During my trip to Scandinavia a few years back, I had the pleasure of staying a night in the Ice Hotel of Jukkasjarvi in northern Sweden. This truly was a bucket list moment and such a strange, but fun, experience (which I’m now realising I should write a post about). Visiting in March, it was still plenty cold with moderate snow covering the ground.
After my night in the hotel, the next morning I had plans to take the train from the nearby city of Kiruna across to the Norwegian city of Narvik and then press on even further north to Tromso. It was going to be a long day but worth it to make my way above the Article Circle. Kiruna is a fair distance from Jukkasjarvi and I had had to arrange a taxi transfer to the train station.
Just as I was about to leave the hotel, the reception informed me that the train station had been shut down and that no trains would be leaving. It turned out that, the night before a mining train had derailed, taking out a good stretch of track, power lines etc. I have no idea if anyone was hurt during the accident, details were sparse.
Totally thrown about what I was now meant to do with no train and a taxi driver standing there waiting for me, reception suggested I head to the station and see what I could from there. Not brimming with confidence, I got to the station and was relieved to see they had arranged replacement buses for the journey. So, tourists and locals heading to the ski fields jumped aboard and we set out for Narvik.
The night before, aside from the train derailment, there had also been quite the snowstorm come through, leaving the roads of Swedish Lapland totally covered. This sudden downfall and the continuing snow throughout the day meant nothing good. On multiple occasions, traffic on the highway was stopped dead, waiting for a snow plow to come through and clear the stretch of road ahead. These stretches of waiting for the plow sometimes took as long as an hour, further prolonging our journey to Narvik.
To say the bus ride was dull and tedious was an understatement, but it was also mighty stressful. My plan had been to transfer to a bus at Narvik, but each delay closed that window little by little. On board the bus, while we were thankful for the warmth, nobody had anticipated this long of a ride. With just a few lollies and a bottle of water, I was praying I didn’t get hungry or run out of water too quickly. Nowhere along the way was there a spot to stop and grab some food, or even use the bathroom. Looking out the window, all you could see a lot of the time was the white blur of snow.
At some point, I had to concede that I wasn’t making it to Tromso that day – Narvik was the best I could hope for. Chatting with a few other tourists nearby, we soon realised that we were all in the same boat. We would have to wait until we pulled into Narvik to see what we could do next.
Eventually we reached Narvik train station, our intended 3 hour train ride actually turned into an 8 hour bus crawl. Getting off the bus, we learned that we were stuck in Narvik overnight and so a group of 4 of us set out to seek out accommodation for the night. Considering the day’s trajectory, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that this would turn out to be difficult. As it happened, we had arrived in Narvik on the main night of the Narvik Folk Music Festival and the city was almost entirely booked out.
Walking from hostel to hotel and on, everywhere we went was full. Thankfully, we did end up finding somewhere that had room in a rather rundown looking hostel, essentially located in a train yard by the tracks. At the reception, situated in a bar, we learned that they only had a 4 bed dormitory left which was good enough for our tragic band of 4 tourists.
The next morning, we all rose early and headed straight for the bus station to see when we could continue on our way. By mid-morning, 3 of us were finally on our way to Tromso after an incredibly long 24 hours.
Moral of the story: Factor in extreme weather conditions when travelling around by public transport near the Arctic Circle.
Do you have a bad transport or extreme weather story? Please share in the comments below.