No whales today

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

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

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

And then we’re off.

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

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

Note to myself: TromsøyaRingvassøya/ReinøyaVannøyaNordfugløyaArnøya/LaukøyaSkervøya/KågenLyngenReinøyaTromsøya

Tønsnesvarden

On Tuesday we got some snow in Tromsø. On Wednesday it already has melted away. But last night a bit of snow arrived.

Today I chose a shorter tour from my book “På tur in Tromsø” (On tour in Tromsø) because I just wanted an easy hike, not a full-grown mountain tour. The weather agreed with me.

By the sea only a bit of wet snow and sleet covered the ground but already 50 meter higher the gravel path was covered with 10 cm of snow. Deep tyre tracks were carved in the snow. This part of the tour was very easy. Just follow the road up until you reach the radio unit on the Tønsnesvarden (281 m) and try not to slip, because under the snow there are some icy patches.

This summit has a big radio station on its top. Even in the increasing snow fall is was quite visible. Now I walked through 20 cm of snow. After an hour I arrived at the radio station, where I met the creator of the deep tyre tracks: A six-wheeled ATV.

It wasn’t cold but a windy. It snowed more and more and the wet snow glued itself to my jacket. On my way back I left the main road and followed a small path on my digital map on my iPhone. I stopped in a forest of birches with thin and long stems. I loved the motive, but my Nikon camera gave up in this wet weather. The lens was fogged up in the inside and in the dense and wet snowfall I didn’t dare to change lens. One photo worked out ok anyhow:

Soon I realised that some of the paths drawn on the map did not exist in reality (at least not in winter) while others that exist were not part of the map. So I went cross-county through pathless terrain, partly dens forest, partly wetlands with many small streams to cross. It took only 15 minutes until I reached the other gravel road leading down again. Now the iPhone was in charge for making pictures.

I followed the path down. With each metre altitude I lost there was less snow on the ground and the snow fall became more and more sleet. When I arrived at my car my anorak was soaking wet. Having seat warmers in a car is a great feature after such a tour.

For the records: 6.5 km, round 300 metres in altitude. Temperature round 0°C.

Appendix 1:

When I show pictures of mountain tours and hilly hikes it is easy to forgot, that Norway has not only mountains but the sea, too. This is an iPhone snapshot I took from some metres from my parked car. What you cannot see is the mountains of the island Kvaløya, 3.8 km away. They are hidden in the snow clouds.

Appendix 2:

What do you do with photos taken with a fogged up lens? You start to experiment. I mean, the photo is spoiled anyhow. But the result of today’s experimentation turned out nice in my opinion.

Three summer days in Råneå

(Oops, I’ve become lazy with blogging. This happened already a week ago!)

Last week Annika and I used our one-week holiday to visit friends in Råneå – 300 km from home, 100 from the Finnish border. Three days – three sections.

Thursday – getting wet

After a sunny morning a large cloud front approached Råneå, bringing thunderstorms, heavy rain and hail. It was short-lived and probably only some strawberries were harmed. (Or was it a snail that tasted them?). In the afternoon it cleared up and we spent some time by (and in) a bathing lake.

Friday – kayaking

We had booked the day before. Four kayaks (three single, one double) and a canoe. On tour: four children between 5 and 13 and five (more or less) grown-ups. We have booked for three hours and decided to paddle through a small creek and then take the Råneå river back to the boat rental by the sea. I have paddled quite a lot on the sea but hardly on rivers, streams or creeks. A great experience!

Saturday – open air concert

Annika and I had heard Daniel Wikslund before. On this day he played two open-air concerts in Överkalix – the first one on a large wooden raft on the river Råneälven. It was wonderful to listen to his folk-inspired music from the a small jetty, the water or even from the raft. It was his first concert since February 2020 due to the covid  restrictions. Hard times for musicians!

You see the wooden keyboard instrument? That’s a pump-organ (Swedish: tramporgel). We’re lucky to have such an instrument in our house soon. Today we’ll meet friends that will help us with the transport from the previous owner’s summer cottage by the sea up the hill to the gravel road and then to our house. Wish us look, that the transport succeeds.

Spring kayaking – kind of …

In the last weeks a lot of snow has melted and the sea ice has vanished. Only in some shallow, protected bays as Grundviken behind our house some ice is left. Spring is near!

Today I took advantage of the calm and sunny weather and took a short kayak tour round the island Bredskärssten. This island is 900 m from the mainland and round 300 m long.

Paddling to the island was easy. That’s, because we mostly have wind from the west and many kayak tours start with tailwind. Some ice floes floated in the lee of Bredskärssten.

