and cozy when temperatures dropped below -20 °C. First I thought, that the down mat was broken because It lost all air after some minutes. Fortunately it was only a valve, that I didn’t close properly.

Next time I would avoid making photos in the tent. Too much moisture so that the lens got fogged and the moisture froze on the lens.

I didn’t want to leave my laptop in the cold car and put it down in the sleeping back while sleeping. Not so comfortable, but it worked. Anyway should MacBook-Pro-computers cope coldness down to -25 °C without any problems, at least as long they’re off.

Clothes can get wet and all things that got wet will freeze. I had a hard time to use my gaiters the next morning. Putting on the ski trousers was like putting on cold planks and the gloves were frozen as well. I have to check for solutions …

I had the luxury that I used the tent only for one night. I could dry both tent and sleeping bag the day after. Otherwise I would use a vapour barrier liner, a plastic bag you wear inside of the sleeping bag to prevent moisture going into the down filling and freeze. Anyway you will have ice round the hood where you will breeze into in the night.

Plans: Learn to erect a tent in deep snow. Learn to erect a tent in storm. Check the Trangia stove with tenol. Check how I can prevent clothes from freezing or how I can minimise the effect.

Pajala

Day 26

A day in Pajala – just some images.

2015-02-11 18:09

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.

A ski tour near Tornehamn

Day 40

After leaving Solberget together with Annika on Saturday, we drove to Abisko where we made a marvellous day trip on skis yesterday.

We started in Tornehamn north from Björkliden with quite cold weather (-17 °C) and deep blue sky. We were surrounded by the snow covered mountains and birch trees packed with hoar frost that sparkled in the sun. After some hundred meters on the lake Torneträsk we followed a winter path marked with red crosses. When we looked back into the sun we could see tiny ice flakes that gleamed goldenly in the sun.

Mostly the way was very easy to ski but some short parts were quite steep. No problem for the snow mobiles that left many tracks on and beside the trail but not so easy for us with skis.

After a couple of kilometres we followed the hiking trail Nordkalottruta northward. This trail isn’t marked in winter time but since all the tiny lakes were completely frozen we chose our own way northward to the bridge over the small river Niuoraeatnu. The terrain is hilly and mostly we want zigzag to avoid the steeper slopes. On a hill top after a quite steep ascent we made our first break and had a view over Lapporten.

We continued climbing small hills, skiing through birch forests along slopes with cornices until we finally came to a steeper slope down to the river Njuoraeatnu with the chain bridge overstretching the river.

While it was quite easy crossing the river that still was partly open it was quite difficult to continue our tour. We didn’t dare to go on the river, therefore we had to go up the hill. This part was so steep that we had to unmount our skis and go uphill without. Not too easy in metre deep snow …

Phew – that was exhausting but finally we were up on another hill ready for a lunch break. The wind increased and clouds gathered. Therefore we continued to a small bay of the Torneträsk where we found shelter from the wind for a longer break. We put on our down jackets, drank hot tea and ate sandwiches and chocolate. (Tip: Ham freezes, feta cheese works fine.)

Eventually we had to continue our ski trip; day light wouldn’t last forever. We went round the peninsula Stállobieskkenjárga against the wind. The wind increased and increased and slowed us down. I put on the fleece balaclava and tightened the fur rimmed hood to get as much wind protection as possible. The landscape lay grey in grey and all you could hear was the wind with its stormy gusts. It started to get dusky. What a contrast to the first part of our ski tour!

Slowly we continued to the southeast tip of the peninsula where we crossed the bay Njuoreanunjálbmi. Finally we reached Tornehamn again, entered the car and drove to the Abisko Mountain Lodge where we got our reward: A hot chocolate and a cool Coke.

Tack för turen, Annika – thanks for the tour.

 

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.

2015-02-25 21:25

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.

 

A day trip into the valley Vistasdalen

Day 45 – a ski tour into the valley Vistasdalen

Today Annika and I made a shorter ski tour into the valley Vistasdalen. Some sun, some clouds and a beautiful views on the snowy mountain scenery. 6 km into the valley, 7 km back, partly on snow mobile and ski trails, partly cross country on soft and loose snow through small birch forests, over bog, lakes and small frozen rivers. Four barking dogs, a snow grouse, a lonely cabin and many, many moose tracks.

 

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.

2015-03-01 20:03

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.

