Travelling with the MS Lofoten: Kirkenes – Øksfjord

This article is part of the series “2019-02: Northern Norway”.

Friday, 15 February

While I moved into my cabin the Hurtigruten ship MS Lofoten still anchored in the port of Kirkenes. I had a windowless 2-bed-cabin for myself and was able to spread out my belongings. But before that I took a photo with my fisheye lens. With the fisheye-like distortion the cabin look huge!

I used the Hurtigruten twice before, in 2017 from Vardø to Stokmarknes and last year from Båtsfjord to Ørnes. So the section KirkenesVardø was new to me. And it’s the first time without my car on board.

We were in the harbour till half past twelve.

Then we left Kirkenes and my 3rd and longest Hurtigruten journey had started. I stood at the stern of the ship and looked back.

Soon I changed place from stern to bow – at the MS Lofoten you can stand next to the bridge – and looked ahead. Far away, a bit to the port side I could spot a white plain – part of the Varanger peninsula.

[Live interruption: We have reached the open Lopphavet between Øksfjord and Skervøy. The ship has started to rock again. I am interrupted by the sound of a plate falling down from the table. Thanks to the soft carpet it survived]

Annika and I travelled a lot on the Varanger peninsula last winter. I stood on the port side of the ship and tried to spot all places we have been: There’s Vadsø, the largest town – there, far away is Ekkerøy with it’s beautiful beaches. And there is Kiberg, where we had a good time with Trond, our host of Cape East Arctic Adventure. And there’s his house! I found it! Let’s see, what about Kibergsneset, the easternmost point of mainland Norway where Annika and I had been last year? It was farther away from the village than I remembered, but finally I found it, too. Both photos are taken with 600 mm from a rocking ship with a vibrating motor, so the quality is bad, but it was nice to take these pictures.

Half an hour we arrived in Vardø, stop #1. (Vadsø is left out on the southbound direction.) We arrived late and I decided to stay aboard. I’ve been in Vardø before.

When we left Vardø behind, it was too dark to see the scenery. I have breakfast included but not the other meals, because I think they are quite expensive. I have my own food with me. This day however I didn’t have a proper breakfast so I bought a large bread with salmon and scrambled eggs.

The MS Lofoten went along the northern coast of Varanger. It was windy and the sea was a bit rough. The MS Lofoten was exposed to the elements. It is not only the smallest operating Hurtigruten ship but also the only one without stabilisers. It was rocking in every direction and the swell got stronger and stronger. Sometimes the bow of the ship was hovering in midair and then scended into the next trough. I’ve never been seasick before but I started to sweat and to feel quite uncomfortable. I tried to ignore it for a while, then I interrupted my photo edit session, went down to my cabin and went straight into bed. Whether it was my lying position or the fact, that the cabin was nearer to the center of the ship’s mass I don’t know, but I felt much better and fell soon asleep.

I woke up shortly before Båtsfjord, stop #2. Near the harbour the strong swell had subsided. Soon the ship lay calmly at the jetty. It had started snowing intensely. We were in Båtsfjord quite a long time due to a lot of freight being unloaded and loaded.

I went into my cabin and continued sleeping. I overslept Berlevåg, Mehamn and Kjøllefjord but was awake in …

Saturday, 16 February

Honningsvåg, stop #6. I was so sure that I would oversleep this stop as well, but we were an hour late. I was still dark, but I could take some photos with my tripod.

[Live interruption: We have left the Lopphavet, the sea was much calmer than expected]

We left Honningsvåg with an hour delay. I tried to make pictures but the sight was poor, mostly because of the snow showers and the low hanging clouds. At least I could take a picture of the MS Nordnorge.

An announcement came through the speakers: Due to the delay we would skip Havøysund, usually stop #7. This would spare us half an hour.

It got warmer. Temperatures were hardly below zero, much too warm for the season. It snowed more and more and all you could see was the ship and a circular patch of waves and snow.

Anyway the snow showers didn’t last for hours and after another snow shower Melkøya came into view.

Melkøya is just a few kilometres away from Hammerfest, second largest town of the Finnmark. It’s the endpoint of an undersea pipeline for natural gas. Here it is converted to liquefied natural gas that is exported to the world.

Right after Melkøya Hammerfest, stop #7 on this journey came into view.

