Monday, July 31, 2017

Honningsvag, Norway - enough to give you the Crabs.

The cold weather must be slowing us down a little as we seem to hit the top
decks just a little late for the last few sail ins. This morning was a bit
strange; we could see the town, yet we were not moving nor were we up
alongside a dock. Then there was the ominous sound of the anchor being
prepared to be dropped, we knew something was up. A quick look on the other
side of the ship and the tenders were already in the water.
Apparently, the pier had been damaged a few days earlier making it unsafe
for us to dock, so the decision was made that we would anchor and they would
use the tenders to ferry us in and out of port.
It was one of those rare occasions that we had a Princess tour booked.
Looking for a bit more adventure we did the King Crab Safari. Basically, I
thought this would be the best way to eat crab.
Once on shore we were whisked away to offices of Adventures 71 Deg Nord,
where we were fitted with our suits. One, they would protect us from the
cold and two, if we fell overboard these suits would keep us afloat, "don't
panic, just lie on your back" we were told. Having already dressed for the
cold weather, the extra layer of clothing had me feeling like the Michelin
man, but I was warm. A little too warm, as today was the first time in
Norway that we had beautiful blue skies, so the water glistened and the town
sparkled from the suns reflections.
Honningsvag is another cute little village, the brightly coloured timber
houses surrounded by snow-capped mountains in the distance. Have I
mentioned the colours to you before ..? The paint used on the red houses is
made of fish blood and oil, and generally the poorer families used this
cheap paint. The middle-class homes are painted yellow with the paint
imported from Italy. White is the colour that was reserved for the well to
do and I can't remember where they got that from!
So back to us in our oversize life jackets. Waddling back to the wharf we
boarded a high-speed inflatable raft, a bit like a jet boat really. We
straddled our seats like you would if riding a horse, and held on with one
hand, and took photos with the other. There were two rafts, and once out of
the safety of the breakwater we picked up speed and headed out into the
fjord. Like a game of cat and mouse we chased each other whilst heading
towards our destination of Sarnesfjord. Skimming across the glassy waters
the wake from each of the rafts criss-crossed, until we came to a stop where
buoys marked the spots where the crab pots lay. It was the other raft that
pulled up our pot, which gave us the benefit of taking the better photos.
Overflowing with crabs, it would be naive of us to think our pot could be so
full, and we have no doubt that there may have been some human intervention.

These pacific king crabs are not native but introduced by the Russians to
boost their fishing yield. Over time the crabs have spread and Norway has
also reaped the benefits. Unlike the crabs we are used to, these crabs are
huge and one leg can make a very satisfying meal.
Arriving at the village of Sanesfjord, we were given the 101 about crabs.
Carefully hanging on to the legs ensuring that we did not come in contact
with claws that could snap a bone in two, we each had our photo taken with a
rather large specimen, probably the only time his size was saving him from
the boiling pot.
To the contrary of what we might think, these crabs are not boiled whilst
still living. It is not easy seeing something alive and kicking, and then in
the next moment, snapped apart ready for cooking. Well not quite that
dramatic. "You can look away now" he said before a knife was plunged and
twisted in a specific spot to ensure a swift death. They said that crabs
don't feel pain.. But tell me, how do they know that! Sadly, the remorse
only lasted until the first taste of this delicious crustacean. But I have
jumped ahead.
After the execution, oops I mean preparation of the crab, we were taken into
a Lavvo. Otherwise known as a Sami tent - Samis are what the indigenous
locals are called. In the centre was a fire pit, and hanging over the top
is a large pot of boiling seawater. In goes the crab pieces and once the
water comes back to the boil it is removed from the heat and allowed to
stand for 15 minutes. Being careful not to overcook, it was then strained
and refilled with cold seawater. Once cooled, legs and body were cut apart
to make it easy for us to eat. Excellent, is all I can say. So fresh, that
the fleshy white meat fell way from the shell, seconds, thirds, but I
resisted fourths.
Once the feast was over we were corralled back into our rafts. To add to
our adventure our ride back was a little more exhilarating than our morning
one. Bang, Bang, Bang, went the raft as it rode over the waves from the
other rafts' wake. Leaning in as we turned sharply from one circle into
another ... "Oh I wish I didn't eat so much crab."
Once back on land, and still in possession of the contents of my stomach, we
returned our suits and headed out to explore the village.
Still under the euphoria of our raft ride we explored the few highlights the
map had to offer, including the 130-year-old Honningsvag church which maybe
through some divine intervention, survived the destruction of World War II.

Being Ice Bar virgins, we decided to pay a visit to the Artico Ice Bar, and
pay we certainly did, for a rather underwhelming experience. The Princess
video from the Lofoten Ice Bar, had great looking ice sculptures, people
sliding down ice slides, we thought why not! We donned the thermal ponchos
and entered the oversize freezer. Everything was made of ice including the
small shot glasses which were only filled with lolly water, pretty in
colour, but zero in alcoholic content.
Kudos to Honningsvag you put on such a glorious day, the clearest bluest
skies with the sun shining all day. If only we could have bottled it and
taken it with us to each of our next ports.

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