Travelling with the MS Lofoten: Kirkenes – Øksfjord

This article is part of the series “2019-02: Northern Norway”.

Friday, 15 February

While I moved into my cabin the Hurtigruten ship MS Lofoten still anchored in the port of Kirkenes. I had a windowless 2-bed-cabin for myself and was able to spread out my belongings. But before that I took a photo with my fisheye lens. With the fisheye-like distortion the cabin look huge!

I used the Hurtigruten twice before, in 2017 from Vardø to Stokmarknes and last year from Båtsfjord to Ørnes. So the section KirkenesVardø was new to me. And it’s the first time without my car on board.

We were in the harbour till half past twelve.

Then we left Kirkenes and my 3rd and longest Hurtigruten journey had started. I stood at the stern of the ship and looked back.

Soon I changed place from stern to bow – at the MS Lofoten you can stand next to the bridge – and looked ahead. Far away, a bit to the port side I could spot a white plain – part of the Varanger peninsula.

[Live interruption: We have reached the open Lopphavet between Øksfjord and Skervøy. The ship has started to rock again. I am interrupted by the sound of a plate falling down from the table. Thanks to the soft carpet it survived]

Annika and I travelled a lot on the Varanger peninsula last winter. I stood on the port side of the ship and tried to spot all places we have been: There’s Vadsø, the largest town – there, far away is Ekkerøy with it’s beautiful beaches. And there is Kiberg, where we had a good time with Trond, our host of Cape East Arctic Adventure. And there’s his house! I found it! Let’s see, what about Kibergsneset, the easternmost point of mainland Norway where Annika and I had been last year? It was farther away from the village than I remembered, but finally I found it, too. Both photos are taken with 600 mm from a rocking ship with a vibrating motor, so the quality is bad, but it was nice to take these pictures.

Half an hour we arrived in Vardø, stop #1. (Vadsø is left out on the southbound direction.) We arrived late and I decided to stay aboard. I’ve been in Vardø before.

When we left Vardø behind, it was too dark to see the scenery. I have breakfast included but not the other meals, because I think they are quite expensive. I have my own food with me. This day however I didn’t have a proper breakfast so I bought a large bread with salmon and scrambled eggs.

The MS Lofoten went along the northern coast of Varanger. It was windy and the sea was a bit rough. The MS Lofoten was exposed to the elements. It is not only the smallest operating Hurtigruten ship but also the only one without stabilisers. It was rocking in every direction and the swell got stronger and stronger. Sometimes the bow of the ship was hovering in midair and then scended into the next trough. I’ve never been seasick before but I started to sweat and to feel quite uncomfortable. I tried to ignore it for a while, then I interrupted my photo edit session, went down to my cabin and went straight into bed. Whether it was my lying position or the fact, that the cabin was nearer to the center of the ship’s mass I don’t know, but I felt much better and fell soon asleep.

I woke up shortly before Båtsfjord, stop #2. Near the harbour the strong swell had subsided. Soon the ship lay calmly at the jetty. It had started snowing intensely. We were in Båtsfjord quite a long time due to a lot of freight being unloaded and loaded.

I went into my cabin and continued sleeping. I overslept Berlevåg, Mehamn and Kjøllefjord but was awake in …

Saturday, 16 February

Honningsvåg, stop #6. I was so sure that I would oversleep this stop as well, but we were an hour late. I was still dark, but I could take some photos with my tripod.

[Live interruption: We have left the Lopphavet, the sea was much calmer than expected]

We left Honningsvåg with an hour delay. I tried to make pictures but the sight was poor, mostly because of the snow showers and the low hanging clouds. At least I could take a picture of the MS Nordnorge.

An announcement came through the speakers: Due to the delay we would skip Havøysund, usually stop #7. This would spare us half an hour.

It got warmer. Temperatures were hardly below zero, much too warm for the season. It snowed more and more and all you could see was the ship and a circular patch of waves and snow.

Anyway the snow showers didn’t last for hours and after another snow shower Melkøya came into view.

Melkøya is just a few kilometres away from Hammerfest, second largest town of the Finnmark. It’s the endpoint of an undersea pipeline for natural gas. Here it is converted to liquefied natural gas that is exported to the world.

Right after Melkøya Hammerfest, stop #7 on this journey came into view.

Here we had a longer stopover. A young woman took ropes, rolled them up and threw them up onto the much higher foredeck of the MS Lofoten. She succeeded every time. Later I asked here if I might use the photo (I may) and she told me that she wasn’t sure if she would make it today because of the strong winds.

