5 × 5 images from a Hurtigruten cruise

Two weeks ago I took the plane from Tromsø to Bergen. From there I would travel back to Tromsø by Hurtigruten together with my sister, my brother-in-law and my mother. My wife Annika would join us in Trondheim two days later.

22 May

There is still a lot of snow in the mountains on Tromsøya, Kvaløya, Senja and other islands I do not recognise from the plane. But in the lowland it is springtime.

I travelled with the Hurtigruten several times, but never south from Trondheim. We were not the only one’s boarding in Bergen. A lot of people use the Hurtigruten as a cruise ship, not as a possibility to travel from A to B. And there it lies, the vessel Kong Harald.

We have boarded round 18:00. At 20:30 we are departing and leave the town Bergen behind.

We are in sheltered waters and you hardly notice the ship moving beside of the motor’s vibrations. Even though Bergen is nine degrees south from Tromsø is does not get dark anymore.

The weather is cloudy but when the sun peeks through a holes in the clouds it looks beautiful.

23 May

One breakfast later: We arrive in Ålesund where the Hurtigruten will stay for ten hours. Time to explore this town which looks so different from the towns in the north. Ålesund has many Art Nouveau houses and “exotic” plants like azaleas are blooming everywhere. Together with my sister I climb the four hundred and something steps up the Aksla where we have an awesome view on the town.

We have also a view on the cruise ship AIDA prima. And beside of that – our Hurtigruten ship Kong Harald. It looks so tiny in comparison. I definitely prefer the small one.

I take a short stroll through town before I met the others. First I admire all the small Art Nouveau details on the houses, then I almost get a culture shock when I find this tunnel:

In the evening we circumnavigate the island Hessa, because the ship is “reparked” on the other side of Ålesund. After a very warm and sunny day clouds have been gathering. But the sun manages to send beams through the clouds.

Is this one of the life boats? I mean – a photo of one of the life boats? No, it is a photo of a reflection of one of the life boats. It is reflected in the glass facade of an office building by the port.

24 May

Where are we? In Trondheim. Yay! I was so looking forward to meet Annika there. She checks in, then we take a short stroll in town along the channel with the groundbreaking name Kanalen – the channel.

As in Tromsø there are Kittiwakes in Trondheim. They use to screech a lot – often to each other – but these two fellows seem to be a bit shy, at least in the minute where I took the photo.

At lunchtime we leave Trondheim behind. The shimmering sunlight is reflected by zillions of tiny waves. We meet commercial ships, fishing boats, two kayaks and sometimes a sailing boat.

On the port side there is the open sea. Blue sky, blue sea, a small skerry and a house. Wait, a house? Yes, it is erected on a floating raft. What you cannot see – it is part of one of the countless salmon farms located in coastal Norway.

I have moved into Annikas cabin. It has no regular window but two portholes. It is five to eleven in the evening and the sun peeks into our small but practical cabin.

And that’s the night where I get sick. That really wouldn’t have been necessary at all.

25 May

I am feeling ill and I sleep, I sleep and I sleep. I do not leave the cabin before 17:45 to take some photos while we are approaching the Lofoten islands. They look like mirages at the hazy horizon.

Round half past seven we are approaching Stamsund, passing rocky skerries and rocky mountains. Northern Norway, here we come!

At the harbour a graffito was sprayed or painted on the outer wall of the waiting room. Free high fives! For me however it was time to continue sleeping …

… but I got up at 23:15 again to see more from the Lofoten islands. Some of the mountains look like not being from this world.

The light got dim but it didn’t get dark. It’s the first day of midnight sun on the Lofoten. And it is almost midnight.

26 May

The reason for being up so late is that Kong Harald sails into the quite famous and very narrow fjord Trollfjorden. The landscape is impressive because the Hurtigruten is so near to land. – especially the mighty dark rock face in the north.

On our way back I spot a beautiful wave pattern. I really wonder how it was created.

