Valborgsmässoafton 2018

30 April

Valborgsmässoafton is the last day of April. On this days many people set fire to big bonfires, partly as an event being celebrated with friends, partly for burning last years gardening rubbish (and more …).

This year I was invited by A. and M. who I’d got to know exactly eight years ago on another valborgsmässoafton. They are among my oldest friends in Sweden and I’m very happy that they exist. Their stuga – or summer cottage – is located in Bygdeträsk south of Skellefteå.

This time I come from Umeå, where I spent the weekend. I try to avoid the larger roads and prefer the small gravel roads. Mostly they are in good conditions, only some parts are quite muddy and have deep ruts in the clayey ground. Less and less snow can be seem, but there’s still snow left.

There is still ice on the lakes as well, but it looks soft and grey and near the shore there are more and more open patches. You can still see the snowmobile tracks, a vague reminder of the winter.

Some hours later: I’ve arrived in Bygdeträsk and with the help of A. I manage to park my car without getting stuck in the soft clay of the property (which happened to a craftsman recently). The other guests have arrived, too and – of course – the bonfire is burning!

But what about the hot tub? Wouldn’t it be nice to take a hot bath outside later in the evening? That of course needs some preparations. While M. cautiously tries to split the thick ice block in the hot tub with an axe I put on chest waders to wade a bit into the lake with a long hose attached to the water pump. First I thought I had to chop away ice, but near the shore the lake is just filled with knee-deep slush. Soon the pump starts to fill the hot tub with ice cold water heated by the wood stove.

To make a long story short: it will take eight hours until the water is hot enough for a relaxing bath and I will have fallen fast asleep when the only two people still being awake will start their bath.

Anyway, there are other things to do as e.g. watching the whooper swans on the ice and in the water.

Then there is a lot of eating (M. is a great cook and grandmaster of barbecuing) and talking and playing games. Every half an hour someone goes out, adds wood to the oven and checks the water temperature, that sloooowly increases. I become more and more tired but I want to have a bath. At 1 o’clock in the night however I give up. I’m just too tired! I pump up my camping mat in the workshop, unroll the sleeping bag and soon I’m fast asleep.

1 May 2018

After a late breakfast I say thank you and goodbye to the others, jump into the car and head home, again with many detours. I see some cranes, some reindeers and a black grouse (called orre in Swedish) that flies away before I can slow down the car for taking a picture.

Many gravel paths lead through forests. Left and right are old walls of snow that the sun has not melted yet. Leftovers from last winter’s snow clearing.

Again some patches are rutted, some are wet and muddy but no problem, until …

Luckily I see this obstacle in time and manage to drive around this hole in the street. (My car is the red one in the background.) One of the rare opportunities where I’m glad to have a car with all wheel drive.

One hour later I’m home again and I hardly can believe my eyes. Five days ago my backyard was still covered with 30 centimetres of snow, now the snow on the lawn is almost gone and beside of some small white patches brown grass is everywhere! Even though I’ve been living in Sweden for eight years I’m astonished again how fast snow melts in springtime.

Two hours later heavy raining is pouring down. Hej då, vinter!

Spring birds and spring flowers

Two days ago I took the car to Umeå, 130 km south from Skellefteå. Last time I was there in January and it was winter. This time it was springtime. Nevertheless, more than half of the ground was still snow covered in Skelleftehamn and Bureå. But while I was driving southwards the scenery slowly changed. More and more snow free meadows and grasslands showed up. The grass is still brown and huge water puddles cover the lower parts.

In Lövånger I saw a lot of birds on the meadows and made a short stop to photo some of them. No great shots but it shows some of the most common migratory birds that already had arrived here.

(click on the images to see the bird’s names in English, Swedish, and German.)

South from Lövånger there was hardly any snow left, it remained only in ditches, in the shadow of forests and on some northern slopes – everywhere where there’s less sun. Still the landscape looked a bit dull, for nor the birches neither the other plants had got leaves.

Some hours later. Annika has ended her working day and we walk along the river Umeälven, which is free of ice. Only some small ice floes drift on the surface that mirrors the blue sky.

