Being the last outpost before the North Pole, the backcountry of Svalbard is one that truly deserves to be called wilderness. On these desolate islands approximately 2500 people share the land with more than 3000 polar bears. The geography is striking: pointy mountains rising out of the sea, broad valleys crosscut by glacial rivers, ridgelines as sharp as the edge of a knife. 60% percent of the land is covered with ice.
Outside of the main settlements (and even inside of the smaller ones) carrying a rifle and a signal pistol are basic safety requirements. It’s a land of hunters and trappers, where sound instincts and a good intuition are necessary for survival, where us humans are not always on top of the food chain. I had seen Svalbard once before in summertime so a return to the islands while completely covered in a white, fluffy blanket was long overdue.
Continue reading “The road through Norway, part IV: Svalbard”
Coming to the end of a winter season feels very similar to coming to the end of a long hike: it’s an intense period and it seems that it will never stop, then suddenly it’s all over. People who were automatically around go their own ways. Life as it is stops right there.
My last scheduled tour was a week tour with 6 guests. I had been looking forward to it for a long time: a week out with the dogs during those long, sunny spring days. I still wanted to go to a remote cabin far up the river, close to the mountains: Vieksaluokta. I hoped for the guests, the weather, and the tour schedule to be nice.
Continue reading “The end”
Spring always represents a clean break in the season. Suddenly I wake up early in the morning because the sun is piercing my eyes. It’s so warm outside that I only need a fleece jacket to go around. God forbid, I have to take sunglasses on tour, I need them for driving, I need them all the time. It’s spring. The long winter is over and it’s time to get nostalgic about things.
A winter season in Lapland is a roller coaster of emotions with many ups and downs. In the cold, dark days or during peak season when things get hectic and overbooked there’s anger, frustration, maybe even an urge to leave from time to time. Then on a good day out on tour with great guests there’s this euphoric feeling of that I’m on top of the world, of never wanting to leave this place. I still haven’t gotten quite used to it and it happens every single season again.
Continue reading “Spring”
For the past five days I have been so incredibly tired that all I felt I could do, was sleep. Outside endless snow kept falling from the sky. Around 50cm of fresh powder must have been dumped on us during the past three days. When I was driving back PJ’s overnight guests yesterday, they asked me if the road we were driving on was a forest track. So much snow had fallen that there was hardly any trace of it left.
Continue reading “The beginning of the end”
Ever-increasing daylight hours have brought leisure and ease to the forest. All the little things that have to be done can now be done in daylight. Seeing what you are doing makes the same tasks feel much easier and actually much faster, so we have more time on our hands. On guest-free afternoons we can sit with the dogs while we tend to the fire to prepare their food. We fetch water in the sun. Sometimes I can stand still and just admire all that daylight.
During a pickup one of the accommodation hosts asked if I started to get tired of the season. I told her it was quite on the contrary and that I feel I have much more energy now than earlier. “December is when I really get tired”. She laughed: I was apparently the first person who ever looked at it that way. But really, when you live with so little, tiny things can make you happy. The warmth of the sun and the ever-increasing bright hours of the day are just such a delight.
Continue reading “The delight of daylight”