Travel to the Arctic

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

An autobiographical story of adventure and heart-opening inspiration, The author is describing her journey to northern Norway back in 80s-90s.

”There seems to be so much left to do in life and I’m itching to get on with something new. This voyage is about played out as far as I’m concerned” - Robin Knox-Johnston
 The moment we headed to the north, I would be a story of inspiration and heart-opening adventure.

I could see no more trees nor bushes any more and it was not until the late night that I realised how much the landscape had changed after we reached Polar Circle. From now on, without the sun going to sleep, we were more and more tired as we could not rest properly during the night (as the sun was shining at us through the windows).

 I always wanted to do something extraordinary, hence my single-handed voyage to Norway by hitchhiking seemed enough remarkable. But now, this journey opens new horizons, as it is astonishing in its wonder.
 It is 1990. The reason for my journey is clear, as I have already been living in Norway for some time since my solo travel. I have just got a job in the American Military Base in Nordkapp in the Arctic Circle! I applied for that job through an advert that I found in a local  (Hamar) newspaper. One can imagine now that thankfully I did not need to go for an interview...around 2000 kilometres. Delightfully, the interview was done by phone. This voyage seemed easier for me because we were travelling with my boyfriend (my husband at present). We had two good reasons to travel to the North, apart from huge curiosity. I got a job and my boyfriend too, however he got a job in one of Arctic villages (one cannot believe: in a dairy indoor farm!).
 Despite employment opportunities, we both were hungry for an exciting journey and exploration of unknown World. It is the beginning of June and we are heading north towards Lillehammer and Trondheim. It is around 700 kilometres in this first part of our trip, so we planned to visit my friend (a student of architecture then) who lives in Trondheim. We were excited about that travel as we have always dreamed to see the Polar Circle. We did not know what to expect. With great shame, I must say that we were totally unprepared for our journey! Apart from having a car and Norwegian Krones to last for petrol and food, we packed our hopes and enthusiasm with limited knowledge of Arctic geographical circumstances. We took too much summer clothes (this still makes me laugh when I think about it after 30 years).
 We are driving the car to the north, towards Narvik now, after spending some exciting moments at my friend’s house, being warmly welcomed by her parents, fed with fantastic Norwegian „laks” (salmon). We headed to the Arctic Circle. Just before reaching the 66 degrees latitude, we noticed that the landscape was changing dramatically. Not only there started to be much snow, but there were no trees...just plane landscape, covered deeply by snow. It was a shock to us, as coming from Tangen in southern Norway to this type of environment in just 2 days, it was hard to acclimate. The road was quite clean with no snow and black asphalt allowed us to drive a car quite easy. We were travelling in a tunnel of 2.5 meters snow walls on each side. 
  We stopped for an overnight after 7 hours driving, when we reached the Arctic Circle. We did not know then that road signs saying „hytter” mean free overnight in one of few little wooden cabins that were purposely built for travellers as a shelter when the road was closed due to blizzard. We were so amused entering a „hytter” as what we saw exceeded our expectations! The „hytter” equipped with very basic furniture: a bunk bed,  a table, a stove, a cooking pot and 2 chairs, was very small but had everything we needed. Toilet was outdoors, which with snow and freeze below at least -5 Centigrades, it was something difficult to get to be used to.
 We found enough chopped wood logs behind the cabin (which were ready for tourists to use in a stove). Very quickly our hytter became a very cosy place, filled with warmness coming from the stove. Within half an hour, it was really warm and we grabbed some snow into a bowl to boil it for our tea. There was no electricity and no water but there was enough snow to melt on a  stove which was very popular in Norway those days. What was extremely surprising to us was the cleanliness of the cabin. There were no houses around, no people in the nearest 150 kilometres’ distance. ”Who looks after those little cabins”? - I thought. Shortly, we realised: it is ourselves! We - travellers, are looking after them! 
 After a good night sleep, not even bothering too much about the sunshine which at 1.00 am in the middle of the night was shining, we woke up in fantastic moods. We cleaned the hytter nicely, with increased attention to details, wanting to leave that cabin in a pristine state. We washed the floor, using melted crystal clear Arctic snow. We wiped the table and fully proud of ourselves, left to continue our trip further north, with the aim to reach Narvik within the distance of 300 kilometres. We put a very kind note into a guest book with a thank you for this extraordinary kindness of the Norwegian Government. I even wanted to wash the window in this cabin for others to enjoy the cleanliness of glass, but we dropped this idea when we checked the temperature was below -6 that morning. It was the first week of June but the temperatures were not even near the Norwegian summer.
 When heading north, in the Polar Circle area we stopped to take few pictures in the Polar Sirkelen station in the middle of nowhere. Maybe now after 30 years, there are more facilities for tourists in the station (it might be interesting to get to know?) but then back in 1990, it was only one closed shelter with the note: „Not open for summer yet!” 
On the way, we saw reindeers and white rabbits that came to our car so closely that we easily could take some good photos of them. No houses and cars appeared to us for about 100 kilometres since we left the hytter. Suddenly, we saw a barrier crossing our road. We stopped and looked at the note to read why the road is closed. Apparently, we got to know that the road was closed because of the coming blizzard...
 Being brave Polish young people, it was quite obvious that we would not wait at the barrier for 1-2 days for the road to be open. My boyfriend made a quick decision at a glance: we are going further and we opened that barrier as the road seemed the same with black asphalt ahead of us. We did not have a choice, to be honest, as the gate was in the middle of the plateau, no villages and no petrol stations were near. We did not know how long should the road be closed for and what we will do there without a shelter?
Our petrol in the car should last for another 150 kilometres that might allow us to reach the nearest petrol station within this big distance.
 Soon we learnt that we should have never gone through a closed gate...

Submitted: November 19, 2020

© Copyright 2021 Yvonne Anderson. All rights reserved.

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