On the other side of the way along the river there’s a southwards slope. And here many spring flowers, not only tussilago are blooming. I counted six different flower types on the walk into the center of Umeå. Here they come:

(again, click on the images to see the flower names. Hopefully there are correct)

White-tailed eagle

It’s not often that I see eagles in Skelleftehamn as near as today. it’s even rarer that I have my camera with mounted telephoto lens with me. And it was poor luck, when the eagle decides to wheel an extra round, so that I can take another shot when the first one is out of focus.

Today was such a day.

White-tailed eagle · havsörn · Seeadler · Haliaeetus albicilla

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 day in Båtsfjord

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

Day 41 of my winter journey 2018

After a difficult car ride over through gale and snow Annika and I arrived in Båtsfjord, where we stayed overnight.

As usual I woke up early. I got out of bed and took a first look at this town. Although a lot of snow had come the day before all roads and streets were already cleared. Some houses and fences however were still snowed in. Perhaps the houses were not in use or the owner was travelling, too.

And here a look at one of the harbours.

After breakfast Annika and I got a guided tour through Båtsfjord by our landlord. He comes from Finland and came to this town in 1999. He showed us round and told us a lot about this town whose main economical sector still is fishing. The fishing port is one of the biggest in the Finnmark with around 10000 boat arrivals per year.

He drove us to a place at the harbour where you can watch two species: (1) the king eider, a large sea duck and (2) the bird-watcher, a subspecies of the human being. Four of these bird-watchers lay in a huge box in the water and were spotting the king eiders. Mostly you couldn’t see the bird-watchers themselves but only their huge tele lenses.

Thank you, landlord from Finland whose name I forgot for this interesting guided tour!

Some other images of Båtsfjord I made over the day:

Later that day we sat in the waiting room and waited for the Hurtigruten to come. Our two-week stay on the Varanger Peninsula would end today and we slowly would travel home again. But instead of directly heading home by car (943 km) we would take the Hurtigruten ship to Ørnes and drive home there. Well, that spares us only 360 km and takes almost 60 hours, but it’s nice to travel by Hurtigruten, especially after visiting so many different places by car.

At 19:45 the Hurtigruten ship MS Nordnorge arrived and the next stage of the journey began.

 

 

The first cold and sunny days

It became colder the last days. Yesterday temperatures were between -10 °C and -6 °C. Today it was warmer but still below zero the whole day. Especially the night before last was cold: coldest in Nattavaara with -23.8 °C but even in Åliden, just 33 km west, temperatures lay round -17 °C the whole night.

This morning I took the car to the bridge Sundgrundsbron that leads over the river Skellefteälven and pleasured in the wonderful sunrise colours. The sky in the east was coloured of warm shades of bright orange, while the sky in the west was more blue and purple, looking much colder.

Due to the stream parts of the Skellefteälven were still open but many parts were already covered with ice. Noises of cracking and clicking echoed through the air, clearly indicating that the ice was still fresh and quite thin.

A family of mute swans paddled over the river. Did they decide to stay or will they fly south? I hope they’ll cope the cold weather in case of staying.

If you look closer at the first photo you see a layer of clouds hovering above the horizon. The locals call this phenomenon “vinterväggen”, meaning “the winter wall”. It’s quite typical for this season and sometimes the whole eastern horizon is covered by a thick layer of clouds. According to a neighbour it’s this type kind of clouds that brings snow.

But according to the weather forecast tomorrow’s precipitation will come more as rain than snow.

The cranes gather

The weather felt quite autumn-like the last days: Much rain, hardly any sun and temperatures between 5 °C and 12 °C. But most birch trees still bear green leaves and it will take some more weeks until leaf coloration is in full swing.

The common cranes and whooper swans however have started to gather.  Delle, who is visiting me and I saw some hundred of them on the fields between Kusmark and Drängsmark yesterday. I guess they will fly southwards soon.

Translations:

EnglishGermanSwedishLatin
Common craneKranichTranaGrus grus
Whooper swanSingschwanSångsvanCygnus cygnus

29 August: Kungsleden day 10 – Alesjaure—Abiskojaure (7+15 km)

This article is part of the series “2017-08: Kungsleden hike”.

