The Journey North
My journey north aboard the Hurtigruten ship MS Nordlys ends tomorrow, with departure in Kirkenes. It's a shame really as I was just settling in, and the weather has been good, and the scenery spectacular.
It's been a holiday, and a full board exceedingly comfortable one at that. I'd do it again at the drop of a hat.
But that was never the deal. Now comes the hard part: windsurfing back.
And I'm realising just how much I've bitten off. It's not just the mammoth distance - I've heard that Oslo to Kirkenes is further than Oslo to Rome - it's the latitude. This is 71 degrees north. We crossed the arctic circle a few days ago now, and since then just kept going up.
With the latitude comes cold. Winter still has a very firm grip of the country up here. By all accounts it should be moving aside for spring and summer, but it hasn't done yet.
Snow at sea level wasn't supposed to be overly probable at this time of year but I can definitely report significant quantities. Not much higher up there is metres of the stuff.
Spectacular as this may be, I'm aware that I've got some sailing to do.
Further south, conditions on the water looked for the most part friendly. From the Lofoten islands and north, the wintery conditions have made the task ahead look more complicated. Today, the Barents sea coast looked very tough indeed: significant crossings, towering cliffs, biting cold.
So it's a bit of a roller-coaster time. Sometimes I wonder if I am up to this: these long swaythes of rock and snow coastline. I tell myself that the snow is a reminder of winter, rather than a reflection of actual conditions.
And will I find the calories I need? On my windsurf round Britain fish, chips and ale kept me going. I'll need to be more resourceful and self-sufficient this time. Carrying more food. Catching my own fish.
Will people help out as they did round Britain? I think so, but I can't be sure.
These and other doubts and unknowns... Considered from the warm lounge of MS Nordlys they mildly concern. Out on deck in the steady blast of arctic air produced by our forward progress they are amplified; require discipline to keep in check. At these times, given an offer to crawl into a bed, pull the covers over my eyes, and not come out - I'd be tempted.
I won't do that, but I have decided to leave my pride behind. That is, to sail the route that maximises my chances of completing this journey, rather than a route that massages the ego. The decision was made in reference to Nordkapp, the North Cape, which I visited today on a stop at Honnigsvag with some newfound Argentinian friends. I'd wanted to round it to the north - to be at the top of the continent. But I've realised that isn't necessary. Nordkapp is on an island - such that it doesn't need to be rounded. And if the route to the south makes more sense then south it will be.
Update: now landed at Kirkenes, not a breath of wind and beautiful sunshine. No chance of windsurfing in this, and bordering on hot! Thank you to my friends on the Hurtigruten for a wonderful voyage.