Gratulerer med dagen from abroad

Today is syttende mai (17th of May), the Norwegian national day. On 17 May 1814 the The Constitution of Norway that declared Norway to be an independent kingdom was signed. That’s why Norway turns 207 years today. Gratulerer med dagen – Happy birthday!

The first time that I was in Norway was the turn of the year 2003/04 together with a friend. Although the weather was really miserable – storm and rain – I was so fascinated by that country, that I travelled there one month later again to find a job as a developer.

Well, I didn’t find a job. I couldn’t speak Norwegian, didn’t have much programming experience and the dot-com bubble was still present.

2005, one and a half year later I visited Tromsø for the first time of my life after a week of hiking on the Hardangervidda. I had less than two days to discover this town but since then it has been my favourite town in Scandinavia.

Anyhow I didn’t think about moving there. The same year I had been in Northern Sweden twice and preferred the colder winters there. In addition to that I was a bit scared of mørketiden – the seven weeks in winter, where the sun stays below the horizon. Five years later I moved to Sweden.

This year however I was sure that I will be in Norway for syttende mai, since I’ve been working in Tromsø since last October.

Well, at least on the papers. Due to Covid 19 we were strongly advised to work from home, which I can better in our house in Obbola/Sweden than in my tiny room in Tromsø. On 22 November 2020 I took the plane to Oslo, another one to Stockholm and a third to Umeå. Since then I’ve been working and living home in Obbola. In five days I’ll have been here for half a year.

It feels a bit like a dream. Did I really work in the office of the Norsk Polarinstitutt in Tromsø? Together with others? Walked the 1.7 km from my shared flat? Enjoyed the first snow in the mountains? Took a kayak course?

Only when I miss my down sleeping bag (in Tromsø), my macro lens (in Tromsø), my rain parka (in Tromsø) I realise that I still have my flat there. And of course when I have to pay the monthly rent. And that’s a lot because it is ridiculously expensive to live there.

At time I’m forbidden to travel to Norway even though I have a job and a shared flat there. It’s unclear when I’ll be allowed there again. Until then I have the blog articles as memory of my two months in Tromsø to remember, the knowledge that I’ll be there again but most of all a wonderful time home.

Breakfast to go

About transporting breakfast in a wheelbarrow and hunting kayaks by the sea.

Some of you may remember the picture taken three weeks ago:

Martin’s answer in the comment was right: We have two kayaks now! Annika bought hers three weeks ago, a new, bright yellow one. Since then it has snowed several times – last time six days ago but today the weather promised to be calm and sunny. Because of Ascension Day Annika and I had a free day today and as usual we started it with a breakfast. Almost …

We didn’t put the breakfast on the terrace table, but in a wheelbarrow. In addition to food and drink there was a camping mat, clogs, sun glasses, caps, my camera and a sponge. While I pushed the wheelbarrow to the shore, Annika took two paddles, for today we would kayak to a beach on the island Bredskär and take our breakfast there.

The air was warm but the sea is still icy cold, so we both were dressed in drysuits. Gloves and such however was not needed any longer.

We paddled counterclockwise along the island Bredskär. Wind as sea were calm and the sun warmed us. We circled a small stony cape and then we turned sharp left to enter a small bay with a sandy beach. There we got out of our kayaks and dragged them up the beach.

Almost 11 o’clock. Both of us were hungry and eager to start breakfast – or better said brunch. We carried the food up the rocky cliff of the cape that we just had gone around by kayak. Time to roll out the camping mat, pour orange juice into the plastic cups and start our brunch.

After eating bread with cheese, egg or herring in mustard sauce and some chocolate (Marabu with salted almonds) we just sat there and enjoyed. We watched the agile terns fly, we spotted three tiny sail boats leaving the shore. We heard a loud HOOOO! from the air horn of a ship, but we couldn’t spot it. The three sailing boats headed for the open sea getting smaller and smaller. And finally we saw the cause of the air horn: The Wasa ferry to Finland that at time docks in the industry port and has a bit of longer way to the sea. Slowly it approached and passed our observation spot.

The waves of the Wasaline ferry came nearer and nearer. No problem – we sit on land.

I cannot remember whether I heard the waves running into the sandy bay or if I saw them. Anyhow, I turned my head and could watch the waves that had reached our kayaks and started to pull them into the sea. I climbed down the cliff with my cheap plastic clogs as fast as I could, ran over the sand and waded into the water to fetch the first kayak I could reach. It was mine. Now I was a bit more relaxed. We could use my kayak to fetch Annika’s that already has been pulled out into deeper water. Annika however had still her drysuit on and waded to her kayak until she could grab it. Now the waves had started pushing her kayak back and soon both were on dry land again.