Here we had a longer stopover. A young woman took ropes, rolled them up and threw them up onto the much higher foredeck of the MS Lofoten. She succeeded every time. Later I asked here if I might use the photo (I may) and she told me that she wasn’t sure if she would make it today because of the strong winds.

I left the MS Lofoten for looking around, taking pictures and buying a coke in the local supermarket. Some photos:

After an hour I went aboard again, placed myself into the salon and started editing images. The weather was too dull to take great pictures, a good reason to be lazy.

I even took a short nap in my cabin. Anyhow I was up again when we arrived in Øksfjord, stop #8. With a fisheye photo of the port Loppa Havn I will finish this blog article.

[Back to now: Soon we’ll arrive in Skjervøy, stop #9. If we make it we’ll even reach Tromsø today but perhaps I’ll sleep. I’ve been in Tromsø several times before and even twice last year.]

 

 

 

Travel remainders

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

Some unpublished photos from my winter journey. I want to show them as long it is still wintry here.

2 February – Jokkmokk

While the grown-up huskies are doing their job the puppies have to wait in the trailer. I guess it is very boring for them. There are curious and seek contact.

21 February – Kirkenes

While Chris, Annika, Ørjan and I are enjoying the gorgeous breakfast in the hotel Thon an asian tourist is waiting outside. She seems to be well protected against the elements but why has the fur to be pink …?

1 Mars – Ekkerøy

On the way to Kiberg Annika and I make a stopover in Ekkerøy where we enjoy a beach walk. Here we meet H. who invites us to visit her. We will make that true some days later. I take a photo of Annika’s and H.’s footwear. Tradition, meet modern world.

1 Mars – Ytre Kiberg

Cape East Arctic Adventure, our stay lies directly at the beach. I could spend weeks with only watching the tides and the changing weather.

4 Mars – Ytre Kiberg

There’s hardly any commercial fishing left in the small former fisher villages and the large drying racks for drying cod remain empty. Some people however still dry cod for personal usage.

5 Mars – Ytre Kiberg

A view through the window of Cape East Arctic Adventure. Today we will continue our journey.

10 Mars – Berlevåg

We hardly have the time to explore Berlevåg, we only buy food. Two images of Berlevåg anyway. Just for the records …

11 Mars – Kjølnes Fyr

This snowstorm shaken rocky shore appears more arctic than many other places of this journey.

14 Mars – Hurtigruten, near Øksfjord

A woman has found a wind protected place and watches the Norwegian winter landscape.

16 Mars – Saltstraumen

On our long car trip back from Ørnes to Skelleftehamn we pass Saltstraumen, a small strait with one of the strongest tidal currents in the world. We are too early to see the strongest maelstroms and I’m too eager to continue home. It’s still 500 km to drive.

Now I finally can erase my “later” folder on the computer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Why travelling in Northern Norway can take time

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

Day 40 of my winter journey 2018

At 11 o’clock we left Kjølnes Fyr and started our car trip to Båtsfjord. First we had to take the road 890 to Kongsfjord and over the Kongsfjordfjellet, then we had to continue on road 891 over the Båtsfjordfjellet to Båtsfjord.

I wasn’t sure if we would manage it due to the severe stormy and snowy weather. Another guest staying at Kjølnes Fyr had a hard time driving the 5 km from Berlevåg with very bad visibility. The roads however were still open though marked with a warning “difficult driving conditions because of snowstorm”.

And yes, it was stormy and it snowed a lot. The sight on the road however was still quite good. While I focussed on the road Annika took some photos of the coast beside of the road:

Some parts however were very hard to drive, since the visibility was extremely bad. It was hard to see whether there were snowdrifts on the road and how deep they were and several times I had to stop completely to find out, where the road continued.

I started to doubt if it was possible to cross the mountain passages but we would make it at least to Kongsfjord where we could stay overnight if continuing became impossible. Annika tried to check the traffic information of Vegvesen – the Norwegian Public Roads Administration – but there was no mobile internet available.

I continued driving along the E 890 and the only other vehicle we met was a snow plough. The street behind it however seemed as snowy as before.

