From Tromsø to Obbola

Friday, 18 November – walking back from work

It’s weekend. Today I stopped working already at 14:15. Sunset was 40 minutes ago and the light is beautiful while I’m walking home.

In Tromsø there’s hardly any snow, but a lot of rime. In the evening there’s polar light, but I only take a smartphone snapshot – tomorrow is a long day.

Saturday, 19 November – taking the bus to Narvik

Today is travel day. Round 16–17 hours it will take me from home to home.

Yes, I have two homes. One “work home” in Tromsø where I work and one “Home home” in Obbola where my wife Annika and I have a house by the Baltic Sea.

The weather is gorgeous and I take many photos through the window of the bus. Therefore some of the motives are blurred. The last one – the large bridge Hålogalandsbron is jittery because it has become dusky.

Saturday, 19 November – taking the train to Umeå

It’s a long ride from Narvik to Umeå. Departure 15:10, arrival 1:40 in the night. But it is a though train. I don’t have anything more to do but being awake on the arrival in Umeå. While I eat my take-away sushi outside of the train station it gets dark and so there is not much to see from the landscape in the train unless it stops.

In the frosty inland where it is quite cold I witness a special phenomenon. The whole forest we are passing is lit in green light. Another aurora? No, it’s cloudy. There are passages where the power lines for the train are coated with rime ice. The layer is so thick, that the current collector of the train looses contact and the electricity jumps over emitting bright green light that illuminates the dark forest.

The train arrives in Umeå in time and Annika already waits at the station. Another half an hour and I’m home home. Bed is waiting!

Sunday, 20 November – winter feelings

Oh, what a blessing it is to be home home. Normally we are supposed to work at the offices of the Norwegian Polar Institute but my boss knows about our long-distance relationship (or is it called long-distance marriage?) and allowed me to do home office until Christmas. Tusen takk! And it is even wintry and a bit sunny and a bit snowy.

From now on I can enjoy the view from my home office.

Monday, 21 November – the first home office day

Enjoying the view from my home office is a pleasure but when all of the sudden the morning sun peeks through the clouds I just have to go outside and make some photos!

And what do I do at lunchtime? This:

 

The first winter promenade

Down there, that’s the southern part of Tromsø. That’s where I live when working for the Norwegian Polar Institute.

There are reasons why I see Tromsø from above today instead of working in the office. First of all my wife Annika is here this week. Then it is wonderful weather today. I was able to take a day off today and so Annika and I could fetch the first cable car up to Stor­stei­nen, 421 m above sea level. From there you have a fantastic view on the islands Tromsøya and Kvaløya, the strait Tromsøysundet and many, many mountains.

While Tromsøya itself is free of snow all mountains look wintry on this sunny day. Our hiking tour starts in the shadow and it takes some time until we reach the pre-summit of Fløya where the sun shines on our faces the first time.

From there it is not far to the summit of Fløya (671 m).

It has become windy and grains of snow are drifting over the snow. In the low sun they look like grains of gold.

Although it is chilly we stay on the top for a while, because the wintry landscape is so beautiful. The season’s first snow hike is always something special and I’m glad that I can share it with Annika this year.

Slowly we walk back. On the top it was easy to go, later the path gets steeper and the snow makes the path slippery. The sun stands lower now and the drifting snow is even more colourful.

We find a sunny though windy spot to drink warm juice and eat some cookies, then we head back to the mountain station of the cable car. While sunset is near, the almost full moon that has accompanied us the whole day starts rising again above the wintry mountain chains.

Sandnessundbrua

Last night I dreamed I would go on an arctic expedition today. The ship would depart at 16:00. I was surprised in my dream that I almost forgot and started packing. Three pairs of socks … then I woke up.

Today I went paddling with some members from the Tromsø Sea Kayakers Club. We were six people from five countries. It was cloudy, a bit rainy and +2 °C. It was calm, hardly any wind or waves. According to the forecast wind would increase and come from north, so we headed north to get tailwinds on our way back.

I never paddled north from the club. As soon as we started to round the airport the huge bridge Sandnessundbrua came into view. It connects the islands Tromsøya and Kvaløya, is more than a kilometre lang and has a maximum clearance to the sea of 41 metres.

I use the bridge quite often when I go hiking on Kvaløya but on sea I drove through it only once. That was 19 February with Kronprins Haakon on our way to the Arctic. Some memories popped up while I was approaching the bridge by kayak but soon I was back in the present and took some photos before catching up with the others.

We continued north passing the airport till we reached the bay Sandneshamna. After a very short break – wind has arrived and it felt cold just standing around – we went the same way back. This time we paddled against the current but with wind in our backs.

After 12 kilometres and 2½ hours we were back at the boat houses. Thanks for the tour! Hope to see you again on the water.

Still in my drysuit I took the car to a supermarket and bought some food for lunch. When I left the shop it had started snowing.

