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.

Gratulerer med dagen from abroad

Today is syttende mai (17th of May), the Norwegian national day. On 17 May 1814 the The Constitution of Norway that declared Norway to be an independent kingdom was signed. That’s why Norway turns 207 years today. Gratulerer med dagen – Happy birthday!

The first time that I was in Norway was the turn of the year 2003/04 together with a friend. Although the weather was really miserable – storm and rain – I was so fascinated by that country, that I travelled there one month later again to find a job as a developer.

Well, I didn’t find a job. I couldn’t speak Norwegian, didn’t have much programming experience and the dot-com bubble was still present.

2005, one and a half year later I visited Tromsø for the first time of my life after a week of hiking on the Hardangervidda. I had less than two days to discover this town but since then it has been my favourite town in Scandinavia.

Anyhow I didn’t think about moving there. The same year I had been in Northern Sweden twice and preferred the colder winters there. In addition to that I was a bit scared of mørketiden – the seven weeks in winter, where the sun stays below the horizon. Five years later I moved to Sweden.

This year however I was sure that I will be in Norway for syttende mai, since I’ve been working in Tromsø since last October.

Well, at least on the papers. Due to Covid 19 we were strongly advised to work from home, which I can better in our house in Obbola/Sweden than in my tiny room in Tromsø. On 22 November 2020 I took the plane to Oslo, another one to Stockholm and a third to Umeå. Since then I’ve been working and living home in Obbola. In five days I’ll have been here for half a year.

It feels a bit like a dream. Did I really work in the office of the Norsk Polarinstitutt in Tromsø? Together with others? Walked the 1.7 km from my shared flat? Enjoyed the first snow in the mountains? Took a kayak course?

Only when I miss my down sleeping bag (in Tromsø), my macro lens (in Tromsø), my rain parka (in Tromsø) I realise that I still have my flat there. And of course when I have to pay the monthly rent. And that’s a lot because it is ridiculously expensive to live there.

At time I’m forbidden to travel to Norway even though I have a job and a shared flat there. It’s unclear when I’ll be allowed there again. Until then I have the blog articles as memory of my two months in Tromsø to remember, the knowledge that I’ll be there again but most of all a wonderful time home.

Breakfast to go

About transporting breakfast in a wheelbarrow and hunting kayaks by the sea.

Some of you may remember the picture taken three weeks ago:

Martin’s answer in the comment was right: We have two kayaks now! Annika bought hers three weeks ago, a new, bright yellow one. Since then it has snowed several times – last time six days ago but today the weather promised to be calm and sunny. Because of Ascension Day Annika and I had a free day today and as usual we started it with a breakfast. Almost …

We didn’t put the breakfast on the terrace table, but in a wheelbarrow. In addition to food and drink there was a camping mat, clogs, sun glasses, caps, my camera and a sponge. While I pushed the wheelbarrow to the shore, Annika took two paddles, for today we would kayak to a beach on the island Bredskär and take our breakfast there.

The air was warm but the sea is still icy cold, so we both were dressed in drysuits. Gloves and such however was not needed any longer.

We paddled counterclockwise along the island Bredskär. Wind as sea were calm and the sun warmed us. We circled a small stony cape and then we turned sharp left to enter a small bay with a sandy beach. There we got out of our kayaks and dragged them up the beach.

Almost 11 o’clock. Both of us were hungry and eager to start breakfast – or better said brunch. We carried the food up the rocky cliff of the cape that we just had gone around by kayak. Time to roll out the camping mat, pour orange juice into the plastic cups and start our brunch.

After eating bread with cheese, egg or herring in mustard sauce and some chocolate (Marabu with salted almonds) we just sat there and enjoyed. We watched the agile terns fly, we spotted three tiny sail boats leaving the shore. We heard a loud HOOOO! from the air horn of a ship, but we couldn’t spot it. The three sailing boats headed for the open sea getting smaller and smaller. And finally we saw the cause of the air horn: The Wasa ferry to Finland that at time docks in the industry port and has a bit of longer way to the sea. Slowly it approached and passed our observation spot.

The waves of the Wasaline ferry came nearer and nearer. No problem – we sit on land.

