Archive for June, 2009

Day 171. Russelv to Vagnes

Saturday, June 20th, 2009

Distance 45km | Time 10hrs | Ascent 0m | Descent 0m

Day 171.1 The mist view down the west side of the Lyngen peninsula witht emountains obsucredIt was still a tad windy when I got up around 0800. Frank and Ida Naess were up soon after and I chatted with Frank while Ida made the most wonderful breakfast of bacon and eggs. I felt a bit guilty about how well they were spoiling me. When I told them what I thought of their remarkable hospitality they said “That’s the way it should be”. You could tell quite easily that they both were extremely hard workers who had grafted all hours on the farm and various other businesses for 40 odd years to raise a large family.

By the time breakfast was over the wind had dropped to a force three. After a couple of coffees and more chat I got ready. Frank helped me carry the kayak to the water and after saying good bye I launched at midday and started south with the wind behind me.

Almost immediately I crossed the mouth of the small fjord called Nordlenangen, a small 3 km crossing. The waves were small and hardly breaking as I reached the far side and then started down the outside of the peninsula which created Nordlenangen. The sky was grey and overcast and there were showers everywhere.

Day 171.2 A break on the east side of Ullsfjorden befor the crossingThe view to the Lyngen Alps was shrouded in mist and I could only see the stumps of the mountains and the large green valleys between them. Along the coast here was a fertile fringe of agricultural hamlets. In one of the fields cows were grazing in the fields.

Just before the hamlet of Hesjebukta I had to cross the mouth of another, almost identical small fjord, called Sorlenangen. Again the 3 km crossing was pretty easy but there was the odd larger white cap developing in the main Ullsfjord to the west. This larger fjord was my last main hurdle before Tromso.

I paddled down the outside of this second peninsula which created Sorlenangen to the farming hamlet of Ravik. The wind in Ullsfjord was still around force four and it was a crossing of just 10 km, a little under two hours. There was nothing worrying in the forecast so I decided to go at once rather than eat and dither.

On the far, west side of Ullsfjord was the steep mountain of Ullstind, 1094m. I could make out the birch forest around the base and then the heather slopes up to the rock fields which disappeared into the mist. I set my sights and veered away from land.

The crossing was not too bad. There was the occasional period where the wind threatened to increase to force five but they were short lived and generally it stayed at a force four and sometimes even a three.

Surprisingly on the crossing I encountered an unusual amount of puffins. At one stage the air was thick with them as hundreds of them circled round my kayak in a large radius. There seemed to be small rafts of them. I cannot imagine where there were nesting but assumed it was Fugleoya some 30 or 40 km to the north.

Generally as I approach puffins they swim towards the kayak for a few seconds. Then they turn and swim away casting nervous glimpses over their shoulder until I am 10-15 metres away. They then did their heads, perhaps in preparation to dive. Soon after they either dive or flap across the wave tops in a half flight half swim motion occasionally belly flopping into the sea.

Day 171.3 Crossing Ullsfjorden with Ullstind ahead as the goalAfter a good hour I could start to make out bunches of trees and copses on Ullstind and after an hour and a half I could see the individual trees. As I entered Grotsundet there was some confused waves but the further I paddled up the sound towards the hamlet of Snarby the more benign it got. Just before Snarby I pulled in for a stretch.

I noticed there was a campsite marked on the map in another 7-8 km at Skittenelv. I had visions of a quaint cabin and hot shower so I phoned them. They had both and a beach to land on also apparently. I said I would be there soon.

Day 171.4 The hamlet of Snarby on the south side of GrotsundThese 7-8 km down the south side of Grotsundet were easy. There was a slight wind against me and frequent rain showers but I made good time passing small hamlets built along the water’s edge. The barns here were getting bigger indicating more animals and more prosperous farmers. There were numerous beaches especially where small streams entered the sound from the high mountains to the south.

I soon reached Skittenelv at around 2100. I was appalled. The campsite was on a grassless field which had been created by bulldozing rubble into the sound. There was about 50 campervans, a hundred huts, garish waterslides and the beach was large stones. I went to have a look. The owners were a breed unto themselves. They had all the panache of brain-damaged bare knuckle fighters who had stop training years ago and lived off burgers, chips and beer since. Less dapper people you will not find in Norway. I don’t think they were Norwegian. It was a culture shock and not wanting to camp in among the campervans on the gravel surface I fled.

