Tag Archives: Arctic

Aurora Borealis – The Northern Lights!

Nothing I have ever seen is anywhere near as fascinating an unique as the Northern Lights! It makes you wonder, it makes you wanna change your life in order to see them again… again and again!

Always unique and different, always fascinating and always… difficult to “catch” – the famous Aurora Borealis!

And came the moment to see the Northern lights. Gone is the never-ending Autumn rain and it’s become significantly colder, it’s now impossible to sleep in the car without access to an electricity outlet but we’re well rewarded with what can be seen in the skies!

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Northern Lights near Holt, Norway

 

My first sighting of this phenomenon happened as far as August in Lofoten but it’s not until now that I’ve seen the real play of light in the frozen night sky of Norway.

I was standing in freezing cold in pitch black scared to death of bears wondering around the area hunting Moose but completely fascinated by what was happening above me.

The stripes of green lights were moving very rapidly across the sky above me, sometimes faint long stripes, sometimes very bright spots, seemingly as bright as the moon. Moving fast around a NW and NE points in the sky as well as “circling” the earth all the way across from NW to SE in a long “feathery” stripe.

There are two dimensions to the light – one is the slow-moving of the “lit” area of the sky as it “crawls” east to west slowly “saturating” the invisible magnetic lines of the planet, the other – it the fast moving “wind” spreading the light along the magnetic lines. Put together these movements create succession of unique patters of Aurora lights never to be repeated!

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Looking for the spot to observe the Aurora Lights

You never know when the light will “happen”, it could be 8pm, it could be 2am, the light comes and goes as it wishes, you may spend an hour in the cold catching faint background “radiation” barely sen in the sky to then go home and see an explosion of colours in the window, you run out and the show is almost finished for the next hour… or the next 10 minutes! This is amazing – good luck trying to play with nature here! You can’t prevail, you can only be a lucky one “allowed” to see the game of light.

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Moments before fog took away my Aurora Lights!

But the fortune favours the brave and attempting to see the Northern Lights will teach you cease the moment! And most importantly, value it!

I planned to see the lights one night, agreed to drive 50 minutes North of Tromso to see them at 12am as suggested by the forecast and guess what happened? The lights could be seen in the South-West at 9pm that night and not in any other time. We spent an hour getting to watch pitch-black skies.

I planned to see the lights all night between Norway and Finland, found a high-altitude spot for clear skies, the sun was shining all day and in the evening I took this photo of me watching the lights. I did not even have a tripod as it was set up at the right position and place for taking time-lapse of the lights all night, I had all my batteries charged and ready to go and guess what happened? That’s right, after I took the first photo early in the evening the icy fog blot out the skies, I spent the rest of the night not seeing any further than my head torch’s light beam!

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Waiting for the Aurora Lights in Northern Finland

The Northern Lights keep their secrets well, they won’t open their secrets to occasional tourists, they will favour the locals who endure the tough life in the Arctics in order to be rewarded with these phenomenal displays of charged particles cutting through the planet’s atmosphere!

It’s amazing how I’m finishing this article with a couple of what are pretty lousy photos of this amazing phenomenon but in my mid live the fast moving dancing stripes of green. Our cameras get better and better and you can now see pretty good photos of the lights but the only way to really understand what you’re missing out on you’ve go to go and see it for yourself! You will never forget what you’ll witness!

(Serge Fog 1-10 Oct 2016)

PS:

To see what your chances are for seeing the Northern Lights at your latitude you may wanna note down these web sites:

http://www.tv2.no/storm/nordlys/

http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/

http://www.yr.no/

 

 

Norway – From the Rolf’s Bar to Andenes

To Andenes and Beyond. I am writing these words from Tromsø, a long time since the moment when I left Lofoten, it snows in the mornings and all the beautiful views have been replaced with endless Autumn rains.

Life does not stop to wait until you’ve done what you planned to accomplish, winter will come whether you’re ready or not bringing with it the Autumn rain which will was away any foundation of what you’re yet to achieve so hurry up if you have plans, may be some of them will be accomplished;)

Leaving Lofoten

It was time to move back North towards Tromso and on the way I was planning to see the island of Andoya with it’s town of Andenes where thousands of tourists go on whale watching tours every year.

