Norwegian summer journey I

This article is part of the series “2021-08: Northern Norway”.

Annika and I have two weeks holiday and are travelling through Northern Norway. Our southernmost point: Lofoten, right now we are in Hammerfest.

Ten images looking back:

10 – We are on the high plateau Sennalandet. There are hardly any trees and the road E6 crosses the plateau in a straight line. I can imagine how rough and lonely this place may be in winter.

9 + 8 – The Øksfjordjøkelen is definitely worth the 16 km detour. The parking place and the small path leading through the sparse birch forest grant impressive views on this glacier. When the weather is clear.

7 – It’s grey on our passage from Andenes, Vesterålen to Gryllefjord, Senja. I stand on the top deck of the ferry and wonder how many tourists may have rung this bell and what had happened then.

6 – We just left Andenes by ferry. The razor sharp mountain line of Bleik will soon transform into a whitish grey scheme slowly vanishing in the drizzle.

5 + 4 – It is grey on our short ferry passage from Fiskebøl, Lofoten to Melbu, Vesterålen, too.

3 – One of the typical features of the Norwegian landscapes is the presence of high summits and fjords. Sometimes the mountains are reflected in the water surface of the sea.

2 – Hauklandstranda is one of these incredible beaches on the Lofoten islands with white sand and turquoise water. The sun is shining – time for a bath. Air temperature 11 °C, water 12 °C. Not as cold as expected.

1 – We pass Sildpollnes kapell on the Lofoten twice. Once on our way south and once when heading back again. There’s a parking place by the road where stairs and ways lead up to some hills that present a view over the landscapes around.

0 – On Saturday I leave Tromsø to fetch Annika from Riksgränsen train station in Sweden. It’s still not possible to travel further to Narvik by train. Our destination today: a room in Tjeldsundbrua.

April weather – kayaking through the snow

Yesterday the whole day was sunny. The sun was warm enough that we could take breakfast on the terrace. At lunch time we took a bath at Vitskärtsudden. Of course the water temperature is hardly above zero, but it felt springlike to go barefoot over the sand of the beach. Yes – sand, no more ice or snow!

Today however:

In the morning it has started snowing and since then it has been constantly snowing at temperatures round 0.3 °C. A good opportunity for …

… kayaking! Although wind had become stronger the Baltic Sea still was calm. Maybe it was the snow, that created a wet blanket of slush and made parts of the surface slow and doughy, but that I don’t know.

I just took a tour round Lillskär, but took some photos with my Nikon. That took time, because each time I took photos the wind blew me back 50 to 100 metres again. But as I said, the water was calm and it didn’t took long to round the island, cross a field of floating slush, disturb some geese and return home.

Short experiences can be great and memorable experiences!

A photo from the afternoon – still snowing. The original photo looked almost black-and-white and so I made this composition completely black-and-white with a slide blueish tone.

The background: a line of trees, dimmed by the intense snow fall. The middle layer: A line of rocks in the sea, covered with snow. The foreground: The sea, covered with a layer of slush.

Spring kayaking – kind of …

In the last weeks a lot of snow has melted and the sea ice has vanished. Only in some shallow, protected bays as Grundviken behind our house some ice is left. Spring is near!

Today I took advantage of the calm and sunny weather and took a short kayak tour round the island Bredskärssten. This island is 900 m from the mainland and round 300 m long.

Paddling to the island was easy. That’s, because we mostly have wind from the west and many kayak tours start with tailwind. Some ice floes floated in the lee of Bredskärssten.

I could hear a deep droning sound. A ship? I looked over my shoulder and behind Bredskär – the larger island nearby – the bow of Wasaline, the ferry to Finland appeared. I “parked” between the ice floes to take some images. with my mobile phone.

I continued paddling round the island. Two geese fleed loudly quacking from the island. I saw the reason seconds later: an eagle wheeling above the island.

Of course I had headwind on my way back. But the mainland was near and home in view all the time. Soon I arrived at the very same ice floe where I had started the tour. Time to continue my work in my home office …

With dressing, undressing, dragging the kayak and all the tour took an hour.

