From Tromsø to Obbola

Friday, 18 November – walking back from work

It’s weekend. Today I stopped working already at 14:15. Sunset was 40 minutes ago and the light is beautiful while I’m walking home.

In Tromsø there’s hardly any snow, but a lot of rime. In the evening there’s polar light, but I only take a smartphone snapshot – tomorrow is a long day.

Saturday, 19 November – taking the bus to Narvik

Today is travel day. Round 16–17 hours it will take me from home to home.

Yes, I have two homes. One “work home” in Tromsø where I work and one “Home home” in Obbola where my wife Annika and I have a house by the Baltic Sea.

The weather is gorgeous and I take many photos through the window of the bus. Therefore some of the motives are blurred. The last one – the large bridge Hålogalandsbron is jittery because it has become dusky.

Saturday, 19 November – taking the train to Umeå

It’s a long ride from Narvik to Umeå. Departure 15:10, arrival 1:40 in the night. But it is a though train. I don’t have anything more to do but being awake on the arrival in Umeå. While I eat my take-away sushi outside of the train station it gets dark and so there is not much to see from the landscape in the train unless it stops.

In the frosty inland where it is quite cold I witness a special phenomenon. The whole forest we are passing is lit in green light. Another aurora? No, it’s cloudy. There are passages where the power lines for the train are coated with rime ice. The layer is so thick, that the current collector of the train looses contact and the electricity jumps over emitting bright green light that illuminates the dark forest.

The train arrives in Umeå in time and Annika already waits at the station. Another half an hour and I’m home home. Bed is waiting!

Sunday, 20 November – winter feelings

Oh, what a blessing it is to be home home. Normally we are supposed to work at the offices of the Norwegian Polar Institute but my boss knows about our long-distance relationship (or is it called long-distance marriage?) and allowed me to do home office until Christmas. Tusen takk! And it is even wintry and a bit sunny and a bit snowy.

From now on I can enjoy the view from my home office.

Monday, 21 November – the first home office day

Enjoying the view from my home office is a pleasure but when all of the sudden the morning sun peeks through the clouds I just have to go outside and make some photos!

And what do I do at lunchtime? This:

 

Sandnessundbrua

Last night I dreamed I would go on an arctic expedition today. The ship would depart at 16:00. I was surprised in my dream that I almost forgot and started packing. Three pairs of socks … then I woke up.

Today I went paddling with some members from the Tromsø Sea Kayakers Club. We were six people from five countries. It was cloudy, a bit rainy and +2 °C. It was calm, hardly any wind or waves. According to the forecast wind would increase and come from north, so we headed north to get tailwinds on our way back.

I never paddled north from the club. As soon as we started to round the airport the huge bridge Sandnessundbrua came into view. It connects the islands Tromsøya and Kvaløya, is more than a kilometre lang and has a maximum clearance to the sea of 41 metres.

I use the bridge quite often when I go hiking on Kvaløya but on sea I drove through it only once. That was 19 February with Kronprins Haakon on our way to the Arctic. Some memories popped up while I was approaching the bridge by kayak but soon I was back in the present and took some photos before catching up with the others.

We continued north passing the airport till we reached the bay Sandneshamna. After a very short break – wind has arrived and it felt cold just standing around – we went the same way back. This time we paddled against the current but with wind in our backs.

After 12 kilometres and 2½ hours we were back at the boat houses. Thanks for the tour! Hope to see you again on the water.

Still in my drysuit I took the car to a supermarket and bought some food for lunch. When I left the shop it had started snowing.

10 days in Scotland

This article is part of the series “2022-10: Autumn in Scotland”.

It has been years, since Annika and I were on holiday outside of Fennoscandia. This October we enjoyed a ten day journey to Scotland from which I just arrived in Tromsø yesterday.

For this article I chose 2 photos for each day. Some more articles will follow later.

6 October – Edinburgh

I landed in the late morning and have the rest of the day strolling through Edinburgh. Blue sky – so it can actual stop raining in  Edinburgh ;-). In the evening I wait for Annika who is taking the tram from the airport. Now it is raining. Finally we are together.

7 October – travelling to Ullapool

We have pre-booked train tickets to Inverness where we will spend three hours before taking the coach to Ullapool. Well, in theory. The trains do not go the whole way due to heavy rain flooding. The rest is operated by replacement buses. So much to rain in Scotland. In Inverness we catch the connecting coach to Ullapool and have even time for a pizza.

