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Going north

Going north. This time to Skellefteå to participate in Scandianvian Winterswim Championship. I am a true rockie in this matter but couldn’t resist the challenge of swimming 25 m lane in ice water.

Travelling by train through the snowy landscape is relaxing and a proper mental preparation for what is to come. The fields and the snowcovered forests passes by in a milky blur. During a part of some 15 kilometer the train slows down considerably due to a raildamage, said to be caused by a freight train with a defect wheel. The delay is not big and ther is still plenty of time to catch the connecting bus from Umeå. Some confusion accurs about which bus to take and we are all anxious to get on since it is snowing – that wet kind of snow that sticks and melts on your clothes when the temperature is above zero. A talkative smoking woman says she often does this trip to visit her daughter in Burträsk. She is from Bollnäs and speaks without interruption.

It seems like ages before we get on that bus when the busdriver doesn’t know how to handle the ticket machine. He is pushing buttons without result looking helpless and tired. I guess he is close to seventy. We are waiting patiently face to back outside the bus in the falling snow. Watching the bus driver as he fumbles with the machine with yet another cashpaying traveller. I have a printed ticket in my hand and it is getting soaked by the snow. Kerstin is further back in the row. Finally I get onboard and find two seats in the rear of the bus. When Kerstin gets on she says she will be roadsick sitting this far back.

Someone has written a love message on the back of the seat in front of us – ”I love you and haven’t seen you for two days and I can’t stand it any longer”. Touching.

There are seat belts which we manage to put on after some difficulties. Once you stop pulling you can not stretch it any further, so you have to let it slide back all the way and then keep pulling consistantly. It is dificult because the seats are narrow and you have to do this in an awkward position. Finally we are safely buckled up and on our way. The road is narrow and slippery and the carriage throws back and forth. In the loo there is no water to flush or to wash your hands with, which I mention to the driver. – Typical, he replies.

The walk from the busstation to our hotel was not far, about a kilometer, but the snow clogged the wheels on our suitcases and the pace was not great.

Testswimming was an oportunity on the night prior to the competition to try the lanes and the water before the actual race. We walked from the hotel through the snowstorm to the competition site. Four lanes were cut in the river ice adjacent to the town hall of Skellefteå. Changing of clothes had to take place on the slushie ice which was uncomfortable. Due to the strong current an assistant tied a belt attached to a rope around my waist and ran along as I swam. The current was strong but to my favor so it was a surprisingly quick swim. It was tricky to get on the clothes but Kerstin helped me. I am glad I did the test swim so that I was prepared of what was to come. We went to the nearby restaurant to get warm again. Small parties were gathering with drinks for their friday night pleasures. Groups of young women chatting and laughing and happy to see eachother. I had taken off my boots and put them on the heater next to the window, socks too. I tucked my cold feet in Kerstins wind trousers which she had put under the table. After warming up and a meal and a glass of beer we returned to the hotel.

The dressing room for the competitors was temporarily hosted in a conference room at the town hall. When I entered there was a solid concentrated silence in the room and I felt an urge to comment this and all of a sudden everybody started talking and laughing. Swimmers who recently done their race came in. Their skin was red from the cold and they all had a happy smile on their faces. They groaned and made it obvious to everybody about their achievements. So typically mannish manners. I got ready and started to warm up. On my feet I had my neopren socks and my head was protected by a rubber swimmers cap. I wrapped myself i my terry cloth robe and got out in the entrance where the heats gathered before they strode down to the river. I made contact with the men in my heat to get a feeling of my opponents. One of my age, slightly older, a finnish busdriver and two younger men – a bath attendent from Burträsk and a psychologist from Umeå. Shortly after we stood at the edge of the ice. Each lane had a ladder on both ends. I put my robe, glasses and socks in a basket held by an assistant ready to run with the basket to the opposite side. Suddenly I realized I had forgot my goggles in the dressing room. To late to fix that now. We climb in to the water. It is 0,1 degrees Celcius but I dont even think about the temperature, I just want to swim. On the signal I push away from the ladder. It was a good start and I swim with all my might taking quick strokes. The bath attendent is in the lane next to me and he is taking the lead. Where the other two are I cant see but it feels good and I can sence the cold water in my eyes. Reaching the other end and climbing up the ladder it seems like I was at least second best in my heat. My blood is rushing in my vaines and my skin is steaming and I feel a push of happiness. I get my things back and walk up the stairs from the river where K greets me with a smile and we make company up to the town hall. It was a good race and I gave all I could.

