PB Travels… Tromso – Snowshoeing in a Storm

Today we met a real life superwoman.  So post breakfast (avo on toast, how can you go wrong), yogurt and a hot cup of tea, we wandered outside the hotel to wait for our pick up.

Activity of the day: Snowshoe hill walking. Weather: heavy overnight snowfall, and it was still falling. Magda from Tromso Outdoor showed up on time, all smiles and positivity.  We drove out to Kvaloya again, seems like this is the activity island.  The weather was very cold, thankfully it had stopped (for the moment), long enough for her to give us a mini tutorial on show shoes wearing, walking – and the fact that you should definitely not walk backward in them.  We were 5 females excluding Magda – my gang of three and 2 other ladies.

The snow was up to a foot deep in places, so we definitely used our snowshoes to make our way through the snow.  It was a very enjoyable, calm walk, with enough stops and regular check-ups from Magda to ensure we were all OK.

Two thirds the way up was when everything changed.  We were basically attacked by the snow – there was a total whiteout, we couldn’t see more than five feet ahead of us, snow hitting us from all directions, the wind pushing us over.  We had to stop. That is when Magda the superwoman kicked in. She made sure we were all OK, fed us (yes, more lefse, but this time she had jammie dodgers for me – whoo!) and that hot, sweet Ribena.

Before Whiteout
After Whiteout

We basically had to stay put while the snow and wind settled down a bit – in the meantime Magda showed us all these exercises to keep warm – which was handy since one of the girls was complaining about ‘her fingers feeling funny’ arrrggghh!  We couldn’t make it up to the top of our mini mountain so Magda decided to take us back down.  But with those blizzardy conditions and it starting to get dark (it was 1pm), we took the scenic route through this mini wood to shield us from the wind and snow.

And we all made it in one piece down to the van – got in, got warm, only to discover that it was stuck in the snow! The adventure was not over yet! So once again, super Magda got out of the car, completely calm and collected, and tried to shovel our way out.  Unfortunately there had been so much snow – which meant we all had to get out and use our feet and hands and whatever else to make a path through the snow to the main road – in pitch darkness.  Fun and games – it took an hour – but we did it. Go girl power! and go Magda – one of the best guides I’ve seen!

Back at the hotel, we didn’t have much time to relax as we had an escape room to look forward to. There are a few of these in London, I’ve been to one near Bank station and it was brilliant.

This one was just as good – Arctic Escape (the northern most escape room, we were told).  We spent an hour solving the puzzle in John Winter’s room – and thanks to S, escaped with 6 minutes to spare.  Strongly recommend this if you’re in Tromso!

Suitably charged and ready for some food, we looked at our list of recommendations from the lovely Norwegian girls we met on the Vulkana, and down the road from Arctic Escape was Bardus Bistro. A beautiful, cosy space and a short menu.

Mains were approximately £30 each.  Not cheap for me, but as I’ve mentioned before, we quickly realised Tromso isn’t cheap, and decent restaurants meant shelling out a bit more.  Once again, there was nothing on the menu for me, but I was told there is a vegan risotto – so yes please!  What arrived was this beautiful plate of pearl barley, butternut squash, celery, mushrooms, lingonberries and dill. What a stunning combination – I enjoyed every mouthful, from beginning to end.

The girls ordered fish-y dishes, they enjoyed them too:

It was so filling, there was no room for dessert – but I did order an espresso – that came with a square of dark chocolate. Sorted. Seriously good coffee after the crappy coffee I’d been drinking.

A wonderful meal, couldn’t ask for a better way to end the day – the most adventurous so far!

PB Travels… Tromso – Hiking and Fjords

Since we were in Tromso for just a week, we planned our itinerary to ensure that we do at least one activity a day, and today’s was supposed to be cross country skiing.  I say supposed – because as the keen amongst you may have figured out – it didn’t happen.  Reason: no snow.  No Snow?!?!? We’re in the Arctic Circle! Apparently everything is a month late, so there hasn’t been much snow because it has been warmer than usual at this time of the year.  Yes. Warmer than usual.  This meant that our activity turned into a snow hike.

So after a late breakfast and a leisurely morning, we waited for our guide, Michael from Tromso Outdoor.

It turned out the only people booked in were the three of us – private tour…perfect!  This is the place you need to go to for a number of tours, but more importantly, ski and snow gear – everything – that you can hire for very reasonable prices.  Definitely worth looking into when you’re planning your visit.

