Monday, 13 February 2012

Norway with Hurtigruten.

Have just been on the most awe-inspiring, thrilling, exhilarating wonderful dream trip in search of the Northern Lights Aurora Borealis in Norway.  To try and describe this far too short a trip 5 nights, ok I will try.

First off we flew to Tromso in Norway, a lovely 3 and three quarter flight, the first night we stayed ad the Radisson Blu Hotel in Tromso, a lovely clean modern warm welcoming hotel with ample buffet breakfast.  We then had most of the day free to explore Tromso before we joined the Hurtigruten ship Kong Harald at 3.30pm.  Hmm! we had been told that Norway was a tad expensive, but after buying two coffees and a danish pastry £15.00, eeeekkkk! But we were on holiday.

So 3.30 quickly came and we boarded the ship, lovely public rooms and dining room etc. For anybody that hasn't heard of etc.  These are ships that go along the coast of Norway South to North and back again, there are 11 in the fleet and they are working ferries.  It was very interesting seeing them call at all the ports and load on and off all the goods that allow people to live in some rather far flung towns of Norway (or so it seemed to us townies).

Our first excursion for us was a trip to Nordkapp (The North Cape).......oh! wowowowowowowowowowow, I just cannot do justice to this experience of 71% north, just some 1300 odd miles from the North Pole. There were four coaches in all that set off and when you get to the entrance of Nordkapp you have to go in a convoy with a snow pllough at the front and then a yellow safety coach.

We arrived no superlatives can adequately justify the feeling of being there, you do feel you are on top of the world, the temperature there was minus 21c with a windchill of -39, the extremes of the cold were so extreme.  Even if you took your mitt off for 10 seconds the tips of your fingers froze so quickly, at times when trying to work the camera and video etc, it felt like my fingers were being pricked with needles.  The wind against your cheeks, well everybody became very red nosed and cheeked very quickly, I had my scarf up around my mouth and face and even my breath froze on the inside of my scarf, but my oh! my what an experience.  If there is one box to tick that anyone that hasn't already done so and is on their wish list, then this is one of them.

We then the next day sailed to Kirkenes which is about 3 miles from the Russian border, here we had booked to go "husky sledging", again even though the sun was out it was still minus 21c, I had thermal tights, thermal leggings, cord trousers, a heavy thermal vest and a thick down and feather full length jacket.....but we were then kitted out with all in ones for the experience and I'm glad we did.  This too was fantastic, we sledged around a frozen lake and then the dogs stopped for a short rest, it was only when I looked around and realized that we were slap bang in the middle of the frozen lake.   The huskies only needed a 30 second rest and then they were barking to go off again.  What a thrill, what an experience.  We then went off to see "The Ice Hotel"....erm minus 4c and you can sleep in there, hmmmm! not for moi but great to see.  Then off to see the reinder, (of which I had had a lovely "reindeer stew" on board the ship the previous evening).....I won't tell the Grandchildren that I,ve had a bit of "Rudolf" hehe!
The food on the ship was of a very good standard, lots of fish ......some of which I'd never heard of. 

The ship is small in comparison to large cruise ships, only carrying some 500/600 passengers.  Must admit we did meet a couple of rough times, especially in the "Barent Seas"....we rocked and rolled back and forth and side to side.  Not pleasant but it doesn't last for long even though seems for ages.  A  couple of times we had a very nasty side wind, that made the ship tilt by about 10%, I know this doesn't seem a lot but believe me it is, I was a tad scared (yes I admit it, but hubby looked after me).  Yes its silly I know but if I could be guaranteed that the ship was 100% safe 100% of the time, then one could look on it as a fair ground ride,but I think the older one gets one always feels aware of their own mortality.

Now the big question "did we see the Northern Lights"?........yeeeeesssssssss woo hoo1 on 3 separate occasions.  Couldn't photograph them, not experienced enough with my new camera to do so, different shutter speeds apertures etc. but we watched lots of professional photographers do so. The lights seemed to show themselves best after 12 midnight for some reason, most people would go  out on deck about 10.30pm ish and we would all stand looking skywards searching for the elusive first glimpse of this phenonomum (hmm is that spelt right?)......very strange at times, these wisps of cloud looking parts would drift across the sky and then all of a sudden seem to grow in size and colour and loo and behold there they were, absolutely enchanting, they just kept your gaze and then they went.  We did have one dancing curtain occasion, yes I must admit I did get choked up and there were lots of ohs! and ahs!....just wonderful.

Then of course, as I am a prolofic serial knitter, I just had to find a yarn shop and not far from the hotel was The Norway Sweater Shop" and downstairs a haven of yarn.  So hubby was so so patient whilst I whiled some time away in my paradise.  I purchased some Lett-Lopi 100% wool Iceland yarn and knitted the Nordic vest top in green thatn you see.

When we arrived at Tromso airport for our flight home it had started to snow very heavily and when we boarded the plane, the pilot then said we had to go and be de-iced, I looked out and saw the wings absolutely caked in it.....very strange seeing the hi-ab then turn its huge hose and drench the plane in de-icer.  So have been home a week now and the holiday now seems such a dream, and I cannot believe hubby and I have "ticked" one of our wish list boxes.  Would I do it betcha! but maybe not the Barent Sea....and I don't think doing Nordkapp again would capture that first feeling. Sio although it seems a contradiction in terms, it was such a holiday that was so far fetched from our usual ones,  it just made us feel so alive..............WONDERFUL! XX