We have crossed into the Arctic circle – it gives me such a thrill to think that we are so far north, if I had a travel bucket list, that would be a great fat tick right there. Hurtigruten runs a little competition to guess the time of the crossing – they let you know it’ll be between 6:45am & 8am and invite you to a ceremony on deck mid-morning to announce the winner of the competition and celebrate. Husband has some sort of advanced GPS tracking on the go so we get ourselves up just before 7 & venture out to be on deck. Its pitch black at this time of day so we don’t see anything, but just knowing we were there is enough for me.
Later on deck, we’re greeted to the sight of ‘King Neptune’ welcoming us to his seas, hoping we experience his rough seas and eat lots of fish (Tick and Tick) and initiates us into the crossing by pouring ice cubes down our backs with a chaser of gluhwein and a certificate. A nice bit of silliness to start the morning with.
It’s a largely uneventful day today, there are a few ports and just after lunch we take a short stroll through the town of Bodo – but there isn’t anything of particular touristic interest here, so we simply wander through some shops to stretch the legs and we’re back on board.
That evening, in Svolvaer, we head to the Magic Ice Bar, and what starts off as an excursion to kill a bit of time is easily the most fun I’ve spent in a very cold hour –it’s essentially an old warehouse filled with stunning ice sculptures – there’s polar bears, a full-size kayak with two sailors and even a miniature Hurtigruten ship!
That evening, the captain announces that as its smooth waters, he’ll be able to sail right up to the entrance of the famous Trollfjord, but we cannot enter the fjord due to risk of avalanche – the ships spotlights are on in full force and it’s a very nice thought, but unfortunately there isn’t too much to see!
On waking the next day, the landscape has turned white! We’ve gone from what a fellow blogger & tweeter referred to as 50 shades of blue to what looks like 50 shades of black and white! It’s as if we’re in a 1920’s old time movie. The white is the vast blankets of snow, the black the trees and the sharp ridges of the mountains. It’s a feast for the eyes and just as we think we’re full, they announce that whales are spotted in our bay! And true enough, there they are. I count at least 6 whales, visible only in small measure by the blow holes exhaling, but it’s amazing to be so close.
We have a few short stops during the day but our main stop is Tromso, capital of the arctic and home to 68,000 inhabitants. It’s a cosmopolitan town & boasts all the usual retailers, a major hospital that caters to the north and a large centre for polar expeditions and research – both for the North & South Pole. But today we are here to take advantage of Tromso’s white coverings and go husky sledding. The snow is pouring down and after a short ½ hour drive into the mountains, we arrive at Tromso Wilderness Centre.
I’d always wondered about the lives of the huskies and whether or not they were being treated well but as soon as we are there, it’s immediately apparent just how ecstatic these dogs are to do the work they do. This farm has 300 dogs and the dogs run between 40 & 50km a day! They’re clamouring for attention and all want to be hugged and petted and whine when you leave to pet another one!
We have some time with the dogs, learn a little about life on the farm, warm up with a hot drink and chocolate cake and then we’re off. Our guide, or musher, settles us into our sleigh (sled?) and we’re off. We cover c. 8km in about ½ an hour through the dark yet snowy landscape and my only wish is that it were light as the views across the beyond would have been a sight to behold. The dogs are so enthusiastic and it’s very apparent they love to do what they do!
It’s been a thrilling day and it get me thinking – we originally planned this trip in order to see the Northern lights, but what was originally the sole reason for taking this trip is slowly becoming only just another one of the marvellous sights we have seen and plan to see. I will of course be disappointed if we don’t see the famed Aurora, but I’ll have a lifetime of other memories to take with me. We’re already talking about coming back in the summer, when endless days will showcase the beauty of this wild coastline with proper effect.