Travels

Alta and reindeer, real and rocky.

Monday 24 September. Driving west on the E06 from Porsanger Fjord to the small city of Alta was a climb to the heights and a new landscape altogether; rivers, waterfalls, sheer cliffs and deep valleys. Every turn of the road presented a different picture postcard view and a landscape different from the one offered minutes previously. And reindeer, large herds of reindeer.

We’ll take it as a given from now on that reindeer are everywhere. No more pictures.

The weather was overcast. I stopped to take photos but they don’t capture the scale.

Dropping down into Alta, I popped into Rema 1000, the budget supermarket and paid twice the UK price for everything. After that, being a glutton for punishment, I filled up at £1.50 per litre. I knew Norway was the most expensive country in Europe so was prepared for it and came with a good stock of food. Like the reindeer, the high prices are a given and won’t be mentioned again.

Alta has World Heritage status for its thousands of rock carvings and paintings. These are between 2000 and 7000 years old and are spread over five areas, only one of which, Hjemmeluft, is accessible to the public. The Alta Museum stands there (the white building).

As you’d expect, it holds an exhibition about the carvings,

but it’s when you go outside, the show really begins. Firstly, the natural beauty.

Then there are the rock carvings themselves. A walkway leads you through the areas of carvings, which have been cleaned of the lichen that hid them until 1960s.

They’re not coloured but, once you get your eye in, you can make them out. The excellent guidebook helps.

A bear, and reindeer. There are about 6000 figures. Imagining someone thousands of years crouched over the rock picking away made them all the more remarkable.

On the way to the museum I stopped at the Cathedral of Northern Lights. Quite a looker.

Alta is also famous for the work of Kristian Birkeland who pioneered research into the aurorae. He built the first Northern Lights Observatory on the Haldde mountain nearby. It was destroyed by the Nazis but has been restored and people can stay there. It’s quite a walk to the top apparently. Birkeland’s theories were proved to be correct after a space probe in 1963.

A couple of pictures from Alta harbour where I’m pitched.

Looks lovely.

That looks like snow. The wind is blowing from that direction and it’s a chilly 4°. Accuweather has the ‘feels like’ temperature as -4°. Definitely glad I’m here now and heading south.

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