In Honningsvag

Well I am finally here. Left  Nordkjosbotn late Thursday afternoon (Alex would love this place as nothing seems to happen till after lunch) so had a good lie in checking the view outside my window.

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After some uncertainty over which bus to take next, I met Jostein – the driver of one of the buses and he advised that the two buses ended up at the same destination. His was 50 kroner more but went across a fjord by ferry.

Best 50 kroner I have spent. Great views and commentary from Jostein. Was surprised at how much went on up here during Ww2, but then again not my area of expertise.

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Like most of the other bus drives we meander along the coast and to cover 340km took over 6 hours.

It really is a drive worth doing and probably done a lot slower. After a while it just becomes too many OMGs.

 

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Arrived at Alta at 22:30 and (as it was still daylight) wandered back to the bus station to confirm there was a Saturday bus to Honningsvag (there was). So wondered back for some sleep, though there is longer any real night, just 3 or so hours of twilight become sunset and sunrise.

The midnight sun (the first night the sun doesn’t set) is a big celebration. It’s on May 18 in Alta and somewhere around the 13th for me if all goes to plan.

Pleasant night and slept in again as it was midday checkout then had a quick wander around.

The Northern Lights Cathedral was just next door and quite a structure, modelled on the Aurora Borealis.

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Had pizza for lunch (and discovered pizza scissors) and then caught the 14:30 bus to Honningsvag.

Just me at the bus station. First stop – the airport- still just me. Second stop – the port – still just me.  So I had my very own 45 seat bus till we reached the halfway point at Olderford, where the drivers swap passengers- in this a one for one swap.

Not a day of big profits.

The drive explained why Alta was so empty this morning. All the way along the road were little huts and people out and about on skis and ski bikes.

The terrain also changed from the coast, a vast alpine plateau. Not sure what happened to my snow report but I think it got its centimetres and millimetres mixed up. Picture the walk from the Thredbo chairlift to Mt Kosciosko in November and that’s kind of what it looks like.

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From Olderford the road wound up the coast passed some small fishing villages with their drying racks.

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On through some more amazing tunnels, then I saw my first herd of reindeer. Then the second, which I had a camera out for this time.

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Followed by the third, fourth, fifth …. At which point I decided it was a bit silly getting excited about them each time.

Got to Honningsvag at 18:30 when the driver Kare announced that the hotel workers were on their annual strike. He drove me to each of them – closed. One even had a one person picket line or to be mathematically correct a picket point as we all know it requires at least two points to form a line.

Anyway last try was the local youth hostel. I went all out and got a single room. A bit silly as I am the only person here as far as I can see.

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Have booked for two nights so will get to check out the place tomorrow. Looks lovely at first glance.

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May 2 – the walk begins!

In the Arctic Circle

Well what a day and a bit! I am in a town called Nordkjosbotn halfway between Narvik (where I planned to spend the night) and Trosmo (where I was going to head tomorrow but arrived in time to catch it). The bus to Alta leaves from here (not Tromso) and luckily someone advised me to get off here.

Anyway it has been 26 hours of trains (2), buses (3) and a ferry through some absolutely awesome scenery – lakes, fjords, and snow covered mountains.

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The valleys however are defrosted or defrosting rapidly and as am now about level to where I’ll be in 3-4 weeks it should be nice walking even if the first week or two are a bit rough.

Anyway, I need something to eat that didn’t come from a bus/train station look or ferry canteen and then a big sleep.

Walks aside, if anyone is ever in the neighbourhood I recommend the journey (though maybe spread over a few days).

Stephen

Getting Itchy Feet

Another day in Oslo. Headed off in a different direction this morning to see the Arkershus Castle.

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It was quite a mix of architectures built up over at least 500 years (going by the plaques) and probably ever since people lived here. Basically a fortified Island that expanded to include castle, keep, chapel, barracks and a range of outhouses with a good view of anyone sailing up the bay.

From the castle the walk continued around the harbour to the Oslo Opera House.

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Much easier to climb than its Sydney equivalent it provides a great view back over the city from the “roof”.

I then wandered back to the station and took the Met up to Holmenkollen to see the Olympic ski jump.

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It wasn’t in service, so alas “break every bone in your body in a testosterone-fuelled fit of madness” will need to remain on my bucket-list a bit longer.

To put it into perspective, the thin white line at the top is the actual ramp. Personally a toboggan ride from below the ramp would be hairy enough for me. I will certainly be much more impressed next time I watch a Winter Olympics.

Well tonight is my last in Oslo and I might even hit the restaurant as it may be my last proper meal for a while.  The train north doesn’t leave until 4pm tomorrow and tbh I wish I was on it today.