From Alesjaure to Abiskojaure it’s round about 22 km to go. That’s the longest day’s march on that part of the Kungsleden. The first 7 km go along the lake Alisjávri which is good for a special reason: In summer there’s a boat shuttle service that allows hikers to skip this part. We all decided to take the boat, both to shorten the distance and to enjoy the boat trip itself.

Since the first regular boat starts at 10 o’clock we had a very relaxed breakfast with a lot of time. The quite large shop had fresh eggs so we had the pleasure of boiled eggs for breakfast. And very special egg cups …

The sun came out and illuminated the Alisvággi, the valley that leads to Tjäktja.

We went to the shipping pear already at 9:30, to go sure that we would find places on the boat. Andi ran up the yellow flag – the signal for the boatsman. The sun came out and I decided to take a bath. Not so easy, since the water was only knee-deep (and as icecold as expected).

Soon the boat arrived with stugvärd J. onboard. He was out fishing and succeeded: eight big arctic chars he caught.

At ten o’clock we departed. I could have stayed on the boat for hours, not only because I love to go by ship or boat, but even more because the sami boatsman had so much to tell.

He was living in Alesjávri for the summer “together with his dog and three common gulls” to run this transport business that he considers as a holiday. In September he would continue herding his reindeers. There are 17 families left in his sameby that do reindeer husbandry full time. (A sameby is kind of juridic and economical collective for reindeer husbandry.) He told us much more (all in Swedish) but after barely half an hour we arrived at the other shipping pear and went ashore.

When we started to walk it started to rain – bad timing. It was more a series of rain showers and I put on my hood and put it off again many times. Almost all mountains lay in the clouds, only the Ádnji seemed to have sun the whole time.

While we went on something chirped. Beep – Beep – (silence) – Beep … . We had heard that sound before on our hiking tour, but it was the first time that we could spot the matching bird. It was a golden plover as we figured out later. The bird was a bit nervous while I crawled nearer and nearer to get a photo, but it didn’t flee. Unfortunately my travel tele lens is not the best but I got a photo anyway.

We crossed the long reindeer fence that separates the sameby Laevas in the south and the sameby Gabna in the north. We just had to climb some stairs, where the Kungsleden crossed the border.

I knew that I had to say farewell to the treeless kalfjäll soon. In a short while we would enter the valley Gárddenvággi that would lead us deeper and deeper into more forested terrain. I was a bit sad, when i said farewell to that wonderful landscape.

The next kilometres were rainy, stony and muddy and we all just wanted to arrive in Abiskojaure, well knowing that it still would take some hours until we would arrive. I just trotted along and didn’t use my camera until we arrived in Abiskojaure. Here we finally made the photo of our four backpacks that we had talked about for days, but I was much too lazy to arrange it nicely.

The rain had stopped and the sun came out again so I took some last photos of the day, eager to eat something and to relax in the sauna.

Since Abiskojaure is the last hut before Abisko we found a lot of leftover food as dried vegetables, noodles or tuna sauce. That gave us a formidable afternoon meal. While we prepared for the sauna we heard, that there were moose on the other side of the lake. Indeed two female moose stood there in the wateraquatic plants. There were far away but we saw them dipping there heads into the water (they could hold their breeze really long) and eating aquatic plants. We saw them wading, swimming and shaking out the water. They had spotted us but knew that we were far away and no danger for them.

Katrin, Annika and Andi headed for the sauna, I watched a bit longer. When I went back to the hut I saw some others photoing something. It was a huge male moose, that stood amidst the huts and seemed to be not at all shy. I never saw a male moose so close! The moose went away, but stopped again, when he found rallarros flowers between the old toilet building and the wood shed. While watching us all the time he continued picking flowers with his huge mouth and eating them. At least twenty people stood there, watching, photographing and filming. Since all were quite sensible – no one was too hasty, too loud or came too near – we all could watch this big animal for some minutes. Then it took some step into the forest and almost instantly vanished in the shadows. What an experience!

 

Travelling to Tromsø

This article is part of the series “2017-07: Tromsø”.

Sometimes I’m just too lazy to blog and so was I the last weeks. Today however I finally want to write about a great trip to Tromsø, that Annika and I started on 7 July, almost three weeks ago.

