On top of the world

Kiruna is a place like no other! Already autumn with yellow leaves and and and and in a few week the snow will be back again. One of my last days as a Kiruna resident I got up on the city mountain Loussavaara one of my last days as a Kiruna resident.  The beauty of Swedish Lapland will be missed. Living here for a year has led me to want to visit other arctic landscapes as well. Now my bucket list has doubled!

Already people have gotten great pictures of the northern lights, even though it isn’t very dark yet. But we gain 10min darkness per night now. Maybe later during the night but not when I was out. Still beautiful that it’s so colorful.

Discipline equals freedom 

For my last month in Kiruna I’ve gone back and forth to Gothenburg a few times. I‘ve visited the west coast a week when some things needed taking care of. Also showed the city to someone who isn’t familiar with Gothenburg. Went to Trädgårdsföreningen’s palm-tree house and it just happened we came on a day when people were there playing the violin. The sound danced through the greenhouse and was a lovely mix with the white light and the blue sky. 

Also visited the “Universum” science park. It’s a big building next to Liseberg (another famous site). Universum is proud to present a multi storey park with different climate zones on different floors. The rainforest is three floors high showing the 3D characteristics of such an environment with different organisms suited to live on different layers. The plants and animals are fascinating both for small and big children (including chronological adults).

Down south I have seen both the sunset and the moon again. This is strange since I’ve had months of light. Having the sun go down definitely makes it easier to fall asleep but it’s not as special as the days constantly changing from one extreme to the other. 

When I got back home to Kiruna I ran the race “Jägarmilen” (rangers 10k). I found it a week earlier only but thought it would be a good way to say goodbye to beautiful Kiruna. A few thousand people were running and I was surprised it was that big. Was fun to finally do a real race! I have looked at many races before but never had the time or probably more important –  the guts to through with it. 

I have been stationed in Kiruna now for 10 months but will change company and at the end of August I moved from Kiruna. I packed and made the long drive back home. With the small complication that I’m not moving into my apartment until November.

With the new job, which also is my old job, I get to be in Gothenburg every other weekend and see my friends. Sure will be good to have a little surface support again. I think I’ve been below the polar circle 8 days this year (not counting holidays in other countries. Last year I worked over a bigger area up north and was home 16 days in total. It’s starting to be a while I’ve been away from home. Don’t know much what has happened in Gothenburg the last three years, will be fun to find out! I miss you!

Travelling both for work and for fun I have met wonderful people and been to places I’d never go to unless I worked like this.  I will try for a while now to do a restart in Gothenburg and see what happens. It’s time to start a new adventure. I’m not exactly ready but I look forward to learning new things again. 

“Activity equals life – stagnation equals death”

I’m a much stronger person after travelling a few years. I was lost and confused when I started and it has had ups and downs but it has strengthened me. I used to be afraid to get lost, to feel alone, not be accepted as I am. But what I realize is that when I’ve been going it alone I have faced my fears. I still struggle some times but not having place to live for two months doesn’t bother me, missing the ferry in a foreign country doesn’t make me mad and confused – I just modify the plan. I have learned a lot.

I am at most times good at handling a wide range of tasks simultaneously. My motto “structure and discipline” has taken me forward through life. I think I have taken this on to relieve the anxiety I feel about achieving a goal or task. I know that if you are prepared you just have to execute. Picking tasks apart into subtasks and coming prepared does a lot to take the stress and off.

I’m a high achiever, high stress person. This combined with being conscientious isn’t always perfect. In many ways I like being under pressure. At the same time I can make myself very unhappy, often unnecessarily. Balance needs to be the goal as with many things in life. And you can’t force balance, you can’t buy it or get it from someone else. You can work towards it but being such an abstract concept I don’t know if it can be achieved.

 It would be a paradox to have perfect balance.

As always I’m thinking a lot, questioning myself and my decisions. I heard this on a podcast I listen to:

If you don’t have doubt you’re not challenging yourself enough

Spending as much time in airplanes or public transportation I’ve been thinking about how I am perceived. I’m seasoned and travel in comfortable clothes and with a lot of luggage most times. Today I laughed out loud sitting in my own little world watching a Ted talk. A wingsuit pilot got the question: did you ever get a request you wasn’t going to do, that you said no to? And he replied:

– Of course. Some people have crazy ideas

Perspective!

Progress 

I’m reading through the manual to the PADI Dive Master course since I’m doing the course in October. Going to be with Diveteam Lysekil for 10 days. Will be great! I’m doing a lot of courses this year. Did SSI freediving 1, techrec 40 and have planned for techrec 45 and DM as well. 

