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Norway 2013 (Fisker Karma)

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Norway 2013 (Fisker Karma), testo e foto by Juza. Pubblicato il 15 Giugno 2011; 4 risposte, 7040 visite.

This is the story of the bizarre journey to Norway that I did in January 2013, together with my friend Titino (and Niky, who joined us a couple of days later). 9000 kilometers on a Fisker Karma, the most unusual car for such a trip. It is a bit a personal and sometimes weird story, but I wanted to describe emotions and idea rather than writing a cronicle of the trip. The photos that you see here are just snapshots, for the serious photos give a look to my gallery Norway 2013.

Towards North

Imagine to get behind the wheel of your car. Choose a direction and then drive, not for 10 or 100 km... but for thousands of kilometers, for days, never stopping. From the window you will see cities, countryside and mountains, days and nights, rain and sun, a continuous alternation that leaves a lot of time for thoughts and fantasies.

The first thought of this trip is for those who have fled, those who have abandoned a safe harbour with the desire to discover "new roads for their life". My thoughts are for some friends that have disappeared to unknown places, and for the bizarre characters that I have known in my trips, people that has made radical and unusual choices of life. They will often be the topic of our discussions, after all this trip is dedicated to them. The character that has given the nickname to my travel mate (Titino) is the symbol of this small group of adventurers.

It is four a.m. when I leave home with my small luggage: a couple of lenses, heavy clothes and a good supply of pasta, even this time we will continue with the tradition of bringing Italian cooking in the most unlikely places. We cooked on the beautiful Greek beaches, on the hot dunes of the Sahara, and the next meal will be accompanied by ice, cold and the arctic night. I watch the city lights reflecting on my Audi... the temperature is relatively mild so the car is not covered by the usual winter frost. I take the highway and I look for the last time the tachometer that reaches nearly 7000 rpm... I will miss the "feeling" of the petrol engine and manual transmission, but now I'm looking forward to get behind the wheel of Fisker ... huge, electrical, hyper-technological, it gives more the impression of driving a spaceship than a car.

It's still night when I arrive to Parma. In a few minutes we load everything on the Fisker Karma, of course the narrow trunk is not enough, but the rear seats are empty and we use them for the majority of our equipment. The GPS is already set on the final destination, a village of one hundred people at the tip of Lofoten. We did not choose the shortest path, we prefer to add a thousand kilometers but avoid ferries and include Sweden, where the roads should be more practicable, if the weather is not too bad. There are no intermediate points, we will travel non-stop, except for some short breaks to refuel and to have lunch.

The long journey

There is a thick fog when we leave Parma. After a couple of hours we see clear skies and in mid-morning we reach Lagundo, where we meet Gianfranco Pizzuto, one of the three founders of Fisker and the owner of Fisker Italia. Fisker has sponsored this trip by giving us winter tires and wheels (they are very expensive: 8000$ for a set of four rims and tyres). Gianfranco is enthusiast about our adventure: this is a very important thing, the enthusiasm is essential to overcome the difficulties that we will surely find.

After a quick checkup of the car, just to be sure that everything works as it should, we leave Lagundo. It's mid day and we're a little behind schedule, but the Fisker quickly devours the road and soon we are on the border with Austria. Before the border we stop at weird Autogrill (service station) - the interior is almost entirely occupied by a huge abstract sculpture, more than twenty meters of metal ... what is it? we have no idea. We stop to eat a sandwich, a visit that will last longer than expected, until, another hour late, we resume our journey through Austria.

Travelling makes me think about how big our world. Imagine that you are playing a videogame: you will be confined inside a limited virtual reality, even in the most elaborate games you can't "explore" infinitely, because sooner or later you will hit the borders. Our reality, instead, is so big that it could be considered infinite - one lifetime wouldn't be enough to explore every place of our planet. Still, most of us (me included) spend their life in a "reality" that is not much bigger than a videogame playing area. Todays, for us, it is different: we have pushed our little spaceship well beyond the borders of our everyday's life and we are travelling, exploring and admiring the world that we see around us.

