The Fiddly Bits !

Trip Start Aug 17, 2010
Trip End Sep 16, 2011

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Flag of Norway  , Troms,
Friday, March 4, 2011

Jim and I had no luck in seeing the northern lights in Sweden so we have decided to see if we have better luck in Norway. Tromso is located at the top of Northern Europe with only the town Nordcapp and a few reindeer more northerly. Tromso is also said to be the capital of the Northern light activity. The best time to see the Northern lights is in either November or March – check. There should be no moon – check, and you should get out of towns or cities to get away from light pollution. Big check. As Tromso is some 800kms away and having enjoyed Swedish trains we are keen for other transport options. We discover that the Hurtigruten - a coastal ferry service that has been running for over 100 years is a cheap option. Taking one of the many cruises that the Hurtigruten offer is quite expensive but going Port to Port is quite cheap. Also the 3 days on ship will give us plenty of nights away from other lights to hopefully see some Northern Light action. As the Hurtigruten also hugs the coast it's also a great opportunity to see the famous Norwegian Fjords – the "fiddly bits" as quoted from Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

The timing also coincides with Lauren’s birthday, so we are also tacking on a couple days in Oslo the Norwegian capital before we head back to Are.

We have to get to Trondheim to meet the boat early so we catch a lift at 6am with our friend Havard, who does the commute to Norway for work. We meet the ferry easily and settle in for a cooked breakfast on board ship as we depart. It’s wet and foggy in Trondheim as we set off but we are still hopeful for clear skies over the next few days. At least we were hopeful, until the storm came in about 5pm. To say the seas were rough was a severe understatement. 2 people were tossed across their cabins suffering lacerations and one lady a cocker of a black eye. Another lady broke her arm in the café and everyone, including the crew, were more than a little sea sick. In the end we had to make for one of the harbor stops and wait the storm out. Once we got into calmer waters things returned to normal with the exception that dinner is normally served on board at 8pm in the formal dining room. That night we all sat down at 11pm.

After the excitement of our first night we woke up to clear skies and some simply stunning scenery. While we failed to see any Norwegian Blues pining for the Fjords……..we could understand why they would ! Each corner we turned and each harbour we sailed into was increasingly more and more breath taking. Watching sheer cliffs shoot out of the ocean and disappear into the heavens. Seeing our ship seemingly crawl through impossible craggy openings that then revealed ancient harbours that have changed little since their whaling heyday. As we chugged along for the next few days it was simply one of life’s truly awe-inspiring moments.

There is a ceremony on board ship as we cross the Arctic Circle. In order to ensure a safe trip one must give thanks and pay tribute to Neptune and make a sacrifice. This sacrifice comes in the form of the Captain pouring ice cold (it even has ice floating in it) water poured down your back. For the hardy souls willing to make the sacrifice to Neptune they are rewarded with a shot of apple schnapps, which after having water poured down your back in windy -5 you need!

Our last day on ship is my birthday and while we haven’t seen any northern lights on board we have seen the weather change again this time to bring snow. A blizzard at sea. For my birthday Jim makes a snowman from all the snow that has fallen on deck – Banjo – becomes an instant hit and people are braving the wind to go out and take photos of him.

The 3 of us Jim, Lauren and the blizzard all arrive at Tromso together for the night. We have hired a cabin out of town at the caravan park to have more of chance to see the lights. We stock up at the local supermarket and head out to cook a nice meal and settle in. The cabin and meal were lovely….. but the Northern lights were as elusive here as they were in Kiruna.

The next day we spend in Tromso and with a look at the world’s most Northern brewery and a tour of the arctic explorers’ museum – which was actually quite good - it’s time for us to catch our plane to Oslo.
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