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Paradise Lofoten

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Many thanks to Victorinox, Patagonia, Hanne Lykkja from Eggum, Torgunn & Yngvar @kremmervika, Morten and Roman from Polar Kajakk, Carlos & Kryztina from Northern Explorer Lofoten.

For people, they like to watch the film in higher resolution on Vimeo, click here.

Currently, we are in the Lyngen Alps still skiing.

Tomorrow we sail, cycle, and ski towards the TOP of Finnland; visiting schools, cleaning up and taking samples…

 

 

Lofoten to 70 degrees N

My name is Roman from Spain and living in Norway. I joined TOPtoTOP Expedition at the last minute. I had all my things already packed 4 days before, just in case, so that I did not want to miss this opportunity!

I meet the family and Simon on the Norwegian national day, the 17th of May, at the boat parade in Ballstad thanks to a common friend, Hanne.

I got good vibes and felt identified with them since the beginning. I knew I was with the right people since Dario during the first dinner in Ballstad said: “It’s been already 2 weeks I do not ski and I am getting nervous…”. But not only the right people, but also at the right time. I was without work because of corona and my only daily task on my day to day life was to decide either I should paddle, surf, or ski. Therefore we were a good match!

After skiing together 4 different pics in Lofoten, surfed during two beautiful sunny days, and had a 16 hours kayak course together, the family offered me to join sailing with them from Løfoten to Lyngen and do some ski touring in the epic Lyngen Alps. I could not say no!

Been sailing along all the Norwegian coastline in different stages with Hurtigruten ships (cargo/cruise vessel) before, I know that one of the most beautiful sceneries is between Løfoten and Tromsø area.

Living in a boat is something I want to do in the future, so this was a good opportunity to see, learn, and experience what it looks like and what it needs to make it possible.

The plan was to sail to Lyngen but stoping in Vesterålen to meet some friends, who were able to organize a school presentation and clean-up and then go to Tromsø or Lyngen.

Andri was my personal host onboard on the first day and he took his good patience to explain to me pretty well all I needed to know to feel at home and to feel as a crew on board.

Without almost not noticing and while I was fixing the surfboards on the deck of the boat we departed…

I felt that it was the kind of bye-bye I like: With normality, thankfully and looking forward without forgetting the friendships, help and good memories you are leaving behind but never forgetting. “You need a big heart to stand so many bye-byes”!

We were sailing non stop doing watches in teams of two, normally one adult and one kid. I was doing watches with Andri from 20h to 22h and 02h to 04h.

I sailed before with small sailing boats without computers, GPS, radar… Pachamama has many devices to check the depth, aim, direction, and strength of the wind, radio, GPS… We had to check the depth, other boats on the radar, and on real sight, adjust the aim, check the wind direction and speed… For major adjustments on the aim, we had to wake up the captain knocking 3 times if it is not an emergency and 6 times if it is an emergency. Luckily we never had to knock 6 times.

Pachamama is such a big boat that needs many people in order to change sails, so from time to time we all had to wake up and help even though it was not your watch.

This part of the sailing, in which you have to wake up and be ready for anything that might happen brought me memories from when I was in ski expeditions in Svalbard, where we also had watches, polar bear watches. During polar bear watches you are with flair gun and rifle in hand, also with an accurate system and plan in case of emergency.

I was quite impressed by how all the members are constantly and naturally doing risk assessments in any “normal day to day situation”. I could see that everyone knew the risks and the consequences of any action and what to do to minimize them. “We are living in a floating house exposed to wild and raw nature”.

After 65 nm we arrived at Alsvåg (Vesterålen), we dogged and we had a nice hike to the most obvious mountain. We could see from the village, Nonskollen 611 m asl.. On the way to the top, our local friend Ricard joined us. He was a friend of a family’s friend. On the way to the top, we could see many ptarmigans, at that time of the season they are nesting and are half white and half brown. On the top, we started the clean-up and Ricard showed us the area, his favorite mountain top, and invited us to do a midnight sun hike with him and his wife Inge-Elise and a pizza evening the day after.

