Today we bade a fond farewell to Oliver. I must admit to being a bit choked up as he left – he had been good company, and we had enjoyed an amazing road trip together. Howard had clearly enjoyed having some other male company, even if, at times, they were rather silly together. They came back smiling from their Friday evening beer together, if a little sheepish!
After we had deposited Oliver at Tromso Airport, we started our long journey back down through Scandinavia. As we left Tromso, it had been misty and dank, but within half an hour outside the city, we realised why – as we looked back, there was a huge inversion sitting over the city. Outside of the low cloud base, the sun was blaring, and not for the first time in Arctic Norway, we had to put the air-conditioning on.
For a while, we re-traced our steps back to Nordkjosbotn, where we had turned up for our drive to Nordkapp. We then headed south towards Narvik, famous for the iron ore railway that runs between it and Kiruna in Sweden. It still carries freight, but has also become a popular tourist railway journey, through some of the most spectacular parts of Swedish Lapland.
After Narvik, we headed eastwards, crossing the border into Sweden without so much as a blink. We headed for the beautiful Abisko National Park in Swedish Lapland. We had visited here at New Year in 2015, when it was a winter wonderland, covered in snow and ice. Today, it was hardly recognisable as the same place – still beautiful, but not in quite the same magical way as in the snow. We managed a walk down to the gorge, looking out over the wide river, the last time we saw it, it had been frozen solid. We had booked into a lodge for the night, there being a dearth of campsites in the vicinity. It turned out to be a gem of a place. On first glance, it looked dismal. However, once inside, it had real character, and turned out to have an amazing restaurant. So tonight, Howard has dined on reindeer, no longer under the vegetarian eyes of Oliver, who would have wholly disapproved!
We are now trying to plan the next part of our trip. It seems driving down through Finland may involve 800 kilometres of forest and flies, so we may travel down through coastal Sweden for a bit, before hopping over to Finland. There are certainly plenty of flies here already, and as the temperatures rise further south, it will only get worse. This is probably the worst part of camping in the summer. We have already exhausted four bottles of insect repellent, and our zappy bats have proved indispensable. Oliver wasn’t entirely in favour of them – he felt it was an unnecessary carnage. I suspect he is more sympathetic now though, returning home covered in insect bites! I suspect we will look back on this trip, and think at times, it was utter madness. For now, though, we plod on. There is plenty more of Europe to explore!