Tromsø is in located in the North. Very far north. It lies 344 km north of the polar circle and is the northernmost town of the world with more than 50,000 inhabitants. It has the northernmost university, both the northernmost cathedral and mosque, the northernmost brewery and probably some more northernmost things of the world.

The shortest route by car from Skelleftehamn to Tromsø leads over Luleå, Pajala, Kilpisjärvi (Finland) and Nordkjosbotn (Norway) and that’s the route Annika and I took.  We had a lot of time and planned to stay overnight twice, but didn’t plan where.

The first part of the route, the E4 leading north, is kind of boring. At least you’re allowed to drive 110 km/h – the maximum allowed speed of the whole journey. In Töre we left the E4, took a break and ate in the Restaurang Roady – the first KRAV-certified sidewalk restaurant.

After lunch we continued northwards. After 50 km we reached Holgers Traktor Museum in Svartbyn, which is always worth a visit. Since it was late – we started our trip in the afternoon – we just made a short stop to take a picture and then continued our trip.

Where to stay? Perhaps we could stay with Katharina whom I met last winter. She lives in Miekojärvi between Överkalix and Övertorneå. We tried to ring her, but she didn’t answer the call. Anyway it’s just a detour of 30 kilometres so we just gave it a try. Katharina has round 20 huskies and someone has to feed them. When we arrived at her house, a man left the shed, looked at us and we were quite surprised to meet Sascha whom we met before in Solberget several times. What a lucky coincidence! So we found not only our first overnight stay but great company, too! Thank you, Katharina (abroad) and Sascha for your hospitality!

The next day we continued our tour after a nice and rich breakfast. We crossed the arctic circle and watched the reindeers.

First stop: Pajala, where a big market took place. Here you could buy a lot of things between tradition and modern age.

After two hours we left the hurly-burly and entered the car again. We crossed the Swedish–Finnish border and followed the E8 which was more construction site than main road. We passed Karesuvanto, where I was sure to meet a food store. All stores however are on the Swedish side, in Karesuando. Not a problem, if you have bread with you and then are given butter, cheese and salami as a present on the super-nice camping ground Lätäsenon Majat near Enontekiö, where we stayed overnight.

Next day we passed Kilpisjärvi near the border triangle, where Sweden, Finland, and Norway meet and soon we were in Norway. Norway is my favourite country in summer because the landscape is so varying and beautiful that even I make photos from within the car:

In Skibotn we saw the first fjord – the Lnygen – and made a break. Annika used it for jogging and I for looking around and taking pictures. I love to stand at the shore, the feet in the water, the view either on the shells or on the fjord and the still snow covered mountains. But the seagulls didn’t like me standing there and they flew some feint attacks, luckily in vain. They don’t dare to come really close.

In Nordkjosbotn we ate hamburgers for lunch. It’s not easy to get anything other than burgers and pizza in Northern Norway outside the cities, but sometimes I like fast food, especially when travelling. From Nordkjosbotn it’s only another hour to Tromsø, where we arrived in the afternoon.

Here we would stay for four whole days with … but that’s another story for another blog article. Stay tuned!

 

Spring birds

What a late spring we got this year. Still the seasons feels quite wintry and many of the fields and meadows are still covered with snow, only partly and slowly being defrosted by the spring sun.

The migrant birds however had started to fly northwards already – first the Whooper swans and geese, then the Common cranes.

I caught another bird by chance in mid-air and asked for help on Facebook not knowing what kind of bird it was.

This flying fellow is a Smew and according to the comments on Facebook I got it seems to be quite rare here. A photographical chance hit.

Since I was already quite near Bjuröklubb on my “bird hunt” I took the last 12 kilometres to the parking place at this peninsula. Parts of the northern bay Gärdviken was still covered with ice – apparently thick enough to bare the two ice fishers who sat or lay upon it. But round the eastern part that is more exposed to the sea the water was open, only some ice floes that stranded at the shallow shore indicated that summer is still some months away.

Translations:

EnglishGermanSwedishLatin
Whooper swanSingschwanSångsvanCygnus cygnus
Common craneKranichTranaGrus grus
SmewZwergsägerSalskrakeMergellus albellus