World Heritage Lille Raipas

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Lille Raipas is a World Heritage listed mountain in our home town, Alta.  It was one of the points used to calculate the circumference of the earth, and how flat the North and South Poles are.  It is about a 2km casual walk to the top with diverse scenery.

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To start we walked through Englandskogen, (England Forest).  We are not sure exactly how the name came about but we guess it might have something to do with all the English men mining for copper in the mountain.

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Norway is a very wet country.  Not that it rains all the time, unless you live in Bergen, but the soil is filled with water, there are many little creeks and waterfalls that run down from the snowy mountains even during the peak of summer.  Along public walking tracks it is usual to have planks to skip over the extra muddy patches.

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Below is a picture of an ant hill.  You might be thinking ‘why?’, but this is the first ant hill I have ever seen in Norway, with my first ants.

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About a third of the way up is a lovely (big) pond, something that I would call a Billabong, being from Australia – secluded with marshes and a small waterfall keeping the water fresh.  It’s perfect for a break up the mountain.

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The mountain contains Europe’s oldest fossils, 1.8 billion year old algae.

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Cabins in Norway are the norm but this little one on the side of the hill was unusually placed.  Powered by solar panels, it sat lonely by the public track half way up the mountain.

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Many different wild flowers and vegetation grow along the track.  Each corner turn gives a new perspective of the Finnmark landscape.

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Near the top of the mountain is a desolate rocky area.  It is all the leftovers from the copper mine, which was worked from 1835-1869, dragged out of the mountain and left.

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The copper mine is fenced off for safety but the entrance can still be seen from the ridge.

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Around the top we were delighted to see cloudberry plants growing in the marshes, although it doesn’t seem like it will be a good season this year because it was quite cold at the beginning of June.  Early summer cold tends to stunt the growth of the season.

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Near the top of the mountain we were using more planks to walk on.  The soil is wetter near the top because the snow melts later.  In a corner pocket of a shady ridge there was even a crevice of white snow still left from winter.

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Over the last climb the views started opening up.  There were a number of high spots on the top of large rocks which we could conquer with ease giving us spectacular panoramic views of the city.

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Just a little further and we reached the summit, marked with a post.

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Off to the side was the totem cairn, to which we added our own rock.  The pile of rocks is actually the meridian marker they used for the geo-scientific survey of the earths circumference.  It was just one of the points in many that crossed 10 countries from the Black Sea to Hammerfest, 2 hours drive north of Alta, the highest city in the world.  On the rock underneath is a plaque in three languages to commemorate the point.

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As part of the trail walking tradition in Norway, there is always a book to sign, marking your achievement of the climb.

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Every Norwegian city (with a mountain) has a trail walking program.  Ti for toppen, is a journey to ten peaks.  It is always a race, and last year two Norwegian men raced with their mountain bikes, climbing all the peaks in just one day!  During Environmental week in June, Alta at least, has a family activity of hiking three of the smaller mountains around the area.  Lille Raipas was one of them this year, along with Komsa and Hjemmeluft mountains.  Our family climbed to the peak of each and punched a special card to receive a commemorative t-shirt at the end.

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We had a picnic at the top of Lille Raipas and while we sat we picked out landmarks and areas of Alta – the sand quarry, the salmon river, Haldde – where the first Northern Lights observatory in the world was built, the fjord, the ski jump, the city, Komsa mountain – an old Sami spiritual ground, the airport and landing planes – yep, the whole city.  It would definitely be the perfect place to watch the Midnight Sun over the northern mountains (if you can survive the monster mosquitoes that come out in the cool afternoon).

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Lille Raipas is a fully marked trail and is an easy climb.  Alta kommune tourist information has maps of trails in the area.  If you have the time when you’re visiting Alta and really love the outdoors and scenery, I recommend a trip up Lille Raipas for a half day activity.  You’d want to take the trip during a sunny day so the mosquitoes won’t want to come out an play!

Alta at 4AM

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It is hard to go to sleep at night.  Even with the windows blacked out, the Midnight Sun light still invades the bedroom atmosphere.  All the senses in my body tell me “Wake up!  Get up.  It is not time for sleep, it’s time to live in the sun.”  Every night it is a battle to fall asleep.  Sometimes when I can’t it is better to get up, watch a movie, and try again later.

Not being able to sleep isn’t all bad.  Every time I look out my sun-loving windows in the middle of the night and see the sun blazing in the sky, warming our house, even at four in the morning, I feel lucky.  I get to see an amazing sight, a front-seat view of the Midnight Sun shining bright over the mountains and the fjord, over the city of Alta nestled among green pastures with cows and horses grazing, birds at their loudest.  I get to live it, every summer.

