Monday, May 14, 2007


Steam and ice: it's a good thing.

While sitting in the Rica Vadsø hotel reception trying to get a good wifi signal, I got quite a shock when, to fill the gaping void left by Eurovision, an episode of Skippy (the bøsh kangarøø) started on the TV (in English, with subtitles): Sonny and Skippy deal with the dual threat of a poacher in the national park, and an unknown animal as vector for a lethal disease. A grimacing "government veterinarian" stalks the park in a business suit, bearing a rifle ,while a beautiful scientist and the park's helicopter squad race to clear Skippy as suspect. All in less than 20 minutes. Warning - harsh language: "come back you little varmint!".

Major lesson: I learnt that "Nødrop" is Norwegian for "Emergency!"

A little wearily, I retraced the road to Vardø to catch the Hurtigruten ferry at 4pm. I could have caught it at 8am this morning from Vadsø, going northward to Kirkenes and then back to Vardø, but wanted to sleep in AND to not overextend Bondi's stay in the back of the car down below.

Sunday in Vardø is much like Sunday on a depopulated island. Nothing is open, even the places marked as open on Sundays. I took Bondi on a walk around the town's "culture trail" which supposedly marked out historical sites such as a burial ground, old fishing village etc. Nothing between the first and last item was marked, unless you count the more-or-less constant trail of rubbish strewn around the route. The only thing of interest was the quantity of evicerated sea urchins left by seabirds. The icy sleet was less interesting, adding little to the local colour, and pushed us back to the car to sit out the afternoon, occasionally interrupted by one or two cars circulating through the port area, driven by bored teenagers.

By 5pm we were on the MS Finnmarken, one of the many Hurtigruten ships running between Bergen and Kirkenes. One leaves every day of the year, taking 11 days to do a round trip. One can elect to do the full journey, or a one-way, or just port-to-port hopping as I wanted.
The cheapest cabin (no port-hole, lowest deck) was still more luxurious than anything I had travelled on ferry-wise around Europe. The ship facilities were also impressive, actually providing a good range of eating and entertainment options that other lines promised and always failed to deliver upon.

Not long after boarding I ran into the Aussie trio I had met in Inari, who were curious to know how Bondi was faring. With no access to him until disembarking at Honningsvåg tomorrow morning, I just had to trust that he would be comfortable in his nest. At one of the stops (Batsfjord Havn) I took the chance to go down to check on him, and saw that the crew had a watchful eye on his wellbeing.

My one real luxury for my 12 hour journey was a hot spa bath on an upper deck while the snow & rock lining the Baring Sea drifted past.

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