I left the MS Lofoten for looking around, taking pictures and buying a coke in the local supermarket. Some photos:

After an hour I went aboard again, placed myself into the salon and started editing images. The weather was too dull to take great pictures, a good reason to be lazy.

I even took a short nap in my cabin. Anyhow I was up again when we arrived in Øksfjord, stop #8. With a fisheye photo of the port Loppa Havn I will finish this blog article.

[Back to now: Soon we’ll arrive in Skjervøy, stop #9. If we make it we’ll even reach Tromsø today but perhaps I’ll sleep. I’ve been in Tromsø several times before and even twice last year.]

 

 

 

Period of fine weather

I guess, this week has been the ice fisher’s delight. Nightly temperatures between round -8 °C (good for the ice), afternoon temperatures round +8 °C, hardly any wind and no clouds hiding the sun (good for oneself).

It’s really hard for me to focus on my work when weather is as nice as it has been the last weeks. I would prefer having holidays in the mountains enjoying the fabulous late winter weather. I guess however that there are times when I have to earn money, too …

Already at 8 o’clock I saw five ice fishers standing, sitting or lying on the ice with their tiny plastic fishing rods. Although it was -6 °C it was warm in the sun. In the background the icebreaker Baus circuited around to break the ice for the next ship to come.

I knelt on the ice to make the photos above and heard it cracking. Was it thin ice? Not at all, it is still thick and safe. I guess it was the waves caused by the Baus that made the ice swing and crack. A strange experience. Good to now however that the water is quite shallow where I went.

But now I have to continue my work …

Addendum

I didn’t work much more today, sometimes there are spontaneous opportunities to seize  …

Båtsfjord – Ørnes by Hurtigruten

This article is part of the series “2018-03: Varanger peninsula”.

Days 41 to 44 of my winter journey 2018

13 March at 19:45 the Hurtigruten ship MS Nordnorge docked in Båtsfjord. Annika went on board with all our luggage that we would need the next days, while I drove the car into the elevator. The next 59 hours we would travel many miles but stay in the same cabin. Cabin number 305. Kind of luxury. We would even get breakfast because of a campaign. On 16 March round 7:00 we would leave the ship in Ørnes and drive home.

I will not write much about this part of the winter journey but showing photos from the Hurtigruten trip with some comments.

13 March 20:30 – finally on the Hurtigruten. Shop, reception, restaurant and people cruising.

13 March 22:00 Berlevåg – the westernmost of the four Hurtigruten stops Vadsø, Vardø, Båtsfjord and Berlevåg. Some days ago we stood on the breakwater to see the ships coming in, now I stand outside on the bow of the ship to see the very same breakwater passing as we approached the peer.

14 March 05:25 – very early and quite cold in the wind. I’m the only one outside beside of people working.

14 March 05:40 – approaching Honningsvåg on the island Magerøya. Main attraction of that island: the North Cape.

14 March 06:35 – I stay outside and look at the constantly changing weather.

14 March 08:25 – two ships pass. First a smaller boat, twenty minutes later the Hurtigruten ship Kong Harald. It’s snowing.

14 March 11:15 – we approach Hammerfest. Normally the ship will lie there for two hours, but today the ship is late.

14 March 15:45 – I’m outside for some hours and enjoy the view at the landscape. Everything is constantly changing: The mountains, the perspective, the light.

14 March 20:15 – strong polar lights cover the sky. Many people are outside and so are we. I already showed some photos in the article Aurora on the Hurtigruten.

14 March 23:45 – we approach Tromsø. Annika and I are already in our cabin and ready for sleep, but I can see the Tromsø Cathedral through our porthole. (We booked a cabin with limited view to save money and our porthole is more like a tube.)

15 March 07:30 – it’s not cold but very windy on the bow of the ship. My advise for such a winter journey: take the warmest jacket you have.

15 March 07:35 – we approach Harstad.

15 March 10:20 – we reach Risøyrenna – the Risøy Channel, build between 1911 and 1922 to enable bigger ships pass between the islands Andøya and Hinnøya. Only seven meters deep.

15 March 17:00 – we approach the quite famous Trollfjord. In winter however the Hurtigruten ships do not enter it.

15 March 18:30 – we arrive in Svolvær, largest town on the Lofoten. It’s a longer stop and Annika and I leave the boat for looking around.

16 March 06:00 – the alarm clock rings. At 7 o’clock we will arrive in Ørnes, leave the ferry and drive to Skelleftehamn. 583 km by car then I’ll be home again after more than six weeks of travelling.

A trip to Murmansk – day two

This article is part of the series “2018-02: A trip to Murmansk”.