Back at the improvised dressing room the finnish men drink some stuff from a thermos. I ask the if I can taste and get a cup of a hot choccolate, mint and alkohol mixture. It is nice but I had expected a stronger brew due to my preconceptions about fins.

At the office collegues want to hear about winter swimming and they shake their heads and put up that forgiving smile – Are you crazy! Nobody, so far, wants to join me next year for a relay team. But I will definitely be back next year, at least to protect my gold medal.

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Adventurers hangover or reverse culture shock .

Coming home from a long and adventures trip is not easy. My familiar 84 kg body is right here at my desk at the architects office, at the computer, at meetings, at my bike riding to work. But my mind and soul is less present here. They must in a sence have got stuck somewhere in Canada or Alaska north of the arctic circle. The good thing is I feel more present at home with my family than I did before. I appreciate to be close to my family and my friends. I take more care of relations and I don’t put much energy anymore trying to convince ”old friends” that we should meet if they dont make any efforts themselves. Shallow friendship is not an issue anymore.

Being home also means trying to incorporate your impressions from the trip, to make them pronounced and to use them to create something.

During the first part of my trip on Dax I experienced hardships and social problems which was a tough lesson but they also serve as a emotional base for the rest of the trip and for the rest of my life. The journey in its whole would not have been as solid and complex as it came out without theese initial problems.

Encountering problems also creates a wish to express yourself and, as a new thing music came to me. I have been playing in a rockband for 25 years and I have also tried folkmusic on fiddle but without really beeing in the music. Now I realize I was using music more like an attitude and not expressing much inside of me. In the difficulties during the trip on Dax music came natural and without any effort. So now I have a song for you dear blogreaders. It is called Waltz on Baffin Bay and is about the beauty and the troubles but mostly about the beauty. I hope you like it. The clip is from a lecture about my Northwest Passage I held for friends recently. On the twelve string guitar is Catharina Frediksson and on the base is Karl Boson.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qmhucVNw8fY
Richard

Haida Gwaii – Copenhagen

What life is about and the essence of my journey

What life is about and the essence of my journey

Haida Gwaii and The Spirit Lake Trail

Haida Gwaii and The Spirit Lake Trail

17th of October

   Now I am in Copenhagen with two days of flight travel in my body. I am tired but happy. Looking back it has been quite a journey and just to review it briefly – at the end of June Dax left Island and after nine days at sea, partly rough and troublesome we arrived in Greenland. After sailing north along the westcoast of Greenland with stops in harbours like Nanortalik, Sisimiut, Qaqortok, Nuuk and Upernavik to mention some, we crossed Baffin Bay and entered Canada 5th of August. From Pond Inlet, Nunavut  we continued westward and encountered engine problems which forced us to abort the trip. Martin and Bengt returned with the boat and got as far as Clyde River, Baffin Island where the engine broke down completely and they had to put Dax on a sealift to Montreal for wintering her there.

