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Published: June 28th 2007
A bleak landscape appears outside our balcony. Voyager has arrived in Longyearbyen located on the island of Spitsbergen, part of the Svalbard archipelago. We are halfway between the North Pole and the Norwegian mainland.
Once a mining area, oil-drilling drives today’s economy. With four months of midnight sun and four months of polar night, it takes a hardy soul to live here.
Alan and I join a group of hikers to begin our ascent of Plateau Mountain. The group is divided into four levels. We choose the next to the slowest group, which means we will probably not have time to reach the top. The problem isn’t going up but I can already tell that my fear of heights will hamper the return down the mountain.
The steep path levels out at several spots giving us the chance to stop, take a breath and look at the scenery. Our guide, Ellyn, wears a backpack that has a rifle poking out of the top just in case we spot a polar bear.
The higher we hike, the rockier the path becomes. Reaching an area with a rock cairn, the group stops to sign a book proving that
we were here. The permafrost is spongy underneath our hiking boots.
As we approach a snowfield, Ellyn says that we must turn around and start our hike back down the mountain. Although it would have been nice to make it to the top, I’m happy to have made this far. After all, it’s the journey not the destination.
At the hike’s conclusion, we sample smoked seal meat served with sour cream and flatbread and wash it down with blackberry juice or tea.
As Voyager sails North in the Arctic Ocean, jagged peaks topped with snow and massive glaciers pass before us. Photographers line the outside decks clicking away. The sun never sets as we set sail for our midnight rendezvous with the ice pack near the North Pole.
To read about our arrangements for taking this hike, visit Hiking Plateau Mountain
at my blog about baby boomer travel, My Itchy Travl Feet
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