The Rolf’s Bar

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Rolf’s Bar

Somewhere near the town of Kvamsøy on a rocky beach of the Norwegian Sea There is a bar. Rolf’s Bar. You on’t find it on trip adviser, it’s a small hand-built hut with… a bar, that’s all there is to it. Norway is such an amazing place, the fact there are so few people for such a vast piece of land means those who seek setting their foot into the wilderness or building a little surfer’s asylum can do it here without a problem! I even started thinking of building my own themed hut here!

Inside is a stove, a real bar full of tools and drinks – all contributed to by visitors and this is another thing that made me feel so much in Europe… Europe that I always dreamt of and the one I have not seen! Europe as a place of charitable and kind people, who leave bottles of drinks here with notes wishing all the best to people who will get a chance to use them! This is my Europe boys and girls, the Europe which is now being destroyed but parts of it can still be found frozen into the shores of Norwegian sea!

I stayed there for a night, enjoyed the sunset and beautiful sea views. Next to Rolf’s bar there is a modern glass cube built for people who would like to spend a night by the sea and enjoy sunset. Heh, there was a young couple staying there trying to get some privacy, I and a couple from Holland who stayed next to me had the front seats:)

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Imagine your government sponsors building of these things? Here it does.

Mushroom Season in Norway

On my way from Rolf’s Bar to Andenes I stopped for a little break and a few photos and noticed a mushroom, it was a rather healthy-looking Boletus, a delicious fungi to have with fried potatoes and soured cream. I stopped for an hour and picked a few. These few have been the tiniest mushrooms I will have seen in on the trip!

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Who would have thought that for the next week I’d be eating almost entirely foraged food. Mushrooms were everywhere I looked! Large, enormous fungi! At some point I stopped picking them and started simply taking photos, I have never seen that many mushrooms in my life and I mean in my entire life put together!!!

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Another Porcini

There were Boletus, Porcinis, Penny Buns – you name them! Some almost the size of my head!

If you are ever in these placer in Aug-Sep you must read a book on edible mushrooms before you set off! Knowing what you can and, most importantly can’t pick, will make your trip more enjoyable and cheaper too!

It is here where I finally got a good use of my Finnish find – a cast iron pot! Make a fire, load the pot with ‘shrooms, butter, potatoes and an onion, wait half an hour and enjoy your meal! How do you like my “food on Instagram”?;)

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Yummmm!

Sortland

Then came Sortland – a promising-looking town, probably the largest town North of Lofoten but which later turned out to be a depressing place, I spent two days around it and I can’t find a worst place to be on the whole island of Langøya. There isn’t really even a photo to post here!

Andenes

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Andenes as seen from the shore near the lighthouse

Of course all this trip has been made for the sake of Andenes – a northern-most town in Lofoten archipelago (technically it’s not Lofoten but it really is part of the group of islands). Andenes is where people arrive in their thousands to go on whale safari and puffin watching.

Needless to say that I did not even bother with either whales of puffins. Andenes is good enough just as it is! It’s a place where an old jail has been converted into a pub, a place with an amazing iron lighthouse, a town where you can simply enjoy staying for a week walking around, doing fishing, talking to countless tourists and somewhat shy locals.

Kim

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I was at a local cafe where I noticed a lady I’ve seen before, Kim was one of the ladies I mentioned in my Viking take from my second day at Lofoten, what were the chances of meeting her here ah? It turns out Kim was a proud resident of Andenes, I enjoyed the next two days meeting her for walks and stories, she told me that she was a vintage clothes designer, now, may of you hipsters are thinking vests and beard bands, no way! Kim is a whole mile Viking clothes designer! I was seriously impressed by her sketches!

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She had a special way of seeing people in traditional clothes, she could then apply her imagination and come up with a new “traditional” design that would fit the person she’s just met!

Many designers should now feel envy of Kim’s talent. I seriously think she is one of the more talented people out there.

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Kim was a chest full of treasures. Reserved and, like many Norwegians, incredibly quiet and shy. But dig deeper and you’d be rewarded with a personal world full of ideas and talents to make those ideas happen.