The next day we were busy in the local school to do a presentation for the local students. In the same building was the company CERPUS. After the students were busy doing a clean-up, we had a meeting with CERPUS CEO Thommy and some staff. They are best in educational games and we agreed that a partnership between a “real expedition” and their “educational tool” would be a great thing to do. So we started a draft you find here and where you are free to add questions and answers.

To do the hike in the evening, we sailed from Alsvåg to Stø with Inge Elise and Ricard on board. Once we dogged in Stø harbor we started the famous “queen’s hike, Dronningsruta”. A 15 km circular hike, starting following the beautiful coastline and coming back by ridging 6 mountains of around 450 m asl. It is an excellent hike that has a bit of everything of what Vesteralen has to offer. I understood why it is one of the queens Sonja’s favorite hike.

I liked the feeling of sailing, dogging, hike, and back to the boat to sleep. It was a “strange” good feeling where everything makes sense; sailing with the wind, hiking with your own energy under the midnight sun, and be able to sleep on the bottom of the same mountain you summited, over the sea, in an energetically self-sufficient boat.

It was a long day, but with daylight all day long you get a lot more energy. I and Simon arrived at the last ones, at 1 o’clock in the morning.

The day after we went to Ricard’s and Inge Elise’s beautiful house where we got a nice hot shower and an excellent homemade pizza under the sun on the terrace with mountain and sea views.

This time our heart got bigger once more, as we had to say bye-bye again.

Simon decided to take holidays and left us for two weeks and took a bus back to Lofoten for some hiking and surfing. Since Simon left I took his cabin, shared with Andri. I had been sleeping on the bed in the saloon until then.

We set sails to my last stretch sailing. From Vesterålen to Lyngeseidet 180 nm.

This time we sailed exposed to the open ocean, therefore we had more swell, which means more movement onboard. We had a bit more action during our watches.

Luckily while my study year in Svalbard I learned and I am used to sleeping with everything ready just in case. So I was able to help in some moments when man force was needed to change sails.

A bit more than one-day sailing and just some hours before arriving we where immerse in a different landscape type. Big wide and steep fjords, small glaciers, waterfalls, steep mountain walls, and forest!

When we arrived already some locals were welcoming us. It is so nice to arrive and have locals giving you a warm welcome. There was Stein the owner of the small marina “Sørheim Brygge“, Henrike and Patrik owners of the “Magic Mountain Lodge“, and Ingun and Mathieu from “Solhov Castle“.

Ingunn and Mathieu cooked for us a delicious dinner in …. Such an excellent welcome!

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In Lyngen, Dario has been giving conferences in the local school and having the students on board for a visit. But we also had time for a bike ride, hike, and a magnific ski tour altogether. Magic mountain lodge lent us their bikes and took us to one of their favorite summits, Fastdalstinden 1275m. With a snow precipitation record in 20 years, there was a lot of snow above 300 m asl.

I was impressed with the Lyngen mountains, I am looking forward to coming back here in winter. It is a stunning place for outdoors, especially for touring ski with a wide variety of skiing terrain and even glaciers and really alpine mountains with fjord views.

I also had time for a midnight sun ski touring tour alone to the closest mountain from the village Kavringtinden 1289 m asl. After a power nap on the boat at around 19h, I took my skis and bicycle and headed to the mountain. It was what I call a “Lyngen summer triathlon” bike, walk and ski through pine and birch forest and a nice ridge to the summit under the amazing midnight sunlight.

I arrived back to the boat at 2 am with this same “strange”, good feeling I had in Stø . With this good feeling, I went to bed.

Now I am writing from Pachamama, listening to Eros Ramazzotti and with a “strange feeling” hangover after the last night’s “private personal celebration” with Lyngen nature. Tomorrow my heart will be bigger again as I will take the bus back to Løfoten islands making two stops to visit people that also made my heart bigger in the past.

With this ROMAN-tic words, I do not say bye-bye but thanks for the inspiration and see you soon Schwoerer family!

