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!

Polarsyssel in Tromsø (and ice cream)

While I was sitting at my computer in my apartment in Tromsø I looked out of the window. A blue ship was sailing on the Sandnessundet, the strait between Tromsøya and Kvaløya. It looked somehow familiar. I checked, first with my spotting scope, then with an app. It was the Polarsyssel, the ship of the Governor of Svalbard. I managed to take a photo between the trees.

Last time when I saw this ship it was on 16 March 2023, the week I was working in Longyearbyen/Svalbard.

What does the ship do here so far south as in Tromsø? Chasing polar bears? I checked the news but couldn’t find anything. While I was watching the ship  my thoughts wandered north. In August I’ll be in the Arctic once more. Will I stand on the sea ice again? Will I see polar bears again?

Then I heard a melody outside:

This is a famous melody in Norway! It is called “Norge rundt” and is the signal of the Isbilen ice-cream vans. Today I was one of the customers. So I got my ice. And the brand of the ice cream? Isbjørn is – Polar bear ice.

 

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.

 

Ski tour in Sweden – Kebnekaise—Singi

This article is part of the series “2024-02: Ski tour Sweden”.

Tour day 1 + 2: 27 February – 28 February

It has been four years since Annika and I went on a ski tour. In winter 2021 we didn’t travel because of Covid, in winter 2022 I joined an arctic expedition and in winter 2023 I worked on Svalbard and we went on vacation there. But now it is 2024 and finally we have the opportunity to go on a winter tour.

Prologue

On Sunday, 25. February I take the car from Tromsø to Kiruna. In the back of the car: My skis, all stuff for a two-week winter tour and a pulka. It has been a good choice to take the car because an ore train has derailed between Narvik and Abisko the day before and the railway line is closed (and will be until end of May).

On Monday Annika arrives by train. We buy some extra provisions for the tour such as salami, crisp bread and chocolate and then went to the hotel where we stay over night

On Tuesday we pack the car, take an early breakfast and then go off to Nikkaluokta, a Sami Village and our starting point for the tour. We would have skied the 19 km to the Kebnekaise Mountain Station but it is still closed. Luckily there is another way to get there …

Day 1 – 27 Feb – Nikkaluokta—Kebnekaise—Singi

The family business Sarri AB offers snowmobile transport to Kebnekaise. You can pre-book it. Soon we sit in the surprisingly comfortable trailer and are dragged to the start of the trail to Singi, our first tour destination. Our thick down jackets keep the frost outside.

From there it is 14 km to Singi. The weather is more than fair: blue sky, hardly any wind, frosty but not too cold. Annika is carrying a backpack, I am pulling a pulka.

We are skiing westwards. Beside of a moose and some crows we are alone. Clouds have gathered and the dull light made the mountains look sublime, unreachable and a bit hostile.

Head wind has come up and the sight has worsened a bit. Still we can see far, but the snow is harder to read. Is it hard? Or soft? Does it go up? Or down? It just looks white.

I’ve been here before in winter and I am waiting the cabins of Singi to come into view but it takes longer than expected. Anyhow we finally pass some ice fields …

… and then we can see Singi! After a while we arrive there and are greeted by one of the stugvärder – the wardens. We get hot juice and may choose a room, since there are only two other guests. The rest of the day is mostly eating and sleeping.

Day 2 – 28 Feb – Singi

We have tvelwe days in the Swedish mountains but only eight planned tour days. That leaves four break days, one of them being today.

The morning looks quite promising. Parts of the sky is clear again, parts are cloudy. Some of the clouds move through the valleys which can look quite dramatic.

After breakfast Annika and I take a small tour to the Sami village Goržževuolli (or Kårtjevuolle). On the way there we find an interesting paw print:

It is a paw print of a reindeer, but raised. When it went there it compacted the snow under its foot. Then wind came up and blew away the loose powder snow round the print but not the compacted one.

We pass Singi’s water hole. If you do not want to melt snow (tastes awful) you have to fetch water there. Singi is famous for having the water hole quite far away. If I remember correctly it is 800 metres away (and ca. 25 metres down). We are lucky, the other guests have already fetched a lot of water.

We continue to the village which is only inhabited occasionally. There are a lot of wooden cabins and sheds but there are also some traditional goahtis. Goahtis can be built from different materials, this one is probably built of peat moss and timber:

We look around, enjoy the sun and made a large turn to head back to “our” cabin. Later I am out again to take some photos.