Shortly before Kongsfjord Annika’s smartphone was online again and she informed me about the updated traffic information: The mountain sections of both the 890 and the 891 where restricted to kolonnekjøring which means that you cannot drive alone but have to follow a convoy guided by a snowplough. The kolonnekjøring was scheduled to 14:30. The good thing: Driving in a convoy would be much easier than driving alone.

When we arrived in Kongsfjord it was 12:10, so the 28 km drive from Kjølnes Fyr had taken more than an hour. We were lucky that there is a landhandel – a grocery – in Kungsfjord that is open all year. We entered the landhandel, told about the kolonnekjøring and were invited to coffee and cookies straightaway. A big thank you to the owner for the warm welcome!

While we sipped our coffee and waited we constantly checked the traffic informations. After a short while we learned that the start of the kolonnekjøring was postponed to 17:00. That meant more waiting, but we were not the only ones. Other men in work clothes – mostly fishermen – waited as well. They told stories, laughed out loudly while drinking coffee or eating fast food. Anyway we all were still lucky. While we only had to wait some more hours many other roads were completely closed due to the weather, among others the way to Mehamn, the passage between Kiberg and Vardø and the only way to the North Cape.

Hours later: We said goodbye, cleared the car of snow and drove the short way to the boom gate. Here some other vehicles, mostly trucks waited for the convoy to start. One of the truck drivers attached snow chains to his truck.

Dusk had already been falling when our convoy started some minutes after 5 o’clock. My job for the next time was following the rear lights of the car in front.

Some passages were quite easy to drive, some passages were hard to follow due to the blowing and driving snow. (Sorry, no photos.) After 35 minutes we arrived at the T-junction, where the 890 from Kongsfjord, the 890 from Tana Bru in the south and the 891 from Båtsfjord meet. A long queue of cars coming from Tana Bru already waited. Some minutes later the convoy from Båtsfjord arrived as well. The snowplough leading the convoy to Kongsfjord passed and seconds later our queue of cars started to approach the intersection were we turned left to follow the convoy to Båtsfjord.

This part of the trip was extremely exhausting. It was dark, the convoy was slow and mostly the visibility was really bad. I just tried to follow the red lights in front and it felt like hours and hours until the snowplough turned right and we suddenly arrived in Båtsfjord. Here it seemed to snow as much as in the mountains and I was very relieved when I finally parked the car at our overnight stay. Phew – that was no easy ride and I’m really grateful that convoys led us over the mountains under the snowstorm conditions.

The rest of the day? Buying foodstuff at REMA 1000, eating fast food, falling asleep quite fast while the snow squalls over Båtsfjord continued. According to our host 30 cm of snow already had fallen that day and more was expected.

At least we arrived in Båtsfjord, probably our last overnight stay on land. The next evening we would take the Hurtigruten to Ørnes, were we would drive home to Skelleftehamn and Umeå.

(The first five photos were shot by Annika. I did the editing.)

Kjølnes Fyr

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

Days 38 to 40 of my winter journey 2018

Saturday

After our stopover in Kongsfjord we continued the road 890 in direction Berlevåg. The road follows the coastal line of first the fjord Kongsfjorden and then the open Barents Sea. Our destination for today is Kjølnes Fyr where we planned to stay over for one or two nights.

Kjølnes Fyr is located on a small headland called Kjølneset 5 km east from Berlevåg. We had booked a two-bed room at this place because it looked more interesting than the “large” city Berlevåg with its round thousand inhabitants. At half past one we arrived.

I directly fell in love with this place. The lighthouse – some other houses around – a rugged rocky coast, partly covered with snow, partly with seaweed – to the west bare mountains and to all other sides the open Barents Sea.

If you started a boat trip from Kjølnes Fyr heading north, the next land you would approach would be Kongsøya, part of Svalbard.

Viggo who operates the lodging gave us the key to the lighthouse and we took a closer look. The original lighthouse from 1916 was destroyed in World War II, the new lighthouse was built in 1949 and has a very functional and sober appearance. We went up and looked over the Barents Sea watching the high waves breaking at the rocky shore.

Viggo and his wife moved to Kjølnes Fyr in last autumn. He has rented the houses, that are protected as a historic monument. He told us from a winter storm that he experienced in January. Wind speed was up to 70 m/s (~250 km/h) and the upper floor of their house was shaken so violently, that the vibrations moved around the furnitures inside. Compared to that experience we had it quite calm.

