Travelling from Tromsø to Obbola

Live from the journey …

Part 1 – written in Hotell Sørreisa.

Saturday 16 October at 12:17 my train to Umeå will depart. Not from Tromsø (no train station), but from Abisko Östra. From there the train to Umeå will take nine hours. Then it’s only twenty more kilometres to our home in Obbola.

From Tromsø to Abisko I’ve planned to take the car. And this was the forecast for the Swedish mountains four days ago:

Half a metre snow! Holy moly! Luckily you can rely on the fact, that these forecasts are unreliable. Now only some centimetres of snow are forecasted for tomorrow.

Wednesday

While some trees in town shed there coloured leaves the mountains are already clad in snow. The first photo is taken in the centre of Tromsø, the other one near where I live.

Thursday

I change to winter tyres, a must have for crossing the Norwegian/Swedish mountains. Due to unsure weather conditions I decide to start my car trip already on Friday and book a room with breakfast in Sørreisa.

Friday

Half past three I have packed my stuff (why is the large suitcase so heavy again?) and start my car trip TromsøSørreisaAbisko. The first fifteen minutes stop and go in town, then over the bridge and onto the E6 that I follow for round 130 km south. The temperature slowly drops from +3 °C to -2 °C and gradually snow is not something far on the mountain slopes but lies left and right from the road E6.

It starts getting dark quite early. Sun down here in is already at 17:20. Here, that is Sørreisa Hotell, where I’ll stay overnight. This hotel does not only provided affordable rooms but really good Thai food as well.

Part 2 – written in Kiruna, sitting in the train to Boden.

Saturday

The next morning my car windows were covered with frost and the temperatures were slightly sub-zero. I had enough time to avoid the main road and instead took road 84 that has both mountain and coastal stages. I can warmly recommend this detour.

The smaller lakes in the mountains were mostly frozen. To my surprise even parts of the fjord Sagfjorden near Sjøvegan  were covered with thin ice. I thought it would take longer to make the saltwater freeze.

After I joined the main road E6 I left it again to follow the E10 to Sweden. There was some snow on the ground, but it wasn’t snowing.

45 minutes later I arrived in Abisko Östra. Here’s a cozy cabin, where I had stayed several times to explore Abisko. The owners generously allowed me to park my car here for free, while I am in Sweden. Thank you, Anneli and Thomas! It was nice meeting you again!

In Abisko it started snowing. I bought some lemonade and then waited for the train to come. It came in time. I got into the train. Now it’s only round nine hours to Umeå. With the car it is 700 km to Umeå so taking the train is not only more ecological and comfortable but also faster.

Part 3 – written in the train between Kiruna and Gällivare

When the train arrived in Kiruna it was winter. Everything was covered with snow, it was windy and constantly snowing. We had a stay of half an hour and I went out to take some photos. My anorak was warm enough, the summer barefoot shoes weren’t. No problem, since the train was overheated I quickly got  warm again.

After we left Kiruna more and more snow sticked to the slightly warmer train windows until I could hardly see through the window anymore.

Part 4 – written in the connection train somewhere between Älvsbyn and Jörn.

In Gällivare and Nattavaara there was more snow, but then the train approached the coastal region where it uses to be slightly warmer. The ground was also snow covered but the snow looked wet and probably won’t last long.

Meanwhile it had started to get dark. We were late but the connection train in Boden was supposed to wait for us. And so it did.

In Älvsbyn I took the last out-of-the-train photo today. It was dark and mostly I took photos from my own reflections, not from the outside.

I’m glad when I can leave the train. First of all I’m tired and want to arrive home. Then the train compartment is strongly overheated, too. I’ve been in saunas colder than this!

Part 5 – written from home on Sunday.

There’s not much more to tell. Leaving the town Vindeln behind I could see less and less snow until soon no more snow covered the ground. At 21:09 the train arrived in Umeå where Annika already waited on the platform. Half an hour I finally was home.