Black and white weather

+1 °C, grey and hazy with some rainy showers. I ignore the weather and go out for a longer walk. Time to put a black and white film in the iPhone.

The ice is breaking

The first own video on way-up-north.com – just a rough edit

It is wind and waves that break the sea ice in the spring. And it already feels like spring. Last weekend I saw the first whooper swans and then the first seagulls – either swimming or standing on the ice bridge to the near islet Lillskär.

One week ago I dragged my kayak over the ice to that islet to start a short paddle tour from there. Since then Annika and I could watch how the open sea nibbled at the ice from both sides until only a broad ice bridge was left over.

This ice bridge became narrower and narrower. Today I used my lunch break to slip into my waterproof suit and walk to Lillskär. Even the solid ice had become cracks and these future ice floes raised and sank with the waves. As if the sea would inhale and exhale under my feet.

I went to the island, trudged to the snow and watched the waves at the outer shore. When I returned I saw, that the ice bridge almost had gone. I managed to walk back without wading or swimming, but it was close. Half an hour later the last ice shield was crushed away by the waves and Lillskär is an island again.

Today I don’t show photos but a video. I apologise for the lousy editing but I’m a video newbie and wanted to publish the video today.

Kayak – crisp morning – roe deer – crushed ice

The week in five chapters – including photographers comments

Tuesday, 16. March, 7:45 – a short kayak tour

The blue sky invited to interrupt work and take a short kayak tour. It hardly needs preparation: Putting on the waterproof coverall, put the iPhone in a waterproof bag and drag the kayak over the ice to the islet Lillskär. Then it gets a bit harder to find a good place to set the kayak into the water. I found a place and some minutes later I paddled to the island Bredskär. The tour however turned out to be shorter than planned because between the islands Bredskär and Bredskärsten the Baltic Sea had frozen over in the night. I wasn’t eager to hack myself through the ice, so I turned and realised, that – as so often – the wind came from land and was fresher than expected. At time I do not have a real drysuit for paddling and moving in the thick neoprene survival suit is exhausting. But it’s great to be outdoors, even when the tour is only a tiny one.

Photographers comment:

It’s always like spinning a wheel of fortune, when you try to photo with an iPhone in a waterproof bag and your fingers are in rubber gloves. Sometimes nothing happens, sometimes you have waterdrops on the bag, sometimes the camera triggers too late and sometimes you’re taking pictures of your own gloves as in image #3.

Photoing like this is about visual storytelling, not about high quality photos you want to put on the wall of your living room. But on the other side, why actually not?

Yesterday, 6:30 –a crisp morning

-10 °C, could be the last cold morning before the warm air will arrive. I walked to the coast quite early and took some photos. One from the packed ice, that has frozen together, one of a funny ice sculpture that I discovered a bit further out.

Photographers comment:

Alas – a DSLR camera. Not waterproof and much heavier but much more fun to handle. The quality of the photos is of course superior but something is missing a bit: The beautiful warm light of the sunrise. The sun rises however already at 5:43, so I was almost an hour too late.

You have to decide: Do you want to sleep or to take better photos? It’s up to you.

Today, 8:30 – cautious visitors

When I went to the living room this morning I saw a movement outside. Right under the kitchen window two roe deer were eating leftovers of the bird food that was lying in the snow. Annika and I hold distance to the window and even though they were extremely cautious they didn’t seem to be able to see us through the glass. They continued eating for a short while and then went on. I slowly opened the kitchen window to give them carrots, but as expected they didn’t dare to come back. Now the carrots stuck in the snow and we’re curious if they’ll find them there the next days.

Photographers comment:

Luckily the roe deer stood on a metre of solid snow, so they could peek in and we could peek out and see them. The first photo gives a good impression of how near they were, even though it is taken with a focal length of 200mm.

Today, 12:00 – no winter bath

The whole day it has been above zero and at 11 o’clock it started to rain. In the need of fresh air Annika and I walked to Vitskärsudden. We weren’t prepared for a winter bath and it would have been quite useless since the whole bay was filled with ice floes and crushed ice and slush that lazily followed the slow waves of the sea.