 

 

Finding Neverland

Upon our return from Flåm,  it took us roughly one week to clear our temporary home at the end of the Sognefjord. Even after 20 years of moving around, it is not easy for us to leave a place like Kaupanger, where we have felt so comfortable for the last seven months. The most difficult part was to say goodbye to all the kind, generous and warm-hearted people who have become an indispensable part of our global family. On Mother’s Day, we slowly moved out of the 205 km long fjord towards the open sea. As the wind in the sheltered inlet is relatively weak, we were able to take our time to break away from our familiar surroundings. Filmmaker Jørn and Climate Change student Simon accompanied us on the first leg of our journey, as did our dear friend Odd Tufte and his family.

We then made the first stop on the island Losna, where our friends Einar and Kjellfrid gave us a warm welcome. When we sailed to Norway in October 2019, they were two of our first acquaintances in this country. The weather changed to winter at short notice and it was once more amazing to find ourselves in this small patch of land dominated by rugged coasts and spherical meadows!

An at least as spectacular landscape was revealed to us on our next stop on Vaerlandet. The humid wind from the Atlantic together with the warm Gulf Stream and the close distance to the steep coasts of the mainland give the island a “warm”-humid climate that rarely leads to precipitation. So it was all the more astonishing that the very first snow of the winter fell right at the time of our arrival in mid-May! When the weather conditions changed to springlike in the afternoon, the gravel paths through the picturesque volcanic island invited us for a vivid discovery walk. Spontaneously, we cleaned up a contemplative beach, which was covered with plastic by the strong current from the south. The organic farmer Hilde Buer and her husband Anders Braanaas, who keep around 550 sheep, helped us with this action and invited us to their beautiful home for dinner. As their house is built to 100% from materials from the surroundings, it is hardly recognizable in the landscape from far. The dining table and the floor are made of lava stone from the primaeval continent of Pangaea, which has resurfaced in Vaerlandet after 150 Million years. Since the house is off the grid, the couple obtains its electricity from solar panels in summer and from wind generators in winter. Though the location is exposed to strong winds so that every propeller has been burst in the past years. And so we happily recommended them our own wind turbines from Superwind. Klaus Krüger provided us with the sophisticated regulatory system 16 years ago in order to test it under the most extreme conditions. Since then, it has withstood every storm and delivers electricity in a continuous and reliable manner.

The next morning we set off to meet with representatives of the ‘Red Cross Nordic United World College’ in Flekke where we were supposed to give a presentation two months ago. As one of currently 17 United World Colleges, the school focuses on a nordic, environmental and humanitarian education. The sustainable and future-oriented guidance made a congenial impression on us and we could well imagine sending our own children to one of these Colleagues! One last stop on our way north, we made in the harbour town Ålesund, where we stock up on necessities for the crossing. After that, we meandered through various islands and drifted out into the open sea for two days. Again, we were impressed by the beauty of the glacial mountains along the coast, whose steep cliffs rise out of the sea like mighty bulwarks. On the 16th of May, we crossed the Arctic Circle and sailed towards a permanently bright horizon.


Soon, we recognized the farthest foothills of the Lofoten archipelago that is almost as old as the earth itself. As the liquid ball of embers cooled 3.5 billion years ago, a crust formed over the still glowing hot mantle and the first mountains rose. Over the next 3 billion years, the islands sank several times into the earth’s interior, deformed and rose back to the surface. 500 million years ago, the Caledonian mountains formed the “motherland” Norway and gave the Islands largely their present topography. Every mountain, it would seem, is a metaphor for a legend.  Traces of human existence go back to the older stone age 7000 years ago. From the 3rd millennium BC through the Iron Age, agriculture was pursued and the first chieftain’s seats were set up. In the 9th century, the Vikings founded Vágan as probably the first town north of the polar circle.

