From time to time I looked out of the plane window to see if Norway could already be discerned, but never did my eye meet more than clouds. And then we descended into them, and all was blurry. And then, in an instant: the surroundings of Tromsø, clear as glass just below me. My heart jumped.
Helgard was waiting for me. Hadn't seen her in a year! And her driving me home in the good old Subaru through the oh so familiar roads of Tromsø was enough to make me silly in the head. This place has shaped me so much. We caught up over a cup of tea until it was bedtime.
The next morning I did what I tend to do at Helgard's: change bicycle tyres! I'm always welcome to use a bicycle, but they themselves use them so little they tend to always have the tyres that do not match the season. This time it was Carsten's bike I handled, as he was at sea, and didn't need it himself. And then we were off to NP! The first thing Helgard did was lock herself out, but the receptionist saved her, and we could go up to the 6th floor. It's July, and all of Norway is normally on holiday in that month, but left and right familiar faces showed up! Nalan was there, and Tjarda, and Dierk, and Kirsty... Arto even spoke of possible future collaboration. That would be nice! I found pictures on the wall of Dorthe and myself. I was all excited. I then went on a little round and met so many more people I wanted to meet. I miss them!
The pictures in NP's corridor - and that's me!
By coincidence I had picked the day of the sacrificial feast lunch to show up at my old employer’s, which was, despite the name, a very calm and peaceful event. The rest of the afternoon was spent again on meeting people. Unfortunately not meeting those from Statens Kartverk; they might be able to help us with the fieldwork, but their part of the building was dark and empty. But there were other things to do, and soon it was beer o'clock, and we went into town. Just before we went I suffered a small shock; there had been no sign of Tana, which suited me fine, but then suddenly there she was, in the corridor. It's more than a year ago she threw my friendship back into my face, but still, my heart raced and my neckhair stood up. These things seem to fade only slowly. But I managed to utter something polite. And then we were off. Max, who hadn't been in town the last time I was here, joined us too, to my great delight.
Surrounded by Germans!
The next day would be good weather, so we (being Max, Tjarda, Helgard and me) would go on a hike. We had picked a nice modest walk on Kvaløya, and we would take the good old Subaru to get there. But it didn't have its day, and Helgard steered it through town cursing and swearing, while the engine stalled again and again. And again. I didn't dare drive it! Once I was the specialist in all its quirks, but these days are over. At a turn out of town it stalled again, and Helgard steered it to the side, to let other people pass while she would kick it back to life. But a combination of the loss of powersteering and the increasing stress made her vulnerable to the dangers of the ditch beside the road... however, less than an hour later we were on the road again. We would not be stopped! And we had a lovely walk to a beautiful lake and back, and in spite of the wavering car were home in time for welcoming Carsten with a barbecue on the balcony.
Barbecue with only cheese!
I was not sure what to do the next day. Try Statens Kartverk again? But Sanja was up for another hike! Luckily, Helgard is online, and my mailbox told me Kartverket would be willing to assist me on Monday. My hands were free!
At Sanja's place I first met Lumo, her housemate's dog, who brought us slippers when we walked in, and then Marika, the actual housemate. We first had a coffee with smalltalk, and then we were off. Within 5 minutes of the walk Lumo, who is a trained dead-sheep-finder, had killed himself a bird, and half an hour later he found a stick, or rather, half a tree, but we wouldn't throw it for him, to his great dismay. Sanja then promised to throw any dead sheep he might find. Dangerous promise! But we sooner found a good lunch spot. And no dead sheep that day. It was an idyllic walk, which for me was a bit of a painful pleasure, as this used to be my back garden, and is no more. It's so unspeakably beautiful! But one day I might return.
After returning Sanja and I made a big pan of pasta, while Marika went looking for mussels. She instead came back with her boyfriend, some fish and some wine, and it was very cosy, as it always is at Sanja's place. But there was also tomorrow, and for the first time ever I took the bus back from Dagtun. I never before ended up separated from my (borrowed) bike like that before!
