We are back for our favorite past time: Diving with the Atlantic’s apex predators in the polar ocean between Skjervoy and Hammerfest. And it is possibly the best trip, yet.
10.11. (Friday): Consulting life: My trip starts at 4:30 at a London hotel. My still long todo list keeps me awake in the morning and shall continue to do so for the first two vacation days. London to Oslo, where I meet Michi and do the last calls. Then onward to Tromsø.
It is a magical flight over the frozen coastline and into the sunset. We arrive around 15:30 in full darkness. A taxi driver chauffeurs us through deep snow to our hotel, the Radisson Blue.
We check in and meet up with Alex, who arrived a flight early. Tromsø feels very familiar so feels like we are coming back home. We go on a quick shopping trip, gloves at the hunting store, new wool clothing. We end with a mulled wine at the smallest bar and a walk around the harbor.
We decide to try our luck and go early to Emma’s Dream Kitchen. We have a truly wonderful evening. We enjoy delicious food while we watch snow falls on Tromsø church right outside the windows. The dishes are homely (lamb, seafood, reindeer) and the wine is simple but a perfect fit. The lights and snow outside makes us feel like Christmas.
We go to bed tired but very happy.
11.11. (Saturday) We meet for breakfast at 9 am. Then we go on a final shopping spree. Esp. I buy an Arteryx Alpha Parker – a great decision as it will later show.
At 12 we meet our group. Ivan Breslauer picks us up with a bus. We take front row seats for a beautiful drive to Skjervoy. The racing bus driver takes us there in 4h through thick snow.
It is a big hello meeting the team of the Sula again, Sebastian, Pierre, Sophie, Olav. We load the luggage. Then Sebastian gives a briefing, we unpack, eat and Michi gets her suit. At 20.00 Pierre gives his first lecture.
The night sky is clear. We decide to climb the hills to hunt for northern lights. We are rewarded with a small but colorful glow on the Northern sky.
Back on the boat, it is time to ready the equipment. Big day, tomorrow.
12.11. (Sunday) The alarm rings at 7:30. But we do not really need an alarm. We have breakfast as the boat is leaving the harbor.
We sail into the everlasting sunrise. We sail far to the north west. We see a group of 4 Finn whales and a lone Humpback. But Orcas evade us until lunch.
We eat (goulash soup) and decide to do a practice dive. As we dress up, we get word that one of the other boats has found a Pod of Orcas an hour away. We abort the training run and get on the way. However, almost immediately, we spot a large group of Humpbacks in a fjord near Silda and change course.
It is several groups of Humpbacks and a two Finwhales hunting herring in the shallows. On the first drip, we land right in the middle of a pod of 4 Humpbacks. I do not know where to turn as they are everywhere.
We do several more drops, and I see one more Humpback from the distance. The sunset is fantastic and even two Orcas join us.
Happy (and not cold) we return to Sula. Olav decides not to go back to Skjervoy but rather to spend the night at Sør Tverrfjord. Three boats packed together outside the harbor. We enjoy Pierre’s lecture, dinner and Champagne with Sophie, remembering John.
13.11. (Monday) Alarm rings at 7am. Orca time! We sail during breakfast. Only a few minutes out, Olav spots a group of whales in the same spot, we were lucky yesterday. We see Finnwhales, Humpbacks,… and a large pod of Orcas.
Our eyes are not yet fully open when we get dressed to get on the Horek. We discover that is actually two pods. We zig zag across the fjord between the pods. Suddenly, we get a radio: “Feeding on the east side”. Sebastian rushes across at full speed and we drop. We see the bait ball and Orcas feeding. Adrenaline is high. I swim fast with the bait ball, but get quite exhausted and have trouble breathing. I decide to release my weights which makes it a lot better and I make it back to the Horek to relax.
An icy wind blows across the fjord. As the Orcas are shy, we decide to go back to Sula after a short while to warm up. But the break is short. We are going out almost directly.
We head out to the east side of the fjord again and drop right onto a feeding in the shallows. It is fantastic, for 10min we are watching the Orcas dive into the baitball. Hering scales litter the water.
