Two days on the Hurtigruten

This article is part of the series “2017-02: Northern Norway”.

On Wednesday we left Kirkenes and started our journey to the next destination: Stokmarknes on the Vesterålen where we planned to visit good friends of mine.

KirkenesStokmarknes would be 1000 km by car and take at least 14 hours, if you take the faster way through Finland and Sweden. Anyway there’s an alternative: The Hurtigruten express route, which connects many coastal towns, among others Kirkenes and Stokmarknes. That’s why we took the Hurtigruten ship instead of driving for at least two days. In Vardø we entered the vessel Trollfjord and 16:45 we started our two day long tour.

The first night we went to bed quite early and I only took some pictures in Berlevåg. Since the ship already was moving again I decided to make a longer exposure with the camera on a tripod. That’s Berlevåg by night seen from the Hurtigruten:

We missed Mehamn, Kjøllefjord, Honningsvåg. The first place with a landing stage I saw was Havøysund, were we anchored from 7:45 to 8:00. Shortly after we met the Lofoten, the oldest and smallest ship of the Hurtigruten fleet today. It was tiny compared to the much bigger Trollfjord (which is tiny compared to modern cruise ships).

I tried to be as much outside as possible. It was cold and quite windy, not only because of the airflow, but the gusty wind, too. First I thought, that I would be extremely overdressed in my Canada Goose expedition parka, but soon I found it quite comfortable to wear it in the chilly weather.

In Hammerfest we left the Hurtigruten, looked round in town and bought food. In Øksfjord it started to get dark and the black-white mountain ranges became blue.

… and blurred if you wanted to …

… and it got darker …

Then it started to snow. Sometimes the snowfall was quite heavy especially with the wind and I was even more glad about my warm parka.

In Tromsø we arrived at 23:35 and I made some night shots of this favourite town of me.

We could have left the ship for a visit of Tromsø but we preferred sleeping. We’ll probably visit Tromsø this summer.

The next morning came and the last day aboard began. Good for me, because even if I was glad to slip the car ride it’s not my world to be on a large ship looking at the landscape rolling by. Last night snow fall has brought much snow on the top deck. I never waded through snow drifts on a ship before.

At the same time the Trollfjord anchored in Harstad, a town on the island Hinnøya.

On our way to the next destination Risøyhamn it got extremely windy, the stabilised ship started to roll and to pitch and heavy snow showers appeared, reducing the view to some hundred metres.

Suddenly the wind calmed down, the snow showers were left behind and for the first time of the whole cruise patches of blue sky and finally the sun came out. We approached Sortland, the last stop before our destination Stokmarknes where I gazed at the beautiful mountains of the Lofoten archipelago in the south.

I generally dislike the last 30 minutes of transportation, if it’s by train or by plane. I just want to arrive, and so it was on the Hurtigruten. Impatiently I waited in the inside of the Trollfjorden for its arrival in Stokmarknes, then another fifteen minutes for the allowance to enter the car deck and another ten until I was allowed to drive the car onto the very same car elevator which I used to enter the ship almost 46 hours ago.

I could write a lot more about the Hurtigruten and its passengers, but that’s another story. Short résumé: I love those ships for transportation, but cruising is not my cup of tea. (Anyway, the outside jacuzzi on the top deck is really great!)

Sjøsamisk Museum

This article is part of the series “2017-02: Northern Norway”.

Today Annika and I left Kirkenes and headed north to the Varanger Peninsula and the towns Vadsø and Vardø. Well, heading north it would be without the fjords. We took the E6 and followed it in almost all directions to drive round Neidenfjorden, Munkefjorden, Bugøyfjorden and the large Varangerfjorden.

