I find myself missing Svalbard already, a day after leaving it.
In contrast to Svalbard’s winter silence, Tromsø is vibrant, noisy and teeming with life – even at the odd hours of the night as students and yuppies roam the streets after partying and hard drinking. Still, this place lies almost 400km north of the Arctic Circle (70 degrees North), but the climate is more humid, mitigated by Gulf stream that trickles to a halt here. The Polar Night here is a pale imitation of the one on Longyearbyen: a greyish-blue tinge of light blankets the city at around 10am till about 2 or 3pm, giving it a surrealistic, winter-wonderland feel that’s gone down the rabbit hole.
Snow blew in furious gusts the moment I came out of the airport, blanketing the streets in silence by about 7pm – and out went the hope of seeing the Northern lights. The forecast is for rain, snow and gale for exactly the time period I’m going to be here and my next snowmobile trip to camp Tamok with Lyngsfjord Adventures is hopefully not going to ruined by poor weather. 3 days in Longyearbyen seems to be sufficient time to prep the body for more extreme weather and Tromso’s sub-zero temperatures are still way easier to tolerate after landing in a snow storm. Schadenfreude dictated that I giggled at a plane load of Brit tourists who complained immediately about the freezing cold as the wind flung icicles hard in everyone’s faces.
The main part of town forms part of the eastern shores of Tromsøya along the Tromsø Sound, linked to the mainland by a kilometre-long (thereabout) arched-bridge that’s as iconic of the city as its surroundings of snow-capped peaks where many tour operators conduct winter activities. Visiting Prestvannet (a lake that’s now frozen) and the cable car across the Sound were on the plans today. I accomplished only the former but not the latter which was closed because of the danger of avalanches. The storm rolled in by the time I reached the long bridge and I got up halfway before making my way down again.
I’ve already slipped a few times, hauled up once by my rucksack by a complete stranger and pretty much announced to the world that I’m a tourist from the hesitant way I walk across the ice mounds at the side of the road.