I could hear a deep droning sound. A ship? I looked over my shoulder and behind Bredskär – the larger island nearby – the bow of Wasaline, the ferry to Finland appeared. I “parked” between the ice floes to take some images. with my mobile phone.

I continued paddling round the island. Two geese fleed loudly quacking from the island. I saw the reason seconds later: an eagle wheeling above the island.

Of course I had headwind on my way back. But the mainland was near and home in view all the time. Soon I arrived at the very same ice floe where I had started the tour. Time to continue my work in my home office …

With dressing, undressing, dragging the kayak and all the tour took an hour.

Just a detour to work

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

Though Saturday I went to the Norwegian Polar Institute yesterday to get a handover from a former colleague. I went however not the direct way (20 minutes) but a long detour (90 minutes) to catch some air and some light before being in the office until dark.

Just some photos taken with my mobile.

It’s nice to go lightweight and taking pictures with the iPhone. While the photos are impressive considering the size of the lens and sensor, the quality is of course long from that of my Nikon. So next time I’ll carry more weight but probably I’ll be more content with the image quality afterwards.

 

Winter sneak preview – the first snow hike

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

This weekend I planned to take the Fjellheisen. Fjell is Norwegian for mountain(s) and heis for lift or elevator. Fjellheisen however is not a vertical lift but a cable car up to the mountain Storsteinen (421 m above sea level) where you can have an incredible view on Tromsø, visit the café and most of all can start countless hiking tours.

Today morning I took the bus and changed to another bus near the polar museum. The second bus crossed the large bridge Tromsøbrua over the strait Tromsøysundet and ascended to the bus stop Fjellheisen. I planned to buy a multiple ticket (much cheaper) but the payment failed three times. To my delight I got a free return ticket. Soon the cable car arrived, two other guests and I entered it and Fjellheisen started its way up while I was looking down to the autumnal town Tromsø.

I got of the cable car, walked up some stairs, went through the door and then there it was: Winter ❄︎!

First I just strolled around. The snow was 10–20 cm deep and it was quite easy to walk. Few others people were around although the weather was quite fine – even though not as sunny as I expected. I decided to start my hiking tour by hiking up the nearest summit Fløya (671 m). Sometimes I had to cross knee deep snow, but mostly it was less. I followed some footprints – I wasn’t first this day – and soon arrived at the landmark – whatever it is – on a small pre-summit of Fløya and then on the near summit.

That didn’t take much time. So I continued in direction of the summit Romssavákkivárri (Sami) or Bønntuva (Norwegian) (776 m). Parts of the slopes looked steep but still it was relatively easy to ascend beside of the fact that the snow was deeper here. In the lee it was mostly knee deep and wind-pressed. This type of snow it quite easy to sink in and then you have to take the leg up the very same way it went down, since the snow is way too hard to plunge through. Sometimes I felt like a stork with balance problems.

On the way there were many heaps of stones which are used as waymarks. But you should be very cautious to follow these waymarks strictly in this part of the mountains because there are many tourists how just love to build heaps of stones everywhere. Anyhow, they are nice photo motives.

And so are the mountain ranges in the southeast. It could be the famous Lyngen Alps, but I’m not sure.

On the summit of the Romssavákkivárri I took a selfie. It was sub-zero (my Cola froze) and windy and I was glad about my winter anorak. Next time I’ll take warmer pants with me as well as woollen mittens.

What you may forget when you see these photos is the surroundings. All the snowy mountains are surrounded by straits and fjords of the Norwegian Sea. Here’s a panorama photo taken from the summit.

If you take the telephoto lens (most photos were made with it) you also see the snow line, which is quite low but not low enough to cover the lowlands with snow, too. That have to wait probably some more weeks.

After a while of photographing, eating cookies, drinking, watching, resting and enjoying I started my way back. Some other hikers had passed by and left tracks in the snow that made it easier to walk most of the time. I looked down at Tromsø and watched the weather worsen. From the north clouds with dense snow showers approached.

Several times I stopped. Once to talk to a skier – the only one I met today. He was British, lived in the Netherlands and was in Scandinavia quite often. Later I would meet him again at the cable car and he would give me a lift back to Tromsø. Thanks a lot!

Mostly however I stopped to take more photos.

Up here it was quite sunny and when finally the first snow flakes fell down I already was near the summit station of the Fjellheisen, where I had vegetarian lasagne for a late lunch in the café. It was a quite small portion and of course expensive as almost everything in Norway, but it was tasty. After that I went out again. The sun has started to set and the western sky was orange.

