Torneträsk and Port of Narvik

On thursday – three days ago – Annika and I drove to Abisko to enjoy some winter days in the Swedish mountains. Skelleftehamn is in Northern Sweden, Abisko is in Northern Sweden, but it’s still 570 km to go by car.

Yesterday I stood up quite early, because the sun was shining and I wanted to go onto the lake Torneträsk (one of Sweden’s biggest lakes – 70 km long) to make some photos. The whole lake is covered by a thick layer of ice and a thin layer of snow.

In the front you can see stacked up ice that builds along the fissures in the sheet of ice, in the background you can see Lapporten – the landmark of the region.

After a while fog came down and when you looked against the sun you only could see vague shades and pale colours. It looked more like standing in a sandy desert, not on the icy surface of the Torneträsk.

Some hours later: Annika and I had planned to do a ski tour near the Swedish-Norwegian border. We packed the car with our skis, cameras and hot tea and set off. It’s 38 km to the border. Behind that border – on the Norwegian side – there’re a lot of cottages and since it’s Easter and probably every single Norwegian is in his cottage there were a lot of parked cars, too.

We looked for a parking place as well. The most parking places were stuffed with cars and were furthermore only for private use. I continued driving and we looked for a public parking place. Well, we found one but the surrounded mountains were too steep for skiing. We stopped anyway to check our position on the map. After that we helped some Norwegians to dig out their car that was completely stuck in the packed snow – on the very same parking place! There’s a reason, that most of the locals have all-terrain vehicles or at least cars with all-wheel drive.

My Saab doesn’t have such and from now on I was even more cautious in choosing a potential place to park. To make a long story short: We didn’t found a single parking place that was (a) available, (b) public, and (c) not too snowy. That’s why we changed plans and continued to Narvik, which is 46 km behind the border.

There’re (at least) three signs for leaving the mountain plateau and approaching Narvik:

  • The road is narrower
  • The road has much more curves and bends
  • It gets much warmer. (down to -9 °C in Sweden, +5 °C near Narvik)

Soon we saw the first fjord, the Rombaken:

We continued to Narvik that seemed to be completely closed due to the Easter Saturday. Therefore we headed to the Port of Narvik and looked around there. Most ports I know are locked and fenced off. Not in Narvik. Here it’s possible to walk around, enter the piers and have a closer look to the ships. And we were completely alone.

Narvik is a huge contrast compared to Abisko! Even if I prefer landscape and nature to towns, I like this place.

But anyway we drove back to the wintry mountains of Swedish Lapland quite soon and round an hour later we arrived again at our fine and cozy room at Abisko Cabin.

Wintry Scandinavia in a nutshell (without the skiing).

Continuing to the Vesterålen

This article is part of the series “2015-07: Lofoten and Vesterålen”.

Our third day started with a lot of rain. We put the wet tent into the car and continued our tour to Kabelvåg where we visited a friend of mine. We took a small mountain hike but it was cloudy and wet. Only far away in the east you could see some sunny patches on the top of the snowy mountains.

After the hike Delle and I looked for a camp ground. But first I had to take a picture of the beautiful rainbow near Sildpollen.

This time we tented on a bigger campsite in Sandsletta. When I woke up quite early the next day I could see another rainbow over the Vatnfjorden, but later it started to rain and pour down again. And again we put the soaked tent into the car. We continued on the road 888 to Fiskebøl. The clouds were hanging low and you could hardly see any mountain, just some white and light grey schemes.

Soon we arrived in Fiskebøl where we waited for the ferry. Again we were lucky – we waited hardly half an hour until we entered the ferry for the short crossing to Melbu, the southernmost city of the Vesterålen. We visited friends of mine, this time in Haukenes were we tented near the friend’s house. The cocks tried to wake me up ridiculously early, but in vain. I continued sleeping until 8 o’clock.

Alas it was the first morning without rain (and the only one, too) and we could dry the tent. After a long and lazy breakfast with my friends we said farewell and continued our car trip. We got a tip to visit Stø at the northern end of the Vesterålen island Langøya. What a good tip and what a beautiful landscape – especially after the weather was nice and sunny. We made a short photo stop between Strengelvåg and Klo before we continued to Stø.

In Stø we parked our car and took a short hike over the mountains to a beautiful white sanded beach were we made a rest and I took a short bath. There’s a 15 km hiking trail as well; next time I’ll definitely will go it.

