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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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The Return to Airport World

Curbside Check-in

Feeling quite proud of myself, and rather tech savvy, after having checked-in via the Delta App on my Samsung Tablet, I proceeded to curbside check-in, attempting to not look too confused at this new procedure. As soon as everything was checked, and silently praying that my bag would mysteriously reach my destination from the curb side of the airport I proceeded to security.

Now security is one of the best places to people watch, it seems to bring out the best and worst in people. For some reason the security system as SeaTac appeared to be more of a cluster-fu..dge than normal, almost as if they were in the middle of construction somewhere. All lines seemed to merge and no one line seemed to have a direct route. Add to that about 8 wheelchairs attempting to squeeze through hundreds of already exasperated passengers and it begins to border on a comedy.

The large Indian family saying farewell to parents and grandparents, walking along the outside as they are pushed in wheelchairs through the crowd. Tears in eyes as a son shouts out “Be Brave Mammi!”. Then you see the Tibetan nun, the deep burgundy color of her robes giving away her origin, calmly meandering her way through at peace with the whole process. And finally the old gentleman trying to extricate his laptop to the exasperation of other passengers who finally just push past him.

All this culminates into the final step, what I like to call the TSA carnival ride. Step in, feet apart, arms above your head and “weeeeee” as the scanner scans you. I always feel like I should get a sticker or a snapshot as a memorabilia and have never understood why folks get so indignant at being shown as an amorphous blob on a screen.

Duty Free

Finally making it to the gate with over an hour to spare, I swung by Duty Free to purchase the requested Gin. Now, having never purchased alcohol in Duty Free before I afraid it would be confiscated, since I pass through Amsterdam on my way to Norway, I went over to one of the store attendants, a lovely gentleman possibly from China. When asked if it was ok he replied with:
“No problem! We put it zippy bag”
“I am sorry, a what?”
“Zippy bag, we put it zippy bag”
Or something to that extent, I decided since I understood the first part of “No Problem” I would go with that.
At checkout they placed it in a sealed bag and I had to pick it up as I boarded the plane. So I think it kind of made sense.

Please Remain Seated!

Waiting in the gate area it was very warm, possibly an issue with the circulation system, this ultimately made passengers more fidgety than usual, and with the added benefit of the flight being overbooked, by around 20 seats.

You have got to love it when the airline does this. So of course everyone without a seat lined up, the desk agents repeated over and over again, “please remain seated, we are working on the issue and will call you up as soon as we have resolved it, please remain seated. Anyone willing to give up your ticket, please come and see us, otherwise, again, please remain seated.”
Of course, everyone kept standing in line.

As they were about to board the announcement came through that the plane was “Too Hot!” so they could not board us and to please remain seated. The result 90% of the passengers lined up. I was terribly bemused at the whole thing, watching as passengers got frustrated standing in line when they should just remain seated.

On a side note the exciting experience of Taco Bell from the previous evening seemed to be losing it’s grip as I merrily chomped on pepto chewables.

When Sleep Eludes You….

The plane was packed beyond packed, there was no free seat anywhere… and an unhappy child 2 rows in front of me. This flight was going to be fantastic (please note the sarcasm).

Since it is virtually impossible for me to sleep on planes unless I have at least 2 seats, preferably 3 (allowing me to stretch out), I decided to attempt to take a half tablet of my muscle relaxant that I use when my shoulder acts up.
Dinner was served and I requested pasta, they had to fetch it, after nibbling on the salad, the cold hard roll and the cracker, I asked again, they had forgotten, pasta received and opened…pasta quickly closed!
No sleep!
Certain a movie would help loll me to sleep I put on my noise canceling headphones (that I purchased in Istanbul for a tenth of the price) and flipped to Godzilla. Perhaps a high action movie with sci-fi undertones was a bad idea…
No Sleep!
Then I tried Malificent, the whimsical retake on sleeping beauty, I was so entranced with the movie that I barely blinked.
No Sleep!….maybe I should have taken a whole pill?

Then there was a call for medical assistance, I considered but decided to wait and see if they had help. Being a vet nurse means I can only do so much and I hoped they didn’t ask me to check for a fever…But luckily they had a doctor and 3 RNs answer the call.
Still No Sleep!
Perhaps a light hearted kids movies? How to Train Your Dragon 2, brilliant!
Begin to drift off slightly, the bliss of oblivion within reach… and so too was my butt apparently, as my seat mate attempted to tuck in her blanket mid snore, she ultimately attempted to tuck my butt in at the same time! Awake!
Oh bugger it, I give up! Grab a coffee and play Majong on the plane game station till we land.

Due to the medical emergency, my assessment was possible heart attack from the few glimpses I got, we were granted priority landing.
The flight attendants assured us the gentleman would be ok.

Greetings Amsterdam…Airport

I must say that Schipol International Airport is quite delightful. Easy to manoeuvre about and joy of all joys… an outside area where you can breathe the fresh air… as long as you are upwind of the smokers. But for those of us already 12hrs + in airport air, anything resembling fresh was worth it.
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The Final Leg

Eventually it was time to meander to the gate and await boarding. Feeling utterly exhausted I politely asked the gate agent if there was a free row so I could sleep, politeness always seems to help and by the time the plane left the ground I was strapped into a middle seat of 3 and passing out while attempting to ignore a section of the buckle digging into my side.

After a refreshing 45min catnap, I awoke to a wonderful flight attendant handing me coffee and a funky Dutch cookie, two wafers glued together with caramel… heaven to a long haul traveler. As I was correctly trained in cookie and coffee etiquette by my parents I broke it in half and…. DUNKED!

The flight attendant was so delighted she exclaimed “That’s the only way to eat them, but then one is never enough!” and promptly got me another one. I think I am in love with Dutch flight attendants as I was handed a third before leaving.

Journey to Voss

Leaving Airport World, at least for a few days, I discovered I had received a dose of exceptional traveler luck. My bag was one of the first, then I was just able to jump on the bus that was leaving for downtown Bergen, after a short walk I managed to get on a train leaving in 5min (a whole hour earlier than expected), I nodded off now and then and when I finally arrived at the platform, the first person I asked to borrow his phone ended up being a mate of mine and I was promptly handed an exceptionally strong cup of coffee (he was from Spain and apparently the stronger the better is their motto).

Shower, food and meeting all my mates mates ended a very long 2 days… but now the adventure into Norway was just beginning!
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Posted by on September 18, 2014 in Travel

 

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