Then it is time for me to sleep. And I sleep long. At lunch time I take some more photos. Now the landscape looks very familiar. No wonder, in an hour we will be in Tromsø, where I’ve been working for three years now. To my relief there is still snow on the mountain tops. It looks so nice.

The sky is still blue and the sea has been calm more or less the whole journey. There is hardly any wind but the flag is flattering in the airstream.

Round two o’clock we pass the southern tip of the island Tromsøya and then the new buildings on the eastern sea side.

After round 93 hours we are leaving the ship. My family checks into their hotel, Annika and I take the bus to my apartment which has become on of my two homes.

Summer weather in Tromsø

10:30. I am sitting in my car on my way to Sommarøya – “The summer island”. The sun is shining and it is warm already. Today it is supposed to be 19 °C, much warmer than the last weeks (or months). The first photo stop, a parking place by the sea. Tussilago is blooming everywhere.

The road leaves the sea and leads through the valley Kattfjordeidet. The lake Kattfjordvatnet lies on 149 metres of altitude. Does not sound much, nevertheless it is high enough that most parts of it are still covered with ice. I like the open areas – small waterfalls and beautiful reflections.

The valley is 12 km long. I leave it behind and meet the sea again. And two locals – reindeer that know the traffic rules and walk on the other side of the street (or better said in the ditch).

Just before the tunnel Oterviktunnelen there is a parking place and shortly after a beautiful sandy beach. It looks so warm, but I didn’t measure the water temperature …

I am lucky, I find a nice shell, a “pelican’s foot”. Then I continue my ride and enter the tunnel. It is not long, just 607 m.

Almost wherever you stop there are nice places to explore, for example this tiny beach, less than ten metres wide. It is not far away from the bridge to Sommarøya.

From the bridge you can see a lot of small islands, many of them with sandy beaches. A kayakers paradise, although the weather can be pretty rough. But if you like challenges, take your boat, head west and after 1600 km you are in Greenland. ;-)

The last weeks I have seen three kinds of wild flowers blooming in and around Tromsø. (1) Tussilago – 17 April (always the first). (2) Dandelion – 26 April. (3) Oxlip (or another primula) – 8 May. Today I discovered two others. According to Pl@ntNet, which I use for identification a Goldilocks buttercup (91.2%) and a Purple mountain saxifrage (94.6%).

Would I find one of my favourites flowers as well – the Marsh marigold, which loves wet places and has an incredibly beautiful hue of yellow. Yes? I found some of them beside a small pond.

On Sommarøya I hardly took any picture, on the outer island Hillesøya I took a photo of one of the boat harbours. In my back an open door, a dark room and in there a man cleaning fish.

After taking lunch in the snack restaurant Havfrua (“The mermaid”) it was time to drive back. I chose the way round the south of the island Kvaløya and made some small stops. One at the ponds and puddles in a boggy area, which now are free of ice. Another by the church Hillesøy kirke, which is by the way not on the island Hillesøya.

And then the time came: 20 °C according to the car thermometer! Last time it was so warm here was last August.

I took another stop to take a photo of one of the mighty mountains on the other side of the strait Straumsfjorden. When I looked down into the deep water I spotted a shoal of fish. It was hundreds, probably thousands of fish resting in the shadow. The photo is heavily edited to make the fish more visible.

After a while I came back to more known areas – less than 30 minutes away from my “work flat” in Tromsø. I stopped at a small grave yard. Most tomb stones were free of snow, but those located in the snow drifts will have to wait a bit longer. Anyhow snow in the lowlands has become the exception. Even the bogs that tend to be cold are hardly frozen any more. And so I had to be quite cautious to avoid wet feet, when I looked for a good place to take a picture of that beautiful pine tree other there – the last photo for today.

