After a long day of sailing yesterday we’re still not there so there’s still a fair bit of sailing this morning before we reach our destination around lunchtime.
As we head deep into the arctic circle, it’s getting very cold and the weather is miserable. Spectacular but miserable. It’s pretty cold and there is (of course) a very strong wind with temperatures struggling to stay in the low single digits. I am not sure why we thought it would be any different but of course we didn’t really think it through and it’s almost purely by chance that we have some warmer gear with us.
The North Cape is located only around 600km from the Arctic Polar circle at a latitude of 71,12 degree north (I’m quote the degrees latitude in the vain hope that it makes me sound intellectual when I have really no idea what it means). Anyway luckily we are close enough to shore that my cell phone works and I can see (on google maps) that we are pretty far north.
Honningsvag is the most northerly “city” in Norway but by all current measures it is a town (for English speakers it has neither a cathedral or a university and for Norwegians its population of around 2,500 is less than half that required for city status however as it was a city before the current rules came into force it has retained that position.
It’s an amazing if slightly scruffy little place (with all the wind and rain you can forgive it for not being too sparkly) and anyone who chooses to live here is surely worthy of some sort of award. In a town of only 2,500 as our cruise ship offloads it 3,000 travelers it feels like a brutal awakening for those in the town although give the relative importance of tourism to the economy the town seems ill prepared for it. We spend a couple of hours wandering through the streets, peering into windows wondering what lives the people here live. Then the smell of a takeaway suggests they are not so different from the rest of us. A torrential downpour forces us back onto the ship.
Most that come here are here to see the Northern Cape. It isn’t actually the most northerly point in Norway but it’s a close as dammit and in medieval times once believed to be the end of the world. We’re here to see the North Cape Pavilion and the Globe which together were built in 2008. The sculpture is called “Children of the Earth” and is meant to convey joy, peace, friendship and solidarity – it seems very apt. The cape itself is around 30 minutes out of the town and while the pavilion is very modern the journey up there feels very remote with a rugged beauty. Out at the cape it’s actually very cold and windy and you will be lucky to have good weather – we had strong winds, mist and about two inches of snow (in June!). This feels like a very iconic location and something you need to tick off the list. List ticked.
Constant daylight is still a novelty although from around five in the afternoon it’s more like a constant twilight and we wonder how the locals manage in the reverse polar winter season when there are 24 hours of night? I also wonder whether this is a place that people choose to live or whether they are born, live and die here. It feels very much like the latter.