2 people: ✔︎ / 2 kayaks: ✔︎ / 2 paddles: ✔︎ – good luck!

To our learning for today: Even when the sea is calm – put your kayak on land properly! Now with the kayaks being save again we returned to the cliff, we sat down onto the camping mat again and watched the ferry on its journey to behind the horizon.

There we sat for a while, but then we put our things together, entered the kayaks and paddled home. After less then 2km of paddling we landed at the shore in front of our house where the wheelbarrow waited for that food that we hadn’t eaten. I still feel being extremely privileged, that I may live at such an outstanding place together with Annika.

Later that day we were in town where we got the warmest day yet: Up to 23 °C (or 24? I don’t remember) were shown by the car thermometer and when we bathed in the lake Stocksjön it was no winter bath any longer. Yes, there is still snow in the forest and even a larger patch of it beside the house but this will not last long.

Springtime!

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.

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.

Drip, drip, drip …

… it sounds, when I go outside. After a longer period with frosty winter weather a period of warm period has started today. The forecast predicts plus temperatures for the next ten days, at least in the daytime.

Yesterday was quite windy, -4 °C and it had been snowing a while. Despite the frost temperatures the snow was mixing with tiny rain drops that froze on the outer window pane of my home office room. I took the opportunity for a last “sub zero” tour with skies.

First I had to climb a snow drift beside the house. There I had a look on our barbecue place. Do you see the two benches in the photo below ;-)? Then I entered the sea ice and followed the coastal line until I reached the spot where I saw the open water last weekend. Now the ice floes first had frozen together and then were covered with snow. Now it’s not possible any longer for me to distinguish between stable and weak ice. So, the sea ice skiing season may be over now. The rest of the tour I skied on land until I was home again.

Appendix: That’s the table on our terrace. We had waited for the snow to cover it completely but this place heads to the sea and is exposed to the wind, so the snow drifts were lower than on the other side of the house.

 

Changing plans

Last Sunday in Kont, 30 minutes by car from home:

Annika and I skied around on the sea ice and reached places we’ve never been before. We were not the only ones. A lot of other people skied, skated or walked and some of them just sat there in down jackets on the ice or used the barbecue areas on land. All of them seemed to enjoyed the wonderful winter weather.

We saw a lot of reindeer tracks, caused by the very same herd that I saw yesterday. And we realised, how near the island Tarv is from there, that’s the island I skied to two weeks ago. So a plan was made: next weekend we shall ski to Kont and back again. That’s about 10 to 12 km.

Now it’s “next weekend”. It has become grey, foggy and snowy with much warmer temperatures round -1 to -2 °C. Not the exiting weather that we hoped for. So we cancelled the tour for today. Instead I skied alone heading for Obbolstenarna , a group of small skerries that we visited with friends last Sunday, also on skis.

When I should turn to Obbolstenarna I hesitated. I looked like the open water had come nearer and that last Sunday’s way over the ice wouldn’t exist any longer. So instead of turning left I followed the coastal line straight ahead.

A good idea.

The open water reached to the southern tip of Obbolaö and it wasn’t longer anymore to go round on the ice. So I stepped up the ice covered rocks. From there I could spot a large rock, that I had skied around several times. Now it had become impossible without taking a cold bath. So our plans were not only crossed by the dull weather (our decision) but more from the wind, that blew from the sea and crushed large areas of last weekends sea ice (Nature’s decision). We wouldn’t have come long.

After taking these photos I didn’t dare to explore further and skied back the same way. I could hear the foghorn of a large ship but I couldn’t see it. When I almost was home again I spotted it in the harbour of Holmsund. It was the Wasaline ferry that goes between Holmsund and the Finnish town Vaasa.

I met some ice fishers, who told me, that this winter has been extraordinary for Obbola. Both the amount of snow and the large area of solid sea ice is not usual for here. I’m glad and grateful that I was able to experience such in my first winter in Annika’s and my new home.

Outdoor exhibition

A Covid-19 compatible art exhibition visit.

What’s that? That’s the Baltic Sea off Obbola. When you stand on the ice, you see the frozen surface reaching to the horizon.

Today I take the skis to explore our coast the first time from the frozen sea. I head south and ski along the coast until I reach our beach Vitskärsudden.

