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

 

Light pillars and northern lights in Bjørnevatn

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

I have seen light pillars in my life and I have seen the aurora many times. Today I got the perfect combination of these two light effects. And never ever saw I light pillars as clear as today.

To see light pillars you need cold weather. When I was out, it was between -22 °C and -24 °C, probably colder on the frozen fjord. Light pillars are caused by hexagonal ice plates that tend to hover horizontally and therefore reflecting the light vertically. The light source can by natural, as e.g. sun and moon or artificial.

I was very lucky that it was cold and clear today so that I could observe them and make some pictures.

 

No, it’s not winter yet, but …

No, it’s not winter yet. It’s autumn. Look at the coloured trees that I photographed in Skelleftehamn yesterday morning.

No, it’s not winter yet. Well, it snowed in Lövånger – 40 km south – some days before. Yes, in the shadow of the forests there are still patches of snow. Ok, the shallow parts of the lake Gårdefjärden had started to freeze over, but it’s not winter yet.

No, it’s not winter yet. But it’s dark. And when it’s dark, there could be polar lights. Annika rang me at 19:40 and told me that strong polar lights covered the sky. And so it was. I took my camera, hopped into the car and drove to the beach Storgrundet. First mistake: no memory card in the camera – good to have a spare one. Second mistake: en empty battery – good to have a spare one. When I was ready to take pictures, the most impressive polar lights already had gone but I made some pictures anyway.

No, it’s not winter yet. But the winter will come with frost and snow – sooner or later. And hopefully with a lot of sunny days. And more polar lights.

+++ breaking news +++ aurora on the Hurtigruten +++

Day 42 of my winter journey 2018

Just one hour ago: Aurora on the Hurtigruten ship MS Nordnorge just behind Skervøy, and what a nice one!

I was glad to find a place for me and my tripod because there were a lot of other travellers – mostly tourists – out and watched the northern lights. They made photos with any camera they had; from smart phone to DSLR camera with tripod.

I used ISO 1600, ƒ 1/2.8 and an exposure time of 4 seconds. To my surprise some of the photos were quite sharp although the ship was moving.

Ekkerøy and Nesseby

This article is part of the series “2018-03: Varanger peninsula”.

Day 34 and 35 of my winter journey 2018

After some days in Ytre Kiberg Annika and I travelled to the next place: Ekkerøy. This village, 50 km southwest from Kiberg lies on the peninsula Ekkerøya that is connected to land by a natural dam with sandy beaches on each side. We already had taken a short walk at one of the beaches last week, where we had met H., one of the locals.

We arrived in Ekkerøy three days ago. The day before yesterday I took a morning promenade with my camera. I made some photos, but the light was a bit dull.

After breakfast Annika and I started a tour round the island, partly with snowshoes, partly on foot. There’s a cliff at the southern shore that looks quite impressive. At the eastern tip there’s an old wooden sea mark. The northern shore is quite flat and was more snowy. Outgoing tide already had started so we walked the last meters on the beach until we came to our wonderful house, that we’ve rented for four days.

As you might have noticed almost all photos shown in this blog have a landscape format. I have a project however that might involve having portrait format photos as well. Therefore I walked to the beach yesterday morning to find a motif fitting portrait format, not too easy in a landscape that’s extensive and mainly quite flat. It was almost high tide and it was quite cold – -12 °C and very windy. The water at the beach was almost of a slushy consistency and each wave flushed new liquid slush to the beach where it froze to a wavy line of ice. That motif went quite well in portrait format, I just have to practise my view.

(I have to think over the design of my blog, these portrait format images are way too large.)

It cleared up more and more and the sun shone from a blue sky. We took the car to Nesseby, 50 km away, where I planned to make some photos of the Nesseby Church. The more we came to the more sheltered parts of the fjord, the colder it got and the open water of the Barents Sea smoked. This phenomenon is called sea smoke and happens, when cold air lies over the open sea.

From the harbour Nesseby Church could be seen through the foggy sea smoke. It is located quite exposed at the thinnest part of a peninsula and can be spotted from long, when weather is good. After looking from the harbour we continued to the church and had a closer look.

We took a short detour to Varangerbotn. There it was even colder with -19 °C but fair weather and hardly any wind.

It’s fascinating to have a look at the fjord of the same name. At the end it’s completely frozen with many icy humps, but on the way back (and north again) it opened and sea smoke appeared again.

In Vadsø I took a promenade on the island Vadsøya to have a look at the airship mast. Since I’ve been a child I’m a huge fan of balloons and airships and it was interesting to see this mast, built in 1926 and only used twice: by Umberto Nobile and Roald Amundsen for their expedition over the North Pole with the airship Norge in the same year and on Nobile’s flight with the airship Italia two years later.

