After leaving Skarsvag we headed back to Alta, sleeping on the way in a layby between Olderfjord and Skaidi. It was very windy. The rocking of the truck isn’t so bad, it’s the occasional gusts that jolt you awake! Back in Alta - which was very closed as it was Easter Sunday - we resisted the temptation to have luxury camping and simply filled up with fuel and water and continued on, destination Tromso.
It was still cold and the scenery very white and icy but starting to see broken ice on the water and water dripping on the frozen waterfalls. The roads are clear now and I can unleash the full power of the landrover… haha at least I can do the speed limit on occasion anyway.
Arriving in Tromso on Monday 27th we found a couple of camp sites but decided to try and camp slightly out of town in case there was some northern lights in the evening. There was indeed northern lights but, it all seemed to be happening behind one big rogue cloud. I hoped it would move on but it just span on the spot! Must have been in the centre of some weather system – annoying! There were street lights on the road, to take pictures I needed to have the street lights behind me, but the northern lights kept switching sides of the sky so I had to grab my camera and cross the road back and forth. I wished I had two cameras – one for timelapsing, and one for standard pics. I even tried the gopro – didn’t catch any northern lights just street lights and headlights! To finish me off for the night I slipped on the ice where we were parked and hurt my knee! Awesome.
Tuesday 29th we headed into Tromso and had a brief look around. Annoyingly, the diesel had been 10.69NOK a litre when we came in the night before. The morning after it was 13.74NOK a litre! Was it a bank holiday tax relief thing? Who knows. Enlighten us if you do. I’d wanted a haircut so we found a place in a mall. I explained I just wanted a basic clipper cut, all one length… £40!!! So we found a cheaper looking barbers around the corner, and they wanted £25! Didn’t get a haircut. We were in need of the essentials – Shower, clothes wash, internet updates – so we stopped at Tromso Camping. Really nice modern and well thought-out camp site. The internet was fast fibre and covered the entire site, the showers were great, BUT a clothes wash and dry was 100NOK – like £8! Sharon nearly passed out. We did it anyway. Sharon managed to give me a haircut using her fingers and my beard trimmers! It wasn’t bad but a proper cut will be needed in future. Whilst cooking our tea in the kitchen block a young German guy came in with his camera, tripod and all the gear. We talked a bit about the northern lights etc. He moaned about the same cloud I was moaning about earlier!
Weds 30th We decided to stay another night at Tromso camping and locked the truck up and took a walk towards Tromso Centre. Walking though some of the residential streets this time of year it looks filthy as the snow piled up to the sides of the road is covered in grit and road grime. The kerb stones seem to be granite and most look like they have been heavily damaged by snow ploughs, leaving gravel/chippings everywhere. Unless they put the gravel down on the footpaths for grip? We passed the Ishavskatedralen (Arctic Cathedral), walked over the Tromso Bridge on the wrong side (cycle side) oops… and took a walk around town. Tromso is nice, a mix of old funky buildings and modern shopping or office blocks. Not many places to park a truck 2.5m tall though. Found the ‘Bastard Bar’ but it was closed, so went to the Hunsk Bar above it instead. English customers inside playing chess, with missing chess pieces replaced with beer bottle caps haha. Sharon had heard about a car ferry to Harstad, thinking it might be a nice break from driving and a sort of ‘Tight Overlanders Fjord Cruise’ so we went to check it out. Great idea, except that in the winter they only run that ferry at 1:30am… We supposed it might be good to see the northern lights from, but, good luck photographing it on a moving ship! Sacked that idea off and went for an expensive and admittedly undeserved burger! Walked back to the campsite and watched some Walking Dead.
Thursday 31st March was an admin day, photo and video uploading, facebook updates. It takes a long time!
Friday 1st April we woke to glorious sun. We even got the chairs out and had breakfast outside! I checked the fluids and wheel bearings etc and found some play in the driver’s front – but it was on the swivel pin not the bearing. Removed a shim and the play was gone. Hope I did the right thing! Also adjusted the fuelling as we’ve been giving off a bit of black smoke. Seems better but lost a tiny bit of ‘go’. No smoke no poke as they say. Shaz moved the cupboard contents around in the back as some gear ended up being inaccessible when the bed was set up. So the food and ‘stuff’ cupboards swapped around. Much better. Ended up with even more room for food which made Shaz’s day.
Headed off down the E8 with our next destination being the Lofoten Islands. The roads sucked on the way though, the landrover is really susceptible to camber in the road, if the road drops to the right, the truck likes to go right.. On the way out of Tromso the road had sudden camber drops where the edge of the road was subsiding, and drastic camber changes mid corner which made keeping it in our lane a good game!
This is the first blog post. We're already on the road since 3rd March 2016. I'm writing this from Tromso Camping in Tromso, Norway. We've got a lot to catch up on. I'm hoping to retrospectively add the previous entries in our trip diary to the blog, so that it will flow in the correct order... For now though, this is it! Check back soon, we will get this up to date and keep on top of it (when internet access permits of course...)
