Monthly Archives: August 2012

Counting Down

If you visit here often, you may have noticed a new addition at the bottom right of the page. In honour of the shortening days, it’s a count down to the time the sun will disappear for the winter.

We’re now at the point where on a cloud day it’s quite dark by 9pm, but if the sky is clear it’s still not fully dark even at midnight.

Sorry, no photos today.

First Snow

Last Sunday we had an outdoor service at Bjørvelnes as part of a special weekend there. The drive out was not promising, as the light rain turned to a downpour and the wind increased significantly: not good for an electronic keyboard and music printed on paper.

Thankfully, on arrival we found we had been moved into a couple of marquees attached to a pier behind the tobacco kiosk, over the sea, which for the rest of the weekend had functioned as a beer tent and entertainment venue. Still, at least it was out of the rain.

We improvised liturgical furniture, and I think it’s the first time I’ve seen beer barrels used ‘in church’. About 35 people came  and despite being able to see your breath, we enjoyed warm worship.

After the outd0or service, it was on to the actual church building for 3 baptisms and some welcome warmth. On the way I noticed we had our first snow after the summer, albeit above about 1500′ (500m).

In the afternoon it was 3F (Familie Friluftsliv Finnsnes kirke) – an outdoor activity group to encourage family participation in the church. This week they had organised canoeing on Finnsnes Vann (the ‘pond’), followed by camp fire cooking and a special family service to celebrate the start of the school year. It was an informal service and even included a canoe in the opening procession!

The new church band also debuted at the service, leading the music beautifully. We decided to make a gentle start, so 4 part harmony vocals, piano, acoustic guitar, bass guitar and euphonium (or as Susanna has to keep explaining – det er lika en liten tuba).

And of course, the service was rounded off with coffee and cake.

Catching Up

Things have got somewhat out of order, so here is a single post to try to iron out the kinks in time:

Sarah’s Birthday

Last week Sarah celebrated her 21st birthday again. Because her happy-go-lucky husband had gone on an impromptu camping trip she arranged her own barbeque. We were blessed with warm weather (at least in the sunshine) and used the communal picnic space and playground outside our apartment which was good as the guests included 4 very lively boys!

Sørreisa Stained Glass

We had an ‘extra curricular’ trip to play for an evening service in the neighbouring parish. The chapel reminds me a lot of the chapel at Keele University with bare brick walls and very characteristic woodwork, although in this case pine rather than limed oak. Perhaps the most eye-catching feature though is the stained glass above the communion table which was incredibly vivid as the afternoon sun poured through it.

The Purple Headed Mountains

Late last week we saw the return of the rose coloured late evening sunset light. Even though most of the snow has gone (so there is less to reflect the sky), the light reminded me of the line the purple headed mountains from the English hymn ‘All things bright and beautiful’. Also note in the panorama how each peak has it’s own private cloud – something which seems quite common here.

And That Same Evening . . .

In the opposite direction, there was a golden ribbon of sunset over the ferry terminal and sea to Senja. Photos below and interactive panorama here and here.

An Empty Nest (Again)

Finally for this post, Susanna started mainstream Norwegian high school this week. Having had a year away from mum and dad at the Govenor’s School for the Arts in South Carolina, she was keen to use the excuse of learning Norwegian faster and making friends sooner, to live in the school accommodation. So Monday to Friday, mum and dad can party all night without having to worry about keeping our baby awake (or we can go to bed like old people without being disturbed by our teenager).

She seems to have enjoyed her first week, making friends with a German and 2 Russians who are also living at the school, and already making plans for trips out.  I’m sure there will be much more to report, or you can contact Susanna direct for the whole story. Meanwhile, pictures of moving in to her new room are below.

Camping Trip part 2 (or swimming with the rumpetroll)

. . . continued from previous post.

After a somewhat restless night trying work out the most comfortable way to sleep with a rock in my back, I finally woke to a calm and very foggy morning. It seems that overnight the sea fog had sneaked up the valley and enveloped our camp and there was a heavy dew everywhere. However in a very few minutes the sun broke through and began to burn it away. Because there was absolutely no wind at that point the lake was like a mirror, and I don’t think I have ever seen such a perfect reflection. One of the pictures below is upside down – see if you can work out which!