When I looked east I looked into a void. A huge shower cloud had approached and it started to snow. Seven minutes the same motive looked like this:

At 17:00 I took the cable car down, got the mentioned lift of the British man and was back in central Tromsø where I hardly could believe, that I just made my first winter hiking tour. Down in the city everything was just wet and just a bit slippery.

Conclusion: That was a great day with hiking through a winter’s sneak preview. I’m lucky since the snow will probably last for half a year, at least in the mountains.

As usual I made most of the photos with my Nikon D750 DLSR and different lenses. Today however I had another “camera” with me, my new iPhone 11 that I got from my employer, the Norwegian Polar Institute. It’s a huge improvement to my old iPhone SE. First of all the camera is much better and it has a real wide angle lens. Then the phone works in the cold! My iPhone SE would hardly have survived this day while the iPhone 11 was still ⅔ loaded when I ended my tour. Having these advantages I can live with the fact, that the iPhone 11 is bigger and feels twice as heavy than the SE. No ad, just my two cents.

iPhone photos today (all edited with Adobe Lightroom): The 1st one, the panorama and the last one.

Moving things to Tromsø

As some of you may know I’ll work for the Norsk Polarinstitutt in Tromsø from the 1 October. I’m looking forward to this extremely interesting job and the town Tromsø is outstanding. The downside is that Annika and I won’t see each other very often, because the distance it too far to visit each other for a normal weekend. Hopefully I’m allowed to work from home in Obbola/Umeå sometimes.

Last Saturday I packed around 250 different things that I may need here – from my big computer monitor to my digital piano and warm winter boots. When I packed everything into my Subaru on Sunday morning I realised that I even had spare room for my ergonomic office stool and my warmest winter parka. Nice!

On Sunday at 10 o’clock Annika and I started our tour to Tromsø. The day before our home region Västerbotten was put on the red list by Norway again, which means that we had to be in quarantine while being in Norway. Bad luck! Therefore we didn’t make our stopover in the Norwegian Narvik as considered before but already in Kiruna in Sweden.

The next day we were stopped by the police at the border. The police informed us about the quarantine rules and wanted to know our place to stay. Since I had a lease contract for my room in Tromsø with me we were allowed to cross the border. At 16 o’clock we arrived in front of the house where I have a room in a shared flat. My room is quite tiny but there is place in the living room and kitchen as well. The flat is in the 2nd floor (3rd floor for Americans) and you can see the steep and partly snow covered mountains of the island Kvaløya and the mainland. It’s even possible to watch the Hurtigruten ship passing by but I didn’t see it yet.

Yesterday we made a car trip to Sommarøya, a peninsula with some beautiful beaches. We bathed in the Norwegian Sea. At 11 °C water temperature it was warmer than excepted. In contrary to the Bothnian Bay – the northernmost part of the Baltic Sea – the Norwegian Sea won’t freeze in the winter because of the Gulf Stream. So I can winter bath the whole winter without chopping ice if I want to.

Two images of yesterday:

Today we will make another day trip, tomorrow we’ll start to head home to Sweden again.

And the quarantine? Well – we shall stay home, but we are allowed to buy food and to be in nature as long we are able to keep distance to others. So the restrictions were quite lax. Mostly it’s the museums and the public transport (including the cable car Fjellheisen) that we have to avoid.

P.S.: Now all things have more or less found a place in the flat and I can enter my room shown on the 3rd photo above.

 

 

Splendid Sunday sailing

It was last winter that Annika and I met Svitlana and Ebbe first. They were the wardens of the Gåsen mountain cabin in the mountains of Jämtland where we went on a ski tour. When they heard that Annika lived in Umeå they told us of their sailing trips and that they know the boat harbour in Obbola near Umeå.

Five months later. Annika and I have been living together in our freshly bought house in Obbola for three months. We already knew, that Svitlana and Ebbe have been sailing north for some weeks and last Saturday they arrived in the boat harbour Bredvik, just 3½ km away. We could even see their sailing yacht passing by from our house.

We hadn’t any time on Saturday but on Sunday we invited them for breakfast. At the same time, they invited us on a sailing tour which we eagerly accepted. The weather forecast was so-so but in the beginning the sun was shining. As soon Svitlana had motored the yacht out of the harbour Ebbe set the sails and gently we sailed southwards and soon passed our house. I had seen the house from sea before while paddling but it was the first time Annika could see if from this perspective. (And again we agreed in living in an extraordinary beautiful place.)

