We woke refreshed and keen to explore.
The weather had other plans for us. The front had passed over
in the night and Kiruna was cloaked in a thick layer of nimbostratus:
it was pissing down. It had only just passed over though and there
was excellent weather on the east coast that was forecast to last
until the afternoon. We felt we had little choice and headed to
the airport to get away while we definitely still could. Warm
front conditions were fine for taking off into: the stable wet
conditions were not a concern. If the cold front caught up with
us the associated cumulonimbus and other nasties could weather
us in too far north. The cloud was down to a thousand feet and
so I had to depart on instruments, another way of saying that
the windows were not much use. We emerged from the cloud after
about half an hour and cruised on south with a thick white carpet
below us. We had spent less than twenty-four hours in the arctic,
but we had little choice.
As forecast the clouds broke up and then disappeared
before our return to Sundsvall. It was a really quick stop as
we had no intention of sampling the curious delights of this humdrum
town again. We took off again in sunshine and were only airborne
ten minutes when the controller warned approaching traffic of
lightning near to the east of the field. This was completely unforecast
and unexpected and focussed our minds considerably. Dark clouds
were approaching from the north and east, but it looked clear
for miles south and we made our destination, Gavle, an hour later
without more than a light shower.
Gavle was billed by our guidebook as the most
attractive of the northern towns and we were more than a little
worried that this might transpire to be a backhanded compliment
- in the short time that we had been up north we had witnessed
some ugly places.
It was a false alarm however as Gavle was a genuinely pleasant
place to walk around. It had an open square and a trendy bar where
everyone sat outside in the sunshine until the rains that had
been chasing us arrived and forced them inside. The book also
recommended a place called the Church Street Saloon, a Swedish
version of a British interpretation, the Texas Lone Star restaurant.
Fortune smiled on us here for it was shut and we were forced to
go elsewhere and elsewhere turned out to be a really very good
local restaurant with an encouragingly difficult name to pronounce
or remember. We got talking to the barman there and he, like almost
everyone else we had met so far in Sweden, was very friendly,
very knowledgeable, had worked in a bar in London and was worried
about the Euro. He insisted that we visit Stockholm, we replied
that it was an excellent plan secure in the knowledge that we
would go nowhere near the place for no good reason.
Running through the checks
Emerging from the thick band of cloud to more
A rueful smile from Ross as we leave the Arctic