10 days in Scotland

This article is part of the series “2022-10: Autumn in Scotland”.

It has been years, since Annika and I were on holiday outside of Fennoscandia. This October we enjoyed a ten day journey to Scotland from which I just arrived in Tromsø yesterday.

For this article I chose 2 photos for each day. Some more articles will follow later.

6 October – Edinburgh

I landed in the late morning and have the rest of the day strolling through Edinburgh. Blue sky – so it can actual stop raining in  Edinburgh ;-). In the evening I wait for Annika who is taking the tram from the airport. Now it is raining. Finally we are together.

7 October – travelling to Ullapool

We have pre-booked train tickets to Inverness where we will spend three hours before taking the coach to Ullapool. Well, in theory. The trains do not go the whole way due to heavy rain flooding. The rest is operated by replacement buses. So much to rain in Scotland. In Inverness we catch the connecting coach to Ullapool and have even time for a pizza.

8 October – hiking in Ullapool

After two travel days we want to be outdoors and look for the hiking trail to the hill Meall Mor after a hand-drawn sketch. We find it. From the top we have a view to the town, the hills and mountains in sun, clouds and rain.

9 October – taking the ferry to Lewis

After breakfast we take our backpacks through rain and heavy winds to the ferry terminal just to learn that the ferry has been cancelled because of the gusts on the Minch – the straight between Ullapool and the Isle of Lewis. Luckily the afternoon ferry runs according schedule and we arrive in Stornoway at nine o’clock. Scotland premiere: We hire a car. Annika is driving. Left-hand traffic in darkness!

10 October – exploring Lewis

We explore Lewis by car. Great that Annika is brave enough to drive in Scotland (I’m not). Read the article The west coast of Isle of Lewis about this day.

11 October – Peat bogs and Northern Gannets

From Gearrannan Village we take a small way back to Stornoway. In the bogs you can see traces of peat mining. We give back the car, take the ferry back and are watching the elegant aerial manoeuvres of the Northern Gannets. In Ullapool we receive another car that we have hired for the next two days.

12 October – exploring Assynt

We start exploring Assynt, the region north of Ullapool. Read the article Stac Pollaidh about this day.

13 October – taking a bath

Finally – our first bath! At Achmelvich beach. I will write more about this day later …

14 October – travelling to Edinburgh

It is time to give back the rental car and travel back to Edinburgh. First by coach, then by train. This travel confirms my theory that Scottish coaches and trains are designed solely for transport, not for comfort.

15 October – flying back

Short ones, long ones – all holidays comes to their end. Annika takes me to the tram, again it’s me travelling first. What a wonderful holiday. Thank you, Annika!

A new camera

Next week Annika, my sister, brother in law a nephew and I will start a hiking tour in Sweden and Norway. We will not use a tent but hike from cabin to cabin. Last time I had 6 kilo of camera equipment with me. This year I decided to scale down weight and so I bought a point-and-shoot camera this week: the Sony RX100 VII. It has some disadvantages, but a huuuge advantage: It’s small and weights hardly more than 300 grams. That’s why I even can take a smaller backpack (also bought this week) and save another 1300 grams of weight.

Today I tested the camera, first on my way to work and then on random places, from the center to Telegrafbukta. I know, that the camera has its limitations (being not weatherproof for example) but I’m quite glad that I finally bought it. And here come some test shots from today. All photos are edited in Lightroom.

 

Hiking up the Nordtinden

After I failed reaching the summit of the Nordtinden (640 m) last November I gave it a second try today. It’s so much easier to navigate when there is no snow covering the path and the sparse way marks.

I start to follow the gravel road, which I leave after 2.7 km.

The small trail leads up steadily. It’s not so steep, that I have to climb but steep enough to raise my pulse to hummingbird level. I could blame it on my Covid infection two weeks ago but I guess it’s just a lack of fitness.

A movement to the left wakes me up. It’s a flock of ptarmigan fledglings with an adult. Some flutter away, some stay. I use the confusion to take some photos with my telephoto lens. The photos are heavily cropped, I want to keep distance.

I am above the tree line now and the views are impressive.

Most impressive is a chasm at the side of the trail. The gradient down? Perhaps 400%. Enough to keep safety distance while photographing.

The last part is rocky and pathless but the huge cairns marking the tops of Nordtinden (there seem to be two) are in view so I can navigate just by eye. I take it easy on the boulder fields. I reach summit number one and add myself to the summit register that lies sheltered in an aluminium box.