Ørjan had advised us to visit the Sjøsamisk Museum – the museum of the sea sami. It is located in Byluft 30 km before Varangerbotn when you come from Kirkenes. We rang at the door bell of the private looking house and Helmer Losoa, the creator and owner opened the museum for us. We entered the large wooden building and looked stunned. We didn’t expect such a huge collection related to the history of the sea sami and the region. Almost uncountable items hung on the walls, the ceiling, stood on large tables or in cupboards. From old sami costumes to wooden fishing boats, buoys made of glass and ancient radios – I guess there’s hardly a thing you cannot find in this collection. And Helmer, who has both built the museum and has been collecting all these items for 27 years, know them all and can tell stories about them.

So that’s my tipp for today: If you ever should be near Kirkenes or Vadsø – visit this collection. If you come in wintertime, keep in mind that the rooms are not heated. Inside temperature = outside temperature minus the stormy wind.

 

4×4 winter impressions of Kirkenes

This article is part of the series “2017-02: Northern Norway”.

Kirkenes – the harbour

While Annika and our friends in Kirkenes enjoyed their breakfast in the Hotel Thon I took a short promenade along the Johan Knudtzens gata to take some pictures. Already the view from the hotel terrace over the fjord is quite impressive and shows the beauties of the arctic nature while the harbour shows the more practical sides of living here: fishing, both commercially and just for fun.

A hike onto the top of the Lyngberget

After the breakfast we took the car to Jakobsnes and a bit further to take a promenade up the mountain Lyngberget, which lies on the other side of the Bøkfjorden. Here you can have a wide view over the whole town of Kirkenes – at least as long it doesn’t snow, as it did on our way back. I just love these wintry landscapes where you have views over fjell and fjord, but the wind was quite chilly and soon we looked like the participants of an arctic expedition.

The Huskies of the Kirkenes Snowhotel

Today we played tourists and visited the Kirkenes Snowhotel, which is just some hundred metres away. The Snowhotel has 180 Huskies including the seniors plus 30 puppies. The huskies are like we humans – some are working, some are resting, some are curious and some are shy. But they are all very kind and friendly.

Inside the Kirkenes Snowhotel

I slept in tents, in igloos and outside in wintertime. I even slept in the Kirkenes Snowhotel two years ago. This time Annika and I enjoy sleeping in the inside of our friends house (Thank you for your great hospitality, Christine and Ørjan) but gave the Snowhotel a visit. And it was worth it – especially the lounge with it carved ice blocks is very impressive.

Tomorrow we’ll leave this fine place, take the car to Vardø in the North (yes, that’s still possible!) and take the Hurtigruten from there to our next destination.

The Sunmountain

I have stopped counting the times I was in Solberget, the beautiful wilderness retreat in Swedish Lapland. This time I was asked if I want to join a three day first aid course in Solberget. Since my last one was long ago I accepted gladly.

The course, arranged by the German Outdoorschule Süd, was both intense and fantastic and I’m glad that I was able to participate. I stayed another day after the course to make a ski tour. It has snowed quite a lot in Lapland in November and round about 60 cm of snow covered the forest soil. I started the tour at 8:30 – an hour before sun rise. The air was crisp and cold with temperatures round -15 °C. I borrowed a pair of wooden Tegsnäs skis. They are long and broad and fit to every boot which makes them ideal for the powdery snow in the Northern forests. I crossed the street and entered the narrow forest path that leads to the hill which bears the same name as the wilderness retreat: Solberget – the Sunmountain. I crossed the Solbergsvägen, which was covered with a half metre of snow and soon went slightly uphill through the old forest with its mighty spruce and pine trees.

Even though I didn’t take the smoothest way up it didn’t take long until I arrived at the top of the Solberget, which is 459 meters above sea level. I ignored the cozy mountain hut and went straight to the old fire lookout tower which provides a unique 360 degree view over the landscape.

As fastly as I arrived at the tower as slowly I climbed it, since the handrails and the steps of the three ladders were covered with a thick layer of hard and crusty snow. Finally I was on the top of the tower, just in time to see the sun rising above the hilly horizon.