After half an hour with the bitter taste of Skittenelv receding I found a nice quiet beach. The tide was coming in and as I approached the weed a group of eider duck mothers took their newly hatch brood of ducklings out in a miniature flotilla. I found a good place to camp in a greasy area filled with wild chives and the twin flowers of the drooping water avens.

The tent was up and I was in my bag by 2200. The blog would have to wait until Tromso as it was just too difficult to write in the tent unless I really needed to. I fell asleep quickly listening to the rain patter off the tight flysheet

It had been a good day despite the weather. It was a shame I had not seen the Lyngen Alps from this side also but I had been well spoilt two days ago when I had seen perhaps the more spectacular east side in its full glory.

Day 170. Russelv weather and rest day

Friday, June 19th, 2009

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

Day 170.1 The hamlet of Russelv lies on the north west side of the Lyngen peninsulaI did not get to bed until nearly 0300 last night and I slept right through until 1000. I was well rested in the very comfortable bed. After a wonderful breakfast which Mrs Naess prepared with coffee I was mentally ready to go at 1100.

However the wind was slowly beginning to increase it was a force four already now and more and more white horses were appearing on the sea all the time. Initially this would not be a problem as I was following the coast for some 20 km but after that I would have to cross Ullsfjord for a good 10 km to get further. In addition the weather forecast said that the wind would increase up to a force six later in the afternoon.

I had yesterday’s blog to write up and decided to do some writing to see what happened. As I wrote I could see out of the window that although the sky was completely clear and the sun was strong the wind was slowly increasing. Halfway through writing it looked like it was a force five and the sea was covered in larger white horses. It would have been rough even to head down the coast the 20 km to Lenangsoyra, where I could cross Ullsfjord.

I continued writing and caught up with all the paperwork, until 1500 by which time the forecast force six had arrived. I had missed my chance this morning but I was too tired this morning to be able to get up at 0600.

Mrs Naess prepared a wonderful dinner for the 4 of us and then they went off to a relations party. One of their sons, Cato, was repairing a boat and I went through to see the workshops. They were huge and immaculate. The workshops were in the converted barn where Mr Naess had kept sheep, cows and many pigs in earlier years.

Day 170.2 From Russelv the city of Tromso lies some 60 km up the fjord in the centreIn the evening it looked the continued to blow the sea white as the wind shifted direction from the north east to the north, but was not diminishing. The forecast was for it to diminish in the night to a force four again tomorrow so hopefully I can make a start then on the final 60 odd km to Tromso.

It had been a relatively dull day but the rest did me good and allowed me time to catch up.

Day 169. Segelvik to Russelv on Lyngen

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

Distance 58km | Time 14.5hrs | Ascent 0m | Descent 0m

Day 169.1 The  salmom fisherman in Segelvik with the mornings catch he will sell directly to the publicI slept well again and got up at 0700. It was another fantastic day in store with clear blues skies and a slight breeze from the south east, from inside the fjord. After breakfast I tidied up the apartment and went down to chat with the fisherman. They were three older characters who practiced small scale fishing of cod, halibut and salmon.

The price of cod is set by a government department rather than the market. However the price set was too high for the international market as cheaper Russian and Icelandic fish have flooded the traditional markets. Nobody is buying the more expensive Norwegian cod at the moment and the Norwegian fish buyers cannot sell the cod they buy from the fishing boats. As a consequence they are not buying from the fishermen. So the fisherman are hanging it to make dried fish which does not fetch the same price but can be stored for a long time until the market improves or the government department lowers its selling price and competes with Russia and Iceland.

Indeed I have seen cod drying everywhere both on a large scale like in Mehamn and on a small scale where individual fisherman dry their own cod and then sell it on keeping some for themselves.

The salmon are not affected by the same regulations and many fishermen are concentrating on them. It seems to be a plentiful year for salmon. These three fishermen catch the salmon in net traps and then sell their fish straight to the public in Tromso at the fish market. The fisherman had all the banter and good humour which comes from being market traders. They were also very kind allowing me to use the loft above the fish processing plant for the night.

Day 169.2 Paddling across Kvaenangen with Kagen on the left and Arnoy on the rightI set off at 0900 and paddled out of the harbour. The wind had now increased to a force three and it was still south east and would be from the side. The fishermen said it would diminish over the morning as I paddled out across the fjord, and it did. As I pulled round the protective headland the full vista of the two very spectacular and alpine islands on Arnoy and Kagen appeared in their full glory. It was a magnificent sight. The most impressive of the kayak tour so far.