At this point I also learnt my favourite new Norwegian word – rumpetroll – which sounds best when said effusively, repeatedly and with very rolled Rs (4 year old boys do it best).

We had a late breakfast and contemplated the first order of the day – swimming with the rumpetroll (tadpoles). In preparation for returning from the somewhat chilly water (note the patch of snow next to Frank’s lake, which was helping to maintain the water temperature), we re-lit the fire and boiled a kettle. Then, just as we were set for swimming a tiny breeze began and the fog re-appeared, bringing a sudden drop in air temperature and an eerie gloom. Because we didn’t know how long it would be before the sun came back, we decided that ‘there’s no time like the present’ and Frank took the plunge while I took pictures, then we reversed roles. The water was very cold, and the shock of diving in was enough to persuade me not to swim far (the water was very clear but we couldn’t see the bottom in the middle).

After getting dry and warm, we had a short Bible devotion in German, prayed and then broke camp, packed up and headed down the valley towards our pick up point. We also stashed the spare firewood for next time (we hope).

On the way we met two New Zealanders backpacking around Norway, passed a camping hut (one of a network owned by the state and available for anyone to use free – first come, first served, and quite basic), spoke with fishermen by the lake, picked multer (‘cloud berries’ which are a local favorite and the location of which is a more closely guarded secret than that of the Norwegian army), spoke mostly Norwegian, and finally reached the hydro-electric station where we got our ride home.

A huge thank you to our wives for letting us go at very short notice! Det var flott.

Photos below, and a panorama here:

A Tale Of Two Armies (or Camping Trip part 1)

Last week I was treated to an impromptu overnight camping trip with Frank (as noted in the last entry, posts are getting out of sequence). We had talked about trying to get a walk in this summer but the weather recently has not been good, so when a 24 hour ‘window’ presented itself, we took the chance.

We packed our rucksacks and Sarah took us to the drop off point on the other side of Senja. The weather here can be very localised, and as we arrived at the start point for the walk, sea fog was rolling up the valley. However, having got that far, we decided to press on and out walk it. The plan was to get just beyond the head of the valley, camp over night by ‘Frank’s’ lake, then complete the walk the next morning, a total distance of about 12 miles.

Finding the trail initially meant walking through some very wet areas, and I’m glad to report that my new $30 boots (bought in South Carolina), not only proved warm in the snow, but are completely waterproof, to at least 6 inches!
Having picked up the trail (denoted by red paint on trees and rocks for Tur), we walked through the ubiquitous silver birch woodland, crossing the river, and periodically glancing back to see where the fog had reached. It was very peaceful with only sound of the river and occasional waterfall on the valley side as the background to our theology talk.

After a couple of hours, we saw smoke ahead first from one fire, and then eventually 7. This signaled the start of our encounter with the first army, which turned out to be about 120 soldiers from the nearby Bardufoss base. We thought we would have some fun, so as we approached I asked them in English for directions to Oslo which raised a smile. We asked where they had set off from and a serious young man showed me a map, and  it turned out they were doing the reverse of our route, so I asked him how long it had taken them – 3 days perhaps? I’m not sure he had a sense of humour because he was trying explain, even when the others were laughing.

Leaving their camp, just below the tree line, it was then very easy to follow the path: 120 pairs of boots make a big impression in wet ground. As we walked higher, we were treated to fantastic views back down the valley, with the fog now well below us.

At one point we found an interesting 3 toed footprint, so we are considering alerting the Discovery Channel about a possible location for either ‘Big Foot’ or the ‘Abominable Snowman’. We also nearly stepped on a large toad which jumped just in time.

Our third wildlife encounter was with the other army – Sveriges hemliga armé (Sweden’s secret army)the mosquitoes (see picture of mug below). Known locally as Myg they are large (much larger than in the UK or South Carolina) and gathered in big clouds around us. The bites didn’t really hurt, itch or swell, but the Myg seemed to have missed the memo about staying away from mosquito repellent, which only worked for a few minutes. Hard to believe that possibly the worst outbreak of Malaria was inside the Arctic Circle (see point 8 here for more details).