The Rainbow

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I know, I know, everyone has seen a rainbow, but hey, I’m a city boy, facing something like this is a bit like seeing a unicorn for me! Each and every rainbow is a once in a lifetime vision, it won’t ever happen the same way again so if you had a chance to snatch a photo – why not enjoy int! I certainly did enjoy loads of posing while the rainbow was still being seen:)

The Iron Lighthouse

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Andenes Lighthouse

 

A big attraction at Andenes is the lighthouse made of steel, it’s a beautiful industrial-looking structure, fully automated and if you get a right position you can get a very nice photo of it in the evening (which I did not:). I kept hoping for good weather to finally get that photo taken but as they say, if you wanna make God laugh – tell him about your plans. The light house kept its beauty to itself, all I got was this time lapse which I had to glue from a few pieces as the wind kept blowing the camera off the tripod.

I  was leaving Andenes being pushed away by endless autumn rains, I did not know at the time that it was a begging of a long and very unpleasant period in my journey – the time when I’d be spending most of the days at cafes or in my car reading, the rain would not stop until well into October but at this time I did not know that, I was driving through rainy tundra hoping to soon reach Tromso and and finally see the Northern lights. What I did not know is that I was over a month away from the first sunny day in the North of Norway.

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Even the birds were leaving Norway that day

(Serge Fog 27-31 Aug 2016)

Norway – The Charms of Tromsø

So much needs to be said about Tromsø – a northern Norwegian town, a place deep in the Arctic where oil engineers, construction builders, marine biologists and people from all sorts of interesting walks of lives live together.

Tromsø is somewhat special, it’s a unique place where Arctic nature battles warm waters of gulf stream creating a unique place for people to exist and those who exist here are special too!

The town has drawn into its nets fishermen, oil drillers, satellite engineers and adventure seekers from all over the world. This is a truly special place but to see that you need to break away from the swarms of tourists flooding its main harbour.

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Tromsø meets me with cold rain that lasted forever. It is in the region of 12 degrees in its warmest month of the year, my whole life gets wet and starts to shiver and guess what the locals do? Right, they’re taking their dogs for a walk… without rain coats and without umbrellas! Basically, the only place where I saw an umbrella here was a souvenir shop. If you need an umbrella when it rains Tromsø is not a place for you.

It is in this rain where I met a lady called Stina who draws and paints the most amazing Arctic scenes and animals I have EVER seen!

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And you need to know her story. A few years ago her life has been put upside down and in another person it would lead to a drama but not with Stina. She could not to what she loved most – be outdoors, active, fish and hunt, she had to spend a year at home and most would have given up at this point but Stina takes a pencil in her hand and she draws the most amazing looking lion portrait! She joins an art gallery and starts selling her paintings and drawings which depict wild life and nature of the Arctic.

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“Vandreren” – the wonderer

The thing here is that Stina unlike most artists have actually seen this wild life, she’s not someone who’s sitting in his tiny room in Paris drinking Absinth getting inspirations for his creations in cocaine-infused dreams – Stina has seen all the wildlife she paints for real! Well, maybe apart from that lion but the lion is so realistic and stunning because in his eyes you see the look of a wild animal – something that Stina is no stranger to.

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So if you are in Tromsø – try visiting Galleri Nord, it’s right next to Radisson Blu and the post office, just say hi from Serge and Stina will open the door into the fascinating frozen world of huskies, Arctic foxes, northern lights and the amazing polar bears which will look at you as if they are about to jump off the sheet of paper! It’s worth it, believe me.

The Magic of Tromsø

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The main harbour of Tromso

Tromsø lives according to vibrations of Arctic life and the industries that make it. Tell me, what makes Paris or London? I’ll tell you – nothing – millions of people all doing things which are of little or no importance to this world, even the smell of freshly baked bread no longer makes a statement because English bread is baked in massive bakeries somewhere behind a wire fence in Midlands.Our biggest cities are melting pots with nothing of taste there. Not Tromsø!

Tromsø wakes up to the sounds of fishing boats departing its harbours, seagulls seem to command this process.

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First planes land at the airport, jets that take people from Oslo but most importanty small propeller planes connecting smaller regional centres. Come to the airport in the morning and walk out, passed taxis, to a petrol station and look around yourself? This is not Heathrow with its 5 terminals of wired fence, armed police with search dogs and plastic bags for liquids over 100ml – Tromsø airport is guarded by the mighty mountains with their snow caps, glaciers and all-seeing hawks.

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A petrol station by the Tromso airport

Just stay there and see a plane land, if it’s a propeller plane you shall hear it’s chopping sound long before it approaches, if it’s a jumbo jet it will seem to dwarf the entire airport! And if you are lucky, Norwegian military pilots will fly their machines a hair above the watch tower – that’s what happened to me and it was amazing! We are the one here and we are all connected through our deeds and through our ties with the Arctics.

