Unique wildlife

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Svalbard has a rather big population of ice bears, but you do not get the right picture if you only focus on ice bears – there are so many other animals that you can see here. I already talked about the Svalbard reindeer I saw at Isfjord Radio. It is almost like “Garden Edens” since they are not afraid of humans.
The same is with the grouse (Rype) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Lagopus_muta_-Iceland-8.jpg , that you can get so close that you almost can pick them up from the ground.
Another animal is the Arctic Fox. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arctic_fox   It is a cute little fox that is totally white during the winter. I found this little chap at the reception. Arctic FoxSvalbard2 007

You find furs and skins everywhere. Svabard always attracted Trappers. They came to hunt and trap and then sold the skins. Normally they had a “Trappe’s station” with many smaller huts with only a fire place and a bed in the area. So they could ski around in the area and check the traps.
Trapper station
The Ice Bear is of course the King of the Island. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polar_bear When it was allowed to hunt the polar bear, it was so hard hunted that there was only a couple of bears left. Between 1965 and 1973 the ice bear was protected in Norway and since 1973 it is totally banned. Ice bears can only be shot in self-defense. This made the population is strong again. Ice bears are cute – especially when they are small, but they are very dangerous animals and in case you are attacked by an ice bear you will probably not survive, Therefore you must carry a rifle when you are outside Longyearbyen. When we went to the dog yard our guide had her rifle between us in the front of the car.
RifleOur guide

It is a bit unusual feeling. You also see notes at the shops where they ask the customers to leave the gun and rifle outside.
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Seal meat has always been important for the people at Svalbard and still they use the meat to feed the sledge dogs. Earlier the trapper always had seal meat outside the cabin. It attracted the ice bear and it was easy to shoot for the trapper. When the ice bear was protected, the trapper had to hang the seals so the ice bear could not get them and it should not be close to the trapper’s cabin. It could look like this when the trapper stored seal meat for the winter.
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You find all kind of seals on Svalbard and they are also hunted.This is the curious harbour seal.
Harbor seal

At the Restaurant Kroa the table cloth is from seal skin and if you turn them around it is written like this.
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Walrus is also an animal you can meet on Svalbard. The Walrus is a very social animal and they love to lay side by side and have “close contact” to the other Walruses’.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walrus

 

Isfjord Radio

After a good nights sleep, I woke up and looked out of the window – the weather looked good. Everything on Svalbard depends on the weather and you have to be prepared for changes. But the staff here are very good and professional and used to this extra challange.
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The breakfast was very tasty and the room has a very nice atmosphere.

In the morning we visited the Basecamp dog yard. When there is no snow they put wheels on the sledges and go “Dog sledging on wheels”.

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It was a lot of fun. For each sledge we needed 6 dogs. Since we needed to have 4 sledges it means that a lot of dogs need to be prepared. I will not try to describe the sound when the lucky dogs were chosen – it was very loud and I had a feeling they all said: -Pick me, pick me!!!! 6 dogs had to be harnessed and it took a while to learn how to get the head on the right place in the harness and the legs as well. But the dogs were very patient.

We went sledging for about 1 hour and me and the dogs were very satisfied after the tour ended. It was a beautiful tour and I had a lot of time to enjoy the scenery. The colours are amazing.
Colors in september

In the afternoon we left for “Isfjord Radio”, the northernmost Boutique hotel in the world. Isfjord Radio is situated at the Isfjord at Kap Linné. In the summer you go the 90 km by boat (takes between 2-4 hours depending on the weather conditions) and in winter you go by snowmobile or dog sledge. Isfjord Radio was a radio station until 2007 when Svalbard got fiber connection and since 2008 it is a hotel.
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We went about 2,5 hours and since I sat in the front of the RIB boat, now and then I had a “shower” of salty water. No problem – we had survival suites on and all looked (and felt) like Michelin men. Too “fat” to move but therefore warm and safe. We were lucky and saw mink whale quite close on our way to Isfjord.
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Upon arrival we became a warm drink at the harbor and walked the path up to the hotel. The impression of coming in to this beautiful and stylish hotel after the boat trip was overwhelming.
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Before dinner we had a short walk together with Maren that runs the hotel – you are not allowed to go for a walk alone outside since they have polarbears in the area. This summer they spotted polarbears 3 times, one time of them was a mum with 2 cubs’.
We eat a delicious 3 course dinner with Whale as a starter and had a nice time with other guests before I went to bed. Have a look at the webcam: http://www.snsk.no/isfjord-radio.157272.en.html

Svalbard reindeer

In the morning we had a very nice breakfast and two wild reindeer’s decided to show up just outside the breakfast window. The Svalbard reindeer are different from the other reindeers. They are smalle, shorter legs and more “compact” in a way. They eat a lot during the summer and in the winter there is not so much food so they have to live from the fat they gained during the summer and lose a lot of weight http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Svalbard_reindeer. You could see that. These reindeer’s were really fat – and very cute. They are not very scared for humans .They should because the reindeer hunt just started.

