"" Writer's Wanderings: Norway--Honningsvag, North Cape

Monday, July 20, 2009

Norway--Honningsvag, North Cape

Everyone wants to be on top of the world and on our stop in Honningsvag, we were just that. This little town in Norway is the world’s northernmost village and the gateway to the North Cape, the northernmost part of Europe.

There were many choices of things to do with our time in this Land of the Midnight Sun but we chose to get away from the crowds and go on a Crab Safari. Our excursion was booked through the ship but with the group called Destinasion 71° Nord. The tour leaders met us at the pier and led us around the corner to their storefront where we donned bright orange jumpsuits that were supposed to keep us warm and act as flotation devices should we fall in the water.

When we saw our transportation, we realized why the flotation devices might be appropriate. They were zodiacs—inflatable boats whose sides are made of tubing filled with air. They are sturdier than they appear and our 15 year old young man who one day wants to be a boat captain and was assigned to help us on board, deftly directed us to our positions without upsetting the balance of the boat.

Once aboard, we headed out of the harbor and around a piece of land jutting out at the entrance. About 15 minutes later, we slowed and our guide grabbed an orange marker that designated one of the crab traps. He and the boat’s driver pulled in the trap that was about 4 feet square. It collapses as they bring it up so it is easier to handle as it reaches the surface.

From the 50 or so reddish colored crabs that were in the trap, they pulled out about half a dozen and lowered the trap again for the next group that would be coming. They tossed the crabs into the bottom of the zodiac. I watched as one of the large King Crabs cozied up to my foot like a puppy dog with claws. I was thankful I had on my sneakers and the thick jumpsuit.

From the crab traps, it was a short ride to a tiny little group of buildings that looked like a small fishing/farming village. On the deck of a large red wooden building we paused to pose for the tourist pictures with our “catch.” Then one of our hosts began preparing the crabs by euthanizing each one and then cutting off the legs for cooking. Inside several females were eggs—roe or crab caviar as it was called. The females produce around 100,000 eggs each. Bob tasted it and said it was a bit like crunchy caviar. Hmmm.

Behind the bright red buildings that housed the 71° Nord facility were two tepee-like structures that the Laps traditionally used. Inside the largest one was a double circle of benches covered in reindeer hides. In the center a stone pit blazed under a black iron kettle filled with water about to boil. As we took our seats, our hostess began slipping the crab legs into the hot water. Once the water boiled again, the pot was removed and the crab legs were cooled in sea water.

After a little history of crab fishing in the area (the Russians actually introduced crabs in the northern area and they proliferated and moved west toward Norway), we settled down with lap trays cut from logs and were served the crab legs on a plate with slices of bread a dab of mayonnaise and a wedge of lemon. The crab legs were delicious and we ate our fill from the generous offerings of our host and hostess.

Bundled back into our jumpsuits and while we awaited our zodiac transportation we were entertained by watching a herd of reindeer across the bay from us as they wandered down to the shore line to lie in the cool seaweed on what to them was a warm day. When the zodiacs arrived, we boarded and began the trip back to the Honningsvag pier. Along the way we slowed as we passed an island that was a seagull rookery and caught sight of several gray fluffy babies not yet ready to soar gracefully above the ocean.

That evening as we sat at our dinner table and swapped tales of our adventures of the day, our waiter brought to our attention that we were passing the North Cape. Since we had not taken the tour there, we hustled out on the promenade deck to have a look at the “top of the world.” It looked much like the gray cliff that is at the southern tip of South America, Cape Horn. Only this gray cliff pointed north.

Later, we observed the “midnight sun.” It never touched the horizon but dipped low in the sky only to begin its trip back up for the morning to usher in another beautiful day in the Arctic Circle.

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