There is little traffic and few hours later we are in Germany. In my imagination this country is inevitably connected to motorways, long highways without speed limits, at least in some places. You can see sport cars driving at crazy speeds, in some cases beyond the 300km/h ... we take the opportunity to test the acceleration of Karma; the top speed is electronically limited to 200 km/h to avoid excessive consumption. Anyway, other than few tests we don't exaggerate with speed; even in the roads without limits we keep a relatively moderate speed of 170 km/h. Even though I woke up early, I am in good shape... I'm used to long driving marathons and I have the "luck" of not sleeping easily! We have already traveled for one thousand kilometers, it seems endless but it is only the beginning, we still have to do 3300 km, including 1500km on difficult roads... but I am positive, we will make it.

Except for some works in progress, the traffic is quite moderate and we continue at a good pace. Monaco, Nuremberg, Kassel, Hamburg ... ah, Kassel! Placed in the center of Germany, this city always makes me think of my first big trip, the adventure to North Cape in 2007! The first night I stopped right in Kassel and I found a small campsite in the suburbs where I placed my tent... good memories!

We arrive in Denmark at late night, I begin to feel tired. I remember a refueling stop at four in the morning ... I left the guide to my friend and I let myself go to sleep. I don't sleep well, maybe 30 minutes, plus one hour in half-sleep while the Fisker Karma passes through the long tunnels and bridges that connect Denmark and Sweden. At five-thirty I finally wake up, I have recovered a bit of clarity and a breakfast of croissants and Red Bull helps me to start my driving round. We proceed in direction of Stockholm, more than 600 kilometers, but now the speed limits are much lower than in Germany. To stay well awake and avoid boredom we do some experiments to fully understand how the Fisker Karma works. Even if the car will automatically attempt to recover all the energy possible from braking and from the slopes, you can further improve results by switching (when you need to slow down) in purely electric mode and using the "Hill", a sort of engine braking that charges the battery. In this way it is possible to recharge the battery until you get about 40 miles of autonomy recovered from braking. Throughout the rest of the trip, the "hill" mode become a sort of catchphrase, with a challenge between me and T. to see who can get more km of autonomy in electric mode.

After Stockholm, the road starts to get more difficult. The temperature is around zero, we see few patches of snow in the distance, then the snow begins to follow the contours of the road, then we find ourselves with a snowy road and a car that... well, it not exactly designed to compete with snowmobiles. Rear-wheel drive, wide tires and 2.5 tons of weight requires a very careful driving on slippery surfaces, and now the trip becomes very stressful, we need continuous attention. The road becomes more and more snowy, the fatigue accumulates, the stops became more frequent, but all in all we are quite in line with the schedule.

Once we arrive in the center-north of the country, the road becomes narrow, and now we are traveling at a speed between 50 and 70 km/h, sometimes the road is covered by ice sheets and the car loses control with incredible ease. Throttle and brakes must be touched with great caution. Every now and then I think about my good friend Max, who decided to make the trip to the north by plane. At certain times (especially when I feel the back of Karma slipping on ice) I almost envy him, even if I do not like flying.

I believe that if I have an incident with my car, I have good chances of survival. If a plane crashes, what are your chances? I had long conversations about that with many friends. I remember that one person told me that she loves flying because 'when the planes leaves the ground, you separate from the whole world'. It caught my attention; that's true, when you are on the plane you are so high in the sky, so distant from this world, that you may even look at life with different eyes. I remember watching the highways from the windows of the plane; they look like veins and arteries; thousands of cars, thousands of lives; how many thoughts, hopes, despairs and joys cross every day these long arteries of asphalt? When I look from the plane, I spend a lot of time fantasizing about that, but at the same time I really feel...distant, separates from the world, as that person told me.

We arrive in Lulea, a town on the coast of Sweden, after midnight. Lulea is one of the places that I visited in 2007, I remember one night went to admire a spectacle of jugglers, and a night spent sleeping in the Honda Civic that I had at the time, a very cold night...

We are only 700 kilometers from the arrive, they seems few km compared to the 3600 that we have already done, but they feels endless. Now we have to drive on a narrow road covered with ice and snow, in one of the coldest places in Sweden. This year is particularly "hot", there are 26 Celsius degrees below zero, in very cold winters the temperature inland can fall as low as -40, -50 ... at these temperatures, the cold is so intense that if you throw boiling water in the air it will never touch the ground: it will freeze instantly, turning into a cloud of ice crystals.

