Colours above the Luleälven

Yesterday evening. We are at Storbacken near Vuollerim in Norrbotten, where we visit friends. They live in a house by the large river Luleälven. It’s a bit chilly outside but we still sit there, enjoy the fresh air and try to ignore the first mosquitoes.

I haven’t planned to take pictures but the warm evening light on the forest on the other side of the river becomes more and more intense. Two whooper swans paddle along the river. And finally, half an hour later there appears a rainbow and hovers above the Luleälven like a huge airy bridge. Beautiful!

This morning. I sit in the living room while the fire in the fireplace warms up the room. Outside it’s 3.5 °C and it has been raining the whole night and the whole morning. That’s two of the many sides of Sápmi, the region of the Sámi people.

From Haparanda to Tromsø through the bus window

Four pairs of looking-through-the-window photos and a bonus proof photo

I’m sitting on my bed of room 223 in the Clarion Hotel “The Edge” in Tromsø. I’m here to join the Barents Press International Media Conference that will take place tomorrow and the day after. We from Skellefteå took a car to Haparanda at the Swedish-Finnish border already yesterday. Today we took the bus to Tromsø.

I took photos through the bus window, all with my Nikon D750 and an old 70-210mm/ƒ4.0 lens.

Pair 1 – along the river Torneälven

The Torneälven is the border river between Sweden and Finland. We drive on the Finnish side of the river. Almost all snow has melted and the river is ice free now. Sometimes large walls of ice floes lie along the riverbank.

Pair 2 – moorlands

We already have crossed the Arctic Circle. The coniferous forests are behind us and large moorland frame the road. It’s windy and temperatures are hardly above zero. From time to time it snows.

Pair 3 – winterland

The more up north we travel the snowier and more wintry the landscape becomes. We pass Kilpisjärvi and are in Norway now.

Pair 4 – fjords and mountains

Fjords and mountains – both are typical for Norway. And both can be seen from the bus. A lot of other participants have never been here before and the Oh-s and Ah-s do not stop. And they are right, the landscape is both beautiful and impressive. (… and quite unphotographable from a driving bus.)

Bonus photo

At 7 o’clock we departed in Haparanda, at 17 o’clock we arrive in Tromsø. Later I make some pictures from the roof terrace of our hotel. A Hurtigruten ship with the ishavskatedralen in the background. Take it as a proof, that I’m really in Tromsø.

Travelling to Bjørnevatn

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

After visiting me home in Skelleftehamn Chris and I continued to Jokkmokk on Thursday. We visited the winter market and then drove to Solberget, where we stayed overnight.

The next day we started a long drive with her car. Chris lives in Bjørnevatn near Kirkenes and we planned to arrive there the very same day. At 7:10 we started our journey that would lead us through Sweden, Finland and Norway.

First the sky was cloudy but the visibility was good. Then it started to get a bit foggy.

Normally that’s no problem. This icy fog however started to cover the windscreen more and more and we had to stop often to scrape of the ice.

In Gällivare we stopped at the gas station and had some breakfast. We also bought a bottle with de-icer for the windscreen and continued our trip.

The de-icer didn’t help, we had to stop many times to scrape away the ice from the freezing fog. We were not the only ones. The headlights and the number plate were covered with several millimetres of ice, too. I never had experiences something like this before.

Only the bottom 15 cm of the windscreen were free of ice. While Chris crouched into the seat to be able to see I gave up taking pictures from the road and photographed sideways.

We approached the Swedish town Karesuando. This small town is located directly on the Muonio älv, which also forms a natural border with Finland. On the other side the town is named Karesuvanto where we took another break.

Strangely the ice problems stopped right after the Finnish border. We continued to Palojoensuu without any problems. There we turned left onto the road 93. An hour later we were at the Norwegian border.

After being stopped by the customs and assuring them that we have neither alcohol nor cigarettes with us, we continued driving through the snowy plains. Next stop: Kautokeino, where most inhabitants are Sámi. Here we ate a hamburger with chips, a typical meal if you travel through Northern Norway.

Until now, Chris had driven a car. Now it was my turn to drive to give her at least a short rest. The first time I drove a diesel.

Round two hours later we arrived in Karasjok. What I already had suspected, confirmed here: It was cold outside: -30 °C.  Time for another break.