8 October – hiking in Ullapool

After two travel days we want to be outdoors and look for the hiking trail to the hill Meall Mor after a hand-drawn sketch. We find it. From the top we have a view to the town, the hills and mountains in sun, clouds and rain.

9 October – taking the ferry to Lewis

After breakfast we take our backpacks through rain and heavy winds to the ferry terminal just to learn that the ferry has been cancelled because of the gusts on the Minch – the straight between Ullapool and the Isle of Lewis. Luckily the afternoon ferry runs according schedule and we arrive in Stornoway at nine o’clock. Scotland premiere: We hire a car. Annika is driving. Left-hand traffic in darkness!

10 October – exploring Lewis

We explore Lewis by car. Great that Annika is brave enough to drive in Scotland (I’m not). Read the article The west coast of Isle of Lewis about this day.

11 October – Peat bogs and Northern Gannets

From Gearrannan Village we take a small way back to Stornoway. In the bogs you can see traces of peat mining. We give back the car, take the ferry back and are watching the elegant aerial manoeuvres of the Northern Gannets. In Ullapool we receive another car that we have hired for the next two days.

12 October – exploring Assynt

We start exploring Assynt, the region north of Ullapool. Read the article Stac Pollaidh about this day.

13 October – taking a bath

Finally – our first bath! At Achmelvich beach. I will write more about this day later …

14 October – travelling to Edinburgh

It is time to give back the rental car and travel back to Edinburgh. First by coach, then by train. This travel confirms my theory that Scottish coaches and trains are designed solely for transport, not for comfort.

15 October – flying back

Short ones, long ones – all holidays comes to their end. Annika takes me to the tram, again it’s me travelling first. What a wonderful holiday. Thank you, Annika!

Jämtland tour 22 – the trail

This article is part of the series “2022-08: Jämtland and Trøndelag”.

On the photo above you can see the trail from Blåhammaren to Storulvån. It is in fact two trails together: the winter trail that is marked with red crosses and the summer trail that mostly is marked with stones with a large dot of red paint on it. We didn’t follow this trail I only took the photo because of the beautiful evening colours.

Many parts of the trail are just like this. They lead through heather, grass, crowberries, and dwarf birches. Other parts of the trail lead over hills, across rock fields, through forests and sometimes over a reindeer fence.

This is when the trail is dry. But often it isn’t. The trail can just be very wet of last nights rain as we had it on our third day.

The trail can be boardwalks that lead over swampy area or bogs. Some of them may be under the water which makes them rather slippery.

And then there are rivers, streams and brooks. Some of them are crossed by a bridge. Some bridges are big, some are – well – small, simple, and pragmatic.

And then there are rivers that you have to ford. I ’m used to hiking in rubber boots and so I could splash through while my fellow hikers had to switch to sandals and wade through the ice cold water. Already Douglas Adams said: You have to know where your towel is.

And then there is mud. It can be slippery and sometimes quite deep, especially right before or after a plank. When you have a plank.

Especially the first day trail section StorvallenBlåhammaren was in an extremely poor shape. The others went around all these muddy patches while I – hey, I have rubber boots! – just continued straight ahead. But then at one point it happened. I made a step ahead and my right leg sank thigh deep into the mud. On the trail! Luckily Blåhammaren had a dry room.

But don’t be afraid, that’s not typical. Many sections of the trail look more like this:

How long the trail was? I don’t have the exact numbers but I think we hiked round about 135 km on 8 days, so round 17 km a day.

17 May aboard the ship Hermes II

Today it is 17 May, the Norwegian National Day. People say “Gratulerer med dagen!” (Happy Birthday!) to each other to celebrate Norway’s Birthday in the year 1814. The rest of the history I won’t tell here, you can read it better in the net, for example on Wikipedia.

While I was in Sweden last year I am in Tromsø today and so I was able to join the celebrations. Last week I got an ad for joining the boat parade on the wooden boat Hermes II, build 1917. That sounded fun and I directly bought one of the extraordinary cheap tickets. Would be nice to be outside on the water this day. And so it was, even in snowfall and sleet and temperatures round 1–2 °C.