Those of you that are not so familiar with Norway as a country may ask yourselves: Why did Olaf make an excursion on a Friday? That’s because today it is Constitution Day. On 17 May 1814 the Constitution of Norway was signed and this is the most important day of the year. Even through our street a marching band walked by and all people have their best clothes on – many of them the traditional bunad which shows, from which part of Norway they come from.

And so I shout out: “Gratulerer med dagen, Norge!” – Happy birthday, Norway!

Here is an article from 10 years ago: Syttende mai (German text).

A day trip to the island Vannøya

It is 10 o’clock on Sunday, 28 April. Marika, whom I know from work and I are in Hansnes on the island Ringvassøya waiting for the ferry. It will take us to the island Vannøya where we want to stay for the day.

I want to take photos, so I am opening the boot of my car and realise that I have forgotten my camera backpack at home. Sh*t! Fortunately I have my Sony camera with me, which does a pretty good job on landscape photography But no time to be grumpy, here comes the ferry.

After a ferry ride of forty minutes we arrive at the island and take the western way to the fishing village Torsvåg. We pass the Polargirl, a passenger ship that uses to make touristic excursions in Svalbard in the summer season.

After seven kilometres we come to our first stop: A small beach. The view is incredible. Snow covered mountains in the back, a cloudless sky above, some islets with white sandy beaches and shallow waters of a turquoise colour so intense that you can see it on satellite images.

We start cleaning the beach, mostly of plastic. A huge amount is plastic nets and ropes from the fishing industry. The plastic is harmful to the environment and is especially dangerous to sea birds. Beach cleaning has become quite popular and it is a good feeling to remove the garbage from nature even when it is only a drop in the ocean. The next photo showing me is taken by Marika.

We stay there for a while, not only because the scenery is to beautiful and the sun shines warmly, but because there are seals out there. Some of them were sitting on rocks until the tide came in, others are swimming in the turquoise water. They are too far away to take good pictures, but I can observe them through my binoculars.

We continue our road trip, occasionally stopping when there is any wildlife. And there is quite a lot. Here at partially frozen puddles we do not only see crows but also a Eurasian curlew.

Minutes later we arrive at Sandsletta, a larger beach. The small sandy dunes are reminiscent of the German North Sea, the mountains aren’t.

There are some more photo stops, either for scenery or for animals. This time a reindeer (we saw some of them) grazing by the road.

Then we arrive at the fishing village Torsvåg. Parts of it are located on Vannøya, others on the small island Kåja. To get there by car you have to cross a dam with a single file concrete road. In the harbour area there is a huge rack full with fish hanging to dry. The dried fish is called stockfish. And there is the Torsvåg lighthouse. If you look north from there, you can see some stony islets and rocks and then there is the open Norwegian sea. Next stop Svalbard.

Is this the end of the island? Well, at least it is the end of this road. But there is more to explore. We turn, drive back 8 km and turn left onto the road to Burøysund in the east. Marika spots an eagle with prey, probably a mountain hare. I do not stop timely and the disturbed eagle flies away to land on a stone nearby. I make a photo through the windscreen, but it is blurred. Anyhow it shows, how big eagles are. You see the crow for size comparison?

Ten minutes later I have stopped the car again, this time for two ptarmigans that first strolled on a meadow by the road and then decided to ignore us and cross the road. Another object with flying abilities was easier to photograph, but what does a propeller plane do on a parking place by the road? Does it use the road for taking off and landing?

We arrive in Burøysund. The whole of Vannøya is a bit “Norway in a nutshell” with its snowy mountains, the blue sea, the rocky shore, the coastal villages. Here anyhow the rocks are special. They are sharp-edged with their “teeth” up into the air and look wild and rough.

Now it is time to head back. On a place we spotted already on our way there we take a late lunch break with the view to the sea (and some ptarmigans and seals in the distance) and the wetlands in our back.

Even if we take the second last ferry we have plenty of time. And we need it, because while driving further I spot something in the water which does not look like seabirds. It is an otter. No, it’s two, wait – three. They meet in the sea and then swim side by side.