After our rest we slowly walked back and continued by car. First we had to head south to Sortland were we crossed the Sortlandsundet and headed north on the other side. The sky became more and more cloudy and we looked for a nice campground. Finally we found one in Bleik, quite near Andenes, a town at the northern end of the Vesterålen. We put up the tent and – guess what – it started to rain.

It had been raining the whole night and it continued raining. Again a soaking wet bunch of a tent lay in the back of the car. After a while of driving through the greyness we decided to head back to Skelleftehamn. It’s more than 900 kilometres and it took the whole day. Rain became less near Abisko and after we passed Jokkmokk the sky cleared up and we could see the full moon slowly rising. The next photo, which is the last of our car trip through the Lofoten and Vesterålen is taken near Storforsen, one of Europe’s biggest rapids. At 23:50 we were in Skelleftehamn again – and I was home.

  • 2296 kilometres in six days
  • a lot of clouds and rain, but two nice and sunny days, too
  • one night in the car, four in the tent (three of them on campgrounds)
  • two bathes and at least four rainbows
  • – a nice trip!

 

 

From Å to Rystad

This article is part of the series “2015-07: Lofoten and Vesterålen”.

Day 2

Next morning when we woke up in Å we could see blue sky through the fogged car windows. The rain has stopped. We made a walk through the little fishing village and had breakfast on the cliff with a fantastic view on the mountains and the sea.

After that we continued our trip through the incredible landscape of the Lofoten. We had to stop several times to take pictures, for example of this small mountain lake near the road to Nusfjord:

Later we came to a place that became quite famous over the years: Uttakleiv – a beautiful sandy beach that just invites you to jump into the turquoise-coloured water. It almost looks Caribbean but as soon as you enter the ice cold water you’re reminded of being in Northern Norway, not in the south. The bath was fun, anyway.

Here we stayed for a while and enjoyed the sun. But after a while we continued our road trip to Brenna on the island Austvågøy. We didn’t find a camping ground at the end of the road and turned, but soon we stopped the car again. Actually because I wanted to take pictures of the sheep that lay at the sandy beach, but some children nearby discovered something much more interesting: A fox cub. I changed to the telephoto lens and I came quite near. Probably the fox hadn’t made any bad experiences with humans yet.

After that we stopped at a camping ground near Rystad that we already saw on the way to Brenna and decided to stay overnight. Soon the tent was put up on the grassy ground. Slowly the sun went round the mountains and sank down. The next hours were incredible – the light was so wonderful, both the sunlit main land in the south and the sea in the north glowed in the most fantastic colours. But have a look by yourself:

Round one o’clock we lay down in our tent, but only because clouds came and it started to rain a bit. What a wonderful first day on the Lofoten!

On the way to Å

This article is part of the series “2015-07: Lofoten and Vesterålen”.

Day one

Å is not only the last letter of the Norwegian alphabet, it’s the name of some places, too. The probably most known  is Å i Lofoten, the southmost village of the Lofoten islands.

Delle, a German friend of mine and I started the tour last Saturday. The only plan was to take the car, drive to Bodø and take a ferry to the Lofoten islands, the same day or the other day.

The weather in Skelleftehamn was fine but in Arjeplog, where we made a lunch break it started to rain. We continued our trip to Bodø over the mountains. They were wrapped in clouds and were still partly covered with snow.

17:30 we arrived in Bodø, just in time to get the ferry to Moskenes on the Lofoten. Normally I love to be outside all the time when I’m on a ship but this time the sky was so grey that you hardly could see anything. The Lofoten with its more than 1200 meter high mountains came in sight just some minutes before we arrived.

We left the ferry with Delle’s car and drove the 5 km to Å, where it rained so much, that we decided not to put up our tent but to sleep in the car. I put on my rain cloth and made a short evening walk but soon returned to the car. The only pictures I made that evening were the fish heads on the wooden racks drying in the salty wind.

Car trip to Tromsø – partly nightmare, partly relaxation

Day twelve

Today I said goodbye to my friends that I stayed with the last week and headed to Tromsø in the north which is round 400 km away. I thought about driving as long as I like, making a over-night stop and continuing the next day.

The weather was quite bad. The temperature has increased to +5 °C, it rained and it was quite windy. But travelling was relatively easy until I came to the first mountain passage. And this part turned out to be the most terrible car ride I had in my whole life!

The nightmare part

The rain – sometime mixed with wet snow – became more and more intense, until rain was just bucketing down on the frozen roads. Sometimes I drove through deep puddles, pushing a bow wave like a boat, sometimes deep slush covered the narrow roads that oncoming cars tossed onto my windscreen temporarily reducing sight to zero.

