Norway

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There but for the grace of cod

The last 3 days in Oslo were uneventful, filled with walks down the same trails I’d already made on my own the last few times I’d come, but with a travelling companion (TC), things were slightly different. More cheerful, certainly, considering the number of chocolate biscuits we bought. But the real thing – if that doesn’t sound terribly arrogant – began the moment we left for Bodø and onwards to Svolvaer. The small plane dipped right and I got my first glimpse of the small chain of islands that’s a jaw-dropping sight even from the air. Mountains plunge straight into the sea and on this rare, sunny winter’s day, it’s difficult to...

The social network in a BnB

Being in a Bed and Breakfast includes a (not so) hidden social element that tends to make me rather alarmed, considering I’m someone who just gets antsy and anxious in social groups for an extended period of time. Strangely, it feels akin to someone trying to reintegrate into society after long periods of isolation (or imprisonment), just less drastically so. Anna Gerd Lind’s guesthouse a few kilometres off the small town of Leknes is such a place, where guests (or strangers, depending on how you see it) interact and sit in living spaces freely shared by her family. It is strange to live in someone’s home like you’re an invited guests –...

Longer and more winding roads

What I’ve learned from this very short time in Lofoten is that the weather is extremely unpredictable, even for March and apparently, the Norwegian weather service. We’ve had good weather, followed by bleak, miserable snow. Rinse and repeat. There were only small, short walks that we did because of it and with our pseudo hiking poles, looked as though we knew what we were doing. A short hike up Tjeldbergtinden – thanks to a lovely employee at the Avis/Budget car rental – yielded precious views of Svolvaer and clearing skies worked wonders for photography. I was grateful, nonetheless, more so when the road to Reine cleared for a gorgeous drive...

Up and about in the Lofoten Islands

It always begins with an airline offer and that conversation, as far as I knew, would never end well for my bank account. A troubled dinner, some arguing and a wistful reminiscence of the Arctic North later, we decided that Norway was the place to visit this time around. The Travel Companion (TC) has never been there and I was thrilled at being able to do this with another person – in a car as well. Stuck between the Western Fjords and the Lofoten Islands – which had my eye for many years now -, the next few days were a blur of looking through web photos, crumpling the pages of...

Workmen x Snow x Airport

I ended up getting sent to the Tromsø airport by a workman. My short journey to the bus stop was timed so all I had to do was to wait for bus no. 42 to come. A slew of heavy vehicles salting the road and clearing the snow however, meant that a diversion was put up just at the junction I was waiting just about a minute later. To my horror, the bus I was supposed to be taking went merrily on its way in another direction as the workmen waved the vehicles to the left instead of straight. Panicking, I considered walking back to the hotel – any hotel!...

Snowmobiling – Redux

The weather chaos of yesterday meant that many tour operators had to cancel their trips into the Lyngen Alps. At their meeting point at the Rica Ishavs Hotel at 8.45 a.m., the driver was still trying to convince people that the dogsled tour was cancelled because of the bad snow. But the skies finally cleared and the first light hit the corona of peaks in the Troms region as the Lyngsfjord Adventure bus hit the road – with me on it. Camp Tamok is approximately 90 minutes away from Tromsø and the heart of the Lyngsfjord Adventure tour. I met Mike, my snowmobile guide who trained as a helicopter technician in...

Storm in a snow cup

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...

Snowmobiling in Svalbard

A dummy in a snowmobile suit (complete with a Soviet-era-style helmet) sits in a lonesome chair in the corner, like a WWII relic that Svalbard had forgotten. In reality, it was exactly how we were supposed to dress, with no skin exposed to the elements. I for one, was dancing with joy to learn that the snowmobile had heating in the handlebars for the hands. With Christian (out German guide of Svalbard Scooterutleie) and two other Dutch tourists, we took off into Adventdalen once again, going further than the dogsleds could and up into the Pingo, an Inuvialuktun word that refers to a hill with a core of ice. Pingos,...

Sled run on a ‘fine’ day

“Dogs have an instinct to follow,” the guide (originally from the Czech Republic) at Svalbard Vilmarkssenter said emphatically as he wheezed out commands in Norwegian which all the huskies obey. “They’re noisy now, but they’ll calm down and get up to a good speed when they set off.” As continually amazed as I am that many people here don’t actually speak Norwegian as their native tongue, all thoughts of population diversity flew out of my mind the moment we took off across the frozen river towards Adventdalen with the dogs that strained to simply run. There were reindeer grazing along the banks of the frozen river and as the dogs...

78 Degrees North

A few months ago, I decided on a whim that I had to visit the Arctic during winter and thought Svalbard came the closest to it without getting close to the North Pole. Little did I realise that I was going to travel during a Polar Night weekend where hoards of merry-making Norwegians piled onto the plane from Oslo/Tromsø and onto the island, making the small airport like a bus stop gathering of neighbours. Everyone seemed to know everyone and bus after bus stopped at the front door of the Radisson Polar Blu hotel until there was a queue that stretched outside for check-in in minus 16-degree weather. The result...