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Drive to the End of the Norwegian Alphabet

The Plan

The day before, Yves and I had a great plan to wake up at 7am and leave by 8am. Well we woke up at 8am…. Today we decided to give ourselves a break and lie in till 8am, meet Juraj and leave at 9am! We woke up at 6.30am, Murphy really gets a hoot out of these ironic moments…. But at least it meant we could pack up slowly and then check some internet at the main house while waiting for Juraj.

We didn’t have to wait long and soon we were on the road. Since it had taken quite a few hours to get as far as we had the day before we decided to drive half way… after all, the tourist map we had been given seemed to indicate it was the same distance if not further to end of the Lofoten Islands and the town of Å, pronounced “Ooohhr”, or close to that at least. That is also the very last letter of the Norwegian alphabet, which seemed rather handy when you are the last town in a long chain of islands.

Juraj planned to go all the way to the end of the alphabet, and we planned to drop him along the way when we found a place we fancied. It turned out that the tourist map was horribly wrong in it’s dimensions and after barely 2 hours we were well on our way, only a couple of towns from Å, so we just decided to head all the way.

Here are some pictures of the stunning scenery on the way:
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Hitting a Jam

Go figure, once we had made the decision to go to the end, we hit a jam. Literally, roadworks had caused a traffic jam (Norwegian Island style), in the most inconvenient location with no way to turn around and at least a 30 minute wait.

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It appeared that they were completing work on a tunnel designed to prevent landslides and avalanches, always a good thing when you are north of the Arctic circle. Did I mention that this was me driving, my first time driving a hybrid in a foreign country… I get all the fun. So we broke out the snacks and surveyed the road works.

Suddenly out of nowhere a Norwegian Barbie (sorry but it’s was the term the boys came up with), stalks over and says something intense to the guy holding the flag… next minute we are confused and driving through and incomplete tunnel that would randomly lurch to the left and outside the tunnel, making us drive along the cliff edge. A very high and scary looking cliff edge…remember again, I am driving. We had no idea where the road went to follow and I was just thankful that there had been one car ahead of us, that way I could follow him and if he suddenly drove over the cliff I would know to lean more right than left. The worker in the pickup playing chicken with the civilian cars, he had a real hoot as he just got ahead of me as I was entering the tunnel again through a small one car gap, did not help our confidence.

But, after a fairly insane 7 minutes or so we exited out the other end where another row of cars were waiting to enter the Norwegian Highway’s Merry Go Round!

Welcome to the End of the Norwegian Alphabet

With the traffic jam our well on the way time scale pretty much went out the window. We found one decent camp site a few towns before Å but we weren’t sure if it was the right place for us. So we headed for the end. Finally pulling in we were faced by a delightful town of red fisher buildings a lovely coastal area and even a youth hostel. But that was all, it appeared as if they had set up some decent accommodation for tourists then said “well that’s good enough”. We drove around trying to find other options for accommodation stopping at one point to ask, what appeared, to be a local, where the campsite was. There were signs but we couldn’t pinpoint the location. This wise old gentleman gave us an evaluating look, gave us a resigned expression and then pointed vaguely back the way we had come saying “It’s over there…” . I was pretty certain he mumbled “duh!” under his breath. Of course we were idiots who wouldn’t recognize the apparently vacant grassy lot with no signs as the campsite….

Heading back to the hostel we looked at our options there. I was kind of leaning towards at least one night of warmth, and hoped the guys would go for it to. The only other option, as the “campsite” was apparently closed for the season. Finally we opted for a dorm room price in a small cabin with a kitchen come living room and plenty of plugs and heaters. All wet gear was pulled out and put in a drying position and all electronic equipment plugged in.

this was our little cabin!

this was our little cabin!

The boys decided to try get in a quick hike before dinner and I decided to explore Å and see what I could find, turned out to be beautiful scenery but nothing much else. There were no stores, no restaurants, no bars… it was as if all the locals had gone underground the minute August 31st past, even tourist information was shut for the winter. And all I wanted was a cup of coffee…
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I did however find some kittens!
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Posted by on October 21, 2014 in Travel

 

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When in Rome…or rather…Norway…

Campout

We drove into Svolvær and found the tourist info center, who had a campsite list. We also asked about the chances of seeing the Northern Lights, but the chances were pretty poor. Then Juraj parted ways, exchanging numbers in case he needed a ride in the morning.

We stopped at the store to grab the next couple of days food supplies then headed out looking for a campsite. The first one we found was situated on a rather stagnant bay, and, well it seemed nice, did not jump out at us as the must stay location. We got lost a bit in Kabelvåg, a medieval town that has preserved much of it’s architecture. We also managed to stumble across Storvågan, a little artsy community. If you saw how small these were you would be impressed we got “lost” but we were certain a campsite was situated here. In truth it was about another 2 minutes down the E10 “highway”. When we finally found it we were in awe of the landscape. I am pretty certain some sci-fi movie with dramatic landscape must have been shot here. Or maybe it was a movie set, it just seemed too incredible.
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Our campsite was located just down from the showers and kitchen and on a wall overlooking a beach and bay with the craggy mountains in the distance. A photographers’ dream.
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We grabbed a quick dinner then headed back in town to explore the Ice Museum. On the way we spotted the bright yellow jacket that was Juraj. We gave him a quick ride to the road of our campsite and he wandered off to find a suitable site for himself. We agreed to meet in the morning to continue further south.

