Day 133 – We even got dinner on the house, fish cakes, made fresh this morning in Båtsfjord. Luxury! – 12 July

Day 133. 12th of July. Waiting on weather in Makkaur.

After two nights with short sleep, we slept in today. We were in the middle of our breakfast when a boat approached the bay below the cabins.

It was Trond, the owner of one cabin under extension and renovation, and Inge and Inge’s dog Elling.

Inge was here to help Trond build a terrace and Elling thought he was here to herd the small local herd of Reindeer.

Trond’s family has roots here, and we learned about Makkaur that up to three hundred people had lived in this fishing community. Quite unbelievable when we see it today. All the houses were dismantled and moved to other places.

Also unbelievable in an age where time is scarce and money relatively plentiful. (Many of the people we met in rural Russia would probably not have to strain their imagination as much as us).

The first half of today was a beautiful summers day, but the wind was blowing and the waves were a meter and a half and white crested, so no temptation to change plans. And for the second part of the day the wind turned, picked up and brought rain that even yr.no didn’t predict.

We just managed to get the tent up and create a dry space for our things.

In the summer weather we went on different sight seeings. Stein went to inspect the old German fortifications, Erling went to look at Makkaur lighthouse.

The lighthouse is unmanned, except for a small herd of Reindeer. But it is still operative and kept in order. In bygone days two lighthouse keeper families lived here.

Erling came there just as the wind turned and he could have lit a match at the lighthouse. It lasted less than five minutes and fifteen minutes later the wind was approaching gale force.

Time to hurry back and secure our stuff. Stein was similarly blown back from the fortifications.

We waited the rain out in the tent.

When we stuck our heads out, Trond shouted from the cabin that coffee was ready. Music in our ears.

Meantime he had been back to Båtsfjord with Inge and Elling, and his wife Marjot had come with him back here.

Over coffee we got the history of how the two of them had built up the firm StyroNor, producing the white boxes in which fish is transported and exported.

A very interesting and successful story, not without obstacles from nature, authorities and ill-wishers, but also support, if not from nature, then other authorities and well-wishers.

We even got dinner on the house, fish cakes, made fresh this morning in Båtsfjord. Luxury!

In the end day 133 became both varied and interesting.

Tomorrow we head at least for Kongsfjord.

From yesterday:

 

Day 132 – We believe we are on the same spot where Jim Danielsson landed after his dramatic passing of Makkaur fyr back in 1989 – 11 July

Day 132. 11th of July. From Blodskytodden to a couple of kilometers after Makkaur lighthouse. 51 km, 6.5 km/hr average speed.

Just after we came onshore Stein received the sad news that his father in law passed away today. Then Makkaur is a very long way from home.

Even so weather dictates that we stay onshore here tomorrow.

There is a small weather window, but we have an hour plus crossing of Båtsfjord ahead, and a good place to stay where we are.

Before we got here we did a first for this trip; we paddled back a couple of kilometers.

We found this place on top of the ruins of a WW2 German “kystbatteri” on our way after Makkaur fyr, but Erling insisted on looking for a place as idyllic as the yesterday’s campsite “just around the corner”. No such luck, and for once we paddled back.

We believe we are on the same spot where Jim Danielsson landed after his dramatic passing of Makkaur fyr back in 1989, thoroughly described in his book “148 dagar i havskajakk” (148 days in a sea kayak).

Our passing of Makkaur fyr was undramatic. We took advantage of a weather window predicted by yr.no.

We use the forecast to plan our day. Today we were off to a 0310 start, and got Hamningberg out of the way by 0630. Then we crossed Syltefjorden and landed on Storsteinnes to wait out the forecast 8 m/s winds.

We slept for three hours and then started to pack the boats to be ready for a three o’clock weather window.

It appeared almost on the minute, and we passed two infamous spots Korsnes and Makkaur fyr in good weather and sea state.

For comparison, Jim Danielsson had a transistor radio with dubious reception.

Using yr.no feels almost like cheating by comparison. But safety first, and we always keep in mind that forecast is not reality. But still immensely valuable.

Tomorrow we’ll wait on weather and rearrange our plans.

Day 131 – Stein is a man of action, so he went back up the road and hitched a ride with Camilla – 10 July

Day 131. 10th of July. Komagværodden to just beyond Blodskytodden. 46 km, 7.0 km/hr average speed.