 I find out things about myself looking through the material. I realize that I am actually more comfortable with diving deep than with navigation. It is however much greater risk diving deep as you risk your life but with navigation you mostly risk failure and embarrassment. Guess what scares me most? Conclusion – I need to work on my weaknesses and get more comfortable with failure.

I’m starting to find my motivation again. The road we take can be less than straight.  I want  to be better, stronger, learn new skills. I want constant progress and I’m willing to put in the work and make it happen! The last few years I’ve used diving as my excuse to travel the world. I have explored many countries and done many dream dives. Still the the list is only adding. I love it! I will try to get on course again after a few screw ups recently. Going back to prioritizing doing all these things I cannot not do. I’ll have to balance it somehow – life, tough stuff… To be continued. 

A memory from Gilli Trawangan

Small steps take us forward, if we start… 

Abisko-Kårsavagge

Abisko to Kårsavagge is a popular trek to make. Kårsavagge means Kårsa-valley. Hiking in a valley makes it a easy hike and it’s possible to walk the 11km (+450m),  sleep in a cabin at the end and walk back next day.

Abisko is a beautiful place to drive to from Kiruna and a easy way to get out on marked trails in beautiful surroundings. The geography gives the area better weather than the surroundings, especially during winter it is rarely overcast – this fact has made the little village a northern lights mecca.

I felt happy as soon as I started the hike. The sun was shining, the birds singing and I had a chance to enjoy the outdoors. Now and again you hear a chopper going by. They carry both tourists but also locals that check on their reindeer or travel to remote cabins. I was feeling the weight of my pack,  but having a good pack that transfers the weight down to my legs, at least I don’t get backpain.

The low alpine doesn’t inspire me as much as the high alpin. With its shrubs, stumbling through at least 20 cm vegetation if you don’t follow a path,and especially not with the mosquitoes. It’s been a good year for the mosquitoes. In the high alpine there is a different feeling of freedom and I wanted get up above the valley. I’m in love with the high alpine environment, loving the rubble and plain earth and 5cm vegetation.  The freedom to see and move above most of the world. The route I took was challenging but the view was magnificent. 

karta
The hike

First I ended up going all the way to the Kårsavagge cabin. I didn’t get to where I was thinking I would end up for the night. I didn’t see where I was supposed to turn so I missed it. My thought was that I would get up towards lake Latnjajaure but the terrain from where I was made that impossible. I decided to still get up to the next level of the mountain, the one you don’t see from below, but it had to be to another spot. I went up as fast as the mountain allowed and ended up a few kilometers closer to Abisko.

Up at ~1100m you could see down to Abisko. I set up my tent and when I came out of it I got scared by a reindeer walking close to me. I’m not used to reindeer getting this close and I guess they were young males not used to humans getting this close either.

Walking around a little before I went to sleep I got to realise that we have just a little bit of pink in the sky now as the sun is going down just under the horizon. Makes a nice silhouette with a reindeer standing on the edge of the mountain with big horns and you see the much taller white mountains (Norwegian I think) far behind. It took some time to fall asleep since my legs and feet were killing me, had been a long and tiring hike and it was cold.

This doesn’t happen a lot, but the next day I woke up from it being too warm in my tent. Wow! The muscle stiffness was awful. So I stumbled out of my tent and sat on a ledge and had my morning tea and enjoyed the view. Sitting in a spot like this makes it so worth the effort to get outside.

I still had almost a full day left of hiking to get back to Abisko. I took the scenic route and it took many breaks – tea and a good  view is my excuse, but I was really tired and terrain here over 1000m is rough. The treeline is around 600m here. Over 1000m it is high alpine and lots of rock, rubble, moss or miniature plant life. Like the arctic birch at 5 cm tall climbing horizontally to be able to hold on. Depending on wind exposure, frost and thaw and the soil being shallow, nothing that requires much of a root system can live above certain altitudes. Depending on latitude and climate the treeline is at various altitudes. The thaw shoots through the ground every year and the landscape becomes patchy from this. It creates so much life and diversity to have these extreme pressures act on the landscape.

I had a full day walking and looking at the mountain and thinking about what  could be a good route for next time. I didn’t follow any marked track but just navigated freely back towards Abisko. In good weather it’s very easy to navigate by comparing the map to the landscape, but it would be an entirely different story in thick fog. I didn’t meet anyone until I got to the top of Noulja,  close to Abisko tourist station. I had the top of (this part) of the world all to myself!