In the evening Annika prepares dinner. While a lot of other people we will meet the next days use to eat “outdoor meals”, which is more or less quite expensive powder we have the luxury of having other food with us. It’s potatoes, feta cheese, onions and sweet peppers. Now fresh – too heavy, too bulky – but home-dried by Annika within the last weeks. Then with the help of fresh garlic, butter and vegan egg-powder (all in our provisions) Annika cooks a tasty frittata for dinner. I understand the point of light-weighted food but this stuff is so much better! Delicious! Tack för maten – Annika. Thanks for the food. Anyhow we can eat this kind of food only on our break days because the dried ingredients have to be covered with water for hours to rehydrate before being used.

After lunch Annika is reading, I am writing my travel diary then we head to our beds and fall fast asleep. Next day we will continue to Sälka, our next cabin.

A nightly snowwalk

I woke up at 4:20 and since it still snowed I decided to to go out to take a photo. Or two. Taking a photo – or two – became a longer promenade in the snowy neighbourhood.

Just some photos before I continue sleeping. My sleeping room is behind the window behind the bush on the second photo. You see it?

For the stats: Last Saturday 90 of snow were measured at the meteorological station Tromsø PLU. Now it’s 128.4 cm.

Wind and weather

Friday, 26 January

I took this photo at two o’clock in the afternoon just after I had walked home from work. I enjoyed my new apartment and the view from the balcony.

But I knew, that this beautiful weather wouldn’t last. The forecast predicted rain and storm.

Saturday, 27 January

In the evening the weather already had changed. It good warmer, rain clouds covered the moon and the speed of the hardest gust was wind was 24 m/s¹.

28 January

On Sunday the wind calmed down a bit but the forecast for the next day showed wind gusts of 36 m/s in the afternoon. That’s Beaufort 12 – “hurricane-force”. I wasn’t the only one who decided to work from home the next day.

29 January

And the weather became really nasty, although not as bad as expected. I was glad to be able to stay inside anyhow.

Let’s not forget, that Tromsø lies sheltered on the island Tromsøya surrounded by mountain chains. There are other places that are much more exposed to the elements. For example Torsvåg lies on a small island west of Vannøya. There the strongest wind gusts were round 41 m/s².

1 February

After two calmer yet warmer and very rainy days another storm had arrived, this time with gusts up to 30.8 m/s in Tromsø³.

Laughable the people in Kvaløyfjellet på Sømna probably would say. There the average wind speed between 1 and 2 in the night was 54.4 m/s (196 km/h)! That’s a new wind record for whole Norway⁴. And the gusts exceeded 60 m/s.

The nice thing: After all that rain in Tromsø it snowed again. When I arrived home the wind has already calmed down but the entry of my flat was caked in snow.

2 February

And the next morning it still snowed.

When I walked home today I crossed the cemetery. And there everything was snowed in and many tombstones were completely hidden under the snow. As if rain and storm never happened.

___
¹ https://www.yr.no/nb/historikk/graf/1-305409/Norge/Troms/Troms%C3%B8/Troms%C3%B8?q=2024-01-27
² https://www.yr.no/nb/historikk/graf/5-90800/Norge/Troms/Karls%C3%B8y/Torsv%C3%A5g%20fyr?q=2024-01-29
³ https://www.yr.no/nb/historikk/graf/5-90490/Norge/Troms/Troms%C3%B8/Troms%C3%B8%20LH?q=2024-02-01
https://www.nrk.no/nyheter/ny-vindrekord-i-norge-1.16744736

The last way to work by the sea

As most days I walked to work today. It’s 2–2.5 km one-way depending on the route. Sometimes I am lazy and just follow the main road, but today I took the longer route by the sea.

7:09 – I come to the part of the way that is flooded sometimes. Today I’m lucky. I don’t wear boots but shoes with spikes because the roads and pavements are icy.

11:51 – an early lunch. After some grey days the sky is clear again and in the south you see the colours of the sun. The sun itself is below the horizon.

13:45 – today I go leave early.  Later I’ll work a bit from home. Since it is early it is not really dark yet. The sky is still blue and there is a golden spot at the southern sky.

I love this way and I will miss it, because it probably was the last time that I went to work here today. Next week I’m first on vacation and then I’ll move to a larger apartment within Tromsø. It has a bedroom, a real kitchen and even a balcony. I’m so looking forward to moving in but I’ll miss my way to work by the sea.

