Tromsø -> Abisko [actually Narvik] (19/02/2019)
It is during the bus journey to Narvik that I decided to start blogging the trip. So many picturesque scenes with a plethora of descriptive adjectives cannot but be committed to literary immortality.
We started the day like any other: up, showered and had breakfast (the coolest part of the room to store our grub was between the curtain and window) and we finished packing. Katherine’s back had stiffened up since the night before and bruises had materialised overnight. So, we tiptoed down the hill with fresh snow, in to the mall where our closest pharmacy had the heat pads that wrap around your back and we shuffled over to the bus station to start the next leg of the journey.
The fog had been replaced by a cloudy atmosphere of fine snow, blowing and swirling around Tromsø off the buildings and kicked up by vehicles. The last glimpses of the city were hazy and mysterious and the driver seemed oblivious to the snow and ice as he veered around bends, roundabouts and traffic lights to speed off on his exacting schedule.
Trees and even entire forests were bent over from the weight of the snow, humbly acknowledging the weight of the weather on its many branches. The clumps of pine didn’t bow to this pressure and stood proud and evergreen amid the scene. The walls of ice, baby blue and transparent white, had a fascinating, elegant quality and appeared on stretches of the road normally on our left hand side as we drove. To our right, trough screens of snowy dust we would occasionally glimpse the fjords and mountains of the other side. The narrow sections near the apex of the fjord were generally frozen over, with chunks of ice broken up through the rest of the plateau like white cornflakes from an otherwise empty void. The sections that were still freezing were a mottled appearance of brown and white, different shapes and sizes, with the appearance of cold fat congealing at the top of a tray. And yet this entire landscape was peaceful and beautiful, with shades of white and black only interspersed with the crimson red or cream of traditional homes.
We commented on how this country would laugh at our ‘snow days’ or lack of transport in comparison to their weather. We regularly saw folk clearing their cars and driveways, being about their business as normal. Whether for fun or work, there were even two people out on one of the fjords ice-fishing. And unless this gentleman was practicing rescue saving techniques, one chap was even ice-climbing by the side of the road on one of the gothic, cathedral-like sculptures that went higher than we could see out of the bus.
Folks disembarked the bus at random points; no discernible features, roads or houses in sight. Interesting fact: the #100 bus, is one of two bus routes that will provide an additional bus if the bus is full for that departure time. Thus, one needn’t worry about booking seats in advance. Also, it’s considerably cheaper buying your ticket through the online app, saving 20%, but you have a window of opportunity to use the ticket. So, only buy the ticket soon before boarding.
I return to this blog entry on the 20th sitting at the train station, hoping that the rail replacement bus service will turn up any minute. The road over the mountains crossing the Norway/Sweden border is closed. We understand that they are working on preventative avalanche works. The railway is disrupted due to a problem with one of the power lines. I heard a few disgruntled chats about this wouldn’t be the case if they had a few Diesel engines… it’s the price one must pay to live in a sustainable environment.
A bus did just turn up at the train station, but it was a normal route bus doing a u-turn. So, to continue our story… we paced the station, groups of tourists sharing information, looking at different sources of communication from several companies and numbers dwindled as some gave up hope sooner than others (or perhaps some realised their fate before others). There was no way to get to Abisko or anywhere for that matter.
We did a quick search for guest houses and tried ringing to check availability. With no answer on the telephone we booked the room and hoped for the best. I dragged rather than carried or wheelied the bag up the hill, with patches of snow clearly deeper than you realised but we were walking over the more compact stuff and the bag was being dragged deeper like a sea anchor behind a boat.
We left our guesthouse, with the lady behind the counter saying she’s never known snow fall like this in her life. In a reassuring way, it made us feel like there was nothing that we could have done. We watched a lorry struggle to get up the hill, with the second wheel just spinning with no grip on the road. Thankfully all the traffic was back far enough down the road that the lorry did a few reverses and attempted the uphill climb. We were sitting at the restaurant half an hour before he made it past us at the apex of the hill.
We tried to watch a bit of a film, but were more distracted and craning our necks out the window hoping to catch a glimpse of the Aurora. The clouds had suddenly parted, not at all what was predicted on the weather app until it happened. So, I set up the camera and tripod pointing out the window, did a few test shots and set several alarms during the night to check.
Tuesday, 19th February 2019