Guest Post by Alison Bailey
It’s small wonder Iain still has his hand intact, as I nearly bit it off when asked if I could go to the very north of Norway in his place! A huge thanks to Hurtigruten UK for arranging the trip, and the crew of the MS Richard With, for taking rather good care of our group.
Founded in 1893 when Captain Richard With brought his steamer, the DS Vesteralen into service. He mapped the coastline of Norway for the Norwegian government, and charted a route from Trondheim to Hammerfest, then later from Bergen to Kirkenes, the very same route the ships use today. He called it the “hurtig ruten” or “fast route” and so a journey began. And it was on the leg from Tromso to Kirkenes, and back that I was to join the voyage.
Rather than refer to the trip as a cruise, I’m using the word voyage and it is an important, and relevant change of noun. The Hurtigruten ships are not as large as the average cruise liner, but that gives them the huge advantage; being able to operate close to shore, and through fjords that the larger ships simply cannot access. A map of the routes is found here. The ships also carry cargo from port to port, as well as picking up fresh local produce along the way. The food on board is 85% locally sourced, though fruit and veggies is a challenge due to the extreme cold, and permanently frozen ground.
The scenery is simply stunning. By day and by night! There is an optional button on the phone in the cabins, which allow passengers to receive alerts if the crew spot any Aurora at night. Yes, it is very much Aurora territory up here, and I was very lucky to see some displays on three out of my four nights. But even without the Aurora the sky is so unpolluted, there are still some spectacular views for those willing to brave the cold wind out on deck. Wrap up warm, and I promise it’s worth it!
The ports we called into are all small fishing ports where the communities are totally reliant on the ships for transportation of goods along the coastline. It is also interesting that the ports vary on the outward, and return legs, visiting different places, and there are opportunities to stop, enjoying a wander and browse.
As well as the spectacular landscape, the weather is also worthy of note this far north. It can change so quickly it’s necessary to venture out prepared, even if only going onshore for an hour. It maybe glorious sunshine on departure, but expect a blizzard upon return!
Life on board is very relaxed, the crew are extremely friendly, and helpful. Being a smaller ship, it’s easy to get to know them, and the other passengers, it’s only necessary to engage with them, go on….. they won’t bite!
I enjoyed spending time on the panorama deck watching the world go by from the cosy environment, it’s a great way to while away a few hours. Though I also regularly wrapped up well, and ventured onto the various decks, to get more of that genuine arctic experience. The day we came back from Hammerfest to Tromso was so beautiful I didn’t want to come in from my spot on deck 5.
It’s not all plain sailing, on a relatively small ship sea sickness is sometimes an issue. The oceans collide up here, and it can get rough, but when the ship is in the Fjords, it is often as calm as a millpond.
If I had to choose one picture that just sums up a Hurtigruten voyage, this would be it. This is what it is all about, as our Captain, Tommy Eliassen told us, get out on deck!
I started as a photographer at the tender age of three when my Dad gave me my first camera, a Kodak Brownie. I crawled around ‘taking pictures’ of everything, even though there wasn’t any film, and I’ve been taking pictures ever since.
I’ve worked as a Lab Technician specialising in Pathology to the promised land of Olympus cameras, and even a spell in law enforcement. I’ve returned to my first love now however, specialising in wedding photography. I predominantly use digital today, but the traditionalist in me still loves film, and the skills required to develop it.
* All photography by Alison Bailey, © Copyright of BaileyPhotography 2014