Thursday, 28 December 2017

The World's Most Beautiful Cruise - the Hurtiguten Coastal Voyage Part Three

Day 5

The morning was spent relaxing and admiring the beautiful views of snowy mountains as they passed by, I love the relaxed way of life of the ship that by now we were well into.  In the afternoon I went to a lecture about Norwegian explorers of the Arctic and Antarctic. It was dark by time the ship docked in Tromsø. Tromsø is a place I have always wanted to visit, the setting is so beautiful. But unfortunately as it was dark I couldn't see that.

Kitted up for Whale Watching
Marian and I were booked on a whale watching trip in nearby Vestfjord - yes I know that sounds weird to do at night, but the boats are fitted with spotlights so you can see the whales if they are around. We got a bus to a small village and went into a small place where we changed into survival suits all ready for the trip. We got on the small boat and off we went. There were drinks provided plus lovely cinnamon cakes and biscuits.

After a while I went to join some others who had gone onto the viewing deck. To do so I had to squeeze up a steep flights of steps and onto the deck which didn't really have anything to hold onto! The rails were very low and there were no seats. Like a few others,  in order to feel stable and safe, I leaned back on a window and stayed there as the boat chugged along the fjord at quite a pace. Unfortunately there were no shoals of herring showing on the radar which meant there were no whales. But while we were on deck we saw a beautiful aurora. It was vivid green and was directly overhead and stretched like a ribbon above the fjord and snow covered mountain tops, twisting and twirling along itself.  For me it made up for not seeing the whales.

Later as the Nordnorge left Tromsø I stood on deck, the city seemed lovely, snow started to fall as the lights slipped away and I thought how lucky I was to be able to
 
Day 6

Ever north we go, I loved seeing all the new places we stopped at, locals getting on and off, supplies for and from the ship. Cars waiting in tiny Arctic villages to pick up a loved one. The Hurtigruten
Near the North Cape
ships are especially vital to this part of the country, there are 12 ships that do this trip and one a day calls at the stops along the way.

Today our main stop was Honningsvåg on the island of Magerøya which is almost the most northerly point Europe. Marian had opted to go on a trip to the northernmost place in Europe, the North Cape while I went on a trip to two fishing villages. It was very cold here but it was bright and sunny. 
The Winter and Christmas House

We drove for about 20 minutes along narrow icy roads, hairpin bends and over a mountain before arriving at a small village called Skarsvåg where we visited the Winter and Christmas House. The small shop and cafe is run by a lady called Heidi who was born and raised in Skarsvåg. First we sat in the cafe area where she had mulled wine, coffee, waffles, Christmas cake and cinnamon biscuits, it was very snug and cosy. She talked about the changing fortunes of the area, a lot of the young are leaving. Her husband is a king crab fisherman and you can make a good living doing that. She and a few other ladies from the village get together once a week and knit various items in the traditional style which she sells in her shop. She was very passionate about her village and its traditions.  The sun will not rise above the horizon here from November 21st to January 21st, but there is a winter blue light for a while each day. She also said that you have to have plenty of firewood in stock for when the electricity goes off in the winter.
The East of the Sun Gallery
You also need to be well stocked up on food as they are often snowed in as well. I bought some mittens knitted by the ladies and she thanked me for supporting their work.


We left the snug Christmas House and the Arctic cold hit me, onto the bus and off to the next visit which is the village of Kamoyvaer where we visited the East of the Sun Gallery. This is the gallery of Eva Schmutterer from Germany who came to Kamoyvaer many years ago. She was inspired by the amazing landscape and wildlife of the region and produces amazing paper collages. I loved her work and it was very reasonably priced so I bought three prints. I had a little wander around the village afterwards, it was very isolated and it felt really Arctic. Places like Tromso didn't feel really Arctic to me but here it did, as fascinating as I found it I couldn't live here.

Fishing Boats at Kamoyvaer
The trip back to the Nordnorge was in the dark and once again it was lovely to feel the warmth of the ship again. 

Later that day we had a talk on the Sami culture which was enlightening. Many of the Sami people live a nomadic life across the northern areas of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia and at this time of year are in the east so we wouldn't be seeing any Sami or reindeer. We had the usual talk from Bjorn and David and learned that gulls drink seawater and filter the salt out through glands in the head and the salt is excreted through their noses - nature is amazing!

That evening we relaxed in the lounge on deck seven, my favourite place on the ship. It was quite stormy, after all we were now well into the Arctic in the Barents Sea, 742 miles north of the Arctic Circle. The easy going life on a ship is deceptive, you are travelling further than you realise.

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