But mostly the roadway was covered with a thick layer of wet new ice that was slippery as hell. So slippery that I hardly could accelerate or break or steer or do anything without starting to slide. Thanks god for the traction control of my Saab. I wouldn’t have managed without it.

Do not forget, I’m not talking about broad Swedish streets, I’m talking about narrow Norwegian streets, that only consists of tiny bends and sharp hairpin curves, roads that constantly go left and right, up and down. And that’s the main road I’m talking about!

And I’m talking about other car drivers. Car drivers that don’t mind the weather but drive as usual: Too fast! And I was way too slow for them. If they were behind me, they glued their car to my rear bumper and I used every parking place or bus stop to let them pass.

I was stressed, I was frightened and I was frustrated! Was it a smart idea to make this winter journey or was it just stupid? Should I skip Norway and head back to Sweden, where roads are broad and straight? I started to understand why many Norwegian roads are closed when weather is bad. I decided not to continue to Tromsø, but to drive back to Abisko, where the streets are better and in addition to that weather is cold enough to avoid these awful wet and icy roads.

The relaxed part

But first I had to continue the same road, regardless whether of staying in Norway or driving to Abisko. But alas, the weather became better and better and so became the streets. Now it was not only easy to drive, it was fun! It felt like I could continue for hours and hours without any effort. And so did I. 19:45, eleven hours after the start in Haukenes, Vesterålen I arrived in Tromsø.

Wait a moment, eleven hours of driving? For 400 km? No, not really. First of all I stopped at two different bays and walked at the sandy, muddy and ice covered shore lines. I love these walks and consider them extremely relaxing.

In addition to that I made a detour. OK, I’ll be honest: I missed the road to Tromsø and had to head back 19 kilometres to Breivik.

And I made a stop and ate a big burger with fries and drank a coke. Driver’s junk food!

Now I’m sitting in my tiny cabin on Tromsø camping and I’m writing this blog article. The radiator tries to heat the cold cabin but it will take some time until it is warm. But I’m wearing my down suit and even my sleeping bag, both are extremely warm and cozy. A cheer for good equipment and overdressing!

Weather changes

Day ten

Today the clouds came, it became warmer, wind increased and some fresh snow fell. The perfect weather for a quite lazy day with only one shorter walk.

On the other side of the Sortlandsundet mountain range after mountain range vanished in the low clouds leaving only the nearest mountains visible to eye and camera.

I plan another lazy day here in Haukenes, then I’ll continue my journey, probably heading to the island Senja and the town Tromsø. It will take much longer time as in summer because the most ferries are closed in the winter time.

Back to Haukenes

Day nine

Today I drove back from Andenes to my friends in Haukenes where I’ll leave on Sunday or Monday. I didn’t choose the direct way on the eastern side of Andøya (82) but the detour on the western side via Stave and Skogvoll. There where some fantastic views, mostly at places where I couldn’t stop. But anyway, some images of today (and two of yesterday):

Let’s start with some houses in Andenes build on stilts (The greenish colour on the second photo comes from the polar light).

Andenes next morning and Bleik, where I took a long walk on the large sandy beach.

A small graveyard and a real tiny light house.

A man hanging up fish heads for drying (for the african market).

And last not least some landscapes when sun went down again.

That’s today in a nutshell.

Whale watching in Andenes

Day eight

To cut a long story short: It’s been a great day!

After watching the beautiful polar light last night I got less sleep than preferred because I drove to Andenes to participate a whale safari. First I had to drive round two hours. After that I had to wait, time I used to put my cameras in waterproof bags. Finally we where equipped with overalls and live vests and entered the big rubber boat. We left the harbour and headed an area where whales have been seen some hours before. This part was a bit tough since we drove against the wind and some waves where quite huge letting the boat rise and fall some meters into the wave troughs again.

But finally we reached the area and directly saw the first whale fins and the first steam blown out through the whales blowholes.

The next two hours we saw a lot of whales, sometimes we where almost surrounded by them. Mostly we saw orcas (that are called killer whales, too) and humpbacks, but some fin whales as well. The orcas are following the herring and I probably came just to the right time to see so many of them. We even saw orca calves that are yellow or even orange instead of white as long as they are breast-fed.

(Oops, the room where I get internet is closing soon, I have to rush a bit …)

For me the most amazing view were the huge humpbacks diving down showing only there big tail fin. And the orca child swimming near its mother. And now to the photos:

As I said – it’s been a great day!

