Day 172. Vagnes to Tromso

Posted by: James on June 21, 2009

Distance 22km | Time 4.5hrs | Ascent 0m | Descent 0m

Day 172.1 The beacon at Vagnes on a grassy plain on the south side of GrotsundI woke at 0700 after a superb sleep on the soft mossy ground and after a quick breakfast I was in the kayak and paddling by 0830. The weather was really where yesterday left it; overcast with frequent showers and little wind.

I had decided to stay at Tromso Camping. It was up a river estuary and small section of river. I was informed it was OK to paddle right up the estuary at high tide and then drag the kayak up the river for a few hundred metres. High tide was around 1300 at it was going to wait for no-one. If I missed it I had visions of wading through silt.

The small hamlets continued along the south side of Grotsund. First Vagnes after a couple of km, then Tonsvik and Elvevoll before I rounded a point and the city of Tromso on its island appeared some 10 km down the sound. This was the end of the rural idyll. I could see huge bridges across the sound, planes took off regularly; massive tanks for storing oil and diesel lined the bank and huge warehouses for shipping and oil companies stretched out along the shore.

There were many individual houses but also the occasional 5 to 8 story block of flats stretched along the hillside. Tromso had the feel of a large town or small city and its 50,000 odd inhabitants were quite spread out. It was a new city and although not attractive, it was not particularly unattractive.

It is the main city of Northern Norway. It has a lot of good things going for it. It is becoming the northern hub for the workings of the oil and gas industry and this ensures a good income. However it also has a large tourist industry especially with regard to the cruise ship market with many cruise passengers starting and finishing trips here.

Tromso also has a large and vibrant university. This university has grown considerably since it was established just a few decades ago. This is partly because many students choose Tromso over the handful of other universities in Norway because of the outdoor opportunities. Off piste skiing, climbing and kayaking on the islands around here, especially Senja has become very popular.

Day 172.2 Approaching Tromso with the main town on the island on the left and the white Ishavetskatedral above the bowFor me however it was still a shock to see such a huge urban sprawl. I paddled along the side of the sound until I met Kare Kullerud who teaches geology at the university and I had been in touch with. I paddled over to the shore while he took a few photos. We chatted and then I continued past blocks of flats to a marina where the Tromsdalen river enters the sound. Just to the south of the marina was one of Tromso most famous landmarks the Ishavskatedralen. A huge cathedral in a modern style completed in just 1965. The cathedral, although modern, is a beautiful building and the architecture works well.

I paddled into the estuary and under two small bridges. The tide was just turning and I made it easily to the start of the river where I could drag the boat. The river however had second ideas about me sauntering up it. The recent rains had made for a good flow and I had to wade some 400 metres up a torrent sometimes above my knees. I nearly lost my footing once. Just before the campsite was some more determined rapids and there was no way I could get up those.

I hauled the full kayak to the bank and then up through the thick birch forest to the road. Luckily it was mostly slippery vegetation. However it was steep in places and the kayak and contents were perhaps 100 kg. Kare appeared again and got some photos of the out of the ordinary procedure. Once on the road it was just a few hundred metres to the cabin and Kare helped me.

With everything in the cabin I chatted with Kare over a coffee. He skied over Greenland some 25 years ago and wants to do the same ski trip of Norge Paa Langs which I just did. I was encouraging him. He also sounded very enthusiastic about helping me with a synopsis of the geology of Scandinavia which has bogged down the publication of my second book on Jotunheimen.

Kare left after an hour and I sorted out some gear before Bjorn of Bjornskajakk arrived. Bjorn had helped me out a month earlier by sending me a new rudder when the original one broke. The way he tackled that problem was to strip the rudder of a boat he had in store and post the whole thing to me by express post with the necessary tools, all at no cost. It was an extraordinary display of business service in today’s otherwise unhelpful climate.

I could not get the rudder right and it needed some modifications. Bjorn came to pick the kayak up and take it away to fix it. At the same time he would look at another couple of problems. He also dropped of a bike for me to use around Tromso as I cannot use public transport or cars.

Bjorn intended only a quick visit but we got chatting and after a few hours at 2200 he eventually got away. He is a kayak instructor in the Norwegian system and holds the highest grades and is a well know kayaker and instructor in Norway. His manner, knowledge and business were extremely competent and professional.

After Bjorn left I did a little writing but was not up for it. I will have a few days in Tromso and aim to leave on Wednesday morning so will postpone it until tomorrow.

It had been a good day. The scenery was obscured by clouds and drizzle but I could see it was spectacular beyond that. It was OK to reach Tromso but it is way too urban to what I have been used to so far this year. I may never return here so feel duty bound to go and explore the place and confront the culture shock. I will soon be in the quiet, peaceful sounds and fjords again where the ducklings are hatching.

One Response to “Day 172. Vagnes to Tromso”

  1. e.c.baxter Says:

    Hope you enjoy the brief “Fleshpots of Civilization”which will make the rural life all the Better. Love mum&dad