Brian Cheung
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Northbound

Thoughts, photos and anecdotes from my travels through Norway, Scotland and Finland.

God Tur!

Sweet baby Jesus has this day been rough. It's still not quite over but I have some time to kill now so I'll begin the retelling while the memories are still hot and fresh. 

It was an early start. My alarm was set to 4am so I could catch the first airport shuttle at 4.45 in time for a 6am flight up to Hammerfest - the penultimate stop before La Wayaka. The boarding call never came, as Hammerfest was supposedly blanketed by a thick impenetrable sea fog which meant it would be impossible to land. 

So 6am was cancelled, and we were lumped in with the later 7.45am service. That was also cancelled and eventually we all got pushed into a fresh attempt at 9am. That plane did manage to get airborne, and we landed at Hasvik about 30 minutes later to pick up a few more passengers. From Hasvik to Hammerfest it should've been a blink-and-you'll-miss-it 10 minute flight, but our pilot wasn't optimistic. He attempted two descents down onto the tarmac from different directions, and after the third attempt decided that it was too dangerous to attempt the landing. So, we turned around and flew all the way back to Tromsø once again. 

Being the only foreigner in a crowd of Norwegians, I had to remind staff to translate everything in case I missed a new gate number or departure time. It felt so wildly ludicrous to hear the flight attendant's weak attempt at a 'welcome to Tromsø, have a pleasant day' when we touched down back at square one five hours after the first botched attempt.

I was given my first apology voucher (150NOK/24AUD) in the morning. The next one was a bit more - 250NOK (~40AUD) to play with while I waited another three hours for the next flight at 2pm. In Norway 250NOK will buy you a limp cheeseburger, fries and a soft drink.

2pm came and went and to no one's surprise that flight was also cancelled. Finally giving up on ever reaching Hammerfest by plane, the airport staff redirected us to another flight bound for nearby Alta. I'm writing this now from the airport terminal, where they've stuffed me with a third voucher also worth 250NOK. There's only so much food one can eat out of sheer boredom, and it felt so dumb and trivial to scour the kiosk trying to lump together enough lip balms and bags of nuts to somehow get my money's worth. A shuttle bus should be arriving soon to pick us up, but Google Maps tells me that a drive from Alta to Hammerfest will take at least 2 hours. It's now 6pm and I've been in transit for 14 hours. Would have been quicker if I hitched (or walked, or swum).


So against all odds, I'm finally in Hammerfest! All in all the commute took 16.5 hours when at last I stepped foot inside my Airbnb. The bus did in fact take just over two hours, and after getting unceremoniously dumped at the Hammerfest airport I spent another 20 minutes walking to the Airbnb (thanks to some dodgy directions I also managed to get a bit lost along the way). 

The fog was gone by the time I arrived, and my host was a bit confused when he told me he didn't think the fog was all that bad. I guess air traffic made the safer call not to land, but the whole day was just such a painful drawn out slog. Obviously there've been flight screw-ups that drag on longer than 16 hours, but it just made my blood boil knowing that if everything had gone to plan the commute would have just taken 1 hour at best. I paid about 90AUD for this leg, but with all the vouchers being thrown at me throughout the day, I really ended up getting paid by the airline to fly. Just wish those vouchers could be exchanged for cash instead of stale coffee and limp cheeseburgers.

God Tur [Norwegian] - Have a good trip!

norwayBrian Cheung