I continue a bit more west to get a better view to the sea. And there it is – the island Vengsøya with the smaller island Vågøya in the front.

I walk around to take some more pictures. I watch the ferry leaving Vengsøya and climb a bit down the slope to have a closer look to the nameless lake below the mountain Laukviktinden.

Then I walk back in a small circle, pass the other summit cairn and start to descend.

It’s always interesting how not only the view changes but the terrain as well. Round the summits it’s mostly rocks and boulder fields, then more and more grass is present and the path consists also of gravel and then earth, too. On the way back the lake Skulsfjordvatnet lies in the sun.

As most day trips the way back is the same as the way there. So I pass the sign to Nordtinden a second time and am on the gravel road again.

The change from forest to farmland shows that my car is not far away. After four hours and about 12 km I’m back from a lovely mountain hike.

Two more photos showing small things. The first one a beetle from the genus Carabus. The first one a berry from the genus Rubus. I was glad about both discoveries. The difference: The beetle stayed unharmed, the berry was eaten right after taking the picture.

 

White swans in Obbola

After two weeks in Tromsø i travelled home to Obbola last weekend, where I will work from home for two weeks.

When Annika and I looked out of the window yesterday we could see 3 swans swimming in the water between the small islet Lillskär and us. Oh, another 3 nearby, that’s 6 swans. And another one, and two more.

After some snowfall it had cleared up yesterday and it got colder in the night. This morning the temperature was below -12 °C. When I walked to the coast the water before Lillskär was covered with ice. The swans lay on the ice sleeping. They discovered and watched me but since I was slow and did not come too near they soon tucked their beaks under their feathers again and continued dozing.

 

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

Back in Tromsø

This article is part of the series “2021-07: Back in Tromsø”.

After eight months of home office home I travelled back to Tromsø last Saturday to continue working at the Norwegian Polar Institute. My wife Annika has joined me for a week and I took some days off. Yesterday she travelled back to our home to Obbola. Tomorrow my Tromsø everyday life starts –at least for three weeks, then Annika and I will meet again for a two week vacation.

Sunday, 25 July

A grey day, a foggy day. Good for relaxing after a long journey from Sweden with train car and bus, that took eighteen hours.

Monday, 26 July

My first working day onsite since 20 November 2020. My boss has bought suksessterte (success cake) to celebrate my return. The seagulls have occupied my windowsill.

Tuesday, 27 July

Annika and I planned to hire a car for a trip, but none of the car rentals have free cars. Instead we are looking for a 2nd hand car for me. We find an old Subaru XV and may test drive it for 24 hours! Road trip to Sommarøya. Lunch at the hotel, watching private kayak lessons at one of the many beaches. Realising that the car fits onto my small parking place.

Thursday, 29 July

After work (well, after lunch) Annika and I take the bus to Tromsdalen on the other side of the sound Tromsøysundet. Here we use Sherpatrappa to hike up the mountain Storsteinen. Sherpatrappa is a stone staircase with 1203 steps built by Nepalese mountain road workers and finished in 2019. Then we hike to the summit of the mountain Fløya (671 m a.s.l.). After a break we return to the mountain station and enjoy our dinner in the sun. Then we walk down the stairs again. My knees are sulky, but that’s worth it.

Friday, 30 July

After lunch we fetch my car that I bought on Wednesday. Not the Subaru XV, but a three year old Suzuki S-Cross. After that we take a road trip to Tromvik and Rekvik on the island Kvaløya. And – oh – it’s so beautiful at many places here! Personal highlight: the two relaxed reindeer at the beach.

Saturday, 31 July

Farewell Annika! Now we are separated by at least 930 kilometres but fortunately for only three weeks. After I farewell Annika at the airport I drive to a parking place on the island Kvaløya and take two promenades. One at the beach, one over the bogs. The variety of landscapes is so impressive.

Sunday, 1 August

After a more or less lazy a short trip by bus to the center of Tromsø. The Indian restaurant is fully booked, but the sushi restaurant has place. 12 bits 189 NOK. Regular Norwegian prices. On the way there I find this narrow shortcut. Old dustbins, but a photo exhibition.

