Date: 8 June
Miles hiked: 11 ( 18 km) (skis and hiking)
I slept at my parents` house tonight like I`ve done so many times before the night prior to a holiday. As usual, my flight was a very early morning one, and as usual, my parents would drive me to the airport. I told them we should leave no later than 03:20 am, but somehow I managed not to set the alarm. So very much like in the old school days, I was awakened by Mum. I stumbled out of bed and made my way through my childhood room – now stuffed with resupply boxes for my hike, a racer bike, an outranked computer and ring binders with old balance sheets. Mum and Dad were already dressed, sitting in their chairs in the living room, looking fresh and competent even at this hour.
At the airport, I said goodbye to my parents. We are not big huggers in my family, and it always feels awkward to give my parents a hug, even as close we are. But this was a moment that called for a hug. I felt like I was 19 and about to leave home for the first time. But Hey! I`m 45, and it`s about time I spend a few months on my own!
Two hours later I`m in the air, and the sentimentality is all blown away. Finally, finally I`m on my way, exactly one month delayed from my original plan. With hindsight, I think that might be for the better. It`s been an exceptionally snowy winter in the north, and May in Finnmark has been cold and wet. Now it seems as if it might be changing, and the weather forecast for the days to come promises warmth and sunshine.
On the flight from Tromsø to Honningsvåg I get a window seat. I watch my country from above, amazed to see how breathtakingly beautiful it is. We follow the coastline, and from here, the ground looks almost uninhabited. Steep black summits rise from the sea, the coastline is emerald green from the sandy beaches and the clear water, and then there is a distinct line where the ocean deepens and turn black. And further west, there is only black water as far as I can see. In the east, the mountains are completely white. Only a thin coastal band is bare ground.
We arrive at Honningsvåg at 11:45. In the plane, I notice two women about my age looking very much like me; practically dressed in woollen longarmed T-shirts in bright colours, hiking pants, waterproof bags as hand luggage and wearing no make-up. And when we pick up our luggage, their`s is very much like mine. “Are you hiking to Lindesnes?” I ask. “Yes, we are! Cycling and hiking, that is. We`re cycling to Trondheim, and then we`re hiking the rest.” They are Gro and Jean from Skien, and five minutes into the chat, we discover we have common friends in the dairy business.
It`s a wonderful day; blue sky and not a not even a hint of a breeze, and I change to short sleeves and thin pants.
I spend a few hours in Honningsvåg, waiting for the bus to take me almost to North Cape. I soak in the unfamiliar but yet almost common surroundings.
Finnmark was occupied by the Germans from 1940, and during World War II the northernmost cities were intensely bombed by the Soviet Union. But the last winter of war was the gruesomest; with the Red Army entering Northern Norway, and the Germans using the scorched earth tactic as they were retracting. They burned down and destroyed everything they could; houses and farmhouses, schools, churches, hospitals, bridges. The roads were blown up, boats destroyed and the animals killed. The population were forcefully evacuated further south, but many people hid in mountain caves and huts to avoid the evacuation. Returning to their homes, they would find burned buildings and a ground sprinkled with landmines.
In Honningsvåg, as good as all of the buildings and houses are from the post-war era, but Honngsvåg Church from 1885 is still standing strong. This is one of the few churches in Finnmark which was not destroyed or burned during World War II, and it served as a home for its inhabitants in the months after the war, when their houses were reconstructed.
I come from a seafaring city; from my hometown Sandnes I am used to salty air and boat life. Like in Honningsvåg, Sandnes is built around a harbour, we have surrounding mountains and our houses are a conglomerate of styles and materials and colours; wooden houses, concrete houses and older houses with eternit cladding, white, brown, red, yellow and pastel coloured. But Honningsvåg is far rawer. The mountains are steeper and closer to the city, the boats are commercial fishing boats from the Arctic Ocean, huge cruise ships dock at the harbour and the air is crispier and saltier than home, even today when the thermometer reads 20 ° C (68 ° F) in the shade.
The only trees I see, are the occasional ones in the gardens and at the churchyard; misplaced spruces probably planted to shelter from the wind, and birches still with their branches black.
From Honningsvåg I catch the shuttle bus to North Cape. But I leave it at the parking lot four miles from the Cape. The bus driver looks worriedly at me when I tell him I`m going to Knivskjellodden. “There`s still a lot of snow, you know,” he says concernedly.
The snow is about 40 inches, and I pitch my tent with snow stakes. Then I pack my snow sledge and start skiing. I`m on my way to Lindesnes! It`s six PM when I start my hike. The sun is still high, the sky is blue, I put on sunscreen and I`m still in short sleeves. The snow is soft, but my skis are broad and made for backcountry conditions, and my sledge is not heavy. The plateau is softly undulating, it`s easy to follow the cairns and I don`t meet too many, maybe five or six other hikers on snowshoes.
But first, I`m going north: It`s six pm when I start my hike, but the sun is still high, the sky is blue, I put on sunscreen and I`m still in short sleeves. The snow is soft, but my skis are broad and made for backcountry conditions, and my sledge is not heavy. The plateau is softly undulating, it`s easy to follow the cairns and I don`t meet too many, maybe five or six other hikers on snowshoes.
About halfway out on the peninsula, there`s suddenly bare ground. I put on sneakers, leave my sledge and put my rucksack on my back, and hike the last miles to Knivskjellodden on foot.
Where`s the northernmost point?
If you Google “the northernmost point of continental Europe”, “North Cape” will come up on the top. But really, is it?
North Cape is situated on an island (Magerøya), so strictly speaking, the northernmost point of mainland Europe is located at Kinnarodden, which lies about 5,7 kilometres further south. And even if you do include Magerøya as part of mainland Europe, the neighbouring Knivskjellodden just to the west of North Cape actually extends 1,457 meters further to the north.
And of course, the northernmost point of Europe including islands is several hundred kilometres further north, either in Russia`s Franz Josef Land or at Norway`s Svalbard archipelago, depending on whether Franz Josef Land is considered to be in Europe or in Asia.
So I guess there is a certain amount of freedom in choosing which is the northernmost point. And the thing is; I kind of like this ambiguity. Even in something as substantial as geography, there`s not always an objective truth.
It would have been a nice place to just sit down and take in the journey I have just begun. But it`s been a long day and I can feel the sleeping-tiredness rolling over me. So I turn back, enjoying the hike and feeling happy. On the low coastal land, I notice four or five white reindeer with their black calves. The watch me carefully as I pass by.
I`ve seen that writing both an English and a Norwegian blog while I`m also hiking, is very demanding. So I`ve decided that as long as I`m on my way, I will only update my Norwegian blog. But as soon as I`m home in about five months or so, I`ll share my day-to-day diary with you in English as well. Until next time, you might want to have a look at my photos and my Norwegian blog. That`s annepaatur.com
More later, Anne.