Today, after a rich breakfast:

I’m so glad to be here. At more than two weeks I’ll spend home in Obbola until I’ll take the same way back to Tromsø in early November.

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.

Fjell and fjäll

Fjell/fjäll is the word for mountain or mountains. Fjell is Norwegian, fjäll is Swedish. As similar the words are as different the fjell/fjäll can be.

When Annika and I started our way back home from Tromsø yesterday we could experience the inaccessible steep mountains in Norway with the dark grey summits hanging in the evenly dark clouds as well as the colourful autumnal mountain plateaus between Abisko and Kiruna.

Moving things to Tromsø

As some of you may know I’ll work for the Norsk Polarinstitutt in Tromsø from the 1 October. I’m looking forward to this extremely interesting job and the town Tromsø is outstanding. The downside is that Annika and I won’t see each other very often, because the distance it too far to visit each other for a normal weekend. Hopefully I’m allowed to work from home in Obbola/Umeå sometimes.

Last Saturday I packed around 250 different things that I may need here – from my big computer monitor to my digital piano and warm winter boots. When I packed everything into my Subaru on Sunday morning I realised that I even had spare room for my ergonomic office stool and my warmest winter parka. Nice!

On Sunday at 10 o’clock Annika and I started our tour to Tromsø. The day before our home region Västerbotten was put on the red list by Norway again, which means that we had to be in quarantine while being in Norway. Bad luck! Therefore we didn’t make our stopover in the Norwegian Narvik as considered before but already in Kiruna in Sweden.

The next day we were stopped by the police at the border. The police informed us about the quarantine rules and wanted to know our place to stay. Since I had a lease contract for my room in Tromsø with me we were allowed to cross the border. At 16 o’clock we arrived in front of the house where I have a room in a shared flat. My room is quite tiny but there is place in the living room and kitchen as well. The flat is in the 2nd floor (3rd floor for Americans) and you can see the steep and partly snow covered mountains of the island Kvaløya and the mainland. It’s even possible to watch the Hurtigruten ship passing by but I didn’t see it yet.

Yesterday we made a car trip to Sommarøya, a peninsula with some beautiful beaches. We bathed in the Norwegian Sea. At 11 °C water temperature it was warmer than excepted. In contrary to the Bothnian Bay – the northernmost part of the Baltic Sea – the Norwegian Sea won’t freeze in the winter because of the Gulf Stream. So I can winter bath the whole winter without chopping ice if I want to.

Two images of yesterday:

Today we will make another day trip, tomorrow we’ll start to head home to Sweden again.

And the quarantine? Well – we shall stay home, but we are allowed to buy food and to be in nature as long we are able to keep distance to others. So the restrictions were quite lax. Mostly it’s the museums and the public transport (including the cable car Fjellheisen) that we have to avoid.

P.S.: Now all things have more or less found a place in the flat and I can enter my room shown on the 3rd photo above.

 

 

Farewell winter 2019/20

Hej winter,

Nice of you to present a preview already in October, and got really started in early November, but in January you were much too warm. Fortunately I could realise two fantastic ski tours in February and March, but back home in Skelleftehamn I needed my rubber boots more than a winter jacket. So for my taste you – winter – was much too short!

Before spring takes over Annika and I decided to make a short trip to Solberget in Lapland. A good place to isolate oneself in the times of Corona, since we lived in a cozy construction trailer. It was only two full days we had there but we got cold sunny weather (almost -20 °C in the morning) and a lot of snow in the forests and on the bogs. Perfect skiing conditions.

The other day we skied to the old farmyard Slättberg that still has an owner but slowly goes to rack. A pity since the place is so nice. In 2013 I had dared to enter the main building, now the floor is partly gone and I kept outside.

In Skelleftehamn we had some warm days with +10 °C and almost all sea ice has gone. Only in sheltered parts as the boat harbour Tjuvkistan or the sound at Storgrundet some ice is left. But I do not dare to enter it any longer.

