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moose

Animal Crossings

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Animal Crossings

There appears to be a lot more four-legged travellers around now that I’ve gotten a little south of the polar circle. The night I arrived on Dønna I saw so many deer and rabbits bouncing about that I lost count of both. The beautiful graceful leaping of deer is much more pleasing to the eye in its elegance than the dumb clumsy lumbering of reindeer.

Deer sign.jpg

And they weren’t just moving at night. The next day in town a deer was casually crossing the road with humans and cars nearby. Then on a narrow ridge made of rock for the road that connected two islands, I saw a guy on a bicycle coming towards me, and a deer running away from him like it owed him money.

I stopped in a futile attempt to seem less frightening to the animal. For a while it ran straight towards me, on the rocks just outside the shoulder of the road. Then the deer spotted me, panicked some more, stumbled a little and smashed - rather ungracefully - into a boulder, but recovered with hardly any loss in speed. Less than 20 meters away it took one huge leap right into the sea to swim to safety.

Poor thing. Hopefully it wasn’t hurt too much by the collision with the rock. At least it was still running fine after reaching the other side, and quickly disappeared from view.

[I hate posting ugly photos where the only purpose is to show you what I saw in classic holiday slideshow fashion, but I'll make an exception here if you want to see a swimming deer.]

Two moose on a field in Norway.

I went to the island partly to shoot the famous Seven Sisters mountain range; a row of seven sharp mountain peaks. The weather did not co-operate, however. Due to the low clouds, none of the sisters were visible:

                           The seven sisters mountain range covered by clouds.

The following evening, while pedalling back on the Fv17 on another island connected by ferries on both ends, I saw a deer to my right. It raised its head from the grass at the sound of my freewheel whirring in the stillness of the night. I’d already seen so many of these animals in the past couple days that this wasn’t notable in itself, but as soon as I’d passed it, I turned my head to the left, and there was a moose standing in the opposite field.

That made me chuckle. When I turned my eyes back on the road, a fox was running away a little ahead of me! They were all within about fifty meters of each other, seemingly getting along just fine. I cycled another couple hundred meters, and three more deer were hopping off to one side and a second fox slipping from the road into the bushes. What kind of party was I interrupting here?

Seeing animals on the road is one thing I’ll miss about the midnight sun and white nights of the north. Within just a few days it’ll be so dark there’s not much choice but to set up camp for the night. The vast majority of animal spottings during this and other trips have been during low traffic at hours that will soon be covered in darkness. I could (and may) still ride with the headlamp, but it’ll be very unlikely to see anything like that, with the exception of an occasional pair of gleaming eyes floating in blackness.

Why did the moose cross the road?

Fast forward another couple of days. I was near Lysfjord, south of the Holm ferry stop, sitting on a rock by the sea. The sun just about to dip below the horizon. My camera was clicking every five seconds, capturing a time-lapse of the scene. The green dome of my tent among the trees behind me marked my campsite. I wasn’t usually already camped by sunset. I’d actually arrived the night before, but a lazy afternoon had just morphed into a full rest day because I hadn’t felt like continuing.

In the water below, I heard a splash and a wet snorting sound. I looked down to see two whales surfacing to breathe before diving again. Not big whales, only harbour porpoises, which are hardly more than dolphins, really. After some seconds they did it again, further away. They were swimming along the shoreline, close to the rocks I was sitting on. Perhaps going to catch some fish, which also often seemed to start moving at sunset. They were visible three times before disappearing from sight.

I didn’t touch the camera. From previous experience last summer, I knew the best I could do with my landscape lens was a dark blob in the water that would look like a rock or a little wave. Not worth interrupting the time-lapse.

Plus, you know. It was just a couple whales, swimming around at sunset, in the Norwegian Sea, on my little bike trip.

Nothing special about that at all.

Sunset at the Norwegian Sea.
Still harbour and mountains reflected off the water.

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It's a Beautiful Day

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It's a Beautiful Day

Somewhere south of Bodø in Middle-Norway, I was gradually woken from a dream because my tent was getting hot. This was an entirely new sensation on my trip so far, and I couldn’t quite figure out the cause. Perhaps I was on fire, I pondered, still half asleep. After a couple minutes an alternative theory arose. Could it be? I peeked from under my sleeping mask. Yes!