Back in the car, Chris was driving again. It was dark, it was cold, we were tired and still more than four hours to go.

I started to get bored and played around with my camera.

A pale green stripe appeared above the street. A northern light. The next hour we got quite nice northern lights, mostly directly in front of us. Though being tired we got at least entertainment. The photos are awful, northern lights are not made for being photographed free-handed from a car on a bumpy road.

Finally we came to Tana, where we crossed the river of the same name. A quarter hour later we arrived in the small town Varangerbotn, were we took the last stop of our long trip.

Now we drove along the fjord Varangerfjorden. Anyway, beside of some street lights and the weakened aurora it was pitch black and I couldn’t see the fjord. Beside of that I just longed for a bed.

But finally we arrived at Chris’ home in Berg near Bjørnevatn. Arrival time 23:40, 16½ hours after we started in Solberget.

Here I’ll spend the next days.

Link to the route on Google Maps

 

The ice road in Avan

Today I had a meeting in Norrbotten, Sweden’s northernmost län (county). It was the annual general meeting of Barents Press International, a joint network of journalists in the Barents Region. I joined this organisation a few weeks ago and took the meeting as an opportunity to meet members of Barents Press in real live.

The projects presented at the meeting were really impressing. In addition to that the people were both very friendly and extremely interesting.

The meeting was in Avan near Luleå, 150 km from here or as the Swedes say: 15 miles. The name Avan rang a bell, but it took a look on the map to remember that it’s the place where Annika and I had used the ferry to cross the river Luleälven in May 2015. And later that day we had been forced to wait before a bridge, where people tried to get out a ship with a crane. (It didn’t work.) After a long time of waiting we had been able to continue the tour.

But back to today. It’s 2 February, -18 °C and the Luleälven had been frozen for many weeks.

I had left the E4 and drove the road to Avan. It was picture-perfect weather. Everything was covered with soft snow. It was snowing gently and since it was quite early, the snow looked still a bit blueish.

Some hours later – we had finished the meeting and went upstairs to have fika. This Swedish coffee break took at least twice the time of the official meeting, but fika is anything between 15-30 minutes (most common) and open end …

While we were holding fika and it was still snowing the sun came out. The sunlight made the scenery look even more beautiful. What a gorgeous view the house owners have!

Half past twelve I thanked the hosts and left Avan. I had got an idea: I remembered that there was an ice road crossing the river in wintertime. I was not sure if it was open but it was not far away. I drove there and right, the ice road over the Luleälven was open.

It had stopped snowing and the sun was shining. I parked the car and took some pictures (and was annoyed with myself that I only took the small camera with me).

I saw other cars using the ice road, otherwise I wouldn’t have dared to cross the river, which still is a river with water under the ice. Flowing water. Ok, let’s go …

And so I have got my ice road premiere today. Check ✔︎. I took some photos on the other side and decided to drive back again because I prefer the southern road which I came from.

It was still sunny but clouds had started gathering in the south. While I drove back south it got more and more cloudy. When I made a stopover at my favourite Thai restaurant in Skellefteå it was quite windy and my mobile phone displayed a message:

Warning class 1 snowfall Västerbottens … Snowfall which from Sunday morning to night to Monday can give 20-30 cm. In coastal areas in combination with fresh northeast wind. Snowfall contin…

Later there were the first snow showers. Let’s see, what will happen tomorrow.

Where is the snow? – part II

While parts of Bavaria and Austria have been buried in snow masses – partly there’s more than 250 cm of snow in the valleys and 350 cm in the mountains – we got plus degrees and storm squalls yesterday evening.

Yesterday the bay Kallholmsfjärden was still covered with a solid layer of ice. Today the wind and high water broke this sheet of ice and blew it away. At lunchtime the bay was covered with drifting ice floes. Some hours later the ice was gone, probably drifting to Finland …

I want this (left image) but I got that (right image):

I have to admit that I’m frustrated. I moved to Northern Sweden for real winter experiences, not for this kind of roller coaster weather, that makes the snow dirty and the streets slippery. The photo motives are ugly, I cannot ski, I cannot even walk onto the ice anymore. I just want to snip my fingers and be in Filzmoos or Reit im Winkl or somewhere else where it’s really snowy.

