Jogging through Skelleftehamn

During the ski tour last winter I realised that I have neither strength nor condition. The ski tour was quite exhausting. During the summer I did nothing to change this fact.

Two weeks ago however I started something new: I went jogging. Me! Voluntary! The first 500 meters I felt like an elephant on a unicycle but then I started to enjoy the jogging. Not because I love training but because I love being outdoors.

My chosen trail is a nice circular route through the forest. Ten days ago (my 2nd jogging) however I had to change the route for good reasons:

I definitely do not want to jog through the forest during an ongoing moose hunt. So I returned and jogged the same distance twice.

Today (my 3rd jogging) I could go round again. Weather and terrain conditions however were a bit different:

I made a small detour to the lake Snesviken. It surprised me to see it completely covered with ice. (Sorry for the mediocre photo, just an iPhone snapshot.)

I think it’s funny to jog through the snow. It’s even snowing right now. Unfortunately it will get warmer tonight and tomorrow. The snow will turn into rain and melt the snow. I guess it will be slippery as hell the next days. Time to buy some jogging shoes with spikes.

Landmannalaugar

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

Sunday, 26 August – Monday, 27 August

There are only a few roads leading across the Highlands of Iceland. Most of them are only open for cars with four-wheel drive because it is necessary to ford rivers. Even though the road to the Landmannalaugar, our destination for Sunday, is not the toughest, we decided not to hire such a car. They are expensive, we don’t have any experience in fording and there are busses making such trips as well.

Sunday morning we entered the bus to the Landmannalaugar. The whole trip takes round about four hours and goes mostly on normal asphalt roads: through Reykjavík, along the Ring Road that runs around the island, then along a minor road. Finally we reached the junction where the gravel road starts and the bus ride became a bit jumpy. We met some other cars, some of them huge jeeps, some of them small SUVs. After a while we approached the first ford, where a small Dacia Duster crossed the water, followed by our bus.

The other two fords are within sight of the Landmannalaugar mountain hut. There were deeper and many of the drivers with smaller cars decided to use the parking place nearby instead of fording. The bus however splashed through the water and brought us to the mountain hut, where we had booked two places to sleep.

After we unpacked our sleeping bags and put them on two of the narrow mattresses we put on our jackets and boots and started a hike through the amazing landscape. Annika has been in Iceland before several times and told me about the almost unbelievable colours and shades of the mountains and she was true. Some of the mountains were orange, some brown or yellow, some green and one of them red. The lava rocks were black, partly covered with white-green moss and the higher mountains had white snow fields on their colourful slopes. Take a look by yourself:

Iceland has a lot of tourists, last year more than 2 millions. To protect the sensitive environment and avoid destroying the flora you mustn’t leave the trail. There’s another reason for sticking to the trails: Iceland has many geothermal areas where you could break through the thin crust into bubbling mud or boiling sulphuric acid. Some of these spots are visible, they smoke and you smell the sulphur compounds.

After some hours hiking (including an ascent of a mountain) we returned to Landmannalaugar. There’s not only the mountain hut providing 75 beds and a camp ground with place for at least hundred tents, there’s also the Mountain Mall, an old bus where you can buy food.

We enjoyed a rest with two cokes before we headed to the next attraction: A warm bath in the river. Because of the geothermal activity the ground is partly hot and heats up the water to temperatures between round 30 °C and 42 °C. We were not the only ones bathing, but there was enough place for all. You could even decide how warm you wanted your bath by just moving another metre. Great!

After a saturating dinner with spaghetti and pasta I took another walk and some more photos. Then I went to our room and got to bed.

Amazing! Although more than 15 people had slept in the room and the mattresses were so narrow that we could hardly turn around Annika and I slept very well. It was very quiet, hardly any snoring, no talking, no rustling with plastic bags. I experienced much worse when I had spent nights  in alpine mountain huts in Germany or Austria.

After breakfast we took another bath and then another hiking tour. I hardly made any photos due to the drizzle and the strong winds. At least I could take some pictures of the sheep grassing on the plain.

Drizzle became stronger and turned into rain. We went to the ford and looked at the cars crossing. This time I had my waterproof camera with me. Look at the snorkel of the white jeep, I guess this car could almost dive!

The rain got stronger and stronger and when we entered the bus our rain clothes were soaking wet. I looked through the rain-wept window for a while, tried to make same photos, but the autofocus couldn’t handle the situation. After a while I fell asleep.

