This is the last story article dedicated to my trip to Lapland and Varanger, back in June. We will have a wrap-up post later on, and then we will be done with it. I have some more photographs from Finland and France I want to show you (many I haven’t edited yet…), and of course there will be more content from New Zealand, as I travel further.
Several animals look different depending on whether you’re looking at a male or a female. Think of the lion: males have a mane, which females lack. Think of the Paradise shelduck (Tadorna variegata): females are orange and white, while males are essentially dark grey.
Paradise shelduck (Tadorna variegata)
What would be a trip to Varanger like without a visit to Hornøya? Well, I have birder friends who do that because they are more interested in the tundra, but for the photographer in me, it’s difficult to pass on such an opportunity.
This time, there was no snow on the cliff, but no sun either, most of the day at least. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, for I didn’t really like the light we had in March last year. Instead, a grey ceiling hung above, but the vegetation provided a welcome contrast.
Atlantic puffin (Fratercula arctica)
Hamningberg was a place I wanted to see when I visited Varanger again, because the road is closed in winter and therefore we couldn’t go in March.
Sometimes, I’m asked why I travel alone, why I don’t take a friend with me (even if sometimes, I do). Half-jokingly, I say I don’t know anyone who would be able to sit for hours with me just waiting for birds.
That’s basically what I did that day. I went to the entrance of the national park, and waited. I walked a bit as well, but after one hailstorm I took directly in the face, I decided it would be wiser to stay close to the car. I still had time to see a Horned lark (Eremophila alpestris) walking in the tundra, the first one for that trip.
My first stop after going down the mountains was in Nesseby. There, a small picturesque church stands on the isthmus, and on both sides a beach attracts birds in search of food, at low tide especially.
I’m writing from home, in France, and even though temperatures have been very high here, I still don’t remember fondly the weather I faced when I drove accross the mountains of Varanger, going from Berlevåg and Kongsfjord to the Varangerfjord. Hail, wind and two degrees, that’s not how I had envisioned my vacation.
From Høyholmen, I hoped over the high grounds of Gednje to reach the shore of the ocean. I would have liked to search for birds up there, but heavy showers made me change my mind. Fortunately, the weather improved and I was able to get out of the car in Kongsfjord.
In March last year, when we drove on road 890, we couldn’t turn left to Høyholmen, for the track was blocked by snow. This time, I could drive along this 3-km long jetty… slowly, though, because of all the holes and waves on the track. It left me some time to admire the landscape.
I had a terrifying morning. It had started well, I had woken up early and had breakfast at the back of the car, the air was cold but the sun shone from time to time. It looked like a fine day.
Then I tried to walk away, and in doing so, lock the car. Except it didn’t work. I pressed the button on the key, times and again, but nothing happened. I thought the fresh night in the tent might have depleted the battery, but I had managed to unlock the car with no trouble. I didn’t understand.
Sunday morning, 6 o’clock, basically in the middle of nowhere. Oh, and I didn’t mention my phone’s battery was completely empty. Stay calm, Samuel.
Fortunately, the car was open, and I had access to the car’s manual. Said manual was only in Finnish, but with the illustrations I hoped to gather some knowledge. First, I managed to understand I could still start the car without battery in the key, by bringing the key close to the “start engine” button. Big “ouf” of relief, I was not stuck there. I wondered whether the local town would have the specific battery needed to power the key, but at least I could drive wherever needed.
My second fear was to be able to lock the car (miracles happen), but then be locked out on the key’s whim. So I dived into the manual again, and learnt how to unlock the car manually. I was still annoyed, but I wasn’t lost anymore. And then I removed the battery from the key, put it back… and it started to work properly again. “Have you tried to switch it off, and switch it on again?”
As it turned out, I had no other problem until the end of the trip, and quickly forgot the incident. But what a fright!
I have finished telling the tale of our Arctic expedition. Before we move on, I wanted to share some practical tips about traveling in the region.
First, though, here are the links to all the previous posts, in case you’ve missed some 🙂
En rød dør | Hornøya, cliffside haven | Soil, Varanger edition | Vardø | Vadsø | Varangerfjord | Whatever floats your boat | Advanced course in eiderology | Båtsfjord | On the high road | Clear skies | Here are the birds | Varanger, Day White | Castles in the Air | Prince of the woods