The only thing we made over daytime was driving to Berlevåg to buy food. In Norway almost all shops are closed on Sundays and there were things we needed (spaghetti …) and things we wanted (chocolate …).

Later that evening we drove to Berlevåg again to see the Hurtigruten ships coming in.

Sunday

Under the night the wind got a bit stronger and the waves approaching from the north had become higher. Annika and I took a really lazy day. I was outside several times, but only for taking photos of waves. They never broke at the same place twice and gave me a hard time making pictures.

Weather became worse the whole day: The wind increased more and more and it started to snow, which means that snow was thrown into my face vertically when I dared to look into the wind. When it started to get dark, the ice and snow covered rocks in the cold light of the blue hour made the landscape look as what is actually is: arctic.

Already in the afternoon the Norwegian Meteorologisk institute had issued a class one wind warning for the whole area. I started to get a bit nervous. The next day we wanted to continue to Båtsfjord, our last stay on our Varanger trip but I was not sure whether the weather would allow it. Anyway, all roads were still open.

Monday

It had snowed a lot in the night and still was snowing heavily. Due to the stormy wind parts of the ground were completely bare of snow while other parts were covered with knee deep snow. At the same time it was quite warm, hardly below zero. The weather warning was extended to the afternoon but wind should decrease a bit over the day, so we planned to start round 12 o’clock. I was out and took some more photos, but it was really rough weather, especially for the camera.

Right after breakfast Viggo got a call of another guest approaching from Berlevåg by car. She couldn’t find the departure to Kjølnes Fyr due to severe weather conditions and asked for help. He took the car and drove to the main road just to mark the departure visually. When she came in she looked quite exhausted from the short car trip. She advised us not to continue the trip that day and told us, that visibility was partly only 10 meters which would make it impossible to see the next way mark.

We waited some time but despite of the stormy wind the visibility looked really good. Therefore we decided to give it a try and drive at least to Kongsfjord, that we passed two days ago. Here we could either continue our trip or take a room and stay in Kongsfjord overnight.

So we packed the car, said goodbye, removed the snow from the car and started our car trip to Båtsfjord at 11 o’clock.

 

 

 

Stopover in Kongsfjord

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

Day 38 of my winter journey 2018

After our lonely drive over the kalfjell we approached the coast again. First we spotted small forests, then quite a lot of cabins and finally the Kongsfjorden. The landscape looked much wilder and rougher with steeper mountains and quite inaccessible coast lines than the eastern coast of the Varanger Peninsula, that we just left two days ago.

After some kilometres we approached the village Kongsfjord.

Although this village has hardly more than 30 inhabitants it has however a grocery, that acts as a museum and a café as well. After it had been closed for some time, the new owners had opened it last August and keep it open all the year.

We went round the small town a bit too but continued then to Kjølnes Fyr, 5 km before Berlevåg where we planned to stay for one or two nights. Some impressions of Kongsfjord’s harbour area in wintertime:

By the way: Now it’s two days later and Annika and I are actually sitting in the very same café in Kongsfjord while writing this blog article. We’re waiting, but that’s another story …

 

Hurtigruten in Berlevåg

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

Day 38 of my winter journey 2018

Annika and I travelled a lot over the Varanger Peninsula the last ten days and we only saw one Hurtigruten ship far away. Tonight we stay in Kjølnes, just six kilometres outside from Berlevåg. So we took the opportunity and looked at the incoming Hurtigruten ships at the port. The north going and south going ships meet outside of Berlevåg, today the Polarlys and the Vesterålen. Unfortunately the ships arrive at 21:45 and 22:00, so it was dark, when we stood at the edge of the breakwater to welcome (and photograph) the Hurtigruten ships.

In three days we’ll be in Berlevåg again, this time on the Hurtigruten ship MS Nordnorge, but that’s another story …

 

Over the kalfjell to Berlevåg

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

Day 38 of my winter journey 2018

The Varanger Peninsula has many inhabited places at the coast, but you cannot take the car and drive around the whole island, not even in summer. There are three roads:

  • The E 75 to Vardø via Vadsø. In summer you can continue to Hamningberg, but this place has been depopulated since 1964 though some houses are used as summer cottages.
  • The 890 to Berlevåg via Kongsfjord. In summer you can continue to Store Molvik, but there are only summer cottages.
  • The 890 and 891 to Båtsfjord.

