The road through Norway, part IV: Svalbard

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.

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The Arctic Circle and Beyond

Over three weeks ago we got back above the polar circle, unpacked all the wool we could find and started up at another kennel for a new winter season of dog sled guiding. This year it will only be the two of us taking care of a small pack of 36 dogs, with whom we will move out into the woods in the near future. We’re moving into a wilderness camp, where we will greet, host and guide tourists making their way over for 3-day dog sledding tours. At the camp we have no running water, an outhouse for a toilet, and a small generator with which we can power the small cabin we will live in for a few hours a day. Pretty much everyone we know down south declared us entirely mental, yet here we are, feeling that we are winning at life once again.

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Geirangerfjord & Sunnmørsalpene

Though not far in distance, it is a good 5 hour drive from Flåm to the Geirangerfjord, and therefore we had not made it there the last time we lived here. This summer we aim to explore as much as possible in our own fjord and the Nærøyfjord, but this was the one trip we planned away. And we planned it as soon as possible, to avoid the arrival of the masses from June to August.

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In all honesty I have to say that the last time we left Flåm, it had been with a double feeling of sadness and relief. We had not expected the horde of tourists coming to this tiny town to be as big as they were, or as overwhelming as they were. I had not expected to get a culture shock by the sheer improbability of where people were living along the fjord, of the steepness and roughness of the terrain, of the feeling of being entirely closed in between high mountain walls, of how long it would take to get from point A to point B. Living and moving around here is a category in its own, but one that I and PJ came to cherish and one we found ourselves missing during the past winter.

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The Road through Norway, part II: Lofoten

Our arrival on the Lofoten Islands was not as glamorous as the one in Lyngen had been: instead of brilliant sunshine we were met with threatening dark skies. Long had we believed that we would make it all the way down to Oslo without a single drop of rain, and long had we not checked the forecast anymore. It was a minor reminder to that good old life lesson that if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

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