Norway 2014, testo e foto by Juza
. Pubblicato il 11 Dicembre 2013; 10 risposte, 6076 visite.
A typical Norwegian village, red wooden houses covered by snow, the warm light of the windows, an iced landscape in the darkness. The rough sea contrasts with the stillness of the mountains behind the village, while a strong wind blows away the snow from the roofs of the houses. While I kept watching and watching again this image from the fuzzy images of a webcam, my mind was already traveling towards Norway, my fourth trip to this country.
Once again, we will drive across Europe for five thousand kilometers; the plan is to reach the extreme north of Norway in a couple of days, taking turns to drive non-stop to keep the respectable, and a little bit optimistic, average of 2500 kilometers per day, mostly on snow or ice. Last year we used the futuristic Fisker Karma, this year (being four) we opted for the more spacious Jeep of my friend Max, well packed with camera equipment, winter clothes and food. It's almost cozy, our four wheels hotel. Why trying again this adventure, with all the difficulties and risks involved? As Fabrizio De Andrè wrote, "traveling for the sole reason of travel"... the destination becomes just an excuse to leave, the reason is the adventure, the journey itself, the time spent in the company of best friends.
The thought of the journey brings me many memories of previous adventures . The trucks with studded tires whizzing towards us; the sausage and bacon sandwiches typical of the northern countries; the beauty of coming back in the warm wooden room after hours and hours outside in the cold; the songs that have accompanied us during the long trip; the thrill of seeing the aurora for the first time; the last preparations before departure...a new trip begins.
The journey: 4, 5 and 6 January 2014It's almost six in the morning, I am late and it rains; the road covered with water perfectly reflects the city, reality and reflection seem to merge into a single thing. With the excuse of taking pictures, once again I am traveling; departure after depature, I keep traveling in search of inspiration and experiences; I try to escape from the everyday life and to find time to reflect, without the contless things that I havo to do every day when I am at work. I travel also because I whant to disctor what is there behind the hill, where goes the roead after the next turn... maybe I'll find only dust and stones, but this thought does not reduce my desire to explore.
And so we left. After about one hour I am with two of my travelmates, Niky and Titino, and at about 8 a.m. we park the car in front of Max's house. With some effort we load all the luggage on the Jeep Compass and we're ready to go. We salute the City with a cry of liberation, a scream of joy, the cry that celebrates the arrival of a long awaited moment. After a few hours we reach the Brenner Pass, then we cross a bit of snow in Austria; we take a wrong road near Innsbruck; we find ourselves stuck in traffic; we begin the crossing of Germany and in the meantime the night falls. I see the names of many cities that have become familiar to me...
The endless road disappear in the horizon, our journey has just begun and yet I feel as if I had been in the car for an eternity...an experience makes me think about the time of our lives, seemingly endless but actually short, almost nothing compared to the immensity of the world around us... and because it is so short, it is infinitely precious... because that short time is all we have. The time is the only thing that you can not return: we can return an object, a favor, money... maybe everything but not time. When you spend some time for one person, you're giving him/her a bit of your own existence, something that you will never get back. Of coure it is mutual... I hate to waste time; I'm really grateful, instead, to all the people with whom I spent a good time... to all those who, without asking anything in return, have given me a piece of their lives. These are my thoughts as our car whizzes on the German autobahn; I dedicate them to the three friends who are sharing this adventure with me, and to the many smiling faces that fill my memories and my days.
We arrive in Sweden in the early hours of January 5. This year the temperature is unusually mild - in some places where the previous years I had found temperatures around -25 celsius degrees, this year there is minus four, minus five ... the result is that until the north of Sweden, the landscape is totally devoid of snow, very bleak (and ugly), without the spectacular formations of ice and snow observed in previous years. We will find snow only in the last 1000 kilometers, which fortunately have preserved the magical charm of northern Europe and Arctic night.
When we arrive near Stockholm, we are faced with a difficult decision: the latest weather update predicts overcast skyes for several days in the north of Scandinavia and in particular near North Cape, the destination planned for our trip. We try different weather forecasts and they all tell the same bad weather. Faced with the certainty of not being able to see the spectacle of the aurora, the only option is to change destination: after having evaluated the forecasts for various locations that we could reach in Sweden or Norway, we have chosen the one that seemed to give the best chance.
The last part of the journey, on the road covered with snow and ice, with a new destination and the hope to have played our cards in the best way, is certainly the most challenging. We take turns driving every three to four hours; the road requires extreme care and great caution, but we are really tired. In the hours when I am not driving, I try to sleep, but it is an uncomfortable sleep that gives little relief; I often wake up completely stunned and I need a few minutes to get back to reality. But it is not the first time that I face such a journey, and these difficulties were anticipated, so without too much complaining, my companions and I just keep going forward.