Sleet weather in Tromsø

Last night I was woken up my a crackling noise. I peeked out of my front door – everything was white. It was however not snowing but sleeting heavily and the ground was covered with zillions of small snow pellets.

This morning more sleet showers crossed Tromsø. I took a short promenade to the coast where the beaches where covered with snow pellets as well.

I would have loved to take the car to Kvaløya to places where it actually was cold enough for real and dry snow but my car still has summer tyres. I’m even not sure if I can make it to the appointment for tire change in two days or if the streets are too slippery to get there.

So I did not get real winter snow today but at least I spotted the first snowman. Or should I write snow pellet man?

Later the day sleet turned into wet snow with the result, that the streets are covered now with 5 cm of wet slush.

Aurora Lightshow in Tromsø

Hooray – finally the polar light and I were awake the same time!

It’s not the first polar light this season. But either there were clouds or it vanished when I was at the bay Telegrafbukta for taking pictures or I just slept. Today however I was lucky and was at the right place at the right time.

 

The first frost – hiking tour on the Laukviktinden

Today was the second day, where my car was covered with ice in the morning. I had to scrape ice after breakfast because I wanted to drive to Kvaløyvågen on the island Kvaløya to hike up the Laukviktinden (587 m) today. The weather was calm and the sky was blue and I enjoyed the views on sea and mountains from the car.

When I passed the shallow bay Finnvika I just had to stop and go there. Large areas were covered with a thin layer of ice that sparkled in the sun. Autumn in Tromsø is a fast season. Last weekend the trees were colourful, now many of them are bare.

20 km later: I just parked my car by the sea and read the tour description. I should follow the road for 80 metres, take the gravel road to the left and leave it when it turns left. The rest of the tour would be pathless but according to the book easy to find.

When I left the gravel road the terrain was a bit tricky. It was more or less overgrown boulders with hidden holes. The trees had shed their leaves and almost looked dead. I was glad when I had reached the mountain ridge where it was much easier to walk. The wet moss was covered with frost and so were the water puddles. Laukviktinden came into view, but I knew that there would be an acsent before. It looked pretty steep. Hopefully it’s just the perspective.

And indeed it was less steep than expected. A bit tricky however because some parts were wet and slippery. And that one of the countless moss pads hid a knee deep water puddle was not nice ;-) ! It is always a satisfying experience when you gain altitude, are above the tree line and can see more and more – both fjords and mountains.

Just straight ahead I spotted the lake Laukvikvatna and its neighbours. They lie 50 metres below. So I first had to climb down before hiking up again. Most of the lakes were covered with a thin layer of ice.

From the lake it is only 200 more metres in altitude to the top – according to the tour book. That meant that most of the the ascent lied behind me. It was easy to go up, only the very last part was a steep boulder field. Probably not the best routeI chose, but that was hard to see from below.

The terrain flattened out and then – all of the sudden – I could see the summit marker: A huge pile of stones with a metal box containing the summit book. And behind that: The open sea with the island Vengsøya.

What do you do on mountain summits beside of adding your name to the summit book? Yes – you take a selfie! After that I went a bit further to a place where the terrain drops off steeply. Here the view was really impressive because I could not only see the open sea and its islands but the bay Laukvika and even the boggy marshland that looked like it was directly under my feet. Here I took my iPhone as camera because it has a wide angle lens.

I took a break, ate some cookies and drank water. I even met another hiker that probably hiked up twice as fast as me. Then I started my way back. I found a better way because it is so much easier to find a good path when you look from above. Later my optimism was dampened when I landed in quite steep terrain and had to traverse it a bit until I was on my old trail.

Round 9½ km later I reached the gravel road again. In the shadow the ground was still frozen, but the car that waited in the sun was warm.

Thursday paddling – from dusk to darkness

It is 29 September and it is Thursday. Time for torsdagspaddlingen – Thursday paddling – with the Tromsø Sea Kayakers Club.

As usual we meet between 5 and 6 o’clock pm to prepare the kayaks, put on our drysuits and life vests and listen to the tour leaders about the plans for today. For several weeks there has been another thing to think of: attach lights to the kayaks and the life vests to be seen. September equinox has been one week ago and it starts getting dark quite soon. Today we are lucky: It is high tide and we don’t have to carry the kayaks more than a few metres.

We are 23 people. 7 will follow the shore to the beach of Telegrafbukta, the others including me want to paddle to Lilje Grindøya that lies behind Grindøya. I’ve never been there. Round 18:00 we sit in our kayaks. As soon as all are on the water we start our tour.

Before we reach the island Grindøya one of the tour leaders lifts the paddle vertically in to the air. That’s the sign for gathering.

Plans are changed. Lilje Grindøya is quite far away and the waves on the sound we crossed were a bit higher than expected. So we head for Grindøya instead.

