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:

 

A winter journey from home to work

Last Saturday I travelled to work. ObbolaTromsø, that’s round 1000 km – the reason why I do not commute weekly.  This time it is a bit suspenseful, because there are two obstacles on my way.

One obstacle is easy: taking a covid test at the test center. The other is much bigger: The road over the Bjørnfjell – the only road – has been closed for many hours due to stow storm conditions. Well, I start my journey anyhow. We’ll see.

At 5:30 in the morning Annika takes me to the train station in Umeå. The first 9½ hours were just a “normal” train journey beside of the train being mostly ahead of time. One change in Boden – nothing special, just long and a bit boring.

I leave the train in Abisko Turiststation where I parked my car. My car – will I find it or is it submerged under a pile of snow? To my relief hardly any snow covers my car. I already hoped so, because Abisko is known for its low precipitation because mountains in the west protect it from bad weather. Much more snow and rain fall on the other side of the mountain range and that’s exactly where I have to go through. Some minutes after leaving Abisko behind it starts snowing. Snowfall increased more and more but isn’t severe and the Swedish mountain road is open. Soon I cross the Norwegian border and …

… have to stop because of a lowered tollgate with a red blinking light. Beside of two trucks I am alone. I am relaxed because I know that the road has been opened for driving in convoy one hour ago (thanks internet!). I just have to wait for the large snowplough to fetch us.

After twenty minutes the tollgate went up and the red light goes out. That’s all that happens. I hesitate. And now? Do I have to wait? Or may I drive? I don’t dare and ask one of the Norwegian truck drivers. He answers I should just go ahead and so I do. The drive is snowy but not bad and soon I arrive at Bjørnfjell brøytestasjonen where the snowploughs are located and now also the Covid19 registration. I register myself, get a covid test and start taking photos while waiting for the result.

I take an image of a snowed in car. The snow plough driver goes to me and asks for what purposes I take photos. “Just for my blog.” “Ah ok, just curious.” Good to talk to him, because so I learn that beside of the mountain passage behind Bjerkvik road conditions are good. Here they got a lot of snow the last 24 hours and one of the cars looks like this:

After round 20 minutes I get a ping ♪. It’s an SMS with a link to my test result. Negative :-). 260 km to go, that’s four hours when conditions were good.

The first 100 km the road conditions are good and weather is ok. The next photo shows how driving looks like.

The next hour it snows a lot. Sight is still good. To my left and right everything is covered with snow, from the largest church to the smallest branch of a tree. Winter wonderland.

Then it starts to get nasty. Snowfall intensifies more and more and the snow has the consistence of superglue. My windscreen wipers hardly manage to push away the gluey snow and finally I have to turn into a side road and de-ice the wipers. Scratch, scratch … . I’m not alone. In front of me a car with a driver doing the same. Behind me another car stops. Am I in the way? No, just another scratch, scratch. On the other side of the side road another one.

I still have some holes to peek through but it is extremely tiring to drive car through the night like that. Alas, after two hours I drive over the large concrete bridge Tromsøbrua and am on the island Tromsøya. Apparently Tromsø’s snow removal has given up. The minor roads are covered with 20 cm of snow with deep tyre tracks. I understand more and more why most Norwegians have cars with all-wheel drive (and so have I).

22:45. I make a last stop at the supermarket nearby that is open until 23:00. I’m lucky because Norwegian supermarkets close on Sundays. By the way: the supermarket’s parking place is in much better condition than the roads.

One other minute driving and I arrive at my flat in Tromsø after 17½ hours travelling. I’m tired but it takes another hour until I’m relaxed enough to sleep. Next week I’ll walk …

Saskarö in the fog

From Monday and Thursday Annika and I made a trip that I had in mind for a longer while. Travelling round the Bothnian Bay which is the northernmost part of the Baltic Sea. The first days we travelled by car along the sea. The last hours we travelled by ship from Vaasa in Finland to Holmsund in Sweden. From there it’s only a 12½ additional km to our house in Obbola where we live.

On our way to Haparanda we made a detour to Seskarö, an island that is connected to the mainland by several bridges. As the whole day (and half our journey) it was quite foggy.

Especially by the shores there was not much to see. A near island, a bit of ice, some rocks and and a white sea merging seamlessly into the white sky.

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!