Tromsø is a really busy city during the long days of short summers – everything that needs building or fixing has got to be built and fixed before winter binds everything in ice. So central Tromsø reminded me of what I think the 1955 Berlin looked like – not quite 1945 but still rebuilding:)

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The high street in Summer

You see, if you look at what makes up Tromsø you’ll see ruined roads, industrial-style infrastructure and peeling house paint battered by ice and Arctic winds, all these things don’t look particularly pretty but then it is so extreme that it becomes the “beauty” in itself!

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I guess this is what happens to every house after each winter here…

There are no cobalt stone roads where they used a nail file to assure the perfect fit of things together. Everything is build to last… a winter or two but it’s also built so that you can survive that winter! These things aren’t pretty by any stretch of imagination but then once you’ve been here long enough this becomes the new style!

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I spent a few amazing days in this town, waking up and falling asleep to the sound of massive ships, cruise liners, fishing trawlers and cargo ships – they all remind you of who owns the Northern seas!

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There are a few things you need to know in Tromso:

  1. Alcohol is ridiculously expensive, expect to pay North of 8 Euro for a glass of beer in a bar and you won’t pay less than 10 Euro for the same in a restaurant. But, if you manage to figure it out you’ll find out that once a week there is a cheap beer day here, but I won’t tell you where exactly;) Cheap means you pay 7 Euro for a pint of local lager – not bad, maybe you’ll even have spare coins to buy one for a pretty lady of which there are many here.
  2. Car traffic is insane, there are seemingly no rules apart from that you need to give way to cars on your right! This means you may be driving down a wide open road and some idiots joining from a residential street with 30kph speed limit will drive into you at full speed, just because they consider themselves being on your right. There are few signs and no road markings (snow!).
  3. Same drivers won’t ever let you join a line of traffic, I think there is a different concept of politeness here. If it’s their way they won’t move an inch to let you in.
  4. You’re somewhere nice taking photos, someone pulls up next to you, opens a book and reads it while keeping his engine running! They are immune to noise here! The reason – I guess you do it in winter.
  5. People will come and talk to you. They will just come forward, tell you what has just happened to them like they’ve seen a trout or a fox and then walk away before you had a chance to say anything back. I actually quite liked this Northern way. Samis are especially big in this.
  6. The coolest thing about the way they speak it when they say “Yeah” they do it on both the exhale and the inhale… if you hear the “inhaling yeah” this means they’re particularly approving something.

I spent long hours walking up and down the steep streets of the town and could not get enough of it, but at the same time I was not sure that living here permanently would be a great idea, it is beginning of August and I can already feel cold bites in the evenings.

A Story of Two Guys and 5 Fishes

I was at the harbour taking this timelapse, actually watching the camera while it does the job, I still can not get used to the fact that people don’t steal here. And while I walked around the pier a man approaches me and starts saying something. Having discovered that I don’t speak Norwegian he continues in English like no problem at all. His narrative is about the thee massive salmons he’s just seen off the cape, he describes the sizes and where exactly he’d seen them… then walks away.

Another day I was by a bridge washing my shoes in the river, another man approaches me speaking Norwegian then switches into English telling me… that he’s just sen two massive fishes “right there”, one of them was a big cod and the other – a smaller salmon. The man finishes his story with the concern over the fact that there is no lock on the river and that tide brings sea water in, I mentioned that it’s probably an expensive project and the man replies with a phrase which made me really wonder about my entire previous life in Britain… he says “… but it’s only the money”!

You see, when something is done in Britain they’d write about it in such a way “We have just completed building a 20’000’000 GBP dam”, or “we’ve just invested 3bn into healthcare”, they don’t even know what exactly has been done – what the dam was built for or how many people they treated with those 2bn in healthcare – they only think MONEY!

Not so much in Scandinavia and I love it! Thee people think good deeds, for them money is “just money”.

For the Boys… and Scandinavian Girls!

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There’s one place you should go to, it is a 160 year old fishing and hunting shop called Andersens Vaabenforretning and it is simply a fantastic man’s den! This is the place where you can get anything for your fishing or hunting needs but also it’s where you can buy a true Norwegian knife!

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…and a Swedish Axe! Yes, a Swedish axe which I could not find anywhere in Sweden!

