Wednesday 26th September - Day 6
The landscape today has changed dramatically, as has the weather. It is a grey day, with overhead cloud coverage although remarkably mild. The Autumn colours have disappeared and too the snow capped mountains. The scenery is barren and somehow fits with the weather.
The staff on board announce that we have arrived in Finnmark, which is the same latitude as Alaska and Siberia. Only 78,000 people live here and you can understand why when they advise that temperatures can drop as low as minus 64 in Winter and there is no light during the Winter other than the moon, the snow and the Northern Lights.
Today we reach the North Cape and many of our fellow travellers take the excursion. We get off the board at a small town called Honningsvag. The harbour area is filled with fishing boats and the usual clapper board houses. We head out of town into a more residential area. We meet an inquisitive dog straining at his lead outside, keen to meet someone new. This town looks a little forgotten – old boating engines lay on the side of the road, a bit like someone thought they’d come back for them but forgot or couldn’t be bothered. The town has some shops meeting the needs of the townsfolk but it feels isolated and I have great admiration for the people who live here as I know that I certainly wouldn’t be able to do it.
We do meet Chris in the main street wearing a tee-shirt saying Long Way Up and standing by two BMW touring bikes. We stand and chat with him, interested in his journey. He tells us that he has been on the road for five and a half months and has driven from South Africa to North Cape. He and his female riding companion were hoping to make it to Oktoberfest but don’t believe they’ll get there in time so will be shipping the bikes back home. I’d love to stop and talk for longer, sit and have a coffee and hear more about their journey, their experiences and the people they’ve met along the way, but like many others you meet on this journey, you get a snapshop of their life and know that you’ll never see them again. He asks if we are from the boat and we tell him yes. He sums up cruising in his South African accent stating cruises seem to be filled with “Newly-weds, over-feds and the nearly deads.” We tell him we fit into the middle category - well we hope so anyway.
Later back on the boat, we are advised that we will pass the Hurtigruten sister ship Nordcapp and that there is a competition we can all take part in. The competition consists of seeing how many passengers each ship can get on board and how much noise we can make as we pass each other. At 10.30 pm we head up on board and are handed giant red pompoms to wave. People are in a festive mood and the crew have set up music. We pass the other boat and are close enough to see the other passengers waving and cheering. It’s a lovely experience and somehow the shared nature of being on this journey makes it even more special. After the boat passes, we pull into a tiny port and with Abba's Dancing Queen playing loudly from the deck, the fork-lift truck driver there still continues unloading cargo, impervious to what’s going on above. The music and celebrations continue as we leave this tiny town and it is strange and yet moving to see people dancing in their winter jackets and hats. We laugh and hold each other tighter during Angels by Robbie Williams and Eskild our on-board Tour Leader shouts out – song for kissing, song for kissing.