There’s only one realistic way to solve this: I need a teleporter. Or a time machine. For this I need a crazy scientist, that will build one for me. To pay him/her and all that crazy scientist equipment I need money.  There is a way to get a lot of money without work: a Trisslott, the most famous scratchcard in Sweden. The same amount three times and you win it. OK, let’s see …

Well, that didn’t work. Four amounts only twice. As usual. I guess, I have to deal without a teleport.

Snowshoe tour on the Vyöhtjage

The situation is like three years ago: it’s the days after Christmas and there is not much snow in Skelleftehamn. As in 2015 Annika and I decide to make a tour to Arvidsjaur.

Arvidsjaur lies northwest of Skelleftehamn, two hours drive away in the inland. It is located in Norrbotten, Sweden most northern county, is part of the historical province Lappland and part of Sapmí, the region of the Sámi people. Arvidsjaur is well known by German Sweden fans since there are direct flights in wintertime from several German cities.

Arvidsjaur has a nice mountain called Vyöhtjage (Sámi) or Vittjåkk (Swedish). The Vyöhtjage is too steep for us to use skis so we used snow shoes to go up to the mountain top (650 m).

Here some photos of yesterdays tour:

It’s funny that we did almost the same tour (with another route) to the Vyöhtjage as exactly three years ago with the same weather (sunny and not too cold) and snow conditions (half a meter of snow). This nice place however is worth to be visited several times, especially because it is quite near to Skelleftehamn.

We had an overnight stay in Arvidsjaur. Today we will drive back but take a stopover in the village Kusfors to visit friends.

A mountain tour in Arvidsjaur

Yesterday I used my new car to drive to Vittjåkk, a small skiing area near Arvidsjaur, two hours away from home. Annika and I were there in wintertime and made a showshoe tour up the hills. I lived in Munich for six years and do not call these hills real mountains, but at least they reach above the treeline.

I parked again at the same parking lot and ascended the first hill that seems to be nameless. The sky was free of clouds, it was quite warm and I was completely alone.

Soon I was on top of the first hill. I wasn’t alone anymore. Some horseflies tried to make friends with me or at least with my blood. I descended the first hill and went up the Vittjåkk.

From the top I had a wide view over large forests, lakes and a higher mountain range.

Beside of taking pictures I didn’t rest because the horseflies really loved me. So I continued downhill again and was a bit flabbergasted that the whole hike took hardly more than 90 minutes. The hut village was completely abandoned, only a snowmobile showed that this place is only used in wintertime. And other signs showed that too …

Four typical observations in Northern Sweden’s inland in summer, when you go by car

One: construction sites. Almost all major roads are under constant repair each summer. It takes a lot of time to travel. Sometimes you have to wait for a traffic light becoming green or a follow-me car. Sometimes you follow an expencive camper whose driver doesn’t dare to drive more than 20 km/h on the gravelly sections. And this may go on for miles. Swedish miles! (A Swedish mile is 10 km.)

Two: lupins. Many roadsides are overgrown with lupins. They are beautiful, but they are invasive and threaten biodiversity. The Swedish Transport Agency has started to fight theses flowers.

Three: reindeers. Most reindeers are in the mountains but there are always reindeers left in the inland. Keep attention when driving! When you see one reindeer you can be quite sure that others are around, too.

Four: bilingual town signs. On many place in Northern Sweden you are in two countries at the same time. Sweden, the official nation and Sápmi, the region traditionally inhabited by the Sami people. Therefore many places have (at least) two names, a Swedish and a Sami one.

I drove a lot yesterday: 535 km in total. But as a result I know the new Subaru Outback much better and got used both to the automatic gearbox as the electronic systems. I’m very satisfied with the car that is much more comfortable than the old one. The only drawback, it might be the white colour: The horseflies just love the car. When I return to the car it is mostly surrounded by some dozens of this pests and they will even try to follow when I set off. (They manage round 25 km/h.)

 

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 ski tour in the Kvikkjokk mountains – day 7 to 9

This article is part of the series “2018-02: Ski tour near Kvikkjokk”.

Day 13 to 15 of my winter journey 2018

(finally the last part about Jonas’ and my ski tour five weeks ago)

Tuesday, 13 February

I woke up in the cabin Tarrekaisestuga at 7:20. Some more centimetres of fluffy snow had fallen over night and it was still snowing slightly.