We got off to a 0320 start to take maximum advantage of falling tide. After about five hours we reached Vardø.

That was convenient as we wanted to see a pharmacy. Stein has experienced dizziness on some of our crossings. Latest theory is that it has to do with long wavelength ocean swell. So the thing to try is medication for seasickness.

For this you need a prescription. Stein first tried to call “fastlegen”, but it was holiday. He then called Øyvind our “Expedition doctor”, it turned out he was busy rescuing a person from Hardangerjøkulen. Then we called our reserve Knut and he helped us.

So now we hope that it works, first indications are positive.

Vardø is an old fortification town and is Norway’s eastern most point.

It also used to have Norway ‘s northernmost tree, growing in a shielded spot on the fort. Our editor Karianne wanted a picture.

Unfortunately the tree had died. A new one had been planted, but it looked very dead also.

One thing about sleeping short during the day, is that one gets tired and quality of ideas and precision in execution suffers.

As we came back we realized that we had left sports tape and toothpaste at the Pharmacy.

Stein is a man of action, so he went back up the road and hitched a ride with Camilla. She took Stein to the pharmacy and waited for him and drove him back to the harbor close to the airport, where we had our boats.

Before lunch we had passed one potentially complicated place; Kibergodden, in max weather and calm seas.

One reason for taking a long break in Vardø was to wait for a tide/weather window across Blodskytodden.

We left at 1400 and got to Blodskytodden about 1530, at maximum tide and almost no wind nor current.

We stopped shortly after, not wanting to risk a crossing in forecast of 8 m/s northerly winds.

Tonight the conditions will be favorable again, and tomorrow we hope to get past another infamous point: Makkaur lighthouse, about 48 km from where we camp.

Weather Permitting.

Day 130 – Today was the day for crossing Varangerfjord – 9 July

Update day 130. 9th of July. Kjelmøya to Komagværodden. 44 km, 6.4 km/hr average speed.

Today was the day for crossing Varangerfjord. A crossing that demands careful planning, since one has to spend hours in open sea in an area with potentially rapid weather changes and also some current.

Our plan was an early start to make some use of the calm of the night. So at 0520 we set off, due north with the sun in our faces.

Three and a half mercifully uneventful hours later we passed Ekkerøya, and after four hours and 27 km we landed in a small village.

We took a two hour break as the tide driven currents were unfavorable. We got some food and sleep, and then set off on the last leg of the day. Now we just paddled until the sun driven winds got to about 7 m/s and then went ashore.

Tomorrow’s “piece de resistance” is Blodskytodden, so named we are told, because blood came under peoples fingernails when they tried to cross in unfavorable weather!

Tomorrow weather is favorable in the morning, but not in the afternoon.

We aim for an early start, but still it is touch and go if we make it.

Now the chronicler needs to get some sleep. We will elaborate a little more on our Finnmark adventure when we run into weather waiting, which we sure will.

Nature is breathtaking and paddling is interesting both planning and execution.

Day 129 – Wind, swell and current was such that we decided to take a detour south of Kjelmsøy to get into calmer waters – 8 July

Day 129. July 8th. Grense Jakobselv to Kjelmsøy. 39 km, 7.1 average speed.

One last breakfast in Jarfjord, then Ulf, Margerethe, Elise, her friend Emilie and Margerethe’s mother accompanied us to Grense Jakobselv.

It took an hour to stuff and pack the boats and shortly before 12 o’clock we were off paddling in the Barents Sea.

The wind was negligible, and from behind anyways. There were half a meter long wavelength ocean swell.

Encouraging. It encouraged us to paddle a little faster than plan A and a little direct route. The conditions allowed to cross both Jarfjorden and Holmen Grå fjorden before we took our first break. We landed the kayaks on a boulder beach.

As we ate lunch the wind picked up and any ideas about continuing straight across Varangerfjord was scrapped. The ocean fog was also thickening.

We decided to head for Kjelmsøy. As we approached Bøkfjord lighthouse the wind had definitely picked up and the waves were getting white crests. But still not the 7 m/s yr.no was forecasting.

Those 7 m/s arrived as we crossed Bøkfjord, the interplay between wind, swell and current was such that we decided to take a detour south of Kjelmsøy to get into calmer waters.

This made the paddling a little longer and the thick ocean fog made the search for a campsite difficult. We found and landed in a small sandy cove about 1830.

