Had a good breakfast and left the hotel early to scratch some bits of of ice from my windows. Off I went again, straight up to the popular skiing area of Tärnaby. The hills became steeper and the forest less thick, finally giving way to beautiful vistas. Driving over the Norwegian town of Mo i Rana like I'd planned would've cost me over two hours detour and crossing the Arctic Circle above it over two more, but I slowly grew a bit weary of driving all day so instead I took a shortcut on the bend to the south.
The weather was incredible again, guess I can count myself really lucky. Besides that terrible episode in Finland I didn't have any moment to complain about. And I can only recommend to get underway on a holiday like Easter, the streets and roads were considerably empty. That's turned out an even greater advantage as there aren't much opportunities (0.1 compared to mainland Europe) to overtake here and I found that Swedes and Norwegians have a hard time predicting a good time to do so safely - or let the one behind overtake for that matter :| (Props to the Finns, they left a better impression). So cruising along the paths in those conditions was great fun, Colin McRae type shit, I soared onto the high plateau, over the border down into the valley again.
Unfortunately none of the national parks I passed is accessed easily this time of year, did not expect that. Even when Nordland is located basically directly at the Gulf Stream all the liquids were still frozen and only some 200km further down, around Trondheim, did the snow begin to disappear. On my way I could watch the rivers crack up more and more, t'was so nice simply driving out of the winter right into spring :)
An hour after Trondheim then I decided to set up camp in a beautiful valley via the tent my awesome boss lent me. Of course I didn't bring a shovel to burrow into the knee deep snow so after scouting around a bit the parking lot turned out to be the only viable space. Still awesome, though. :D
strode through thigh deep half-frozen snow to get to the riverbank
Spent virtually the whole day on the road. Left Umeå early on and went further north. The weather was awesome, clear blue sky specked with fluffy clouds, but the scenery became a bit dull. I basically spent four hours passing conifers and birches on hill-less plains - let's call it taiga. It wasn't quite possible to just hop out and go for a walk or take a break on some resting place because sadly there are no such amenities in the provinces of Västerbotten and Norrbotten. There's some towns that but don't spark much of interest to me and the rivers are getting a lot wider. So wide in fact that the citizen of Kalix organized some kind of race on a large course on the ice.
After I passed that the Matrix seemed low on RAM and I hit the white wall of fog again. Even thicker than yesterday, blocking out the sun completely. I arrived at the border town of Haparanda just at the northernmost tip of the Baltic Sea. Let me tell you, that place is a fucking crackhole! It totally felt like Silent Hill or some the-end-is-nigh scenario. I asked myself this oftentimes, but here it really, really applied: Why would anybody want to live here? Everything there seemed so desolate and sad. Maybe people can't leave this place so I made sure that I could still nope out and went right over the border to its twin city Torneå/Tornio. The atmosphere wasn't much better, but it was interesting to see how much it's like a bastard child of Sweden and Russia. I get why people resort to get shitfaced drunk all the time around these parts ...
So initially my plan was to go further around the Gulf of Bothnia to the city of Oulu but as I continued my journey the weather went really bad. That wasn't any fun anymore and since I found that the Lapland region didn't have that much to offer (at least at this time of year) and I only had to track back every kilometer I drove further on the way back tomorrow with nothing gained I decided to just ditch that, head back to Västerbotten and cut the way back home a bit short. Starting from Oulu would also have meant driving ten hours for the next two days - and that's in good weather. So eventually I drew back to Storuman in Västerbotten, checked into a hotel (first time for me myself) and saved myself a good couple of hours. Quite nice being flexible like this. A huuumongous shout out to my trusty companion Monti at this point! He's still in shape albeit dirtier than Redman and X-Tina now.
Saw some reindeer mom with its calf chilling on the road to the hotel, by the way. But that's the only sign of non-airborne wild life I came across so far. And not a single photo today. Tomorrow will deliver, I promise.
What the flip? To me coming straight from Ålesund the goings on in this country raise some serious questions:
Where do all these countless humanoids come from and what purpose might they see in being outside?
What strange contraption propels them forward, running not on four but only two wheels?
This tingling sensation on my skin, have I not felt this before somewhere ages ago? Could it be linked to that strange bright sphere in the sky that hurts my eyes so much?
These glyphic signs next to the roads, how can it be possible for them to hold up to three numerals at once?
I shall investigate further ...