Hermes II lies in the very center of Tromsø. I’ve passed it many times, today I entered it at 10 o’clock. Slowly the boat filled up. Some women were clad in bunad. These traditional clothes are very beautiful but I doubt that they provide the best weather protection. Check the video linked below. Other people choose more pragmatic clothes to stay warm and dry. At 10:30 we departed, headed north and met other boats there. In a group of fifteen boats – Hermes II, some SAR boats, the rest private ones – we then headed back to the center. Nothing extreme, just a especially nice way to be outside.

Some photos from today:

Also on board was NRK, the Norwegian TV. I can recommend the video, even when you do not speak Norwegian.

Watch it here: 17. mai-feiring på båt i Tromsø (2:44, Norwegian).

Meanwhile in Tromsø

While I am writing a lot of blog articles about my time in the Arctic live in Tromsø goes on.

When I arrived Friday a week ago Tromsø was as un-wintry as possible. It was several degrees plus and it rained.

But to be honest, it didn’t affect me a lot. Mentally I was still in the Arctic.

Despite to the torrential downpours that Yr forecasted for this weekend the weather was ok yesterday and nice today. But as the whole week it was really warm: +7 °C. Time for a morning walk. _(Sunny, but much windier than expected.)_

In the afternoon I wondered if it was possible to take a small promenade on Kvaløya. I headed to the parking place from which I started a ski tour seven weeks ago. A lot of other cars were there and snow and ski tracks. I did not have any skis with me today. I tried to walk on the snow just with boots but the snow was at least knee deep. And then I came to the bridge that crossed a rapid meltwater flow. Maybe nice for experienced skiers but I didn’t have any interest in falling into the water. Time for me to return to the parking place.

The good thing: the parking place is just 200 metres away from the coast. So I took a short afternoon promenade there enjoying the colours, the sun, the fresh air and the wind. Yes it was windy – the display at the bridge to Kvaløya showed 20 m/s.

Back again at my car skiers arrived. My skis where home but then I remembered, that I always have snowshoes in my car. I attached them to my rubber boots and so I could make at least a tiny promenade to the next hill some hundred metres away.

Back in my car. Next stop: Sandnessund Cemetery. Never been there before. Even there a lot of snow.

Next stop was unplanned. I just had to take a photo of the vessel and the mountains of Kvitøya. Luckily the parking place of the Tromsø Havpadleklubb was near.

The Arctic has its own extraordinary beauty and I feel a special connection to it. Tromsø and surroundings however are beautiful too, even when weather has been much too warm for mid-March.

For the records: The first „hestehov“ or Tussilago I (17 March on my way to work).

Cabin days in Christmas time

Christmas eve – Sommarøya and Hillesøy

It’s only 15 km to Sommarøya, a beautiful island reachable by car via a curved bridge. Even in snow fall and twilight you can see the turquoise colour of the sea. Everything is closed, even the hotel.

From there it’s not far to the church Hillesøy kirke, that by the way does not lie on the island Hillesøya but on the mainland. We tried to prebook one of the limited seats for the Christmas service but they where all taken. We are there very early and allowed to have a look in. Eye catcher: the tall wood-burning stove.

We drive back to the cabin – time for lunch while it gets dark outside.

Christmas day – Skitour along the lake Kattfjordvatnet

This day was supposed to be crisp and clear and it was. No clouds, hardly any wind, -10 °C. Perfect conditions for a small ski tour along the lake Kattfjordvatnet. In coastal Sweden we just would have started the tour, in the Norwegian mountains you must check the avalanche risk first. We got round 30 cm of powder snow the last days and the risk was level 3 which is quite high. So a real mountain tour would have been too risky but the terrain by the lake is too flat for avalanches.

And in the early evening we are lucky and get some polar lights. We just have to step outside the door and avoid the motion sensor for the outdoor lighting.

Everything would have been accessible from my apartment in Tromsø as well. Anyhow it feels more like a real holiday to be on a Norwegian mountain cabin over Christmas, just Annika and I. Perhaps we are allowed to use it again sometime.

No whales today

To the left the Brim Explorer, a boat located in Tromsø for amongst other whale watching. To the right the tourists waiting to be boarded. The boat is fully booked, I am not alone.

Before leaving an announcement: The crew will try its best but it’s not granted that we reach the waters where the whales are. Anyone is free to leave and given a full refund. Most people stay and so do I. First of all I’m not surprised, as another tour operator already cancelled today’s tour. And then I just want to be a day on the water. Whales of course would be a nice extra.

