7am and I need to get up. It looks bright outside and although I have had sunsets, I haven’t had a sunrise yet. The lazy part of me reminds me it’s a holiday and a bed’s there to be slept in, but the photographer side tempts me with imagined photos no rest could rival. I get up, open the porthole curtains and wince at the rising sun straight ahead. Ok, ok, I’ll get up…The ship is moving north and the view, it being obviously in the east this early, mean that as the sun slowly rises the mountains scroll past, creating new gaps and angles. The mountains are now heavy with snow the more north we go, covering any rocks or features that may lie beneath. The sky’s a perfect blue, and the sun picks out the contours of the mountain tops along the range. One minute the sun is out, the next it’s hiding. This is beautiful, and my timing in coming up here is perfect as the sun’s height is just right to provide the ideal photos. Now it’s all about patience, waiting for the right position of sun and mountains. In between, I wait and snap away as the edge appears. Zoomy is a bit nervous about pointing directly in the sun, but is coping extremely well. Just look at these pictures! I’m getting a sparkle effect! They’re just what I always wanted to take, and the shots are just coming thick and fast. I’m getting into this, biding my time, planning my shot, calculating distance and angle, and getting it just right. This is so cool! As the sun creeps up, I decide I’ve seen the best, and with extreme satisfaction I go downstairs for breakfast.
I spend some more time in the lounge area looking at the passing scenery, loading and sorting the recent photos and blogging. I make conversation with an English couple beside me about various excursions that they’ve done or doing and discuss how fantastic the weather has been. Whilst looking at the landscape, he says just before I do how blasé you can be after days watching it, despite its beauty.
We arrive at Honningsvag, where I am to depart for the North Cape trip. I’ve been looking forward to this ever since I’ve seen the photos of the cliff edge and the big globe that marks the point. I’ve got a dream photo in mind, based on some of the brochures I’ve seen and I’m determined to get it. Given the wonderful weather, I may just do it. More photos of the town, and then I board the coach with Chris, who decided after all to book up the trip after she deliberated for the last few days. The coach is full of Germans, English and French as usual, so the tour guide repeats in both between German and English (French never get a translation on this cruise!) all the way.
The coach winds its way up and up through ever-increasing desolate scenes. People still live even as far up as here, and we even see a hotel complex, a small beach and the only permanent resident here (the rest are all summer houses.) We stop and have to wait for the snow plough, as the road is closed to the public at this time of year due to the snow. Minutes later, charging down the hill he appears, opens the gate and proceeds to let us through. Soon, we see the cape in the distance – a sloping outcrop of rock ending in the sea. Only an island is between it and the Arctic Pole. We stop, get off the coach and take some photos. It’s some way in the distance, but is enough to pick out at full zoom. We get back on and a short drive later we arrive.
There’s a visitor centre and souvenir shop, but everyone is here for the globe. Chris and I dash round to the back of the buildings and there it is – the most northern point in mainland Europe. The snow is deep, but the sky is bright blue overhead with only a layer of cloud on the horizon. Almost perfect conditions! We are so lucky – there’s hardly any wind either and this is just the dream photographic opportunity. I take a few shots before everyone else descends on it and takes turn into being photographed in front of the famous metal globe. I take a couple for Chris, and I camber up to have some of me. It’s a shame it’s so crowded – I wanted the brochure silhouette picture on my own, but it just won’t happen. I view the photos she’s took, but am a bit disappointed. She heads off to the centre, while I survey the scene again and see if I can get my shot. I wait five minutes and then decide to give up. Maybe later.
The souvenir shop provide a good bounty, and I manage to get presents for everyone. I forgo the film they are about to show, the free coffee and decide to have another go at the dream shot. I walk out and see a few remaining people still taking photos – this could be a good chance. I approach the monument, before getting asked to take a photo for a couple. Aha – favour time! I duly oblige, of course, and then ask for him to repeat the favour. The front shot is ok, but I’d lined up the silhouette shot earlier from behind and the sun was in an even better position now. I explain the shot the best I can (he might be German) and he’s more than willing to manoeuvre his way round to take it. I stretch my arms up, he takes it and hands the camera to me…Shazzam!!! The dream shot! I can’t thank him enough and head towards the centre, delighted.. I decide to perform a tradition – phone Dad in an unusual place on my travels. “I’m calling from the top of the world!!”
After the trip back to the boat, I debate about the outdoor Jacuzzi. It’s on the top deck, it’s below freezing and just seems ridiculous to even contemplate getting semi-naked in this weather. Still, every day people go in it, and everyone I’ve spoken to who’s done it recommends it. I want to do it, and also have my picture taken doing it. Normally, I’d just chicken out and quietly regret it later, making excuses, but this is Travel Andy here and he gets what he wants now!! Sod it, I quickly change, grab a towel and head up the two flights of stairs to the deck. Great – no-one’s there, so I quickly strip off to my shorts and jump in. Wooooaaaahhhh…this is lovely!! The sun’s setting behind me, I’ve got my shades and hat on and I’m in luscious warm water. I don’t feel cold at all, and glad Travel Andy is here to have the gumption to do this. Now for that photo…
An English girl from Poole joins me and takes the photo I wanted. One thing I’ve learnt on this trip is to not be afraid to ask for that photo you want – and I think from now on I never will. We chat about our journeys, the Northern Lights, and travels. She turns on the water jets (I forgot it’s a Jacuzzi and not just a hot tub!) and we’re engulfed in hot, steamy bubbles. This is the life – sunset, a girl and a hot bath!!!
Eventually I get out and wetly pad my way back to my cabin. Later, I get to see the fisherman bring back some king crabs, but it’s not worth the long wait and the build up given to us. Quickly back to change for dinner – Arctic Buffet, containing lots of different fish, crabs, prawns, paella and even reindeer meat.
I have to pack and finish my blog for the last two days, but it takes longer than I thought. Halfway through doing this, we get an announcement that the Northern Lights have appeared again, so put on my warm clothes as fast as I can and dash upstairs again. They come and go, but still nowhere near as good as the first night we saw them. I don’t get anything good, but try a few shots to capture Lucy with the lights in the background. Eventually, freezing cold, I give up, but not before retuning a bit later to wait and stare at the starry skies, contemplating life, the universe and everything.