We drove out to Kvaloya, the Whale Island and found a suitable snowy hill to hike up – crampons, hiking poles and all.  The views were magical – both on the drive and hike.

So utterly breath taking and I enjoyed every single minute of it – so calming and peaceful.  We made it back to the car where a hot drink was waiting for us – which was essentially hot Ribena, exactly what was needed after a long hike.  The girls also got to have some Lefse, which was the standard snack on the Tromso Outdoor tours – essentially a bready pancake sandwiched with a buttery nutmeg mixture.  Obviously off limits for me, I came equipped with my current favourite, a Primal Pantry Cashew and Almond bar.

We got back to the hotel, changed into our robes and off to the sauna on the top floor for a bit of muscle loosening action – which we needed more than we realised!

Being a Sunday, we were told that there were literally only 4 restaurants and coffee shops open in Tromso – so we decided to go one that was open as we didn’t want to eat in the restaurant.  We found Aungarden, which was sadly a slaughterhouse in a previous lifetime.

It had a relatively simple menu, and literally nothing that I could eat.  However, as I was realising, Tromso is very accommodating and when I asked if I could have a veggie salad – there was no problem in getting one 🙂

Crisp lettuce, fried potatoes, fresh tomatoes… and a single asparagus.

Most enjoyable, and exactly what I needed, although I could have done with more asparagus!

The next day was another activity, M & I were off to see the famous Norwegian fjords and S was off Husky Sledging.  Breakfast was more or less the same, literally nothing to write home about.  We were booked on the Fjord tour with Enjoy The Arctic and we were picked up by our slightly crazy guide Anna.  So being in the Arctic, we went from not having enough snow to ski to a proper snow blizzard – so much so that Anna was convinced that we’ll drive to Kvaloya, hang around for 20 min and drive back.  She was wrong! What I also realised about being in the Arctic, is how quickly the weather changes! It suddenly cleared up and we were left with relatively clear skies! Result.

 The scenery was nothing short of magical – it was literally like being in another world – I think the daylight – or the ‘sun doesn’t rise above the horizon’ light had a lot to do with it.

We spent the morning driving, stopping for photos, driving to another fjord, repeat.  The views were just stunning – breathtaking.  When we got to kattfjord, Anna started squealing – why? Whales!!  We saw a massive pod of orcas!!  Apparently seeing so many, so close to the shore is very rare – she called it the viewing of the season – and who are we to complain!

Next stop – a frozen lake that we had a snowball fight on – or rather, where I attacked M slap bang in the face with a snowball (sorry! forgivve meee! ;).  Fight aside, at the risk of sounding like a broken record – the views! Standing on a frozen lake, surrounded by mountains was very humbling

and exhilarating!

Penultimate stop – Summaroy, or the summer island.  Apparently this is the place that people hang out in the summer, have picnics, swim in the sea, because it gets to a balmy 15 degrees!  Now if you look at these photos, you might think you’re on some tropical beach (replace clouds with blue skies).

It might have looked like that, but the gale force arctic winds stopped it from feeling anywhere close to that.

                    

Don’t be fooled, that wasn’t surf on the beach – it was snow!  This is the first time I’ve seen that combo!

Final stop –  another beach, where Anna attempted to light a fire and cook our snack.  Hot dogs in wraps for the meat eaters, along with a stick of dried reindeer meat, which M dutifully informed looked and tasted like pepperami.  For me – a vegan burger, which, in that cold and after 4 hours of sightseeing was very welcome.

Talking about cold – I donned a thermal suit on top of all my layers and my salopettes and my ski jacket – I was the Michelin (wo)Man!!! Getting the thermal suit on could actually be a separate blog post on it’s own, but I’ll spare myself the pain of that. haha!

After the meal, the snow started again, and we endured a scary ride back to our hotel – driving like maniac on icy roads was our final adventure experience for the day – thank you Anna!
We were all exhausted, so we nipped into Pastafabrikken, which was literally a minute’s walk from our hotel.
It is one of those Scandi cool places in terms of decor and style, and I knew that with an Italian-esque menu, there would be something I would find to eat.
My bowl of veggie soup arrived with a load of crusty bread. For £11, it was absolutely delicious, packed with lots of vegetables – and one of the cheaper meals we had!
Another fine day in Tromso, this one full of mind numbingly (is that a word? It is in my world!) beautiful nature, breathtaking sceneries, adventure and a hot bowl of soup! Thank you Universe!!