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Lofoten Bound

Trains, Planes and Automobiles

To get to the Lofoten Islands in the north of Norway, above the Arctic circle, you can take a boat, a train or fly. The boat can take upwards of a week as meanders through stunning fjords and rugged coastlines. The train isn’t much better time wise and you get stare at endless forests and lakes as you go through tunnel after tunnel. The final option is to fly, being based in Voss we hoped to fly from Bergen, only an hour by train. However, it turned out that train to Oslo and flight from there to Tromsø was the most economical and timely way to go. So after Yves finished work, we hurriedly packed clothes, tent, sleeping bags, pads, wavered on how to smuggle gin through customs (opted not to) and headed to the train station.

The plan was a 6 hour odd train ride to Oslo, followed by a quick transfer (8 minutes between) to the airport train, crash in the airport and 8.25am flight in the morning. We hit a snag when an accident on the tracks forced us to be detoured by bus around that section, adding almost an hour. Of course this meant we missed our 8 minute window. Luckily, the conductor assured us there was another train precisely 9 minutes after our arrival heading to the airport. Great, no worries then.

We got to the Oslo train station, checked the boards for the appropriate train (which was actually 11 minutes from then) and caught it with no problem, direct to the airport within 20 minutes. At the stop we hit our next snag, there was a barrier turn style requiring a special ticket to get through to the actual airport… looking fairly perplexed, we stood in line behind a gentleman who was paying copious amounts of Kroner (6.20K = $1, give or take) and ultimately was let through the gate. The delightful lady behind the glass explained our error, we had taken the express train, which was about triple what the local train was we had tickets for. In our horror and fear at blowing our budget before we even reached the actual airport we explained our situation. Luckily, this lovely lady, tsk’ed tsk’ed the conductor for giving us the wrong information and assured us we would not have to pay for his mistake, letting us through. It was only later we realised that the train he had mentioned must have in fact been the local train and we had taken the wrong train assuming the board with OSLO AIRPORT was the correct train, how silly of us. The local train simply says city center and apparently the airport is a stop on the way, or something like that.

Important Traveler Information: When buying train tickets in Norway be double sure which train you are getting on. There are the public trains, much cheaper, and then private companies that offer the express trains. If you get on the wrong one the conductor will make you pay again. When in doubt ask someone, better safe than out of pocket.

Airport Nap Time

The clock was already passed midnight when we stumbled up the elevator and looked around for the most “comfortable” place to sleep. There were already a large number of airport campers scattered around, meaning most the chairs were taken. We opted to take a spot behind a particularly obscure statue, with a high potential of being phallic in nature.

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We rolled out our mats, me getting to get my first view at my new REI rails pad, super exciting. Lay down and within around 10minutes Yves was off in La-la land. Yours truly, on the other hand, snuggled down, marveling at just how well this new REI rails pad truly prevented any hip to floor contact, and the general cushy nature of it, closed my eyes, took a deep breath…and…BAM Eyes Wide Open! I am not talking, sleepy and not able to sleep, I am mean my brain was on full overload, as if it was attempting to solve a highly complicated calculus equation (and usually it can barely spell that).
I rolled,
I tossed,
I took a “bath” airport style,
I changed out of travel clothes and put on new socks
I even listened to a particular House tune that a Romanian friend gave me and helps block out thoughts
I wrote in my diary
I paced
I got irritated by some dude chatting on skype at 3am

All through this, Yves was dreaming of hiking Everest and other great adventures, waking up briefly, seeing me awake, asking if I had got any sleep and then turning over and getting another 4o winks. At one point he mentioned how a pillow would make this whole experience so much better, he promptly received mine in his face, he gladly tucked it under and went back to sleep.

Nearing the wake up hour I had managed to convince 3 of my 4 personalities to crave sleep, but that 4th one, man he was contemplating if penguins had knees or some other highly important theological topic.

Nap Time Airplane Style

Finally we were able to check in. This was a new procedure for me, as you can now, apparently, print out your own baggage labels, and check your own bag, unless of course the bag check machine decides your bag is too big. It was apparently fine after standing in line for 15 minutes.

Through security, me reaching zombie status and mumbling something about the need for coffee. I never realised my dependence on it until this trip, mornings just don’t seem complete without a cup of ‘jo. Stumbling after Yves towards our gate, which was at the very very very end of some random arm of the airport that seemed to go on forever, we waited for our flight. Thankfully it wasn’t full and I oozed into three seats, buckled myself into the middle and toppled over side ways gaining a precious hour of sleep, airplane style.