Ahem yeah, today I strolled around Östersund a bit before heading over to the city of Sundsvall. On the way I incidentally came about a large dam in midst a forest when I wanted to find access to a river I'd seen from the road. That was really something. Plus the weather unexpectedly cleared up and it got so nice and warm that for the first time in like five months I had to turn the A/C off. Upon arrival in Sundsvall I immediately went to the waterside of my beloved Baltic Sea which I haven't seen in five years or more. The part forming the harbor of the city was still frozen solid, so unfortunately no sounding waves. Went around the city a bit, found it was fairly similar to Östersund, quite nice, very rectangular, but still inviting. Next stop was the Skuleskogen National Park which is a patch of forest located at the coast. I had to drive over several small roads leaving me to guess if I'm still on the right track but I managed to find it without problems eventually. It's a beautiful forest and I'm all about forests, but it wasn't really easily accessible, because most of the walkways were still covered in ice which made it kinda difficult to maneuver. So I only went in for an hour or so before driving further to Umeå.
And this is where I'm at right now, the place where infamous bands like Meshuggah, Refused and Cult of Luna originate from. Right before I entered the city a huge wall of fog appeared on the highway, but the White Walkers had not the slightest chance getting to me. Still I couldn't really see shit. Even walking in the city wasn't really fun because it also got dark, will retry tomorrow morning. And my super nice Pakistani host offered me delightful homemade curry and fruits, which totally made up for that :D
Skuleskogen National Park
Skuleskogen National Park
behind a dam
Can't remember when was the last time I've walked upon a frozen lake or if I've ever even done so before.
Östersund's port to the Storsjön. I've also been to the other side and had a nice view of the city center (that's where I took this shot from) while I drove by but couldn't find a parking spot from where to grab a shot of it.
It's Easter season and in Norway that means no work from Thusday through Monday! So after being incarcerated by the grey and wet winter I didn't feel like spending those days on the couch and went out on a road trip instead.
The first leg of the tour took me through the already familiar Trollveggen (Europe's tallest vertical rock face) with its sharp, raggedy edges into South Norway's central fylke Oppland which until now I found to be quite boring as it seemed an endless u-shaped valley filled with a string of village that just serves as a conductor for people going further south to Oslo. But I took a turn left this time, went up the U to access the highlands and immediately felt the undertaking payed off. You might have noticed that I totally fall for the tundra biome with it's shapes, vegetation and color palette. Well I got everything I could ask for - even when the sky was completely overcast the whole day. I had to keep myself from stopping every ten minutes to get out of the car, because it was early afternoon and I still had some four hours of driving ahead, but at one point I missed a sign and suddenly found myself in the Dovrefjell National Park. The whole landscape seemed to have changed in a matter of minutes and it was super serene. I went out to get a couple of shots before heading back to take the right turn. And then, right before that turn I'd missed there was that magical sign indicating Snøhetta Viewpoint ->. Jackpot!
Everybody and his dog knows the architecture bureau of Snøhetta does some awesome shit plus my company works very closely with them, so there was no way I wouldn't go and look what's going on there. Ruggedy rough sand road, great, now that sucked. Strange parking lot with a handful of parked cars, a toilet building (closed, damn!), a map saying this has been a military areal for some time so one has to watch out for remnant duds, and some random people wandering around. Mmmkay, maybe I got this wrong. Alright, while I was there I might just follow the folks up that hill, the view was already quite nice so I might get some cool shots from up there. Half an hour walk later I stood in front of a small Cuboid that looked familiar. It really was that famous wooden room that Snøhetta built, sweet! Closed. :[ But nevertheless, the detour was more than worth it, the surroundings were spectacular, one could see right over to the mountain that gave his name to the archtitects.
From there I drove further to the town of Røros payed its World Heritage Site of an old copper mine a visit and went over the border to that other kingdom.
Wow, skiing, man, it's all over the place here. I drove for like 300km and all I could see was families on cross country skis, people standing by their cars prepping their gear, snowboarders, kids on snow scooters, fucking annoying snow scooters jumping right out the forest crossing the road like some fucking train, snow scooters on frozen rivers, Norwegians coming in packs to endulge in the icy feat, snow scooters on frozen lakes, snow scooters for four people, snow scooters on cars, snow scooters for rent ... you get it. What the heck? Ah yeah right, almost forgot: there is nothing else to do around these parts. With a little imagination the regions on both sides of the border might well be the location of Europe's largest meth lab. Everything looked a bit crappier than before/after that. Or maybe it's just the winter tourist area thing. Think Molde ;)
So now I've arrived in the neat town of Östersund, took a shower, fixed me some pasta and went to have a look at some of the pictures i took. Oah faen, are you serious? D: I forgot to re-enable the RAW image saving on the camera after I turned it off yesterday to do some timelapse testings. That means I only got the JPGs and all the contrasts are crapped up and I can't work on them really well. Bummer.
But I edited some nonetheless and uploaded them, just so you know what I'm rambling on about ;)