One of the great delights of cruising is the occurrence of unexpected, intense friendships. While we were refuelling Tainui this morning a young Vardø couple introduced themselves and we fell into conversation. Per has been planning a RIB boat voyage to Arctic Russia. Felicia is a high coloratura soprano with a love for the music of Messaien and Berg. We sat in the sun, tippled and discussed her next performance, Berio’s Folk Songs. A lovely young couple whose 15 month old has ice blue eyes and a deep suspicion of bearded old Australian men. (Chris would say that’s hardly new or surprising).
Talking about Berio on the oil wharf in Vardø – how extraordinary! I have made similar friendships here with serious birders wearing Wellington boots and expensive binoculars; quiet, weatherbeaten fishermen; professional photographers; Americans doing secret things at the radar installation, and even a rock singer from Oslo. As we talked, the seagulls nested furiously under the eaves of a nearby building.
We took the Hurtigruten ferry down to Kirkenes yesterday to clear customs and immigration down at the Russian road border. With difficulty. The fresh-faced young officials were reluctant to stamp our papers because we were not immediately crossing the road border into Russia. Finally we reached a compromise with them, in which they wrote free text on our papers and passports, with impressive but meaningless stamps superimposed. Vardø is a port of entry supposedly, but there are no officials here. Even the police are only in town every second week.
We stopped for a swim in the dark, icy waters of a pretty lake before hitch-hiking back to Kirkenes for the 5 hour ferry trip back to Vardø. Now it is cloudy and there is a fresh SE wind, right on the nose, so we will wait for tomorrow’s northerly and in the meantime do some laundry.
The staff at Vardo Hotel, so hospitable, have allowed us showers, washing, wi-fi and almost permanent installation in their lounge room. If visiting cruising yachtsmen have problems in Vardo, they should contact lovely Eric at the hotel. He seems able to sort out most things.
I will talk to Chris tonight until my phone card is empty, then cast my Norwegian SIM card into the briny. I hope that is not inviting disaster.