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Published: June 13th 2012
Wednesday 6th June 2012
This morning we reached the halfway point of our cruise with many passengers getting off and a new crowd ready to move in. Kirkenes has little more than this to offer the tourist we finding it a very drab and uninteresting town.
The lack of interesting architecture is due to the town being completely destroyed during WW2 probably because, as continues now, iron ore is mined here.
The Russian border is only 10kms from the town, busses taking interested tourists to view it. Having been to Russia a couple of years ago certainly didn't make this a priority.
The boat was delayed for an hour waiting for a tour group to return, as the ship disembarked we had our lunch.
Later in the day we stopped at Vado for about 30 mins and watched fish being unloaded from boats. This town looked attractive from where we were with colourful buildings nearby. We didn't get off the boat as the stay was so short.
Straight after embarkation there was a talk by a couple of scientists about the marine life in the area and especially the life of the King
Our little cabin
Cosy, but plenty of storage space so we could completely unpack our suitcases.
Crab. There were a couple of crabs on display, one about 3 years old and about 15cms across in total, another 15 years old with legs about 6cms in diameter. They are slow growing, not reaching full size until about 30 years of age but living to almost a century. There is a strict quota system in force with only live animals accepted, this ensuring there is no black market. Japan and China buy as much as they can.
This evening our dinner was to be a seafood extravanganza and it certianly was. There was so much choice - prawns, King Crab, mussels, fish cooked in a variety of ways as well as the typical smoked salmon, eel, mackeral and herring. Pit we can only fit a little in our stomachs!
It was nearly 2000 by the time we had uploaded the blog for the first part of this cruise, we would never have known by the amount of light outside as it looked as if it was early afternoon. Very hard to get your head around the fact that the sun doesn't go down here at this time of the year. It would be more difficult ,we
imagine, in about 6 months time when there would be 24 hours of darkness!
Thursday 7th June 2012
We are now on Day 8 of our trip and on our way back to Bergen, the end now looming. The ship stopped at a couple of places during the morning but the town of Hammerfest was where it would stay for 1.5 hours, giving us a chance to look around. This town is the world's most nothernmost but because of the warm Gulf Stream it rarely gets iced in.
It has been an important place because of this and has always been a fishing port and a stop for trapping expeditions. Strategically situated, it saw conflict with the British, Russians and the Germans at various times and since WW2 has been completely rebuilt. LNG is the main industry here now supplemented by tourism.
We walked through the town, to an interesting-looking cemetery and church on the top of a hill overlooking the town. On our return to the ship we visited the Polar Bear Club. Here we found out a lot about polar bears as well as a collection of stuffed birds. Unfortunately we were running
Views from the boat.
The ship negotiating through a narrow, man-made channel.
out of time and couldn't spend as long as we would have liked.
A bit of excitement when Rags left the group following directions from Fred to a liquor shop he found nearby. There was a great selection of wine there from France, USA, Portugal, Spain and Australia to name some, all at reasonable (for Norway) prices. He chose a Portuguese red just as the ship's horn blew so he hurried back. He then spent the next 10 mins or so, searching between decks looking for Judy and co. to no avail.
Finally he came across a worried Judy trying to ring his mobile (which was still in the cabin). They were doing the same as Rags had been, trying to locate each other !
The red wine was duly dispatched by us before dinner, quite an acceptable wine but still not as good as ours. (that sounds a bit parochial, but is true! ) Dinner started with an entree of reindeer and salad, another meat tasted and not that different to other animal meat. One of the good things about traveling with Hurtigruten is that all the food is Norwegian so we have had a lot
of fish which is fine as we love fish although we are now ready for a break from it!
We joined the group on Deck 8 for the evening music, getting up to dance for a while before returning to our cabin. It seems strange to have full sun after midnight and you tend to not feel so sleepy. We read until 0100 before turning out the lights. Inside cabins are good here as it is pitch black without the lights.
Friday 8th June 2012
The main point of interest this morning was the passing through of a 4.5 kms man-made channel opened in 1922. It was very narrow and the ship edged its way through slowly, they telling us that there was only about 1m of water under the keel in spots. The wind was bitterly cold on deck, this warning us to dress warmly for our excursion later.
After lunch we docked at the port of Stokmarknes for an hour, giving us a chance to have a quick look at the Hurtigrute museum there. This museum, free to enter with our boat pass, gives the history of the Hurtigruten company and
shows how the business has changed over the years, as well as the equipment used and how the ships evolved. Attached to the museum is the hull of a ship built in 1956 for the transporting of both passengers and cargo. They certainly didn't have the comforts we have and it made Rags think about the conditions his Mum must have put up with when she came to Australia in 1950 in an ex-troop carrier. This would have been even more austere.
At 1630 we had went on the excursion we had been eagerly awaiting, the Sea Eagle Safari. This entailed getting off the ship whilst it was still moving, into the boat that was taking us motoring along next to it. Sounds exciting but it was done without incident and 40 or so of us got on board.
For the next couple of hours we went from one scenic spot to the next, up and down fjords, every so often slowing or stopping as eagles came to the boat. Fish were then thrown into the water, the eagles circling and then swooping down to pick them up before flying off. Spectacular and exciting but also very frustrating
as we tried to get photos of the swiftly moving birds. Seagulls followed the boat the whole time, these being fed bread by the crew and tourists, obviously used to humans as this must happen regularly.