I’m playing out too many scenarios in my head on what lies ahead and the “fear of starting” is taking hold. My trusty night clerk (who is from up north) gives me some succour. He says you would think a world of snow is harsh and scary, but once you take it in it is beautiful and peaceful.

I wonder how many times I will repeat that reassuringly to myself in days to come?

Luck appears to be with me though and after two more days of overcast weather, the remainder of the 10-day forecast for Nordkapp is sunny 4-5C.

It would be nice to get the first leg out of the way and my head into trek mode before having to deal with a blizzard!

But hey, life is not a dress rehearsal- it says so on my arm.

Oh yes! I also found a mascot.

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Stephen

So much for spring

Well here I am in Oslo. The train ride from Stockholm was pleasant though unlikely to make the world’s Greatest Train Trip list.

An awful lot of pine and birch trees out there- enough for IKEA to furnish the world 100-times over at a guess.

Got into Oslo just after 4 and checked into a lovely little boutique hotel on the main mall about 5 minutes from the station. Just dropped my bags and headed out for a stroll up to the palace to make my representations on Rachel’s behalf.

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My beautiful daughter Rachel graduates with a batchelor’s degree on Wednesday and will become the first of her (Caines’) lineage to do so. We both felt this was worthy of a Nobel Prize.

Rachel – we had some language barriers but either a) you’re getting one; or b) I could take a photo of Alfred Nobel for you.

Play it by ear with the Vice Chancellor, but if it was b), photo attached.

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My sleeping habits are still a bit out of whack so I was up at 3am chatting to the night clerk. He told me about a great statue park, so I headed there first thing. It was beautiful and I found a statue for each of Rose, Rachel, Alex and Lachie.

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Yes Alex you will be this tall one day.

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Rachel discovers that Daddy’s make good climbing gyms.

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Lachie crosses off the first of the seven summits (Kosciosko 2001).

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Nothing beats a hug.

I got back to the DNT office by 10am and had a really good chat, got a hut key and was given access to their map system, which had heaps of additional information on conditions.

All really good, with one slight hitch. There is still 4m of snow.

So I spent the next four hours shopping- slip on spikes for my boots, poles more suited to the snow and a warmer jacket.  The latter took forever as everyone had sent their winter stock away.

Anyway finally found a store with some jackets rated to -25C (it’s still getting down to -3C with serious wind chill). It’s warm and orange so I will probably be visible from space.

So I am as prepared as I can be and start the trip north on Wednesday. It’s going to be a tough and truly amazing few weeks!

Sleeting in Stockholm

Hello all, well the lovely morning has turned to sleet so it is time to sort a few things out ready for the train to Oslo tomorrow morning.  The drama with finding the Swedish Tourist Federation offices disappeared when I noticed that STF ran the hostel just next door to where I am staying!  So I am all signed up, though no more enlightened as the guy serving hadn’t been out of Stockholm much.

My daily plans for sightseeing haven’t really gone to plan as the tourist industry doesn’t start until the 29th April, so the canal boat cruise was off the list and the route for the on-off bus went to the places I had already walked to.

Anyway I have had three nice long 4-5 hour walks (over lots of cobblestones) covering the islands of Gamlastan, Skeppsholmen, Djurgarden, the diplomatic precinct and parts of the shopping and business districts.  It’s a lovely little city, and very laid back – maybe this will change after April 29, but at the moment it is just a bunch of locals in the national uniform of black leg-ins running, cycling, strolling or basking in the sun.  Even though it’s only in the mid-teens it is very pleasant (at least until the sun disappears and the sleet starts falling).  It’s probably a good sign of what to expect further north – lovely while the sun is out and an order of magnitude worse than here when the storms set it.

Anyway, got a usb charger with the funny pin orientation so I am not totally reliant on my solar cells, and activated a mobile phone account that will probably cost more than the rest of the adventure.  Mind you my attempt to send a text to Rose failed (and it’s about 1am in Oz, so a bit early to call) so it may not end up costing much and I can access this blog OK.

So just planning to chill out for the rest of day and will catch up again in Oslo.

In Stockholm

Well 42 hours after boarding the airport bus in Bendigo I checked into my Stockholm apartment. The travel was long and other than being pulled aside (again) for carrying harmonicas of mass destruction all went smoothly.  Must make a note to DFAT to add a section on the problems of carrying musical instruments into secure areas.  But as occurred last time (in Kuala Lumpur), the look of puzzlement quickly turned into grins all round when I played a riff, and the X-ray operator had a good long look again – apparently they look like knives under an x-ray (must be the long reed).