Then they go ashore quite near us. One is swimming away soon while the other two stay on land for ten minutes. What an experience so see them so near! I’m sure they have seen us as well but since we are quiet they ignore us. What a pity, that I forgot my Nikon to use the large telephoto lens. The Sony did not manage to take good pictures, also because of the light situation. Anyhow – for the archives – two pictures of the otters:

This day really delivered! Incredible weather and a lot of wildlife. Reindeer, curlews, ptarmigans, geese, eagles, a lot of other birds I do not know, a white mountain hare, the first butterfly of the season (a small tortoiseshell), several seals and now the three otters. Time to catch the ferry with a hasty detour to the south east of the island from which you can see the Nordfugløya (Northern bird island).

Finally we have to hurry a bit but we reach the 19:15-ferry in time. Another forty minutes ferry ride in beautiful light …

… and we are back in Hansnes on the island Ringvassøya which is connected to the island Kvaløya with a tunnel which is connected to the island Tromsøya with a bridge, and that’s where I live. There are worse places!

Takk for turen, Marika!

The first Thursday paddling 2024

Yesterday on 18 April  was the first organised Thursday paddling of the Tromsø Sea Kayakers Club this year. I was eager to join. I took a photo when I arrived at the boat houses:

What is special about this photo? I can show you. In comparison – these are photos I took on other first Thursday paddlings. One on 4 May 2023, one on 28 April 2022.

So this was my first time opening the kayak season in Tromsø where it didn’t snow! Instead the sky was blue, the sun was shining and the temperature round 1 °C. But it was so windy!

Me prepared our kayaks and made ourselves ready and then had a talk about where to go. The tour leaders make proposals and have the last word.

This timewe would go south – against the wind – and see if we make it to Telegrafbukta. OK, let’s go!

I didn’t take a lot of pictures because the wind punished each photo instantly by blowing me back. We took a rest seeking shelter in the lee of a breakwater where one of my fellow kayakers provided us with goodies.

Shall we continue? Yes, ok for all of us. So we left our shelter and continued further south.

The more south we came the stronger the wind got and the higher the waves. We weren’t alone. On the other side of the sound a commercial boat headed south. Nearer a sailing boat, driven my a part of its fore sail. I however had to fight to keep up with the others and I was glad, that Telegrafbukta is not far away.

There we took a break. A short one though because of the chilly wind.

On the way back it felt like a complete different tour. Now we could take it easy. Both wind and waves just pushed us ahead and we hadn’t to do much to keep momentum. Soon the colourful boat houses of the club were in view and a short time later we arrived. A pity, that I didn’t track this tour. I would have liked to know the difference of the speeds there and back.

Most of us kept ourselves near to the shore but some of us like wind and waves and were a bit further out. Here a b/w snapshot of B. in his self-built Greenland kayak. It’s too far away to reveal its beauty.

 

Spring winter in Obbola

I’m sitting in the train travelling from Obbola, my “home home” to Tromsø, my “work home”. Normally the journey would have taken 18 to 19 hours but this train is four hours late. That will probably extend my journey to 37 hours including an overnight stay in Narvik.

The last days we had full vårvinter (literally “spring winter”) which is the transition period between winter and spring. Not only in my opinion this is an own season. And so it can look like:

Tuesday, 9 April

The weather is fine and calm. The drift ice that I paddled through the day before is mostly gone. I take another kayak tour to the islands Obbolstenarna and now also the sea is calm enough to circumnavigate the islands and the ice cap on the rocky shallow.

After the tour I continue my work in home office.

Wednesday, 10 April

It is raining at lunch time and the fog hides the horizon of the Baltic Sea.

Thursday, 11 April

The drift ice has come back over night. The day is sunny.

Friday, 12 April

In the village at lunchtime I spot the first Tussilago which always has been the first flower to bloom in vårvinter. And in front of a house I see some crocuses. It is +7.5 °C.

