Mirages, vintervägg and sea smoke

After the warm but chilly weather on Holmön it’s nice to have colder weather at home. The sky has been clear all night and day and the morning temperatur was -14 °C.

The whole open sea was smoking. A common view when the sea is free of ice but the air is cold.

At the horizon I could see the vintervägg, a local meteorological phenomenon that is typical for this season. Vintervägg means “vinter wall” and names a cloud layer on sea. Sometimes it’s quite near, sometimes it’s far away. Today it was far away and a third meteorological effect came into view: A mirage, also called Fata Morgana. It has the same origin as the sea smoke: abrupt temperature differences. This is why these mirages mostly are found in deserts and polar regions.

Skelleftehamn is not really part of the polar region but shares at least some of the meteorological phenomenons.

Early winter Holmön II

This article is part of the series “2018-12: Holmön”.

Saturday, 8 December – 0 °C – it’s snowing and two centimetres of new, wet snow cover the ground. Annika and I made a hiking trip to Vedaögern in the south.

Now it’s pitch black outside and still snowing. Nevertheless we will leave our comfortable accommodation soon for good reasons: we attend the julbord – the traditional Swedish Christmas dinner – today.

Early winter Holmön I

This article is part of the series “2018-12: Holmön”.

When Annika and I made a two-day trip to the small island Stora Fjäderägg in August this year, we spent some hours on the island Holmön. We walked to a place called Berguddens fyr – Berguddens lighthouse – were you can rent a room.

4 months and 5 days later we stand at the shipping pier and wait for the small ferry Helena Elisabeth that shall bring us to Holmön. We booked a room in Berguddens fyr for four nights. With us is my car. Annika booked a place for it on the ferry that only provides space for a single car. At 7:30 the ferry approaches.

We have to wait, because first all groceries and goods have to be brought onto the small ship. Holmön has 75 inhabitants and a grocery store. Finally I drive the car onto the ferry where it is saved with wedges.

We are not the only people travelling to Holmön. Everyone is sitting in the inside beside of me that tries to make some photos. The foredeck however is covered with wet, salty ice and so slippery that I do not dare to stand there without any hold.

After about 40 minutes the ferry goes ashore in the port of Holmön. I have to back from the ferry with the car and I am quite glad about the rear camera. Then we take the main road, turn right into a snowy gravel road, turn right again into another small road through the forest and then we arrive at Berguddens fyr.

No one is there, but the house is open and warm and soon we find our large but cosy room:

Probably we will be completely alone in the house. Who travels there in early December? Already at 3 o’clock it is quite dark and the lighthouse has started to be active.

Days are short in December but we have a lot of books with us and even two musical instruments: A violin for Annika who plays viola, and an accordion for me who plays piano. (Did I mention, that we are alone in the house ;-) ?) And a book with many, many Christmas songs.

From glaciers to the East Fjords

This article is part of the series “2018-08: Iceland”.

Saturday, 2 September – from Svinafell to Reyðarfjörður by car

Annika and I woke up quite early and left our cabin in Svinafell already round 8 o’clock. That’s why we were almost alone, when we came to the lake Fjallsárlón into which the glacier tongue Fjallsjökull calves. Some larger and many small icebergs floated on the brown glacier water. We walked along the shore, touched some of the small ice blocks and watched them floating into the creek Fjällsá.

When we left the beach of the lake, many more people arrived, although this “first lake” is not as the “third lake”, the Jökulsárlón. The latter is much more touristic. Many cars stood on the huge parking place and hundreds of tourists walked around, taking pictures or took tours with zodiac boats or amphibian vehicles. The good thing with cold lakes: You always find the opportunity to take pictures without any  tourist.

We didn’t see many animals yet on Iceland, beside of many sea birds and of course countless sheep (mostly in groups of three) and Icelandic horses. Here we saw the first wild mammals: seals swimming around in the lake, diving and reappearing again after some time.

After we left these lakes behind and continued east, the traffic on the Ring Road decreased more and more. We were on the way to the East Fjords that are far less touristic than the south of Iceland. It was just fun to drive the Ring Road and watch the scenery changing. Just a few pictures from some of the breaks we made.