Svalbard – the wild North

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Even if Svalbard is a remote place, situated between the Norwegian mainland and the North Pole, it is really easy to go there. From Oslo you fly either direct or via Tromsö to the Longyearbyen Airport. The flight takes between 3-4 hours. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Svalbard

When you arrive, you immediately feel that this area is totally different to other places in Norway or Scandinavia. Surprisingly you hear all kind of languages when you walk on the shopping street and it is not tourists. It is people that come from all over the world to work and live here. The University is well known and has a good reputation. The city is “young”. Even if I feel that I am at the end of the world, I hear loud dance music from the bar next door. It is Friday evening and the night just started.

Since my day started early, I will go to bed now. I really enjoy my cozy room at Basecamp, Trapper’s Hotel.
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I am looking forward to tomorrow!

The Lofoten Island – love at first sight

Haman Group has a fishermen’s cabin (Rorbu) of our own. IMG_0267

The reason for this is that Lofoten probably is one of the absolute highlights in Scandinavia. The nature is spectacular, the people are friendly and the combination of nature, sea and mountains raging into the sea is unique.
Add the best fish you ever eaten and the midnight sun to this and you understand that Lofoten is something you should not miss.

Carl Wilkinson from Finacial Times wrote this article: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/c79255c0-59b2-11e1-8d36-00144feabdc0.html#axzz1o2H00Zhw

There are many ways to come to Lofoten. Either you fly in to Leknes, Svolvaer or Evenes or you can go to Bodö (you come by car, train, airplane or bus) and take the ferry to Moskenes. I always go to Body and take the ferry since it brings me direct to the most beautiful part of Lofoten.

When I arrived in Bodö the sun was shining and the street cafés were full of people. Imagine Bodö is 150 km north of the polar circle and at the moment you find the best weather up here in all northern Europe.

In Bodö I have my “vehicle” in the basement of the Rica Hotel. It is not the car – it is the old bike.
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It works perfectly for me and makes me mobile during my stay. If I need a car, you can always rent a car at the harbor of Moskenes.

This year the ferry company invested in new ferries and they are both more comfortable, faster and I also have a feeling they are more stable in hard weather.
The ferry crosses Vestfjord and if you are lucky you might see whale. I was lucky 3 days ago and even saw orca’s playing, jumping and “waving with their tails” just outside Moskenes harbor.
http://www.lofotposten.no/lokale_nyheter/article6697445.ece
It is magnificent to see these big animals jump and swim like acrobats.
This is a small film when the ferry arrives in Moskenes, Lofoten

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The ferry arrived  at 20.30 in the evening but it is the time of the midnight sun so it never gets dark. I jumped on my bike and after 10 minutes I could not resist to stop at Maren Anna and have a glas of wine on their terrace.

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At Maren Anna you find local good food and sometimes they also have dance and music. It is a very popular place for the locals.

Now I can look forward to some beautiful and relaxing days. Perhaps I will take my bike and go to Skarisöy and get some fresh shrimps.

Hurtigruten – the original coastal voyage

My colleagues know that I am a better person in the afternoon, ie. I am not quite as nice in the mornings. Therefore they booked breakfast for me on board Hurtigruten in the morning! Thank you!
I started my trip in Harstad at 8.30 and had a lovely breakfast while we left for the Vesteraalen Islands. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hurtigruten.
Unfortunately, the weather was grey and foggy so I did not make any pictures.
We arrived in Stokmarknes and in the harbor you find the Hurtigruten Museum. It is a museum free of charge for Hurtigruten travelers. Here it is possible to go on board on one of the old Hurtigruten ships and to learn about the importance of the Hurtigrute for the people living in the remote norwegian coast.
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At 18.00 we arrived in Svolvaer http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Svolv%C3%A6r , the capital of Lofotenhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lofoten . Immediately I took the bus down to the southern part of Lofoten. The more south you come, the smaller and more winding the roads get. The more south you come, the more stunning the nature is and you have a feeling you are “in” the nature.
In Tind, 500 meters from Å (Å is the small village where the road ends), Haman Group has a small rorbu-cabin. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rorbu For me, Tind is the paradise on Earth!!!
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Goodbye Sweden – Hello Norway