I stayed on the tower for more than an hour, happy to see the snow covered trees in the warm and ever-changing light of the low hanging winter sun. First the sun got free of the clouds and started to illuminate more and more of the scenery. The colours changed from a pale pink to shades of orange and many other colours I don’t have any name for. After a while a cloud layer approached from the north changing the mood of the landscape again. At the end almost the whole landscape was shadowy beside of the fog that still hung above the swampy areas in the southwest.

Finally the sun vanished behind the cloud layer. I climbed down the three ladders of the tower and continued my ski tour. First I headed southeast, then I turned more and more to the right while I descended the hill. After a while (and a bit of squeezing through the pathless thickets) I reached the Solbergsvägen again, however more in the south. This part of the path was completely untouched beside of a track of a hare that you still could guess under the fresh snow of the last day.

After a while I came to the turn-off to the swamp Solmyran which I followed a bit. The sun was low again and illuminated the snow in bright orange colours, while the snow in the shadows looked more blueish. There are many colours in winter, you just have to go out to spot them.

The photographer and his studio:

Links

I can highly recommend both a stay at Solberget and the first aid courses of the Outdoorschule Süd. In February you can combine the two, if you can speak and understand German.

Jämtland hike part III: back to Sweden and finishing the tour

This article is part of the series “2016-09: Jämtland and Norway”.

After two days in Norway we headed back to the Swedish mountains.

Thursday, 15. September

We started our day with a breakfast.

The Norwegian lodge Nedalshytta is really beautiful, but doesn’t have a kitchen and sells only some snacks, when it comes to food. Luckily we had both own things to eat and a mug with us, so would could enjoy our own breakfast: oat flakes with frothy milk! How to get frothy milk on a mountain tour? Mix milk powder and water in an empty coke bottle, shake it vigorously and voilà: schiuma di latte à la Annika.

After packing our backpacks we started our hike to the Sylarna Fjällstation. It was the first cloudy day since we started our tour three days before and anything was moist and wet. Sometimes we had to take a break to pluck some blueberries, that still tasted fresh and sweet.

We went along the Templet, which is Swedens highest peak of the Sylarna mountain range (1728 m). (Storsylen with its 1762 meter altitude is higher, but on the Norwegian side, just 100 meters from the Swedish border.) Due to the weather we first couldn’t see that much but after a while it started to clear up and the clouds released the view on the huge and barren slopes of the Templet massif. We were so lucky, that we hadn’t to go this part of the trail in fog and clouds.

Soon we arrived at a place called Ekorrdörren – the squirrel door.

We started our tour at 780 m above sea level. Now we were on 1100 meter and would have to go up another 260 meters to reach the Ekorrpasset – the squirrel pass – which is 1360 m above sea level and so the highest point of our tour so long. We started climbing up the slope but had to look back over and over again. The undulating valley of the river Åeruvedurrienjohke with it’s many hills and ponds looked like from another planet.

Our trail got more and more rocky. After a while there was hardly any way left, we just went over angular rocks with gorgeous views of the Templet, including a small glacier and the Slottet, another peak of the Sylarna.

I really love the changes of the landscape you can have within just some hours: From autumnal birch forest with blueberries over to grass covered plateaus and finally up to an asteroid-like landscape that looks like a pile of stones.

Especially the squirrel pass looks both harsh and impressive. Anyway, when you go up a pass you’ll probably go it down as well and even 200 meters altitude make a difference. The Sylarna Fjällstation lies near the river Sylälven that flows through a wide grass covered U-shaped valley and when we came nearer we could see three reindeers standing in front of the cabins. Back to civilisation.

We had hiked four days in a row and were quite eager to take a day off. Sylarna fjällstation would be an ideal place, since it lies beautifully and you can leave that place in six different directions. Alas, there weren’t only reindeers, but people, too. Many people. The place was crowded! There were many hikers and mountain joggers. In the big dining room sat a large group of bankers that got their three-course dinner including candlelight and fresh salad, brought by helicopter. We were unsure, if this should be a good place to rest for a day.

