2011 : More Baltic Sea

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The last Hurtigruten Photos, I promise

July 08, 2011

By special request, some sunset photos.

As you can see, it disrupts my beauty sleep. We are now back south of the Arctic Circle, but even so its 11:15 pm !

 

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Nearly half way through the cruise now...

July 07, 2011

Our tour to Nordkapp in 28 degree heat

reindeers on the beach, later on the way back, we saw them lying on the remaining patches of snow to keep cool.

Alek and Pam meet us in Kirkenes, the end of northern trip.

Trollfjord

Glacier from the aircraft flying back to Oslo.

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23rd July

July 06, 2011

Hi everyone,

Disregard the date of this post, I am well behind in my musings.

Just to let you know that today is 23rd July, and we left Oslo a week ago, so are nowhere near the bombings up there. 

Now I’ll get onto the last weeks travels…..

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And some more photos

July 05, 2011

aren’t you glad they take 5 mins to download each photo, so you don’t have a thousand to look through ??

 

Thats me on the RIB tour in the special suits.

The Midnight Sun photo is at 1am – daylight savings you see.

Dave getting homesick for Reggie dog.

A turf roof, very common over here.

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More photos

July 04, 2011

And this is the highlights of the highlights photos !!!

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hurtigruten cruise

July 03, 2011

Where to start ?

How many different superlatives can I use in this page?

Background.

The Hurtigruten or coastal steamer, is a postal/freight/ferry/cruise service that goes from Bergen to Kirkeness along  Norway’s wonderful coastline. It has been in operation since 1893.  Each day there is a departure, and though the route up and back is largely the same, they have timed the trip so that you see on the way back the places you were asleep for on the way up – I have deliberately avoided using the term ‘at night’, as we had 6 days with no sunset.

 

We are on the MS Lofoten, the second oldest and second smallest in the fleet, built in 1964. Like us, many of the people on board have deliberately chosen the old ship, instead of one of the newer, bigger hotels that float. We can carry 400 people, with cabins for 155. Our cabin is small with 2 bunkbeds and a little ensuite. It rattles and shudders, but we are soon used to that. The small size means we get to know the crew, and many of our fellow passengers. Not everyone does the full trip from Bergen to Kirkeness to Bergen, and there are many locals that are using it to get from A to B, rather than tourists like us. At first the lounges are full at night of sleeping passengers.

 

The scenery is spectacular. Very varied with the distance we do. We start at a longitude west of Amsterdam, and end up East of Instanbul and Cairo. We cross the Artic Circle on day 4 (and 10) and visit Nordkapp, which is (not quite) Europe’s most northerly point 71degrees north. So we have everything from rolling green hills in the south to UNESCO listed Geiranger Fjord to the majestic and rugged Lofoten Islands (my favourite) to the rocky treeless landscape of the north. The poor northern towns were decimated in WW2 by bombing and then the Germans’ scorched earth policy when retreating in 1944. Many of the towns are full of very unattractive 1950’s and 1960’s buildings. Our stop at Kirkenes is a Sunday, and the place is a ghost town. Some disembarking passengers have 2 days here, 2 hours is enough for us. A nice surprise is to be met at the dock in Kirkenes by Alec and Pam. They live in Nords Wharf and have been on the trip north a day ahead of us, so we have a look around Kirkenes then they come aboard the Lofoten to see a real boat – and have a beer.

 

The cameras get a workout, so I will have to be very selective at how many I subject you to.  The weather is very kind to us and every time we look up we feel we must take a photo to capture the beautiful scene. After leaving Bergen in rain, the next 2 days we have morning fog which clears to a sunny afternoon. Then 3 days of beautiful sunny days. At Nordkapp the temperature is 28 degrees!! and the next day equally warm. Unfortunately for those only going south, the weather then turns and we have 3 days of grey and rainy skies, before fining up again for the last day and a half.