To the left Tromsøbrua, the bridge that connects Tromsø with the mainland. To the right the safety on board drill, that everyone had to join.

And then we’re off.

To make it short: What we didn’t get today was whale sightings. What we got today was rough weather in the open parts. The boat was rolling and pitching like a cork in the waves. More than one passenger got sea sick. The unpredictable movements of the boat and the dim light under the grey sky made photographing a bit adventurous. Several times I was forced in and one passage even the doors were locked. The rest I was outside, partly taking photos, partly just looking around and letting the wind blow around my nose.

Conclusion: an awesome tour even without whales. If you want to participate as well: take your warmest clothes with you. And those of you that just want to stay home and look at some whale photos may read my article about Whale watching in Andenes. Enjoy.

Note to myself: TromsøyaRingvassøya/ReinøyaVannøyaNordfugløyaArnøya/LaukøyaSkervøya/KågenLyngenReinøyaTromsøya

A Saturday road trip

This article is part of the series “2021-07: Back in Tromsø”.

A new used car and a sunny Saturday – off I go for a road trip.

km 29.5 – Isaksens Kiosk

In Fagernes I leave the E8 and take the 91 through a valley between the mountains. Before that I stop at Isaksens Kiosk and buy something to drink. Some other cars park here, too. Mostly it’s families that stop to have some ice cream.

km 41.1 – road 91

The mountains in Northern Norway are impressively massive and sometimes you cannot imagine that the road continues somehow. But some do …

km 51.9 – view on the Lyngen Alps

… and so does the road 91. A small part of the rugged Lyngen Alps comes into view.

km 53.5 – Breivikeidet Fergekai

I continue the 91 but soon the road ends. Not because of the mountains, but the fjord Ullsfjorden. The weather is warm and sunny and I am waiting for the ferry to Svensby.

On the ferry

For me even a short boat trip makes a single day to a holiday. I just love standing outside (in every whether), look at the waves and watch the slowly changing landscape.

km 60.7 – Nyheim

Just a Norwegian house and a barn. And a pasture. And a fjord in the background. And mountains behind. Beautiful even without the sun, that has been covered by a layer of clouds.

Would I want to live here? No, it’s too far away from Tromsø and other towns.

km 75.3 – Lyngseidet

It already half past two – time for a late lunch break. When you travel through Northern Norway and want to eat something warm it will be pizza or burgers in most of the cases. It you are not Norwegian you will find it incredible expensive, but so is food, cars, housing and almost everything else.

The burger costed 189 NOK (18 Euro) and was really tasty.

Here the road 91 continues – as another ferry to Olderdalen. I however take the road 868 heading south.

km 83.5 – low tide

The Lyngen Alps are more impressive as seen from the west but I like the shallow waters of the fjord Lyngen, too, especially in low tide.

km 113.9 – Badjánanluokta

Another tidal flat, more reflections. There are few things that I consider as relaxing as strolling along the shore of the sea.

Anyhow, it’s already 5 o’clock in the afternoon and I have at least another 100 km to go until being back. So no more photos until …

km 203 (or so) – Extra Tromsdalen

At the Extra supermarket I buy some food for the evening and the next day. In opposite to Sweden the supermarkets in Norway are closed un Sundays. Then I cross the road E8 by foot and soon stand by the shore of the Tromsøysundet where I have a look on Tromsø (including my workplace) and the large bridge crossing the sound.

Round 15 minutes later I arrive at my temporary home in Tromsø.

In Norway it takes time to go by car. I should have learned that by now but still I underestimate how many hours it takes to travel when you want to take some stops. Next time I hopefully will start earlier – this day I didn’t start before 11 o’clock.

 

Lunch break

This article is part of the series “2020-10: New in Tromsø”.

Days grow shorter and shorter in Tromsø so I took a small outside promenade in my lunch break to catch a bit of daylight. Tromsø is so beautiful with 10 cm of fresh snow that had fallen since yesterday.

I’m not sure if the snow will stay for longer or melt away soon but it doesn’t matter for me. That’s because on Sunday I’ll take the airplane home to Obbola in Sweden and will stay there the rest of the year.

But that’s another story that will be told on Sunday when I’ll spend many hours in Oslo Gardermoen and Stockholm Arlanda waiting for the connection flights.