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Old 03-16-2007, 09:03 AM   #69
viatormundi OP
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Joined: Apr 2005
Location: Mallorca-Spain
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Björkliden and the end of the journey

We left Lofoten early in the morning. We will drive about 400km towards Sweden, The yearly meeting is in a place called Björkliden located in the Abisko National park. A skiing resort in the winter.

A heavy rain welcomed us at the border and stayed with us for the rest of the weekend. We passed the city of Narvik which played a significant importance in the WW2 for both parties.

The hotel we stayed was really nice.

Next day, I join a tour of the worlds largest iron ore mine operated by the state owned company LKAB. Actually, the city of Kiruna was built because of this mine. If we look at some numbers we realize that this mine is huge. The iron ore source is 4km long and 80m wide. Currently they are extracting iron ore from 1045m deep. I found an overview picture of the mine on the internet. The high building in the middle is the headquarters. By the way, the city of Kiruna will be moved couple of kilometers away because explosions from the mine get dangerous for the city. LKAB will pay most of the bill for this move.

With these large drilling machines they place explosives and detonate those every day around at 23:30. Before they do it, they control if everybody left the mine. Therefore, every employee has a special access card which logs in and out. If an employee forgets to log out, the whole explosion is cancelled and that employee is searched. They sounded extremely serious about this procedure. When the explosion happens, it can be felt by the city population. They actually joke that when they feel explosions then it is time to brush teeth and go to bed. I think it is good that these explosions don't happen very early in the morning, then the population of the town would explode. (you know the early morning train joke )

It is possible to visit the mine as a group. They took us down with busses
The mine has 40km long asphalt roads, yes you read it right, 40km!!

Our guide is explaining to us some facts, currently we are 500mt below the ground.

He tells us that most of the mining operation is done from distance using unmanned vehicles operated by people sitting on the surface. I found a picture of this set-up on the company website. It looks really like a sci-fi situation.

And these machines are huge, look at the size of the ladle (I guess it is called so)

The extracted core is transported with a train to Narvik to be further transported to the rest of the world with ships. This train has the worlds strongest locomotive because..

it pulls 52 of those wagons and each of these wagons weigh about 20tons and carry 100tons of ore. In two years the total number of wagons will increase to 68.

When we come back to our hotel and sit down to eat our dinner, we hear very beautiful news. Anders and Carolin got married in the city hall of Kiruna that day and wanted to share their wedding cake with us They met in another BMW club trip before.

Next day we drive to the area where the famous ice hotel is located. This hotel is a marketing miracle exemple in my opinion, it should be tought as a marketing case in schools. Kiruna is not a very attractive place in the winter for many people because it is very cold, around -15 or -20 C even colder and very dark since it is so up north. But Kiruna people managed to turn these disadvanteges into business opportunities. Most car manufacturers test their cars against harsh winter conditions here in Kiruna. The area is considered as a space center candidate for European Space research and finally some smart people came up with the idea of building a hotel from ice and making money out of that. Every year when the spring comes the hotel melts down and rebuilded again in the winter. Since we were there summer time, we couldn't see the hotel of course but there was some information etc. I put some pictures from the internet so you can get an understanding of it. I would like to have a drink in the ice bar, zipping absolut vodka (also Swedish not worlds best vodka but best marketed vodka) in glasses of ice.

This bed looks quite comfy

When we visited the hotel, only some piece of furniture was left

I actually have a plan. I read in a swedish motorcycle magazine that two journalists drove from little north of Sweden to Kiruna with their bikes in the winter time, one 1200GS and one 990 Adv with spiked tires, and they stayed in this hotel. I want to do the same in the coming winter. I hope I report it here.

Vivian flies to Stockholm from Kiruna, she doesn't want to sit on the bike for two more days and this part of the ride back to Stockholm is not so exciting but long, about 1250km. On the way down, we pass the polar circle again. It rained a lot on the way down. God bless the person who invented goretex

Next day, we are roughly 250km away from Stockholm and Lars Olof pulls to the right. He jumps off his bike and tries to find something in his package. I wonder if there is something wrong with his bike. He pulls out a bottle of whisky and says "time to celebrate!". Celebrate what? My bike did 100000km, he says. I can tell you that he drives a lot. At that time that bike was only 2 years old or less.

At the exit to Stockholm, I say good bye to Lars&Lars and they continue to the south of Sweden. So, a long but fantastic journey ends. I drove about 10000km, saw magnificient places, had great fun but most importantly got to know new friends.

I hope you enjoyed reading this report. It took some time for me to finish it because of hectic business travels but now it is done. If you ever come to Scandinavia, don't hesitate to contact the gravelfreaks (grusbus) team, who knows, we might guide you on great gravel roads.

I wish you all a lot of curvey roads.....

March 2007
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