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Is it expensive? You betcha! But an axe or a knife is only an equivalent of 12 glasses of beer… do you now see why they all drive Teslas?

The Two Amazing Nights

Tromsø is so affected by the Arctic climate that you never know whether you’re about to see Northern Lights, be snowed under or end up in a cloud – this is what happened to me.

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One evening I experienced a stunning sunset, the other – a cloud descended from the mountains and completely blot-out the city! The town was cocooned in thick and very humid fog… but make no mistake this isn’t fog, it’s a real cloud and inside of this could amazing things happen. I walked across the bridge that connects Tromsø with the mainland and I could not resist to grab some dripping water from the bridge’s railings, have you drank a cloud? Well, I have.

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And I’m sure if you stay here for longer you will write a book about the weather, it really does have so much influence on Tromsø.

What else can I say about Tromsø – it’s an industrial town, it’s rough around the edges, you won’t get a frappuccino here and if you will then you won’t have enough money left for your Norwegian knife.

Clubbing… forget about clubbing here, it’s not what you’ve seen in London.

Life here is tough, traffic is insane, people are rough… and unpredictable, the weather is rough… and unpredictable… but

But

But if you see beyond all this you will find real people, the people who fell victims of natural selection in fake worlds of London, Paris, New York… you won’t ever come back to them because their religion will no longer make sense.

It’s only here where you can see what your real self looks like, it’s here where the strength of your character will expose yourself and you will be given that one chance in life to meet real people at the real place called Tromsø.

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Don’t miss it!

(Serge Fog, 1-6 August 2016 )

Sweden – Jokkmokk – Enter the Arctics

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This whole trip would be worth it just to see midnight sun-lit clouds reflected in a lake!

I knew that! I knew I should not have listened to Liz who said I should go to Asia, I knew I should not have listened to my mate Konstantine who suggested India! I did not know that but I am happy I did not go to Siberia but chose to see Sweden, and not just fly to Stockholm for a cup of coffee and a one night stand but see the real Sweden and believe me, you don’t know this country until you’ve not crossed the Arctic circle, met Sami people, almost ran over a reindeer and have sen the sun above the horizon at 1am!

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I do not know why the North is so magic to me, maybe because it’s a harsh environment and few people live here, maybe because I simply personally belong here I do not know but I would choose Lapland over the jade waters of the Mediterranean! Don’t get me wrong, a warm sea is nice, here it is 12 degrees in July but it is here… here is where the legends are born, not in the South of France. It is here where massive ice-age stones in the forests sleep and whisper at night telling each other stories of the ice!

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2016-07-16 19_55_11-Umeå to Jokkmokk, Sweden - Google MapsEnter Swedish Lapland and the town of Jokkmokk. You’d probably say it’s a tiny town but you’d be wrong because I barely made it after a night-long drive through the midnight sun I almost ran out of fuel! A town at these latitudes does not necessarily have a petrol station… or a supermarket and if it does it’d be closing at 6pm!

Despite seemingly endless days my life has shrunk to just a few active hours a day. The points of interest are open 11 to 6 and this is pretty much the time frame where you can meet people and you can ONLY meet locals at shops because they don’t do cafes! They don’t do bars! And they do not do cocktail bars! I basically don’t know how you can meet someone with this setup. God forbid you turn 20 and are still single because you’d never meet anyone:)

Another problem is that I really find driving during polar night a lot more pleasurable but of course shall you stop somewhere and want to buy something it’d be closed and if you want a cup of coffee.. well, that’s what you need to do:

  1. Make a fire, this is to keep warm but most importantly keep mosquitoes out
  2. Go to a nearby river or a lake to get water (keep the bottled water in case you stop somewhere where water isn’t there.
  3. Make your tea (coffee is too complicated)
  4. Only takes an hour and a half!

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And do not for a minute forget what shall greet you in the Arctics – it’s mosquitoes! Vicious, aggressive war devils that don’t mess about like its little southern cousins – these bad boys know no words of love and there will be no foreplay, no flying ’round you buzzing, giving you a chance to come face to face with the flying vampire, no, these fly straight into you! And it does not land on you as such it pierces your skin straight away! My body is so bitten that I stopped noticing new bites! Anti-mosquito spray? Sure, it will work just fine for the first 10 minutes, I’m not even sure these things are even bothered with that kind of stuff. No, they are certainly not the gay European mosquitoes I used to know!

