Over a year ago in a conversation with my British friend Chris, I came to the realization that the Chunnel was not only an extremely expensive endeavor, it was ruining a great tradition. Before the Chunnel was built under the English Channel, the only way to get to or from Western Europe was via ferry. This way all of the passengers could enjoy a short peaceful ride on the boat and short drive up to London. Now people pack onto a train with their cars and make the commute through a dark tunnel. Although faster, there is not much of a romantic notion behind packing into a high speed train named the EuroStar and flying through a tunnel at 150 mph.
A year later we are now in Northern Norway and after successfully making it halfway around the world from South to North, our ride on the Hurtigruten Coastal Steamer could not have been a better choice for making our way South to Bergen and finally over to Newcastle in the UK, via another ferry. Instead of braving the dark icy roads of Northern Norway, we are sitting pampered in first class accommodation aboard a ferry that weaves its way through the breathtaking fjords of Norway. After the near 30,000 miles we have driven in the last 10 months through some of the harshest conditions imaginable, the idea that I get to have my own room with a sea view for four days gives me a sense of a home that I have been missing for the better part of the last year. Sitting on this boat for the last day most certainly takes Chris’s point home.
About 3 years ago I had the opportunity to ride on the Hurtigruten during the summer. Since a good majority of the miles it navigates are above the arctic circle, during that time of year the sun is in the sky 24 hours per day. The Hurtigruten boat that I traveled on before did not have many amenities, but that did not matter as the natural beauty surrounding the boat was available for viewing 24 hours a day in bright sunlight. The opposite of this “midnight sun” is called “polar night.” Although many of the fjords we pass by are masked by darkness, the 3-4 hours of twilight we experience each day cast a light on the surrounding rocks that I have seen nowhere else on the planet. The best part about these luxurious ferries is that even without the beautiful sights surrounding you, there are still countless diversions to enjoy.
One of these diversions is the Arctic pools on the top deck. Two Jacuzzis on the roof of this giant boat are a perfect way to ensure that my break from driving for this short moment are as relaxing as possible. As Mark and I sat in the tubs last night, we also had the pleasure of seeing the Northern Lights above us…a sight everyone should see at some point in their life. Our venue happened to be a quite premium location to view this meteorological phenomenon. At first glance the lights look like a dim cloud formation, but after taking a closer look the dancing green lights in the sky are a true indication that your location is truly special. And if that is not enough and the cold air after you get out of the hot tubs gives you a bit of a chill, just inside a door 50ft away is a sauna ready to ensure stress levels stay as low as possible. In case you might be worried, the sauna has floor to ceiling windows so that no important sights will be missed during the warming session.
Honestly, I may have a hard time getting back behind the wheel of the trucks after this. I imagine that plenty of you readers out there are saying, “Wow, you guys are really roughing it…aren’t you supposed to be tough seasoned travelers?” To that my response can only be, “It’s all part of the adventure.” I think the tents and camp stoves are enjoying a little break from the road as well.
The Northern Lights above the Boat