While Jonas and I had breakfast the snowfall intensified so that the mountains and the opposite shore of the lake Darrávrre were hidden by the falling snowflakes. Even the deep tracks of our pulkas from the day before had been snowed over and we couldn’t spot them anymore. We planned to gradually walk back on the other side of the lake and find a tenting place there. After breakfast we packed our equipment into the pulkas, cleaned up the cabin and started our tour by crossing the lake. It was still snowing quite heavily and on the lake it was quite windy, too.

It was not easy to find a path on the other side of the lake. The snow was soft and deep, some parts were forested quite densely and some passages were quite steep. At least for me, who lacked both power and general fitness for dragging a heavy pulka uphill through this sort of powdery snow where you sink in 20 to 40 cm with every step – with skis on!

Slowly and with many small detours we managed to ascent the southern hills until we reached the treeline where the terrain is more open and less hilly. We found a boulder where we found shelter against the wind. Here we took a snack: Chocolate, trail mix and hot tea.

We continue skiing slowly going uphill heading east. It stopped snowing and the wind dropped but the weather was still grey and dull. At least we could see the mountains again.

Suddenly we came to an abrupt stop. We stood at the edge of a deep, steep ravine impossible to cross. Such can happen if you do not make a detailed tour planning but just have a general idea of where to go.

After a while we started to look for a place to tent. First we followed the ravine that the river Áhkalmgårttje had cut into the landscape then we descended a bit to find a sheltered place between some birch trees. The snow was really deep and without skiers I sank up to my stomach into the fluffy snow.

Fortunately the snow was stable enough to build up the tent after we had trampling down it thoroughly with our skis.

Later in the evening: I wonder, why it is never completely dark. Is it still lights of civilisation reflected by the clouds? Suddenly something was flickering between the clouds. Is it a strong aurora? No, it’s just too vivid. But what is it? It was two snow mobiles that illuminated half the mountain landscape with their strong full beams. Slowly they passed on the lake below us.

Temperatures were round -10 °C, quite warm for a February night in the Kvikkjokk mountains. Soon I fell asleep.

Wednesday, 14 February

As usual I was awake quite early and I had a challenge: going on the loo. I just slipped into my warm mukluk boots, put on the down jacket and took toilet paper plus snow shovel with me. I went back on our track from our day before thinking it would bear my weight. It went well a few steps then I just fell through the snow and stood there, again up to my stomach in powder snow. This plan didn’t went so well. I climbed out of the hole, brushed off the snow of my long johns and looked for a better place. (I found it.)

This morning was even warmer with only -8 °C and quite foggy. Both wide angle lenses were completely fogged and it would take most of the day until I could make clear photos again. That’s what the morning  looked like:

As usual we took it easy and started only at 11 o’clock. We descended through the hilly open woodland until we met the winter trail. Snowmobiles had used this trail not long ago and now it was quite easy – even if a bit boring – to get ahead. And after some time even the sun tried to twinkle between the clouds. The first time after many cloudy days we casted shadows again. And it was snowing at the same time.

I skied fast on the snowmobile trail where I could use cross country skiing techniques. Too fast for Jonas and too fast for myself, too. I couldn’t hold the tempo and after some time I was really exhausted – not for the first time on this tour. On the other side it was already afternoon and we were already quite near Kvikkjokk, where I had parked the car. Jonas found a nice clearing in the forest were we tented the last time on this tour. And even the sky cleared up a bit.

Thursday, 15 February

We do not know if we missed northern lights while we slept. The morning however the sky was grey and overcast again and half a centimetre of dust-like snow covered the tent. (And my green anorak that I had forgot to put into the pulka.) Today we would have it easy. Just some kilometres skiing on the winter trail that means, following the snowmobile tracks, mostly on the river.

We passed the place where we had left the very same river the very first afternoon to find our tenting place. Here, in the “valley” much less snow had fallen and our deep tracks climbing up the steep riverside were still visible. Now it wasn’t long to the private shortcut that we had used on our tour start. When we came to this place, a snowmobile approached from that very shortcut, a man waved at us and made a turn to talk to us. It was Björn, the very same local that we met when we started our tour! He was quite eager to hear about our experiences even though he was a bit in a hurry. He also told us about two other Germans that he just had met at the very same parking place where I had parked my car.