It was quite late when we arrived in the coastal town Reyðarfjörður, where we got a room with an own bathroom. Time to cook and wash some clothes.

The next day we would leave the East Fjords and head north.

A two-day journey to Stora Fjäderägg

There are so many wonderful and special locations to stay overnight in Northern Scandinavia. Many of them are quite far away as e.g. Låktatjåkko (590 km) or Kjølnes Fyr (970 km). Others are quite near.

Two days ago Annika and I started a two-day journey to such a place, unknown to both of us. Already the journey was interesting, since you cannot reach the destination by land. We started in Umeå and drove to Norrfjärden, where we parked the car and waited for the 8 o’clock ferry to the island Holmön. This ferry is operated by the Trafikverket (Swedish Transport Administration) and free of charge.

We had four hours to explore this island, part of the island group Holmöarna, that have 75 year-round inhabitants. The small village Byviken, where we arrived has a boat museum and a small shop, that is open all year. We went for a walk and discovered a nice place: Bergudden. There’s a lighthouse and you can rent rooms, on request even in wintertime.

We arrived back in time to wait for the departure of our next vehicle: Holmöslupen.

Holmöslupen is a chalupa, an old cutter-like sail boat which is a reconstruction of an old boat type as commonly used 100 years ago. It takes up to 12 passengers and you are allowed (and asked) to help with e.g. hoisting the sails. Life vests available, sailing experience not needed. This boat would bring us to our final destination.

The wind was so weak, that we sailed only a part and mostly used the motor. Otherwise the trip (planned to take 40 to 60 minutes) would have taken several hours. We passed the islands Trappskär and Lill-Fjäderägg before we arrived at our travel destination Stora Fjäderägg, an island of 1.8 km × 1.3 km.  Here’s a hostel driven by the STF (Swedish Tourist Association). The story of this hostel is worth to tell:

After people of the boat museum were done with the building the Holmöslupen they asked themselves what to do with such a fine and seaworthy ship. It was them who had the idea to install a hostel on the uninhabited island Stora Fjäderägg just to give the chalupa a purpose. That’s why there is a hostel on a desert island in the Northern Baltic Sea and a wooden boat that transport the guests.

Some images of the island:

There is electricity on the island, there is mobile internet and there is drinking water. The latter comes from a well and especially this year you have to be economical with it due to the long period of dryness. Luckily it rained some days ago and the rain barrels were filled to the brim. The rain water is used for washing oneself and for the dishes. The hostel has a fully equipped kitchen, but you have to bring all food with you.

Annika and I had decided for one of the all-time travel dinners: spaghetti with pesto and parmesan cheese. It was very warm but not too hot to sit outside. We enjoyed our meal and watched the barn swallow feeding its six children that begged for food with open beaks. They seemed to be almost grown-up and hardly fitted into the small nest any more.

We were told, that there are many seals round Stora Fjäderägg and where to find them. Together with Annika I doubtfully followed the tiny path through the heath – I’ve never seen a single seal in the Swedish Baltic Sea since I moved here eight years ago. The ground became rocky and we had a view of the sea. First I saw a black spot on top of a grey spot. A seal on a rock? Then we saw round black spots floating back and forth – definitely seals, I never heard of swimming rocks … . I used a small tree for cover and creeped nearer. The back spot was a seal too and other seals were lying along a headland a bit farther away.

I took the camera, ducked and tried to creep nearer to a large boulder to hide behind. The seal however saw me and *splash* jumped into the water and dived away. I waited behind the rock and I was lucky. After some minutes a seal approached the same rock and crawled onto it. I was so near that I could hear the flippers splashing.

After having taken these photos I returned to Annika and the seal – seeing me – dived again. This rock kept empty for the next time but along the headland more and more seals appeared and seemed to cover the rocks completely. Next time I’ll definitely will take my huge tele photo lens with me.

We both sat there for a while – on a big rock, both listening and watching. The sun had already set, zillions of small insects hummed and buzzed around and we watched the many grey seals, at least 40 of them. Finally we decided to walk back as long it was light. Some of the small paths are not easy to walk on. On our way back I stopped because I saw something moving. It was a young hare. No, it was two of them. No, even more.

