Crossing the Arctic Circle
(To see all the photo's in this post and many more click here)
Having left Kristiansund three weeks ago we have now arrived in Bodø in Northern Norway, where Ada Hardy will be berthed for the winter. Our journey is not yet over as we have another month to explore Vestfjorden, the area immediately to the north of Bodø which includes the dramatic and much lauded Lofoten Islands before we pack up and return home in mid September.
Our original plan had been to meet our friends Garry and Adrienne in Rorvik about a week after leaving Kristiansund, but unfortunately they had to cancel due to a health issue so Karen and I completed this section on our own. Whilst we missed not having Garry and Adrienne aboard it was nevertheless kind of nice to have a three week period without any guests.
Norway just continues to amaze at every turn. The scenery on this stretch of coast (considered to be start of Northern Norway) has been some of the most dramatic we have seen so far and the milestone of crossing the Arctic Circle for the first time has been a highlight for me. Whilst it had never been on my 'bucket list', I took the opportunity on a beautiful 30C, windless day to take a dip so as to claim bragging rights to to having swum north of the Arctic Circle. It was a most invigorating experience despite the ideal conditions!
[For the benefit of my daughters (and anyone else who claims not to have been taught geography at school) the Arctic Circle is a line of latitude (just like the Equator) located at approximately 66.5 degrees north. It is the southernmost point where the sun does not set at least one day of the year (in summer) and also does not rise at least one day of the year (in winter). The further north you go the number of days the sun never sets or never rises increases. The same is true in the Antarctic region, south of the equivalent Antarctic Circle.]
Our route from Kristiansund included visits to the outlying islands of Halten - a bleak end-of-world sort of place, once a substantial fishing village but now no longer inhabited; Traena - a group of islands located on the Arctic Circle with evidence of occupation dating back to 6000BC; and Myken - a tiny island with a permanent population of 12, the only whiskey distillery in the world north of the Arctic Circle and one of the best restaurants we have eaten at during our entire time in Norway!
One of the diners at our communal table at Myken, with an allergy to shellfish, was served an appetiser of what looked like beef carpaccio but was actually whale meat! Being curious (and seeing as the whale was already dead and served on a plate) I begged a taste and was surprised to find that it not only looks like, but also tastes extraordinarily like beef. So much so that if you weren't told you could easily mistake whale for beef. Notwithstanding what most of the western world thinks about it, Norwegians seem to have no reservations about eating whale meat. It appears on many restaurant menus and is available from the meat section in most supermarkets.
We made a point of visiting Torghatten, one of Norway's most famous landmarks. Torghatten is a mountain with a giant hole through it on the island of Torget near the town of Brønnøysund. Legend has it that once upon a time a giant troll named Hestmannen became besotted with a beautiful ogress (I never knew ogresses could be beautiful!) when he saw her bathing in the sea with her six sisters and decided to steal her away. The sisters saw him and fled. When the troll raised his bow to shoot to stop her getting away the king of the mountains deflected the arrow with his hat and sisters collapsed exhausted into the sea. The king's hat (with a hole in it!) became Torghatten and the spectacular mountain range to the north became what is known as the Seven Sisters.
Torghatten and the Seven Sisters
(and what looks remarkably like Donald Trump getting squeezed!)
The group of whale meat eating Norwegians seated on our communal table at the restaurant in Myken invited me to join them on a hike to the top of a mountain called Helgelandsbukken a few days hence. These people were clearly avid hikers (as many Norwegians seem to be) and they regarded this hike, which they do once a year, as their favourite. The mountain tops out at just under 1500m and overlooks the Svartisen (means Black Ice) Glacier which is the second largest glacier in Norway. A 1500m climb (which my fit looking Norwegian dining companions reckoned would be about an 8hr round trip) was going to be a serious challenge for me, however having completed 2 or 3 good hikes a week since my first unpleasant 900m climb earlier on in the trip (see blog July 22 Simply Stunning!) I felt up to it and was keen to give it a go.
We made our way to a place called Engen where a tongue of the glacier reaches almost down to the sea (photos dating back to the late 1800's show it all the way down) for a rendezvous to start our hike the following day. Unfortunately my prospective hiking companions cancelled that evening but with a forecast for a sunny, windless day I decided I would give it a go on my own.
Hike to Svartisen Glacier
I didn't make it to the top of Helgelandsbukken, but I got close! After 4 torturous hours climbing endlessly uphill over, at times, quite difficult terrain I decided to turn around about 200m (vertical) below the summit. I was tired, and being on my own, concerned about injuring myself on the difficult journey back down. I was not disappointed however as it was undoubtedly the most strenuous physical activity I have undertaken for many a decade and the scenery was of a massive scale and indescribably stunning. It was a little deflating however to pass, on my way back down, a young mother on the way up, without a hair out of place, or bead of sweat evident - with what looked like about a six month baby on her back!! I have come to the conclusion that Norwegians are descendant of mountain goats.
With lots of spare time on my hands, it occurred to me recently that we were now probably as distant on earth from Sydney as we could possibly be so I got onto Google Earth to check the facts. It turns out the most distant point from Sydney (great circle route as the crow flies) is a point near the Azores in the North Atlantic ocean at just under 20,000km whereas in Bodø we are a mere 15,000km away. By boat however we are about 23,000km from home whereas the Azores are only 21,000km so my hunch was pretty close to being correct. If we went about another 500km to the northernmost tip of Norway that would be as far away as we could get!
The other thing that occurred to me recently whilst contemplating the landscape around here is that it is pretty obvious that the ice has been melting for a lot longer than since mankind started interfering. Just saying!
Until next time - and don't forget to click here to see the full gallery of our Norway photos.