   I stayed in Pond Inlet for a week or so before I got a lift with a russian cruiseship, the Academic Ioffe. After a week on the cruiseship I disembarked in Cambridge Bay, still in Nunavut, Canadas Arctic. The 28th of August I embarked the swiss catamaran Libellule and joined them all the way to Duch Harbor, Alaska. Libellule continued with a new crew to Hawaii and made it there at the 13th of October while I roamed the west coast of southern Alaska on the Alaska Marine Highway ferries. The ferry Kennikiot and the ferry Taku took me to Prince Rupert, British Columbia, Canada. Another ferry and I came to the islands of Haida Gwaii. Haida Gwaii was my last stop on my marine oriented travel round the north american continent so from Haida Gwaii I flew to Toronto where I did touchdown to connect to my friend Rick Irving who I met on the  Academic Ioffe. I also stopped by the office of Primitive Entertainment at Bloor street downtown Toronto to see how the documentary series The Polar Sea is developing. This is a documentary where the adventures of Dax and me will be able to be seen on television 2014.

   Staying on Haida Gwaii I hired a car to explore the hikes accessable from the one and only official road. Unfortunately I was not allowed to take the rental car on the logging roads which would have brought me deeper into the island. Anyway, I did some wonderful hikes through mystic, magic, mytical and mossy forests and desolate beautyful beaches. On Thanksgivning I picked up two hitchhikers, John and Chris and gave them a ride to a camping ground. They invited me to celebrate Thanksgiving together with them at the camp site. They had brought Salmon, Halibut and Antilope meat and I found two kilos of Chanterelles on my hike on the Anvil Trail. We cooked it all and had an improvised Thanksgiving celebration together with a young couple , Ryan and Robin, on their honeymoon trip. Had a terrible headace the day after. Why? I just had a sip (or two) of the whiskey Ryan brought and I didn’t drink much of Chris‘ home made Fireweed and Rubarb wine ( or did I?) And the beer was just to soak my dry throat – a bottle or two.

   Tomorrow Kerstin will come to Copenhagen and we will spend the weekend here together before we take the train home to Stockholm, Sweden. It is nice to travel but even nicer to be back home.

Richard

Good bye Ketchikan! Hello Prince Rupert!

The  Museum of Northern BC is built with enormous logs of red cedar. Simple and rough and beautyful

The Museum of Northern BC is built with enormous logs of red cedar. Simple and rough and beautyful

9th of September 2013 Prince Rupert, BC, Canada.

I am in Prince Rupert now. Yesterday was a troublesome day. After receiving an email from the company I booked my flight ticket through, telling me they had problems with my credit card, I tried to reach them several times via email and phone. Now I searched the booking company’s name on the web and read all these severe disliking on Tripadvisor like eDreams really sucks! or Never use this company! I definitely got worried. Found a travel agency called Qadra Travel and a nice woman named Sandra who helped me book a new ticket. Lets hope eDreams don’t charge me for my, hopefully, canceled booking.

Because of these obstacles I have not been able to explore the city of Prince Rupert. Tomorrow I will take the ferry to Haida Gwaii and spend some days there. On the 15th of october I fly from Sandspit (Haida Gwaii) and, after several stops in Vancouver, Toronto and Warsaw I will land in Copenhagen on the 17th

My last day in Ketchikan was rewarding and I was on a hike in the mountains together with John, the husband of Susan who I met in a shop while seeking shelter for the rain in Ketchikan. We hiked up the Dude Mountain, a quite difficult trail since it is very steep and this day also very wet since it was raining. Before we entered the the cloud covered summit we got some nice views over the landscape. I specially appreciate seeing all those old trees like Western Hemlock, Mountain Hemlock, Sitka Spruce and Red Cedar. The smell of Red Cedar is wonderful. Cedar contains resins that preserves it from rotting so it is used a lot in house construction.

The visitor center and museum in Prince Rupert is constructed with huge logs of Red Cedar and entering the lobby this smell is very obvious. I just popped in there to ask a question yesterday but I think I will try to visit it before I leave PR.

 

Richard

Homer good bye! Hello Ketchikan!

6th of October 2013 Ketchikan, Alaska, USA.

