Arctic circle

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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...

Up the Ice

But ice-climbing remains one of my fondest memories in Ilulissat and I chose to submit this particular piece I wrote in remembrance of it for a travel scholarship application. Even if nothing came out of it, I’d like to think someone did read this somewhere…and liked it. No prerequisites. So said the guy at the tourist office. And it was very cool too, he added. His earnest talk reassures me, so I whip out my credit card and choose, in a moment of lunacy believing myself to be fit enough, to spend the afternoon ice climbing in an arctic winter in Ilulissat, Greenland. It’s a day later that I finally meet...

Miles ahead

Miles is the sprightliest 79 year-old Brit I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. He behaves decades younger than he really is, walks around with a bounce in his step and does everything that everyone under the age of 30 can do without much difficulty, toughing it out when it’s needed. The crisp London accent is still so very evident after living in New York for 36 years and talking to him is a little like talking to Michael Palin with a wicked, sharper edge (or on steroids) which can often serve as a highlight for the day – a hilarious instance being his incredulous reaction to a group of Asian...

Ilulissat’s lure

The ancient settlement site of Sermermiut, where the Saqqaq, Early Dorset and Thule cultures lived and fished for seal and halibut in the nutrient-rich waters of the glacier is an easy kilometre south of Ilulissat, where a boardwalk cuts through its grassy slopes straight down to the waters of Ilulissat Kangerlua (Jakobshavn Icefjord). The last resident moved to Ilulissat in 1850, abandoning the site entirely. Today, it’s a UNESCO heritage site, complete with a warning not to stand too close to the shore in case a chunk of ice breaks off into the sea resulting in a tidal wave that I’m sure, has killed people before. We visited Sermermiut in a morning blizzard that unrepentantly...

Moody and Bright, so goes the mood

“Let me tell you a little about myself,” said the guide from World of Greenland (a partner of Greenland Travel) at the very start of the cultural/historical walk around the town. “I first visited Greenland in 2007, fell in love with the country and came back again in 2008. This time, I fell in love with the dog-sled guide and moved here permanently. So you can ask me anything you want about Ilulissat.” That was probably the only snippet that was memorable; the rest was simply trivia that floated in a ear and exited the other. We walked mostly to the harbour, heard about when the ships came in, endured the smell...

The edge of the freeze

At 180km inland, Kangerlussuaq is the most inland and thus coldest and warmest of the inhabited Greenlandic settlements. If anything, it was at least a welcome (but belated) explanation for the moment of horror that TC and I had when we first found out in Stockholm that the temperature was a whopping -36 deg. Celsius and thought that the weather app was at its most cynical self. It wasn’t the most romanticised introduction of Greenland – and definitely one not of the idyllic kayak-vacationer weaving his way among the floating icebergs, but a realistic cold-cock to the face that made us go on a pants/gloves buying spree in Copenhagen. Repeated checks of...