 

The Trip Up North.

I knew that the Bothnian coast of Sweden was deceiving, I could see in in their towns, I could feel that something amazing was lurking behind the corner, the next twist of the Swedish gravel road but I could not see it. I knew I had to leave the coast, there was nothing there despite what the guide book was saying.

I filled the tank and started piercing the mainland from the coastline E4 to the mid-country E45 which seemed a just a couple hundred kilometres away… “just”…, the speeds dropped to 80 and I’d still be doing 150 if not for one observation I made a an hour or so into the journey – the “Anti-Elk” fence was gone. All I could see was endless pine forests left and right off the road. And in those forests must have been… Elks. right?

Right! I saw my first elk at 2am that day, he was large, dark, floppy, disproportional and yet so beautiful, he crossed the road to the sound of my car trying to grab on every pebble in the tarmac and everything at the back flying forward… when I finally stopped just meters in front of him, he still stood there looking at me with little interest! I opened the window to take a photo and it’s then when he for some reason decided to run! This encounter like no other road sign made me realise that 80 means 80! This was also a beginning of my Arctic adventure.

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This is all the Elk left me with

I walked around the car having an imaginary cigarette (now I know why people smoke after having had sex) and I saw the irresistible beauty of the nature around me! The bloody sunrise (or the sunset), the ancient and yet thin pine trees of the North all covered in moss, the endless road ahead of me pointing right into where the sun was.

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The last drops of fuel brought me to a town called Jokkmokk. The town just North of the Arctic circle and with three petrol stations and two supermarkets that work until 22:00. You know what we call these supermarkets in the UK… they are more like TESCO Metro – the smaller form and they don’t sell sandwiches and condoms, what people really need here are tractor parts, garden tools, water and fuel cans… the really important stuff! (I later realised that those tiny supermarkets were huge with vast selections of food and stuff compared to what I encountered on my way further up North)

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A short evening walk through central Jokkmokk revealed the true size of it – a dozen or so pretty buildings, a church, a school and a market where descendants of Sami people sell reindeer skins and antlers.

For the boys.

If you are interested in knives you must have a look at the ones made by Sami people. Forged from high-carbon steel the blade is a basic Scandinavian shape similar to what you can see on a bog standard Mora knife but the handle is a hand-crafted piece of a deer antler. The blade slots into the antler and the rest of the knife is held by snugly-fit leather.

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Traditional Sami Knife (of Sweden)

When I first saw a Sami knife I did not understand it. From the central-European perspective they are too strange, the odd shape of the reindeer horn sheath… the odd carving on the knife’s handle. The price… a good piece will cost you North of 500 Euro and in many cases you’d pay 800 but I would highly recommend you get one, you won’t have another chance. Just bite the bullet and buy the knife.

Buy the knife!!!

Ten Days of Quietness – Jokkmokk

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We’re loosing him! Charge… bzzzzz… clear…. Bang! ——— (long beep)

Sebastian (My Audi) has broken down just as I was planning to depart towards Sami mountains and believe me having to have your car fixed isn’t something you wanna be struck with at a small place like Jokkmokk although I should feel lucky it happened to me here and not in the middle of a forest in Norway.

I was on my way out of Town just passing the centre and bang – an alarming beeeeeep pierces the cabin air, all hands on the speedo point into nils and I see that there is no voltage in the system, the gearbox goes into what I presume was designed into “safe mode” which is more like the panic mode in reality shaking the body every time a gear changes….

The generator went and as such it isn’t a big deal especially on a diesel car where there are no spark plugs to drive, but it’s a modern car so everything is running off electricity: the gear box, the computer that controls the engine and the gear box, the climate system which immediately started draining the dying battery. I was quick to realise the end of days and drove straight into a local garage where they immediately priced the repair at 1000 Euro+ where the Plus stands for anything goes wrong while we’re unbolting/bolting the thing in place and we will charge you extra. You don’t wanna break down in Sweden.

The absence of a car gave me time to get to know Jokkmokk better. And think about my dream of living in a small town, being married to a local girl having kids and doing gardening…

The Dull Side of Jokkmokk

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No, the can’t print your photo at this place… but you can buy a vase!

First things first – small towns are depressingly quiet. People find refuge in being with nature so they have no need for live music or a cocktail bar and as much as I like being out in nature I like socializing too and would very much like to have this opportunity once or twice a week. Things like live music come to Jokkmokk rarely and irregularly. I witnessed a band play for 70+ years olds and that was not cool… sorry folks.