Day 23 of my winter journey 2018

When we came home from our dinner last night it started to get quite foggy und it became colder. The fog intensified and the city started to smell smoggy.

This morning however was clear and some millimetres of snow dust had fallen over night making everything looking white and fresh. It was much colder than the day before (Murmansk airport reported -29 °C) but the hotel doesn’t have a thermometer so I don’t know how cold it was in town.

After breakfast we went through the Park Zhertv Interventsii (Парк Жертв Интервенции), a small park directly at the hotel.

Then we continued through the streets and across the railway to the port.

We wanted to visit the atomic icebreaker Lenin (Ленин) and check if we already could buy tickets. Lenin was the world’s first nuclear-powered surface ship and launched in 1957. She was decommissioned 1989 and subsequently converted into a museum.

Two big ships lay at the pier: Lenin and Vladivostok (Владивосток). Parts of the water surface were covered with ice but most of the water was open and steaming in the cold. The other side of the Kola Bay was hardly visible in the fog although only one kilometre away. The small ice particles in the air made the air feel quite cold.

A man left the icebreaker to meet a french couple at the pier, that had booked a tour. Unfortunately we couldn’t follow with them since this tour was privately booked. The man could speak a bit of German and we learned that the outside temperature was round -22 °C and that we had to wait for the first public tour at 12 o’clock.

So we went back to town, this time crossing the railway by a pedestrian bridge. Large chains of good wagons, some empty, some filled with charcoal were seen on almost all tracks.

While Chris and Ørjan went their own ways Annika and I went to the center to find a book shop. We knew that we had to follow the Lenin Alley (Проспект Ленина) and we found several book stores where I among others bought a pictured children dictionary English—Russian.

We continued the alley and finally came to Murmansk Mall (Мурманск Молл), a large shopping mall. Here both local stores and many international shops as e.g. H&M were found. The mall was extremely tidy and a huge contrast to the many rundown concrete buildings.

We’ve been in another mall the day before where you mostly could find Russian fashion for women. And that means mostly fur coats, partly in very fancy colours, high heeled boots and a lot of accessories in pink, silver and glitter. Some of them looked like plastic toys made for four-year-old girls, but in adult sizes. A fashion quite different from the informal one in Germany or Sweden.

I was really irritated when I entered some shops. People in Murmansk don’t smile or even laugh in public unless they know each other quite well. When you enter a shop the salesperson will stand up and observe you and even follow you through the shop. They won’t take contact with you, they won’t smile but will instead look stonily at you. I felt treated completely unwelcome and more like a thief than a customer. Strange and irritating!

Annika and I went back to the hotel and passed a Lenin figure and a house painted in bright turquoise, a colour that seems to be quite popular in Murmansk, as some other houses were painted the same.

We met Chris and Ørjan at the hotel and continued to the port together. Although it had become warmer it was still quite cold and some of the water that was open in the morning had frozen over in the last hours.

We arrived at the port at half past eleven and were the first one’s for the guided tour through the icebreaker Lenin. Shortly before twelve Annika and I could go aboard but most other tourist pushed to the front so that Chris and Ørjan were left behind. Later we realised that they attended another tour just some minutes later.

The following hour was one of the most boring experiences for long and made me remember some of the dullest school lessons. We were guided in a crowd of people by a Russian guide that loved to speak in a monotonic language without a split second of resting. Since he was so eager to talk another group behind us fenced us in so that we could hardly move and we were really glad to be able to sneak from the icebreaker before the guided tour was over. I guess, that most tourists are Russians too and so are able to understand the guide but even then I consider this kind of guiding as extremely boring and almost narcotic. My personal advise: Look at the boat from the pier but avoid the tour.

Some pictures from the inside anyway.

After this experience we needed fresh air and a café. We went to the Café Yunost (Кафе Юность), took some sweet cakes and after that we returned to the hotel to rest for a while.

In the evening we went to Terrasa (Терраса), another restaurant, though not to the White Rabbit (Белый кролик), our preferred choice. First it was Friday and then it was a holiday: Defence of the Fatherland Day. Therefore many restaurants had been fully booked. We enjoyed the food, went home to the hotel to take a short drink. Then we went to bed early. Next morning the alarm clock would ring at 6:15 local time, that’s 4:15 Swedish time.

When being in the hotel I took pictures from above. Here you could spot almost all places and attractions we visited the last two days, among others Alyosha, the Church of the Savior on Waters and the icebreaker Lenin. A good summary of the last two days.