Conclusion: A great experience! Yes, Landmannalaugar is touristic and crowed, but for good reasons. It’s absolutely worth a visit. Here you can even start a four-day hiking trip but you have to reserve the mountain huts years before. I’m quite eager to do this trail, perhaps in 2020 …?

A mountain tour in Arvidsjaur

Yesterday I used my new car to drive to Vittjåkk, a small skiing area near Arvidsjaur, two hours away from home. Annika and I were there in wintertime and made a showshoe tour up the hills. I lived in Munich for six years and do not call these hills real mountains, but at least they reach above the treeline.

I parked again at the same parking lot and ascended the first hill that seems to be nameless. The sky was free of clouds, it was quite warm and I was completely alone.

Soon I was on top of the first hill. I wasn’t alone anymore. Some horseflies tried to make friends with me or at least with my blood. I descended the first hill and went up the Vittjåkk.

From the top I had a wide view over large forests, lakes and a higher mountain range.

Beside of taking pictures I didn’t rest because the horseflies really loved me. So I continued downhill again and was a bit flabbergasted that the whole hike took hardly more than 90 minutes. The hut village was completely abandoned, only a snowmobile showed that this place is only used in wintertime. And other signs showed that too …

Four typical observations in Northern Sweden’s inland in summer, when you go by car

One: construction sites. Almost all major roads are under constant repair each summer. It takes a lot of time to travel. Sometimes you have to wait for a traffic light becoming green or a follow-me car. Sometimes you follow an expencive camper whose driver doesn’t dare to drive more than 20 km/h on the gravelly sections. And this may go on for miles. Swedish miles! (A Swedish mile is 10 km.)

Two: lupins. Many roadsides are overgrown with lupins. They are beautiful, but they are invasive and threaten biodiversity. The Swedish Transport Agency has started to fight theses flowers.

Three: reindeers. Most reindeers are in the mountains but there are always reindeers left in the inland. Keep attention when driving! When you see one reindeer you can be quite sure that others are around, too.

Four: bilingual town signs. On many place in Northern Sweden you are in two countries at the same time. Sweden, the official nation and Sápmi, the region traditionally inhabited by the Sami people. Therefore many places have (at least) two names, a Swedish and a Sami one.

I drove a lot yesterday: 535 km in total. But as a result I know the new Subaru Outback much better and got used both to the automatic gearbox as the electronic systems. I’m very satisfied with the car that is much more comfortable than the old one. The only drawback, it might be the white colour: The horseflies just love the car. When I return to the car it is mostly surrounded by some dozens of this pests and they will even try to follow when I set off. (They manage round 25 km/h.)

 

Three bicycle tours on Gotland – Tuesday

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

Today is Tuesday and the day starts as Monday did: with a breakfast on the roof terrace under a blue sky. The air is calm and warm and we want to make a bicycle tour again, this time with e-bikes. At the bike rental we hand back our normal bikes and get our e-bikes which we want to test for two days. Yesterday we cycled north, today we’ll head southwards.

Right south from Visby we leave the main road and enter the Södra Hällarna, a natural reserve.

The ground is dry and the vegetation looks more Mediterranean than Swedish. To the right there are cliffs by the sea.

With a normal bike we could follow the minor paths, but the e-bikes are too heavy to carry. We keep left and land on the main road again. The next stop is a bit special.

No, it’s not the tree houses, even though they look both interesting and beautiful. It’s this:

Here, in a amusement park in Kneippbyn stands the Villa Villekulla, the house of Pippi Longstocking! Everyone who knows the series from 1969 and the two films of 1970 also knows this house, that was used for the outdoor shots of the series and films.

The amusement park is closed – it is still off-season – but the door is open and we are able to creep in to take some photos. Pure children memories!

Some other nice spots nearby: Fridhem and Högklint.

Now we try to choose smaller ways for our bicycle tour but we do not succeed. South of Kneippbyn lies Tofta Skjutfält, a military training area and the ways that Google Maps proposes are blocked by fences or serious prohibition signs. So we stick to the main road, which is a bit boring. But at least there’re possibilities to get food, e.g. in the Suderby Herrgård.

We continue to Gnisvärd. On the way there we see the large stone ships, old graves from the later Bronze Age surrounded by stones in the form of a ship.

And much more is to see, from ancient rune stones to cozy cabins by the sea.

