To The Arctic Circle And Back

July 09, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

Did I mention a lot of train time? The answer is yes! After Cologne, Germany, I had manage my time so that I ended up in Stavanger, Norway on 6/29 to meet my friend, Devin. He was flying into Stavanger and we have a hotel room for the weekend, so I did not want to abandon him or our plans. The only problem was that this was four days away and the hostels were extraordinarily expensive in Scandinavia. To kill time, and see the scenery, I decided to head north. As far north I could get on a train. This happened to be Narvik, Norway, which is well within the  Arctic Circle. 

To get here from Cologne took 36.5 hours. That's not the total travel time, but the total time spent on trains. This journey took me through Copenhagen and Stockholm. Needless to say I was ready to be off of a train for a while when I arrived in Narvik! When I woke up on the train in Northern Sweden, the scenery had become majestic and beautiful. Lakes were everywhere, as we snow capped mountains and tiny towns nestled into the mountainsides. All of the following photos were taken from the train. Luckily, I had a window that could be pulled down, so I was able to get clear photos of the outdoors. 
Crossing a bridge. Amazing geography.  Lakes. Frozen water still remained in some areas. 
It was incredible how green everything was, while it was still very cold. This region does  receive a lot of precipitation during this time of year.  Our train.  When I arrive in Narvik, I unfortunately only had two hours to look around and see what was going on. I set a little self portrait in the freezing rain. My visit here was very short because there was no other way to work out visiting the Arctic Circle and still arrive in Stavanger on time. The most depressing part of this journey was boarding the exact same train I had just got off two hours before, in order to take it right back to where it came from to get to Stavanger. When it was finally time to sleep on the train, it was very difficult because the light outside was still bright. At 1am, there was enough light outside to safely drive without headlights. This was as dark as it got. By 3:30am, the sun was up and lingered near the horizon as it tried to wake me from my slumber. It was successful. After another 35 hours on train via Oslo, I made it to Stavanger at 8am on the morning of 6/29. I checked into the hotel, napped and waited for Devin to arrive. 


The next day we set off for The Pulpit Rock, or Preikestole. To begin our journey we took a ferry from Stavanger to Tau. It was only a 30 minutes boat ride.  Once we arrived in Tau, a bus took us from the port to the trailhead of the Pulpit Rock hiking trail. The sign says that the trail length is 2.4 miles each way, with a total elevation gain of 1,100 feet. That's an 8.7% grade, but as you can see, there are several areas with most of the climbing. At the base of the trail.
Lake at the base of the trail. After the first climb of the hike, we arrived at a muddy plateau. This is the visitors center and the trailhead for the Pulpit Rock trail.  My friend, Devin, on the trail.  The landscape along the trail was very interesting. Though we were climbing mountain side, the terrain would often flatten out and become a spongy, grassy swamp. 
Wonderful rocks.  One of dozens of small lakes in the rocks along the trail. 
This group was grilling by the lake, making the rest of us very jealous and hungry. One of the climb sections.  Green. Our first view of Pulpit Rock. 
We found this little perch before the main rock.  There were many cracks in the rocks. I wonder when they'll break off? Looking down through one of the cracks.  More looking down. You can't quite get the perspective, but we were 2,000 ft above the water at this point.  A silhouette on the Pulpit. 
More cracks.  2,000 foot drop. Can you see the kayaks? Zoomed in all the way, can you see them now?  A boat had passed and left a neat wake in the fjord.  The Pulpit Rock.  Me sitting on the ledge of Pulpit Rock with nothing but rocky darkness below.  Looking down the Lysefjord fjord from Pulpit Rock.  Straight down from the Pulpit.
A panoramic of Lysefjord from Pulpit.  Standing on Pulpit looking down Lysefjord.  We hiked even further up to have lunch and get some great shots of Pulpit and Lysefjord. 

Can you see the diagonal crack that the Pulpit rock hinges on?  A slightly different view of Lysefjord.  The peak we hiked to above Pulpit.  A wide view of Pulpit and Lysefjord.

Back in Stavanger, Devin and I explored the town and nightlife with a new friend we met at the base of Pulpit. At 2 a.m., this is how bright it was outside.  Because Stavanger is much further south of Narvik, it's less bright at night, but as you can clearly see, they still receive a lot of sunlight in the summer! The next day Devin flew back to Copenhagen where he has been studying this summer, and I followed him, but on train. The next evening I arrived in Copenhagen where Devin hosted me for one night. The next afternoon I began my final train journey towards Paris to catch a flight back home. The train arriving into Paris was two hours late, causing me to miss my flight! Fortunately, there was a second flight to JFK later that day that I successfully boarded. I was arriving in NYC on the night of July 4, but because of the timing I did not get to see any firework. My friend, Kaari, who is on the drumline with me at UT, hosted me for one night at here NYU dormitory. Bright and early the next morning I set off for the airport for the final leg of my journey home! Waiting for me in the DFW airport was my father, who immediately rushed us to my favorite BBQ joint, The Feedstore, in Southlake. Mmmm, that was a great way to be welcomed back to Texas. 

I decision to return home at this point was purely financial. If I were to continue into Eastern and SE Europe like I had planned, I would not have had enough money to make it all the way to Greece and then back to Central Europe to fly back home. Instead, I had to make a difficult decision to end much earlier that I had expected to respect my financial integrity. When I began this trip, I had no idea how far my cash would get me. I have found out, and I am glad I took the risk in order to do so. 

It's hard to believe that my journey is over. It has been amazing in many dimensions. I have met countless people that have opened my eyes, ears and mind. I have seen may things that I knew not existed before this adventure. I have stimulated the crumbling European economy. I would not have done any one thing differently. I've learned a lot, about myself, the world I live in and the people that I share this planet with. I miss traveling, but I am very happy to be home in Texas with my family and friends. 


This final photo is the map of the major rail lines. Drawn on it in black is my route, with the exception of Morocco. 


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