The information we got in the evening shocked us a bit: There were already 100 – 125 booked sleeping-places for that night (in addition to all people that would come without booking). That means, that this place would be even more crowded. Even Helags, which is more in the South had just some single sleeping-places left.

That was the moment, where we decided to escape.

We would stay overnight of course, but the next day we would abandon the tour and hike back to Storulvån, were I parked my car.

Friday, 16. September

I was awake quite early, took my camera and tripod and walked out to wait for the sunrise. The valley Endalen was covered with fog. I looked at the glacier Storsylglaciären,that covers the eastern slope of the Storsylen and a lavvu – a traditional sami dwelling. The sun however showed up quite late, there were too many clouds.

I looked at the less beautiful parts of that place too: An excavator on a flat building site, a welcome sign surrounded by building material and waste.

We started the tour being content to leave Sylarna behind but a bit melancholy, too, because we didn’t plan to leave the mountains already after five days. Annika started to count the approaching hikers, there were quite many …

After half the way we approached something quite funny:

It’s neither a sculpture nor a church, it’s a WiFi-station including a recharging unit for smartphones! It is even marked in the hiking map: “WiFi och laddstn.”. There were many hikers and even some mountain bikers resting, but no one started the WiFi. The cellular network is quite good in that part of the mountains and I guess there’s hardly a young Swede without a mobile internet flat rate.

We continued our tour and slowly hiked down the valley Endalen. After a while we were below the tree line and the landscape got even more colourful.

And just shortly before we reached our starting point, were we had left four and a half days before I spotted a lonely birch tree – almost leafless. A symbol, that winter will come even this year. Fifteen minutes later we reached Storulvåns fjällstation, then the parking place, then my car. Annika has counted almost 150 people hiking, jogging and cycling to Sylarna, just from one direction! That confirmed our decision to leave Sylarna behind.

It has been a fantastic and varying tour with many different experiences in a short time. Tack för turen – Annika!

The End.

“Wait, wait …”
– “… wait, what?”

“How can it be the end? You had two weeks holidays, not only five days!”
– “well, ok, we did continue our journey.”

After changing cloth, using the bath room and drinking a coke we got in the car and I drove the way back to Enafors, that lies at the E14 which connects Trondheim in Norway with Sundsvall in Sweden. We considered some options but didn’t decide yet what to do next. Shortly before we approached the E14 I asked Annika: “Back to Umeå or Norway?” The answer was: “Norway”. So we travelled to Norway …

Stay tuned for the next article telling more about our trip in Norway …

Jämtland hike part II: hejdå Sweden, hei Norge!

This article is part of the series “2016-09: Jämtland and Norway”.

Annika and I are in the mountains in Jämtland and have just reached our first destination: Blåhammaren, where we slept in a 14-bed room.

Tuesday, 13. September

Sleeping in a 14-bed room can be quite demanding, especially if you have this kind of snorers in your room, that could awake a frozen mammoth. However Annika and I were really lucky, no snorers at all! After our breakfast we had to decide where to continue our tour. From Blåhammaren you can hike back to civilisation or continue to two other destinations. Most of the hikers continue to Sylarna which is very central and part of the Jämtland Triangle, a very popular three-day-tour, that connects Storulvån, Blåhammaren and just Sylarna. We were keener to cross the border and hike to the Norwegian lodge Storerikvollen and so we did.

With an altitude of 1086 m Blåhammaren is the highest tourist station of the STF – the Swedish Tourist Association – so first the trail ran over the treeless mountain plateau, over rocks and moss, crossing some swamps and brooks. After a while we descended and the first yellow coloured birch trees came into view again.