Shortly before reaching the summit between valleys we began collecting fire wood, which Frank then carried for nearly a mile until we found ‘his’ lake, just over the top. We pitched the tent, built the fire, cooked super (soup and macaroni, with sandwiches, washed down with Earl Grey Tea), talked and prayed. The views were spectacular, and it became clear that the whole island must be surrounded by the fog, but we were well above it with warm(ish) air and clear skies. As we settled to sleep after midnight, there was still enough light to see for walking.

Below are pictures. You can also see some panoramas:

  • Valley walk 1 – taken as we crossed the river.
  • Valley walk 2 – taken look west, back down the valley after our first army encounter
  • Valley walk 3 – our camp site and ‘Frank’s’ lake, looking east across Senja to the ‘mainland’ near Finnsnes

Part 2 will follow soon!

A New Light

About 12.30 last night I woke to a text message (SMS) from a friend, telling me the Northern Lights were visible. Whilst the Northern Lights exist year-round, it’s only possible to see them on clear nights when it is dark enough. At the moment it is still not completely dark at night, but last night the sky was clear and for almost half an hour we were treated to the dancing green lights. In my hurry to take pictures I forgot to use a tripod, so the images are a little blurry, but still capture some of the beauty. Video might be better for catching the movement, which is very graceful, so I hope to try that next time.

Varden 3

In a recent post there were pictures of our second family attempt on Varden – the local hill. This week we had our third attempt, and we would have reached the top had we not started to run out of daylight. It’s a walk with many possible paths, all up through the birch woods which are a characteristic of North Norway (at least at lower levels). We took a route on the sunny side, but with quite a steep drop off from the path, which isn’t really too bad, except for the distraction of the view across the sea to mountains of Senja.

Below are pictures. There’s also a partial panorama here.

This has also been a busy week, so look out soon for more posts and pictures as we try to catch up on family happenings.

A Beach Birthday

Susanna has just celebrated her birthday and the weather was much better (by local standards), so some friends invited us to join them for an afternoon celebration at the beach. 3 families set out for Bøvær beach, near Skaland on the west coast of Senja (about a 70km trip from Finnsnes). There was an initial false start when the Brits turned up in shorts, tee-shirts and flip-flops at the Norwegian house (that’s what you wear to go to the beach – right?), to be greeted by people in what appeared to be winter clothes. We decided to go home and change, respecting local wisdom.

Communication was interesting with the English family who spoke a bit of Norwegian, the Norwegian / German family (adults speaking good English too), and the Finnish / German family (adults also speaking good English). The children had German in common.

On arrival at the beach, the obligatory fire was started, and small children in wellies, over-trousers, coats, gloves and hats played on the sand and ‘paddled’ in the sea. We ate barbeque and cake (and sand), washed down with fresh brewed coffee.

The boys picked flowers for Susanna. It was a really relaxing afternoon, and it looked almost ‘Caribbean’ with white sand, turquoise sea, blue sky and sunshine – only the clothing give away the chilly wind. Despite much ‘daring’, no one went for a swim!

Whilst there we also saw several local landmarks, including the home of the prestigious Skaland music festival (the rather rickety looking ‘red shed’ on stilts over the sea) and the ‘twin peaks’ which always seem to have cloud swirling around them.

The trip home was spiced with a reasonably close encounter with an Elg (moose), wandering around the main road. Sadly we couldn’t get the camera out quickly enough for a picture.

Below are some pictures, and there are a couple of 360 degree panoramas:

Making The Most Of The Sunshine

The weather in Finnsnes this summer is the worst for many years, with cool temperatures, cloud and rain most days for over a month now. Even the locals are complaining. However, the low cloud has given some nice photos.

On the odd occasion the sun has shone, it’s been good to get out. The lying thermometer on the veranda recently said 28c / 82f (although I was wearing a sweater when I took the picture) – so we ate lunch outside.

A few days ago we had a family walk up ‘Varden’ – the local hill. We didn’t have time to get all the way to the hut on top, but we had reasonable views over Finnsnes and Senja. Tomorrow so we might try to get to the top, although every day the forecast says it will be better the day after (if that makes any sense!).

View From The Bridge

Yesterday we went for an evening on Senja and to work up an appetite, we walked. The view from the bridge is good, so here’s a 360 degree picture (I nearly managed to remove the bridge!). Sorry about the quality – it was a phone camera.