Ascent of the Komsa

The second day in Alta. The afternoon I parked my car at the end of the street Tilfluktsveien. My plan was to go up to the top of the hill Komsa. The winter ways turned out to be ski trails and I since I went afoot, I went beside the trail. First I thought about getting my skis, but soon I found a trampled path that brought me to the top of the Komsa. Thank you, locals, for knowing the best way and tramping this path! On the top of the Komsa it was very windy and I sought shelter behind the radio station to change the camera lens. Nearby stood two sheds with parabolic antennas. The green camouflage pattern revealed the military usage. I have to admit that I was a bit nervous standing there with my camera and the long telephoto lens, especially when I aimed directly to the sheds to catch the mountain view above. I’m quite sure that it’s strictly forbidden to take pictures of military installations in Norway as in many other countries. After taking some images (landscape, no military installations!) three soldiers appeared and approached. They went into my direction and they seemed to be in a hurry. (Gulp!) But they just said “hoi”, passed by and entered the wooden house of the radio station. (Phew!) There were not at all interested in my photographing and probably just wanted to avoid the chilly wind. I was reliefed and wandered around a bit. The stormy wind was chilly but the views where so beautiful.

Two other photos of today.

One: The Nordlyskatedralen (The Northern Light Cathedral) in Alta, a remarkable building.

Two: Wakan, an Alaskan Malamute, that will participate the Finnmarksløpet, a 1000 kilometre dog sled race that starts in Alta in a few days. Good luck!

Purple sandpipers

Day 49

Today in Olderfjord: I only went to the beach to make a photo of the mountain reflecting in the fjord …

… when I came across a huge flock of resting birds that turned out to be Purple Sandpipers. Cautiously I changed the lens and tried to get nearer, nearer, nearer. The birds got a bit nervous but didn’t fly away. But suddenly – I didn’t move at all – the whole flock arose into the air, wheeled over the sea in a large circle, divided into two minor flocks and one of them came back to the place where I stood landing just some metres in front of me. Just great!

 

 

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.

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!

 

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

 

2015-03-10 22:42

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 – the animals

Let’s see which animals I got to see under my journey Nordkalotten 2015:

Moose (Elch, älg)

Three moose. The first one I saw from the inside of a house. A big male that walked on the road with a car slowly following. The other two I saw from the car.

Article: Where to go? Undecided yet …

Reindeer (Rentier, ren)

Countless reindeers. Reindeers are so common that I saw them many, many times (and I don’t count the tame or the fenced in ones). Several times I had to slow down or to stop because of reindeers being on the road. Sometimes they do not leave the road but instead start to flee. It’s a bit funny to follow the tails of four galloping reindeers with the car but it must be exhausting for them and I’m always glad when they leave the road.

The reindeers in Northern Scandinavia aren’t wild animals, they always belong to a Sámi family. You see them pulling sleds, posing for photos or even participate in sledge-races.

Articles: Reindeers – many, many reindeers · Jokkmokks marknad

Fox (Fuchs, räv)

The first fox I saw as a pair of eyes glimmering in the darkness while I drove car. The second one I saw from the car, too on my journey to Kirkenes. I took first same photos from the inside of my car. I tried to get nearer, but the fox went away and disappeared soon.

Mountain hare (Schneehase, skogshare)

I saw a mountain hare near Abisko. It looked at me from a hill above. I didn’t even try to follow, since mountain hares are a zillion times faster than me with skis in deep snow on hilly and forestry terrain. No photos therefore.

Seal (Robbe, säl)

We saw a seal in the harbour when we started the whale safari in Andenes. Since we were told to protect our cameras from spray and waves we all had our cameras in. No photo neither.

Whale (Wal, val)

Yes I saw whales and more than expected. A great experience!

Article: Whale watching in Andenes.

Eagle (Adler, örn)

Some. A pair sitting on the breakwater in Andenes. It was too dark for taking photos. I saw some flying here and there but too far away.

Ptarmigan (Schneehuhn, ripa)

Only two (which is a sign that I’ve been less out in nature as planned). One from the car, one in the valley Vistasdalen on a ski tour with Annika.

Article: A day trip into the valley Vistasdalen

Purple sandpiper (Meerstrandläufer, skärsnäppa)

Twice. Some at the shore in Tromsø and a larger group in Olderfjord. This was a short but awesome experience seeing them fly away and return to the same place again.

Articles: Purple sandpipers and Tromsø: At the shore.

Siberian jay (Unglückshäher, Lavskrika)

Twice. Some at the Polcirceln and two near Kirkenes. They were much to shy for me to get good photos, so I publish a bad one ;-)

Of course there are many, many more species in Northern Scandinavia but especially the big carnivores – bear, lynx, wolf and wolverine – are extremely rare to see. Most bears are seen from the car, but not in wintertime when they have winter rest. And to be honest, I don’t want to meet a bear when hiking in the forest.