We arrived at Solvaer, the centre of the Lofoten islands at the same time as the Midnatsol, where Fred and Lorraine met us before we walked around the town. Here we noted that no-one was prepared to pay the A$15 or so to go to the museum, similarly to other places. No-one would do this for a 30 mins or so look, they would do much better to reduce the prices so that people would go in.
Dinner tonight was a little earlier tonight, at 2000, because many had gone on tours. We sat with a Swedish veterinarian and an Italian scientist working in Spain on their space programme. The vet had something to do with the control of the salmon fish farms along the coast. This made for an interesting evening discussing their jobs, politics economics, and science.
Saturday 9th June 2012
We had our 'normal' morning, with the ship continuing its way south back towards Bergen. During
Ship waiting in Solvaer.
After our sea eagle excursion
a 'normal' time on the ship Judy works (having a higher workload than she was expecting) and Rags either reads or writes up the blog. Judy has put in a few long days advising students on thesis statements for the essays they are planning to write.
Just before lunch we docked at the town of Sandnessjoen, the centre of which was close to where we were. Many of the passengers left the ship to walk down the streets of this attractive little town, the shops staying open after midday to cater for us.
Judy did find some interesting and beautiful glassware that was created by a local artist for sale but as we still have a long way to travel we couldn't risk the possible breakages.
The rest of the day was spent on Deck 8 watching the scenery go by, reading, snoozing and in Judys case, catching up with student posts. At one stage the ship made a detour so that we could see an 'interesting' sight, an island with the famous Torgatten mountain on it that a hole in the centre.
The dinner this evening wasn't anything to write home about, a salmon roll-up
for entree, followed by either tough, or very rare steak depending on the luck of the draw, finishing with fruit salad and icecream. To top it off we had a table of drunk youths at the table next to us, loud and obnoxious and on requesting a move of table we were told that there weren't any other tables even though it was obvious there was. The head waiter seemed to be on a bit of a 'power trip', we had noticed that in her previously.
Tonight we lashed out on drinks and cocktails in the music lounge, this being the last evening with Fred and Lorraine as they will be on an excursion tomorrow night. If we had done this every night the final bill would have been monstrous. Judy and Rags only had a couple of dances, the music not really 'there'. Enjoyable session though.
Sunday 10th May 2012
Knowing that the ship would dock in Trondheim at about 0630 and not leave until 1000 we decided to get up early and visit the Kristiansen Fortress there as we missed this on the way up the coast because of the rain. This led
to a restless night because we were afraid we would sleep in.
As it was we were up bright and early and out on the street by 0800. Trondheim was Norway's first capital city and is situated on the mouth of the river Nid. Its history goes back well before 1000AD, with the Vikings departing from there and it being an early centre of trade with America.
Alongside the river there are numerous wooden buildings still in use, now more for upmarket housing and cafes, in the past they were warehouses. We wandered around these buildings and crossed the old Town Bridge before heading off up a steep hill to the Kristiansten fortress. (see photos) This fort is presently being restored under a similar scheme we have seen in Australia, the 'Economic Stimulus Plan.” We still managed to walk around it and enter from the other side, a building in the centre being a cafe. We were restricted in time as the ship was leaving at 1000, it would have been pleasant to spend some time pottering amongst the ruins and old cannon.
As it was, we returned to the ship about 15 mins before departure. We
This was built 1681-85 to protect the country from the east. It is now being renovated. (Isn't everywhere we go)
shed our warm clothing and made our way to the library where we spent several hours blogging and working. We are now really into this routine but this will end tomorrow afternoon when we dock in Bergen and start the next phase of our adventure.
Monday 11th May 2012
After a reasonable night's sleep we were interrupted at 0300 by one of our tenants whose hot water system wasn't working as the pilot light had gone out due to Perth's stormy weather. The problem was resolved very quickly after advising we would foot the bill if it an appliance fault, she to pay otherwise!
Breakfast with Fred and Lorraine followed by some last minute packing and out of our cabin by 1000 as requested. We found a comfortable spot in a lounge on Deck 8, this was to be our base for the rest of the day.
The scenery changed in that we came closer to shore and the ship came very close to some interesting isles. They looked most appealing from where we were, we're certain they would be cold places tp be on during the winter. Areas of farmland were also seen,
Famous Torghatten mountain with a hole in its middle.
Our ship went around this so we could see it clearly. :-)
the lush green fields with the small brown and white houses being a contrast to the grey, snow-capped mountains.
The scenery changed with more buildings in sight the nearer we came to Bergen, we arriving here about an hour after lunch - our final meal on the ship.
Rather than wait for a taxi to take us to the hostel we opted to walk as we needed the exercise and the weather was pleasant with a blue sky and no wind. It only took us less than 10 minutes and we got there just before Fred and Lorraine who came by taxi.
The first part of the afternoon was spent with us checking out the best way to get to the railway station with our cases, not wanting to wreck the wheels on cobblestones. After this we walked around town, continuing on to the old section which is being restored. These old buildings are now being used as souvenir shops as well as galleries and craft shops. As they are all built of wood and the ground is sinking due to the influx of salt water, they made for some interesting sights with the many angles they
Just one of our delightful fish meals on the ship.
Dinner was at the local McDonalds, this being the pre-arranged meeting place with Fred and Lorraine, as well as being a more affordable place to have something to eat. None of us really needed much, still well fed from all the food we had on the ship.
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