Summer had arrived!

Boats on a blue harbour on a sunny day.

The sky was blue and the sun was shining. After six weeks of cold weather, this was amazing. Instead of needing to wear a jacket and gloves immediately upon departure from my sleeping bag, I went about my morning activities comfortably shirtless. My laundry from the previous night had already dried in record time. Breakfast seemed to taste better. Birds sang more cheerful tunes.

As a principle, I believe it’s not ideal to allow external things like weather affect your mood. Finding deep contentment from within, regardless of conditions, seems greatly preferable. However, I am clearly not in such an advanced state of mind - a beautiful warm day felt fantastic. I put on some sun lotion and moved even lazier than usual, to avoid sweating.

I was heading south along the somewhat quiet coastal route between Bodø and Trondheim. The road circled long fjords with turquoise water, sometimes crossing the sea via a series of bridges and ferries. Several people had recommended this road to me, so I skipped my earlier plan of riding through the Saltfjellet National Park on the inland highway. 

Sky reflecting off water with a silhouette landscape after sunset.

By the evening the long shadows of the mountains were draped over the villages. I was calmly descending along a curving road without having to pedal for minutes. The still warm air was gently hitting my face. In a forest clearing a large moose raised his head, gauging if I would pose any danger.

In addition to finding summer, I had reached the land of sunsets. It was still bright enough to cycle throughout the night, but for a few hours the sun dipped below the horizon. What a welcome sight. The last time I’d seen a sunset was in May back in Finland. I stopped to admire the changing palette in the sky, from yellow to orange to red and purple.

I was once again struck full force by the freedom given to me. A profound sense of joy and belonging returned. After many years of simply drifting through life with no purpose, I feel fortunate to have such a clear direction. And even better, the chance to make it happen. I don't know how many people can say the same. Now it’s just up to me to make the best of this opportunity.

Misty view of distant mountain at sunset.
Bicycle tourer at sunset.

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Baby Moose Rescue Operation

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Baby Moose Rescue Operation

Day 2 started with a surprise. (Oh and yes, it’s my fourth update from the road and I’m still on the second day. I assure you this won’t be my regular pace - there are just more topics to talk about in the beginning.)

Right. So day 2 started with a surprise:

Kinda looks like a deer from this angle, but it's a moose. Trust me.

A baby moose appeared on the road. I stopped and it didn’t seem scared, so I reached for my camera. Then I realized the inherent risk in the situation and did a panicked look around for the mother, which might trample me to death for getting too close to the calf. Eventually I spotted the mother behind it in the forest and understood what was happening.

You see, the whole road was lined by a fence. In South Finland the purpose of it would’ve been keeping moose off the road to avoid accidents. But in the north it’s almost always a reindeer fence, designed to keep reindeer on their owner’s land. Somehow the baby moose had been separated from its mother by the fence. And now here it was in front of me mewling sadly - probably trying to explain the situation. So what to do?

After I wisely gave up on the idea of simply picking it up and throwing it over the fence, I was stumped. Eventually I decided to just keep going and let nature take its course. However, less than 100 meters away I saw what looked like a very conveniently calf-sized gap in the fence. The youngling was heading in the wrong direction, with the kind of shaky walk that suggested it hadn’t yet read the user manual on hooves. The concerned parent kept an eye on both of us from a distance.

So I turned back, cycled past the calf, stopped again and shoo’d it (in what I was hoping was a gentle and reassuring way) along the fence towards the gap. The mother ran ahead to greet it. While I parked the bike to pick up my camera again, both disappeared from sight. I can only assume this meant the operation was a success.

May they both live long fulfilling lives of leaving droppings around my campsites.

These things are everywhere and I like photographing them, but could someone please tell me what they're called?

After typing all of this from my campsite (which you can see in the banner image if you click the title of the post) many hours later, I went for an evening walk with the camera. And what do I find? Another baby moose! I doubt it was the same one, on account of the distance, and the complete lack of non-stop forlorn bleating. This one also seemed to be completely unaccompanied, with no sign of responsible adults anywhere. After I wisely gave up on the idea of bringing it to my tent, I had to leave that one to fend for itself.

I had no idea moose can be such neglectful parents.

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