    I don’t want to let the unrest occupy me again. I feel it is intruding, uninvited and demanding my attention. It is that unpleasant sense of restlessness that, like electricity flowing through your body telling you to hurry. It is the fuel urban life thrives on and the very thing keeping the wheels running. As my trip is about to be completed I smell the busyness of the city oozing into my system, the busyness I have been released from for almost four months now. I never got rid of it, that bastard was just biding its time to attack again.
   The whole meaning of traveling is to be present at every moment, to be open and receive new impressions, meeting other people, sharing their stories and ideas. This openness has followed me on my trip and I have indeed met people. I have felt relaxed and curious. But now I sadly state that that ingenuousness is almost gone and I can hardly concentrate on my meetings. I have turned into a indifferent collector of impressions with my camera as a trawl. During the last week I have watched the transition. More than one time I have been in situations where I just want to establish a contact so that I can put one more “interesting” person to the files and steel his face. Beware Richard!
   Today was a lazy day indoors at the hotel doing laundry, writing emails – important and nonsense. I have also booked a flight back home and reading a book I heard the owl call my name. It is about the Haida Indians on Queen Charlotte Islands.
   Yesterday I was a bit confused not knowing what to do – maybe a hike up the mountain or a stroll around the town until I, due to the pouring rain entered a shop where I met Susan Dickinson a former Community Planner who advised me to go to Saxman and look at the Totem Park and see the carvers workshop there. So I walked the road to Saxman, saw the Totem Park which was quite impressive but did not really catch me. But in the beautiful cedar workshop I met Tlingit master carver Nathan Jackson. In the workshop was also Nathans wife Dorica Jackson who was occupied painting a red cedar totem pole which was ordered by a Californian butcher to depict his family. Nathan had been working on the pole on and off for many years and he was anxious to get it finished and delivered. There was a young carver, Kelly working on a panel commissioned by the city. He showed me the bentwood boxes they make and which belong to the Tlingit tribe traditions which Kelly was a descendant from. The workshop had a distinctive scent of cedar coming from the pieces they worked on as well as the building itself which revealed its raw and simple construction of untreated red cedar. The room was good in proportions and mainly a big working space. Windows on the longsides and a workbench on one side with a pantry, tools and grindstones and cupboards for paints. The floor was full of cedar chips. A Husqvarna chain saw was apparently a tool for a totem carver.
   Tomorrow I jump on the ferry again. This time to Prince Rupert from where I take another ferry to Haida Gwaii where I will stay some days to explore the alleged magic of the place. Stay tuned!
Richard

Tlingit woodcarver Nathan P. Jackson and his wife at the workshop in Saxman

Tlingit woodcarver Nathan P. Jackson and his wife at the workshop in Saxman

Bob "Beav" Vollhaber canoed 5000 miles through Alaska

Bob “Beav” Vollhaber canoed 5000 miles through Alaska

On the ferry Taku

On the ferry Taku

Installation on ferry Taku

Installation on ferry Taku

Image

On the ferry Taku travelling through the Inside passage between Juneau and Ketchikan

 

Resonate on the bright side.

Met this sailor in Cambridge Bay and I like his writing. Richard

EMPIRICUS EMBARKS

“Resonate”
-to produce or be filled with a deep, full reverberating sound.

We hear about all the ripple effects, don’t we? We hear the gossip and the drama. We as humans seem to love drama. Drama and blame.

I have a theory about that. The theory goes that we tend to take the wide path and blame is easier than facing reality.

To truly hate is a full time job. With no vacation. No benefits. No pay. No retirement.

But to truly love is all vacation, all pay, all benefits and full retirement.

As I said, we as people tend to remember the ripple effects of the bad. But that’s because we look for them, in the media and on the roadside. But how often do we perpetuate the good? How often do we call a friend and pass on news that gives hope and empowerment?