Bye for now, Guy
Found the polar raid video! We (the landrover) are in a few of the aerial sequences
Here's a video using a z1 pro Steadicam device and a gopro, walking around Nordkapp then Shaz videos the convoy drive back down.
Real-time vid of the convoy up to Nordkapp. We stop because we snapped a snow chain and it was thrashing against the fuel tank! Took it off and then continued on just 3 chains
After Nordkapp we headed back to Skarsvag (pronounced ‘Skarshvog’) and Espen waved us in from his spot on the frozen lake – we were given 4 arctic trout for our dinner! We parked up and Sharon gutted and cooked the fish, under my expert (!) supervision.
We went to the frozen lake for 7pm and were greeted by the Skarsvag locals with soup, chocolate and booze! The Northern Lights made an appearance so I spent some time trying to take half decent photographs… A little later on as I was stood behind the camera a short and feisty young woman marched up to me in her purple snow suit and said ‘Hey mr photographer, do you want to go somewhere darker to take a picture?’ Next thing I knew I was on the back of a snow mobile, trying to cling on with one arm whilst clutching the camera and tripod with the other. The snowmobile can be quite a rough ride, and after bouncing down a dip before a steep hill, the driver (June) hit the throttle and I just couldn’t hold on! Slipped off the back and landed in a heap in the snow, laughing and unhurt! June apologised profusely and suggested I hold a little tighter!
Nordkapp may be a few K’s on the road, but on snow mobile its very close. June brought me to a bay overlooking the North Cape, and I managed to grab a couple of photo’s before we headed back to the lake. I had a quick go on the snow mobile… crazy thing, you don’t so much steer it more suggest which direction you’d like to veer… bit like the Landy really!
After a couple more drinks and chatting we had an early night.
Saturday we had a lie in and then met Lill and Espen in the tent once again, out on the ice. Espen kitted us out with rods, and ice holes and just in case we were rubbish, another 5 trout he’d caught earlier! We stuck out the cold and caught absolutely nothing! No surprise. We met some great people, as well as the locals, a couple of ‘foreigners’ - Jamie, a photographer from London who quit his job to come and work with his cousin on a fishing boat and North Cape Experience adventure company, and Nathan a Dutch guy from Utrecht who has been coming out to Skarsvag for a couple of years, working on the fishing boats or in the fish company in the village.
After the fishing competition we sadly said our goodbyes. Skarsvag had initially been a low point when we felt we were getting cheated out of our goals by the weather and the dreaded snow barrier, but Lill and Espen and the people of Skarsvag (even if many of you don’t live there all year round) made it the highlight of our trip so far! Thanks so much your kindness.
Convoy from Honnigsvan to Skarsvag - bit of a tankslapper at 4:40 onwards!
Timelapse video, driving from the Alta area up to Skarsvag via Honningsvag. Music is an Aha remix (Norwegian....)
Hungover the next morning (Fri 25th) after an evening at Lill and Espen’s we drove down in the glorious sunshine and blue skies to the barrier – open! Down to the Nordkapp convoy and that looked promising too! There were 2 cars there when we arrived, by the time the convoy was due to leave there must have been 30 cars, most made up of a huge group of young Spanish people in cars stickered up ‘Polar Raid’. One of them had a drone camera and we hope to find the video he made as we are definitely in it. The drive up to Nordkapp was epic, white as far as the eye could see, huge snow drifts – but annoyingly some patches of asphalt. The crunching and clinking of the snow chains turned into a bangbangbang! Got into a layby just in time, found a link had broken on the right rear wheel, flailing a chain on the edge of the arch fuel tank! Straight though the paint, and the metal tank nicely chewed on the edge, but no hole luckily. Pulled the chain off and joined the back of the convoy on 3 chains..
Got up to Nordkapp, paid the entry fee (we had been told by the locals that we must do the full hit and see the panoramic film). Finally there. Hard to fathom really, from map and google earth dreams to reality. Walked around, took pics and vids, had a coffee and a waffle! We were so lucky with the weather. Didn’t have much time there really, the convoy left a little after 11am, and the convoy back was 13:45. Tried to squeeze everything in. Enjoyed the panoramic movie, quite moving, and good to see the surrounding area and how some people live their lives in the area. Quite amusing to see footage of a ferry arriving, doors opening, and a herd of reindeer walking out!
So this update is for week 3 and 4 really. Sorry its so long.. quite a lot happened. I've split out the Nordkapp and Skarsvag stuff. After our frozen fuel filter and skidding escapades we holed up in Alta to sort the truck out a bit and test things without venturing too far from help, and to try out the snow chains etc. All was good but the weather was terrible, lots of snow. So we lost pretty much a week with boring stuff like going to Biltema (cool shop) and getting some spare belts for the engine, fitting and tightening them, in between the snow bursts, and thawing out the frozen pipes and watching Game of Thrones.
