A Merry Christmas

It is time to sign off for the year – wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas and all the very best for 2018.

And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!”   Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Approaching Honningsvåg, Norway – 23rd December 2014 on the Hurtigruten Ferry.

Mad dogs …

Everything has changed.  Gone are the thousand lakes and the endless forests.  Gone too, if temporarily, are the midges. We have crossed into Norway, into snow-capped mountains on the edge of the sea.

The 200km trip north from Lakselv along the E6 and E69 is spectacular, at one point diving deep beneath the sea in a 6km tunnel – exciting in a car, not so pleasant for the many laden-down cyclists heading north for world’s end.

The objective was Nordkapp via Honningsvag, a town we last saw under deep snow in December.  By coincidence MS Finnmarken is moored at Honningsvag quay, the ship that brought us here over Christmas, as is P&O’s Arcadia, the ship we travelled on to the US, the Arctic and the Med.  As a consequence the town is echoing to the sound of English accents and so is Nordkapp where the dreaded cruise tour buses line the car park.

... from Lakselv to Nordkapp

... from Lakselv to Nordkapp

... from Lakselv to Nordkapp

... from Lakselv to Nordkapp

... from Lakselv to Nordkapp

... on the road to Nordkapp

... from Lakselv to Nordkapp

Seven months on the snow has gone from Honningsvag and it looks a little rough around the edges but then most towns are improved by their winter coats. This first image of MS Finnmarken contrasts with the version shown here:

MS Finnmarken ...

Heading north ...

Heading north ...

Heading north ...

It is a long haul to Nordkapp and as you climb through cloud there is a sense of achievement on arrival. This is soon followed by disillusionment at the exorbitant entry fee – like Land’s End, Nordkapp is now a themed experience but having come this far we feel obliged to cough up. At least there is a statue which recognises our irritation – “No Kimi, I will not tell you again, it is just too darn expensive!”

Heading north ...

At the edge ...

In all the +1000km we have journeyed to the far north, I had not seen one UK registration plate until this appeared in the car park at Nordkapp. Only mad dogs and Englishmen would go out in the land of midnight sun in such a device – good luck to them, a fine adventure.

Heading north ...

The snow-capped mountains come in the next post.

Sehnsucht …

“Nowhere is the drama of dark and light played out more starkly than in the north”
George Mackay Brown

Days 5 and 6: There was a pattern to the days – while the light lasted, standing on the ice and snow encrusted upper deck, we watched the majestic waters and mountains of the Norwegian coast unfold like an IMAX movie; Slartibartfast’s finest work.

The sun never rose from behind the mountains but cowered beneath the visible horizon spreading a pink/blue glow which would begin to fade almost as soon as it arrived.

Approaching the next port, the streetlights would be on and the quays lit by an orange glow. Once off ship, a walk around the town would be in snow covered, near night such that all our memories have a dream-like quality.  I am left with nothing but a deep desire to return. It is the equivalent of my impractical but intense desire to live in the wilds of Scotland’s northwest; the Germans have a word for it – sehnsucht.

Approaching Honningsvag ...Approaching ...Approaching Honningsvag ...

Honningsvag ...

The harbour at Honningsvag ...

The images were taken in and around Honningsvåg. In the freezing temperatures the decks were quiet much of the time except at night when the northern lights put on a show. The swimming pool was always quiet – I was never tempted!

Aboard Finnmarken ... Approaching Honningsvag ...