The cruising speed has dropped at about 50 km/h. The road is a nightmare; very poor visibility, adherence is non-existent and some trucks (thanks to studded tires) cross the road a frightening speed. Luckily at this time of night the road is not very busy. We cross a stretch of road in the middle of the frozen forest, darkness all around us, and trees are covered by a thick layer of frozen snow... the trees bend under the weight of snow; they have the shapes of ghosts, dinosaurs and other fantastic creatures. The tension due to the difficulty of the guide has kept me awake, but when I start to see some of these creatures becoming alive and stretching out their hands towards us, I understand that I have passed the limit... I leave the wheel to my travelmate. I hope that Titino slept well, because now it's up to him to face the monsters of the night while I lie down (so to speak) on the Karma sports seats and quickly fall asleep.

I wake up in the cold and the night of Sweden. I don't remember often the dreams, but this time a vision managed to last in my mind. I was in some kind of post-apocalyptic world, imagine something like 'Mad Max' or 'Hokuto No Ken', in a destroyed city. Everything was quiet and silent and there were no signs of life, except for two bizarre kinds of beings: jellyfish-like creatures made of glass and insects-like beings made of metal gears. Both the 'jellyfishes' and the 'insects' were slowly, quietly floating in the air. Most of the insects were not bigger than few centimeters, while the jellyfishes had very different dimensions - some were several meters long, while other ones weren't much bigger than an hand. The jellyfishes had beautiful decorations, like an arabesque, and they gracefully floated in the air. These visionary creatures did not have any hostile look, they just looked 'indifferent' to the devastated world all around them....in the dream I thought that after human has destroyed all the life on this world, these ghostly creatures that have appeared were a kind of admonition and reminder of how great, how beautiful once was life. They weren't here to judge or to punish, they were just a spectral reminder of life. What a vision! How much I wish I could take a photo of that dream! Words can't depict a tenth of the eerie, amazing feeling of that dream...

However, the few hours of bizarre dreams have allowed me to regain a bit of energy. We exchange once again the turn at the steering wheel. We cross the border of Norway and we head towards the Lofoten Islands. It's still night: something to which we have to get used, since here the daylight hours are very few. We see some dim light only around 10 a.m., when we are in the north of Lofoten. We stop at a service station for a snack: in the Nordic countries, there are no 'autogrill', on the other hand every distributor has a small supermarket and a small selection of pastries and sandwiches, including the 'ostepolse med bacon' (sausages and bacon) that I love.

It's two in the afternoon when we arrive at the hostel, a characteristic wooden house on the sea, in a small, quiet village. We park the Fisker Karma in front of the entrance (we are the only customers at this time!), we bring our things in the room and we finally enjoy a well earned rest. We made it.

The rorbuer, our house

Our home in this adventure is a rorbuer, an old fisherman's house that has been converted into a hostel. The rorbuer are almost everywhere in Lofoten, these characteristic structures are often built directly on the sea on stilts, and they retain a scent of old. We have one of these cabins just for us, it is small, simple, cozy. The exterior has a beautiful deep red color (to match the Karma of T.!), while the rooms, entirely of wood, are of a pale gray and white tint. The furniture, which is also made of wood, is impregnated with the same atmosphere of other times, we can almost imagine the fishermen who lived here...

The days are organized with several photographic excursions. We wake up around nine and after a quick breakfast we go out to catch the few hours of light. From 10 to 14 (2 p.m.) the sun get close to the horizon, it raises of few degrees and then it disappear again, sunrise and sunset merge in a caress of golden light... what a spectacle! It is the third time that I visit Lofoten but I never cease to marvel at the beauty of these places, it really is an enchanted place, and in the dim light of winter the time seems to stop.

In the early afternoon the last shade of pink light leaves the mountains and the night wraps the landscape. Usually we stop for lunch in one of the villages along the road, then go back in our rorbuer in the afternoon. The hours pass quickly between talk, selecting photos, and occasionally a few hours of sleep to recover after the sleepless night. The flickering wi-fi is our connection with the rest of the world, I often use these hours to write the diary of our adventure. Dinner is anticipated to the 19 (7 p.m.), we put the water to boil in a old and encrusted pot that we found and we cook - usually pasta, plus a good assortment of condiments and side dishes.

While waiting for the aurora, we sleep for a few hours in the narrow bunk beds that have been embedded in the tiny rooms of the rorbuer. The warmth of the room and the silence surrounds us. How wonderful it is to lie on these beds after 'sleeping' for two nights on the Karma! The elegant Fisker seats, although comfortable, were not designed to sleep - I think that it has been the first time that someone spend 58 hours on this car without stopping... I never wanted so much a bed as three days ago, when we concluded our exhausting marathon.