We explored the towns connected by the E 75 so far. Yesterday however we left the Varanger Peninsula, visited the Sea Sami Collections in Byluft and spent the night in Seida near Tana. Today we continued our trip and entered the Varanger Peninsula again, this time using the 890 to Berlevåg.

A local in Ekkerøy had warned us about this road, which leads about the kalfjell – the bare mountains above the treeline. The weather conditions can be severe and the road can be closed anytime due to bad weather or only accessible by kolonnekjøring, which means that you drive in a guided convoy led by a snowplough. Mostly it’s not snow that is the problem, but strong winds, that can create impassable snowdrifts within minutes.

The weather today however was fine and we didn’t have any difficulties in crossing the kalfjell. The road is really exposed to the elements and I can imagine that the very same road will be completely impassable in stormy conditions.

There is however another possibility to travel from one place to another: using the Hurtigruten ships, that connect Berlevåg, Båtsfjord, Vardø and Vadsø on their way from Bergen to Kirkenes.

The Sea Sami Collections in Byluft

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

Day 37 of my winter journey 2018

When we left Kirkenes last year we got the tip to visit the Sjøsamiske samlinger – the Sea Sami Collections in Byluft. We went there and were amazed at the huge collection of showpieces. This year we visited the museum again, this time with more time and a warmer winter jacket, since the exhibition rooms are not heated.

Helmer Losoa, who runs the museum gave us a warm welcome and asked us in to coffee, where he talked about the museum’s and his personal history.

Helmer was born and grew up in Byluft. Aged 15 he went to sea on the training ship M/S Gann. That was in the ’50s. He travelled for many years and lived in Oslo a long time. When he moved back to Byluft in 1990 much had changed. Everything was motorised and many things were made of plastic. Helmer wondered what had happened to the old things of the Sea Sami in this region and started to collect many items, mostly from the years 1830 – 1950. He got support for building the museum but not for running it. A part of the items were donated to the collections, but most things Helmer bought himself from his own money.

After drinking coffee and listening to Helmer we went to the museum and Helmer showed us around.

There are many facets that make the Sea Sami Collections especially interesting:

  • While many other museums focus on the Mountain Sami who herded reindeers, this museum focuses on the more unknown Sea Sami who lived by the Norwegian coast of fishing, farming and hunting.
  • The exhibition is huge! I guess you could build at least ten new museums all over Northern Norway from all the exhibits that Helmer collected under the last 28 years.
  • Helmer can tell many stories about the showpieces in his collection. Some of them belonged to his relatives and he knows a lot about the history behind.
  • There are no glass boxes. You can have a close look at everything and with Helmer’s permission you are allowed to touch some of the items.
  • The museum reflects the everyday life of the Sea Sami in older times. Beside of wooden boats or fishing equipment you will find old coffeepots or radios, too.

We stayed in the museum quite a long time. It probably would take weeks to look at all the showpieces in detail. We looked around, asked questions to Helmer and listened to his stories. After some time we left the museum and said goodbye to Helmer.

Thank you so very much, Helmer! It was a pleasure to meet you again and to be guided through your Sea Sami Collections. Hopefully we’ll meet again sometime.

The Sea Sami Collections are located in Byluft, 29 km east from Varangerbotn.

Farewell Ekkerøy

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

Day 37 of my winter journey 2018

Today we bade Ekkerøy farewell. When I woke up this morning, 5 cm of fluffy snow had fallen and covered everything except the road that already had been cleared of snow. On the beach however ice and the new snow still were present.

After breakfast we packed the car and cleaned the house Skjeldrum, that we had hired for four nights. We said goodbye to L. from whom we rented the house and left the village Ekkerøy behind.

We took the E 75 southwards: KibyVadsøVestre JakobselvNessebyVarangerbotn. Tomorrow we will head to Berlevåg, today we stay in Seida near Tana, which is already on the way.

But before that we made a detour: We took the E 6 to Byluft to visit Helmer Losoa and his incredible Sea Sami Collections. We’ve been there last year and were looking forward to meet Helmer and visit this museum again.

To the article about the Sea Sami Collections.