Anyway I initially arrived at the apartment at 10am, knowing that it wouldn’t be available, dropped my pack off and went for a 5 hour walk around Stockholm, mainly along the river fronts (which run everywhere) and the older districts.  Can’t find a USB port on this computer so will need to load a photo at a later date, but there are some immaculate old buildings.

The rest of the city is not quite as flash-  a lot of 1970’s social housing and cheap office blocks.  A similar feel to Buenos Aires in many ways.  Just shows that rape and pillage leads to far better architectural outcomes than socialism.

I also headed to the opposite side of town to join up with the Swedish Tourist Federation only to be unable to find the place.  Having no way of finding out where they had moved to, I decided to give them a miss – I can join at any hut.  I was going to ask them a few other things, mainly about whether people would be around before the Walking Seaon commences in June, but the reality is that their answers would have made no difference anyway, it will be what it is, and I will find these things out soon enough.

So at the end of the day, the reason for me coming to Stockholm has kind of vanished, but there is a cruise around the various rivers/canals and lots of other cobble stone alleys still to wonder into.  If nothing else it is just good to stretch my legs having not walked any real distance since we got back from Nepal in January.

It’s now 17:30 (getting used to the 24 hour clock) and I will head out for another wander – if I hit the bed, I know I will be asleep in 5 minutes.

Thanks for the messages, the site is set up so I need to approve the first one (to avoid spammers), so first time around there will be a delay in them showing up.

All the Best

Stephen

Of Planes. Trains and Automobiles

At T minus 17 days, I have started to get a few things organised – mainly figuring out how to get to Nordkapp in the first place.

It is turning out to be an adventure in itself, and I am beginning to wonder whether I should have allowed an extra week.  A 1st of May start looks very optimistic, but as the Temperature forecast for Nordkapp this week is -3 to -1 Celsius, it may be weather rather than transport that delays my start.

Bendigo is clearly a long way from Nordkapp and Googling “travelling from Bendigo to Nordkapp” didn’t produce a magic bullet, but by narrowing the search to specific legs, I am getting there.

I fly out from Tullamarine Airport (just outside Melbourne) on the 20th April, with stop-overs in Singapore and Zurich (Switzerland) on route to Stockholm (Sweden).  I will spend three days in Stockholm, getting a Svenska Turistföreningen (Swedish Tourist Association) membership and back country hut key, and having a bit of a wander around.

On Sunday, 24th April, I take the fast train to Oslo, to repeat the process with Den Norske Turistforening (the Norwegian Trekking Association) and get some supplies for the initial drop-offs, before heading North to the Arctic Circle (N66° 34′) on Wednesday 27th April, on the overnight train to Fauske (N67° 15.851′).

Travel through to Fauske is booked, at which point my inability to navigate Norwegian websites became an insurmountable barrier to progress.  Luckily bus and train timetables seem to be universal in format, appear to be co-ordinated in Scandinavia, and you can buy tickets on the bus.

An 08:50 bus leaves Fauske Station (25 mins after the train is due to arrive) heading to Navrik (N68° 26.380′) with a connecting service at 15:20 continuing on to Tromsø (N69° 38.967′) where I will arrive on Thursday evening, 27 hours after leaving Oslo.

At Tromsø, my timeline may take a bit of a hit.

My initial plan was to make food drops in Kilpisjärvi and Kautokeino. To do this would involve getting from Tromsø to Kilpisjärvi and back; continuing north from Tromsø to Alta (N69° 57.880); getting from Alta to Kautokeino and back; and then continuing north from Alta to Honningsvåg (N70° 58.732′) – the last town before Nordkapp (N71° 10.062′).

The best information I can find to date is that a return taxi fare between Tromsø and Kilpisjärvi may be available but would cost about $600!  There is a bus service between Alta and Kautokeino, but it only appears to run once or twice a week depending on the time of year (I think I will be there during the once-a-week period, arrive on Friday and the weekly service is on Thursday – bummer!).

No point worrying at this stage.  Discussions with DNT may indicate that drops are unnecessary and Te Araroa taught me that there is always heaps more on the ground than there is on the Internet.

So Google take note it’s Bendigo → Tullamarine → Singapore → Zurich → Stockholm → Oslo → Fauske → Navrik → Tromsø → Alta →  Honningsvåg →  Nordkapp.

 

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Site Launch

This is the launch of my Blog site for my impending attempt to do a through walk of E1 Trail, commencing 1st May 2016.  The site is really just a shell at the moment but I plan to expand it as the journey progresses, so that the routes descriptions can be be more useful to others.