I know in the last post, if you read it, I made it clear I would write less and have more photos. With this post I am breaking protocol already. More text, less pictures but also a drone video! The thing is, I had such a wonderful time with my paternal grandmother's close family who I see rarely.
You don't have to read any of my soppy family time, as all the photos and the drone video (at the bottom!) can be viewed without reading a single word!!
In the beginning of May, my dad and I went up to Varanger to celebrate my dad’s cousin Kirsti's, 60th birthday. By chance, it also coincided with a family get-together further south in Vesterålen. Although the distances in the north are small in terms of flights (but not by road), they are incredibly expensive. So we decided to ditch the plane and go for a two day cruise. Especially since my dad is 60 next year and has to start practicing pensioner life, we took Hurtigruten from Vardø to Sortland and in doing so, we got to see the northern most stretch of coast of mainland Norway. As a bonus for me, this was the last stretch of Hurtigruten that I have never taken before (I am practicing my cruise pensioner life already at 26).
If you have been following me for a while you know I love the north of Norway. I have, however, spent little time here in the spring and winter, and I finally managed to take this trip to experience the Arctic spring. We started off flying to Kirkenes from Oslo and then catching a Dash8 across the fjord. My dad loves planes and is always mildly ecstatic whenever he gets to fly smaller models. As a bonus, for him at least, we landed twice, once in Vardø and once in Båtsfjord before we arrived in Vadsø. Whenever we are in Finnmark we always stay with my grandmothers's sister, Ellen. She is just amazing. So quick and witty, lots of dark humour and irony, and really up to speed with most things, especially considering she is 86 years old. And as a matter of fact, you tend to forget her age when you are around her because she really is super company.
The first few days in Vadsø were busy with planning and cooking for the 60th birthday. The birthday was a success with celebrations continuing well into the next day. The next few days were filled with small hikes and lovely family dinners. The tundra and the light up here are very magical.
After 4 days in Vadsø, we headed for Hurtigruten in Vardø and set sail north, then west and then south. During the first day we reached both Båtsfjord and Berlevåg, and with 3°C and wind, it was pretty chilly to sit on deck and admire the views. The only reasonable thing to do was to jump into a jacuzzi and enjoy the views from there. People thought I was mad, but they probably thought it was cold and not a toasty 40°C.
The ship passed the northern most point of mainland Europe at 71° north, Nordkapp in the early morning hours. The first stop of the day, was in Hammerfest, the northernmost city in the world before continuing to Øksfjord. We had a beautiful day on board with quiet seas.
After dinner it was time to enjoy the jacuzzi again. A luxurious 8 degrees in the air made the steaming water a bit too hot. The views were still great, but as we are much further south and into Troms county, the mountains have changed from the low barren hills of the tundra to sparsely forested mountains with peaks. Still lots of snow!
My father is such a wonderfully considerate human and decided that we had to have a post jacuzzi cocktail, as he had observed that the bartenders looked like they had nothing to do. Maybe they would cheer up if they got to make us a cocktail. And of course, my father was right. The bartender was excited to make a cocktail, and he promised to make his very special rhubarb long-drink with homemade rhubarb cordial (it was good).
We reached Tromsø before midnight. There is a 2 hour stop in Tromsø and people go out to do all sorts of activities. I stayed in bed as I am no young whippersnapper anymore (not sure I ever was) and I need my sleep.
We woke up to amazing weather again and scooped some pensioners getting a window seat at breakfast. Good start to the day. After breakfast we packed up and went out on deck. Dad had a wish of being in the jacuzzi as we went under the Sortland bridge. A rather peculiar request, but if you know Sortland, you also know being in a jacuzzi under the bridge is a special event. Although it only lasted a wee moment it was pretty special.
We were picked up in Sortland in a stylish Saab 900i by my grandma's cousin. When we got into Sigerfjorden we were greeted by my absolutely lovely family who had made waffles and coffee. As it was such a great day, we made the most of it and my dad and I went for a hike up the local mountain. It is only 497 metres tall, but it is steep and straight up from the fjord, and I am in bad shape. However, the pain is always worth it as the view was breathtaking as always!
The following day was spent shopping in Sortland and attending a local lunch gig. In the evening, we were hosting a “Cremant reception” for the rest of the family. I am used to do my bit of the preparation when there is a party, but with three strong women with each having 50-60 years more experience in hosting parties than I have, everything was already done before I had even started. My grandmas two sisters are so funny, and I love how they banter with each other and with their cousin around the house. There is a lot of laughter, and it is simply impossible to be down when you are around these people.
Last day in Sigerfjorden started with coffee in dressing gowns on the stairs outside despite wind and 14 degrees. I would call it chilly rather than nippy, however, as a southerner I have to show character, and pretend to be toasty no matter the weather. In the afternoon, after some work, I went out with my father and his cousin for a short walk. We had a hike into the lower Blokken lake, before picking up none less than 3 copies of the local newspaper. You see, in the newspaper Ellen and her friend Selma had a two page spread where they were interviewed about their 80-year long friendship.
In the evening we had dinner and drinks with all the relatives. This part of the family has always been playing piano and singing at parties, so of course it was a bit of that. Although nobody in the family likes Eurovision, we still had a viewing of half of the songs with some witty commentary from the old sisters in the sofa.
Come Sunday and we had to leave. The landscape and drive to the airport is splendid, but I was sad to say goodbye to everyone. The flight to Oslo went fine, but when I went to check in for my London flight I encountered problems. SAS had stopped their free check in bag for frequent flyers, but did not care to inform their customers about it. Seeing as sending a bag would have set me back 600 NOKs per bag is was out of the question to fly with it. So, as the scorn and angry yet nifty person that I am, I took out a plastic bag, filled it with some stuff and sent my suitcase back with my dad in Oslo. To cheer me up, my mother came to keep me company and have lunch during my stopover in Oslo.
All in all, I had one of my best trips up north. It was a gentle reminder to take time to spend with people you like even though you are too busy.
Thanks for reading (or looking through the photos, or both).
If you are interested in any of the places or want any tips, get in touch with me on Instagram at Jarlinga.
Drone video from the north of Norway! Thanks for Alcest allowing me to use their beautiful music!