Home again we remembered that H. who we’d met the week before had asked us in for coffee some day. At 4 o’clock we knocked at the door of her house and met her husband T. who directly invited us to come in. H. was visiting a friend and would join us later. We talked and talked, about languages, life in Northern Norway in general and Ekkerøy in special and we had a good time (and got coffee, cakes, cheese, grapes and red wine). When we left H. and T. – two of the round twenty permanent residents in Ekkerøy – it was already 9 pm and sky was dark … beside of a beautiful aurora dancing above the northern shore.

It took some minutes to walk home, put on warmer clothes, get camera and tripod and the aurora already had weakened a lot when I took the photo below. So it is with northern lights: intensity can change very fast, often within seconds.

Today we have another day in Ekkerøy. Our plans so far: not any. That’s nice, too!

 

 

 

 

Eight times Ytre Kiberg and around

This article is part of the series “2018-03: Varanger peninsula”.

Day 31 and 32 of my winter journey 2018

1. Yesterday, Ytre Kiberg – the morning

Two days ago two other guests arrived at Cape East Arctic Adventure, our cozy stay in Ytre Kiberg. They came from Utrecht in the Netherlands and were on a three week car trip from Utrecht to the North Cape and back – 8500 kilometres in total!

Trond, our fantastic host made a special breakfast for them: King crabs, locally caught in the Barents Sea. Annika and I got our share, too. King crabs are probably my favourite seafood but it was the first time I got such for breakfast.

After breakfast Trond had some work to do: clearing the snow with his rotary snow plough. Last days had been very windy with some short but intense snow showers. The snowploughs had to work a lot to keep the roads clear of snow and Trond had to clear the snow on his property several times a day. This morning the snow drifts were especially high and Trond had to work hard to get through with his snowblower.

2. Yesterday, Vardø – a private guide tour by Trond

After the driveway was cleared, Trond invited the Dutch guests and us to a short private guided tour in Vardø. We entered his all-wheel drive car and he drove us the short way to Vardø – a town with 2100 inhabitants located on an island – where he showed us some of his favourite places. There is a lot of street art in Vardø and next time I have to take a closer look to all the graffiti and more conceptual artworks. But you cannot do all in a single journey.

There’s a mountain pass between Vardø and Ytre Kiberg called Domen. It’s quite exposed to the elements and when we crossed it waves of driving slow covered the road.

3. Yesterday, Skallelv – a short visit

Soon after we arrived in Kiberg, the Dutch guests left and Annika and I made a car ride to Skallelv, 30 km south of Ytre Kiberg. The weather was really nice: sunny and hardly any wind. We went round a bit and I made some photos. I had however problems with some lenses, they got moisture inside that tends to freeze when being outside. Hopefully they will dry within the next days.

4. Yesterday, Vardø – the Vardøhus Fortress

After a rest we took a tour to Vardø again, this time we wanted to focus on two local attractions: The fortress and the witch memorial.

The Vardøhus Fortress (Vardøhus festning) was built round 1300 and is the northernmost fortress of the world. Beside of being a museum it is used today as a school for the Norwegian marine. Shortly after we arrived there, the Trollfjord, a Hurtigruten ship landed in Vardø and shortly after many tourist rushed through the fortress. In contrary to us they only had litte time.

5. Yesterday, Vardø – Steilneset Memorial

After visiting the fortress we went on to visit the witch memorial. It’s not easy to reach. First of all you have to know that it is called Steilneset Memorial (or find it visually), then you have to plunge through deep snow, because there are no cleared ways to the memorial.

In 1621 91 people, mostly women and Sami people had been executed for witchcraft. This memorial, created in 2011, shows the history of all 91 people and lists the confessions made. It is a shocking and touching place about the cruelty of mankind and worth to visit, if you are in Vardø and have the time.

After this long and eventful day we were quite exhausted and decided to take it a bit more easy the next day.

6. Today, Ytre Kiberg – a promenade in Ytre Kiberg

Today morning it was quite warm (-4 °C) and almost windless. 10 cm of new snow had been fallen over night. After breakfast we took a medium short promenade along the beach and into the village and back. The weather was changeable as it uses to be here. It could change from sun to snow within less than a minute.

Snow fall intensified and it became a bit windier, too.

7. Today, Ytre Kiberg – a private tour though the partisan museum

At 15:30 we had an appointment: we were invited to visit the Partisanmuseet – the partisan museum in Ytre Kiberg. We would get a personal guided tour from Steinar Borch Jensen – expert for the history of Kiberg and around – who would open the museum for us.