I drive back to Kiruna and couldn’t help going into the local shop to buy some candy. I got stuck behind an old lady walking slowly with a shopping cart and people might have thought I was being courteous not running around her but I really couldn’t move any faster. After two days hiking and then sitting still for  90min driving I was incredibly sore.

During this hike I forgot my phone in the car. That was stupid since I hadn’t told anyone where I was going to be and when I should be home. You don’t get reception in all areas but often if you go up high you can get it. I always take many pictures but not that many this time as my my battery ran out. I learned to bring an extra battery for next time. In conclusion I made some mistakes this time and I may be getting too used to just going out for a while. Overconfidence is never good – I do my best to learn from my mistakes and not forget the mountains are unforgiving.

The area around lake Torneträsk is magical, wouldn’t you want to live here?

The Changing Landscapes – Lofoten Islands, Tromsö, Finnish Tornedalen, Swedish Lapland

The Roadtrip

I have just come home from a ~1600 km road trip over the last week. There are mobile homes everywhere on the roads! I’m not the only one wanting to be outdoors in these awesome landscapes. I start from Kiruna Sweden, from here it’s approximately the same distance to drive both to Norway and Finland. I love a good view and the taller Norwegian mountains lure me in.

Lofoten Norway will be the main attraction of this road trip. Here on latitude 68  we don’t expect trees up on the mountains, it’s the same latitude as the center of Greenland. However the gulfstream makes climate favorable with temperature never exceeding a few degrees below 0 C. It rains often and wind can be hard. This is in stark contrast to Kiruna (Sweden) which also is on latitude 68 but gets at least 2 months per year with temperatures below -30C and snow covering the ground from October to May. I have always liked a contrast.

I moved here to experience life north of the polar circle full time. I have spend most free weekends with outdoor activities but I havn’t had any longer stretches like now to go on a lengthy adventure. Desperately needing some relaxation it’s great that the weather has been hasslefree. It’s doable to be out in rain and cold and wind but it takes more effort, and especially when you’re out for a longer time and you get wet and it never really dries – that’s no fun. People do die from exposure every summer, not that I would, but getting caught in bad weather isn’t a dream scenario.

The weeks road trip ended up looking like this…

The mystique of the arctic areas is that it’s constantly changing

Weather and light and daylength – you have to the there the “right” day, you can’t wait 10 minutes to take a picture because it can already be lost. You just have to pick up your camera and shoot the beauty of now – this applies well to life as well. We say we are lucky to live where every season is beautiful and it really is!

Same same but different! Some photos of landscapes with and without fog.

Driving in fog – fog here is just another word for low altitude clouds. You get engulfed by the clouds and it can make navigation very difficult. Obviously driving is not so bad as you follow the road, but sometimes even the road visibility gets very bad. The low clouds create beautiful patterns – you see the mountains and there is a cloud lying on the water or the cloud is eating a whole mountain and then suddenly a top is visible but nothing else.

Borderland Sweden Norway

I start driving from Kiruna towards Lofoten. This takes me past Abisko, famous for hiking in summer and northern lights in winter. After that comes Riksgränsen which is a Popular ski lodge. Last year Riksgränsen did northern lights skiing in winter and prepared for hiking in summer but there was so much snow that by midsummer they had midnight sun skiing instead.

I got a picture of what’s called “ark” up on land on the beach of lake Torneträsk. Arks are used on the ice while fishing or just sitting drinking coffee and enjoying the outdoors. It’s a portable wind protection that can be very sophisticated on the inside and most of the time they are moved by snowmobile. You know us Swedes have to have our “fika”.

Somewhere on the road I drove past a shop with Sami handicraft and dried meat. The Sami (information) is a indigenous people that has lived close to nature in these areas long before there were roads and trains. They have their own language which is an official Swedish language and many still keep reindeer but most have other work as well and don’t live very differently from other Swedish.

Narvik area (map)

Driving into the area around Narvik the landscape opens up for beautiful fjords. Coming from Sweden into Norway there is a fork where you either go south towards Narvik or north towards Alta or Å Lofoten and this time I choose Lofoten. If you love the outdoors and the Scandinavian charm you can travel in all directions here. There are very special environments and a quiet beauty whichever way you go here.

