A Journey to Nordkapp or “North Cape” Reveals the Home of the Reindeer.
Join Magic Carpet Journals as Maxine and Margaret travel above the Arctic Circle on Hertigruten’s Norwegian Coastal Voyage. Is This the Home of Santa’s Special Reindeer?Via Magic Carpet Journals. Article and Pictures by M. Maxine George
Ever wondered where Santa’s reindeer spend the summer? We all have heard the legend that they fly around the world pulling Santa’s sleigh on only one night of the year. We begin to see signs of Santa or his helpers turning up in Malls as December rolls around each year. But what about the reindeer? What do they do during the rest of the year? I may have found the answer.
In August I had the opportunity to travel above the Arctic Circle into the land of the Midnight Sun. To get there I first traveled by plane to Oslo, Norway, then north to Kirkenes, on the farthest north-east coast of Norway. In Kirkenes I joined a Norwegian Coastal Voyage aboard Hertigruten’s MS Polarlys, which besides being a very comfortable cruise ship, travels through Norway’s famous fjords stopping at towns and fishing villages to bring supplies and deliver the mail.
At six o’clock the next morning the boat docked at Honningsvag on the island of Mageroya, in Finnmark. Honningsvag, with a population of less than 2,800 people, is the capital of Northcape. Because of its large harbour, it has developed into a fishing port, with facilities for the processing and refrigeration of fish. A bus was waiting to take us to Nordkapp or North Cape, as far north as one can travel in Europe. The bus took us along a ribbon of road, over rolling bronze hills, with only the occasional glimpse of a fjord off in the distance. We were traveling northward, across the treeless tundra. Technically the ground may not be tundra, (frozen all year,) as the Gulf Current keeps the coast of Norway warmer than would be expected this far above the Arctic Circle.
Moss, lichen, stubby grasses and a few stunted shrubs were all the ground cover that could be seen for miles and miles, providing a tweed-like blend of bronze, with flecks of dark green and white from tiny white wild flowers that miraculously bloom here in the summer. Our guide told us, “We had a forest fire a few years ago. Both trees burnt down!” We began to see the occasional lone reindeer off in the distance, grazing on the hills. One could not help but wonder how they could find enough nutrition to sustain themselves, with only the stubby, dried brown grasses that covered the land for as far as one could see.
Keeping my eyes peeled on the vista, I began to notice occasional small piles of rock. On closer inspection I discovered they were Inukshuk, the small piles of rock that the northern native people use to leave a trail to show where they have been. Few other signs of life appeared. Just the single grey ribbon of pavement cutting across the landscape. No snow was to be seen anywhere.
As we reached Nordkapp, or North Cape, a modern low, stone building appeared, seeming to nestle into the rock at the edge of the world. Inside a sign tells us that we are at 71º 10′ 21″ latitude. We discovered this building is actually a four-story complex, with most of it hidden within this 307-metre-high cliff. Surprisingly enough it contains a post office, souvenir shop, a restaurant with a panorama of windows giving access to the spectacular view, a Supervideograph theatre where interesting shows about the natural wonders of the area are shown to visitors, and an ecumenical chapel, where weddings are sometimes preformed. There used to be a resident priest to perform the ceremony. We also noted several Trolls in residence in the building.
After breakfast we walked out onto the promontory that overlooks the ocean. The North Sea spread out before us in a majestic panorama. There were several markers, a Children of the Earth monument, a direction symbol pointing to the actual point of land northernmost in Europe, and an artistic steel globe, all drawing visitors to have their picture taken, denoting their visit to this remote place on the planet.
Looking back on the building, we see a round building with a huge white ball perched on its dome. It looks like it might be a space ship that has just landed. There is a preponderance of glass on this side of the structure, to take advantage of the exciting view.
The day was overcast and grey, one might even have called it blustery. Although it was late summer, the day was not colder than we would have found on a similar day at home in Canada. As I stood, near the edge of this fantastic cliff, looking out over the North Sea, a uniquely beautiful picture evolved before my eyes. Silver sunlight forced its way through the otherwise forbidding grey sky, and provided silver trimmings as it reflected off the clouds and water. This spectacular view will change for each visitor to this remarkable cliff. One could almost envision the power of that sea when the winter winds whip it up into a fury. The sea itself is an ever-changing vista, but the sky this far north offers its own fantastic show, with the never-setting Midnight Sun being visible from the 11th of May to the 31st of July. As winter draws near, the Northern Lights provide a spectacular light show of their own. Nordkapp has been a popular tourist attraction since Louis Philippe, dauphine of France, spent time here in 1795. We were told there are still people who live in the area, who claim to be descended from French royalty.
Leaving Nordkapp, we continued our journey along the ocean for a few miles. Our guide pointed out several rock islands some distance off the coast. She told us they are favoured by large colonies of nesting birds.
Seemingly out of no-where, a small settlement appeared, with only one little wooden building on which a sign read “Matkenuitut”, and two tepees or wigwams, as they are known in North America. Hides stretched over lodge poles formed the basis for the original tents. Our bus came to a halt before them. Here, we found a slight, little man, dressed in a Laplander’s traditional red and black outfit with an unusual red and black hat with several points, flopping on his head. Grazing close by was a reindeer, with a huge set of antlers. Several others were not far away. There was a weathered, old sleigh sitting waiting for the snow to arrive. Wandering over to one of the wigwams, I smelled smoke as I peeked into the interior. In the centre was a wood fire smoldering with a few small branches of wood and a cooking pot hanging over it. Fur rugs were covering most of the floor. Obviously this was where the family lived during the summer. It looked like we might have found the answer to my question. Was this place the summer home of Santa’s reindeer? The little man smiled gently, his eyes twinkling, but spoke not a word of English, so we could not question him. This Laplander or Sámi could be the keeper of Santa’s reindeer. The small building was a craft shop, where the Laplander’s wife, with her shawl and little red bonnet, sold a variety of interesting souvenirs.
Leaving the Laplander’s settlement, we continued our journey through this forbidding but fascinating land. We began to see small herds of reindeer grazing on the hillsides. The land changed. We frequently traveled along the rocky shore line and were able to watch several whales swimming not far off the shore. Occasionally we passed a lone fisherman’s home, always painted a bright primary colour, so they could be seen by the fisherman far out on the water.
Rudolph and his buddies?
As the bus hugged the road between a cliff and the sea, we came around a sharp bend to discover a herd of reindeer scattered across the road right in the path of the bus. The driver brought the bus to an abrupt stop only inches from the rumps of the unperturbed animals. We had a wonderful opportunity to observe them as the bus followed them while they continued to amble along the road, four or five abreast. The animals had beautiful fur coats, mostly tan, with white markings, but some predominately white with tan markings, and all had an impressive array of antlers. For all we knew these might have been some of Santa’s reindeer. Just think how close our bus came to maiming or killing Dasher, Dancer, Prancer or Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder and Blitzen – not to mention the most famous reindeer of all, Rudolph! Eventually the bus was able to pass the last of them and we continued on our journey to meet up with our ship, the Polarlys, in Hammerfest, the northernmost town in the world, to continue our Norwegian Coastal Voyage.
Story by M. Maxine George
Pictures by M. Maxine George and Margaret Deefholts
For further information about Hertigruten’s Norwegian Coastal Voyage contact:
GLP Worldwide Expedition Travel and Tours 1211 Denison Street,
Unit 26, Markham, Ontario, Canada L3R 4B3
Last Updated on November 28, 2020 by Matthew George – Webmaster