We are fully happy and super excited. We do a few more drops afterwards. Adrenaline keeps the cold away. More drops follow.
Only at 2pm we are heading back to Sula for a shower and a hot drink. We are happy and relaxed. We watch Orcas from the deck doing happy tailslaps.
Afterwards, Michi and I fall asleep for an hour after the late lunch. In the evening, we listen to Pierre’s presentation, have dinner, edit pictures and videos and go to bed.
14.11. (Tuesday) The alarm rings at 7:00 as every day, now. After breakfast, we sail back towards Skjervoy. Its a long sail. Nature is beautiful. But we do not see any whales. The wind is picking up and the boad is rolling in the sea.
After lunch, we find a few orcas south east of Rødøya. In dusk and light snow we board the Horek. We find a curious pub who dives under the boat. As well as a second dive with a mother and calve whe slowly turn and swim with us for a short while.
In the dark, we are speeding back to Sula and make our way to Skjervoy harbor. In the evening, we go to the supermarket to get some beer, have dinner and listen to Pierre’s lectures. We are quite tired and sleep well; not too late.
15.11. (Wednesday) Breakfast at 7 leaving at 8. It is a cold day today. Everybody is a bit exhausted.
We find shelter behind the island of Haukøja and transfer into Horek. We find Orcas but they are spread out and traveling upwind. We get hit by spray of ice cold water as Sebastian is battling the waves. We do one drop in the shallows but the Orcas evade us. Then we do a second drop with a mother and calf that slowly passes underneath us, turns again and heads off into the fjord.
Cold but happy we return to the Sula. Alex and Pierre go fishing from the Sula and catch some nice Pollock. We are back early. Michi takes the opportunity to go shopping. Then somebody in the Sula wheelhouse turns on the Northern Light switch.
We have a fantastic display, which we watch from the beach at the northern end of the harbor.
We arrive to dinner slightly late but, again, happy. Dinner, lecture, foto editing and bed.
16.11. (Thursday) Same routine: Breakfast at 7:30, leaving the harbor at 8. The sea is calmer. Right outside Skjervoy harbor, we see the whale watching madness: 7 small boats gathered around a group of Orcas. Olav and team decide to let this opportunity pass and continue deeper into the fjord to Skorpa Island. We get dressed but wait inside until we find a pod.
At ca 12 we board the Horek. It is wild. We see at least 5 pods of Orcas and Humpbacks passing right behind them. We follow 3 of the traveling north. We drop 3 times, on two we see the Orcas pass underneath us.
We follow the pods north and have another first, i.e. see a pod sleep for a few minutes. It gets cold and a few people want to go back to Sula. We drop them off and continue. Sula tradition dictates that when someone goes back to Sula early, something amazing happens. And tradition holds. We drop on a juvenile showing his belly. As I focus on the distant orca, two males swim almost directly over my shoulder and disappear. Fantastic.
Back on the boat, we see two fins approaching slowly. Sebastian gives us the “Go!” And we glide into the water. Two Orcas very slowly approach us and dive only very shallow underneath us. One even checks to avoid bumping in Sophie who swam ahead. Really a touching experience.
We decide to call it a day… but one thing is missing: Sebastian told us many times: “Manage your expectations. You won’t have Orcas and Humpbacks and Eagles all the time.” Two years we had all three. So, Sebastian, we are missing the Eagles. And then they come. Three Sea Eagles circle the sky above us as the light fades and we are going home to Sula.
The whole group is deeply touched by today’s experience. I finish my holiday clip, we go shopping for beer one last time for the season (through deep snow, getting in and out of the boat requires a bit of climbing along the dock wall). For dinner, Peter cooks the Pollack that Pierre and Alex caught yesterday. Desert is chocolate cake with cream. Pierre gives his last lecture. We are a bit saddened to learn that the other boat did not have encounters but only a (very funny) orca puppet play by Tony. We spend a very nice evening as a group joking and reflecting on the day.