Swedish summer trails are marked with red coloured dots on rock or tree, while winter trails are marked with poles bearing red crosses. You really shouldn’t follow the winter trails in summer unless you want to stand in front of a lake or find yourself deep in a bog – both are easy to cross only in wintertime. But quite often there’s a year round trail which makes navigation extremely easy even on less walked routes.

One kilometre behind Endalen, an emergency shelter, where we rested for a short while, the Sweden-Norwegian border came into view. It’s hard to mark a border less spectacularly than this one: A sign amidst of a pile of yellow painted stones, that’s it. The large bridge that crosses the river Enan (Sami: Äjnänjohke) directly after the border offers far more spectacularity.

We detected a real nice resting place on the other side of the river, where we planned to enjoy the warm summerly weather, but two other hikers – by the way the first ones we met that day – coming from the other side chose exactly the same slab of rock to rest. Luckily we found another place, at least as nice as the first one. We unmounted our backpacks, took of our boots and dangled our feet into the ice-cold water.

(I like the photo with the drifting yellow birch leave and the dead mosquito. It illustrates, why I prefer the autumn to summer: Beautiful colours and no biting insects left!)

In Norway the summer trail marks change, now the trail was marked with big bright red T-s. The red T is also the logo of the DNT, the Norwegian Trekking Association.

Do you see the dark piece of something on the top of the stone? It’s animal droppings, but I’m not sure of which species. I asked for help on Facebook and the favourite answers are reindeer and (arctic) fox.

We continued our tour until we came to another swing bridge, this time crossing the river Djupholma. On the other side of that river lies a nice sandy beach where I took a refreshing bath (the only one of the whole tour). It was only two other kilometres to walk to our destination, the cabin Storerikvollen, where we arrived round six o’clock.

Oh, so nice these Norwegian lodges are. They seem less “funkis” (the Swedish functional style) and more “hyggelig” (the Norwegian word for cozy, snug, or homelike). Just gemütlich! And we got a two-bed-room for a good price. The only thing you should know, when you visit the Norwegian side: These cabins hardly sell any food and there is no public kitchen as in the Swedish cabins. So you have three options: (1) take a camp stove with you and cook outside. (2) cold dishes! Hopefully you have all with you. (3) eat the dinner and breakfast provided by the lodges (and pay the Norwegian price).

We chose (2) and had a nice dinner with salami, crisp bread and fresh water outside in the evening sun, enjoying both our simple meal, the warm air and the beautiful view. Later the almost full moon rose above the reddish mountain chain – what a beautiful evening!

Wednesday, 14. September

The next day would lead us to the Nedalshytta, which is between 20 and 24 km away, depending on which map or sign post you rely on. So we got up quite early.

We had to go back yesterdays route 2 or 3 km where the trail divided. Now we turned south and had to ascent. Soon again we were above the treeline. When we looked back, we could see parts of the big lake Essandsjøen and even spotted – beside of some reindeers – the now tiny Storerikvollen, that we left some ours ago.

After a while we came to the river Fiskåa, where we had to ford. My rubber boots were high enough and I just splashed through the water, whereas Annika changed boots with trekking sandals and waded through the river.

Since rivers use to flow through valleys we had to ascend again and walked up along a reindeer fence. The weather was still warm and sunny, but you could see a cloud layer approaching afar. Would it rain in the evening as the forecast told us?

Only the map showed us the progress of our longest tour so far. We went a bit up, a bit down, a bit to the left, a bit to the right, down a small valley and up again. But finally trees came into view once more and soon we stood on an exposed plateau not far away from the yet invisible Nedalshytta.

Come on, just less than a kilometre to go … . Final spurt! A short while later we arrived at the beautiful lodge. Again we got a nice two-bed room, this time right below the grass roof. And we got: pizza! Perhaps not the best I ate in my life, but walk 20 – 24 kilometres with a backpack by yourself and you’ll know, how delicious a warm pizza slice can be!