On Sunday, the 17th of May 2020, we arrived in the village of Ballstad just in time for the celebration of the Norwegian National Day. As soon as we docked, we were inaugurated in a festive parade with one hundred other ships. Thus, we raised the Norwegian flags and welcomed a bunch of locals on our ship for the spectacle. Such contrasts are not uncommon on our Pachamama; You don’t meet a single soul for days and weeks and instead of a slow arrival you abruptly find yourself in a roaring circus of sounds and crowds (of course with the necessary distance ;)). As soon as we returned to the dock, we were invited by our new friends to a sumptuous feast. “As much ice cream as you can eat” – is the credo for every child in Norway. Apart from that, we were spoiled with a wide range of local specialities. Among these, the so-called stockfish is particularly well known. It is mainly cod, which is preserved by air-drying and optional salting. The fish are tied together by the tails and hung on wooden racks. These “stokks” have shaped the landscape in Lofoten from the 8th century onwards. From the 12th century, Stockfisch served as a barterable commodity for large ship convoys from Nordland down to Bergen. Later, the conservation method was used to feed armies and ship crews. As is well known, the Vikings discovered America three centuries before Christoph Kolumbus and his companions. The Norse(wo)men owed their advantage over other Europeans not only to the advanced technology in shipbuilding but also to their knowledge on the preservation of non-perishable food. Until well into the late 20th century, stockfish was regarded as “poor people’s food” due to the great occurrences. Since 1978, however, fishing has steadily declined and the classic stockfish has become relatively expensive. But even if the Vestfjord today only yields fractions of the quantities caught in the past – Lofoten has remained the “archipelago of cod” and keeps attracting a large number of fishing boats and winter tourists. The quiet spring in Ballstad is, apparently, more likely to be due to the spreading pandemic than to declining fish stocks. One way or another, Ingvar and his wive Torgun kindly invited to use the facilities of the Kræmmervika Fishermen Hotel during our stay here. And so, we were (once again) able to celebrate Alegra’s birthday in the rooms of a spacious guest house. Our good friend Hanne, who has lived in Lofoten for 15 years, spoiled us with her friends to the letter. It was not the first and not the last time that the sun and good company kept us awake until late in the evening.

As the exceptional winter is expected to last till the end of August, we are happy that we dragged our skis up north. Out friend – and excellent kayak guide – Román Aguaviva took us to some breathtaking viewpoints in the region. Since pictures are known to say more than a thousand words, I will refrain from describing the view in detail. While the wind was still a little calm for surfing, we took advantage of the conditions by a two-days kayak course! 

In order to make the most out of our outdoor activities, we have also carried out two more beach clean-ups last weekend (Simon, 25.5.2020)!

Here you find Salinas Report about her first time sailing in seven months and Noé’s Report about a day on the island Vaerlandet:

Salina – Segeln nach 7 Monaten (For english use deepl)

Wir liefen gerade in Flam aus. Das Wasser war ruhig und man spürte keinen Wind auf der Haut. Man fühlte, wie das Schiff vor sich hin tuckerte. Ich spürte eine riesige Freude und mein Bauch war voller Schmetterlinge. Ich habe das so fest vermisst; einfach diese Freiheit und die Ruhe weit weg von der nächsten Stadt. Ich beruhigte mich und ging unter Deck. Da sank meine Freude wieder den wir hatten eine riesige Unordnung. Nachdem das wir in Flam ausgelaufen sind, sind wir tagsüber gesegelt und haben haben nachts Rast gemacht. Wir wurden viel eingeladen. In meiner Kindheit war es auch so, dass uns die Leute überall wo wir hingingen zu sich nach Hause einluden, ihre Duschen zur Verfügung und manchmal sogar ihr eigenes Bett. Es passierte genau das Gleiche, als wir den zweitlängsten Fjord der Welt hoch segelten. Ich liebe es, immer wieder neue Gesichter zu sehen, neue Menschen kennenzulernen, ihre Betrachtungsweise kennenzulernen, ihre Geschichten zu hören und mit ihnen Ideen zu teilen. Den neuen Rhythmus muss man sich allerdings erst auch wieder angewöhnen. Bei der Überfahrt in die Lofoten hatten wir alle vier Stunden Nachtwache und kamen deshalb nicht so richtig zum Schlafen. Einige Passagen waren schwierig und die Temperaturen sanken oft unter 0 Grad. Man musste aufmerksam und gut angezogen sein! Bald sahen wir die ersten Inseln von den  Lofoten und wir kamen immer näher. Ab unserer Ankunft hatten wir, nebst Online Schule, immer volles Programm!