I cannot remember whether I heard the waves running into the sandy bay or if I saw them. Anyhow, I turned my head and could watch the waves that had reached our kayaks and started to pull them into the sea. I climbed down the cliff with my cheap plastic clogs as fast as I could, ran over the sand and waded into the water to fetch the first kayak I could reach. It was mine. Now I was a bit more relaxed. We could use my kayak to fetch Annika’s that already has been pulled out into deeper water. Annika however had still her drysuit on and waded to her kayak until she could grab it. Now the waves had started pushing her kayak back and soon both were on dry land again.

2 people: ✔︎ / 2 kayaks: ✔︎ / 2 paddles: ✔︎ – good luck!

To our learning for today: Even when the sea is calm – put your kayak on land properly! Now with the kayaks being save again we returned to the cliff, we sat down onto the camping mat again and watched the ferry on its journey to behind the horizon.

There we sat for a while, but then we put our things together, entered the kayaks and paddled home. After less then 2km of paddling we landed at the shore in front of our house where the wheelbarrow waited for that food that we hadn’t eaten. I still feel being extremely privileged, that I may live at such an outstanding place together with Annika.

Later that day we were in town where we got the warmest day yet: Up to 23 °C (or 24? I don’t remember) were shown by the car thermometer and when we bathed in the lake Stocksjön it was no winter bath any longer. Yes, there is still snow in the forest and even a larger patch of it beside the house but this will not last long.

Springtime!

April weather – Olles Spår

After yesterday’s snow fall Umeå municipality sent an SMS to Annika today at 8:28: “Olles Spår 5,0 km, Klassiskt preparerad”.

Olles Spår is one of Umeå’s cross country ski tracks. Annika and I planned to ski there after work today. I was however a bit doubtful, because at home the snow was thawing away the whole day and in the afternoon it even rained.

When we arrived at the parking place of Olles Spår only a single other car was parked there. And that is what the parking place looked like:

We planned to ski at least 1 km no matter how it goes, but the ski track was much better in shape than expected and so we skied 5 km.

Perhaps we ski again this week, otherwise it was probably the last time this year. And then spring shall come!

Apropos spring: On the way back we stopped at Degernäs – a bird’s paradise.  At least a hundred common cranes flew overhead within minutes and a several hundred whooper swans had been gathering in the shallow waters of the flooded meadows. Not mentioning the many geese. That’s another clear sign of spring.

 

April weather – kayaking through the snow

Yesterday the whole day was sunny. The sun was warm enough that we could take breakfast on the terrace. At lunch time we took a bath at Vitskärtsudden. Of course the water temperature is hardly above zero, but it felt springlike to go barefoot over the sand of the beach. Yes – sand, no more ice or snow!

Today however:

In the morning it has started snowing and since then it has been constantly snowing at temperatures round 0.3 °C. A good opportunity for …

… kayaking! Although wind had become stronger the Baltic Sea still was calm. Maybe it was the snow, that created a wet blanket of slush and made parts of the surface slow and doughy, but that I don’t know.

I just took a tour round Lillskär, but took some photos with my Nikon. That took time, because each time I took photos the wind blew me back 50 to 100 metres again. But as I said, the water was calm and it didn’t took long to round the island, cross a field of floating slush, disturb some geese and return home.

Short experiences can be great and memorable experiences!

A photo from the afternoon – still snowing. The original photo looked almost black-and-white and so I made this composition completely black-and-white with a slide blueish tone.

The background: a line of trees, dimmed by the intense snow fall. The middle layer: A line of rocks in the sea, covered with snow. The foreground: The sea, covered with a layer of slush.

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.

Black and white weather

+1 °C, grey and hazy with some rainy showers. I ignore the weather and go out for a longer walk. Time to put a black and white film in the iPhone.

The ice is breaking

The first own video on way-up-north.com – just a rough edit

It is wind and waves that break the sea ice in the spring. And it already feels like spring. Last weekend I saw the first whooper swans and then the first seagulls – either swimming or standing on the ice bridge to the near islet Lillskär.

One week ago I dragged my kayak over the ice to that islet to start a short paddle tour from there. Since then Annika and I could watch how the open sea nibbled at the ice from both sides until only a broad ice bridge was left over.

This ice bridge became narrower and narrower. Today I used my lunch break to slip into my waterproof suit and walk to Lillskär. Even the solid ice had become cracks and these future ice floes raised and sank with the waves. As if the sea would inhale and exhale under my feet.