Trond took a huge spade, we entered the car, drove the short way to the museum, plunged through the snow to the entrance, where Steinar already had started to clear the outer stairs. Trond joined him shovelling.

The museum is not the biggest and the showpieces maybe not the most special, it’s the stories behind the showpieces that matter. Steinar had a lot to tell about the partisans in Northern Norway that fought on the Soviets side against the National Socialists in World War II. Beside of Steinar’s huge knowledge about that time there was another facet, that made our visit in the museum very special. Both Trond and Steinar have personal relations to the partisans. They know their relatives and they know the places where they lived. For many Norwegians the history of WWII is not just an academic interest but personal history. Soon the last witnesses of the past will be gone.

I felt very touched by the visit and was glad that we got the opportunity to get involved into the local history, but it made me thoughtful, too and reinforced my personal pacifistic worldview.

8 .Today, Ytre Kiberg – the first Varanger polar lights

Actually I planned only seven stories in this long blog article, but well …

I was out after a great two course dinner: reindeer (provided by Trond), pancakes (provided by Annika) and me doing the dishes. I wanted to make a photo of Cape East Arctic Adventure, Trond’s house, where Annika and I had such a good time. Then I spotted faint polar lights. I wore only a t-shirt and got in to fetch my Canada Goose parka. I was outside quite a while since the polar lights gradually became stronger. They constantly changed place making it hard to take any good pictures. It was -10 °C, quite windy and more and more I closed the zipper of the parka to prevent freezing. After a while the aurora weakened and I went in to look at the photos. I’m not content with the image above, but it’s a nice remembrance of our fantastic stay at Cape East Arctic Adventure in Ytre Kiberg.

Tomorrow we will leave and stay in Ekkerøy for some days.

Tusen takk, Trond, for your kindness and your great hospitality!

Crossing three borders

Day 19 of my winter journey 2018

Whilst I still haven’t finished the blog articles about my ski tour with Jonas, life (and holidays) went on. Jonas and I had arrived at Solberget on Thursday evening and Jonas went home yesterday (on Sunday). This morning I packed the last things, stuffed them into the car and went to Nattavaara Station, where Annika arrived with the 7:38 train. With this reunion another stage of my six and a half week winter journey had begun. Destination: Kirkenes and Varanger, the easternmost parts of Norway.

Today we started with a travel day by car. We travelled 600 kilometres and crossed three borders.

Stage one: (Solberget) – NattavaaraGällivareSvappavaaraVittangiÖvre SopperoKaresuando.
And the first border: Sweden – Finland.

Stage two: Karesvanto (Finland) – Palojoensuu (Finland) – road 93 …
Second border: Finland – Norway.

Stage 3: … road 93 – Kautokeino (Norway) – Karasjok (Norway) – Karigasniemi (Finland).
The third border Norway – Finland. And since it was dark and I was tired we directly continued to our destination for an overnight stay: Giellajohka (Finland).

The temperatures had been between -20 °C and -28 °C for the last hours and the weather was bright and clear. The new fingernail moon shone above the eastern horizon and the first stars came out. Good conditions for polar lights. And we had polar lights actually here in Giellajohka but unfortunately a thin layer of clouds approached and therefore the aurora was less impressive. A photo anyway:

Tomorrow we will continue to Kirkenes to visit friends. It’s a smaller distance to travel than today, just 209 kilometres.

A starry night at Solberget

Day 1 of the winter journey 2018

After a first day on the winter market in Jokkmokk Annika and I enjoyed the cozy sauna at Solberget, my very favourite of all saunas I know. I was really tired after the sauna but just had to make some photos of the beautiful surroundings in the moonlight.

And while I made photos of the window of the sauna hut even the polar light increased a bit.

Today Annika and I will head to the Jokkmokksmarknad again. Yesterday we got a lift, today we’ll take my car.

Autumn northern light above Skelleftehamn

I have stopped counting how many northern lights I have missed in Skelleftehamn the last four weeks. The sky was covered with a thick layer of clouds most of the days (and nights). I only could see some week greenish coloration lingering through a break in the clouds for some minutes two weeks ago. The rest of the day I watched all the fantastic aurora photos made in Norway and other places, while it stayed cloudy here.

This week the weather started to be much nicer. The air however was cold and moist in the night making the nights quite foggy. While the aurora was visible in town last night, it was foggy again here. But this night I was lucky. Even though it’s colder (+ 3 °C just now) outside, the sky remained clear. When I saw the first green shade I immediately took the car (it’s faster) and drove to the near lake Snesviken where I could watch the first polar lights in Skelleftehamn this season.

The red colour in the left is no northern light, it’s the lights of the town Skellefteå, probably caused by the still moist air.