17.11. (Friday) Last day. Breakfast is supposed to be at 8 today but everybody gathers at 7:30. Traditions – so important. A storm has passed through during the night. So the plan is to leave Sula docked and go out on Horek at 10. And it’s a ride, although we stay sheltered along the islands to the south of Skjervoy. Sebastian is battling 2m waves, wind blows snow horizontally across the sea. After ca. 1h we decide to go back.
Back at Sula, over 5cm of snow cover the deck. We change clothes and warm up. Final lunch is Baccalau soup. After lunch, we go for a last ride, top side only. We find a pod of Orcas south by a group of huge funny shaped whale watching boats and follow them for a while. Pierre us driving the boat and Sebastian is relaxing.
Back at Sula, we pack and say our goodbyes. It has been an amazing week with a wonderful group of people. We hope to come back.
While the bus leaves for Tromsø, Michi and I spend three hours in the little waiting hall until the Hurtigruten ship Nordkapp arrives.
It is an interesting experience. We are not greeted particularly friendly, we have to pay extra to be able to stay in our 800€ cabin until our final destination and even wifi costs extra. In the panorama lounge we realize why we do not feel at home – we are simply 150years too young for this trip. We end the evening with wine and sandwiches. Our cabin, while not particularly clean is at least nice to sleep in.
18.11. (Saturday) we are woken by a port announcement. It’s fun to be on a cruise. We relax in the cafeteria, watch people, who look like they were friends with the last German Emporer, knit socks or participate in onboard activities, such as waving the tour busses as we pass under a harbor bridge. We spend a relaxed day in the cafeteria and sleeping in our room.
There is one special treat: We sail into Trollfjord. The fjord seems impossibly small for such a big boat. It is a spectacle.
We have dinner at the Nordkapp’s Kysten restaurant, while we dock at Svolvaer. We are the only guests in the restaurant. We have elk tartar, clams, and reindeer. The food is excellent.
At 22:15 we disembark at Stamsund. Nobody is waiting for us at the harbor. Just an unlocked car with the keys in the dashboard compartment. You have to love Norway.
It is another hour drive through the snow until we reach Ramberg and our house. We unpack and go to sleep.
19.11. (Sunday) We sleep in.
After breakfast, we drive towards Reine. The light is beautiful and we make a lot of stops along the way to take pictures.
We have to share Reine with a Hurtigruten ship. But we still enjoy the town. We take pictures and even walk by a property we saw on the internet (not beautiful).
Around 1pm, we watch a Hurtigruten Expedition leave from Reine and go for lunch at Anita’s Seafood. We have sandwiches and a waffle and enjoy the new, larger seating area.
We slowly drive back to Ramberg and visit Skagsanden Beach at Flakstad. We see surfers in the water and two sea eagles in the sky.
Finally, we enjoy the sunset at Ramberg beach.
We cook noodles and watch terrible movies.
20.11. (Monday) Fishing time. We get up at 8am and drive to Nusfjord in time for our fishing trip. Unfortunately, Nusfjord no longer rents small boats, so we need to join an organised fishing trip. We geat up and get on one of the classic wooden fishing trawlers. We start in front of Nusfjord and work our way across Nappstraumen. Michi catches 9 out of 11 fishes – Pollack and Lumb. One other angler pulls out a nice cod. Not us this time.
On the way back, we see sea eagles. They get our small fish.
Back at Nusfjord, we visit our engagement bench, look over the fjord and remember the past two, wonderfull years.
We honor the Nusfjord tradition and eat waffles with cream and jam at the Landhandel. Then we take our fish and head back home. We clean the fish and cook a nice soup out of the carcasses.
In the evening, we go back to Nusfjord for dinner. Michi has organised a seat by the window, flowers and a surprise cake for desert to celebrate our engagement. It is a wonderful evening.
We go home and start to prepare the house for the expected storm on Wednesday.
21.11. (Tuesday) Early bird catches the worm, or the sunrise. Around 8 we are on the road towards Reine to climb Reinebringen. We are the first (only) ones at the parking space and start our hike.