Photographers comment:

Well, while the motive is quite ok, the grey overcast weather made the light so dull and poor in contrast, that the photo looks pale and boring. Should you photograph under such conditions? Well, of course! But don’t expect the best results.

Today, 15:45 – crushed ice

Where I started my Tuesday morning paddle tour now a large area of the sea was covered with the very same mixture of ice floes, smaller pieces of ice and slush. I went to Lillskär again – equally prepared as for paddling – and watched the ice floes. It’s mostly the trees of the neighbouring islands that prevent the scenery looking completely arctic, but it’s still impressive.

Finally I took my ice bath but since I didn’t get wet in my coverall it probably doesn’t count.

Photographers comment:

The conditions: bad. Again iPhone in a bag and rubber gloves plus the grey sky. Taking the selfie however was fun.

That makes me realise that I’m quite result-orientated when I make photos. Sometimes I just forget, that the process of photographing itself can be fun, last not least because it gives you reasons to do silly thinks like standing outside the whole night, wade through a mud bog or like today – just jump into the ice pool.

What was your last “crazy” photo action?

The last cold morning?

A clear blue sky, -20 °C – this may be the last cold morning here in Obbola. I was up early and went to the coast to catch the sunrise. The sea, where I paddled yesterday afternoon was completely frozen over again. Patches of ice fog drifted by – a clear sign that other parts of the sea are open (and that it’s cold). The fog partly hid the island Bredskärssten.

When did you watch your last sunrise? Do it again! It’s always fascinating to see the sky and the clouds change colours– from soft pink to deep purple, from crimson red to bright orange. The sunrise position has moved more and more westwards. Now it’s behind the larger island Bredskär. The sun illuminated the drifting fog in spots of orange.

Now in mid-March the sun rises much faster than in midwinter and soon the colours went pale. Time to go back and to warm up. The parka and mittens kept me warm, but the ski pants were a bit too thin when sitting on the ice.

Opening the kayak season 2021

The last time I sat in a kayak was on the technique sea kayaking course in Tromsø almost four months ago. After a cold February home in Obbola that made the Baltic Sea freeze over the sea has now been open again for a few days.

Today we had calm weather – blue sky and temperatures round -10 °C. I woke up at 6 o’clock and took the opportunity to open the kayak season with a pre-breakfast paddling. I had to drag the kayak to the islet Lillskär because there is still thick, solid ice. At Lillskär’s northern tip I got into the kayak.

I decided for paddling to the group of islands called Obbolstenarna – the Obbola stones – about a kilometre in the south. I tried to use my woollen mittens but then the partly ice covered paddle was so slippery, that I lost control over it. So I had to be content with the rubber gloves, that are attached to the waterproof floating suit, that I was wearing for security.

First I paddled over open water, then through thin ice, easy to break through with paddle and kayak, then through slightly thicker ice where I had to back several times to find a better way.

But even when your slow you’ll reach your destination and so I arrived at the northeastern edge of the ice covered rocks of Obbolstenarna. I can see this place from my home office window but now I was glad to take a small “promenade” through another ice expedition – this time not by ski but kayak.

No, I didn’t dare to paddle under the ice tunnel. I guess it was several tons of ice arching above the small passage. A weight I don’t want to fall on my head.

It looked like I could continue for hours along the ice coast of the islands, but I already had realised that I would have headwind on my way back and the wind was stronger than expected. The way back was actually exhausting – both for the condition and my finger tips that started to get very cold in the chilly wind. I had to stop from time to time and rub the gloves to get my fingers warm again and in these seconds my kayak was blown halfway back again. Alas, it’s only a kilometre (a bit more when you zigzag through the ice fields) and finally I reached Lillskär again.

I heaved the kayak on land and walked it back home, first over the islet, then over the solid ice between islet and mainland.

Now I had to cross a hundred metres of snow, leave my kayak beside our still snowed-in barbecue place, walk another twenty steps and I was home again. First action: taking a hot shower! Next action: buy a new drysuit, the survival suit sucks for paddling.