The snow finally stopped and we made a dash for Nordkapp after some re-stock shopping and truck adjustments. We headed out quite late and only managed about 70 kilometres before it started to get dark. The road was stunning however, we seemed to be climbing up into the mountains, everything was white and the temperature plummeted. We saw -14 on the in car thermometer but in our experience so far it’s a little bit optimistic, so no idea how cold it actually got (prob -18? Without the wind chill). It was so cold that even though we were warm with the heaters on full, the window glass inside froze condensation or breath immediately. We didn’t fancy a repeat frozen landrover episode so we pushed on until we found more civilisation. We slept in a layby in Skaidi.
Next day we continued with no chains as the ice was patchy. We came up on the coast and the road followed the waters edge, with the occasional long tunnel. Lovely views and so many bays and mountains. We passed through the Nordkapp tunnel, onto the Mageroya Island, its so long and so steep down and then up inside the tunnel (for a landrover anyway). Parked up in Honningsvag by the ferry terminal just as the ship was leaving and blasting its fog horns, nearly fell over it was so loud haha.
There wasn’t much going on in Honningsvag and we hadn’t spotted anywhere nice to sleep (and the Ice Bar was closed) so we thought we’d head to Skarsvag, as that was only a couple of K’s from the Nordkapp convoy entrance. The road was quite steep and sketchy but we got through without problem. We slept in an open area right by the water. In the night the wind picked up and we could hear snow and ice hitting the windows. In the morning we woke to another 6 inches of snow and thought we had plenty of time to catch the Nordkapp convoy at 11am, so after breakfast we headed out of Skarsvag at around 9:45, only to find the snow barrier down. The convoy times were 9:15, 13:00 and 14:30 and so on. We were so gutted, knowing we had at least 3 hours to kill before we could leave, and then when we could leave, we’d have missed the Nordkapp convoy, so no way was it happening until the day after. Eventually the plow turned up at 13:00 and we followed it out with a few other cars. We had intended to stay at the Nordkapp convoy meeting place but the plow guys would not let us leave the convoy and stay there (and we understand why!). So we ended up back at the Honningsvag side of the convoy, and the plough guys advised us to go back to Skarsvag and catch the convoy in the morning. They also told me to drive faster and keep up with the cars in the convoy, I explained that we didn’t have studded tyres (Pigg Dekk) and he looked at the tyres and said ‘it fine, it’s not slippy!’ So in the convoy I put my foot down a little more, only to hit a patch of deeper snow and go snaking down the ice. Sharon screamed (you can hear her scream on the go pro video even though the gopro is OUTSIDE the truck!) We were ok though, trundled back into Skarsvag at 30mph…
We parked up outside a closed motel to make butties and generally wait, only for the motel owner to turn up and tell us to move around the corner – we apologised and went to move but the truck woudn’t start! Just a click, no drain on the voltmeter. Starter motor isn’t even trying! Great, in the cold, lying across the engine bay, hand down the back of the exhaust manifold to confirm my fear – the exciter spade had fallen off the starter. Got it back on eventually, what a mission, moved round the corner, slept there. Before sleeping we noticed that the snow barrier was up once again and cars were free to come and go.
In the morning (24th March, Thurs) got up and got to the barrier, down again! A car was waiting with us. 9:15 came and went, no plough. Great. The guy in the car behind came to talk and said as it was ‘Maundy Thursday’ of the Easter weekend, the plough might be operating Saturday or Sunday times. He added that this was the first time he’d ever known the plough not to turn up. The Saturday time 10:15 came and went. At this point Shaz and I were really fed up. Missed Nordkapp again even after following the plough team’s advice. We sat parked near the barrier, talking to the locals that occasionally walked by. We even took a walk up the road to kill time and get some exercise. Back to the truck and more waiting. The snow blower came along, great! But on speaking to him he said we couldn’t follow him and he was inspecting the road to see if the plough could make it through. An hour later he came back, the machine chewing the snow off the ground and blowing it 20ft into the air. He said maybe there is a plough at 2pm… A local, Lill, came by and talked to us, she didn’t know why the barrier was down or why there was no plough, except maybe its because it’s a public holiday. In the distance a snow mobile came speeding across the hills and Lill managed to wave him down to us. Turns out he is the snow plough driver and finally it all became clear – there had been a huge snow storm in the night and although we’d only had 6inch in Skarsvag the road between Skarsvag and Honningsvag (and indeed the road up to Nordkapp) had been buried in some sections, so they’d cancelled all convoys as they couldn’t get the snow ploughs through. He also explained that if the barrier is down between Honningsvag and Skarsvag then the Nordkapp convoy is cancelled altogether! Lill said she would make some calls, and if we parked up in the old school’s car park she would come and find us if she had any news.
Later on, sure enough, Lill knocked on the window and said the plough was now running again, but why don’t we just wait it out, and come over to hers and have food, coffee and a shower! We jumped at the chance (Neills/ Overlandbirds rules number 4 5 6 7 applied).
Coffee snacks and showers turned into beer and dinner, then wine then Acquavit and gin. Lill and Espen were our Skarsvag saviours and we were all pretty hammered by the time we turned in for the night. We had also been invited to their Easter Sami party on the frozen lake the next day, and to their annual ice fishing competition on the day after.