Postscript: Husky

I didn’t mention the Huskies, of course they are animals, too. But I thought more about the animals found in the wilderness, when I wrote this article. Anyway, some links to articles with photos of huskies:

Articles: Kirkenes: A night in the snow hotel · Jokkmokks marknad

Postscript 2: The Old Norwegian Sheep

These curious, cuddly fellows belong to the Nøisomhed Gård in Haukenes, where I stayed right in the beginning of my journey.

Nordkalotten 2015 – the weather

Let’s make it short: I feel betrayed by the winter this year! It was too windy and it was too warm! Much too warm. And when it snowed, I was far away.

First of all it was too warm – the average temperature of the whole February was 8 °C too high in parts of central Swedish Lapland. That’s about the same difference as between Stockholm and Rome! The whole february! And March wasn’t better. The “all journey minimum temperature” I measured was only -24 °C, I expected temperatures near -40 °C, at least once.

And it was very windy – Norway got its hurricane Ole with average wind speeds up to 36 m/s (that’s level 12 on the Beaufort scale) and gusts up to 53 m/s (that’s level 16 on the extended Beaufort scale!). But many others days were windy and stormy, too, even if not so severe as hurricane Ole.

Most trees where free of snow. Either the snow was blown away or it just melted and dropped down. That made not only the pine forests looking quite boring, but also the snow looking quite dirty, since it was covered with leaves, needles, small branches, bark and much more.

That didn’t look like the untouched, virgin winter landscape in early February but more like city parks in late April, a minor catastrophe for photographers who want to show impressive winter images. Luckily there were exceptions and I got at least some wintry images with snow covered trees, even if only a few.

Yes, it has been cold in January. Some days. In Sweden, but not in coastal Norway where I was at this time. Yes, it snowed ridiculously much in the first days in February, both in the coast and in central Lapland, but not in Abisko in the western mountain region, where I was at this time. It was a bit like being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Later, when Ole arrived, big amounts of snow where forecasted in the mountains, but I considered the weather too dangerous to drive there. As in early February I only saw the results, never the snow fall itself.

And then came the warmth. Since the 24th of February I’ve measured temperatures above zero almost every single day. And this effect wasn’t local, it took place in the whole Northern Europe. In Norway, in Sweden, in Finland. Streets were icy, snow was crusty and I was just glad when it didn’t rain.

Yes, when it comes to weather I am really disappointed. It was the lousiest winter ever, that I experienced north from the polar circle, where I’ve been travelling round since January 2003 now.

Don’t get me wrong! The journey was great, but mostly it was great despite of the weather, not because of the weather.

Last winter was quite bad, too, this winter lousy, now I hope, that winter 2016 will be extraordinary cold and snowy and that I’ll find the time to travel around again.

Links

2015-03-16 11:34

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!

Two months ago – first aid course in Solberget

Day 31 – 38

Today when I look outside the window, I realised that winter finally has left Skelleftehamn. The patch of snow that I stood upon ten days ago to view the Northern Lights has melted away and some trees start to show their first little leaf buds.

Well – it looked different when I was in Solberget in Swedish Lapland two months ago, where a first aid course of the “Outdoorschule Süd” took place. The week was filled with many actions – both course units indoors and outdoors and leisure, too. If you are one of the course participant you will realise, that I left out quite much.  That’s because I tried to keep the text very short – it’s more keyword style – and focus more on the photos.

Saturday

Arrival day: an incredible starry night with even a bit of faint Northern Lights

Sunday

Course unit outdoors, training recovery position (“Stabile Seitenlage”) – course unit indoors, training cardiopulmonary resuscitation (“Herz-Lungen-Wiederbelebung”) – and a beautiful coloured evening sky.

Monday

How to move injured people: a lot of teamwork is needed – frost patterns again – Lars, the Sámi, tells us about the reindeer herding

Tuesday

How to evacuate injured people from an observation tower – reindeer sledge ride. (No people were harmed)

Wednesday

Ski tour to Polcirceln, where we’ll stay to nights. I slept in my tent since the two cabins are really small.

Thursday

A misty morning – another “real life case”: hypothermia – a beautiful dusk. (No people were harmed)

Friday

Ski tour back to Solberget – another fantastic dinner, this time: salmon.

Saturday (again)

The last day – many serious studies as: How many people fit into the igloo (Answer: all!) or who wins the snowball fight

Thank you, Angela and Stefan from the “Outdoorschule Süd” for a great week!

 

2015-04-21 07:55