 

Noé – One day on Vaerlandet (For english use deepl)

Noe, 15. Mai 2020: Als wir in den schmalen Fjord reinfuhren, sahen wir einen weissen Hund und einen rot angezogenen Mann. Das musste Anders sein! Nachdem wir andockten, gingen wir an Land und unterhielten uns mit ihm. Er sagte uns alles, was wir auf der Insel tun konnten; Holz in Säcke vertrauen, einen Berg besteigen oder einen Strand voll Plastik zu räumen. Dann sagte Simon: „Aber zuerst machen wir noch eine Stunde Schule!“, was. mir nicht so gefiel… Denn ich wollte lieber auf den Berg gehen! Als ich und Alegra fertig mit der Schule waren, zogen wir uns sofort an und liefen zum Berg. Alegra und ich wunderten uns, warum es keinen wirklichen Weg gab. Nachher, als wir zurück auf dem Schiff waren, war niemand mehr da. Plötzlich lief die Frau von Andre durch und wir folgten ihr. Wir liefen mit ihr übers Land und sie zeigte und all die kleinen Lämmer, die sie haben. Wir durften sogar einem einen Namen geben. Dann gingen wir Richtung Strand und trafen die andern. Sie waren schon am aufräumen. Es hatte extrem viel Plastik! Nachher mussten wir den Dreck mit einem Tau hochziehen und mit einem Traktor zum Abfalleimer bringen. Nachher assen wir und gingen schlafen. Gefallen hat es mir sehr auf der Insel. Ausser die Schule, die hätte nicht sein müssen!

Surf 2 Clean The Arctic

Track our Route towards the North Pole!

The day has come; After two months of quarantine, we were finally able to set foot on our beloved Pachamama again! It felt a bit like coming home from a long holiday and being ready to revert to everyday life. Just that home means being on the move and everyday life means having more variety in the schedule. Well, we certainly did not get bored during the time we spent in ice-olation. The circumstances may have erased our agenda and blown previous plans into the wind. At the same time, though, the situation gave us an unexpected opportunity to hatch new projects and revive old ones! Time, interference and good company are known to be the optimal conditions for thriving! And exactly these synergies we could use to work with double productivity! We already mentioned our exploration-based learning tool ‘Adventure School‘ in the last blog. With some first webinars, a toolbox and an online classroom, we are now ready to take students from all over the world virtually on the next stages of the expedition.

Furthermore, the idea of a new book has been floating in the air for quite some time now. The first nine years of the expedition were captured at length by Marc Zollinger in “The Schwoerer Family – When the Earth Turned into a Nursery” (click for download). The assiduous editor took our perspectives with great commitment and wove them into a multifaceted narrative. Yet, the publication dates back a whole ten years. A decade, in which a lot has happened! First, some important milestones were reached on the expedition route itself. After Mont Blanc (Europe), Aconcagua (South America) and Kosciuszko (Australia), we have climbed Mount Everest (Asia) in May 2010, Kilimanjaro (Africa) in July 2011 and Denali (North America) in May 2014.  Hence, six of the seven highest summits on each continent were reached with nothing but wind and muscle strength. For this purpose, we sailed through the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea – crossed the South Atlantic and sailed up the Gulf of Mexico – down to the Caribbean Sea and through the Panama Canal – from the Pacific Ocean to the Bering Sea and via the Labradors to the Greenland Sea. In the Northwest Passage, our Pachamama was even honoured to pass one strait as the first registered boat in history. By 2020, we count 111,000 nautical miles sailing, 24,000 kilometres biking and 500,000 meters of altitude walking and climbing. Along the way, we were enriched with numerous encounters that have shaped and guided the venture to what it has become; A Global Family! 140’000 students participated in our presentations and workshops in more than 100 countries. Clean Ups enabled us to collect around 60 tons of waste and a great number of projects linked us to research institutions, schools and local communities around the world. In addition, we have been incredibly bestowed as a Global Family in the truest sense of the word. Alegra (Singapore, 2011), Mia (Switzerland, 2015) and Vital (Iceland, 2017) joined the Board Crew along the way with their bright charisma and made the deck their floating nusery. Apart from joy and enthusiasm, there were certainly also difficult times. The shipwreck in Iceland drove the expedition to the edge of its existence. At this point, it demanded us a lot to hold against the odds and start all over again. After all, one thing being for certain; ToptoTop from its early stages gives more than enough material to fill a family album for its 20th birthday! And so we met every morning at 6.45 a.m. sharp to plough through stories of old days. Photos were sorted, articles combed through and diary entries brought back memories that seemed forgotten a long time ago. For breakfast, we enjoyed homemade bread – and if spreads were running low, the kids tested themselves making Nutella and butter.