Three young hares were hopping around, eating a bit of grass and completely ignoring us. I was able to get close to three meters and still they didn’t seem to be frightened at all. I increased the ISO of my camera to 3200 and took some photos of these cute furry animals. (Don’t ask me what they do in photo 3 and 4, I’m not a hare expert.)

When we arrived at the hostel nightfall had intensified. Frog hopped around everywhere and the blue hour invited for taking more pictures. I however was tired and only took a photo of the old lighthouse before going to bed.

The next day: After a nice outside breakfast Annika and I took another walk over the island. Stora Fjäderägg has a lot of historical places, anything between the not-so-old lighthouse and ancient heaps of stones only readable for archeologists. Here are some of them:

Again it was warm or even hot at midday. Passing the lighthouse we returned to the hostel longing for water to drink.

Apropos lighthouse: We were ten people on the island that had stayed overnight: The host family (3), Annika and I (2), a family from Örnsköldsvik (4) and a man that had bought that old lighthouse. He showed Annika and me around and told us about his plans to renovate the lighthouse and to build a flat into it. A great project that probably will take some years, because it’s just a summer project.

We already had packed our backpacks and cleaned our rooms, now we were ready to go back to the small harbour waiting for the Holmöslupen. This time we were lucky, we could use both mainsail and foresail to sail back to Holmön.

Step by step we came back to civilisation: Holmön – the grocery shop (ice cream!) – the ferry to the mainland – the parked car – driving the E4 to Umeå – a Thai restaurant – home at Annika.

Conclusion: Absolutely worth it! I’m sure it wasn’t the last time, that Annika and I travelled to this very special place.

More info:

 

From the #archives: winter season

The weather of the last weeks has been hot, mostly too hot for me. Even today’s thunderstorm and heavy rain showers didn’t manage to cool down the temperatures below 20 °C. I’m really longing for cooler weather. Since I cannot change the weather itself I can only provide some winter photos from the archives. Voilà:

#escapism – kayaking to Gåsören

This article is part of the series #escapism. It’s about being outdoors and leaving civilisation behind in excursions that take less than 24 hours. Everyone should have time for such!

Yesterday I wanted to take advantage of the good weather and decided to make a kayak trip to the island Gåsören. I planned for an overnight stay and that means packing a lot of things:

Anything on the photo beside of the empty plastic box came with me. From left to right: Dry suit, life jacket, food and stove, camping map, spare clothes, tent, camera equipment, water bottle, book, sleeping bag, neoprene boots, 5 litre water canister. It’s almost miracle that everything fits into the kayak. Since it was quite warm I only wore pants and a t-shirt and of course the life jacket, that’s a matter of security and therefore principle.

I paddled between the islands Storgrundet and Brambärsgrundet, passed Vorrgrundet and then headed to Klubben and Flottgrundet. Here I left the islands behind and continued to Gåsören. The weather was nice and the sea was calm. Already 50 minutes later I arrived. I dragged the kayak ashore, took all baggage and went to my favourite campground (and one of the few placed not completely covered with pebbles and rocks) where I put up the tent.

After “cooking” and eating I visited two friends that own one of the two summer cottages on Gåsören. It’s really a beautiful place they have. We talked about paddling, hiking, skiing and much more. It was late when I want back to my tent and the sun started to set.

I didn’t go to sleep directly but watched the sun going down and the many fluffy but extremely clumsy seagull chicks walking around. They cannot fly yet and use to stumble over every other stone. What a contrast to the elegant flight of the grown ups.

It was much brighter than it looks like on these backlit photographs. It doesn’t get dark in the night  and I found it hard to sleep, not only due to the bright night but also to the increasing wind and the constantly screeching seagulls. I put on a woollen cap. It was not cold at all but it helped to block the direct light (though not the shrieks of the gulls).

At half past five I gave up and started to finish a book I’d been reading for a while. That took some hours. At half past eight I took a frugal breakfast: Toast with cheese.