We finally arrive around noon of January 6. This year we have a little house on two floors (a fisherman's house converted to a hostel)... the wooden structure has an old smell that reminds me wonderful memories of the many places where I slept around the world; the rooms, though old, are still clean and well kept, and the dim warm light of the lamp creates an intimate, cozy atmosphere. We cook some pasta, we open a bottle of wine and we celebrate the arrival in our little paradise with a delicious lunch. In the first hours of the afternoon, the night has already wrapped up the landscape in his black cloak; we give ourselves a little rest, waiting for a spark that will light up the sky above us...
The pilgrimage, January 7, 2014Last the wind was so strong that it shaked our fragile cabin; I listened the wind while I went to bed in my sleeping bag, lying on the old mattress of my bed. How wonderful it is to lie down after thousands of miles in the car! I fell asleep with the blissful expression of a baby who has just had his feed... I sleep only a few hours, however, it sufficient to get back in good shape.
On January 7, we do not see any glipse of light: the sky is overcast all day, eliminating any photo opportunity. Confined in our house, we spend a day that seems endless... in these moments I think about the explorers who, in the early years of the twentieth century, pushed to discover the remote Antarctic areas; sometimes they were forced to wait for days in the middle of the storm, with temperatures terribly cold, no contact with the world and only a cold tent to protect them from the rigors of the climate. In comparison, our day of 'isolation' is a joke, we can consider ourselves lucky.
Travelling with three photographers gives you the opportunity to do many interesting comparisons, and since we can not get out I take this opportunity to try a bit of equipment; overall we have all recent pro and semi-pro cameras from Canon, some Nikon and the new Sony A7r. This camera has hit me very positively - it is incredibly light and compact, it has an electronic viewfinder almost indistinguishable from the optical viewfinders and remarkable image quality. A small thing that I really appreciated is the ability to charge the batteries directly into the camera, using a standard micro usb cable: this allows you to leave at home the external charger and to charge the battery anywhere with a USB socket, from cars to computers to electrical outlets worldwide. When I will be back from the trip, certainly I'll spend some time to try the Sony system, that is getting more interesting.
A daily routine, which certainly helps to spend the gloomy days, is the pilgrimage to connect to the internet. The only wi-fi is within few meters from the front desk; our house is almost a hundred meters away, so the only way to connect to the web is to leave the warmth of our four walls and sit on the steps in front of the reception, armed with laptop or mobile phone. My companions are heavily dressed when they do this pilgrimage; thanks for my good resistance to cold temperatures (and due laziness, too), I just wear an anorak above the t-shirt and, even in flip-flops, I walk the meters that separate us from our precious window on the world.
I talk merrily with my friends until late evening; at 21.30 (9.30 p.m.) the sky begins to clear and we can see a beautiful aurora. In few frantic minutes we jump in the car and we drife to a location that we had spotted. Just in time: few minutes after arriving, the aurora reaches its peak, giving light shows in the sky... sometimes I almost forget to photograph, just for the pleasure of looking at the sky and see the lights dancing without any other thought. The photos can not convey the idea of the movement of these flares; they floats in the sky in an unpredictable way... it does not surprise me that ancient civilizations thought that the aurora lights were the spirits of the ancestors! It is a phenomenon that leaves room for imagination, and it fills me with awe every time...
It is about 3 a.m. when we return to our house. Despite the mild temperatures around zero, after so many hours out we are quite chilly; we cook a bit of pasta to warm up and in the meantime I post-process the photos. I was lucky enough to get a Canon 6D camera that I really prefer the 5D Mark III initially planned for the trip, at least for landscape. At 4 a.m. I make one last pilgrimage to connect to internet and to publish the first photo, then I have my appointment with the sleeping bag. The day started so unpromising and it ended with a spectacle, the great north never disappoints.
A storm is coming, January 8, 2014As in previous years, we divide the days into two 'photo sessions': the 'daylight', from 10 a.m. to about 2p.m., and the night from 9p.m. to 2 or 3 in the morning. Wednesday, 8 we decided to spend the few hours of daylight, when the sun barely touches the horizon and sunrise and sunset are merged, in the the area near Reine. The landscape, especially in this season, it is so beautiful that it seems unreal, it looks like a painting ... a little of snow, as fine as powdered sugar, is whitening the tops of the mountains; all around there is golden light, silence and the air is cold and clean. It is one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen, and I am lucky enough to travel quite a lot: the more I travel, the more I want to see... to quote a phrase from a movie that I watched a while ago, 'in all of us there was a fire, but even an explosion in him' ... there is an insatiable desire, an explosion, almost an obsession that leads to endure difficulties and unforeseen to have the privilege of being able to say... 'I have seen'.