Kongsvika (map)

The first night I slept in my tent in Kongsvika. It was a little awkward to get the stuff from the car to the tent and to cook outdoors, but I slept just fine and in a great environment. After looking at the map and thinking this would be a nice area it felt good to stop and have a little walk. They even have road signs counting down to where the trolls are. I walked the “Troll trail” uphill and got a feel for why this could be an enchanted forest. The bright white birch trees create a light of magic.

The next morning I met this young crow, not being scared at all. Obviously being by the sea you get lots of birds. Both the magnificent big birds hunting and the smaller common sea birds.

Lofoten Islands (map)

I’ve been wanting to go to Lofoten for quite a while now and I had it planned for this summer. It’s not just a weekend trip from here if I want the time to enjoy it.

Lofoten is a group of islands connected by bridges, tunnels and ferries. It’s a very rare landscape. Green mountains next to blue sky with polar night and aurora at winter and midnight sun during summer. (Lofoten Wikipedia link) The longest tunnel is 6300m, this gives you ample time to think about how long it would take to run out of it in an emergency. I’m just a little scared of confined places. Before I went through this I thought my previous record of 3400m was a long tunnel! Norway is filled with bridges and tunnels and many of them are long. This stunning landscape doesn’t make infrastructure easy.

Kabelvåg (map)

Kabelvåg is the little community where I stayed a night at Lofoten hostel which was a great place to stay with good breakfast, beds and wifi. Even though it’s great to be outdoors I wanted a real shower since I would meet up with a friend next evening in Å. Kabelvåg has a famous church called Lofoten Cathedral. It’s close to many activities for people travelling with children or wanting to see museums and aquariums. I’m more of a outdoors person just taking in the beauty and enjoying different activities so I just continued driving.

Lofoten in full fullshine felt like Stockholm archipelago with the exception of being next to big green mountains. Quite surreal.

I saw sea eagle every day on Lofoten. They are impressive and powerful birds. Bigger than you think as they get closer.

This futuristic looking Borg road church is visible from a long distance. It’s on a hill next to the Lofoten Viking Museum and patched in between farmland.

Lofoten beaches

What you might not expect in a place like this is beaches with white sand and children swimming. There are several very nice beaches, not usually this sunny though.

There are lots of activities in Lofoten, most known for fishing and it’s stunning scenery it’s also a surf- and kitesurf-mecca. The wind has all of the Atlantic to pick up.

lofoten-kitesurf2
Kitesurf Lofoten

Å Lofoten (map)

When you drive all the way to the top of Lofoten you get to the little fishing community called Å. Very picturesque with the red houses on poles called “rorbuer” traditionally used to house fishermen but now mostly tourists.  If you love the Scandinavian look – it’s hard to find something more stunning. Wild, free and red cottages by the sea.

Reine and Hamnöy Lofoten (map)

Starting the drive back – not far from Å you come to the Moskenes ferry terminal connecting both with Bodö on the mainland and the outer Lofoten islands Röst and Vaeröy.

Most often if you see photos from Lofoten they are from Hamnöy or Reine and it’s even better in real life.

Lofoten in fog on the way back

Weather started changing on the day I started driving back from Å. More and more fog and some rain came in. The fog is beautiful but the light becomes dull and the air gets considerably colder.

I went to this bay close to Äröya  both going out and coming back. It’s a majestic bay in full sunshine, but as I was returning I almost missed it completely even though I was looking for it. I was thinking I could have as great a time on the way back as on the way out, but it was a different story completely. At this time I was very appreciative that I’d had the energy to get out of the car and take all those photos on the way out because the whole experience was different now and I would have missed it. Had I waited I wouldn’t be bringing home some captures of the true beauty of Lofoten in sunshine and I would have experienced it differently. Life is fleeting and we should take the chances we get to see or do what we want because the opportunity may not come again! I always write about not missing out on possibilities. I’m very focused on this – it may reflect my fear of getting stuck in circumstances, missing out on life. So – if you love it – do it!

Another particularly beautiful spot is Sildpollnes view point. There are even stairs up a small hill to simplify your photo opportunity.

It has been magical to drive around completely as I like, I don’t envy the people going by tour bus or by regular bus carrying a big backpack. It’s such an opportunity to live close enough to be able to drive here now when the weather went from horrible to great, and in my own car. As a normal tourist you just get there the days you do and since wether never is guaranteed you shouldn’t expect this sunny, even though July and August are pretty safe. In Swedish Lapland mostly August and weather varies much. We had snowfall something like 10 days in June and that’s not unusual.

smal-bild-fårhage
Watch out for sheep on the road!