A Saturday “mørketid” promenade

Since Tuesday, 28 November the sun does not rise above the horizon anymore in Tromsø. In English this time is called Polar Night, in German Polarnacht.But is it night 24 hours a day? No, not really. Here are some images I took on a promenade in Tromsø yesterday. The photos have been shot between 10:48 and 12:13 CET.

As you see it was not dark at all.  The Norwegians differentiate better and have two words. What we have in Tromsø now they call Mørketid – “darkness time”. The sun is below the horizon the whole day, but less than 6° (civil twilight). Only when the sun is below 6° all day the Norwegians call it polarnatt – “polar night” as well. This however never happens on mainland Europe. You would have to travel north to the island Bjørnøya or the archipelago Svalbard to experience that.

So yes, we have seven weeks of mørketid in Tromsø, but that does not mean seven weeks of darkness. Fortunately!

 

The first winter day

This week it has become gradually colder. You could see it on the mountains, where the snow line dropped lower and lower. More and more the rain became slush and wet snow and yesterday evening it had become so cold, that the snow didn’t melt away immediately. This morning I had to remove some snow from my car before I could make a car trip.

I took the car to the island Kvaløya where it often is a bit colder than directly in Tromsø. The conditions were quite wintry although not all trees seemed ready for that.

Soon I arrived at the lake Finnvikvatnet where I parked the car. No ice on the lake yet so both the huge mountains and the tiny islets were reflected from the calm water surface.

This lakes lies on 230 metres and here the snow was much deeper, perhaps between 10 and 20 cm. Temperature was -2°C. Some flowers peeked out, while others probably were buried completely in the snow.

I was unsure how far I would come but packed my backpack with camera, water, chocolate and a warm jacket and started walking through the snow. I was the first one today and the snow was untouched beside of some animal tracks.

I spotted a pile of stones on a small mountain summit nearby. Maybe I could hike there? Well, let’s try – and make some photos on my way.

It was an interesting hike, because nothing is frozen yet. I was glad to have chosen rubber boots, otherwise I would have got very wet feet. Since I could not find the way under the snow I decided to choose a quite direct way up. That took a while, because it was steeper than expected and sometimes it was more like crawling through knee deep snow than hiking. But I arrived at the summit where I had a view on the higher mountains around and the sea in the west.

Now the terrain was flatter. Time to take some more photos.

A ruin caught my eye. I went there and tried to make photos but could not find a perspective I liked. But I had another option: I had my drone with me. So I could not only take a photo from a higher perspective but also one looking straight down and even one from within without touching the snow drift inside. A practical tool that I still have to become more familiar with.

Time to descend. This time I checked the map in my mobile phone and found the hiking trail. Much easier! In summer this is an easy hike for families.

The lower parts in the west are wooded and many trees still have colourful leaves. But above them the mountains are snowy although you can see, that the snow cover is not very deep yet.

That tour was not very long but I got my very first winter day and the first snow since 27 May. Yay!

Some photos from my short car trip back:

I want to thank my colleague D from work. It was him who offered himself on changing my tyres. Therefore I have studded winter tyres on my car since yesterday afternoon. Without them I wouldn’t have been able to do this tour. Thank you, D. !

The last Thursday kayaking 2023

No, I haven’t joined many of “torsdagspadlinger” organised by the Tromsø sea kayak association this year. But at least the first one on the 4th of May and the last one this evening.

We were a group of ten heading to the island Grindøya in the west. When I arrived at the boat houses round half past five the sun was already disappearing behind the mountains of Kvaløya. Half an hour later we were on the water. The weather was quite warm and it was very calm –perfect conditions for a relaxed tour.

We headed to a sea mark – resting place for a small flock of cormorants. They flew away, when we gathered there.

While we were continuing to the northern tip of the island it was becoming dusky. We all had lights at our kayaks or our lifejackets. Less to see but to be seen.

After we passed the northern tip of Grindøya we turned left (meaning south) and calmly paddled along the forested island.

When we arrived at the beach at the southern tip it already had become pretty dark. The lights of the mainland illuminated the horizon. The single light at the left top corner of the next photo is the mountain station of the cable car Fjellheisen.

On the way back it was really dark. We paddled in pairs to ensure that no one was left behind and it was too dark to take snapshots. Just before we arrived at the boat houses again I took the iPhone out of its waterproof bag and took a photo. With a bit of help from Lightroom it’s surprisingly sharp.

It’s a pity that this was the last torsdagspadling but understandable, because it gets darker and darker every week. And if the weather forecast is correct it may snow next week.

Takk for turen – thanks for the tour, especially to the tour guides. See you next year.