As I paddled across the Kvaenangen fjord I decided to aim for the middle of the northern island. The wind was pushing me that way and it was a more natural direction. More importantly though was I was now in cruise ship country and two went past. I thought it best to cross this shipping lane perpendicular to it rather than paddle along it. These large boats probably would not see me.

The crossing was easier than I thought and it took just three hours until I reached the middle of Arnoy. It was a hugely spectacular with some cliffs which went up 400 metres and an array of jagged snow cover peaks beyond that. To the east of Arnoy was another island called Laukoya which was no less magnificent with snow covered mountains. Between the two was a wide sound called Lauksund, a fjord with two ends to the sea in a deep and impressive slot.

I paddled into Lauksund and began to paddle south. It seemed the current and winds were now on my side and I was doing nearly 8 km an hour. I paddled past two hamlets on Laukoya at Hellnes and Storelv. The houses here were typical homesteads with a small barn for a score or dozen sheep and a few cows and horse. In addition each house had a boat shed by the shore for all the fishing related activities. The boats were smaller then and could be hauled up the beach. These two hamlets would have been essential self sufficient living off the land and the waters on the sound. However this idyllic but hard life was largely abandoned in the 1960s and 1970s. As I paddled down however I could see that the houses and barns were well maintained and there were still 100 odd sheep grazing. I imagine the sheep are left to fend for themselves for the summer on this predator free island and collected in the autumn.

Day 169.3 On the beach at Lauksletta looking north up LauksundI crossed the sound and stopped at a small beach at Lauksletta on the opposing island of Arnoya. It was a tremendous setting. There were many more houses on this island on a fertile fringe under the lofty snowfields and sharp peaks. Many waterfalls tumbled down from the high mountains above to the populated fertile strip. It felt there were many people living here permanently and not just in the summer.

After lunch I continued south past a couple of salmon farms in the Lauksund to Kagsund which separated the two alpine islands. Across the sound in the island of Kagen was Kagtind 1228m, a massively impressive and glaciated mountain. It looked magnificent in the sun under blue skies.

Day 169.4 My first glimpse of the Lyngen Alps after paddling into KagsundI did not want to cross the whole of Lyngenfjord in one go as it meant paddling along a potential but currently quiet shipping lane again. So I paddled over to the small island of Vorteroy. As I paddled out of the Kagsund the island appeared, lying low and green in the fjord. Behind it to the west was one of the most impressive mountain sights in Europe, the Lyngen Alps. These huge mountains form the alpine backbone to the 70 km long Lyngen peninsula. The mountains rise to an impressive 1700-1800 metres or 6000 feet straight out of the fjord in a wall of immense proportions. Unfortunately the camera could not do them justice. Many people consider the Lyngen Alps to be the best mountains in Scandinavia. They are without doubt in the top five.

With this impressive sight before me I paddled to Vorteroy. About half way across the northern wind increased from a gentle force two up to a force five. The sea quickly got up and there were white horses everywhere. The kayak was lurching and bucking as I approached the beach where the metre waves were breaking. I considered capsizing and swimming in to receive the kayak and protect it from the cobble sized stone on the beach but decided to surf in with my legs out and jump up as I approached the stones. As I landed on the shoreline, a man approached.

Day 169.5 Fishdrying racks and a meadow of yellow globe flower with the unimpressive side of Kagtind in the backgroundWe chatted and he showed me around his small fishing operation and sheds. He was in the middle of dinner but told me to come up to his house once I was sorted out. I found some lee behind a shed, ate some biscuits and rested for a while in the meadow thick with yellow globe flowers. I fell asleep in the sun and woke after two hours. By then the wind had diminished to a three again. The man reappeared and we chatted for a good half hour before I decided to continue. He gave me some dried halibut he had prepared. His tidy interesting sheds were full of fishing tackle and bundles of dried cod. It was an idyllic setting but he only stayed here for the summer. His parents stayed here all year and his children visited in the holidays. It was the typical demographic shift from country side to urban which Norway has undergone in the last 50 years.

Day 169.6 Paddling across Lyngenfjord latre in the evening with one of the smaller peaks at just 1400 metresThe paddle over Lyngenfjord was slightly more bumpy than I had hoped and occasionally the wind increased to a force four again. I could hear the breaking crests catching me up from behind. Slowly but sure I gained on the tip on the peninsula. At one stage I could look straight down the mountain wall as it plunged into the fjord, each peak separated by a large glacier.