Then we turned left and sailed a large triangle on the open sea. As a matter of fact it was Svitlana and Ebbe who sailed. We did nothing beside of enjoying.

Already two and a half hours later we arrived at the harbour again but sailing with Svitlana and Ebbe was so fun that it felt like a complete holiday.

Already the day before we had learned a new Swedish verb: att bryggsegla. Literally translated to “to jetty-sail” it means to enjoy being on the moored yacht in the harbour. And we did enjoy both food and company.

Большое спасибо Svitlana, tack så mycket Ebbe for a wonderful day! We’ll meet again!

Wintry weekend in June

Friday, 5. June

At 16:00 I’m at the southern entrance of the University Hospital of Umeå to fetch Annika from work. We go for a weekend tour that we’ve planned for months. We want to drive the vildmarksvägen on the day of it’s opening. Most of this tourist route is open the whole year, but a part is closed more than half the year due to heavy snow.

Today’s destination: the small town Gäddede, where we have hired a tiny cabin on the campsite. The weather is grey but all birch leaves glow intensely. The Swedish weather forecast issued a level 2 warning for high flow but to our astonishment there is very little water in many lakes we pass. We pass even some reindeers, three moose and some black grouses.

Saturday, 6. June

After breakfast we drive along the lakes Kycklingsvattnet, Stor-Jorm and Lill-Jorm. The lakes are open and everything is green. In the distance there are snow covered mountains.

Ten minutes later it looks like this:

What happened? Time travel? No, we are just 200 metres higher than before and although its only 600 metres above sea level the conditions are still wintry here. From now on we travel between the seasons. Sometimes still winter, sometimes already spring. The small brooks and streams carry a lot of water, but most of the lakes are quite empty.

We leave the vildmarksvägen and turn left to pay the Norwegian border a short visit. Of course we are not allowed to cross it due to corona. So we turn our car back to the vildmarksvägen. We travel along some lakes, first partly frozen, then still ice covered until we come to a sudden stop.

A long line of cars, motor cycles and camper vans waits in front of us. They all wait for the opening of the closed passage. We leave our car and walk to the barrier, that will be opened at 12 o’clock.

After half an hour of waiting the barrier opens and the long line of cars starts to move. The next hours there’s a lot of stop-and-go, because people are just stopping and parking anywhere to take pictures making the vildmarksvägen a single file road. But nobody seems to be impatient or even angry, they all have come to see the large snow walls beside the road that tell a lot about last winters snow falls.

Annika and I climb up one of the walls to have a look to an old concrete hut marked with a red cross. We peek inside where we find first aid equipment. Is it still in use? Well, perhaps not, the dressing bandages were fabricated 1957.

And outside: winter landscapes with metre-high snow. We really regret that we have forgot to take our skis with us. Some others are smarter than we and ski through the white. Well,maybe next time …

After driving a bit back and forth we finally take the obligatory snow wall photos.

Sunday, 7. June

After an overnight stay in the rainy Saxnäs we head back home. While there is some old snow left in Saxnäs the Swedish inland is free of snow. As on the trip there some of the lakes have very low water levels. I could stroll there for hours but we want to arrive early home in Obbola und so I only take two shorter strolls to take some pictures.

After some hours of driving, a lunch break in Lycksele and another two hours of driving we arrive home in Obbola in the afternoon. Thank you Annika for a fantastic weekend trip.

Farewell Skelleftehamn

Sweden. Somewhere in the north. A little town called Skelleftehamn. A small street called Tallvägen. Street number 35. My house, that I named flygelvillan. The large living room. The left half with the grand piano and the computer. That has been a central place to me for many years.

At this place I wrote most of the blog articles of way-up-north.com. I worked. I planned my travels. I communicated. I looked out of the window when it snowed. I played on my grand piano. I rehearsed with a jazz trio and an opera singer. I composed and arranged for big band and chamber choir.

A central place.

Two days ago, on 15 May 2020 I left my house for good. It’s still mine but I’ll sell it this year.

Two days ago at 8 o’clock the large moving lorry arrived and five people started to carry all my belongings into the large car. First some furniture, then more than 150 boxes, pulka, kayak, skis and large bags with sleeping bags and down jackets. And finally my Yamaha grand piano.

The whole move took less than eight hours. Then my grand piano stood erected in the living room of Annika’s and my new house by the sea.

Shall I be sad because I left Skelleftehamn? Perhaps I should, but I’m not. The positive feelings about living together with Annika and having found such an extraordinary place to live dominate. I really have been looking forward to this new life and now it has become reality.