Evening in Istanbul

Evening in Istanbul
The alluring and beautiful Aya Sophia

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Sizzling in Svalbard – for sure!

Arriving at the Isfjord Radio Station, Spitsbergen, Svalbard
I'm away travelling again, but this time with two major differences. For the first 3 weeks I'll be on my own, until meeting up with Sandra Brooks in Paris, and Jenny Fraser in Akyaka, southwestern Turkey. Secondly, switching from earthquake ravaged Christchurch to what seems like frivolous gallivanting is quite a mindset switch. I have sudden anxious moments, worrying about what's happening back home, quite unbidden and most unwelcome!

At 78º North, Longyearbyen in Svalbard is in a little world all of it's own. Not far from the North Pole – I think about 1000 miles – it's varies between cold in midsummer, to freezing. Today though it's higher than balmy, has been bright sunshine all night, and this morning there's scarcely a cloud in the sky; trying to be cool enough for sleeping has been a challenge the last 2 nights, with the small window only opening a crack, and a huge puffy duvet on the bed! Today was a great day for hiking on the Foxfonna Glacier, with glorious scenery, miles and miles of tundra, mountains, slushy icy snow, and jumbled rocks galore not making for easy footing. It was such a treat, and just what I needed.

Three days ago I came back from a three day (approx) 90km trip by RIB to the Isfjord Radio Station, with eight other adventurers. The boat was an experience in itself, especially when the sea got up, and wearing a full immersion suit, thick woolly lined Arctic hat, and thick gloves was mandatory, otherwise we'd have been very very cold. We passed by immensely high bird cliffs, with deep bright green swathes underneath, where the bird droppings have fertilized the grass, and where ever hopeful arctic foxes roam to catch unaware young chicks. The Radio Station itself has until recent times been an active link between Svalbard and the mainland, but at present only 3 of the masts are operating. The buildings have now been largely converted to a very comfortable remote outpost for visitors who want to experience being in such a wild part of the world. Our 2nd day took us over the mouth of the Isfjord to visit The Protector – a huge pyramid shaped rock dominating the bird cliffs where guillemots and little auks were nesting in their thousands upon thousands. We ventured further to glaciers up a side fjord, surprising a few basking bearded seals lying on little icebergs. Lunch sitting on reindeer skins overlooking an ice studded glacier terminal lake? Hmmm – different indeed from quakey Christchurch.

The third morning saw us walking along the tundra and seashore, out on the open water side of the peninsula, seeing many birds, beautiful little flowers including the plentiful purple saxifrage, but not a hint of that polar prowler, the isbjorn/ icebear. Hopefully we'll see one while sailing with the Polar Pioneer. The colourful buildings of the Barentsburg coal mining town were an interesting highpoint of the boat trip back, which seemed to be over and done with almost before we'd left, with calm waters making for a faster passage. A wonderful group of fellow travellers too; loved it all.

Believe it or not I've got toothache . . . . . I wonder if there's a dentist in town???