Getting to the Arctic Circle was always on the list-of-things-to-do. It was just good timing that when we went out for dinner a few weeks back with Tom and Vicky and they mentioned a trip to see the midnight sun that, not only were they happy for us to tag along but we were free that weekend.
The plan was to go to Tromso in Norway, about 400kms north of the Arctic Circle, and see just how serious this 24 sunlight really was.
I think two decisions we made for the weekend were very wise, one was to get a cabin rather than camp as it was a lot colder than we were expecting it to be (and it enabled us to cook, saving us the shock of eating out on the Kroner), and secondly to hire a car as in doing so we were able to head far away from Tromso and explore more fiords and glaciers.
It's hard to do much research on Tromso. The beloved Lonely Planet thorntree forum does not have much info, and even google yields very little information, especially if you don't speak Norwegian. What can be said is that most things are prefaced with "northernmost".
So in our travels we enjoyed lots of "northernmost" moments.
On the first day we started with a walk through Tromso, the northernmost city to the northernmost city square to hear a band play the Peer Gynt Suite. Followed by a trip to the northernmost tourist information centre staffed by a kiwi. We tried going into the northernmost commercial brewery but it was closed so we settled on what is believed to be the northernmost polar museum, the Polaria - a great place but after it we all we wanted to go further north to see the huge glaciers and polar beers.
Seen at the Polaria, although quite possibly also able to be seen at the local fish and chip shop.
A seal at the Polaria.
The log cabins at Tromso Camping
Pre-dinner snacks of ryvita, salmon and an unidentified salt fish. Vicky, Tom & Paul
As the weather was predicted to improve over the weekend we stayed in Tromso for the evening. It started with our attempt to recreate the local snacks, although no doubt we'd all agree that buying a jar of fish was in error.
Later in the evening we headed to the northernmost cable-car to see the sun not set above Tromso and the fiords. It was rather odd that as we headed to the base of the cable-car at 11pm there were still small kids playing outside, people jogging, painting houses and the like. Seems that without the darkness you just don't get tired in the same way.
It was a lot chillier at the top than we'd all expected so Tom's whiskey was a good surprise warmer (and handy for the nerves on the way up and down).
It was without a doubt very strange standing at the top of this hill, seeing the colours change a little bit behind the clouds but with the sun really going nowhere. Stranger still to then see it start to get lighter as we were walking back to the cabin.
Looking up to the top of the cablecar.
Amy and Paul at the top(ish)
Rock piles - the first of many.
Showing the midnight sun.
On day two we made the most of the car, and the great ideas we got from Kyle-the-kiwi at the information centre.
The plan was to head out to Oksfjord Glacier, it was to be two boat rides and about a four hour drive in total. Of course that did not include photo stops, playing in the snow stops, trying to find Norwegian snack shops, or stops to chase animals.
One of the stops on our great driving day.
Reindeer in the woods.
The northernmost picnic lunch with the glacier behind, a mere five hours after we set out.
A better view up to the Oksfjord Glacier. (Found somewhere near here)
Reindeer skins at a local Sami community.
In spite of having had a very long day driving, the weather was clearing up. With this in mind, after dinner we headed to the west to find some coast and a place to watch the sun not set.
It was a beautiful drive and at each bend there was another great view out to another stunning fiord/hill.
The mountain behind our campsite.
The western point we went to was Sommaroy. The light looks really orange here, but that's really only as we were looking out directly into the sun. In actual fact the sky above us was blue in spite of the front coming in from the south.
If you look hard you can see Amy bravely putting her hand in the icy water about midnight.
Tom was a little braver, and went for a swim.
The drive back and a few reindeer on the side of the road. We lost Paul and Tom for a bit as they went deer stalking with the telephoto lenses.
Day three started with a tour of the Mack's Brewery in Tromso - polar beer - followed by a various-meat-stew in the Mack's Pub.
Visiting the Mack's Brewery
Having restocked our picnic supplies we were off on another boat trip. This time to the islands north of Vengsoya. A beautiful remote area where we visited islands with populations of 4 and 2 people... and many more islands with no one at all.
A boat shed
One of the wee villages we visited.
Dinner of fresh prawns (from the local market), reindeer and elk on the boat. Dessert was Norwegian waffles from the mess.
A frozen lake on the way back into Tromso
After three long days (or perhaps one continuous one) our last day was spent cleaning our wee cabin and venturing into Tromso for our one (northernmost) meal out. Paul had a lovely salmon stew, I ventured the dried and reconstituted fish stew. Tom again proving that he was braver than the rest of us had seal lasagna.
It was a really lovely weekend and certainly a once in a lifetime experience for us kiwis. Unless one day we venture back to work in the northernmost information centre.