So I’ll thank you for the season, winter. But next year you’re welcome to send your (c)older brother.

On the road II – Jäckvik—Hemavan via Norway – 300 km

When I look through the window of my stuga in Jäckvik I see, that my car is covered with snow. Appoximately 8 cm have fallen over night. I take a frugal breakfast, pack the car, clean the room and pay for the stay. Then I continue my zigzag car trip south. Today I want to reach Hemavan. I prefer the way via Norway to the way through the Swedish inland.

I drive northwest on the road 95. Due to the warm weather of winter 2019/20 many watercourses are still open.

After 40 kilometres I cross the polar circle again, but I’m more intested in the small shop where I buy food and goodies. (What’s a road trip without goodies?)

I continue following road 95. The road slowly ascends and the trees give way to the treeless kalfjäll. After a while I leave Sweden and enter Norway.

In Norway I expect higher mountains (when visible in the snowy and foggy weather) and tunnels. But first I have to wait. A Latvian truck blocks the road. The driver already had put snow chains round some tyres but in vain. The  road is covered with slippery ice and the wheels carve themselves deeper and deeper into the thick layer of ice. It doesn’t take long until a man from vegvesen arrives to free the truck. The magic ingredience? A lot of sand!

The road is free again and I continue driving. And there they are: mountains and tunnels. “Norwegian essentials.”

It has started snowing more intense. The road 95 descends and leads through forests until it meets the E6, the European route connecting many Norwegian cities from Oslo to Kirkenes. It’s the first time that I turn left, in direction Mo i Rana. There I want to take the E12 back to Sweden again. But first the E6 leads over another mountain passage.

After this passage the road descends and both weather and road gets a bit ugly.

Normally I had turned onto the E12 in Mo i Rana but today Google Maps was my Navigator. It recommends to turn left already in Røssvoll. I follow a tiny path and stop in front of a small suspension bridge. Is it really for cars? It is, other cars use it, too. So I cross the river Raneelva and follow the narrow winding path through forests and settlements. A nice route, but probably much slower than turning in Mo. By the way: the locals don’t seem too happy me using this road. They all glare at me. Perhaps there are many others, who follow Google Maps’ shortcut as well.

The E12 rises and leads over kalfjell a third time this day. I make some photos on the parking places.

Soon I am back in Sweden. I love the bare mountains and so I really enjoyed the ride today. But not it starts getting dark and I am longing for a bed. So I continued to Hemavan without any breaks. I arrived there 16:20 and get a room in the Fjällcenter. Tomorrow I’ll even get a real breakfast! Luxury!

On the road I – Solberget—Jäckvik – 353 km

After spending some days in Solberget I continue my journey. Next Friday I have to be in Östersund so I have time to take a detour over Norway.

The road is quite empty. A car comes towards from time to time or a reindeer blocks the road. Nothing special for a car ride through Lapland. Again I’m on my way to Jokkmokk. After an hour I cross the river Stora Lule älv on the Messaure dam.

At 12 o’clock I arrive in Jokkmokk. Time to buy some provisions and get some lunch. I visit “Lilla Paradiset” where I tasted a little piece of the “Lapland Pizza” three days ago. It was very tasty and I commended the cook. Today I was welcomed with a broad smile and the question “Lapland”? Yes – that pizza was my choice today and I can warmly recommend it.

After that pizza the weather got dull and I got tired. Still some hours to go since I wanted to reach Arjeplog at least. I tried to find an accommodation but in vain. Either the rooms where fully booked or closed for winter or much too expencive. So I continued driving. Next station Jäckvik – 75 km from the Norwegian border. I was already prepared to sleep in the car when I spotted a sign “Kyrkans fjällgård“ with a tent and a cabin icon. I was lucky – I got a whole cabin for only 300 kr which is less than a quarter of the price of a cabin in Arjepog I asked for. Maybe it’s because of the zillions of German test drivers that test cars in Arjeplog in wintertime.