Some hours later I take a short and icy “farewell kayak tour”. It gets harder to find a good place to set in the kayak. And on the way back I was right when I doubted that the small ice floe would carry my weight. It didn’t. The ice has started to rot and then it’s not stable anymore even when 10 cm thick. So – be prepared.

We still have 50 cm of snow in the garden but round our rowan tree the snow has melted. The birds love to be there picking for food.

Saturday, 13 April

That’s today. I’m sitting in the heavily delayed train heading north. The forest ground and the bogs are covered with snow but the first patches of blueberry twigs are visible, too. It’s nice to see the landscape, but I’ll have a long journey ahead and I’m going to take a nap now.

Spring winter kayaking through the ice.

After yesterday’s ugly and windy conditions the weather today looked quite promising. A good ooportunity to take another kayak tour. At eight o’clock I put on dry suit and life vest and dragged my kayak to the open water by the islet Lillskär.

I paddled slowly to give two pairs of swans time to retreat and then kayaked round the islet. Here a large field of ice floes awaited me.

There were open patches of water, but mostly I paddled through dense ice fields that were moved by long and smooth waves. The large floes were 30 cm thick, some of them even thicker.

How does paddling through the ice work? Most ice floes are small enough to be pushed aside. I tried to paddle around the larger ice floes. Sometimes I bumped into them. and sometimes I just paddled over them by purpose – “brute force”.

After a kilometre I reached open water and then another ice field with thinner and smaller ice floes. Here I could just paddle through and the transparent ice glittered in the sun.

I wanted to reach the “ice berg” south of the islands Obbolstenarna. Out there is a large shallow with some rocks. There the waves build a temporary island of ice and snow. This year it was two to three metres high. I didn’t dare to circumnavigate this icy island because in the shallows around the waves were high and breaking. I considered this being too risky to kayak there since I was alone.

I didn’t kayak around Obbolstenarna neither for the same reasons so I returned. I could see the Finnland ferry in the harbour some kilometres away. Soon I entered the ice field again.

As on the way there I paddled through the floes without any problems. I only landed in a dead end once and that was on purpose for the photo.

Since the weather was great it was so exceptionally beautiful out there I parked my kayak on a larger ice floe and took a short break.

Then it was time to return to the ice edge, walk back to our house and enter my office because this was my first day of a week of home office. Farewell ice floes. Thanks for good company.

The right timing for a small winter kayak tour

Friday afternoon

Yesterday Annika and I took a winter bath in the ice free bay Vitskärsudden, now it is snowing and the wind has blown back a lot of ice floes. Too unstable too walk on, too thick to paddle through. How shall we paddle kayak tomorrow under these conditions?

Saturday

In the morning the sun is shining and the ice floes are gone. I walk to the ice edge that is round about 200 metres from shore. The ice is stable. After breakfast Annika and I dress properly (warm clothes, dry suit, life jacket) and drag our kayaks to the ice edge.

We get into our kayaks on the ice and then hop into the water. Then we turn right and are calmly paddling following the coastal line to the bay Vitskärsudden. First we navigate through some larger ice floes and the usual rocks (our “underwater archipelago”). When we enter the bay a layer of fresh ice is in front of us. It is so thin, that we can paddle through it effortlessly. The sounds of the braking ice are fascinating.

We are not alone. Three other kayakers are further out while other people are taking a walk ashore. One of them took a photo that we found on Facebook:

After we paddle back we build up momentum and paddle right onto the shallow ice shield. We already can see our house – shortly later we are there, longing for a shower.

In the evening the wind has turned and ice floes are drifting back ashore.

Sunday (today)

Did we have calm weather yesterday? Well, not today. The wind is pretty strong and wet snow and sleet is falling from a white-grey sky. The horizon is hidden in the fog.