The last kilometres, crossing a small frozen river …

… following the shortcut (which is quite long for being a shortcut) and finally we arrived at the parking place. We hadn’t much luck with the weather, we didn’t ski long distances, but it was an awesome tour anyway. Thank you, Jonas!

Plans for the next ski tour:

  • be better trained and exercised (!!!)
  • have less equipment (!!)
  • have (partly) better equipment (!)

Photo #6 and #9 in this blog article are made by Jonas Balbasus.

At the parking place we met Dan and Helen, also from Germany, who just were on the point of starting a much longer tour within less than two weeks: Following the Padjelanta, crossing the Sarek, returning on the Kungsleden. A very ambitious tour in my opinion. But they made it as you can read in Helen’s blog:
Winter ski tour through Sarek National Park – Sápmi / Swedish Lapland

 

 

 

 

A ski tour in the Kvikkjokk mountains – day 5 and 6

This article is part of the series “2018-02: Ski tour near Kvikkjokk”.

Day 11 and 12 of my winter journey 2018

After our second night in the tent (it was 20 °C warmer than the first night) I woke up at 7 o’clock. My thick isolated sleeping bag was much too warm and I was glad to get out of “bed”. Time for some photos of our tent and the surroundings.

Today we wanted to leave the trees behind and ascend to the kalfjäll – the treeless mountains region. Since we already were level with the treeline we soon came to the place where you hardly see anything more than snow, some rocks and the winter waymarks.

Jonas is interested in many things, among others bouldering. When we came to a nice large boulder after some hours of skiing, he took the opportunity for a (very) short bouldering session. Here’s the evidence photo:

After that short break we continued our tour over the kalfjäll. It snowed and it was quite windy. The boulder was quite near to the mountain shelter Kurajaure, where we arrived half an hour later.

The wind had grown stronger and stronger and we were glad to enter the shelter. We took the pulkas in, too. These mountain shelters aren’t made for overnight stays beside of emergency situations. We however decided to stay in this shelter anyway for some reasons I won’t reveal here.

Of course we didn’t use the woodstove and firewood. We took our own paraffin stove, prepared food and slept in our sleeping bags, since unheated the shelter was as cold outside as it was inside. But there was a big difference: We were protected against the strong snowfall and the rough winds. I went outside anyway to take some photos in the dusk.

This time we did something new: we set the alarm clock for the next day. We wanted to reach the mountain hut Tarrekaisestugan which we passed two days before and suspected that we had to ski through a lot of fresh snow against rough headwinds and strong snowfall. Since we didn’t know how much time it would take we had set the alarm clock to 7 o’clock. The plan was to leave 8:30, but it became 9:20 when we started our 6th tour day.

It was -12 °C and quite stormy. I guess the windchill was round -30 C. I closed my fur trimmed hood as much as possible and later I took even a buff over mouth and nose to protect against the icy snow that the wind threw into my face. I used three pairs of gloves and mittens – one over the others – to protect hands and fingers. Here’s a selfie of me (left) and Jonas (right) made on the kalfjäll.

There was a lot of new snow, probably 10 to 15 cm. All snowmobile tracks (and our own from the day before) had disappeared. We returned the very same way that we went the day before. Although weather was rough, skiing was easier than expected, because we went more down- than uphills. The steep part however was a real disappointment. This stage had costed a lot of efforts to climb the day before, now it took less than ten minutes to ski down. After a passage over the frozen lake Tarrekaisestugan came into view.

It took more time than expected to cross the lake, but the most exhausting part was the slope by the lake that we had to climb up to reach the mountain hut. Here at least 30 cm of fresh snow had been falling and even the deepest snowmobile tracks were hardly visible. After we arrived and removed our skis I removed ice from the outside of the window. I had to plunge through hip deep snow to reach it. The snow depth behind the hut was at least two meters.

After two cold nights we were glad to dry both sleeping bags and clothes and hung up mittens, jackets, boots, caps and much more and to heat the woodstove.

Our dinner: couscous with roasted salami, dried tomatoes and ready-made champignon sauce. Tasty!

The two photos showing me on skis are made of Jonas Balbasus.