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And even if I could go out who would I meet. Single people in Jokkmokk are under 22, you would be running out of chances to meet anyone single passed that age. How they meet each other I don’t know as they seemingly don’t go out at all.

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This is a cafe… the best in town and I’ve only seen it open ONCE!

And above all I am not sure there is a way to change things. That’s just how people roll here and I think that maybe it will always be like that.

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The Nice Jokkmokk

… and then, I started to like Jokkmokk and its lifestyle, I no longer needed to be anywhere in the vicinity of a cocktail bar to have a good time, I spent my time walking in the forest foraging for mushrooms and missed my rifle each time I saw a deer, I fished and ate fish from a local lake, discovered the endless Sami lands, especially during long walks to Jokkmokk from the camp site (that’s where I found most mushrooms!)

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I also absolutely fell in love with rowing boats provided at the camp site! I would take one and spend two hours rowing around the local lake discovering its banks, semi-islands and one day I discovered an island which lead me to something I’ve not ever done in my life.

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Thinking of how much money I flushed down the drain at the bars and pubs of London and none of that made me as happy as this little dingy!

 

And sure thing I enjoyed fishing!

At this point I started understand the people of Jokkmokk who arrived there from much bigger places, there were two girls from Stockholm and I was told about a lady who moved there all the way from St Petersburg, Russia. These people arrived not for the money, they arrived in search of something bigger than cash.

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What they found here is nature, the last untouched piece of wilderness in the whole of Europe and in my opinion it was probably worth it.

I also met my first Sámi! He was walking around telling stories in Swedish and if not for a lady from Goteborg who re-told them to me I’d never know how much these people struggled against the Swedes constantly loosing their lands, the ability to speak or learn their language. It looks like they’ve been recognised since 1987… but this is only because they have nothing left that Sweden did not take. Their forests are now free sources of timber, harbour steel and silver mines… their rivers have been blocked and lands flooded to make way to power dams. Ah, Jokkmokk provides the whole region with “green” power but this power is not “green” it really is cherry red built on the lands of people the Swedes have pushed into oblivion giving them fake recognition and alcohol in return and now that  the Sámis have thing else to give they have been recognised and given a museum or two… so sad!

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Good luck to you, Sami man, good luck in your fight for your people!

And if you think Swedes are bad, this is no different to what any other colonial nation has done anywhere else in the world.

End of the Little Urlaub

And came Thursday the 14th of July – the day when my car was ready. I arrived to Meca where Tube gave me the keys back in return for an equivalent of a 1000 Euro bill. But that’s not the biggest issue, the biggest and saddest discovery of the day was that having the car back in an instant destroyed the magic of the commute from the camp site to Jokkmokk.

Do you know that when Columbus discovered Americas the price of Gold in Europe plunged? That happened because all of a sudden they started bringing ships loaded with the yellow metal to Europe and it devolved anything made of Gold to date.

Same happened to me when I received Sebastian back. By this day I remembered every corner of the 30-miute long walk. The walk I planned for each day, I knew why I had to take it, what I needed to buy in the town.  I measured my path from camping not by distance but by time and reference points: here is the power line, the horses, the wild meat shop, the village and finally Jokkmokk. I remembered places where I found mushrooms, where I noticed there was fire wood, all these little details have been destroyed in the blink of an eye when I received the car back.

Also, the car is a very unhealthy way to travel. You basically sit in a chair at all times and you only get fatter. I do not know how to mitigate that but I feel like the years when I should have done this road trip are over, I need a new solution, a new way to travel and maybe that requires more money. I thought that it’d be nice to travel the world without a car.

Travelling by bike is amazing and is to much more enlightening than going by car… but that is a sacrifice at a different level, you carry your whole like in 3-4 bags attached to your bike, that is primordial living. I especially liked how they ate – carbohydrates which white collar people would not come close to are the main source of energy, a cycle tourer will mainly be eating pasta with a little protein. They can’t eat enough! The biggest problem of a true bicycle tourer is being able to eat enough food, his biggest issue is that the body can not physically accept enough pasta:)

The day was coming to an end and before I went further up North I had to put the not so carefully engraved dog food bowl onto my newly-claimed island and this is a story for tomorrow.

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(Serge Fog, July 4-14 2016)