A fresh 15cm layer of snow has fallen, but to little to be concerned about snowfileds or even avalanches. We make good time. The sun peaks over the horizon and we are climbing into the sunrise. We make good time and reach the half way point after ca. 45min. Michi celebrates having climbed further than ever before. The last 50m are quite tough with small steps and lot of snow but at ca. 10:30 we stand on top of Reinebringen.
However, a strong wind blows over the ridge (first signs of the expected storm), making it difficult to even take a selfie. We stay only for a short while and start our descent. Only then do we meet the first other hikers. The first steps down are not easy. However, after the first 100m we start to make good speed and reach the car at ca. 11:30, haven taken ca. 2.5h in total. Not bad under these conditions.
We go shopping at Reine Coop before we take our well deserved lunch at Anita’s Seafood (salmon sandwhich, waffles and a lot of hot chocolate).
As it is still early, we decide to visit Glashytta in Vikten. However, when we arrive, we discover that it is closed. This prevents us from buying glasware to carry home. Instead, we go for more waffles at Nusfjord and go home in the dark ahead of the coming storm.
We cook the first fish and go to bed.
22.11. (Wednesday) Today is storm day. Gale force gusts of up to 50kts hammer the Lofoten. We stay indoor, work, and I cure a bad headache. True relaxed holiday (except for the work… and the headache… and the weather… anyway). We cook the second batch of fish in the evening, watch a few movies and go to sleep.
23.11. (Thursday) We sleep in. I do a call. The weather clears up and we decide that we need to go outside. We take the chance to go to Fredvang to look at a property that we found on the Internet. It is a beautiful piece of land right next to the Kvalvika Trail head. We deliberate a lot but eventually decide against it as it would take a lot of work and heavy commitment to the Lofoten, which we are not willing to make. New plan is to buy a sailboat. We hike towards Kvalvika beach. A thick blanket of snow covers the landscape. It is a beautiful hike.
Heavy wind greats us as we approach the mountain pass. We decide not to decend to the beach but enjoy the view from high up.
After the hike, we take a rest, I do another call. In the evening, we are back at Holmen for dinner. It is just as beautiful as the last time. Food is delicious, people are wonderful. Next time, we need to stay there to not have to drive back afterwards.
24.11. (Friday) Headache again. I do a few calls in the morning.
In the afternoon we drive to A for a final visit. We enjoy a final Rekken sandwich at Anita’s Seafood.
In the evening, we see Northern Lights from our porch.
With a heavy heart, we pack and get ready for an early departure to Bodo in the morning.
25.11. (Saturday) The alarm rings at 5am. We load the car and do the final cleaning tasks before leaving the appartment. We see only three other cars on the way to Moskenes. At the Moskenes Ferry, we return our car and board the ferry. 4h later, we arrive in Bodo. We walk to our hotel, the Radisson Blue (same as last time), through the frozen city. Fortunately, we can check in early. We drop our bags and explore the town. It is not the most exciting town but rather functional. We visit a few shops and take a break in a cafe on central square. As the sun sets, we walk out on the pier,
In the evening, we have a final dinner at Lyspa. We enjoy our evening, with good food and wine.
As we leave the restaurant, northern lights flare up. I grab the camera and we walk out to the pier. Once we are really frozen, the northern lights put on a fantastic show.
We end a great evening and a fantastic vacation with a drink in the 13th floor bar of the Radisson.
26.11. (Sunday) Headache. We go for a very early breakfast and sleep again until it is time to go to the airport. The taxi ride takes 5min (last time we walked). We are early and relax until we board our flight. We are lucky and have no third person in the row. We enjoy the window seat and the endless sunset as we fly north to south.
At Oslo Airport we get to visit a hidden bar. We go into the regular SAS lounge, until we discover a hidden passage way next to the bathrooms. Present your boarding pass, press all Norwegian colonies in chronological order on the map on the wall and say the Kings name 3 times and you may enter the kingdom of the gold lounge. Actually, gates are open. The drink selection is much better and we can toast to a beautiful holiday.