Let It Snow!

Once we got up this morning (in the dark!) we went for breakfast then once again donned all our cold-weather clothing before making our way to the Neptune Lounge for about 10.15am. Today we were going for a trek in the forest wearing snow-shoes!

Most people tend to think of snow-shoes as resembling oversized tennis racquets strapped to your feet with leather bindings, but the modern ones are not like that at all. It was only a 10 minute journey from the ship to our starting point, then our guide, Magne, showed us how to adjust the one-size show-shoes and put them on.

Modern snow-shoes are about 30 inches long by about 10 inches wide and are made of a tough, flexible material like fibreglass. They are very light. The part that your foot goes in is on a pivot, which makes it far less rigid when walking, and allows you to walk more naturally. There are also a series of crampons on the bottom to give you a good grip on the snow and ice. We were also given a pair of walking poles each, adjusted so they were suitable for our height. Then, with Magne in the lead, we set off into the forest.

When walking in the shoes you had to remember to adopt a wider stance than usual, to avoid treading on your own shoe! If you did that (I did!) you came to an abrupt halt and, in my case, I actually fell into the snow and it took two people to help me back up again!

Walking on our snow-shoes and using our poles was a good workout; the movement was similar to using the elliptical trainer in the gym. We got very warm inside our coats and some of us ended up taking our hats and gloves off. We walked up to the ski jump (we didn’t go on it!) and enjoyed the view over the water to the mountains. The sun, which was very low in the sky, peeked over the top of the mountains bathing everything in a weak wintry glow. It was stunning and we stopped to take a few photos.

Not long afterwards, we stopped in the forest in a small clearing, where Magne removed some large Thermos flasks from his rucksack and dispensed out hot blackcurrant cordial and some more of the inevitable Norwegian cake.

Then it was time to make our way back, as the sun was already on its way back down again! Magne explained that, in Northern Norway, they only had another week to see the sun, as it would set for good on the 21st of November and wouldn’t rise again until the end of January. He told us that, during the polar night, if there has been a lot of snow and there was a full moon, the reflection on the fresh snow meant that visibility outside was very good. For the people of Tromsø, the polar nights are more than compensated for by the fact that, from May to the end of July, the sun is permanently above the horizon, resulting in 24 hours of daylight. 🙂

Trekking back to the minibus, it really was quite exhilarating, and something else we can say we’ve tried. 🙂

Once we were back on board Boudicca, we dumped our stuff in the cabin, changed into lighter clothes and went off to the Heligan Restaurant for a light lunch and a glass of wine. Then we returned to our cabin for a post-luncheon nap, as we’d had a late night last night. We left a light on because otherwise it’s easy to imagine that it’s far later than it is, and sleep too long.

Then, at 3.00pm, we left the Boudicca once again, and headed back into town, making a beeline for the Mack brewery and visitor centre. Tickets for the tour cost 160 kroner each, so we bought some and waited 10 minutes whilst other people came in for the tour – there were seven of us altogether.

We watched a short film about how Ludwig Mack founded the “world’s most northerly brewery” in 1877 and how the building was developed and expanded. The brewery is still owned by the same family and is now in its fifth generation.

After the film we were taken to one of the former cellars and told about the different beers that are brewed as well as the soft drinks they make. At this point we enjoyed our first glass of Mack-Øl (Øl is the Norwegian word for beer or ale) before being taken up to where some gleaming copper vats were, indicating the micro-brewery. We were shown how the beer is made and given a taste of some more, straight from the vat – it was very strong at 8.5%.

Then we finished the tour by going into the Beer Hall next door again and having another drink; this time it was called “Isbjørn” which means Polar Bear (or ice bear) in Norwegian; a good name. The beer hall was absolutely packed and there was standing room only; the place must have been full of Friday afternoon workers who’d finished for the week.

After our drink we headed back to the Boudicca to start getting washed and changed in time for dinner. My right ankle (which is pinned, following a fracture in 2008) was giving me some gyp and I wondered whether the snow-shoeing and constantly wearing walking boots was irritating it, as you can feel the titanium plate and screws underneath the surface of the skin. I did notice it looked quite red and slightly swollen.

Tonight it was open sitting in the dining room as a lot of other people were going on the Northern Lights tour tonight, so the dining room had lots of empty seats. We sat at our usual table, where Trevor and Eileen were seated already, and enjoyed the usual excellent food and convivial banter.

After dinner we repaired, as had become our routine, to the Neptune Lounge. We hadn’t been there very long when someone came in to say the Aurora had made another appearance. So, leaving our drinks on the table, we hot-footed it outside (I should really be saying cold-footed) and, sure enough, there was the glow in the skies above Tromsø, shimmering a ghostly green in the black void of space. I think it is something that you would never get tired of seeing. It only lasted a few minutes then slowly faded from sight.

That is the fourth evening in a row we’ve seen the Aurora Borealis. 🙂 So far this cruise is turning out to be unforgettable, and we’re not even half-way through it yet.

Back in the warmth of the Neptune Lounge we tremendously enjoyed the Boudicca Show Company’s performance, which was called “Dancing Through Life” and featured lots of different dancing, including tap, Charleston, country, Irish, Scottish and a fantastic ballet pas de deux which was magnificent. They really are a very good company; we hadn’t seen a duff show yet. Then again, we always find the entertainment to be very good on Fred Olsen cruises, often better than that on the big, glitzy ships.

After the show we went along to the Lido Lounge and joined M & M for the quiz as usual. We got 19/20, but we knew at least one other team had also scored the same because we marked their paper. However, a couple of teams had scored 20/20, so we still didn’t win!

Afterwards we had a couple more drinks, including their sangria cocktail, and sat and endured the Timeline Duo until midnight, when the disco started. Then I got up and had a good bop about, in a vain attempt to try to work off some of the calories from dinner (a drop in the ocean, so to speak).

Then it was off to bed, well after 1.00am, where we left the telly on in case the aurora made another appearance. But all was quiet, and we slept well.

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