Nordkapp: Looking at the North Pole

It was the most spontaneous decision we have ever made. We planned just to hike in Lapland but at the beginning of our trip we met so many people (mostly Poles) who struck for Nordkapp that we decided to change our plans. We were so close to it that we couldn’t miss the opportunity.

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Should we try hitch-hiking or just catch a bus? We could save some money by hitch-hiking, about 150 euros one-way. Quite a lot (especially when your currency is zloty and 1 pln = 4 euro) but the traffic here is almost none, we can spend hours waiting for someone who will drive north… Or even days. We agree to take a bus. (And we do it just on time becuase there is only one connection per day.)

It’s amazing how different is life here. Still Europe but it seems like some wilderness. The more we are heading north, the less buildings we can see. Sometimes there are even few kilometers between neighbours. Houses are not built by the main road, who would like to crowd by some asphalt when there’s such a space around? Next to every drive to the premises stands a letter box. Well, it looks more like a huge bird table but the point is that a bus driver, who is a postman at the same time, could throw mail and newspaper into it without getting out from the bus. In bigger towns (several dozen of citizens) parcels with mail are delivered to hotels or shops and the bus races farther north.

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The landscape changes. Forests get sparser and sparser and at some point they completely disappear. Ground here is brown or rotten green. There are no trees, only some shrubs but they don’t grow high. This really is tundra. Due to the arctic climate soil is frozen the whole year, during summer it defrosts only 1 meter deep. It’s too cold and too moist for vegetation. Conditions are perfect for mosses and lichens which give soil rotten colours. The landscape is a little bit depressing, however, it makes great impression on us. Mostly because the road to Nordkapp runs by the fiord!

It’s called Porsangerfjord. Not the prettiest but it’s the first fiord we have ever seen and we are delighted. At one moment a herd of reindeer crosses our road. The bus driver is bored but we and the rest of passengers (6 people) fling ourselves into the windscreen to take a photo. It is so exotic! 🙂

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Fiord Porsangen is 123 km (about 76,5 miles) long and it’s the fourth longest fiord in Norway. Width fluctuates between 10 to 20km (6,2 to 12,5 miles). Fiord is quite shallow, at deepest point it measures only 300m. There are no huge cliffs knew from the pictures of Norway but it’s embellished by rocky beaches and picturesque islands lightened by gold sun beams.

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It’s already after 10 p.m. but the sun is still high. We knew that the sun doesn’t set here but it feels differently when you read about it and when you see it. We look at the seashore. There are some lone houses and shelters. What you can do in this backwoods, literal end of the world? We know the answer as soon as we spot anglers. Why to sleep when the sun still shines and the water is so rich in fish?

We cannot enjoy the beautiful weather too long. Although it’s still brightly, there is much more rain clouds. Luckily, we knew earlier that the weather conditions here are harsh and we put on every clothing we could. The temperature here was about 5°C (41°F) few days ago… Now it’s less, for sure. Well, what to expect? On average is about 15°C (59°F) daily.

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Nordkapp is not too hospitable. It welcomes us with arctic wind and unpleasant drizzle. We have a look around: except a building that holds museum, shop, coffee house and a parking where several dozens of campers stands, there is nothing. Nothing, total emptiness. Behind the building there is a cliff 300m high with characteristic globe – this place exactly is Nordkapp. These wastelands with metal globe in the end of the world is a real crowd-puller. What kind of joke is that? Where is this place, which everybody goes into raptures about? I have never fallen NOTHING could be such a touristy place. And in such bad weather! The temperature is maybe 2°C (36°C) and icy wind, even if we wear windproof jackets and few layers of warm clothes, forces me to flex every muscle while making a move. I hardly walk because of cold but I can do this. As I’m already here, you stupid Nordkapp, I will show you what I can do! Well, Sebastian is cold too. Moreover, we’re tired and hungry and it’s easy now to argue. Luckily, our arguments don’t last long but even so we are still in bad mood.

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Despite the cold wind we stand and look straight ahead, on the horizon covered with water. On the right side is the Barents Sea and on the left is the Norwegian Sea, which is a part of the Atlantic Ocean and the Barents is the Arctic Ocean already. From here to the North Pole is about 2100 km (1305 miles). It’s 400 km less than to Warsaw! Where have we been driven off? To some kind of the end of Europe…

But this is not the exact end! On our left side there is the Knivskjellodden peninsula located about 1200m farther to the north. But the North Cape is more touristy and it’s easier to get there. And the view from high cliffs is much better! What is more, there is no road to Knivskjellodden and the hiking trail is 9km long. With backpack in this weather it’s about 4-6 hours of walking, anybody’s eager to go?

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To be honest, none of those points is the northernmost point of Europe because both of them are on the island of Magerøya. The continental part of Europe, which is the nearest to the North Pole, is Nordkinn Cape (called also Kinnarodden, look at the map on the bottom of this entry) on Nordkinn Peninsula. It’s difficult for tourist to reach it because there is no road and to the only village is about 30 km but from geographical point of view this is the northernmost point of European continent. If you are still not convinced I have another bad news for you: if we also count islands in this ranking, the farthest to the north is archipelago of Franz Josef Land, the extreme northernmost point is Cape Fligely on Rudolf Island to be exact. It’s only 900 km (559 miles) to the North Pole. It lies at latitude 81°N, while Nordkapp only at 71° (and I would like to remind you that North Pole is 90°N). The only ‘the most’ thing for Nordkapp is the most touristy.

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It’s touristy career starter in 1956 when the road E69, which leads to it, was opened. Earlier it could be reached only from the sea and cliffs. The first explorer of it, Richard Chancellor, was too busy with looking for Northeast Passage to waste his time for such a stupid behavior so he just named the cape and sailed farther (it was in 1553). One hundred years later the first tourist, priest Francesco Negri who travelled around Scandinavia, reached Nordkapp. More important personalities who got here were Oskar II the King of Sweden and Norway (1873) and Chulalongkorn the King of Thailand (1907). Well, I can understand the visit of Norway’s king but why the ruler of Thailand came here – I have no idea.

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Knivskjellodden

And now we joined that honourable company. We look at the horizon. Suddenly, I recall myself as a little girl when I stood on the beach of the Baltic Sea. I thought that if the weather would be good, I could see the shore of Sweden, it’s only on the opposite side of the sea, right?

Now I look at the Norwegian Sea and the Barents Sea, at the Atlantic and Arctic Ocean. Two days ago I wasn’t even planning to be here. Behind me there is 2 500 km (1553 miles) to my home town and in front of me – 2 100 km (1305 miles)  to the North Pole. And I’m really pleased about that spontaneous decision we made. Your life can really be surprising if you let it.

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We haven’t seen the midnight sun on Nordkapp. Of course, it would be great to see how the sun goes down, bounces on the horizon and returns up. But, even if the weather conditions would be better, we had no chance to observe this phenomenon. It happens only between 14th May and 31st July (we have been there 7th August). Well, don’t expect that you’ll see this. There is only 10% chances that the sky will be clear and beautiful. If you’re going to Nordkapp don’t expect anything at all. Just take it as it is. At the first moment I didn’t like it. I was cold and tiring. But now I think that it would be great to see one more time that lunar landscape and then take a look at not so faraway North Pole…

The trip happened on August, 2011.

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we on the Nordkapp
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cold, hungry and angry :D

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