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Awesome and unspoilt


The British Airways captain was a jovial sort. “It seems there’s quite a bit of snow in Oslo this morning. But not to worry, we’ll just have to circle for a bit while they send the bulldozers up the runway. They know how to ‘do’ snow in Norway..” And sure enough, after a few minutes of cruising in a wide circle above the clouds, the cabin crew were asked to make ready for landing.

If the cloud layer was anything to go by, there would be a lot of snow. The landing gear had lowered with still no sign of the cloud bottoming out. I tried to think positive thoughts about modern automatic landing technology and not about a plane that (I read) had skidded straight off the tarmac at Stornoway, Scotland just last winter. The world re-emerged as a forest of snowy conifers about 50 feet from the end of the runway, almost stroking the underside of the fuselage.

And then, what looked like ants. Yellow ants, hordes of them, swarming over the taxi ways, the aircraft stands and heading in sinuous convoys back toward the runway. Each with a yellow light atop, bodies segmented into three clear parts for ploughing, sweeping and blowing snow away from the tarmac. It’s been described as a ballet and it’s clearly a well choreographed operation. There are even videos on the internet but to see the performance for real is quite incredible. As we approached our stand after a perfect landing the pilot turned the intercom back on. “All this snow and only ten minutes late.. this lot would have shut Heathrow for weeks.”


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Several of the photographs in this post appear to be shot in black and white.

They’re not. It’s the perpetual twilight at this time of year.


Landing in Oslo was only the start of our journey. We were booked on a connection to Tromsø, another 1 hr 40 minutes farther north. I’d insisted to Mike that it be a ‘proper’ plane, sometimes the means of transport to far flung destinations can be on the small side and with those whirring crisscross things where a modern jet engine ought to be. He’s a bit of a geek is Mike when it comes to planes and having done the necessary research assured me that it not only met my specification but in addition came with ‘winglets’. A fully matured set of wings would have been my preferred option but there you go. Still, plenty of time yet before the flight, a spot of airport shopping maybe and then a leisurely coffee in the lounge. I do love it when travel can be conducted in such a relaxed fashion, don’t you? We’d just check in our suitcases first and get them out of the way.

“Ah, but..” the helpful SAS clerk swung round her screen so we could see.. “there’s an earlier flight, would you rather go on that?” At Tromsø we still had in front of us a three hour drive to the hotel. Unknown roads, in the snow and in the dark. It was a no-brainer.

“OK. Departure 11.45. Boarding 11.20.”

Mike looked at his watch. “11.20. As in… now, this minute?”

“Yes, of course.” Not the slightest hint of urgency.

We hurtled across the departure hall toward security. There was a queue. Of course there was. And everyone was having a problem of some sort with their luggage. Perhaps it was our already frazzled look or the frantic waving of boarding cards, but we were ushered into a shorter line, the ‘family’ queue. And what do families with young children carry with them in abundance? Bottles. Bottles full of liquid. Each was having to be scanned and rescanned, taking twice as long per person as the queue we’d just left. And was the plane’s allotted departure gate the nearest one to where we then were or the farthest one away? Yep, you’ve guessed.


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The snow capped peaks near the Lofoten Islands at sunset (lunchtime). And plane, with winglets.

I may have partaken of a glass of wine.


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The following morning we set out to explore. The scenery is just so incredible up there. Words cannot properly describe it. These are the Lyngen Alps.


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Alongside the roads, waterfalls..


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..frozen in time


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Mike was delighted when we came across this scene..

“There you are.. you wanted a beach?!!”

I took the shot from inside the car, camera lens balanced on the wing mirror, heated seat on max. The temperature on the dashboard display was -7C. It didn’t mention the windchill. The light was rapidly fading. No skinny dipping then but, oh, what a glorious place.


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Just up the road from the beach, the fjord gives way to open sea. A sea which leads into the Arctic Ocean.

Next stop from here? The North Pole.


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For somewhere so very remote there were more houses than I’d expected, this one a traditional Norwegian style.


The lovely lady who prepared our breakfast every morning was full of fascinating information. She told us that many houses were originally painted this deep red colour. Social climbers then opted for white. A mark of status, it was more expensive and presumably needed repainting more often.


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As you can see, in more recent years the Farrow and Ball colour chart has arrived in the Arctic Circle.


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This was Skjervøy, a pretty fishing village

It is reached by a road stretching across a chain of islands linked by tunnels and a bridge.


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See the bridge in the far distance?

Single track.. start off across it and hope. Although a cunningly concealed passing place does reveal itself half way down. And, it’s fair to say, there isn’t exactly a rush hour in these parts. One of the tunnels passed directly underneath a fjord, the road descending steeply into the bowels of the earth with only the merest hint of a levelling out before ascending at an equally impressive gradient to reach the other side.


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My next project?

I loved the shed/privy with the heart shape cut in the door.


There is little evidence of gardening this far north. Locate field, build house, leave the rest as you find it. At most, a few shrubby things planted to mark a boundary. I guess the winters are just too harsh and summers too short.


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And when the weather closes in, it really does..


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..leading to some quite spectacular effects


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Winter comes to everyone


Norway_ The Far North Pin


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