Later we follow a small path to Tofta Strand, a sandy beach. It’s more than 20 °C and it feels even warmer in the sun. Hardly imaginable that I photoed ice and snow less than a week ago. Annika and I take a bath. The water is still cold, but the sun warms us after the bath.

Later: Annika and I are back in Visby and take a stop at Glassmagasinet, “Swedens biggest ice cream shop”. And they do have a huge amount of different sorts of ice cream, anything from dark chocolate with 78% cocoa to bright blue Smurf ice. The best thing is not the assortment, it’s the taste. The ice cream is real Italian ice cream and tastes fantastical! Attention: This place can be very crowded even off-season.

It’s seven a clock. We cycle to the beach, sit down on a breakwater and look at the sun going down. It will take almost two hours until it has sunken down at the western horizon. A rare experience when you live in Umeå or Skelleftehamn, where the Baltic Sea is in the east.

A last photo from our roof terrace. We won’t sit here for long. It has been a long day and we are tired. Soon we fall asleep. Tomorrow: Another cycle tour.

 

 

 

Skitour to Bergskäret

Today I took advantage of the marvellous weather and joined a ski tour over the frozen bay Kågefjärden to the island Bergskäret. Bergskäret is the island in the Kågefjärden that is nearest to the open sea. We were four: Hans and Stefan, with whom I have already made some trips, Kenneth and myself.

We took the car to Kågehamn where we started the tour. Round 5 kilometres over the snow covered frozen Baltic Sea and we arrived at the island. We were not the only ones. We looked for a good spot on the sunny south bank of the island where Hans made a fire with fire steel and we grilled the sausages that Kenneth had bought. I had a light down jacket with me but instead of putting that on I put off my soft shell because I felt so warm. Although it was hardly more than +2 °C the sun warmed us and the island protected us from the wind. After barbecuing, eating and resting a bit we went round the island and skied back to Kågehamn. Round 11 kilometres in the finest weather. A good way to spend the Sunday!

Tack för turen Hans, Stefan, and Kenneth.

Postscript 1

On the way back we saw the first whooper swan of the season. Another spring sign.

Postscript 2

While the snow and ice on the Baltic Sea are still beautiful the minor streets are in a very poor condition. The ice on the street is so deeply rutted that I’m quite glad about the high ground clearance of my Subaru. Anyway I learned that even a car with permanent all-wheel drive can spin out although driving slow.

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.

Why travelling in Northern Norway can take time

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

Day 40 of my winter journey 2018

At 11 o’clock we left Kjølnes Fyr and started our car trip to Båtsfjord. First we had to take the road 890 to Kongsfjord and over the Kongsfjordfjellet, then we had to continue on road 891 over the Båtsfjordfjellet to Båtsfjord.

I wasn’t sure if we would manage it due to the severe stormy and snowy weather. Another guest staying at Kjølnes Fyr had a hard time driving the 5 km from Berlevåg with very bad visibility. The roads however were still open though marked with a warning “difficult driving conditions because of snowstorm”.

And yes, it was stormy and it snowed a lot. The sight on the road however was still quite good. While I focussed on the road Annika took some photos of the coast beside of the road:

Some parts however were very hard to drive, since the visibility was extremely bad. It was hard to see whether there were snowdrifts on the road and how deep they were and several times I had to stop completely to find out, where the road continued.

I started to doubt if it was possible to cross the mountain passages but we would make it at least to Kongsfjord where we could stay overnight if continuing became impossible. Annika tried to check the traffic information of Vegvesen – the Norwegian Public Roads Administration – but there was no mobile internet available.

I continued driving along the E 890 and the only other vehicle we met was a snow plough. The street behind it however seemed as snowy as before.

Shortly before Kongsfjord Annika’s smartphone was online again and she informed me about the updated traffic information: The mountain sections of both the 890 and the 891 where restricted to kolonnekjøring which means that you cannot drive alone but have to follow a convoy guided by a snowplough. The kolonnekjøring was scheduled to 14:30. The good thing: Driving in a convoy would be much easier than driving alone.

When we arrived in Kongsfjord it was 12:10, so the 28 km drive from Kjølnes Fyr had taken more than an hour. We were lucky that there is a landhandel – a grocery – in Kungsfjord that is open all year. We entered the landhandel, told about the kolonnekjøring and were invited to coffee and cookies straightaway. A big thank you to the owner for the warm welcome!

