Week 6 - Objectives Achieved :-)

Monday 14th July 2014.

Oh dear! Not a good night at all. For the past couple of weeks it has not got dark at night staying lighter the further north we travel, now we are inside the Arctic Circle and last night the sun shone throughout, never dipping below the horizon at all. Being a completely clear sky it was impossible to get the caravan anything like dark so sleep was difficult enough without the group of youngsters nearby who sat outside all night chatting. The chatting itself was not often audible but one young lady had a rather loud “tinkly” laugh that most certainly was.

We were packed and on the road by 9.00am - unbelievable!

Starting so early resulted in us being at our night stop just after 1.30pm one caravan arrived after us and that was the site full so we have rung ahead to our next site. The lady didn’t book us in “oh no problem we’ve had three spaces available all this week” - lets hope she’s right.

The journey was the most interesting so far, much of the road was as we had yesterday mainly single carriage way, wide and well made bringing us through some very pretty countryside with large lakes and rivers. With about 80km to go the road turned left (following the road to the right would have bought you to the Russian border in around 30km) and became a narrow single carriageway with no road markings other than a white line at each edge of the road. Fortunately I was following a bus 'cos the traffic coming the other way was coming fast and at least they had to move to the very edge of their road side to get past that bus.

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There was another danger that we encountered quite a number of times today - reinder on the road. From single animals through a doe with a fawn to large herds. All had in common, a liking for walking in the road and a total distain for vehicles and their drivers, who, give them their due patiently waited for the animals to move before continuing on their way.

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Video; - Road Hazard

When we were in Sweden and on our first site in Finland the temperatures were into the 30’s but the heat was dry so however hot it got was no problem. We are now on the Finland/Norway border the temperature in the shade is 33 degrees and the humidity practically 100%. Getting out of the shower and trying to dry on a towel is a complete waste of time. Still it’s better than getting wet in the rain.

Supposed to be a BBQ night tonight but I can’t be a**ed to get it out so our sausages (very popular here and more akin to frankfurters) will be done under the grill.

9.00 pm

Couldn’t be a**ed to light the cooker in this 33ºC heat (91ºF) so we had pickled fish with salad. BBQ’d sausages will be tomorrow.

Tuesday 15th July 2014.

Third moving day in a row! That’s unheard of for us and perhaps why we overslept not waking up till 9.30am. Still we didn’t have far to go only around 160km (99 miles) so no matter. Within one kilometre of starting out we crossed into Norway a non-EU country, it wasn’t clear what the form was so I joined the “nothing to declare” lane and stopped. Nothing happened so Sue jumped out and went to the customs office where she was asked “have you anything to declare?” “no” Sue replied. “So why have you stopped, you should carry straight on” she was then told. 

Finland/Norway border

The road to our next site was not the worst road we have travelled on (that accolade belongs to West Africa) nor the worst we have driven on (that accolade belongs to The Ukraine) but it was by far the worst I have towed on. Sone parts had been relaid with a new tarmac surface and some parts were old but all was very lumpy and bumpy. The scenery has more than made up for the rough road so far, through both Sweden and Finland, we have seen trees, trees, trees and even more trees. Within a kilometre or two of crossing the river that separates this part of Norway from  Finland, the trees, while still there became far less dominant the land rose into snow toped mountains and a fjord opened out in front of us - breath taking.

The site we are on, in the small village of Olderfjord, is a little haphazard but the facilities are sort of clean and because there is no bank or cash machine within 100km if you buy something in the shop they will give you whatever cash you want and charge it to your credit card.

As we walked around the site looking for a place we said hello to a Dutch couple sitting outside their caravan, learning we were English the chap said we must obviously like fish and chips  so he would bring the fish if we would bring the chips. He told us not to worry we should go select a pitch, he would find us later. Ten minutes after setting up he was at the door of the van with a box of Pollack fillets. Explaining he spends the summer on the site fishing from the fjord, he refused payment and wandered off having given us enough fish for three meals. They were great tonight with a salad. Next morning I took him a couple of cans of beer which in Norway is heavy payment.

The summer time in Denmark and Sweden is BST +1 while in Finland it is BST +2, now we are in Norway it is BST +1 again. Its a good job the phone has automatic time settings.

Wednesday 16th July 2014 - 1.50 am - yes you read it right - the middle of the night.

Objective No 2 achieved today, well late last night actually. The weather has been so good for the last couple of weeks that when we arrived here in clear blue skies we felt we needed to go to Nordkapp before the weather broke, so a little before 10.00pm we set off to drive the 125 km (75 miles) to the cape to take pictures of the midnight sun. We had a great journey on the twisty turny roads but on the final approach to the cape we encountered FOG - I can’t believe it!!!!! We paid NOK 470 nearly £50 bloody quid to get onto the “cape plateau”, parked and struggled to open the car door - the wind was so strong and the temperature (with wind chill) well below freezing as evidenced by that snow on the hills, so how all the  fog? Within 20 minutes we were on the way back to the caravan.

It was absolutely horrible with no midnight sun to be seen anywhere but our tickets do let us in and out for 48 hours so all is not lost, we will go back tomorrow, no today, and hope the fog has gone and the fierce wind moderated.

We were told later that the temperature difference between sea level and the 307m (1007 ft) high cape plateau as the sun looses power the late evening very often causes the fog/cloud and strong bitter wind combination.