We made it, we touched ground, we found the bus to downtown and we made it as far as the tourist info before my eyes turned glassy again. From that point on until sleep it is all a little fuzzy, but I will try to continue in the next installment of Lofoten Bound

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2014 in Travel

 

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Return to Kathmandu…

18th November 2011

side note, I believe I have been writing 2012 on some of my posts, oops, ignore that and imagine 2011 when you read it… Thanks! (of course I guess I could always go back and change them, I could…)

Bus Ride number 3

Returning to Kathmandu would involve another 6+hr bus trip, luckily this time I had booked in advance and had ensured I would have one of the very front seats. So after checking out and saying a sad farewell to my new sister, Laxmi, I grabbed a taxi and headed to the bus station. As luck would have it, the driver didn’t have change, but one enterprising young lad selling baked goods quickly took advantage of the situation:
“Lady, lady, I can make change if you buy something…”
Well I did need something for breakfast. I told him he was a bright lad and would go far and he seemed to like this. Now that I think about it maybe the two were in cahoots… But either way it meant I didn’t overpay the driver and got something to eat at the same time.
I felt a little bad for another chap who had tried to sell me something but I had said no, he just sort of looked on in shock. Am guessing he learnt a valuable lesson.

The front seat I had so hoped for ended up being almost jammed into the glass behind the driver giving no room to put my legs up and the seat was too high to put my feet down, for those who don’t know I am barely 5ft/1.5m tall, you can pretty much use me as measurement. My seat mate was a local travel agent and was kind enough to ask the driver for one of the little stools people use in the aisle when the bus is overcrowded, and I had an instant foot rest. It only got better when the people booked into the row behind us never showed up and the agent moved to that row, providing ample space for me to stretch out.

The bus ride still took over 7 1/2 hrs and I was utterly exhausted at the end of it.

Without much warning and in an area completely unfamiliar the bus stopped mid traffic flow and the driver yelled “Thamel! Last Stop”. All of us piled out of the vehicle rather confused and disoriented, we grabbed our bags as they were unloaded, with the bus still moving with the traffic, and then hurriedly got out of the road.

Luckily a couple of folks were heading my way so I was completely left to fend for myself and in no time I recognised a street corner and knew where to turn. My friend, Buddha, had promised to meet me, but when I called he said he had been invited to participate in a bartending competition and if I could make it back to Hotel Silver Home the owner, Yogi, would come and pick me up and take me to where he was.

Competitions

I had hoped to have time to shower and grab something to eat, but it sounded like we had to go asap. So after they showed me to my 4th floor room (I have always had a severe dislike of stairs, especially after a long bus drive), I washed my face and headed back down. Unfortunately Yogi got side tracked with some duties at the hotel, and Buddha called twice to find out where we were before we finally left.

I was tired, famished and dressed in wonderfully touristy Nepali clothing when we pulled into this rather fancy looking bar hosting the event. A local bartending school was using it as a way to prepare bartenders from around Kathmandu for international competition, with a rather nice sum of over $100 for 1st place. Buddha works as a bartender on the MSC cruise lines, and has for the last 5yrs, he is a natural when it came to that.

He was excited to see me and gave me a big hug then lent on me as we watched some of the other bartenders take their turns. Unfortunately I was so light headed and tired I had to find somewhere to sit. It took almost 2 hrs before it was his turn and he was by far the best of the lot, I am not biased in any way…ok maybe a little.

He had wanted to make 3 cocktails in the 5minutes they had, the judges permitted 2, but with a severe shortage of glasses and then have a glass shatter mid pour and cutting his finger he ended with one… and still a minute to spare. It was called purple rain and I thought it was spectacular, as the 2 colors of alcohol turn a vivid purple when mixed. The judges were well impressed and the only negative comment was that perhaps he seemed too confident. We felt he was a shoo in for 1st.

Buddha doing what he does best

We waited for the results but the flaring competition which was very cool, ended up taking too long, so we headed out to Buddha’s friends place for dinner.

Bronco Billy’s

Bronco Billy’s is a western theme, cowboy type place ,with pics of John Wayne and other stars on the walls. There was a circle of chairs and a big drum for a fire pit. Buddha had arranged it all for me and a few friends, super sweet thought, if I hadn’t been so exhausted. But the food was amazing with chicken and beef ribs (or rather buffalo) all done on open flame and slathered in yummy sauce. The hot rum punch that was ordered for me was also fantastic, threatening to make me pass out then and there. After a great evening it was time to head home, almost falling asleep behind Buddha as we rode through an eerily quiet Kathmandu at 2am on his motorbike. Dropping me off at my hotel we planned to meet the next day for more sightseeing.

Bed oh glorious bed!!!!!