Less than we should…

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Dutch Harbor – Homer, Alaska

The Homer Theatre

The Homer Theatre

1st of September is a sunny day in Homer. Clear sky, sun is warming my skin. After breakfast at Mauras Cafe I take a bike ride up the hills to get a view. Kammi Matson at Old Town B&B gives me a ride in her Subaru to the ferry terminal at the spit dock and guess what – the ferry Kennicot is delayed due to “rough weather out there”. The information is given to me when I call the number which is posted at the ferry terminal entry. This is often the case with the ferries in these waters and you just have to be patient and adapt to the situation. The same ferry, Kennicot was also delayed about a day from Dutch Harbor.

On the trip from Dutch Harbor to here I met several persons that I got to know a little better.
 John, the fisherman from Kodiak wants to retire from the hard work on deck and start a school for deckhands and hire them to the fishing boats. His fingers are numb due to tying thousands and thousands of over hand knots for crab pots and hauling cod long lines in the cold waters of Bering Sea.
There is Zak a young fisherman from Homer who “just love fishing”. As long as fishing is the subject he is all shining and happy, praising his work but if the discussion shifts to some other issue he gets silent and introvert.
Another totally different character is James Mason, 65 who spent two years in Dutch Harbor as a journalist. After being commissioned by a fishing newspaper they informed him, after two weeks, that the paper was to be shut down. So James started his own internet based magazine The Dutch Harbor Telegraph. Now he is on his way to Anhorage to start a new chapter in his life.  He had been working as a journalist in Jugoslavia during the Balkan War, owned a bike shop in Carlifornia and lived in Kotzebue, Alaska. A gnarly and well informed man. I liked him and we had some interesting discussions.
The young woman Erica have stayedin Dutch Harbor for four months. She is a newly examined massage therapist and also divorced from a marriage that did not make her happy and now she is enjoying her freedom and experiencing new contact with new people which she lacked in her marriage since her husband was not social.
Cindy, in her late sixties grew up in a road house in Alaska where her father was a bush pilot. Now she runs her green house in Fairbanks together with her daughter. The work is quite seasonal so it made it possible to make this trip together with her brother Art  and his wife Patty.

What about Homer? My stay at Old Town B&B has been a pleasant treat. Specially compared to the hotels I experienced in the Arctic which were mostly very expensive and dirty. The establishment is situated in an old merchant house which also holds a gallery at the street level. The atmosphere is romantic, artistic country style which immediately made me feel comfortable. Melissa, an artist who is also staying at the B&B is working on her exhibition consisting of creatures and objects made of coconut hair. She is determined to make one object each day.

The streets are to big for this little place. It is a pity because you get an impression of a suburb in any American big city. Though a small town building, The Homer theatre is just having a documentary film festival. I have seen two films – Cutie and the Boxer, about a Japanese artist couple living in New York. The common problem in artist families, the one where the woman steps back in order to support her husband, was very well told in this film. Muscle Shoals – picture the story of the legendary sound from this particular studio in Alabama. Lots of wonderful music! I couldn’t understand why people in the ticket queue carried big bowls. When I got inside I saw that they filled them with popcorn. Weather it was to save money or impact on the environment I don’t know but it made a charming impression on me.

Another charming place is Observance of Hermits, a second hand book shop owned by the Russian Yan Kandror, living in Homer since 28 years. Lots of nice old books and strange objects, just the magic atmosphere a shop like this should have. Unfortunately I could just buy some postcards. I can’t carry any more in my already to heavy bag.

Enough for now – I am getting out in the sun to enjoy this beautiful day.

Richard

M/V Kennicot in Dutch Harbor, Alaska

M/V Kennicot in Dutch Harbor, Alaska

New friends on Kennicot; Erica and James

New friends on Kennicot; Erica and James

Houses at the Spit Homer, Alaska

Houses at the Spit Homer, Alaska

The beach. Homer, Alaska

The beach. Homer, Alaska

Kelp at the beach in Homer, Alaska

Kelp at the beach in Homer, Alaska

Yan Kandrors Observance of Hermits Bookstore in Homer, Alaska

Yan Kandrors Observance of Hermits Bookstore in Homer, Alaska