Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I don’t know who said it, and he or she was probably paid by some producer of breakfast cereal, but I think it’s true. This morning the restaurant was more or less packed with people. With more and more tourists arriving for the eclipse this is to be expected, and when the weather promises to be excellent for outdoor activities everyone wants to get going early.
Today we were going to Barentsburg on snowmobiles. With a temperature of -13, clear skies and light winds, the conditions were ideal. The sun was shining on the mountaintops. We set off over Longyearbreen where we were walking three days ago, coming down from Sarkofagen. Our guide, Tobbe, lead the way and everybody followed in line. Today’s route was a little more technical than the one to Tempelfjorden. Both driver and passenger would have to use their bodyweight somewhat to steady the vehicle when going perpendicular to the slope.
After a lovely drive of maybe two hours through U-shaped valleys and over glaciers and frozen rivers, we cruised into the Russian town of Barentsburg. In large parts owned by a Russian state-run mining company, this is the main Russian settlement in Svalbard. We parked right next to the new brewery and I thought it might be a good idea to test this local brew. Me, Rūdolfs and Alīna went to the bar while the others waited in the hallway. They had three kinds of beer, Belgian blonde, amber and dark. For 15 NOK I bought a 33 cl glass of blonde and we all shared this and also got some small samples of the other kinds of beer. They were all only 2,5% alcohol. For light beers they were quite allright!
Next, we took a walk around the town, our guide pointing out different buildings. Some were from the soviet era, some were newer, all looked completely different from the ones in Longyearbyen. The school was painted with pictures of animals, buildings and historical figures. There was a sculpture of Lenin in a park and behind it a big sign that read “Our aim is communism”.
On the way back we stopped for lunch beside a pingo mostly covered in snow and ice. There was a small hut built on top of it. Pingos consists of ice covered in earth and can form when there is a steady supply of groundwater that may freeze and lift the above earth layer. I was happy to have the opportunity to climb it and have a walk around on top of it.
For the last part back to Longyearbyen we took a different route through some narrow passages. At one point you really had to shift your weight to one side while going up an incline. Unfortunately, Edgars and Alina weren’t able to counter the sideways slope and rolled over. Both escaped this incident without injuries though.
Safely back in Nybyen (the furthest part of the Longyearbyen town where our guesthouse was), Juris and Agnese rushed away to a free lecture about the sun and the northern lights held at the university. When they came back they had brought two kicksleds. Apparently they were provided by the city and free to use by anybody. Juris an Kristine were soon out on the nearby road, trying one of them out. Me and Rudolf joined them in just a while. I had a few downhill races against both Juris an Rudolf and in my opinion I was clearly the winner. Except maybe one time when I forgot to shift my bodyweight and rolled over!