In the weekend we would do a longer trip, that is, longer in time, not necessarily longer in distance. Sanja could join, but only after doing some preparations for a trip to Summit Station on Greenland she would initially have embarked on, but had to decide against, so we had agreed to meet in the early afternoon at Tjarda's. There we would wait for Sanja to be ready, and to drive us to the start of the hike, in her car that actually worked (unlike the Subaru). Before that Helgard and I had some time to buy food and such, and I also bought a book on coastal flora; I had received a message from Rob they needed that for the fieldwork. And a local used books shop had just what we need!
At the start of the trail we found - of course- another NP amployee, who proposed to take a picture of all of us: me, Max, Tjarda, Helgard, Sanja
The beach of choice, with a view on Vengsøya
Some time later Sanja, Max, Helgard and we threw our bags onto the beach of choice and contemplated the surroundings. Sanja and I wanted to go for a walk, so we picked the neighbouring hilltop, and set off. This involved very sweaty struggling through steep woods, and beig harrassed by all sorts of flying critters. Above the tree line the struggling through woods ended, and the sweat and the insects only increased. Near the top we found a pond, and were unable to resist the cool it would offer, and the protection against insects, so we laid down in it. Lovely! I felt a bit like a water nymph. Sanja then decided to walk to the top entirely naked, but I'm not so tough, so I first got dressed. The view was amazing.
The pond we couldn't resist - but who could?
Coming back to the camp we found only Max; Helgard and Tjarda had gone on some clamber, and we tried to start a fire. Everything was wet, so that was not easy. But we we rejoined by the ladies, cooked dinner, drank multe-wine and beer, and by then we had managed to get a proper campfire going. Just looking out over the sea, talking among friends that are still friends, even after a year of absence, was great.
We woke up to the sound of rain. Max said his tent was big enough for all to have breakfast in, and he would make pancakes! So we scurried in, only to see him bake some blobs, and give up. Bad pan for pancakes. But we also had porridge! When that started to smoke we decided on packing up, and having another try at breakfast at Tjarda's place, and so we did. It was properly pissing down, but we had a cosy breakfast at 2 in the afternoon with actual Max-made pancakes! End well all well.
With the rain still hammering down I did not feel like going all the way to tromsdalen, only to come back soon after to the top of Tromsøya, so I thought of going to NP, blogging a bit, and then going to Rafael where I would have dinner. Tjarda however invited me to stay; at her place I could blog as well, and it would be cosier! So I did, until it was time to go Rafaelward. He and Rike hadn't changed, but their son had turned into a tireless giant. More tireless than themselves, of course.
That night I did some quite necessary laundry, and the next day Helgard and I drove to NP. Next to the institute there's a garage... hopefully they would have time for the old Subaru. I wanted to hunt aerial photographs for the fieldwork. Kartverket directed me to an online source, for which NP would have a login. That helps! The garage didn't, though. But soon we had something else on our minds: dinner at Tordis'! Always nice.
View from Tordis' house
The next day was my last chance for a walk. It rained, and would for hours, but as I said, it was my last chance, so I took it. Just modestly up Fløya with Helgard. And then on without Helgard. Before I knew it I was trying to keep my balance in the strong wind, chastised by horizontal rain, taking pictures of snow fields. The other face of Troms summer! It couldn't always be T-shirts on the beach. But it was beautiful.
Then it was time for lunch, a shower, checking email, finding out I had to go to NP to see if I could get my hands on some aerial photographs the men wanted, and going to Arto. The photographs worked out thanks to the only one present at Statens Kartverk: a Zimbabwan of English descent! Who would have thought. Then Arto and his family offered me a lovely last supper, and introduced me to his son, version 2.0 (the walking and talking version, whom I had not met yet); he's not a real Fin, as within 3 minutes he was stealing my nose and within 5 minutes he was using me as an assault course. In case I would indeed work with Arto in the future I practised my Finnish, and had a generally good time, but then it was time for my goodbye beer in town. I had organised that embarrassingly badly, so we were with no more than 4, but it was good 4! And in that way I had a farewell. And around midnight I was back at Helgard's for a last cup of tea and a last night, as the next morning the taxi would be there at 6.15...