When in….

Parking the car we walked through the now deserted downtown of Svolvær. Here we found an interesting fellow selling dried meats from a variety of creatures.
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He let us taste moose and elk , bear was sold out due to a busload of Russian tourists and the muskox wasn’t ready yet. He did, however, let us try whale… yup you heard me, he had dried minke whale. It looked like a roll of salami but tasted like jerky.

Now, please before getting all incensed and angry, understand that I have a degree in Environmental Education and I do not jump into tasting whale lightly. However, I also understand that different countries have different cultural backgrounds and hunting whale has been a part of Norwegian culture for a very long time. I don’t agree with it, but if they keep to the quota and educate then I respect their culture.

Brrrrrrrrrr

After the rather surreal experience of tasting whale and still rather amazed that we had happened upon it we walked down a rather sketchy street towards the port and a dingy building with a big sign saying Magic Ice.
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Apparently this was the original Ice Museum, now over 10 years old, some of the ice sculptures were amazingly the same age. The building was formerly where the ice blocks were kept for the fishing ships, but when a new building was built they decided to turn this one into an Ice Museum. Many have followed around the world.

fisherman, one of the originals

fisherman, one of the originals

It was truly breathtaking…as in literally it was so DAMN cold it took your breath away. We wandered around the various statues showing life and nature and imagination, oohing and aahing until even our eyelashes had icicles.

Crabs

Crabs

Yves on his throne

Yves on his throne

Octopussy

Octopussy

One of my favorites, the fish bowl

One of my favorites, the fish bowl

Then it was time for the included drink in a glass made of ice (guess they don’t have a problem of people stealing the glasses). Despite the alcohol we still had to chip through a thin layer of ice to get to our vodka infused blue liquid, while we drank we chatted to two Germans (we would discover a lot of Germans on this trip) about their travels. I love chatting to travelers.

Cheers

Cheers

Finally, everything became just too cold, toes and fingers had lost feeling and … other things… apparently… were reacting to the cold too as Yves suggested we find warmer climes. Stepping back into the lobby (that before had seemed chilled) felt like a tropical forest. Heading back to the car we didn’t even need jackets.

Both utterly exhausted we climbed into our sleeping bags, me in thermals, jacket, hat, gloves and socks, and Yves in his boxers (it was a warm night apparently).

Morning we woke to a gorgeous morning!
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Posted by on September 28, 2014 in Travel

 

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And Then There Were Three!

Hitch Hiker

Leaving Senja island we headed South into the “real” Lofoten’s. We were aiming to reach as far as Svolvær (I sound like the dentist numbed my entire mouth and then I drank a bottle of tequila when I attempt to pronounce it), about 4hrs or so.

The weather had taken a turn, or rather had continued on the turn and hit the highway with clouds and now rain. As we marveled at the scenery through the rain streaks Yves suddenly says “We should pick him up!”, and slows down to a stop.
“Pick who up? What? Where?”
“Him, the hitch hiker.” Obviously….

Looking at what appeared to be a bright yellow rain saturated bear heading towards my window, I asked in a hushed tone, “Is it safe”.
Yves just rolled his eyes at me as he rolled the window down.
“Where ya heading?”
“Down towards the Lofotens”
“Great we are heading that way jump in”

And that’s how we adopted the third member of our merry band, Juraj! He filled the entire back seat and smelled like campfire.

The Thing I Love About Travelers

You can always tell when a group of travelers meet up, within seconds we are discussing recent adventures, future plans, suggested locations, harrowing adventures….and only hours later do we ask “Sorry what was your name?”. Heck, there have been times when we all promised to stay in touch and email those photos, waved farewell and only after watching the other person disappear do we realise we only knew their first name…

This was the same case with Juraj. He asked us all sorts of questions and immediately claimed Yves to be his inspiration working as a tour guide and traveling the world. He was interested in how cruise work was and seemed impressed at my amount of solo travel.

We discovered that he was a programmer who had worked in Denmark, in fact had had the perfect life, by society’s standards, but had woken up one day and realised he hadn’t experienced life, so he quit his job and began to travel. He planned for 6 months, now almost 18 months later he was starting to bring it to an end. Then he started some of his stories:
“When I was in Borneo with the orangutans…”
“When I was in South America with the Amazon natives…”
“When I smoked with the aborigines…”
Or something along those lines!

We just looked at each other amazed.Juraj was someone who has this wonderful childlike wonder for everything and everyone, his smile and laugh are contagious, and his stories blow your mind. He was definitely a likeminded soul and we were happy to have him in the band.
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We ended up meeting up with him in the morning after he camped in the wild somewhere on top of a hill with a beautiful view and we all headed further south for more adventures.

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2014 in Travel

 

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