Changing Wheels, Changing Weather

Sunrise/sunset: 08:30/ 16:32. Daylength: 8hr01min

Feeling full of energy last Sunday, I decided I would take Triar for a mountain walk. There has been snow on the higher slopes for a few weeks now, and Triar loves it, so I hoped that if I could get high enough, we would find some. We set off on a pleasant autumn day, and I managed to get a shot of Triar looking noble (or maybe just cute) against the wonderful backdrop of fallen leaves and yellow grass.

Triar against an autumnal backdrop

It was easy to stay warm as we strode up the track. Kistafjellet (the mountain it leads to) is actually over a thousand metres, and the road goes all the way up as there is an antenna mast on the top, but I was not aware of this as I set off.

After walking for about half an hour, we began to see traces of snow, and about forty minutes in, there was a reasonable covering on the roadway, though it was not yet thick enough to cover the grass and undergrowth. As you can probably see from this picture, Triar was delighted.

Triar playing in the snow

I was still feeling energetic and when I walked to the top of a ridge and turned to look at the view, I was filled with a feeling of exultation. It’s easy to forget how wonderful it feels to stand on top of the world.

View from the track to Kistafjellet

I looked forwards at the road, which continued upwards, wending around a small peak.

Track to Kistefjellet

I felt very tempted to walk onwards, but I was on my own, the wind had picked up, and it was starting to snow. I had brought an extra fleece and waterproofs with me, but no food or warm drinks and I was concerned that if I slipped and hurt myself, I might find myself in difficulties. Reluctantly, I turned around and began to walk back down, but this is definitely a walk for another day.

There’s a certain irony in the fact that, having sought out snow on Sunday, I awoke on Monday morning to discover that the snow had now come to us. It was also rather disconcerting, as I still had the summer tyres on my car, but I managed to drive safely to the “tyre hotel” and got them switched over. These are photographs I took when I came back.

I don’t expect the snow to last yet but I felt, as I set off into the darkness on Tuesday morning, that I was very much back into the winter commute. I thought it might be interesting to share it with you, as I know it’s very different from my commuting experiences in the UK.

I wake at four fifteen on Tuesday morning and look out of my bedroom window. Though it is still full darkness, the world becomes very much brighter when there is snow on the ground. The moon is almost full, and I take a photograph out of my bedroom window.

Night view of Senja over Gisundet Sound

Realising there might be snow on the car, I head outside a few minutes early at twenty to five. I brush the snow from round the edge of the driver’s seat door (if I fail to do this, the seat will be covered in snow as I pull the door open) hop in, start the engine, then climb back out. The car is indeed under a layer of snow, but it’s minus three, and it is powder snow, so it brushes off easily. Ice and frost are much harder. In Norway, it’s illegal to drive with a lot of snow still on your car, so I pull out a long handled scraper/brush to reach over the roof and bonnet. It isn’t deep, so I don’t have to clear the driveway. I jump back in, reverse slowly up the steep slope (always a relief to manage it as I have no spikes on my tyres) and set off over the hill and down into the town centre.

There’s a small lake just off the end of the main shopping street and I drive past it whenever I go out. In winter, they wrap lots of the trees in lights. They will be on all the time until the darkness is past, so the area looks welcoming and rather festive.

The lake in the park with trees wrapped in lights

It’s only a few minutes drive to the office. I’ve come earlier than I would in summer as I will be changing over to one of the Mattilsynet cars for my onward journey, and I have left time to clear the second car. I pull up in the car park and push open my car door, which is unexpectedly difficult. An easterly wind is howling and I can hear the rapid tap, tap of ropes fluttering against the masts on the boats in the little harbour. The flat where I live was completely sheltered, so it is a shock to climb out and feel the wind biting through my clothes. Shoulders hunched, I lock my car and scurry over to the new car, to find an unexpected bonus. There is so much wind here that there is no snow on the car at all. With relief, I slide into the driver’s seat and start the engine. Though I was only outside for a few moments, my fingers are freezing and so I gratefully switch on the heated steering wheel.

The road is lined with streetlights for quite a long way after I leave the town. There’s no shelter here and sinuous flurries of snow are snaking along the ground. Parts of the road are white, but where the snow has disappeared, I can see the shimmer of ice underneath, and so I drive carefully until the road rises a bit, and here it is dry and I can speed up a little.

As I reach the end of the streetlights, I pass the first of the moose warning signs. It’s peak migrating season and the sign has a light attached, which flashes when there have been moose sighted in the area. The light is flashing, and so I slow down again and drive on, assessing the woodland on either side of the road, looking out for eyes reflected in the trees. In some areas, blue reflectors line the road. These are supposed to make it easier for the moose to see when cars are coming. As you can see, despite the fact that this is a main road, there are no cats-eyes to guide you. I am used to it now, but they were so ubiquitous in Scotland, marking the centre, margins of the road, and junctions, all in different colours, that it was a shock to find they were so rare here.

Dark road – blue reflectors

Every time I take this route, I drive past a brightly painted shelter with a single milk churn standing in it. I presume this has been preserved from a time, not so long ago, when that was how the milk was collected and transported, before the farms increased in size and milking machines and cooling tanks and tankers became the norm. I’ve never stopped here before, but I was delighted to see there are hanging baskets of unseasonal-looking flowers hanging from it. It’s obviously being maintained with love.

Red and white roadside shelter with milkchurn

I set off again and soon come to a sixty km/hr sign. There’s less snow here and it’s lit again, which I appreciate as I pass slowly through a long section of scattered houses. I should have taken a photograph, but didn’t. I will try to take one and add it later, but Norwegian villages are always filled with light. As well as having porch and outdoor lighting, there’s a tradition of leaving the curtains open year round. The windows downstairs are often lit up all night. Usually the light is a single bulb, either a lamp on the windowsill, or hanging down. Either way, it looks very cosy and welcoming in the winter darkness.

There’s another moose sign at the end of the villages, this time without a light. The forest is set back a little from the sides of the road, so I proceed with reasonable speed, though at fifty miles per hour, it would once have felt very slow to me. It’s amazing how the mind adjusts. Last time I was in the UK, seventy mph on the motorway felt almost impossibly fast.

Road in the headlights with moose warning sign

The last section of my drive is along a section of the E6. Though I can’t see them in the dark, I know that beyond the trees there are high mountains. Even in summer, some of them are decked with permanent ice and snow. In the depths of winter, it will be colder here than near the coast, but for now, it’s actually just above zero. I climb out of the car feeling wide awake and ready for the day ahead.

Triar – snow dog!

5 thoughts on “Changing Wheels, Changing Weather

  1. I agree about the magic, the comfort, of lights in trees all winter long, against all that darkness. Powerful isn’t it, light in darkness. No wonder high-latitude cultures have winter solstice celebrations! the return of the light…

  2. Pingback: Winging It… |

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