I went to the island, trudged to the snow and watched the waves at the outer shore. When I returned I saw, that the ice bridge almost had gone. I managed to walk back without wading or swimming, but it was close. Half an hour later the last ice shield was crushed away by the waves and Lillskär is an island again.

Today I don’t show photos but a video. I apologise for the lousy editing but I’m a video newbie and wanted to publish the video today.

Kayak – crisp morning – roe deer – crushed ice

The week in five chapters – including photographers comments

Tuesday, 16. March, 7:45 – a short kayak tour

The blue sky invited to interrupt work and take a short kayak tour. It hardly needs preparation: Putting on the waterproof coverall, put the iPhone in a waterproof bag and drag the kayak over the ice to the islet Lillskär. Then it gets a bit harder to find a good place to set the kayak into the water. I found a place and some minutes later I paddled to the island Bredskär. The tour however turned out to be shorter than planned because between the islands Bredskär and Bredskärsten the Baltic Sea had frozen over in the night. I wasn’t eager to hack myself through the ice, so I turned and realised, that – as so often – the wind came from land and was fresher than expected. At time I do not have a real drysuit for paddling and moving in the thick neoprene survival suit is exhausting. But it’s great to be outdoors, even when the tour is only a tiny one.

Photographers comment:

It’s always like spinning a wheel of fortune, when you try to photo with an iPhone in a waterproof bag and your fingers are in rubber gloves. Sometimes nothing happens, sometimes you have waterdrops on the bag, sometimes the camera triggers too late and sometimes you’re taking pictures of your own gloves as in image #3.

Photoing like this is about visual storytelling, not about high quality photos you want to put on the wall of your living room. But on the other side, why actually not?

Yesterday, 6:30 –a crisp morning

-10 °C, could be the last cold morning before the warm air will arrive. I walked to the coast quite early and took some photos. One from the packed ice, that has frozen together, one of a funny ice sculpture that I discovered a bit further out.

Photographers comment:

Alas – a DSLR camera. Not waterproof and much heavier but much more fun to handle. The quality of the photos is of course superior but something is missing a bit: The beautiful warm light of the sunrise. The sun rises however already at 5:43, so I was almost an hour too late.

You have to decide: Do you want to sleep or to take better photos? It’s up to you.

Today, 8:30 – cautious visitors

When I went to the living room this morning I saw a movement outside. Right under the kitchen window two roe deer were eating leftovers of the bird food that was lying in the snow. Annika and I hold distance to the window and even though they were extremely cautious they didn’t seem to be able to see us through the glass. They continued eating for a short while and then went on. I slowly opened the kitchen window to give them carrots, but as expected they didn’t dare to come back. Now the carrots stuck in the snow and we’re curious if they’ll find them there the next days.

Photographers comment:

Luckily the roe deer stood on a metre of solid snow, so they could peek in and we could peek out and see them. The first photo gives a good impression of how near they were, even though it is taken with a focal length of 200mm.

Today, 12:00 – no winter bath

The whole day it has been above zero and at 11 o’clock it started to rain. In the need of fresh air Annika and I walked to Vitskärsudden. We weren’t prepared for a winter bath and it would have been quite useless since the whole bay was filled with ice floes and crushed ice and slush that lazily followed the slow waves of the sea.

Photographers comment:

Well, while the motive is quite ok, the grey overcast weather made the light so dull and poor in contrast, that the photo looks pale and boring. Should you photograph under such conditions? Well, of course! But don’t expect the best results.

Today, 15:45 – crushed ice

Where I started my Tuesday morning paddle tour now a large area of the sea was covered with the very same mixture of ice floes, smaller pieces of ice and slush. I went to Lillskär again – equally prepared as for paddling – and watched the ice floes. It’s mostly the trees of the neighbouring islands that prevent the scenery looking completely arctic, but it’s still impressive.

Finally I took my ice bath but since I didn’t get wet in my coverall it probably doesn’t count.

Photographers comment:

The conditions: bad. Again iPhone in a bag and rubber gloves plus the grey sky. Taking the selfie however was fun.

That makes me realise that I’m quite result-orientated when I make photos. Sometimes I just forget, that the process of photographing itself can be fun, last not least because it gives you reasons to do silly thinks like standing outside the whole night, wade through a mud bog or like today – just jump into the ice pool.

What was your last “crazy” photo action?