While we sipped our coffee and waited we constantly checked the traffic informations. After a short while we learned that the start of the kolonnekjøring was postponed to 17:00. That meant more waiting, but we were not the only ones. Other men in work clothes – mostly fishermen – waited as well. They told stories, laughed out loudly while drinking coffee or eating fast food. Anyway we all were still lucky. While we only had to wait some more hours many other roads were completely closed due to the weather, among others the way to Mehamn, the passage between Kiberg and Vardø and the only way to the North Cape.

Hours later: We said goodbye, cleared the car of snow and drove the short way to the boom gate. Here some other vehicles, mostly trucks waited for the convoy to start. One of the truck drivers attached snow chains to his truck.

Dusk had already been falling when our convoy started some minutes after 5 o’clock. My job for the next time was following the rear lights of the car in front.

Some passages were quite easy to drive, some passages were hard to follow due to the blowing and driving snow. (Sorry, no photos.) After 35 minutes we arrived at the T-junction, where the 890 from Kongsfjord, the 890 from Tana Bru in the south and the 891 from Båtsfjord meet. A long queue of cars coming from Tana Bru already waited. Some minutes later the convoy from Båtsfjord arrived as well. The snowplough leading the convoy to Kongsfjord passed and seconds later our queue of cars started to approach the intersection were we turned left to follow the convoy to Båtsfjord.

This part of the trip was extremely exhausting. It was dark, the convoy was slow and mostly the visibility was really bad. I just tried to follow the red lights in front and it felt like hours and hours until the snowplough turned right and we suddenly arrived in Båtsfjord. Here it seemed to snow as much as in the mountains and I was very relieved when I finally parked the car at our overnight stay. Phew – that was no easy ride and I’m really grateful that convoys led us over the mountains under the snowstorm conditions.

The rest of the day? Buying foodstuff at REMA 1000, eating fast food, falling asleep quite fast while the snow squalls over Båtsfjord continued. According to our host 30 cm of snow already had fallen that day and more was expected.

At least we arrived in Båtsfjord, probably our last overnight stay on land. The next evening we would take the Hurtigruten to Ørnes, were we would drive home to Skelleftehamn and Umeå.

(The first five photos were shot by Annika. I did the editing.)

A tour to the easternmost point of mainland Norway

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

Day 29 and 30 of my winter journey 2018

Yesterday we continued our journey to Ytre Kiberg which is 13 south of Vardø, one of the Hurtigruten stops. We started in Vadsø – another Hurtigruten stop – after a breakfast with our host Nils, bought a basis of food for the next days and took the E75 northwards. We made a stopover in Ekkerøy, a village on a peninsula near Vadsø. We like this place and will try to stay there for some nights next week.

At lunchtime we reached Cape East Arctic Adventure, our stay for four nights. We were welcomed by Trond, the owner and operator of Cape East Arctic Adventure and were shown our cozy bedroom, the kitchen and the homely living room. After making ourselves at home we went along the beach to the village and the harbour.

In the evening we were invited to a three course dinner based on freshly caught cod: Fish soup – cod with potatoes and carrots and finally cod roe. Everything was extremely tasty and it was Annika’s and my first time where we tasted cod roe. Yummy!

In Kiberg you are as east as you can be in the Central European Timezone, therefore sun is rising already at 6:24. I was awake very early and took a morning walk round 6 o’clock. Some snow drifts had been created by snow and wind over night but now the weather was less windy and quite sunny. At least for a short time. While I went the way to Indre Kiberg clouds approached, wind increased and it started to snow. It was hardly imaginable that it was sunny just a short time before. Weather changes here quite often as Annika and I should find out later.

After breakfast Annika and I took the car to the other side of the village, put on our snow shoes and started a hike to Kibergsneset, easternmost point of mainland Norway. This place is more east than e.g. St. Petersburg, Kairo or Istanbul! It was windy but quite sunny, when we started our tour but weather changes fast on the Varanger Peninsula:

Actually this hike is just a promenade but the weather may transform it into a small expedition. We were exposed to wind and snow and grateful, that we didn’t experienced a full storm. The weather was rough anyway and I was glad about my windproof jacket and two pairs of mittens.

We continued on a small hiking trail, first with, then without snowshoes because the thin snow layer was hardened by the wind and easy to walk onto. There’s a coastal fortress build by Germans in WW2 on Kibergsneset but we couldn’t see it in the snow weather. Instead of looking for it we continued to the small lighthouse at Kibergsneset that marks the easternmost point of mainland Norway (and most of Europe). Shortly before we reached it the sun came out and we continued the last metres in full sun. While I made some photos a small snow shower approached with the sun still shining.