Around midnight we leave the rest and we prepare for the night hike ... heavy pants, moonboots, heated socks and gloves, fleece and vests, SLR backpack and go! We take the desert road towards Moskenes to reach the end of Lofoten, the less inhabited, the darkest place, where you can observe the sky without the lights of the villages. The Fisker slowly passes along the deserted streets, there is almost nobody, and the few persons who see us are amazed to see this spaceship on four wheels driving in the silence of the electric motor on the E10, the main road in the Lofoten Islands.

Sometimes our excursion lasts until four or five a.m., the temperatures are not too rigid (these days the night is just few degrees below zero), but after all this time waiting for the northern lights, the hands will freeze and we still feel cold. But the satisfaction of taking these photos is much greater than these little annoyances!

Finally, tired and sleepy, we go back to the hostel and we sleep. A few hours of sleep and then begin another day of Lofoten... another day in one of the places I love most in the world.

An explosion in the sky

The days pass quickly in an unpredictable alternation of ups and downs. Looking at the forecast, it seems that this year the weather was not on our side. The first two days were decent, but the forecast for the next days bring rain and snow... other than that the aurora forecast shows very weak intensity between 0 and 2 on a scale ranging from 0 to 9. In these situations, you have to make the most of the equipment - the high ISO of the 1DX are of great help to capture the weakest light - and above all we try to be creative to bring home good pictures in less than ideal conditions.

However, the forecasts are often contradicted by reality. Last night, that was supposed to be very rainy, there were large patches of clear sky, culminating in a beautiful aurora explosion that filled the entire sky. We went out at midnight and for about three hours we photographed a very weak aurora, but with unusual colors, including the rare magenta hue. Shooting at ISO 12800 helps to capture the most delicate nuances, and for various photos I preferred to use the 24mm f/1.4 L II, which provides a much better image quality than the 16-35.

We returned to the hostel at three in the morning, I was very tired and I quickly slipped into my sleeping bag... only to be woken up a few minutes later by Titino, he noticed something interesting - in the sky that until few minutes before was clear, it had appeared the most spectacular aurora. I have made a considerable effort to leave the warmth of the sleeping bag, put my clothes in few seconds and jump out the door... the sky was amazing! The most beautiful northern lights I've ever seen, an explosion of green blended with orange clouds and a myriad of stars. It lasted only few minutes, during which I took photos without stopping, even though I was still dazed and I was not very lucky - after a few shots the 1DX finished the battery and I did not have a spare at hand, so I continued to shoot using the 1D Mark IV (also provided by T.). When the aurora finished, we were so excited that we could not sleep... I went to bed at six in the morning, then wake up in the early afternoon.

These experiences, these wonderful visions have their price. The lack of sleep, the endless hours of darkness, the fatigue and tension for the continuous search of the elusive aurora, together with the enormous happiness when we are able to witness the phenomenon, have serious repercussions on the mind: it often happens to change in thew seconds from moments of sadness and discouragement to euphoric moments, and then fall back into bad mood, and so on ... it's the price to pay for an adventure like this, a so extraordinary journey amplifies feelings like nothing else.

Sometimes the loneliness of these places is felt a lot; one evening we decided to go a pub just to see some living soul: even without many opportunities to interact with the locals, dining in a room with some people makes you feel a little more part of the world; sometimes it's nice to stay out of it, but after some time the darkness, the cold and the silence of these places raise a need to find a bit of companionship.

In the only pub that we find there are very few people, a small company of students, two girls at another table and a sad-looking guy at the counter. The guy took ten (ten!) glasses of liquor and drank them one by one, as they were fruit juice.

The way back

The way back to home can be the most difficult part of a journey. On one hand, the desire to be at home, on the other, the doubts, questions, regrets: it could have been different? we could do better? What will be left of this adventure?

We said goodbye to our travel mate, Niky, at the Leknes airport, and then we headed towards the long road that will bring us back in Italy. Watching the navigator is scaring... there are more than 4000 kilometers. The first part of the trip was remarkable a adventure, the return? It will be even more troublesome, if possible. The first 700 km go surprisingly well; the road is much more viable then before; crossing the inland between Norway and Sweden seems even too easy.