From there I can see an apparently higher wall of ice at the southern tip of the island Tarv, 1.3 km away in the southwest. I do not know this part of the Baltic Sea in wintertime. Is it safe? Can I dare to cross the ice? Well, let’s check for tracks or prints.

OK. There is roe deer prints, footprints, ski tracks, ice skating cuts and a snowmobile trail. And I can see skiers on the ice. Doesn’t look too dangerous. Of course I have my ice picks round my neck as a rescue tool in case of breaking into the ice. Spoiler: the ice sings but nothing happens.

I ski across the ski and there it is. This year’s ice art exhibition:

How large are the exhibits? Here, where I took the photos mostly between 150 and 200 cm.

Most impressive is the ice wall along the coast. But some of the ice formations on the solitaire rocks look interesting, too. If you lay down they look like mountains.

I follow the coastal line of Tarv and finally find a place where the ice wall is so low, that I can enter the island. On the sea there was hardly half a cm of snow, here it’s more half a metre. And a lot of forest.

Parts of the forest are quite dense but after a while of squeezing between the trees I find a snowmobile trail that leads back to the coast. Although it is one and a half hours before sunset the light starts to become a bit orange.

Now I ski back quite the same way.

When our House comes into view I see that the front chimney is smoking. Has Annika warmed up the uninsulated winter garden? Yes, she has! A fire is burning in the stove and I even get a hot chocolate. A warm welcome! And a cool tour!

From dawn till dusk

After some cloudy days the sky cleared yesterday afternoon so that Annika and I could do cross-country skiing under the full moon. Beautiful!

This morning was crisp (-17 °C) and sunny. I took a short break from work and skied a bit along the icy coast, just in time to see the sun rise behind the layer of clouds at the horizon.

I stopped working already at 14:30 and directly put on the skis again. I managed to follow more or less the icy edge to the bay Vitskärsudden, our favourite bathing place. The sun was going down already and lit the ice in warm sunset colours. The scenery looked really arctic. And it felt arctic, too. I felt quite cold and was glad, that I had a down jacket with me to put over the touring jacket.

It was mostly the forests that revealed the fact, that it’s not the Arctic Ocean but the Baltic Sea that I ski along. And of course the houses, hardly 200 meter away from the icy shore.

When I arrived at Vitskärsudden I realised that – unless another storm would break all the ice – bathing season is finally over. I posted a picture on Facebook in the Umeå winter bathing group and then returned home, still on skis but mostly following the roads.

Even with taking the photos the tour took less than two hours. But it felt like having holiday. It’s really a privilege to be able to live here!

 

Ski premieres 2021

The first ski premiere was already last Saturday. We were not the only ones who read that Olles Spår, a cross country ski track northwest of Umeå was freshly prepared. The parking place was filled with eighty other cars when we arrived. We took the 5 km lap. Oh, so nice to be able to ski again!

Being back at the car there were even more cars. They filled the parking place and parked along the road as well. But at least one of the skiers didn’t came by car but by bike.

Today I had my backcountry premiere. I was so eager after the snowfall yesterday and last night.

It took some preparation. First I had to dig free the garage door to fetch the old skis (the new ones are in Tromsø). Then I had to thaw the door look of our house with a hair dryer to be able to lock the door. But finally I could start. I took the way to our beach Vitskärsudden but as expected it looked quite different from last week.

The car roads were cleared but there was just enough snow to ski. The plain was partly easy to ski, partly the snow was so loose that my skis went submarine. Here I heard and felt the first **whooop**, the sound of a larger area of snow settling under my weight. A clear sign of avalanche danger in the mountains but no problem here.

And then I arrived at the beach. While the sea was open again, the beach was only ice and snow. Probably the ice floes that prevented our previous winter bathing had been washed ashore yesterday morning, when we had a water level of +60 cm.

I decided to follow the shore to the left. I never went there before. There were snowdrifts where I sank to my knees with skis on and I know that there are a lot of rocks, but skiing went better than excepted.

Oh – so many motives. But this tour was only an extended lunch break from work. I didn’t have as much time as desired. Following the coastal line slowed me down because of the uneven and icy underground and finally I had to go back into the forest.

Anyhow I was slowed down even more in the forest because the snow was so loose that I got bogged down to the ground all the time and then my skis got caught in the underwood. I was glad when I reached a road again. Now I just headed back until I arrived home two hours later – later than planned.

And after the ski tour? Back to work!