Sunday, December 02, 2018

Norway with Hurtigruten - Heading North

A keenly anticipated trip to Norway was upon us.   We'd booked to fly to Bergen, join the Hurtigruten ferry MS Trollfjord and then journey up to Kirkenes, the final outbound stop on the trip, back to Trondheim to get off the ship onto a train and then down to Oslo.

Neither of us had ever visited Norway and i in particular wanted to see the Northern Lights.   So hi ho, hi ho it's off to Norway we go.

The fleet of vessels used by Hurtigruten for these voyages is very modern, i took this image on the first day of the journey at Alesund, more on that below:

This is the simplified diagram of the voyage, which adorns various spots around the ship:

Now Helen doesn't have sea-legs so her agreeing to join this trip was premised on the fact that a lot of the waters were inland or at least in the lee of the land.   She did feel a little sea-sick though as we set sail after dinner and headed North.

After a rough night's sleep for both of us we woke and had an early breakfast to be ready to watch the landscape glide by as the sun rose.   We weren't disappointed:

The sunrise was spectacular given the broken low cloud, the calm sea and the latitude we were already at:

Some people seemed immune to the cold winds and camped out on the top deck in on the deckchairs:

The seas remained calm and mirror-like for the whole of the first day:

As part of our planning for the trip we'd decided not to go on any of the organised excursions but instead to work around the major stops and sight-see where we could.

The first major stop on day 1 was Alesund, famous for being rebuilt in an Art Deco style after a significant fire in the city.

We climbed a fairly steep hill immediately behind the city (some 412 steps or so) to get this view down:

We then walked a long way round and did some more exploring before re-boarding and heading North again.

At one point we could see smoke, it soon became apparent why:

As the afternoon progressed the sun started to set:

Another smooth night and we woke early in Trondheim.   A little cloud caught the dawn light over the city:

Around sunrise a river of cloud descended into the city, as we left the ship for our walkabout.   In an adjacent harbour this old military vessel was lit-up in the half-light:

Another city, another hill, we had spotted a hill to the North of the city we wanted to explore so we walked through an industrial area, then a residential area and finally scrambled up a muddy path, to find a peace memorial atop the hill:

On the way down from the hill we bumped into a local walking his dog who told us that the site was that of some big German gun battery, overlooking and protecting the U Boat docks in the harbour below.  Fascinating.   It's fair to say everyone we met and talked to in Norway on this trip was friendly, welcoming and helpful.

The light stayed low, we were already close to the Arctic Circle as we descended and headed into the city:

As we reached the centre the clouds had pretty much cleared, good timing on our part as lots of people on the excursions had been sightseeing in a white-out.   The trees in the grounds of Trondheim Cathedral caught the low sunshine, casting their shadows:

The cathedral itself is a magnificent structure that dominates the area:

From there we stopped at a cafe for some top-notch coffee, before exploring a little further along the  River Nidelva,which meanders its way through the city and out to sea.  Alongside a row of buildings sat on wooden stilts reflected in the still water:

The next day main stop was going to be at Bodo.   We'd settled into a pattern by now of having breakfast before the dawn so we could be on deck to watch the landscape go by and enjoy the effects of the low-light thereon:

During the stop at Bodo we decided to make use of the onboard fitness room, it was predictably deserted as most passengers disembarked to explore the town.

After we'd exercised we walked the decks again, enjoying this raft of Common Eiders sheltering in the harbour:

A few of them dived from time-to-time, retrieving something from below and then eating it.  At first we couldn't tell what they were eating until one male dropped his food and was hassled by a gull.   He proceeded them towards the ship biting it a piece at a time.   As he got closer we realised it was a starfish, or what was left of it:

The raft was soon scattered by a fishing vessel headed out to sea:

That afternoon we attended a talk on the Northern Lights and, over dinner, spoke with a lady who was on her third trip.   The information we gleaned was to prove hugely useful.  We didn't know you had to set an 'alarm' on your in-cabin phone.  After a certain hour the ship-wide announcements stop and this is the only way you get notified.   Also we knew to rely on the camera to see the lights properly, rather than the naked eye.

At 2am the phone announcement was made.   I reckon i was on the top deck in less than 5 minutes from the announcement, with my pre-set camera, taking pictures.   I took a load, most of them are somewhat or mostly blurred though as they needed long exposure and this, coupled with the strength of the moonlight and movement of the ship, combined to make capturing the 'dancing maidens' tricky.  I did however get one or two images i am reasonably pleased with, including this one:

So we'd seen the Aurora.  Fantastic.  It wasn't a strong aurora but it was a first, we sailed under clear cold skies north of the Arctic Circle and under the Auroral Oval where these conditions pretty much guarantee activity sometime between 8pm and 6am. 

Looking ahead the aurora forecast was improving, however the weather had other ideas...


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