From the lighthouse there was an amazing view over the arctic coast of the Barents Sea, but only for some moments. Soon the next snow shower came by and hid most of the view onto both the coast and the sea.

The way back was much shorter because we knew the way and went downwards. Even though the view was limited by the snow showers Ytre Kiberg came into view again soon and surprisingly the weather was nice and sunny again.

After this very windy promenade we were glad to find shelter in my car. We took the car to Vardø to eat something and after that we tried the road to Hamningberg. We knew that the road was closed in winter but we curious how long we would come.

Well, not very long. We managed to get to Smelror, some kilometres north from Vardø.

The main road however was definitely closed as you can see. There are no people living in Hamningberg permanently and the only motorised way to reach it in wintertime is by snowmobile. For car it is open less than half the year.

We took the car back to Kiberg, enjoyed the incredible and unbelievable colours of the sky and were surprised by a strange weather phenomenon: -6 °C and rain (including a faint rainbow!)

The rest of the day? -10 °C and wind outside, no more photos, no more excursions.

Fun fact: We took the E75 northwards. If you would take it southwards you could travel more than 4000 km and finally would arrive on Crete, Greece.

A trip to Murmansk – trip home

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

Day 24 of my winter journey 2018

After two days of visiting Murmansk we were prepared for our trip back. The bus arrived shortly after 7 o’clock local time (5 o’clock CET) and we started our trip home.

We left town and crossed the Kola Bay. It was still dark.

Then I fell asleep. I woke up shortly before our rest at the small shop, that seems to be located in the middle of nowhere.

Meanwhile it was as bright as day. We followed the E105 that would bring us first to the Russian-Norwegian border and then back to Kirkenes. Some images taken from the bus:

Finally we came to the border. We had to leave the bus with all our luggage. I bought huge winter rubber boots in Murmansk and some books and was curious what I would have to do at the customs, but since I stood in the queue “nothing to declare” no one cared.

Next station: showing the passports. Chris, Ørjan and Annika had already went through, now it was my turn. I gave the passport to the border official, trying not to smile – no one seems to smile when communicating to strangers. The man looked at my passport for several minutes, typed things into the computer, looked at the passport again, stood up and left. He came back with a woman discussing something in Russian. The woman left again, the man continued working. Again he left, again he came back with the woman. I didn’t understand a single word and started wondering what the problem could be, I guess it was computer problems. It took round 15 minutes until I got my passport back with some Russian words, probably an apology or an explanation about what went wrong.

I climbed into the bus and we were driven to the Norwegian customs. What a difference! The handling was not only much faster, but much more friendly. The Norwegian border officials smiled, made some friendly small talk and hardly a minute later we were through the customs and again in the Schengen Area where you can move between countries without needing a visa.

Some very brief observations from Murmansk:

  • The difference between poor and rich, cared and ruined is quite visible
  • People won’t smile at you, especially the officials and salespersons
  • The food in the restaurants we visited was extraordinary good
  • Many people don’t speak any English. Exceptions found in our hotels and restaurants
  • I felt like 4 year old when I tried to decipher the Cyrillic letters.
  • I didn’t feel welcome every second, but safe all the time

Travelling to Murmansk was a very interesting experience and I would love to see more of Russia. Next time I would like to use internet services as e.g. couchsurfing to get into contact with the locals. I guess I would get another view of Russia.

 

 

A snowshoe promenade

Day 27 of my winter journey 2018

Today our current host Chris took half a day off and we (Chris, Annika, I and two dogs) made a trip into the valley Pasvikdalen. There’s a small place called Strand where we parked our cars at the former boarding school, nowadays a museum. Here we started a small small snowshoe tour up the Brattberget.

Brattberget means the “steep mountain” but first of all the mountain is more like a hill and then the way up is not steep as all. First we went through denser forest, then then forest and the view opened a bit. Soon we were up on the top of the hill.

There’s a toilet and two benches on the Brattberget. While the benches were covered with snow, the toilet was still visible.

The weather was nice and we had a great view. To the north and west of the lake LangfjordvatnetUhcavuonjávri, to the south, remote in the distance of Russia.

After a short rest in the sun and some photos we descended the same way we went up and soon were at our parked cars again. A short and nice snowshoe tour through the hilly and wintry Pasvikdalen.