Crossing three borders

Day 19 of my winter journey 2018

Whilst I still haven’t finished the blog articles about my ski tour with Jonas, life (and holidays) went on. Jonas and I had arrived at Solberget on Thursday evening and Jonas went home yesterday (on Sunday). This morning I packed the last things, stuffed them into the car and went to Nattavaara Station, where Annika arrived with the 7:38 train. With this reunion another stage of my six and a half week winter journey had begun. Destination: Kirkenes and Varanger, the easternmost parts of Norway.

Today we started with a travel day by car. We travelled 600 kilometres and crossed three borders.

Stage one: (Solberget) – NattavaaraGällivareSvappavaaraVittangiÖvre SopperoKaresuando.
And the first border: Sweden – Finland.

Stage two: Karesvanto (Finland) – Palojoensuu (Finland) – road 93 …
Second border: Finland – Norway.

Stage 3: … road 93 – Kautokeino (Norway) – Karasjok (Norway) – Karigasniemi (Finland).
The third border Norway – Finland. And since it was dark and I was tired we directly continued to our destination for an overnight stay: Giellajohka (Finland).

The temperatures had been between -20 °C and -28 °C for the last hours and the weather was bright and clear. The new fingernail moon shone above the eastern horizon and the first stars came out. Good conditions for polar lights. And we had polar lights actually here in Giellajohka but unfortunately a thin layer of clouds approached and therefore the aurora was less impressive. A photo anyway:

Tomorrow we will continue to Kirkenes to visit friends. It’s a smaller distance to travel than today, just 209 kilometres.

3× winter coast

Yesterday, 13:30

After having lunch, Annika and I drove to Näsgrundet, where the Baltic Sea had been mostly clear of ice three days before. Still most of the sea was ice-free, only at the coast some meters of new thin ice had formed.

It had started clearing up and the temperatures dropped to -15 °C already in daytime. The cold air over the open water created sea smoke, that gleamed in the colours of the low sun.

Yesterday, 23:00

It continued getting colder and soon the temperature dropped below -20 °C. Before sleeping I was out again, this time to check for an optical effect, that can appear when it’s as cold as then: light pillars. Even though it was round -23 °C I wasn’t lucky, but I took some photos of the Rönnskär industry anyhow.

Today, 8:00 – 9:00

This morning was the coldest yet this winter with temperatures round -24 °C. That’s when I start wearing two pairs of gloves for taking pictures. The inner fleece glove for handling the camera and a thick woollen mitten for staying warm when I just wait or look for motives.

The first motive may look quite boring but I love motives like these: just different cloud layers and ice up to the horizon plus the first gentle sunrise colours.

Remember, this part of the Baltic Sea had been clear of ice the day before. Due to the cold weather it has frozen within a range of several kilometres within less than twenty hours. It still amazes me how fast this process can be.

After I had made the former photo I detected that purple-red spot beside of the island Gåsören. The sun started to rise. I changed the lens and made a telephoto shot. (It’s quite blurred due to the atmospheric conditions)

Then I waited for the sun to rise. And really – after some minutes the sun succeeded to rise above the lower cloud layer. But only seconds later the upper cloud layer, that approached from the southwest covered the red orb again and the sun disappeared for the rest of the day.

Though it was still below -20 °C it started to snow.

Checking the winter …

This winter has been quite lagom yet. It hadn’t been too warm for a longer period, nor it was it really cold. We got snow several times, but we didn’t get any lake effect snow neither as e.g. five years ago where it snowed more than 80 cm within 24 hours.

Yesterday and today it snowed round 20 cm. Since we already had round half a meter of snow, the fence of my garden is about to disappear in the snow.

I took the photo above through the window of my living room. It shows my (and the neighbours) backyard. The fence is round 80 cm high.

Today I took the car to the Näsgrundet, one of my favourite places in Skelleftehamn. When I had been at the same place 12 days ago, the Baltic Sea was covered with ice as far as the eye could see. When I arrived today I was really surprised to see the Baltic Sea clear of ice again.

 

The photo above shows a small bay beside of Näsgrundet. The ice had been broken by wind and the floodwater two days ago. The wind was pushing the ice floes slowly offwards and some of them already had started to drift seawards.

That was the view to the northeast. The view to the southwest is completely different: there is the peninsula Rönnskär with the copper smelter of the same name. It snowed but the low sun managed to peek through the airy cloud layer. Temperature was -9 °C and the chimneys smoked.

In front of the industrial plant is the “cape” of Näsgrundet, which is a peninsula as well. I took a short discovery tour and found another motive. When I was standing up, Rönnskär and some trees were visible but when I knelt down I was able to hide the background and to make a completely different photo:

I intensified both contrast and colours to give this photo a more irreal appeal. The motive itself however is unchanged.

