A Journey to
Nordkapp or North Cape Reveals the Home of the Reindeer
Is This the Home of
Santa's Special Reindeer?
Join Magic Carpet Journals as Maxine George
travels above the Arctic Circle on Hertigruten's Norwegian Coastal Voyage
Article and Pictures by M. Maxine George
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
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 fascilities 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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 and pictures by M. Maxine George
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
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Last Updated on
June 02, 2011
by M. Maxine George
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