I've been to the Arctic Circle!
A 5am start was scheduled again, with the promise of seeing grouse. We gave it a miss and had a bit of a lie in.
Breakfast was much more sparse at this hotel than the previous one. There was no bacon and the scrambled eggs were cold. At least the coffee was good and hot.
Those who had gone on the grouse hunt returned at 9ish for their breakfast. With the temperature falling to -14, they needed it.
Did we make the right decision not to go – or did we miss the highlight of the holiday and risk kicking ourselves for the rest of the trip? They saw very little. Two red grouse eventually showed up – but not everyone actually got to see them – and there was certainly no excitement of a lek as had been promised. So, it was a good call not to go.
Then, we were “IN” the vans again. >We drove through deeper and deeper snow up to a ski resort. We climbed for over an hour up hill in deep snow, keeping left to avoid the skiers sweeping past us on our right, irritated by our group. None of the skiers responded to our attempts at a cheery “Hallo!”
The hotel had given us some packed lunches – I saw them get packed into the van, so I knew they were there! It was 1.30pm now though, and no-one had mentioned lunch?
We drove deep into the snow covered forest and found a log cabin with a bird feeder in the garden. I was getting acclimatised to this now – I was beginning to get the drift. I would normally feel pretty uncomfortable about parking up by someone’s private house, standing in their garden and looking at their bird feeder, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Someone joked that, if asked, we could say we were Jehova’s Witnesses!
We saw – wait for it – nothing. Reversing out was difficult. It was 3pm now – still no mention of lunch. We eventually stopped by another bird feeder and unwrapped the lunch. I can’t say that a plastic box full of iceberg lettuce, half a tomato and a gherkin really hit the spot for me? There were some flasks of coffee and tea, but they had gone cold, so we didn’t drink them.
Flora and Fauna
We stopped by some water – a rare sight in this frozen land which gave some welcome relief to the monotony of the scenery.
Whooper Swans and Goosander were swimming on the lake and there were apparently Snow Bunting behind them, although they were far too small for me to make out.
While I was looking through my binoculars though, I did see a very strange sight on the other side of the lake. There was a woman in a blue robe and as I watched, she shed the robe and slid naked into the icy lake for a swim.
Truly unbelievable – that cannot be good for you?! It must be a fairly common pastime though as I saw several comic postcards of chubby, bikini clad swimmers in the garage service station.
We drove right up to the Arctic Circle in the afternoon, which took a long time, but it was sort of satisfying to be able to say we had actually been there and could justifiably put a pin in the map. Scary thought – if I am getting satisfaction from putting a pin in a map, maybe there is something of a twitcher in me? Let’s move on …
The visitor centre was shut (of course – you knew that before I told you). The sun did come out for a bit and I got a photo that resembled something like the images I had been hoping to capture when we booked this trip.