Sunrise/sunset: Up all day.
Ann was on holiday this week and so I worked every day from Tuesday to Friday at the abattoir in Bardufoss. I was on animal welfare duty all week (which involves an early start) and as John is living over there in an apartment with a spare bedroom, I spent the better part of the week at his place.
As we set off to drive over on Monday evening, we began discussing health and fitness. Through the long winter, walking in the countryside was largely impossible. Trails were blocked with snow and even if you wanted to park and walk along the road, you often couldn’t as the car parks hadn’t been cleared and there was nowhere to stop. Looking back, I realise how unprepared I was. Next winter, I will have to find a solution other than sitting on the couch for three months, but for now, the challenge is to get my untrained muscles outside and get some fresh air into my lungs.
John suggested we walk up an unmade road close to his house that weaves up the side of one of the fells. Because it’s technically a road, it was cleared through the winter. A few weeks ago, there would have been an icy crust and walls of snow, but those have melted. There are large laybys all the way up. In winter, these were crucial passing places when the road was hemmed in, but now they are big enough to park in.
John’s proposal was that we should start from the bottom and walk up in stages, so that’s what we did. The first day’s walk was a steep twenty minute trek through woodland. It was pretty enough, even as I gasped my way uphill. A large stream, recently frozen, ran alongside sections of the track. The forest floor was still lined with snow. But it was only when we reached the end of the first day’s segment and turned round that I could see just how beautiful the scenery was.
Only a couple of weeks ago, the mountains were swathed in pure white. Now their rocky faces are emerging and the trees that line their lower slopes are beginning to be tinged with purple as new branches and leaf buds begin to grow.
We stopped to photograph the stream on the way back down. The peaty water flowing over the ice gives it a very different look from the streams in Scotland in springtime.
On day two, we took the car up to the highest point we had reached on day one and set off from there. The trees were more sparse up here, clinging on to the thin layer of earth over the rocks. In the lower right corner of the photo, you can get an idea of how thick the snow still is. It’s treacherous to walk through. There’s a crust on the top, which occasionally holds firm, but more often you fall through and find yourself off-balance in a knee-deep, foot-sized hole. As your other foot is similarly wedged, moving it quickly to correct your balance is impossible. I haven’t yet fallen flat on my face, but that’s because I mostly avoid making the attempt.
The emerging colours are stunning. After months of white, it feels as if the world is coming to life again. The pussy willow trees are so rife with pollen that it almost looks like blossom. There were birds too, singing in the trees.
By day three, my legs were beginning to flag and so we walked only ten minutes instead of the normal twenty. The sky that day was filled with dramatic clouds, and yet it was still warm enough to walk without a jacket. Then again, five degrees feels warm to me now. There’s no doubt my body has adjusted to the local climate.
I came home yesterday and walked here instead, but I confess that I love the new project John has created for me. We will continue walking up the mountain over the next few weeks, and hopefully when the trails on Senja are properly opened up again, we will be able to tackle some of the mountains there.
And, of course, I can’t write this blog and fail to mention the fact that we now have twenty four hours of daylight. I stayed up last night, to see whether there would be midnight sun, but it dipped behind the mountains at eleven fifty. Going to bed is more difficult when it is still so light. It’s also difficult when you wake in the middle of the night and there’s bright sunshine filtering round the edges of the blind and curtains. There’s no way to judge whether it’s morning or not. I have to check the clock each time. Tough to go back to sleep at four in the morning when your eyes are telling you it’s full daylight. Have a great week everyone.