The tour so far:

Continue with part three …

A cruise from Skelleftehamn to Bjuröklubb

It doesn’t happen often, that you can make boat trips from Skelleftehamn, were I use to live. Only one week once a year the Laponia Rederi from Luleå comes down to Skelleftehamn for some cruises. Last Saturday Annika and I took the opportunity to attend a five hour cruise to Bjuröklubb, where I’ve been quite a lot, but never by ship. When we arrived in good time before 11 o’clock people already started entering the small ship.

We boarded, too and thereby lowered the average age some years. I sniffed around the boat and got the permission to enter the bridge for some photos.

Five minutes before schedule the ship put out to sea, cruising along the industrial peninsula Rönnskär.

While Annika and I were standing on the top deck looking at the sea, the islands, the sky and the waves, all other people stayed inside and started focussing on the main topic: the lunch buffet. Anyway I have to admit, that especially the salmon was extremely delicious, and the bread as well.

I once thought about making a kayak trip to Bjuröklubb, an exposed peninsula and the easternmost point of the county Västerbotten. It would take me some days, since for one thing I’m slow and for another thing I would follow the coastline and never dare to take the much shorter direct route long away from the mainland. The ship, however was fast and took the “directissima”. Therefore it took only 90 minutes to cruise there.

At the small harbour we all went ashore and the ship continued to a larger harbour nearby where it waited for us. We got a guided tour and went up to the lighthouse where we left the croud for a good reason: Just that day was the International Lighthouse and Lightship Weekend, the only day where the lighthouse – which is still in use – is open for visitors. I went up, waiting for the other visitors – max 4 at the same time – to leave and made some photos. Not only the cut glass mirror construction was incredible but the colourful reflections of the sunlight, too.

Since we already left the group we took a hike to the other harbour, where we entered the ship again. Why it took us more than half an hour to walk for just some hundred meters? Well, there were blueberries, there were raspberries … and we picked and ate a lot of them.

The crew untied all the ropes connecting the ship to the land. I’m sure they are nautical terms for those ropes, you are free to post their proper names in the comments. Then the ship started, fetched the other passengers at the other small harbour and headed back to Skelleftehamn. Annika and I sat on the upper deck and enjoyed sun, clouds, wind, and waves as well as the view on the islands Skötgrönnan and Gåsören.

Ninety minutes later we arrived again in Skelleftehamn, where we came off the ship, while one of the crew played farewell music on the accordion.

Conclusion: A relaxed cruise and the opportunity to play tourist in my adopted homeland for one day.

Norrbyskär – Sweden in a nutshell

Prologue

It’s a bit funny. Although the internet weather forecast rarely correspondents with reality, I check it anyway. Then I at least try to ignore it.

Last sunday, when Annika and I considered what to do, the forecast promised sun for two or three hours, but rain showers for the rest of the day. We decided to take the car to Norrbyn 40 km south from Umeå and the 11:30-ferry to the island Norrbyskär. If it really rained, I could at least try out my brand new rain jacket.

Sweden in a nutshell

11:20 we were on board of the ferry Norrbyskär and soon the little ship put out to sea. The trip didn’t take long, it’s only 2 km to the island. I just love boat trips, it always feels like holidays when you stand on the ship’s bow, feel the airflow and look at the blue sea.

Norrbyskär consists of several islands connected with dams and as we experienced later even another possibility to cross the water. We went ashore with the other guests and headed left on the island Stuguskär. The way is framed by quite large brick houses. Most houses in Northern Sweden are made of wood and for us the brick houses looked more like a small coastal town in Germany, not a North Swedish island. The broad way ended soon, but a path continued through the forest and led us to a tiny bay. The single summer house standing on stilts brought us back to Sweden: it was wooden and painted red.

We continued to a place called Calmarn, another part of the island. The soil along the bay was brown and very bouncy. I had to look twice until I realised that the soil was neither sand nor mud. As many other places Norrbyskär had a huge sawmill in former times and this bay was completely covered with a thick layer of sawdust that gave you the feeling of crossing a huge trampoline when you walked on it.