Links:

Sea Safari – Whale & Bird watching Andenes (under construction)

Photoing whales

It’s hard to take pictures of the whales. Sometimes there where quite near, less than 10 meters, but mostly there are farer away and you need a good system camera, a good tele lens and much practise in focussing. The most of my photos were out of focus, but alas not all.

Some of the photographers that joined the trip had real huge tele lenses and I guess the value of the total camera equipment onboard was the same as my house in Skelleftehamn.

Whale names

Latin English German Swedish
Orcinus orca Orca / Killer whale Orca / Schwertwal Späckhuggare
Megaptera novaeangliae Humpback whale Buckelwal Knölvalen
Balaenoptera physalus Fin whale Finnwal Sillval

The first polar light

If you like your beauty sleep and travel way up north, do not look out of the window too late! I did it and lost 50 minutes sleep standing outside and another 30 minutes writing this blog article.

And that’s why I stood outside: A really bright, moving and colourful polar light covered half of the sky.

It’s still out there but I’m tired and I have plans for tomorrow. Hopefully it’s not the last one on my journey.

 

A first mountain hike

Day six

Yesterday on Tuesday I stood up quite early to hike into the mountains. I packed my camera equipment, hot tea, nuts and raisins, compass, GPS and a down jacket. I considered first about taking my snowshoes with me but left them home, it didn’t look like much snow on the mountains.

I started the tour and headed to Langbakken, the place where we saw the sun two days before. I was greeted by the flock of sheep, some of them so tame and curious that they came to sniff on my hand. Then I climbed the fence and cut across country until I came to another fence with a gate. I went through the gate and followed the way beside of the fence until I came to a crossing where a way climbed up a forested hill.

The way didn’t continue but I just continued the direction until I came to a snow covered lake, the Dalvatnet.

I started to regret that I left my snowshoes behind, because with every step I sank 10 to 20 cm into the hard snow. It wasn’t the last time …

I knew the direction and had two options: Either crossing the open mountain brook or to just go ahead. I chose the latter. I had to cross a field with huge rocks where I really had to by careful and check every single step. After that I went up the steep slope. And it was much, much steeper than expected. I measured 40° with my compass. I had to be careful not to slip and I took many rests to calm down. Sorry, no photos.

But finally I reached the first hill took and horizontal terrain again. Just some more steps and I took a longer rest with the tea and my nuts. I was glad about my down jacket because the -8 °C felt much colder in the wind.

I could have sat there for hours and just watch the colours change. When the sun disappeared behind a mountain top the snow looked cold and bluish. When it appeared some minutes later in a gap between two mountains the snow was illuminated in yellow, orange and purple pastel shades. I’m no poet, I cannot describe it with words. After a while I continued to another lake called Finnurdvatnet, as frozen and snow covered as the first. I love the landscape above the treeline, especially in winter when it is reduced to snow, ice and rocks and some scattered small trees.

I would have loved to go further but the hard and partly crusty snow – knee deep some times – slowed me down quite much and both my condition as day light where limited. So I started my way back and went to another lake, the Nils-Persavatnet. Starting feeling exhausted I took another rest and continued to the ridge of the Hovden. I was quite glad to hit a snowshoe track that I could follow. It made it both easier to go. But first I had to look again. The sunset in the southwest, the intense purple colour of the sky in the southeast, the Hurtigruten ship on the Sortlandsundet, The huge bridge to Stokmarknes and the white snow-covered mountains everywhere. Just wonderful!

I continued the treeless ridge of the Hovden to the peak. Then I started the descend through the forest. I don’t think I would have found the whole way down without the snowshoe track that I could follow so easy. After a while I saw the same way I took when I started the tour, but from within the forest and the other side of a ditch. No wonder that I didn’t find this path in the morning! I jumped over the ditch and headed to the house of my friends. When I crossed Langbakken the same flock of sheep – as curious as in the morning hours – came again and some sheep (the same?) sniffed on my fingers again. But I longed after taking a hot shower and a nap in my bed and that was exactly what I did when I was back.

Conclusion:

A great first tour with beautiful weather in a fantastic landscape that would have been much easier with snowshoes. I guess that even the blister on my left heel came just from the wet snow in my boots that I could have avoided with snowshoes. Lesson learned, Olaf? Lesson learned!

Some vocabularies for my German readers:

down jacket – Daunenjacke
flock of sheep
– Schafherde
cut across country – querfeldein laufen
mountain brook – Gebirgsbach
treeline – Baumgrenze
crusty – hier: verharscht
ridge – Gebirgskamm, Grat
ditch – Graben

Links:

Map with the lakes and the peak of Hovden