On a whim I decided to go home via Tromsö and Finnish Tornedalen. I was thinking when is a better time than now? I have never been there.

Storvatnet (map)

My little Primus kitchen is easy to use. I’m getting used to pitching my tent and I can definitely get used to the view I get when I make my evening meal and have some tea and just sit with nature at Storvatnet (Norway) tonight. I sleep well in a tent even though it is light all night. I’m enjoying the Scandinavian freedom to camp for the night almost anywhere (rules apply!). I can feel the outdoors is soothing my mind. Starting to get more excited about life again.

Tromsö area (map)

The scariest tunnel I have ever been in goes through Tromsö island. You go into what looks like a small parking garage, 2,4m high and go through tunnels and roundabouts in 70km/h  on wet roads in dim lights through several interconnected tunnels.

Tromvik (map)

This was my favorite place to camp. Beautiful and biodiverse and just inspirational for me. As I went up the mountain to see the view I stumbled over wild orchids (some dactylorhiza), which in unusual at latitude 70. They had sheep loose and the landscape was patchy with both wet and very dry parts. The sloping mountain changes both in substrate and with snowmelt. So next to the mix of cloudberry, crowberry, arctic campion and grass there was clubmoss and horsetail and ferns, in between sphagnum and sedge and cotton-grass. A beautifully maintained arctic landscape.

It seems like my temperature regulation has caught up after a few night in a tent. It’s not too cold but it was 15C at daytime so now it’s probably 10C. The Norwegian air is humid and not dry as on the Swedish side of the border. This adds to the feeling of being cold. My first night  I was quite cold, pulling up my sleeping bag and putting on an extra layer of clothing but now after a few nights I am much more comfortable.

 

Tromsö to Finland (map)

Now we’re getting further north than I’m used to. I was surprised that there sometimes were just sand and rock down at sea level.What I mean is the absence of organic matter that’s usually only seen on high altitudes otherwise. I would love to drive even further north but it still is 515km (8h) to the north point Nordkapp from where you turn back into Finland towards Sweden. Weather is getting worse and it’s time to go home.

 

 

Finnish Tornedalen

In this area around the Torne river valley you can find another official Swedish Language Meänkieli called “Tornedals Finnish” (loosely translated).

Driving through Tornedalen the road is dead straight, it must have just been laid out along the border. It’s a big marchland, flat, wet, great for fishing but also great for mosquitos. Every time I left the car I got really annoyed by the mosquitos and I couldn’t open the car door just to get out without getting at least 3 mosquitos in the car each time. With weather turning worse I drove all the way home even though that wasn’t the plan this morning.

 

Panorama

I’ve been fooling around with the light meter options now and started doing some panoramas to capture the awesome landscapes. There aren’t many places on earth to experience this. I love it! You could go to Alaska which is far north enough to get northern lights. You could go to The Rockies or Banff and get a fairly similar environment but then you you will miss much of the ingenuity of the arctic experience. However I doubt you could get as many temperature zones in such close proximity as here and just drive between them. Both skiing and hiking above the tree line has real advantages.The landscape just has some kind of magic to it – it’s a constantly changing landscape.

 

 

Time for a roadtrip

Sometimes it feels more like this

Than like this

In between I feel ok, but then it turns suddenly.

I haven’t followed my own advice recently. I haven’t been mindful and I’m paying for it by feeling lousy and tired and not inspired to do anything. Just these few images felt like a real effort, while photos tend to keep me up all night as I just can’t stop editing and working with them normally. Let’s see if nature can heal me.  I’m going on a road trip. 

 

2h in the sun did me good

My newly started Sunday tradition – running Mt Ädnamavaara (map) continues. A sunny day with 16C, beautiful sky as always. All year long we get different days as the sun  changes rapidly, being far away from any major industries the sky is special – the light is always beautiful. Yesterday was the last day of full midnightsun and I have almost not enjoyed it at all. It’s not like the night comes very soon but it adds 10 minutes every day now and I feel I’ve been working too hard. Using up all your energy for work isn’t healthy at all. I have to change this.

I felt a little stronger running today, even though the start felt really slow. Going downhill  is starting to feel much easier now – must mean some improvement. A few other runners were around and some tourists, but mostly I’m by myself enjoying the outdoors just outside city limits.

Kiruna is special in many ways, don’t know what the helicopter was doing there today but it’s a good place to put one down! The town is in between the ski slope and the LKAB mine. And then outside of it nature takes over. A true outdoors experience.

GOPR4950