It it warm and calm. 16 kayaks lie by the beach. We sit our stand around. One paddler passes around homemade cake, another one lights a cosy fire on the sandy beach. Hyggelig!

While we are eating, chatting or taking pictures it is getting darker and darker. The kayaks are hardly visible anymore and in the distance there are the lights of Tromsøya and Kvaløya.

After half an hour it is time to set off and paddle back to shore.

While crossing the sea again I didn’t take photos for three reasons. All of them were related to the darkness.

First:  we want to stick together to be seen and to know we are all there. There may be ships crossing and then you do not want to have a stray paddler around. So I cannot just let the others go to take photos.

Then: my waterproof camera is – well – waterproof but it hardly can take photos in the dark. Even with a better camera it is difficult. Did you ever try to make long exposure photos while sitting in a kayak?

Finally: the waves! The kayak I use is stable as a truck and on our way to Grindøya I didn’t care about the waves a lot. Now it is quite different. I can see the waves because of the reflections of the city lights. But I cannot see how broad, how steep or how high they are. So I have to react by instinct which I don’t yet have. It’s a first time experience and a slightly weird one.

While we are approaching main land the other paddlers come into view. Or better said, their lights. Two of the other kayaks are not illuminated and completely invisible. We take a long turn to the left and follow them. Some of us almost collide with one of the jetties. Everything that isn’t illuminated comes into view at the last moment.

I’m a bit sad because this is the last Thursday paddling this year. Probably we won’t start with it again before end of April. Hopefully there will more kayak opportunities in daytime over the winter.

At 20:15 I  come ashore. Again I want to say to all fellow paddlers: takk for turen! Thanks for the tour!

Grønnlibruna and Petterbolhaugen

It’s Sunday. Weather forecast looks very promising and I want to go out hiking. I scroll through my tour book and the net and cannot decide. Finally I just grab my stuff and the book and take my car to Kvaløya where I mostly use to hike. I’ll find something.

While driving I remember the small mountain Grønnlibruna where I’ve been already in November and May. There’s a lot of birch forest in the first half of the hike – perhaps a good place to be in autumn. I drive to the place where the tour starts and park my car.

The sky is covered with clouds and clouds flow through the valleys as well. But the yellow birch leaves of the forest I’m hiking though shine colourfully.

I reach the top of Grønnlibruna. Although it is only 401 metres high I am above the tree line. I continue to a smaller hill in the southwest to enjoy the autumnal colours. Later I’ll learn that it has a name: Petterbolhaugen. I reach the top and just in this moment the sun comes out. It already had started to illuminate small parts of the impressive mountains but now it shines on my face.

The weather become sunnier and sunnier and the views on the mountain panoramas are beautiful.

Many trees have lost already many leaves and even tiny puffs of wind take more leaves with them. Soon the colourful autumnal tinted forests will transform into grey collections of bare trees. Then I will hope for the first snow. But today I collect the colours – for the blog, my memory and my soul.

Kayaking into the dark

It seems, that summer is over. It’s less a matter of temperature but light. Next night will be autumnal equinox and today’s sunset was already at 18:47. Tromsø has almost the same longitude as Budapest.

Anyhow the Thursday paddling of Tromsø Havpadelklubb – the Tromsø sea kayak association – still hold place today. Next week will be the last time for this season. Today we had perfect conditions: No waves, no wind and 10 °C. We had many a summer day worse than that here in Tromsø

May I present, that is D5. It’s one of the many rental kayaks of the association and my standard choice. My own kayak is in Sweden.

Today we were 15 people heading to the island Grindøya on the other side of the sound between Tromsøya and Kvaløya. OK, let’s start …

First we paddled along the coast, then we started crossing the sound. From the boat houses to Grindøya it is round about 4 km.

This time we did not paddle round the island like in June or two weeks ago. Instead we headed for a beach at the northern tip and made a break there. I had a piece of soft chocolate cake with cashew nuts, a welcome leftover of the three day data management workshop that I joined this week. And while we stood or sat there it started getting dark.

Some of my fellow paddlers already had switched on their lights on the way to Grindøya, now we all illuminated our kayaks and ourself. It’s less about seeing but about being seen. There is commercial shipping on the sound. We prepared our kayaks and departed.

While we paddled back it got darker and darker. It’s really a special experience to paddle through the dark in a group. You hear the drone of the city, occasionally interrupted by an airplane or a motorcycle. But that’s far away. Our own sounds are near: soft conversation and the little noises of the paddle entering and leaving the surface of the sea. And since you see less and less, hearing becomes more and more present. And anyhow I tried to paddle as silent as possible not to disturb the quietness.

When we arrived at the boat houses of Tromsø Havpadelklubb it had become dark. The tour lasted only an hour and a half plus a half hour break. But the peaceful sound of kayaking calmly through the darkness lingers still in my ears.