Skiing through the winter forest

It’s -18 °C and the sun is shining. 60–70 of powder snow cover the ground. We ski through the wintry forest following a narrow trail that other skiers have carved into the snow. We cross a snow mobile track that in turn crosses a snow covered bog. We enter another snowy forest.

It’s only a day trip and soon we arrive at the forest cabin which is open. We are alone and make a small fire in the oven while I try to take pictures of the Siberian jays but they are shy.

I just love Lapland in winter!

But …

This is not Lapland. It’s the Västermark nature reserve and this is just 77 km away from home. Annika and I went there last Sunday to enjoy the great winter weather and so we made our first little backcountry ski tour together this winter. More to come …

 

Translation:

EnglishGermanSwedish
Siberian jayUnglückshäherLavskrika

Two short kayak tours

Two short kayak tours from the new home by the sea.

The first one morning last week. Just round the island Bredskär. The water surface smooth as silk and in beautiful pastel colours. Everything was quiet beside of the complaining sea birds.

The second one the day before yesterday in the afternoon. Just to the beach at Vitskärsudden. Through tiny waves and a lot of rocks. At the sandy beach I met Annika for a bath. She came by bike. The Baltic Sea not as cold as last time. Summer is coming.

Both tours were equally fun and both of them made me very grateful that I may live here at this fantastic place.

Our House in Obbola – the neighbours

Yesterday evening behind the tiny bay: two deer, a mountain hare, two Canada geese and some red breasted mergansers (probably). A nice neighbourhood.

Some photos are a bit blurred. A focal length of 600mm is not made for handheld snapshots. I guess I will have many opportunities to make better photos in the future.

A skitour from cabin to cabin – part 1

This article is part of the series “2020-03: Ski tour Jämtland II”.

I already have made ski tours in Scandinavia. The first one was 2005 and others in 2006, 2007, 2009, 2013, 2016, 2018, 2019 and 2020. What I never did before was doing two ski tours in a row. This year is a premiere. Four days after the last tour day with Arne and Jonas I had the pleasure to do another tour with Annika.

As the tour before we planned to start in Vålådalen and even parts of the tour were equal, only we skied the other way around. If you ask me, travelling the same area twice doesn’t matter, because the weather you cope, the people you meet, the experiences you have, they are all different.

2 March – Vålådalen – Stensdalen Fjällstuga

Annika and I start our ski tour at 9:30. 5 cm of fresh snow cover all snowmobile tracks. Only some fresh ski tracks show us that we are not the first ones.

We ski through the forest. The weather is grey, it snows a bit, -9 °C. I think the forest looks boring in this dull light. Today I hardly take the cameras out of my backpack. Only a small pine tree gets my attention.

Will I take any photos on this second ski tour? Well – I don’t have to. We’ll see …

We arrive in Stensdalen Fjällstuga, the first cabin at 15:00. We can choose: the old or the new cabin? We are curious about the new cabin and get a six bed room. We are four people in the room which is equipped with three bunk beds. I sleep in the upper bed and can look through the tiny square window. Annika’s window is snowed in.

People who know me know that I prefer the mountains to the forest. Does the mountains like me, too? It seems so. On the plywood wall of one of the earth closets it is written: “Fjället älskar dig.” – “The mountains love you.”

The rest of the day? Sauna — dinner — early bedtime. Tomorrow we want to get up at 6:30. It’s only 14 km to Gåsen but it is 350 metres higher than Stensdalen and we are not sure how long it will take.

3 March – Stensdalen FjällstugaGåsen

6:00. The alarm clock hasn’t rung yet but we are already awake. We leave our sleeping room and enter the huge common room with kitchen, where I light the huge wood stove. Annika is boiling water for tea. We have a full breakfast with bread, cheese, and eggs – all leftovers from our breakfast at the hostel the day before.

We like the style of the new cabin. It may be less cozy than the old ones but the separation of the sleeping room is nice and there’s a lot of space so that even with a lot of people it is hardly crowded.

8:20. We just walked across the wooden bridge by the sauna and strap on our skis. 8 cm fresh snow have fallen. We ski through birch forests. Our skis sink 10-15 cm into the snow.

Suddenly Annika makes a sign to stop and to be quiet. It’s a bird – a woodpecker chopping on an old tree trunk. Carefully I get out my camera with the telephoto lens and slowly I ski towards the bird. It seems to ignore me. When I’m hardly three metres away I start to crouch. Frrrr … the woodpecker flies away. For the bird lovers (and Google): It’s a three toed woodpecker.