Wish you were here!

Sending you bright Midnight Sun-shine from on top of the world!

Supersonic Booming

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Supersonic booming from fully loaded F16s, air raid sirens and bomb shelters have now become a regular part of life for me in Norway.

The caption in the photo reads: Fighters on an ID-hunt cause booms

I have only recently become acquainted with the bomb shelters in Alta.  They are amazing, big underground tunnels with full-on steal and cemented doors that are so large and heavy I can’t open them by myself.  Standing in one, and walking round, feeling the coldness seep into my bones and the echoes of my movements traveling through makes my soul feel the hollowness of fear and loss.  Right now the bomb shelters are being used to store some of my larger theatre props but they are designed for a much more grave purpose.

Every now and then I hear air raid sirens from the city.  The first time I had no clue what they were and had to call up Moose, who was at work, to find out.  They regularly test them, and the only way you know if it is the real deal or not is to check out the newspaper website.  But if it was the real deal I wouldn’t know what to do, or who would be ‘chosen’.  Alta has grown dramatically over the last 50 years and the bomb shelters just won’t fit everyone in.

These bomb shelters and sirens are only for emergencies, only when we are under attack, only when there is conflict or war.  And who wants to threaten peaceful Norway?

Two times in the space of three months our houses have been rocked by sonic booms from fully armed fighter jets breaking the speed of sound to check out the Russian bogies invading Norwegian airspace in the east.  When questioned, the military casually tell us they are just carrying out the ‘NATO contingency’ when there’s ‘indications of Russian aircraft activity in the east’.  It is all very ‘underwhelming’, or so they tell us.

It might just be coincidence, but the F16 flyovers have only happened since the heat developing between the Ukraine and Russia.  I guess it is natural for bordering countries be on (high) alert.  But it is the first time that I have seen Norwegians run out of their houses to look up at the skies wondering if there is any clear and present danger.

In a time of reflection, and in this world of strife, it makes me wonder if the bomb shelters of the past could become our future.

http://www.altaposten.no/lokalt/nyheter/article9851860.ece

The ‘Richest’ but Most Expensive Country

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I know of a lot of people who want to live in Norway because it is a ‘rich’ country.  They figure that if the country is rich then working there would make them rich too.  But, being a rich country also means it is one of the most expensive places in the world to live.  Therefore ‘richness’ is basically evened out.  Everything is relative.

Oslo, is usually the most expensive place to live for expats in the world.  Only in the last six months Caracus, Venezuela took over.  Now Oslo is second in the world, but has kept its first place in Europe.  Also, it is expected that Oslo will regain its position when there is a ‘devaluation of the bolivar‘ in Venezuela, which is expected but hasn’t hit yet.

I’ve seen a dramatic price raise with everything over the last year, especially with food.  A regular can of b-grade baked beans that I could usually get for about 5 kroner is now 15 (abt $1 to $3).  Heinz Baked Beans are just too expensive to sell – no one will buy it here.  Tine Yoghurt has been hard pressed in the papers for their tricks.  They made their containers smaller and hiked up their prices meaning we are now paying around 40% more.  A bottle of coke at Rema (the cheapest supermarket chain in Norway) used to be around 15 kroner, now it’s pushing 25 (abt $3 to $5).  Cherries have been 100 kroner for a kilo (abt $20 per kilo).  These prices are from a little city above the Arctic Circle, Alta, but Oslo is more expensive.

Our family now pays around twice as much for food as we did a year ago.  It is very expensive to live on fresh, healthy food and sometimes the shops don’t even bother to get in certain foods for the week because they are just too expensive for people to buy.  The cheapest food is in boxes, cans or frozen.  Stats Norway has just released new information reveling that 50% of Norway is now overweight.

It  is much cheaper to buy a house than it is to rent, if you have a spare 500,000 kroner for a deposit (abt $100,000).  But the problem for many Norwegians nowadays, as the papers keep telling us, especially those living in smaller cities, is that they are in too much debt to get home loans.

If Norwegians are feeling the pinch, expats must be getting the punch!

Two years back I remember Norway in the papers boasting about not being affected by the world financial crisis.  Southern Europeans were flocking up north to get away from their own country’s financial issues.  Now it looks like Norway has to eat its words and there are likely a whole bunch of immigrated people struggling to survive in Norway.

If you are financially stable and have a good job in Norway, things are likely still good, yes.  But if you have limited funds and are moving to Norway only on the hope you will get a job, there will be very tough times ahead.

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