Norway Coast Cruise - Alta - March 23/24th 2010

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Alta is an agglomeration of three villages at the head of a fairly long fjord, all rather modern because everything except the church was burned down by the Nazis in the War. On this trip, we are clearly getting the impression that World War II was the last "exciting" thing that happened round here.

Panorama of Alta Fjord from the NATO Quay

To the South-West

Over the bow &
across the Alta Fjord

Glorious surroundings

Hill inhabited 10,000 years ago

The Sami Village - Maze

This excursion set off at 0930 for Sami village of Maze, which was an hour South from Alta. Samis were formerly known as 'Lapps' but are now referred to by what they call themselves. Firstly, we went through open but wooded country, then up the steep gorge of the Alta River to the Finnmark Plateau, which is not quite flat, having some hills the break up the monotony of snow with something between a bush & a tree all over the land. We turned off into a shallow valley for the village, where we were met by a very colourfully & traditionally dressed man, who set us various tasks, the difficulty of which was exacerbated by the thick snow & light, which was not as good as earlier & so it was difficult to tell the firmer snow from the stuff you sank in up to your thighs. The first was to erect one of their teepees, which we did in fairly short order, although the poles were quite heavy. Then, we had to lassoo some reindeer antlers fixed to a fence, using a different technique from the Wild West. Then, to collect snow in a kettle, light a fire & boil it in a teepee, a very smoky business.

The best was left to last: reindeer racing. Fortunately, we went round the track one at a time. The reindeer set off at a hell of a lick, only too happy not to be tied up & have a run. The first time I tried, the goat & sled shot away under me, dumping me on the snow. The second time, I was going great guns until the second bend, where the bloody goat decided to veer off into the very soft snow in the middle of the course, get stuck in the snow with the sled at a bit of an angle & panic. I tried to get it to go forward unsuccessfully & a Sami came out to help. He was just the opposite, trying to regain control of the goat, he ended up on top of me with my leg trapped under the now 45° sled, & me thinking my leg was about to break. Another Sami turned up on a Skidoo, which attracted the goat's attention. I struggled free & walked back up the track to the start. Much later & after Avis had finally been persuaded/shamed into having a go with a Sami on the back. I went off again with a better goat & successfully completed the course but they go very fast & are quite hard to stop. (You have to heave on the rope & pull their heads leftwards).

A Sami

Erecting a Sami tent

Lighting a fire & making coffee

Ken (blue hat) & Sami with goat trouble

Avis about to enter the
reindeer race

Avis approaching Beecher's Brook

Singing the Eurovision Song Contest yoik
(hit photo for noise & movie)

After that, we all went in to a large teepee for lunch. There was a big, hot fire in the middle & reindeer stew was served with home made bread & water. The floor was covered with reindeer skins over large twigs & snow. Pudding was cranberry mousse & indifferent cake. I learned 'thank you' from a boy: eeshtu. Then, one of the Sami asked me how I knew it! He also introduced us to the 'yoik', which is their singing. Apparently, everyone has a personal yoik but he sang his uncle's. Then, he tried to get us to sing the yoik the Norwegians once entered in the normally dire Eurovision Song Contest.

Lunch Feast

Our Sami Cook

Retreat from Maze

The coach tyres have nails in them (pointing out, I hasten to add) but were still a bit late getting back to the ship. We dashed aboard & the gangplank was hauled in as it set out for a new mooring here by the airport at 1440. There was certainly, no time to explore the so-called city, a treat for tomorrow.

Aurora Borealis

After a hasty dinner at 1715 & a good lecture on the Northern Lights, we piled into very expensive buses
(temperature -4°C) at 2000 to go South again, almost to Maze, to a place that we were assured of the possibility of Northern Lights (temperature -13°C but fortunately, not very windy).

What Northern Lights??? At least, there was coffee available in something resembling a climbing hut from the Alps. (Apparently, the next hut is 28km away, a reasonable day's walk but you would not want to miss it). We returned to the ship by midnight, which stayed put for once.

Ice sculpture

In the tent

Avis getting warm

Alta 'City'

We were not due to leave until 1400, so we took the courtesy bus into town. The centre was as dreary close to as it looked from the main E6 road. (The Norwegians, having refused twice to join the Euro-Union in referenda, still have EU road numbers. The cynic in me reckons they will join when their oil money runs out). However, the setting is magnificent. We walked out to the church, the only thing not destroyed in the War & were rewarded by good views, some of a very Caspar David Friedrich variety. (I am reading a monograph about him on this trip). We went back for lunch, as we wanted to look at the views after the ship departed.

Panorama South

Casper David Friedrich scene

Church in context

The Churchyard

The Church

Typical house

To see the voyage out of Alta Fjord - hit this link

Norway Cruise Index page
1. Overnight to Amsterdam &at sea
2. Molde (Norway)

3. Svartisen Glacier
4. Svolvaer in the Lofoten Islands
5. Narvik

6. Tromso
8. Alesund
9. Bergen

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Next Port of call - Alesund

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Contact: Ken Baldry at 17 Gerrard Road, Islington, London N1 8AY +44(0)20 7359 6294 or e-mail him
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