What type of winter comes next? I could take a look at the weather forecast of SMHI, but I have difficulties to take it seriously. Beside of the overall temperature and wind direction trends the web forecasts for Skelleftehamn are quite bad. The 20 cm of snow for example weren’t forecasted at all.

But in the back of my mind I know that lake effect snow could be possible again as long as the Baltic Sea is open and wind comes from eastern directions …

 

4×4 winter impressions of Kirkenes

This article is part of the series “2017-02: Northern Norway”.

Kirkenes – the harbour

While Annika and our friends in Kirkenes enjoyed their breakfast in the Hotel Thon I took a short promenade along the Johan Knudtzens gata to take some pictures. Already the view from the hotel terrace over the fjord is quite impressive and shows the beauties of the arctic nature while the harbour shows the more practical sides of living here: fishing, both commercially and just for fun.

A hike onto the top of the Lyngberget

After the breakfast we took the car to Jakobsnes and a bit further to take a promenade up the mountain Lyngberget, which lies on the other side of the Bøkfjorden. Here you can have a wide view over the whole town of Kirkenes – at least as long it doesn’t snow, as it did on our way back. I just love these wintry landscapes where you have views over fjell and fjord, but the wind was quite chilly and soon we looked like the participants of an arctic expedition.

The Huskies of the Kirkenes Snowhotel

Today we played tourists and visited the Kirkenes Snowhotel, which is just some hundred metres away. The Snowhotel has 180 Huskies including the seniors plus 30 puppies. The huskies are like we humans – some are working, some are resting, some are curious and some are shy. But they are all very kind and friendly.

Inside the Kirkenes Snowhotel

I slept in tents, in igloos and outside in wintertime. I even slept in the Kirkenes Snowhotel two years ago. This time Annika and I enjoy sleeping in the inside of our friends house (Thank you for your great hospitality, Christine and Ørjan) but gave the Snowhotel a visit. And it was worth it – especially the lounge with it carved ice blocks is very impressive.

Tomorrow we’ll leave this fine place, take the car to Vardø in the North (yes, that’s still possible!) and take the Hurtigruten from there to our next destination.

Drifting ice on the bay Kallholmsfjärden

When I came back from Umeå this morning the sun was still below the horizon. I’m glad that the bridge over the river Skellefteälven has a parking bay. So I could take some image of today’s pre-sunrise landscape.

Much more interesting however was the view on the bay Kallholmsfjärden which is the part of the Baltic Sea that is nearest to my house. When I left Skellefteå some days before almost the whole bay was ice covered with a thin, white snow topping. Today the sheet of ice was broken and many ice floes drifted on the surface. It looks like some larger waves had broken the ice into several parallel stripes that then broke apart into smaller ice floes.

When I passed the same place two hours later to fetch a christmas parcel most of the ice was gone, probably it had drifted into open sea.

 

ɥʇnos uʍop ʎɐʍ – part I

Although I already live quite up north (64° 41′ N) my most longer travels head even further north, not south. But not this time.

Having started in Umeå I took the train to Stockholm, another train to Malmö and in some hours a third train to Trelleborg, which is the southernmost town in Sweden. I’m travelling more than 1200 km and more than 9 degrees of latitude – a tenth of the distance between the equator and the North Pole!

Last night rain poured down in Umeå, where I already arrived yesterday. How will I come to the rail station without becoming completely rain-drenched? Goretex jacket, pants and rubber boots? No need for it, I was lucky: The rain had stopped and the sunlight was reflected by the wet asphalt, when I went to Umeå Central.

I was way to early and had to wait. Anyway, the weather was fine, the air fresh and the train arrived 20 minutes before departure. When I went to carriage 1 I realised, that it’s a 1st class coach. First I was a bit puzzled, but then I remembered, that I did book 1st class tickets. They were hardly more expensive and now I was glad to have a bit more comfort on the long journey. And there was coffee, muffins and fresh mandarins, too. For free!

First I took another seat (my window seat hardly had any window …) and had a look at the Swedish landscape rolling past.

In Sundsvall many people got on and I had to take my original seat again. 2 hours 19 minutes to Gävle

… and then 1 hour 26 minutes to Stockholm, where I left the train. One of the disadvantages of living in a small town is the increasing inability to be comfortable in crowded places. And for me, Stockholm Central Station is really crowed! The photo may fool you, all people were in the very same shop, where I bought a photo magazine.

I longed to get on the next train to Malmö, were I just could sit and relax, but first I had to wait with the other zillion people for the train to arrive …

(to be continued …)