Now I’m sitting in “Tjidtjak”, my cosy cabin for this night. It got warm outside (-1 °C) and it snows a bit. Soon I will go to bed, reading and sleeping.

Plans for tomorrow? We’ll see.

Nighty nite!

Starting my winter journey – Solberget

I have stopped counting how often I’ve been at the wilderness retreat Solberget in Swedish lapland. First of all it’s a nice place with great people, then it’s the week of the winter market in Jokkmokk, which is round 90 km away. Finally I just had to make a stopover here since my stove that I need for a ski tour was stored here.

Wednesday – a small ski tour

On the top of the hill Solberget I get to know Steffen who has spent some days in the mountain hut. It’s his last day and we ski down together. The way back is not long and so we extend our tour. Do we stand on a small bog or a frozen lake, when I make this photo? I don’t know.

Thursday – winter market in Jokkmokk

I’ve been here several times. This time I only stroll over the market and hardly make any photos. The only exception: The artist Yana Mangi, who gave a phantastic concert in the small old church in Jokkmokk.

Older photos from the winter market for example here, here and here.

Friday – ski tour on the Vihtukkajankka

It’s been long since I’ve been on the Vihtukkajankka. Together with Steffen I make a ski tour onto this mountain. First it’s cloudy but soon it clears up. Skiing through the snowy forest is sometime like visiting an art exhibition.

And here I have slept the last days:

Saturday – a foggy day

Acually I just wanted to be lazy but the fog was so beautiful that I skied down to the large bog Päivävuoma/Solmyran to make some “bog fog” photos.

This is my favourite photo from that day:

I close this article with a small riddle. The next photo is no photomontage but a single shot. Where am I?

And suddenly I am in Lapland

Just 300 km from home – bright sky and temperatures round -25 °C – finally a winter as it should be in Northern Sweden.

I shot theses photos in Solberget tonight. Here I will stay some days and visit the winter market in Jokkmokk.

Open house day at Polarforskningssekretariatet

When I was a child I wanted to become a researcher. Of course I hadn’t the slightest idea, what a researcher really does. I assumed he would travel around the world looking for insects or collecting fossils – both passions of mine. Then my interests for maths and computer science as well as for jazz and playing piano grew more and more and my childhood dreams of beetles and trilobites faded into the background. To make a long story short: 1992 I started studying jazz piano and then worked as a musician; in 2002 I had started working with programming, which still is my main profession. I really like my job and the freedom that it gives me, but …

There are jobs that I would take instantly if I only had the chance.

Today was open day at the Polarforskningssekretariatet – the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat in Luleå. The Polarforskningssekretariatet “promotes the conditions for and coordinates Swedish research and development in the polar regions.”¹ It was really interesting and inspiring both to look around and to talk to the people working there.

If you know me, you also know about my passion for the Arctic regions, even though I only have visited a really tiny part. What you probably do not know is that I had contact with the Polarforskningssekretariatet some months ago. There had just published a job ad for a forskningsstödsamordnare – a research support coordinator – for the ship based expeditions to the Arctic. I applied for that job, although I guessed that without any fundamental experience within leading large international projects and especially research I wouldn’t have a chance. And I hadn’t. Today I learned that 80–100 people applied for that job.

I’m not disappointed, but a bit pensive. That would have been a job to my taste. Transforming needs into plans, working with international teams, travelling to Greenland or the North pole, but most of all: doing a meaningful job in times where climatical research is more and more crucial to humankind.

There are several lives I could have chosen. I could have become a mathematician, a composer or – following my childhood dreams – a scientist. It’s easy to say that I should have made other choices. If I were a scientist today I would miss my time as a jazz pianist. Life is just too short to squeeze in all the different interests. But just today I would have loved to become a part of the polar research in Sweden.

¹ quote taken from the English website.