 

There is a fun crowd on board of English speakers. Poms, Scots, Yanks, Aussies and a Swedish couple. There are also many Germans on board, who claim their deck chairs with a blanket, before going to breakfast. We are soon disturbing those without cabins who would like to sleep in the lounge, rather than listen to us talking and laughing to the wee hours. It really is deceptive when it is constantly light – after several hours of chat in the ‘daylight’ you look at your watch thinking it might by 9 or 10pm, only to find its past midnight already. Dave is not impressed when I insist we are awake and on deck to cross the Artic Circle – at 7am – so only 6 hours sleep that night !!! The crossing is marked by 2 events. A guessing competition the night before, to guess what time we will cross (they narrow it down to a 1 hour window). My guess is 25 seconds out, and I come second by only 2 seconds. The prize, as well as flag from the ship, is to go first in the second event, a Neptune’s ceremony to mark the occasion. To receive the certificate we must sit and be baptised by Neptune – a ladle full of ice and water down the back of your neck (note to self – don’t do this again with your Tshirt tucked in ). Dave cops a bucket of it poured on his head. Luckily we slept in this morning and went up to breakfast then the ceremony without a shower so wearing yesterday’s clothes.

The days fall into a pattern and pass all too quickly.

Eat smorgasboard breakfast. Try and find a spot on the deck without a German’s blanket already on it. Find a spot in the sun if you can, out of the wind is a necessity, as we have a headwind every day. Read about the day’s route,then my novel. Jump up every 3 minutes to take a photo.  When we pass somewhere special, go up to the top deck next to the bridge (the only outside forward looking deck as the cargo hold is in the bow) and try to get through the crowds to see and take a photo.  12:00 lunch is on, so eat some more. Another smorgasboard, try not to eat too much. Back to the deck chair if it has not been occupied by the Germans. There are several stops in port a day, from 15 minutes to 3 hours long. Get off and stretch legs where possible. Go see the local church or museum on longer stops. Take computer ashore and visit library or hotel lobby to check emails.  The boat always leaves on time, no waiting for stragglers. So the evening’s gossip is ‘who missed the boat today?’

There are several tours possible off the boat. Harald the tour director is a fabulous salesman. Dave (rightly) says, he could sell used chewing gum. “This tour is VVVERY special. You will have a fabulous time. It is CHAAARMING.”  We consider doing the Maelstrom RIB tour at Bodo. Out in an inflatable boat to see a narrow tidal current that forms huge whirlpools. “The people coming back from this tour are amazed. They say it is VERYGOOD”.   Have I mentioned yet that Norway is HORRENDOUSLYEXPENSIVE ? A beer on board is 72 Norwegian Kroner (5 NKr to an Aussie $) . The tour is over 700 NKr each. Knowing a thing or two about navigation we ask when is high tide that day. 10:30 is the answer. Perfect. The tour gets to the gap at 13:30, which will be 3 hours after the turn of the tide, so it should be cracking through. You think???? It’s turns out to be dead low tide at 1:30 and it’s a bath tub. Our boats wake is more impressive than the current. Swansea channel goes faster. “It will be very fast at 4:30 this afternoon” says our guide, unhelpfully. I think Harald has got the tides wrong. A wave rock formation and some glimpses of wild life are the only compensation. Sea eagles and the bottoms of some puffins as they fly away. I spot a porpoise. Addit ; puffins can fly at up to 80km per hour, and dive to 50m. And they look cute aswell. Our Swedish friend adds that they are also delicious!!!

We also do the Nordkapp bus tour. As I mentioned it’s not actually the most northerly point of Europe, that point is an unremarkable low peninsula ½ km to the west, reachable by a 3 hour hike. But as that wouldn’t be very convenient for the dozens of tour buses and campervans that swarm to Nord Cap, so the visitor centre is at the more stunning Nordkapp cliff. The boat passes south of the island that Nordkapp is on, so if you want to see it, you have to do a tour. Its worth a look in an I’ve-been-there kind of way. I suspect the cliff is more spectactular seen from the water. The southbound cruise also offers a Nordkapp breakfast tour. The poor folk who choose this option on our cruise have a thick ‘pea souper’ fog, and can’t see a thing. The other tours we do are both on day 9, the Vesteralen islands and Lofoten islands. Both were very good, with lovely scenery and some interesting commentary. The Lofoten one I would definitely recommend. The Hurtigruten museum is very interesting, though we have to rush around in less than 1 hour (some more people miss the boat here). They mention that they have lost 8 boats and 90 lives since 1893, the last in 1962. But don’t give any other details of the incidents. Perhaps that is just as well, since we have another 3 days to go. In addition to those peacetime loses, in WW2 they kept the service running and lost another 9 boats and several hundred lives. 

The last few days are more about relaxing and reading. The weather on the way north was better, so we don’t feel we have to retake all our photos. We are glad we did the whole north and south cruise, but it has been long enough, and we are now looking forward to getting back on board Solero.

 

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Aussie, Aussie, Aussie : Oi ?