Day 169.7 Rounding Lyngstuva at midnight and looking out to the midnight sun above the protected bird sanctuary og FugleoyaAs it approached midnight I eventually rounded the tip called Lyngstuva. Already the wind was dropping again but there were numerous shipwrecks along the rocks here. Even a Hurtigruten ferry “Kong Halfdan” lies near here since 1918. It was crystal clear to the north. This was the first time I could see the midnight sun unadulterated by mountains or cloud.

I paddled round the tip and a few km to a beach and the hamlet of Russelv. I beached the boat here. It was just after midnight and someone was gardening still. She came down to empty the wheelbarrow and chat and said ‘forget the tent I can make up a bed’. I am totally bowled over by the continued hospitality along the coast here.

Her husband came down and helped me up with the full boat. I took the minimum and within 20 minutes I was having coffee in a very comfortable house while a massive omelet was being made. It was a very nice family with many kids most of whom had grown up and left. He was a fisherman and I chatted about the ocean with him. Soon after it was a shower and wonderful cotton sheets.

Today must rank as one of the best. It had everything from scenery, to weather, to exciting seas, to hospitality and more.

Day 168. Bergsfjord to Segelvik

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

Distance 39km | Time 9hrs | Ascent 0m | Descent 0m

I slept well again and got up at 0700. After breakfast I tidied up the apartment and was ready to start packing at 0900. I said good bye to the very nice apartment and shop owner and eventually cast off at 1000.

Day 168.1 A terns  simple nest and egg on a rocky islet in BergsfjordThere was a slight wind against me as I paddled across the overcast bay and crossed Bergsfjord to the channel between the low green Maroya island in the south and the rugged Silda island in the north. There was a small rocky islet here with a lot of terns nesting on it. I went to take a photo but the memory card was still in the laptop. I stopped on the islet and unpacked the laptop to get the card. While on the island I went up to look at the nests of the tern colony. The nests were close together and just a simple scratch in the grass. There were either one or two small speckled dark green eggs per nest. As yet nothing had hatched. I left before I caused the birds to be away too long and the eggs cooled down.

Day 168.2 Heading up Sondre Bergsfjord with Silda island on the rightThe tide should have been with me but I did not notice it. I did notice the force three wind however which was directly against me and kept me pinned at about 4 km per hour. The whole way across Sondre Bergsfjord was a slow pull into the wind as I headed for the hamlet of Bogen. On my east the remote west side of Silda slowly unfolded. Once I reach Bogen I had lunch. It was a slow morning with just 10 km in two and a half hours.

After lunch it was time to leave the shelter of the fjord and head out into the ocean again, namely Lopphavet. I carried on up the coast of the fjord passing a few salmon net traps and then rode a current out of the fjord and into the Lopphavet. The swell was back and was about two and a half metres. Where the current was rushing out of the fjord the swell was steep and breaking. I avoided that area.

Once in the ocean again the kayak started jumping about on the large clapotis caused by the rebounding waves and the current. As I looked down the coast here I could see there was little shelter and the next three hours were going to be bumpy. There was nowhere really to land so I hoped the wind stayed at the force four it now was. I could not really take my hands off the paddle to photograph or even dig out and put on my sun glasses.

Day 168.3 The southern end of Loppa island with the huge beach across the south endAcross an open strait to the north was the island of Loppa. It had about 15 houses on it but I am not sure if it is inhabited all year. The north of the island looked wild and remote yet the south where the village was situated was green grass which looked grazed. In front of this green grass was an absolutely stunning and large beach which extended for at least half of the south side of the island.

I slowly pulled myself down the bouncy coast with the force four still against me until I got to Frakkfjord. I had to cross 5 km of large swell to reach the other side. However although the swell was bigger it did not have the unpredictability of the clapotis. There were a few hamlets in this fjord with two of them being connected by a short road which only connected these two hamlets. There were a lot of isolated roads on these peninsulas and islands, where the only way to get to them is by boat.

Day 168.4 The wild coastine each side of FrakkfjordI considered stopping here as the forecast for the next days is good with a wind at my back also but it was too early. It did not look like there was anything nasty coming in so I left the sheltered bay in the fjord again and ploughed into the swell and wind for another session. This part of the coast was very dramatic but I could not really take my hands of the paddle to get the camera out. It was also very wet with plenty of spray being blown of the clapotis and off the kayaks’ bow.

