In Search of the Northern Lights: Day 11

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Kristiansund

Kristiansund

The last but one day of our journey.

When this saga (a good Scandinavian word) began eleven days ago, it was with the hope of seeing the northern lights. To have seen them for 4 nights in a row when so many see nothing of them is great. That we have cameras inadequate to the task of capturing pictures of them is annoying. But then, the colours that the camera show isn’t what the eye sees.

Last night was the best display we had seen yet you don’t really see the green that the DVD’s and the television documentaries show. Once your eyes are accustomed to the light, you see a creamy colour much like clouds. But the shapes of the northern lights are not cloudlike in design. And they materialise faster, shaping themselves into different patterns and then, just as quickly, disappear until the next showing. The longer you concentrate on staring into the black of the night the more adept you become at seeing the subtle colours. You will be really lucky to walk out on a deck and be overawed by them. That is likely to come a few minutes later so don’t expect to be overwhelmed immediately. That will come. And when it does, you won’t see the greens other than in your camera shots. Just creams and different depths of cream with perhaps the hint of green and pink. They may start dull but they will brighten in parts. The best advice is probably that, before you leave, check that you camera can take the pictures. If not, seriously consider buying a new camera that can.

Rockheim

Rockheim

Today we returned to Trondheim but only for a few hours. Having seen the middle of the town on the way up, this time we headed for the strange building that looks as though it is a block of concrete emblazoned with record covers sitting on top of an old office block. This is the music fixture called Rockheim. It is an oddity compared to most of the architecture in Trondheim and that’s what makes it stand out. Sitting almost next to the train marshalling yards and an industrial area leaves it perched incongruously separate from the main part of the town and instantly recognisable. Around it you can see a number of high rise cranes, always a sign that there is expansion going on. It might be expanding and putting up modern blocks but go to the railway station (from which the Trondheim-Oslo journey gives one of the best views of the Norwegian countryside) and just opposite it you will see ships of an earlier age.

The Hansteen

The Hansteen

Along this stretch of canal, for want of a better word, you will find ships from bygone days. The oldest is, I think, the Hansteen dating from 1866 but you will find some beautifully crafted wooden hulled boats. Some are in better repair than others. All, in winter, are part protected from the elements so you can’t see them properly but for a free way to spend an hour, seeing these is a delight. On the opposite side to the boats the canal has had modern apartements to replace what was once, probably, wharves.

We left Trondheim late because of some problems in loading a propeller into the hold. This, apparently, will be required as a replacement part when the ferry has its annual service after this voyage. On leaving the harbour you pass by a small island called Munkholmen which was a fort, a prison and had a monastery there as well. It reminds me of an island in Sydney Harbour in Australia which we called Pinchgut but which has the proper name of Fort Dennison. That was also a prison and garrisoned. This island was promptly christened by us, Pinchgut 2.

It is a long trip from Trondheim to our next port of Kristiansund in the late afternoon. Along the way there is almost a feeling like the last week of school. Some kids are away on field trips; some have left early for home and holidays and some teachers have left as well to escort the field trips. All you really want to do is get on with going home. There are no excursions and no ports that we stop at for any length of time in order to sightsee. For myself, I would happily have a few hours exploring Kristiansund and that would break up the winding down feeling that seems to be in the minds of the passengers.

Along the way we pass a little island called Edoy which has a small stone church which apparently goes back to 1190. Beyond here is Kuloy Island where there are a number of Viking graves, runes and a stone that dates from the time when Christianity came to Norway. Except the stone is a replica, the genuine article being in Trondheim and we don’t stop there anyway. A shame as I could imagine that quite an excursion could be developed around the two islands.

Munkholmen

Munkholmen

Some of the islands now are almost bereft of snow compared to the ones we saw a few days ago. On the right hand side as we sail south, they are much flatter. Some seem to have even a beach like feel which seems very unlikely. Snow is still on the mountains on our left hand side. Why should one side be so different from the other? There is even an area where it looks like two dogs, side by side are guarding that part of the fjord. What snow is around has hardened into ice. So in Trondheim it was quite easy to slip as rain had fallen on the snow as the temperatures rose. And talking of temperatures, today in Kirkenes it has been minus 21. Was it only four days ago that we were there? Already it seems so much milder. Lots of passengers are wearing just jumpers when they go on deck. Hats and gloves have been discarded as have ski jackets. In fact in Trondheim this morning, we were there at the same time as another ferry making the northern journey. Its passengers, wrapped up to the eyeballs, were wandering into the town, making comments about how cold it was. Wait till they get further north! I decided to be arrogant and took my hat and gloves off as well as loosening my ski jacket. I’ll show them how tough they’ll be after a trip up north!

Eloy Island stone church

Eloy Island stone church

Eventually we arrive in Kritiansund just as the day is drawing to a close. Here it is light till just before 5pm. A few days ago it was dark by 3.30pm. You could see enough of this large town that is spread over a few islands to make you want to see more. Perhaps a shortbreak in summer would let us have a good look round. But not today as we have only 20 minutes. Except that we stay for well over an hour and a quarter. Why?

The spare propeller

The spare propeller

Remember that propeller from Trondheim? It has been decided to take it from the hold, place it on a lorry and reload it again on in the front row of the ferry and lash it to the deck. Who needs to visit a town? Who needs to see more northern lights? It is this engineering task that draws the passengers, even those dedicated sorts who possess tripods. The crew and the lorry driver become stars for the next hour as they are photographed, videoed and generally watched like actors in an outdoor play. As they are finally that the propeller is secure, and we are happy at having witnessed the incredible ability of cranes fitted to lorries, a few claps go up in applause of the men. This event puts us further behind as we race in the dark down to the ports of the night. We are late in Molde so the stop is brief. No chance of getting off and seeing anything. And little chance of the lights.

But then we would have to be incredibly lucky as well to see the northern lights on our last day at sea.

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