We begin our descent of Sweden's coast late at night, and there everything goes against us. The temperature dropped to -15 on the coast, about ten degrees less than the first journey, the road is icy, and it begins a light snowfall that in a few minutes turns into an epic snowfall. The visibility is very poor, we proceed to about 50 km/h but with nerves on edge for the apprehension of ending up in any moment in a ditch, or against a truck, or overturned in the trees, or all three things together. The photo below (extracted from a video I shot with the phone) is not here for of its beauty, but to give you an idea of ​​the conditions in which we had to drive:

If you feel that you can not even see the road at ten meters ... imagine having this impression while you're at the wheel, in the north of Sweden, in the midst of a world that seems to do everything to be hostile to human life. My traveling companion, who until now has held up driving without any problem, begins to show signs of fatigue, and at 3 a.m. he stops along the way. I was sleeping lightly, the stop instantly wakes me up, I look at him. 'If you want, feel free to drive' he says, ' otherwise we stop. I do not go forward '. Titino is a patient, calm, tenacious guy, and the nervousness that I feel in his words is not in his style: the stress of the last hours of driving has been too much, he has reached his limit.

Ok, I prefer to drive rather than the agitated sleep of before, with the constant fear of an accident. I don't want to wake up dead! Moreover, I think, it is already snowing from a lot of time, it will surely end up in an hour or two. No way. I did not knew yet, but the snow would have lasted seven more hours. If I had known it, would I have stopped or I would have faced the road anyway? In the end I think I would have gone anyway. There wasn't the warmth of a wooden house waiting for us, a friendly face to greet us; stopping meant parking the Fisker between the ice and snow, away from all villages, and outside there was the snowstorm and fifteen degrees below zero. 'Like lichens on a rock swept by wind', this is the image that had materialized in my mind.

I go back to the guide with the joy and enthusiasm of a little lamb the day before Easter; every now and then we cross trucks that raise a considerable amount of snow, eliminating even those few meters of visibility that remained. When this happens, you are faced with a dilemma: braking, with great risk of ending into the ditch or into a spin, or go on totally blind? I tried to find a compromise: touching extremely lightly the brake pedal to slow down as much as possible given the conditions of the road, and looking at the GPS to 'imagine' the road in front of me; luckily there are very few turns and this tactics works.

I think back to the questions that I made in the last few days. What will be the memories of this adventure? The Fisker, the aurora, the moments together, the hallucinations in the frozen woods in Sweden, the fishing villages? The guy at the pub who took a colossal hangover, the many fictional (and real) characters who have populated our discussions? I wondered if we could do even more, maybe yes, but at the end it is difficult, or impossible, to find perfection: we must be able to take the best of what we have in our life, while we stumbles and we go forward on this long road.

(and, if you are in doubt, better to leave immediately for another trip!)

Post scriptum

The snowfall ended in the south of Sweden, where (in spite of everything) we arrived safe. We crossed Denmark in fine weather and it snowed again again throughout Germany. The pictures of the aurora that we brought home are the best that I have taken to this phenomenon, I invite you to take a look to the gallery Landscapes: Norway 2013 !

You can see a couple of videos (just 'snapshots') here: the video of the long trip from Italy to Lofoten and some glimpse of Lofoten.. I recommend watching in HD.

For the equipment, the car, the planning of the travel, you can find all the details in the page Towards the Norther Lights... with the Fisker Karma .

A big thank you to Titino; patient and adventurous traveling companion who has shared with me this endless marathon; my friend Niky, that was with me during this trip and other adventures around the world; to Gianfranco who believed from the beginning in this travel!

Risposte e commenti

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inviato il 02 Agosto 2013 ore 23:21

Thank you for all your hard work in presenting this memorable journey to all the photo enthusiasts here. The pictures of the Northern Lights are really spectacular. I will read your account of the journey again because there is so much detail that you have shared, it will take a few times reading it for me to appreciate the incredible stamina of your companions and also yourself. Thanks once again. Regards. Jim.

inviato il 06 Agosto 2013 ore 8:40

Hi Jim, thank you for the kind words :-)

inviato il 22 Gennaio 2014 ore 9:19

Nice story, just normal weather and conditions for us northeners staying up here all year Sorriso
Next time you pass Troms you can get served risotto or other italian dishes, no problem!
And loads of photo opportunities, as you already has shown us! Great shots from Northern Norway!
Birds, whales, Northern lights, snow blizzards, great landscapes..choose your pick!

inviato il 23 Gennaio 2014 ore 16:37

Thanks Steinnilsen! :-)


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