For two hours I paddled along this bouncy coast passing the aptly named Trollvika bay with it towers of rock at the entrance. It would have been possible to land here in an emergency. At the end of this stretch was another bay with a few houses and some meadows around it. This hamlet was called Andsnes. It was calm in the bay and I could have stopped here but there was just one more headland to round to reach Segelvik in an hour’s time.

Day 168.5 Looking across Kvaenangen fjord to the islands of Arnoy and Kagen which I hope to paddle between tomorrowThis headland was relatively calm compared to the previous sections each side of Frakkfjord and there was also an island called Brynilen which protected me for the second half of this headland. As I passed the island a great view of tomorrows’ journey appeared with the long open crossing of Kvaenangen fjord to the very high alpine islands on the other side. These islands had steep snow covered mountains rising straight out of the sea to nearly 1200 metres.

As I paddled round this final headland Segelvik appeared. It was small community of some 20 houses and 7-8 fishing boats and a short section of isolated road. There was a nice beach and a small harbour behind the breakwater. I paddled to the harbour where there was a fisherman repairing his salmon trap nets.

I chatted with the fisherman and asked about somewhere to stay. He pointed to the wharf and said there was a loft above the processing works. I went to have a look it was perfect. Returning to thank him I unloaded the boat and carried my stuff up. Within half an hour I was showered with a cloths wash on.

I wrote the blog before supper but it was difficult to concentrate as the lurching and surging swell and clapotis had left its legacy and I felt I was still in the kayak. By the time I had finished the wind outside had dropped off to a force two and it had swung round to the north east as predicted. The sun was also out and the crossing tomorrow looked promising.

I had supper at 2230 and then crashed out soon after. I things were in my favour tomorrow I would have an early start and make the crossing in the morning. If the wind was favorable I would see what the afternoon could offer.

It had been a hard day but I had persevered and slowly but surely reached my goal. That was satisfying in itself. I was also very lucky with the continued hospitality along the coast of Finnmark. People here are very kind.

Day 167. Bergsfjord weather and rest day

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

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

Day 166.1 The heart of Bergsfjord lies across the bay from a robuer with cod hanging to dry,I slept well and when I woke at 0630 was pleased to see that the forecast wind was indeed blowing. It was a good force four and it was a westerly which would have been against me all day. I had already decided to have the day off and this justified it. I went back to bed for an hour.

After breakfast I set about yesterday’s blog. It took a few hours. I then had a sheaf of emails to attend to and that took me up to lunch. I went for a small walk in the village before I had lunch. There were a few things that struck me about the village immediately.

It was extremely friendly and everybody was chatty. The gardens here were tended with real pride and many were already blossoming. A lot of old containers were used as flower pots around the old wharf area. The road here was just a lane between the houses extending some 3 km in between its ends. The only way to get here was by boat.

I went back to the shop for lunch and the supplies I needed to get to Tromso. Again the shop was very sociable and chatty. Bergsfjord had a very nice relaxed vibe to it. After lunch I read some outdoor magazines the shop owner brought me and then went out for another walk.

Day 166.2 One of the small sandy beaches with the dramatic brackdrop of impressive mountainsIn the bay in front of Bergsfjord were a number of small islands, it looked like there were a lot of either mackerel or red-billed terns breeding on the lush grass on one of them. There were a few sandy beaches in the inlets and on the islands in the main bay. This all made a very idyllic scene compared to the drama of the surrounding landscape. Spectacular ridges and jagged mountains still covered in large snowfields surrounded the village in every direction apart from the fjord and island of Silda in front.

Day 166.3 The old wharf at Bergsfjord is still sued to prepare fishing gear and also includes a restaurantThe village seemed to be quite self sufficient. There was a hydroelectric plant. There was a very tidy boat yard to repair and maintain the 10-12 odd fishing boats based here. The old wharf area was well preserved and part of it was now a quaint restaurant.

What Bergsfjord lacked in asphalt it certainly made up for in charm. It was right up there beside Bugoynes and Maasoy as a contender for the best place I had visited on the paddle trip so far.

It had been quite a dull day but getting all the paperwork out of the way was a relief. The dullness was tempered by the wonderful village of Bergsfjord and the very comfortable and low priced room.