Then I packed everything together. Clouds had started approaching and I wanted to have everything stowed in the kayak before the rain. The sky above was still blue but the sea started to get choppy.

I stopped by my friends again to say farewell. They have their cottage on the lee side of the island and we enjoyed the last hour of sun before the clouds started to cover it.

I dragged the kayak into the shallow water. It was hard to start against the wind, because the kayak was constantly turned parallel to the approaching waves. Wrong direction and quite unstable. But after some tries I managed to leave the island behind. It was exhausting but easy to paddle against the wind. Anyway I wouldn’t have dared to cross the open sea in these conditions without wearing a dry suit even if it’s only 600 metres. The water is still very cold and in case of the kayak capsizing I wanted to be completely sure to be able to reach the shore without hypothermia.

It took twice the time than the day before. The sky was grey and cloudy and it had started to rain. It may not sound like that, but it was real fun paddling through wind and waves. The hardest part was going round Vorrgrundet where I had to go parallel to the short waves. Here I had to be fully focussed to keep my balance. As soon as I reached Storgrundet I was in the lee of that island again and the water was much calmer. Soon I arrived at yesterday’s starting point.

The whole trip took less than 20 hours and is therefore a candidate for the series #escapism.

Finally, two selfies, one sunny from yesterday and one rainy from today (made in the lee of a small island).

 

The island Fårö

This article is part of the series “2018-05: Gotland”.

It’s Thursday, our 4th full day on Gotland. Today we want to hire a car, meet Ingrid again and explore Fårö, an island northeast from Gotland.

We return our e-bikes, that we used the last two days and walk to Mickes biluthyrning, where we rent a VW Passat from 1995. Annika drives. We fill up the car and drive to Lärbro, where we meet Ingrid. She has been living on Gotland for a year and will guide us around.

In Fårösund we drive on the free ferry; the ferry crossing takes only 8 minutes. Then we are on Fårö.

First stop: Fårö kyrka. Beside this church used to be a tourist information, but it doesn’t exist anymore. It’s not a big problem, since Ingrid knows all these places she wants to show us.

The next stop however is a request of Annika and me: a real bakery! With a few exceptions, there are no bakeries in Northern Sweden and we enjoy visiting this one. We buy bread and cake and take a break to eat the latter.

We drive through the landscapes of Fårö, which are as varied as Gotland’s landscapes. Sometimes you think, you are in Spain or Greece, sometimes you believe being in Northern Germany and (only) sometimes in Sweden. Now I understand the Swedish people better, who say that Gotland is not Sweden.

Next stop Fårö Fyr, the lighthouse of Fårö, located at the easternmost point of Fårö. There’s a beautiful rock coast, but we do not stay very long, there’s a lot to see.

Next stop Skärsändan, a beautiful sandy beach that is several kilometres long. Annika and I take a bath (the water is quite shallow) and then Ingrid, Annika and I walk barefooted along the beach.

After a longer promenade we continue our Fårö exploration trip. On the way to Langhammars Raukar we make a stopover. Here we find many things typical for Gotland and Fårö: grey sheep, windmills, thatched houses, braided fences and dry stone walls.

Next stop is Langhammars Raukar, one of the famous spots with rauks – steep limestone formations formed by the waves of the sea. On of them reminds me on the stone statues of the Easter Island.

We continue to another fascinating spot, three kilometres away: Helgumannen, an old abandoned fishing village. This group of tiny wooden houses located on a rocky beach that seems to be endless looks really remote and I ask myself what kind of live the inhabitants had.

The last stop on Fårö for today: Gamle Hamn, another spot well-known for raukar. The last photo shows the “coffee pot”. Personally it reminds me more of Buckbeak, the hippogriff in Harry Potter.

I has become late, we are hungry and a bit tired. Ingrid drives the way back to the ferry and soon we are on Gotland again. Here we take the first restaurant and get something to eat, before we drive back to Lärbro and say goodbye to Ingrid.

Tusen takk, Ingrid for a wonderful day!

When Annika and I arrive in Visby it’s so late that the sun sets and the ice cream shop is already closed.