July 02, 2011

Well, would you believe it.

As we motor into the X-yachts dealer’s marina at the end of a quiet fjord south of Oslo, we are greeted by an Australian lady and her Norwegian husband, Gail and Kjell. They live in a lovely apartment overlooking the marina, and their boat is also kept here. “We never thought we’d see an Australian flag sailing past our window!”

What a lovely couple, they join us later that evening for a few drinks and nibbles on board Solero. Then we wander up to their boat (on the same dock) and have some more wine.

They offer to take us sightseeing the next day, and we have a wonderful time visiting the Holmenkollen ski jump above Oslo city, then Oscarborg Fortress in the Fjord – famous for sinking the German crusiser The Blucher the night the Germans invaded in WW2. Followed by dinner at their place – a local speciality of peel yourself prawns and crabs with fresh bread and mayo – on the balcony. Their hospitality knows no bounds, as they offered to drive us to the airport the next day, “we are going to Oslo anyway” – and the airport is only another 40km away. Very kind people. 

We fly to Bergen on the 3rd ready for our Hurtigruten cruise on The Lofoten on the 4th.

Bergen is lovely, with many old timber buildings. The Bruggen (old Hanseatic warehouses) is the famous part, but there are many other beautiful houses too.

We were keen to go up the Funicular and see the 7 peaks that surround Bergen, but it spends the afternoon of our arrival and the next morning completely shrouded in the clouds, so we pass on that idea.

Dinner is fabulous. We ate at Pingvinen, a place doing Norwegian home cooked type meals. For entrée we share a dish I have been longing to try – dried lamb. Think of a leg of prosciutto, made from lamb instead of pork. The flavour is delicious. Having seen it in the supermarkets, but not been in the market for an entire 1.5 kg leg of it, I have been dying to try it. (I needn’t have rushed as it appears regularly on the smorgasboard on our cruise !!!). Then an equally delicious reindeer stew, and baked cod.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hurtigruten Cruise

July 01, 2011

This is the last post for a while.

Today we are moving to the Oslo X-yacht dealers marina, who is going to mind the boat while we fly to Bergen and spend 12 days on a Hurtiguten cruise. Why do a cruise when you have a boat? Well, this cruise takes us on a postal/freight/tourist vessel right up the west coast of Norway and over the top to Kirkenes, just near the Russian border. We will be well above the Artic Circle and in the land of the endless sun. We will see the famous fjords of Norway. Not something we would attempt in our boat, or have the time to do at our speed. I’m hoping to see an Orca. 

So the next blog will be mid July, bye for now.

 

 

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Oslo

June 29, 2011

Oslo at last. This will be our most northerly part of the trip on Solero.

Dave does a fabulous job of reversing into our berth with a bit of cross wind. My job is to hook the buoy. Which I do, then the hook falls off. Its a long reach down, and I miss the next attempt. Lunging down onto the deck and reaching down I get it at last, just in time to avoid a bollocking from Dave.

We have a few days here for some sightseeing and essentials, like laundry. The guest harbour at Akker Brygge is quite busy. All of a sudden we are not the biggest boat in the harbour. There are a few boats 45 feet plus, a new Hanse 54 , and  lovely British 100 footer. In the main harbour there are 2 big cruise ships. Azure is 290 meters long ( and takes 3000 passengers). That explains all the yanks we have heard in town. The World is here too. You buy an apartment on board (1.5 to 2 million please) then each year the owners vote on an itinerary and away they go, living on board. Another $270,000 or so each year for operating costs  They are on their way to Bergen next, then the UK. 

We have a look at the old fortress, with its WW2 resistance museum and Norwegian Military Museums – Dave’s Day.

The next day we do the washing then head out to walk past the Oslo University and  Royal Palace, to a sculpture park. Dee’s Day. Even Dave enjoys the sculptures. The Oslo Museum is there too, and worth a visit. We finish off our 8km round trip with a detour to another boat harbour for their chandlery store. But they don’t stock the item we need.

 

 

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Oslo Fjord

June 28, 2011

We have about 60 NM to go to Oslo, so will take 2 days to do it. We find a good looking anchorage about 2/3 of the way there, and have a good day downwind sailing for 40NM in 6 hours.

The anchorage is very nice. Hallangspollen. Up a long inlet, then opens our into a bay with quite steep hills. So close to Oslo there are plenty of homes around, but we are the only boat anchoring. We see the local kids take a swim, with the ubiquitous screams as the enter the cold water. 

 

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