Nowadays there are a few cabins here, but during the war it was one of the main German fortifications protecting the harbor of Kirkenes and there are remnants everywhere.

Tomorrow the weather forecast is optimum for crossing Varangerfjord. We will try for a reasonably early start and hope to have the 22 km behind us by lunch.

Weather Permitting.

Day 128 – Good to be back in Norway this fortunate, wealthy and peaceful corner of Europe – 7 July

Day 128. 7th of July. No paddling. Stein came back on a morning flight, bringing a new Garmin GPS replacing one that died.

We have shopped three days supplies, loaded the boats on the roof and our stuff in the car, read “Den norske Los”, studied the weather forecast.

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Plus had a fantastic dinner with Kamchatka crab for starters and Halibut for main course and cloud berries for dessert. All catch and harvested by Margerethe, Ulf and Elise.

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We even took time to go to a debate in Kirkenes arranged by   “Klassekampen’s sommerbåt” with the title “Russia friend or foe”. The mayor of Kirkenes, a vice chairwoman of the political party Red and a representative from the Norwegian defence forces University college had a panel discussion.

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An amicable discussion that somehow did not really address the headline question, but rather turned into a more introvert discussion about Norwegian defence policy and Norwegian democracy, (to be fair the basis and likely future of sanctions against Russia was also discussed).

We suspect such a debate would have been a bit more intense in say Finland.

Good to be back in Norway this fortunate, wealthy and peaceful corner of Europe.

Tomorrow we get to try ocean paddling along the coast of Finnmark, a new chapter in our adventure. Safety first and enjoy the journey is our plan.

Day 127 – Erling was the only one to get a VIP tour of Pasvik – 6 July

Day 127. 6th of July. No paddling.

While Stein is in Oslo, Erling is enjoying the hospitality of Margerethe and Ulf.

Our “blog editor” Karianne also joined us for a couple of days, but traveled on to Stjørdal for salmon fishing this morning.

So Erling was the only one to get a VIP tour of Pasvik.

A borderland tour, guided by Margerethe and Ulf both of whom have their roots here.

Erling has never been to Finnmark before and is mostly ignorant about the details of its history, culture and nature.

First impressions are always impactful, here it is only room for some highlights.

History: It’s borderland history. Centuries of fluid and porous borders and simultaneous taxation from multiple states. Only a treaty in 1826 firmed up the borders between Norway, Russia (Finland).

Then a campaign to “make Norway more Norwegian” and less Finnish and Sami, called “Norsk Bureising” that encouraged people from poor parts of southern Norway to cultivate new land in Pasvik as alternative to emigrating to America.

Then the second world War in which Finnmark suffered more than the rest of Norway together.

Then a cold war which turned gratitude toward a liberator into a suspect attitude.

In these times Ulf served as an officer in the border forces, and today he took us to one of the inspections towers from where they kept a watch of the border and a camp for KGB recruits just across the border.

Now it is a museum of sorts with a small café serving waffles. Detente on this spot at least.

After the break up of the Soviet Union the border opened and the exchange of people and goods across it increased massively.

Then the Russian annexation of Crimea which heightened tensions again.

What is more abstract politics in the capital translates into very concrete and tangible consequences in the “borderland”.

Culture: What made the most impression on Erling was to visit the “boarding” school where Ulf’s mother went. Population was spread out and communications poor, so from an early age kids would spend three months at a time away from home.

This was a society that much more than today, put different value on individuals based on class and ethnicity. Margerethe’s father felt the sharp end of that at another boarding school.

No substance to romanticism about a simple, glorious and harmonious past. Again the shortcomings were amplified in the borderland.

Nature: Here the main boundary is the strike slip fault that separates the eocambrian strata of Varanger halvøya from the up to 3 bn year old gneis basement to the south.

For people whose brains have not been twisted by education as a geoscientist, the most interesting boundary is probably the climate boundary between the colder coastal climes in the Kirkenes area and the much more benign climate in the Pasvik Valley, just a short drive inland. This is what made Pasvik a focus for settlement from southern Norway.

Speaking of climate, it has been a warm summers day and we enjoyed Margerethe’s cooking outside.

The weather forecast looks good for the coming week also.

Stein returns tomorrow and Sunday morning we plan to start from Grense Jakobselv. Weather Permitting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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