Distance travelled: 61km
Weather: Sunny and warm
I didn’t sleep well, imagining that the carpark we were parked at would have daytime parking fees that would kick in after 8am and that we would end up with some terribly expensive parking ticket. I got up and showered, surprised that the van was so warm and that the was no need for the heater this morning. After failing to find any notice regarding the parking hours and feeling somewhat comforted by the lack of movement by either of the two other motorhomes parked beside us, I decided to walk to the shops and get some bread for breakfast.
It had slipped my mind that the shops in Norway seem to mostly open at 9am so I spent some time wandering around Kirkenes, seeing the sights while I searched for bread. Eventually I made my way back to the Shell Service station we had paused at last night to re-examine the motorhome service point there. It seemed to require a coin for operation but I couldn’t tell what denomination. I was just heading into the shop to ask when a very nice gentleman came out to tell me the service point was out of order. He explained where we would find another which, since I had nothing else to do on this fine morning, I decided to walk to.
After a while, I decided I really didn’t need to walk that far. I had passed where we were parked, a huge stack of crab pots and some fishing boats with cyrillic names and could see the local Rema 1000 when I decided that was enough walking in what was becoming quite a warm day. I headed back through town intending to get the bread we needed since it was now past 9am. First stop was at a Joker, a small supermarket, but they didn’t have the kind of square shaped bread we like to toast. From there I walked all the way to the other side of the shopping precinct again to another supermarket with a larger range, finally returning triumphant to the van.
We were soon fed and it was not much longer before the van was refueled and we had attended to the fresh water tank and other maintenance matters. From there, it was a final trip into the Rema 1000 where we planned to spend our last 119 Norwegian Krone. I took this last opportunity to finally use the excellent recycling system, managing to return five plastic drink bottles and a jar. This extended our spending power by another fifteen krone and by careful counting, we walked out with just one krone left.
After much debate, it had been decided that we would leave Norway and head south though Finland from Kirkenes after driving out to see the Norwegian-Russian border like the tourists we are. Pulling into the rest stop some twenty meters from all the imposing signs, we were amazed to see a motorhome with UK numberplates! This was the first British motorhome we had seen since Trondheim. They were equally surprised to see us, having come up through Finland and Sweden and had not seen more than one or two British vehicles the entire way.
Russia ... that way -->
They were full-timers, only returning to England once a year to attend to their MOT and visit family. We had a quick tour of their motorhome, an A class Hymer, a discussion on Lidl meatballs and more horror stories of the mosquitos in Finland. They told us they had spent the last two nights at Grense Jacobselv where they had spent both evenings watching a herd of Beluga Whales feeding in the bay at high tide. We immediately changed our plans, the opportunity to see more whales was not to be missed. Along with the information about the whales came a warning about the road, fourty-five kilometers of poorly repaired frost heave, and fifteen kilometers of corrugated dirt culminating in the contents of all cupboards being rearranged. Not as bad as yesterday’s roadworks though.
Eventually we pulled into the dirt carpark along with several other motorhomes, all from Germany including one couple who seemed to feel they deserved an extra space just for their table and chairs. Not good Aire etiquette at all. Looking around, we could see people fishing with rods off the rocks and a pair of men easing into the water in wetsuits with spearguns (they later returned with king crabs). Another pair of men motored out to a net set from the rocks out to a bouy.
On the hill directly behind us was an official looking Norwegian army installation and across the river mouth, looking much more dilapidated to my eye, was the matching Russian building. The road we had arrived on had run along the river for the last ten kilometers or so and the border had generally run along the middle of the river. In several locations we could see border posts from either side, indicating the official border was midway between. Signs repeatedly warned us that we were being watched, not to cross over, not to use a camera and tripod with a lens greater than 200mm, not to be rude across the border. No poking your tongue out, I suppose.
Since we had at least six hours to wait for high tide, the water tank was full and the sun was shining brilliantly, I dragged out the washing machine and climbed onto the roof to spread out the power film solar panel to augment our electrical charge. There seems to always be washing to be done. I planned to go sit in the sun when I had finished but by 5pm the weather had turned quite cold and I could see everyone else outside had rugged up against the chill.
At about 6pm we joined a number of others on the rocks for the evening whale watch. After an hour most had drifted away, leaving us and one other gentleman in the cold. Another half an hour and we both spotted brief glimpses of something in the water. An arched back appeared and disappeared, barely visible and blending with the silver grey water now the sun was hidden behind cloud. We watched hopefully for another hour, not even bothering with the camera in the poor light, although a herd of reindeer on the beach was more photogenic. Eventually the chill was too much and we retreated inside to warmth and food.
On the rocks...
Reindeer with a Russian bacground