The sun disappears below the horizon and in the afternoon we return our base, after meeting Titino who had made a long walk in another direction. What a feeling of freedom we breathe in our house! My traveling companions are all old friends and the days pass cheerfully; we talk about everything from serious topics to discussions on photography and the many discussione about the... ;-)
There are no taboo nor rules, everyone can do what he likes; there are no timetables, deadlines, worries; no one is surprised if we have lunch in the late afternoon or if someone gets up at four in the morning for a pilgrimage to the wi-fi zone. This life has the charm of the 'back to the wild'; something that I searched in all my travels, when I walked barefoot in the dunes of Turkmenistan or when I slept in a hammock in front of the Luangwa river, watching the wind whipping the rainforest.
We are getting ready for a special day. For an appointment. For a solar storm: everyone is talking about it, a sunspot twice the size of Earth 'exploded' two days ago and it created an electrical storm, which is expected to reach our planet between 9 and 10 January, creating the most powerful auroras of the last ten years. Of course, it is not absolutely sure because the appearance of the aurora remains unpredictable, sometimes we have observed great auroras in nights where it was not expected solar activity, while other times optimistic forecasts have ended in nothing. Nevertheless, expectations are great ... so we prepare by taking a long rest to be able to stay awake for long during the next night; I wake up in the morning of 9 Januray and I spend a lot of time for relaxing hot shower and to prepare my best clothes for the "hot date" of tonight: "moonboot, ice crampons, heavy trousers, fleece, jacket and gloves . Although we do not expect very cold temperatures, we could spend many hours outside, so it is better to be prepared to avoid suffering from the cold.
A laugh, January 9, 2014"They called me the fool
because I took the life
like a jester, a madman,
with infinite joy " - F.Guccini (from the song 'Il Matto')
The most powerful northern light of the last decade, so strong to jam cell phones, communications, satellites ... what can I say: it was certainly surprising, especially because it has ended up in nothing. We were ready to jump out at the first green glow in the sky, but we saw the hours passing without any significant aurora. It is not the first time that predictions turn out to be unreliable: when we photographed a spectacular aurora two days ago it was expected minimum solar activity... but today, after all the waiting created by the media that talked about an epic aurora epic, we had high expectations and there was a perfectly clear sky, too.
A potentially depressing evening, however, was made better by various surprises. At about 9.30p.m. Niky sees a weak hint of aurora, we thought that the show has begun so we dressed in a hurry and we ran to car to reach a beautiful beach that we had spotted in the morning. Here is the first surprise: a car window has got stuck half open. My window, for accuracy. After several unsuccessful attempts to close it, we decided to go anyway, with the result that I had to stay completely covered with the jacked to withstand the cold air that enters. From today the temperatures have dropped sharply and now there are seven degrees below zero, and the wind makes it feel even colder... I can not stop laughing at our funny situation! Where could we get a stuck window, if not in the middle of Norway? :-)
We spend two hours on a icy windswept beach and the aurora gives no sign of life. The wait is particularly hard because even the car, with the window open, does not offer much comfort. Around midnight we decided to go back home, we get ready for dinner (after the door was wrapped in cling film, in order to build a makeshift window), and when I tried to wash my hands ... wow, there is water. We look at each other and then we begin laughing, "maybe these are the effects of the powerful aurora, they said that it could cause interferences... here it is, it interfered with the window of the Jeep and with the running water." And to be honest, even the heater does not work so well ... but in the end, even with such bad luck, why should we get discouraged? We just laugh at it, we spend the evening joking about the unexpected difficulties and the huge aurora that has not appeared. Every five minutes someone check to see if there is something in the sky, and in the meantime we dring thee last remaining bottle of wine and we laugh, laugh, laugh ... we laugh at our misfortunes, we laugh at the aurora that is not there, we laugh at all, as Guccini would say, it is better to take life with a huge laugh!
Moreover, the hope of seeing the strong aurora is not yet lost - the updated forecasts still give high intensity, even though they are not specifying when... 'at some time in the next few days'. We'll see!
