Having said farewell to Chris, Robin went off to find his balls (which turned up in a paper bag in the harbour master's office) whilst Hilary and David went off to stock up with provisions for a week’s sailing in the region. An hour after his return to the boat, Robin was getting concerned about the continued absence of the rest of the crew, when he caught sight of David, tall and elegant, swinging lightly along with a a small bag in each hand. This for a week’s sailing? And where was Hilary? Getting out the binoculars, all questions were answered by the sight, some distance behind David, of a small figure bravely marching onwards beneath an enormous rucksack loaded high with all the gastronomic delights that Alta could bestow! Before I get sued for this observation, I should add that David’s back is not in the best of conditions and Hilary does not like taxis, and that they had found this arrangement to be mutually agreeable.
Despite her endeavours of the morning, Hilary led us on an expedition in the afternoon towards the rock paintings for which Alta is justly famous. We scrambled through some pleasant birch woods and a few back gardens and eventually came out near the museum about 3km to the west. By the time we arrived, Robin (for one) was so hot and exhausted that he gladly paid the equivalent of £3.30 for a half litre of water. Nevertheless we enjoyed the walk around the rock paintings (another 3 km)
Alta has been occupied since 7000 BC, when the last ice age had diminished sufficiently to make it possible. The people produced Rock Paintings to celebrate their hopes and concerns. Initially they painted near the waters edge but as time past, and the weight of ice diminished, the land rose so that today the earliest paintings are many meters above the sea. The paintings depict them herding reindeer, catching halibut, and later making boats which by 2000 BC had come to look like the Viking boats that we are familiar with.Hilary let us take a taxi back.
After putting the balls into the Harken furling gear, from which assiduous readers will remember they had been lost a couple of weeks back, the crew set off to sail where-ever the wind blew. Alta is at the southern end of a beautiful broad 17 mile long fjord. At the northern end, five fjords come together – from the southwest, the west, the northwest, the north and the northeast. It was not unreasonable, we thought, to hope that the wind would be blowing up one or two of them. But no; a sail round all their entrances showed that the wind was blowing down each and every one. So we stopped for the night at the bottom of a small bay, where to David’s delight, a hydroelectric power station was under maintenance. At low tide, the herring came in, causing the water to foam with their presence, and the gulls to have a great time feeding off the products of their spawning. Also at low tide, a mussel bed was exposed, enabling us to collect the ingredients for an excellent meal. (Simmer the washed mussels in white wine, with some garlic and onions and a pinch of chilli powder and wolf down with Hilary’s specialty Greek chips – wedges of potato smeared with a dash of tomato puree and roasted in olive oil.)
Our travels took us to Oksfjord, where we shared a quay with the HurtiGruten cruise ferry ‘NordKap’, who has crossed our path a few times over the years – or should that be the other way round. Then we went to have a look at the glacier further down before holing up for the night behind the island in Oksfjordbotm.
Here we went on the great reindeer hunt. There were at least two substantial herds in the bay, one of which came down to sunbathe on the beach. Hilary was the most successful hunter, getting quite close to one group by wriggling through the long grass – but not as successful as the reindeer that tracked her, coming up behind just as she had got her photo!
Wild chives on the land and winkles on the rocks made it to the breakfast table; boil the winkles gently in water filled with chopped chives and eat with a Spanish omelette.
In the end the weather did us proud and we sailed back to Alta in brilliant sunshine, enabling us to set every combination of sails and sail at every angle to the wind without once changing our course! Hilary and David left the next morning, but Robin had another night on board, and was given a special treat.
The wind blew, and that seemed to stimulate a couple of eagle families into disputing the territory beneath the headland. At one point there were seven in flight.
But then it was time to leave Voltair somewhere where John and his crew could find her, and take the long flight back to Manchester – and the rain.