We continued the path and entered the forest again. Soon we stood on the rocky north point of Calmarn, where we took the first rest. We sat down on a big rock, looked at the sea and enjoyed the blue sky and the warm sun. No rain in sight yet.

Now we went back the whole way until we almost were at the shipping pier again but continued the main road that connects the islands Stuguskär and Långgrundet. The street ends at a place surrounded by two white wooden houses and a bell tower. The entrance of the main building was labelled sommarkyrka – “summer church”. The ferries that connect the island with the mainland are going only between late april and early october – hardly more than 5 months, so probably this church is only active these months.

We went around the church where we found the Tannskärsstigen, a forest road on the peninsulas Tannskär and Truthållan. Sometimes the path was near the shore and you could see water lingering through the trees. Sometimes the path looked like leading through a huge and dense forest, even if Tannskär is hardly 500 meters in diameter.

It got warmer and warmer and we longed for a bath. The first beach was not actually crowded, but the nice places were occupied and so we continued our walk. The second bathing place wasn’t completely deserted neither, but big enough for us to find a place. A pair sitting on a wooden bench, some boats, some people on the pier, some kids in huge orange life jackets. We drank some water, ate some sweets and decided to take a bath.

Brr – the water was still really cold but so refreshing. So delightful! After the bath we laid down on the wooden pier and the sun dried us in a short time.

We continued the circular track and soon approached the summer church again. We went a bit back and crossed another dam to reach the island Stengrundet. Here’s a huge campground of the YMCA (in Swedish: KFUM). We had a look at the climbing crag where people with climbing harnesses and helmets climbed ladders and balanced on ropes, but soon we went to another shore were we had a look at the blue sea with its small and tiny islands.

We went back to the campsite, found another path through the forest and followed it, this time in direction north. The north peak of this island is extended by a quite long breakwater made of big rocks. Again a nice place to rest. In the east we could see the tiny island Burgrundet. It looked spooky. Some leafless dead trees and black birds. Crows? Dead man’s island? No, it weren’t crows, but cormorants sitting on the bare branches of the dead trees.

In the south we could see some wooden wrecks in the shallow water between Stengrundet and Långgrundet. On the satellite photos it looked like shipwrecks – almost like a ship graveyard. We went back – first along the shore then through the forest. It took a while but finally we found the path to the shore where we could see the wrecks of some twenty meter long wooden shipwrecks – an amazing view!

I already started to check the time because we wanted to reach the 18:15-ferry. The museum, which is not far away from ferry dock, was already in view and hardly hundred meters away, but on the other island. To reach the museum by foot we would have to go two kilometers to use the dam between the islands. But there happened to be an alternative:

When we looked at the shipwrecks we found a big wooden raft, tied to some cords that were fixed to the shore of both islands. Apparently it was possible to enter the raft and just pull oneself cross the water. After some considerations whether it would be (a) possible and (b) permitted we entered the raft, took the soaking wet cords and pulled ourselves over the water. It didn’t take long and we were able to hop on shore. We went into the museum, bought lemonade, strolled back to the ferry dock, sat in the warm sun (still no rain cloud in view) and waited for the ferry. A short boat trip to the mainland ended a wonderful day on the island(s) Norrbyskär.

Conclusion

This felt like an ideal day trip and – even though Annika and I both live in Sweden – a bit like Sweden in a nutshell: ferry trips and tiny islands, sailing boats and motor boats, a museum, a restaurant and a kiosk, stony and sandy beaches, huge rocks and forest paths, not to mention many flowers, ice cream and the first blueberries (still very sour!).

Conclusion: fully recommendable!

Official Site: visitnorrbyskar.se

Winter Swimming World Cup and Scandinavian Championship 2016

Last Saturday the 5th winter swimming competition in Skellefteå took place, this time not only as a Scandinavian Championship but even part of the world cup. The Happy Friends of Cold and Darkness (or in Swedish: Mörkrets och kylans glada vänner, which I’m a member of, was the organiser of this event.