The program then depended on the weather. If it was cloudy and hazy, we dedicated ourselves to daily duties such as homeschooling, route planning, or designing the Adventure School platform. At times, Dario even devoted himself to school duties, which stayed away for the last 30 years. He successfully absolved an exam on GeoHazards; a lecture he attended at the Sogndal University in the past semester. Arguably a striking proof that one is never too old to learn more! Maybe just not every semester.. 😉  If the weather was good, however, the beautiful surroundings of Vatnahalsen offered us plenty of opportunities to enjoy the spring snow on our touring skis. Since public events are not very reasonable and mountain huts are closed, we had to postpone the fjord2TOP Expedition” for the time being.  There was still the possibility of packing tents and start without the little ones. Though, this would have missed the core idea of a joint event so that we decided to wait for our return in summer. After all, mountains rarely run away… And for now, we focused on the highest peaks in the Flåm region that are no less of fantastic beauty!

Every day was rounded off by Salinas virtual community workout on Zoom. After some technical challenges, we were happy to welcome some family and friends from all over the world in our living room.

Between this routine of daily life, there were also some very exceptional events on the agenda. Despite all regulations on distancing and commuting, the Easter Bunny made it up to Vatnahalsen just on time! While some of us sniffed their nests as fast as lightning, others had to earn their sweets by hard detective work along the endless corridors. Last but not least there was Salina’s birthday, which should have been celebrated extensively in spite and because of the situation being. Since buying was not an option anymore, we gave our best to bake, tinker and ponder games instead! Moving, creating, learning and applying  – these processes shaped our quarantine in the mountains essentially.

Especially for Salina, it was then a special feeling to get back on the boat last Saturday – considering she has not seen her living room for a full seven months! Of course, we first had to get used to a “little less space” again. In the kitchen, we will probably shed a little tear every now and then thinking back on the time in the spacious hotel. Nonetheless, coming home and setting off was an indisputable elation for all of us! This was not least thanks to our partner Munters, who made our winter in the Arctic much more pleasant than it was the case in recent years. The activity of ten people often produced tropical humidity in the ship, which condensed to rain as soon as the aluminium hull was heated above ten degrees. Thanks to the high performance of the MG90 we can now enjoy a pleasant dry-warm climate even if we cross the polar circle to the North. This is estimated to be the case in two weeks when we reach the Lofoten Islands. The actual reason for our take-off is a research assignment from the Sogndal University and the Marine Research Laboratory in Stavanger. We agreed to take samples of fish, sediment and water in the Greenland Sea to examine them for microplastic particles. This endeavour takes us from Kaupanger towards Lofoten, Tromsø, Bear Island, Svalbard, Jan Mayen, Iceland, Greenland, Faroe Islands, Shetland Islands and back to the Sognefjord. Since the focus of our activities is now on the sea, we follow this example with our sports and environmental campaigns. Supported by our partner Patagonia we start the project ‘Surf 2 Clean the Arctic’. The idea is to get people to surf and – through a closer connection with the ocean – stand up for clean water! Our aim is, inter alia, to enthuse other families with children and to connect local surf communities to a powerful collaboration for the environment! The inspiration for this idea came through an acquaintance who shot the fabulous movie “North of the Sun” (Link for Streaming). Together with his friend, he cleaned up a remote beach in the Lofoten islands and built a winter cottage from the rubbish they found. Every day they littered the shore, surfed the magnificent waves and fed on what the ocean offered. Beautiful landscapes underline a fabulous story on how little material is needed to be happy in the right place. A must-see for every outdoor and movie enthusiast! The talented young filmmaker Jørn Nyseth Ranum will accompany us with the camera in the coming weeks. More about ‘Surf 2 Clean the Arctic’ you will find soon on our blog. Keep posted! (Simon, 6.5.2020)