The snow is soft and we are slow. How long will it take us to Gåsen? I hope that the snow is less deep in the kalfjäll – the parts above the timberline. After 4, 5 km the forest opens and a large ascending mountain slope comes into view. We meet two skiers that come from Gåsen (they have been really fast). We thank each other for making a trace. A trace that we hardly need for now the snow is much harder. So it’s less exhausting to ski although we have to ski up. Less than two hours later we have approached Stähtja, an emergency hut that we use for a break.

When we continue the sun has started to peek through holes in the clouds. The lighting moods are great and sometimes hardly believable. Snow is purple in the shadow and yellow in the sun, sometime the scenery looks like big studio lights have been set up for filming. I think it’s nearly impossible to catch these sophisticated moods but of course I try anyway.

We ski about a large snowy saddle that looks infinite. A sign says “Gåsen 3km”. First we are completely alone but then another skier approaches. It’s stugvärd Ebbe, one of the cabin wardens whom I already met on the other ski tour. He welcomes us and continues skiing. We continue, too. On the highest point of the saddle Gåsen comes into view.

Just before we arrive Ebbe returns from his ski trip and welcomes us again, this time with hot berry juice – the traditional welcome on the STF mountain cabins. We are the only guests and in the same room as Arne, Jonas and me nine days before. The proof? The garlic that we had forgot is still there.

Later four French people arrive. They hardly speak to us. I guess they only feel comfortable speaking French, a language we cannot speak.

The wind increases. We do not care. We want to stay here at least one more night.

4–5 March – two days at Gåsen

It’s windy in the morning. Outside its -8 °C, inside our cabin temperature has dropped to 7 °C. I fire the “Upland” wood stove. It is very slow and it will take half the day until the cabin is warm again. The French group leaves. I do not envy them because the wind is increasing and it is snowing.

At 10:00 we leave our cabin and go to the stugvärdarnas cabin. Ebbe has invited us to fika – coffee – and Svitlana has baked a delicious chocolate cake. We sit there and talk for almost two hours until we hear the sound of an approaching snowmobile. It transports food and goods, both for Svitlana and Ebbe as well as for the Fältjägaren Fjällstuga, 30 km in the south.

We invite Svitlana and Ebbe for dinner. Annika had dried potatoes, onions and vegetables at home to spare weight. Now she is watering the dried food.

Later that day I have another appointment. Ebbe and I fetch water from the waterhole. Ebbe wanted to do that in the afternoon when the wind has calmed down, since it’s a bit to go to. You see the tiny square right from Ebbe’s head on the first photo? That’s the waterhole. It’s four metres deep, so you take a bucket to pull up the water, fill it into the plastic containers and then use the sledge to pull it back. One container for the warden’s, one for our cabin.

And the used water? There are own buckets for it and an own place where to pour out them. They are marked with the word slusk.

At 18:00 Svitlana and Ebbe arrive. Annika has used milk powder, egg powder and the watered potatoes and vegetables to make frittata. It’s enough to invite Magnus from Göteborg as well. He slept in the tent the nights before and now stays in the same cabin as us. Svitlana brings fresh bread and Annika’s frittatas taste great. We even have some Florentine biscuit as dessert. A luxury multi-course  dinner at Gåsen with great company. What a fantastic evening!

Annika and I decide to stay another day. Magnus is not sure yet.

We take it easy this morning. Magnus has decided to stay, too. So Magnus and I can help Ebbe with the gas cylinders. Full gas cylinders have to be connected to the warden’s cabin. The gas connection is at the back of the cabin and was completely snowed in, since here the snow reaches over the roof. Ebbe has already dug down to the door and Magnus and I use a rope to slowly lower the heavy gas cylinders down to Ebbe. These are jobs, where a stugvärd needs support of the guests and we are glad to help.

Not only the back of the stugvärd cabin is snowed in. The old cabin is also surrounded of snow and with a single step you could climb on the roof. Ebbe told us, that a snow groomer would come in two weeks to dig out the cabin.

This day more people arrive. First to constantly talking women, than a party of six. Magnus already fled the crowd by moving to the other room, Annika and I follow soon. There it is cold, but quite.

The weather has got better and tomorrow both Magnus and us want to start early. He will return to Storulvån, we want to continue to Vålåstugan.

Continue with part 2 >