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Objective No 2 has now been well and truly achieved. We returned to Nordkapp this afternoon and what a different twelve hours makes. Gone was the fog (or more probably low cloud) gone was the fierce bitter wind and gone were the midnight crowds. We were able to stroll around the sights and exhibits with ease and, in comfort, watch the stunning four seasons panoramic film. As we drove away in the late afternoon the coaches were starting to arrive for tonights midnight bunfight.

On the way back to the van we stopped at Honningsvåg, the most northerly town in mainland Europe where we visited the Ice Bar. The Ice Bar is rebuilt with fresh ice each May and remains open until September and a film, shown in the entrance/gift shop, details how the bar is constructed fresh each spring. The temperature in the bar is -5ºC so the quilted poncho loaned as you enter is essential if you are not going to freeze to death.

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The ice is stunning being crystal clear with cracks/faults in the ice creating weird and wonderful patterns through it. Strangely the owner and staff are all Spanish but we were told there is a very high percentage of Spanish ex-pats living in the area.

Even the vessels in which (non-alcoholic) drinks are served are made of ice, which legend states that if after use you throw them in the fjord and make a wish it will come true - you wish! probably made up by that Spanish owner last week. We still did it.

Thursday 17th July 2014

These laundry days seem to come round so quick, but we did get to go for a drive this afternoon. There are not many roads and those that are go for miles and miles but getting not very far as a crow flies.  We found a waterfall not marked on any of our maps or mentioned in our guide books but very worth while stopping and walking up, provided you don’t mind being eaten alive by mosquitoes. We regularly see reindeer paddling in the sea and it would appear they go to the sea for two reasons, the first is they need salt in their diet so use seawater to provide it and secondly to escape the mosquitos.

Friday 18th July 2014.

Back in tourist mode today we went to Hammerfest which, like Honningsvåg, bills itself as the most northerly town in Europe. When I asked about this in the Tourist Information Centre pointing to a map which clearly shows Honningsvåg as further north the chap behind the counter said - through gritted teeth - that unlike Hammerfest, Honningsvåg is neither town nor city and so could not be the most northern town. I had clearly touched an exposed nerve.

The purpose of visiting Hammerfest was to join The Royal and Ancient Polar Bear Society and visit its museum. It seemed a little strange that the museum of The Royal and Ancient should have lots of stuffed Polar bears and other Arctic wildlife some, for instance the pure white Arctic Rabbit, we had never seen in the flesh but then if the museum is anything to go, by some bugger has shot ‘em all.

Supermarkets are none to common up here, the nearest to where we are camping is 50 km (31 miles), so passing one in Hammerfest we went in to get supplies particularly salad stuffs and green vegetables. A small bag of prepared lettuce was around a fiver, an iceberg lettuce around four quid and the green veg was not only very expensive it was more fit for the compost than the table. We finished up with a small fresh cauliflower at a reasonable NOK 190 (£1.90).

Later looking at the till receipt from the purchase of membership to the Polar Bear Society it was realised that a 130 gram (4.1/2 oz) bag of cloudberry sweets (raspberry like berries grown profusely in the wild and good for vitamin C) had cost NOK 78.50 (£7.40).

Sunday 20th July 2014

It’s another moving day today, we have for the last six weeks been moving north but have now  gone as high as we can. This link takes you to a Google Map to show the campsites we used and the route we took. From now on the direction will be south.

Sue & Steve's Scandinavia Sojourn.

The area we are currently passing through is also known as Lapland and the Lapp or Sumi people, as they are now known, “ . . . have inhabited the northern portions of Scandinavia, Finland and eastward over the Russian Kola Peninsula since ancient times. Russia, Finland, Norway and Sweden claim territories in what is now regarded as Sapmi (Lapland).
To some extent, these countries have recognised the property rights of the Sami there. The Area of Sami settlement extends nowadays over the entire Fenno-Scandinavia arctic region and stretches along the mountain districts on both sides of the Norwegian-Swedish border down to the northernmost part of the province of Dalarna in Sweden.
Today the Sami are a minority in their region of settlement. In a few municipalities of northern Finland and Norway, they constitute a majority. An estimated 50-65,000 Sami live in northern Scandinvia and the Kola Peninsula; of these, between 17,000 and 20,000 live in Swedish Sápmi . . . “source

We stopped for a while at a Sumi Souvenir village, a collection of temporary wood and plastic shelters each attended by a Sumi man in colourful traditional costume. They all had similar reindeer orientated items to sell. Unfortunately weight issues prevent us buying memories.

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Our journey today has taken us 350(ish) km (217 miles) in a sort of southerly direction, sort of southerly or not I would think it was one the nicest roads we have travelled. There were some very high parts and some at fjord level but every inch was absolutely beautiful, there is no other word. It was what we had come all this way for, and we had to resist the temptation to keep stopping and taking photos or we would never have arrived. There must be wide temperature differences in some of the fjords as above some, or parts of some, was a thin layer of very dense cloud or mist. It looked fabulous from above as if cotton wool or candy floss had been spread over it.

The views from the campsite are truly majestic surrounded three sides by high mountains with a fjord the other. Unfortunately when we arrived dropped a rather large ricket, The site was completely empty, not a caravan, motor-home or tent, so because of the slope of the ground and we felt to lazy to get out the kit to correct it we set up across the pitch (taking up two) instead of down the pitch. No problem until others stared to arrive and in order to get electricity the last three were forced to set up very close in front behind and right outside our door. As we plan to stay here a few days when they have gone in the morning we will spin the van through 90º and get the leveller out.

Last updated Sunday 14th September 2014                                                                                              © S W Ghost 2014