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Abisko is very close to the Norwegian boarder so when I left I headed west and very soon I were in Norway. There are two ways of going from Sweden to Norway here. One possibility is by car and the other by train. The first time I came here was about 20 years ago and then I went by train http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_Ore_Line. I still remember that I wanted to write in my diary during the train ride, but had to stop because it was so beautiful outside that I just had to look out. Some 10 years later I was here again and full of joy I drove my car from Sweden to Norway and was so disappointed because by car you miss this incredible beauty. So now, another 10 years later, I go by train.
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I left Abisko together with a Chinese student. We talked a bit during the tour. When we crossed the Swedish-Norwegian boarder and we saw the first glimpse of the Rombaksfjord he just turned to me and said; – You must be very proud living in this country. I don’t know if he ment Sweden or Norway, but it doesn’t matter, I live in both countries. And Yes, I am very proud of my part of the world!
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rombaken

Narvik has a very interesting history, but unfortunately I had just some minutes to catch the bus to Harstad and arrived there in the evening.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narvik
Tomorrow I will embark the Hurtigrute and sail through the Vesteraalen Islands to Lofoten.

Abisko – the best place for Aurora Borealis

After my visit in Abisko, I experience my life a lot richer than before I came. I arrived with train from Kiruna, a journey of ca 1,5 hours. Abisko is a National Park and was one of the first 8 to be established in Europe. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abisko_National_Park
This area was made accessible when the train tracks were built in order to transport the valuable iron ore from Kiruna to the Norwegian harbour Narvik.
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Abisko does not only have an amazing nature it is also appointed by NASA to be the best place in the World to see Aurora Borealis http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aurora_borealis
The reason is geographical. Abisko have a special location, surrounded by mountains and lakes that make the sky clear and pure. Even if it is cloudy, the people in Abisko talk about the “Blue Hole” that normally comes in the evening. The Blue Hole is a hole in the sky without any clouds (and there are a lot of clouds around) that makes Abisko so special.  I experienced this myself because it was cloudy during the day and suddenly in the evening it cleared up and there was a kind of Hole in the sky that was totally clear.
I stayed at Abisko Tourist Station and they also operate the Aurora Sky Station at the mountain Nuolja. At the Sky Station they have aurora borealis 85% of all evenings. That is much more than other places inside and outside Scandinavia has.

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Abisko Tourist Station is a typical Swedish Tourist Station with accommodation in different categories. The HoteI itself is not very spectacular but you feel at home and relaxed. And since the nature is so spectacular, you don’t really need a spectacular hotel – the nature is enough. There are a lot of nice small rooms to sit by the fire, to read and to have a drink.

In one way I lost my heart in Abisko. There are many reasons for that. The nature really impresses me and it goes under my skin.
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I tried Icewall climbing for the first time. It is me you see above – it is no joke! Considering that I am afraid of heights I was so proud and felt like a queen! The last reason and perhaps the main reason is that I was the luckiest person in the world and had the Aurora dancing over my head all evening.

It was invited by Jens, the Sales Manager of Abisko, to join him up to the Aurora Sky Station in the evening. We took the probably slowest chairlift in the world up the mountain Nuolja. At the Skystation had dinner and after that I joined the lecture about Aurora Borealis. Tim, our guide, showed us the first glimpses of aurora on their live camera. http://www.auroraskystation.com/live-camera/9/

Suddenly Tim came from outside and asked us to come out. – There are some powerful Auroras outside. I think we were around 70 people up there. During dinner everybody talked and the sound level was high. When I went out and looked in the sky, the Auroras covered the whole sky from north to south. Everybody was so affected by this experience and it was totally silent. Can you imagine 70 persons together and nobody say a word?
Tim made a small film and I shared it on Haman Scandinavias Facebook page. You can see the film here: http://www.facebook.com/HamanScandinavia

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Abisko has a lot to offer. You can do Ice climbing, you can go skiing both cross country and downhill. Jens, told me that the freeriding at the Nuolja mountain is known to be one of the best in Europe when the snow is good. There is a husky camp beside the hotel (but the dogs are well behaved – no disturbance) so you can go for dog sledge tours. You can also do a photo tour with Chad Blakely and learn how to do photos of the auroras. Chad is one of the most known aurora photographer and he lives in Abisko www.http://lightsoverlapland.com
The Tourist Station offers a “City tour” of Abisko. That is a lot of fun… because I never found the city. You get an oil lamp and then you start the walking tour around Abisko.

Of course you can also go walking in the summer but I save that until my next summer tour and summer blog 🙂