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The Soutpiel Safari
8th May 2017
Day 8 Mehamn to Tromso

We have turned around, and are now on our homeward journey - interesting how different things are in just a few days. More snow on the mountains, the weather is greyer, snow falling often - first time I've ever been in a snowstorm at sea! We debated long and hard about doing the trip both ways, but it is very good to do so, as you are able to see different places at different times. 

Day 8 - aborted trip to North Cape: such a disappointment, as this should have been one of the highlights of the trip, but was not to be. We were up for the 5am Cafe & kjek (a hard ships biscuit-type affair), docked at Honnigsvag by 0530, in the bus by 0531 - they run tight schedules, these ships and only had a 15 minute stop here. The bus trundled out with a delightful guide introducing himself, only to turn around 3 miles up the road as the pass to North Cape was closed in! Then the fun started: the Hurtigruten had left, and was only due to pick us up some hours later in the next major stop. Frantic phone calls to Egbert The tour leader to get her to return, otherwise the bus would have to drive us to the collection point at Havoysund, something he was obviously not planning but which we were quite keen on! However he caught them early enough and we had the strange experience of watching her turn around mid-channel and come back to fetch us. The loading ramp was dropped almost before they tied up, so we were shepherded back aboard, too early for breakfast but too late for an extra lie in. Oh well, that's what happens.

The day passed sitting mostly in the Panorama Lounge, in a blur of short stops in cold blustery little places, each time either dropping off or collecting cargo and the very occasional passenger, interrupted by "Information sessions". Today's was entitled Meet the Crew, so we went along - only to be handed a stick, a short piece of cord and a piece of paper detailing how to tie a reef knot, a round turn & two half hitches, and a rolling hitch. Obviously not used to sailors aboard this cruise, the information sessions generally have been poor: inane questions asked off an obvious script, equally inane answers given.  Could do with some serious work on this part of the programme.

There have been some good ones though, and today's was a brief explanation of the Battle of the Trollfjord, according to Egbert our tour leader, one of the most significant battles in the world! The Trollfjord ihas an extremely narrow entrance, opening up into a large protected basin rich in fish, where the locals came up annually catch cod etc. As the wooden fishing boats were beginning to have to give way to more modern larger steam ones, an enterprising steam captain parked his fishing smack across the entrance, charging locals to enter. This caused an uproar, but started a trend which Egbert says was the forerunner of the fishing quota systems, the bane of so many fishing communities. Interesting. 

However the aft deck sessions have been generally excellent: as well as the nefarious ice cubes down the back as ritual for crossing the Arctic Circle, we have had a fisherman come aboard to talk about the salting of cod (makes it as hard as wood and last forever), and give a demonstration of cutting out the delicacies of cod's tongue and cheeks - John got very into this, to say the least. 

The other generally good sessions have been the Chef de Cuisine ones: I anticipated these would be "how to" sessions, but were really just opportunities to grab a little snack mid-afternoon! The cod flakes were a bit gross, looked like potato crisps but tasted like very fishy flakes. But a hefty helping of mussels the other day, a good cupful of shrimps today.

And there is this great barman, Jose - originally from Malaga, but has spent the last 30+ years in Norway. Great sense of humour, really nice guy. Is amused by the fact that we (a changing group of about 6-8 of us) always sit at the smallest table for 2 for after dinner coffee. So now he puts a reserved sign up for us!

The day ended on a high note after a disappointing start however. A trip to the Arctic Cathedral as we arrived in Tromso, for an excellent concert: a flautist, a piano/organist and a fabulous baritone, giving us a combination of Norwegian folk songs and light classics, really very good. 



Next: Day 9 Tromso to Stramsund
Previous: Days Six and Seven


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