Water and Ice, 10-11-12 January 2014
Towards evening, on January 10, we begin to hear the sound of water flowing... after a while we realize that it is the waves on our house: the rorbuer is a pile with the foundations laid in the water, and now that the wind has become stronger we can clearly hear the waves. It is a strange feeling, almost like being in the boat; the sound of water will accompany us throughout the evening... another magical experience of Norway. A little less magic is instead the experience of life without tap water: it seems the pipes are frozen and for a while we will be without water... without the ability to cook, wash, use the toilet, life becomes less easy. In addition, the sharp drop in temperatures has made our house much colder, sometimes it is necessary to wear the jacket even inside the house.
We cook a pasta dish using the last bottle of water left and at around 10 p.m. we start the night hike. Given the drop in temperatures and the strong wind, this evening I prepare better to face the cold: three pairs of socks on top of each other, two pairs of trousers, jacket tightly closed to avoid the wind...and the enormous moonboot, which makes me feel like an astronaut, totally isolated from the outside world and clumsy in the movements. All these precautions prove unnecessary because even this night, the aurora does no appear: after waiting three hours in front of a frozen lake, we returned to the base without having seen even the faintest glow. Today no photos worthy of note, but beauty is always around us: this morning, in the daylight hours, I had observed the blades of ice that formed in the fjords, creating bizarre formations that reflect the red sun's light. But it is not always possible to capture this beauty in pictures, so many times I simply enjoyed these wonders of nature with my eyes.
January 11 is spent in a similar way: unfavorable weather conditions in the morning; in the evening there is clear sky but no photos of aurora borealis. Our house is still without water, and clearly we need to find alternative solutions: at a hundred meters there is a shared bathroom that we can use, even if it has no hot water. From the bathroom sink we take the water for the kitchen and Max even fills some pots of water, which he will heat on the stove to be able to take a hot shower. Finally, given the freezing temperatures, we decided to take advantage of a very old wood stove, which seems to date back to the early twentieth century. Niky goes to retrieve some firewood and we light a small warm fire... it seems to have stepped back in time!
The luck goes back toour side the next day, at least for the photos (tap water probably will not come back). On January 12, some low clouds on the horizon turns red and magenta; we decide to photograph along a fjord a few kilometers from our hostel. Sometimes you do not need to go far to find the beauty: here, at a minimum distance from our base, I saw the most beautiful ice formations of the trip, along with a red sky full of clouds. The temperature dropped further, we are now at ten degrees below zero, however this morning there was no wind and we have not suffered from the cold. The ice has created some structures similar to disks, or others similar to flower petals, leaves and crystals ... the sunlight does not warm up this frosty landscape, but it caresses it with a tinge of magenta and gold.
The way back, 13-14-15 January 2014
Every trip has its own soundtrack. In 2012 we were accompanied by 'Dust in the wind' of Kansas; this year Niky, who is a bit our DJ, chose the soundtrack of 'Sunshine', an enigmatic and mysterious music that fits well the darkness and the silence of these remote places. I can still hear it in my mind, when I think back to the experience of this trip.
In the early morning we take the ferry from Moskenes and after a few hours we are at Bodo; we decided to drive exactly on the same roads of Norway that we had followed in January 2012. In the early afternoon we are in the middle of a great, boundless landscape of covered by snow; two years ago we had crossed it at night during a snowstorm and we could not see at few meters from the car; now the sun is shining and the air is clear and very cold. The wind raises the finer snow, creating a fascinating play of light as we proceed with the sun in our face.
A few hours of light and then back to total darkness. The night is a big bowl full of darkness, there is enough for everyone, we could drink at it without ever seeing the bottom... how much darkness ahead of us, how far away are we from home...
The way back seems endless and exhausting. We take turns driving far more frequently than in the first days; I can not sleep, I can not close my eyes for 48 hours: I've never had easy sleep and the constant attention required by the insidious road it keeps me awake. Obviously there are unexpected surprises. At about one o'clock at night, in the mountains of Norway, we see a moose about fifty meters from the road; it stays still in the snow and it is watching us with confidence, quiet, as if there weren't twenty degrees below zero... it is an huge animal, almost as big as a horse; we watch it with admiration, and then we continue our journey. The second encounter with a moose is not as peaceful: about an hour later, a huge moose suddenly emerges from the snow-covered forest and jumps in front of the car... we hit the brakes, the wheels slips on the ice, and the car fortunately stops a just few feets from large animal. Good luck this time.
At first those thousands of kilometers in front of us seemed almost an insurmountable barrier, an infinite distance... and yet, kilometer after kilometer, the wall has slowly crumbled; we saw again the familiar places, and finally the light of dawn greeted us when we passed the last border and our car went through the snow-covered Alps.
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