Sunday, 3 August 2014

Arctic Sea Kayak Race (ASKR) - 20th to 26th July 2014 - Getting there

[ASKR blog post 1 of 3]
It’s a small world. One Friday evening in April I turned up with a friend at the “Paddler’s Return” on Anglesey and met a Norwegian couple who were on their last day of their visit. Little did I realise that four months later we would be talking again, but this time sat in the midnight sun around a fire basket in arctic Norway.
Originally conceived in 1991 as an extreme challenge event – 280 kilometres over 4 days – the early running of the ASKR was the preserve of hard-core racers. With decreasing entrants and increasingly difficult logistics, the race has evolved into a much more sociable affair that is now within the realms of mere mortals and even novices.
Taking place in the beautiful Vesterålen region of arctic Norway in mid-July, paddlers meet up and register on the Sunday before setting off on either a long or a short “ramble” with three nights of wild camping. The event then moves to its base in the old fishing village of Skipnes on the island of Tindsøya where everyone meets up again for the next three nights with the event culminating on the Friday with a 20 km “half marathon” race.
We could have flown to airports nearer the event, but Tromso seemed a nice place to visit in its own right and the journey down to the event would give us a chance to see some more of the area. On the Friday we were picked up from the airport by a local paddler whom I had befriended on Facebook, she chatted to us for a couple of hours then subsequently headed off for the weekend as we waved goodbye from her doorstep.
Our Tromso accommodation!
The following morning was spent exploring Tromso (excellent art museum), getting fuel for the stoves and last minute provisions. We caught the “Hurtigbat” high speed ferry that would take us down the spectacular coast to Vesterålen. 
The high speed ferry going in the opposite direction
Kråkberget Fjordcamp - event registration
Upon reaching Harstad, we were met by our second "local host" who drove us to Sortland where we would stay for the night. Famous for its blue buildings as a result of a local artist's fanciful idea, Sortland seemed a rather quiet place on the Saturday night. In the morning we enjoyed our fill of the buffet breakfast in our hotel as for the next few days we would be living off our own supplies. Our local host generously gave up her Sunday to further taxi us around – first taking us to the registration at Kråkberget, and then driving us and our rented kayaks over to Ringstad where we would camp for the night and from where the “long” ramble would leave in the morning.
Short ferry en route to Sortland
The view SE from Ringstad
Ringstad is a beautiful little fishing harbour with spectacular views across to the mountains of Hadseløya and Langøya. Mirror flat seas and clear skies made it feel more like the Mediterranean than the Arctic. We sat around a suspended fire basket getting to know our fellow paddlers drinking moderately due to the fact that tinnies of the local lager were £7.50 a go!

The blogger "Padlemia" who we were lucky to meet up with
Ringstad Sjohus - location of first night camp
Next installment: ASKR - the long ramble.

1 comment:

Miamaria Padlemia said...

Really good blogpost, and nice photos. :) And finding myself in anyone elses blog, doesn't happen every day. :) Cool! Waiting for the next post!