 
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Posted by on April 7, 2012 in Travel, Uncategorized

 

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Lima to Quito – The written version

Jan 26th to 28th 2011

I survived!!!

It really does amaze me what we put ourselves through in the name of travel and volunteering. Before I arrived in Peru my longest bus trip was a whopping 3hrs. In preparation for my long haul to Ecuador I did 2 trips of 6hrs each in the span of 3 days from Cusco to Lake Titicaca and back.

Finally the day arrived to bus to Ecuador, it was an estimated 30 to 48 hrs (give or take a day I guess). My friend Fernando, from Lima, and I had looked at all the options and came up with 2 possibilities for the trip.
(A) take a bus that will run the entire distance (the downside is that it was a less known company and bus quality was a question)
or
(B) take a well known bus co. to Tumbes (Peru border town), get picked up by a shuttle and go through the border then dropped off at the Ecuador bus station. (This allowed some time to stretch and at least the first half guaranteed of a good bus).

We opted for option two… it might have been better to go with option 1!!!
Leaving at 4.30pm I had planned to go on the super first class section, with seats that go almost all the way down. Unfortunately this wasn’t an option but luckily I got the 2nd level seat at the very front for a panoramic view of the trip. I had no seat mate so I was able to “stretch” out and get some sleep. We were even given a small meal and a drink.

Section 1 on the comfy bus with the panoramic view took 20hrs and I pulled into the border town of Tumbes around noon to be accosted by hundreds of taxi drivers.
WTF
This is when things went downhill. There was supposed to be someone to meet me and shuttle me across the Peru and Ecuador border immigration depositing me at the Panamerica bus station for the next leg. Turns out there was no one to meet me, the phone number I had went to voicemail and the taxi drivers at the bus terminal were aggressive to say the least. Eventually the bus station clerk told me my ride was here, a taxi driver hired by the company. He said that his job was to take me through Peru immigration and then leave me at the border to take a taxi alone… Mmm this was the exact thing I had been hoping to avoid, as I had heard taxi drivers regularly take advantage of travelers.
Calling for help
Calling a friend in Peru he explained what i had already guessed from the driver but said the driver was willing to come with me if I was scared about crossing alone. I decided to take him up on his offer, not only to prevent being scammed but also because he was happy to carry my big bag. Peru immigration was a breeze and Ecuador wasn’t much different, just a longer wait. My Peru cabby left me at the bus station after he had got me checked in and made sure I knew where a good place to eat was. I gave him a tip and thanked him profusely.
Panamerica
With a 2hr wait I twiddled my thumbs and caught up with my diary. Finally it was boarding time and it turned out the good bus was being saved for special occasions. Our bus was cleaned with air freshner, am fairly certain had at least one roach and during the following 18 hr trip its bathroom was locked.

But I had no seat mate so I made the best of it and tried to sleep. Finally only 1hr from Quito at about 2am in the morning I started to relax and think it was almost over. Then we stopped! A landslide had blocked our way. Our choices were an 8hr detour or parking and sleeping it out. As no one spoke English I had to muddle my way through and I guessed when we pulled over that option 2 was decided upon. I started to cry and then realised I was too tired to even do that and just made myself as comfy as possible.
Quito, I could kiss you
We finally pulled in at 8am, I caught a taxi to my friends and finally was able to crash out. But first things first I had had to pee for the last 3hrs.

I have spent the last 2 days in Quito and after another 5hr bus trip (this one coming with complimentary S bends numbering in the 1000’s I am sure), I am in Tena. Tomorrow I will attempt to find the bus and head into the jungle. All I hope is that my canoe is there waiting for me.

Now the jungle adventures begin with biting sand flies, monkeys and wild tourists!

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Lime to Quito Day 21 ->23 – A photo diary

Jan 26th 2011

Luckily I had the front window seat on the 2nd level so you get a panoramic view:

leaving Lima


Heading on the highway


Dinner: rice, chicken and some kind of drink


A view of the coastline


Driving along the coast


End of day 1 (total of 8hrs - 4pm to midnight)

Jan 27th 2011

Another 12hrs at least of driving today, before reaching the border town of Tumbes.

waking up from a decidedly strange angle


Breakfast....I think


rolling rolling rolling


rolling rolling rolling somewhere around hour 17


Pulling into Tumbes. Section 1 lasted a total of 20hrs

You are now entering Ecuador

waiting in the Ecuador Panamerica bus station


No panoramic seat this time, trying to get comfy


Entering the banana fields


the mountains, around hour 30 of trip


My bed for night 2

end of day 2

Jan 28th 2011
A landslide detained us a further 3hrs when we were only an hour from Quito…

I survived! Barely! total trip 42hrs!

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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