I wasn’t part of the organisation team this year, but I was on the ice round the swimming pool and took many photos, both for me and the media.

The first winter swimming in 2012 was the coldest with temperatures round -32 °C. This year it was much warmer with only -1 °C, but the wind and the snow showers made the event to a chilly experience, too.

Here are some impressions:

Links to blog articles about the other winter swim championships in Skellefteå:

 

From Nikkaluokta to Kebnekaise Fjällstation

This article is part of the series “2015-08: Kungsleden hike”.

August 23: Day one of the summer hike through the mountains of Swedish Lapland

It’s hardly imaginable that it was only two weeks ago, that Annika and me started our tour through the mountains of Swedish Lapland.

On Saturday, August 22 I shouldered my packed backpack and travelled from Skelleftehamn to Nikkaluokta, this time not by car but by bus and train: The bus to Skellefteå, the bus to Luleå, the train to Kiruna, the bus to Nikkaluokta. The journey took the whole day – hardly surprising, it’s more than 550 kilometres and travelling in Northern Sweden takes time.

The most popular way through the Swedish mountains is the kungsleden, the “King’s trail”. It’s not only possible to sleep in cabins, you even can buy food in some of them to keep your package small. We however preferred another route on the Norwegian side. There’re cabins, too, but you cannot buy food. That’s why we started with quite heavy backpacks that included food for more than a week. (It included my camera, three lenses and a tripod as well, but that’s another story …)

Sunday morning was a sunny morning and already very warm. Our destination today: The Kebnekaise Fjällstation, 19 km away. We started our trip right behind the cabins of Nikkaluokta and soon we left “civilisation” and were out in the beautiful Lappish nature.

But we were not alone. Some other hikers were on their way but most of all there were a lot of helicopters flying there and back. Soon we gave up counting them, they were too many. We were glad that the aerial traffic calmed down after a while.

Our first stop was the beginning of the lake Láddjujávri, quite popular for two reasons: Here you can take a boat over the lake to shorten your trip to the Kebnekaise Fjällstation and you can eat a reindeer burger at “Lap Dånalds”. We neither took the boat (too lazy) or a burger (too early), but we ate waffles with cloudberry jam. Tasty!

The day was really warm: 24 °C. You even may call it hot when you carry 20 kilos on your back. Beads of sweat ran down and before we ordered our waffles, I took a bath in the fresh and cool water of the lake.

After a quite long and relaxed rest we continued our tour. The path is extremely well marked and changes between rocky and wet parts. Almost all wet and muddy passages are bridged with spångar – wooden walkways – but there are exceptions …

After 6 km walk we came to the other pier. Time for a rest, some water and food and another bath. This part of the lake was much colder and the bath was merely a dip into the icy water.

What a nice resting place: Warm, quite and not too many mosquitoes. It was hard to get up and to continue, both because of the great weather and our heavy backpacks that felt quite uncomfortable on the very first day of our hiking trip. But finally we managed to pick ourselves up and continued.

After a while the first chain bridge came into view: The bridge over the Darfáljohka. That meant, it was less than two kilometres to the Kebnekaise Fjällstation where we would stay over night. But before that I saw the first patch of snow. As a snow lover I just had to take a picture of it even though I knew it wouldn’t be the last snow on our journey.

Finally we arrived at the mountain lodge which is quite huge. The Kebnekaise is the highest Swedish mountain and so the lodge is used by many people: Hikers, climbers, mountaineers, and fly-in tourists – remember the helicopters?

Annika invited me to dinner – thank you, Annika! – but sadly it was a bit disappointing. The restaurant changed the menu without letting us know in advance and the cod was so soaked in butter that it hardly had any own taste left. Anyway the starters were great!

But anyway – a really nice first day of our tour.