I take a promenade to Vitskärsudden again. The wind has filled the whole bay with small and large ice floes that wobble in the waves.

I am walking along the ice covered coastal line until I come to the open sea. Here the waves are throwing water, slush and ice ashore so that the shore is covered by metre high ice walls. This view is impressive, pretty arctic and also a bit frightening.

The waves are high and break early. It’s hardly imaginable that Annika and I had a fine and calm kayak tour yesterday. Good timing!

I have five other days in Obbola before I’ll head back to Tromsø. I’m quite curious whether I’m able to take another kayak tour. But today the weather looks quite promising.

First kayaking 2024

Today I took my first kayak tour in 2024. It was much too windy to do a longer tour (and proper photos) and my walking distance was larger then my paddling efforts but hey, at least I was outside. Now I’m eager to kayak more.

Welcome, open sea

When the plane flew above the Baltic Sea shortly before I landed in Umeå nine days ago I realised that it might take time, until I can paddle kayak. The whole sea by the coast was covered with ice.

Even yesterday the open sea was round about a kilometre away from shore. Then it got windy.

When I woke up this morning a lot of the sea ice had gone and I spotted the open water right behind the little islet Lillskär. I put on my waterproof survival suit and went there. The ice between the shore and the island was still solid.

Behind the island was a strip of ice with long cracks. I went to the edge to take some photos.

When I turned around I realised that one of the cracks – seen on the second photo above –has become broader, close to a metre. I preferred swimming the metre to jumping because the ice was slippery. Minutes later the ice floes were drifting away from land and then south. Good bye!

As soon as the wind dies down I want to take the first kayak tour of the year. The weather forecast here is not the best so I’ll have to wait and look.

Almost like a ski tour

When I look at these photos it looks like I’ve been on a multi-day ski tour. Deep snow, packed pulka, white mountains, snowy forests, a snowed in cabin, a cosy fire in the oven. And more snow.

But these photos do not come from a long ski tour but from five different locations nearby. Some are on Tromsøya, some on Kvaløya and the photos were taken within the last two weeks.

1. A short ski tour near Håkøybotn, Kvaløya.

I was tired, I was lazy, I was in a couch potato mood. Anyhow I managed to take the car to the Håkøybotn graveyard to do a little ski promenade up the hills. The snow was fluffy and when I was almost back at the car I realised, that it was quite deep too in some places, when I put off my skis …

2. Sunrise

Last Saturday I could see how the sun slowly started to illuminate the snowy mountains on the island Kvaløya in the morning. What’s special about this is that I took these photos from the balcony of my new flat. Yes, it’s a 600mm telephoto shot and the photos are slightly blurry but that doesn’t reduce the experience standing there and watching the daylight appear.

3. Pulka test tour

The last ski tour I did was with Annika in 2020. In 2021 Covid prevented a tour. In 2022 I was on my first arctic cruise instead. In 2023 I worked on Svalbard for a week and we had vacation there.

But our next ski tour is just a week away. So the question was – does my pulka sledge still work? So I tested it last Sunday and everything seems to be ok. Nice!

4. A cozy fire in the oven

Back home I changed clothes and fired the oven in my cozy new flat. I don’t use it for heating, but for hygge.

5. Today’s ski tour

It has snowed quite a lot and last night the official snow depth exceeded 100 cm for the first time this winter. I put on my skis already on my parking place and skied up to the forest, where I first followed the tracks and then went “off-piste” though the forest. The snow was so fluffy that I couldn’t see my skis anymore. There were somewhere under 30 cm of snow.

Now the days are getting longer and longer and when I’m back from our ski tour I guess I can just do such shorter ski trips right after work.

Bonus

There are three holes in the photo grid shown at the beginning of the article. Time for three more photos. Why I didn’t put them into the grid? Because they do not look like ski tour photos. I made them on different shore locations on the island Kvaløya on my way back from the ski tour two weeks ago. Here they come: