End of our first day in Copenhagen we had dinner with our airbnb hosts family and stayed up late watching a movie with Emil and Nynne. It was awesome to hang out with lovely people on the other side of the world.
Weather was heaps warmer (maybe 1’C) the next day so we rode around for hours. We paid a visit to Europes’ longest shopping street and Jono got impatient with me when I wanted to go into shops (not sure what he thought we would be doing there…). We explored Christiania Island and rode through the Norrebro Cemetry. This is where Hans Christian Anderson is buried and people don’t seem to find it weird or creepy to walk their dog and hang out in here. It was pretty beautiful.
I guess it’s probably because the city’s have been getting bigger and bigger every time we travel, but they just keep feeling more and more alive! As soon as we arrived in Stockholm it just felt fun. There’s more going on, more visitors, more to see.
The Hostel we stayed in was really fun too, full of cool travellers. We had a great time just wandering the streets, cooking dinner in a full kitchen with about 4 different languages going on at any one time, and finding a great little tapas bar in the old city for desert and coffee.
Our stay in Oslo was the first time we had used an airbnb.com place and it went pretty well! The room was cool and cheap (especially for Oslo) and Jan the host was really friendly. He gave us a map and told us of some good things to see in Oslo.
We were hoping to see ‘The Scream’ but unfortunately the Munch museum was closed, what a bum. So off we went for a very frosty walk along side a mostly frozen river interspersed with a few fairly random statues, including the below gem. When its cold out we can only assume from this statue that Norwegians love nothing more than to get naked and ride a moose…?
Dead set felt like we were leaving the Antarctic driving off on the ferry from Lofoten. Massive white cliffs. Deep blue ocean. Fairly sure I spotted a polar bear. Could have been a man in a polar bear jacket though. Considering they skin everything here I can only assume they are available to buy.
So if ever you go to Å i Lofoten there is really only one thing worth remembering… there is one bus in all of Norway that does not take credit card and it is the 6:30am from Å to Moskenes. Which just happened to be the bus we needed to get to the ferry. The driver was fully unkeen to let us on, but I just started to cry coz it was the only way to get to our ferry and without it we were doomed to spend another 24hrs in fish stink village. Then Clare teared up as well so he let us on.
After our 3hr ferry ride and a short wait in Bodo it was time for our 18hr train ride to Oslo, yay!!! You may recognize my friend in the photo below, ‘super organized train cabin space Clarrington’. She is a most helpful train travel companion. Even if she refuses to sleep and may become slightly deranged by the end of particularly long journeys.
While we were mid journey I thought it would be appropriate to grab a quick photo of the evidence that Clare can actually sleep on the train. Felt a bit creepy taking a photo of someone who is asleep. Little did I realize the photo was about to become about a thousand times creepier thanks to the help of Lars Sneakinapeek.
Once we arrived we dumped the bags and headed straight to the free museums (travellers on a budget people). The war museum was unreal! Had a great time checking out the dioramas, old weapons, replicas, models, etc etc etc. Outside the kids were getting involved too, taking it in turns to ride the troop carrier. Who says war isn’t fun for the whole family.
Walking around Oslo was the coldest we’ve been. Turned a couple of Clare’s toes purple. We did come across this cool statue though. If you read the inscription carefully I’m fairly sure it says something like “I’m an awesome explorer who founded these parts. If you want to be my horse you have to have mangoes the size of well, mangoes.“
Had a strange realization while I was going to collect some dinner tonight. I think we are staying in the Bronx of Oslo, but given that it is the most expensive city in Europe and that the average income for Norwegion’s is over AUD$100K I’m pretty sure there’s more chance of me needing to steal from the hobo’s around here than vice versa.
I have a quick tip for the Mayor of Oslo too, if you get some public toilets you will have a lot less ozzie yobbo’s urinating in your gardens in particularly awkward situations that bit too close to random passer byes.
Once we resolved the minor fiasco of thinking we missed our bus, we eventually arrived in Svolvaer. Our accomo was pretty nice, even though they upgraded our room and charged us the difference because they were renovating the room we booked. Still got a pretty good deal though on an awesome room!
Next morning, Sunday, we headed straight to the tourist info centre, which of course is closed Sunday, as are all supermarkets, cafes and bakeries. Luckily some nice lady in an art gallery told us where the only open café in town could be found. We had waffles and I ordered mine with Norwegian Brown Cheese. What a great way to ruin perfectly good waffles. Had to try it though. The waitress, a cool Swedish chick who had travelled through Oz the year before with her bf told us about a nice walk around the breakwall past the stockfish. Stockfish stink. There are thousands, probably millions actually. The hang the body and the head till they get all juicy like and then flog em off to European and Asian countries. Nearly gagged just walking past a fresh batch!
After about three hours of walking we also found the only supermarket in town open on a Sunday and knocked up a quick snowman, rolling ball technique and all. Met a few random Norwegians along the way. The people are super friendly, they don’t go out of their way to talk to you, but if you strike up a convo they love a good yarn. Man they do talk quickly though. I still can’t copy their accent either; I just sound like a leprechaun. As it was still the weekend we headed out for a $15 pint of beer at the local bar. Walking home was more of a run thanks to the ambient temperature being well below freezing.
Next morning we grabbed the Lofoten Express again headed for Å i Lofoten, about a three hour bus ride. The scenery along the way was unreal. Massive mountain peaks all dusted in snow. As we pulled up at one random bus stop just off the side of the road near a few houses and pine trees we heard a crack that sorta sounded like a gunshot. Didn’t think too much of it. Looking out the window I notice a massive moose/elk about 100m away. I grabbed Clare’s attention, “oi a moose”, Clare turned just in time to see it stumble into some bracken, collapse and die. Some unit had shot it. The bus driver didn’t seem worried at all, so we sat there for another few seconds in silence and then he just drove off. It was so weird.
There is not too much happening in the old Å. Pronounced “Oh” which is only mildly confusing. It is pretty beautiful here though.
We’ve been here for 5hours now and have seen two other humans, and about 1000 rotten fish! When we called the receptionist of our Hotel she told us she wasn’t in town and just to let ourselves into room number 4. So we are currently sitting on our Hotel room at 6pm, the only ones in the building, with no bedding or towels, assuming the lady will rock up sometime soon? We leave for the ferry at 6:30 so if she doesn’t turn up it could be a cheap nights accommodation for us.
Clear night outside, might see the lights again tonight.
I can definitely think of worse places to be freaking out, thinking you have missed the only daily bus to the Lofoten Islands.
We were pretty worried, but turned out the timetable we were using was an old one, and while we were running around trying to get people to help us call the bus company… the bus showed up. The driver couldn’t speak a word of english though, but I can give you a red hot tip, waving your hands around, speaking slower and even trying French (no idea why i did that, but Clare thoroughly enjoyed it) will be of no assistance to anyone! It was pretty hellish waiting for 45mins in -3’C though.
When we did eventually get on the bus, I decided to make myself comfortable, only to be told by the lady behind me that it was very inappropriate to lie my seat back with her sitting behind me and that I should go and sit somewhere else. Which I did, and as I moved I noticed her take a shoe off, put her foot on the seat next to her and cover it with her leather glove. Normal as.
The view from the hotel is outstanding this time of year. Everything covered in snow. The hotel is about 5mins walk up hill from the centre of town (‘Sentrum’ in Norwegian), which allows the view over buildings, ocean, ships and mountains.
In all honesty we chose the place because it was the cheapest thing we could find on the net from Australia. Not many websites for hotels up here are in English. It was still very expensive at AUD$140 per night for a two bed room with two single beds, a tv, small table, sink with mirror and shared toilet and shower with the other 6 rooms on our floor. The view from our window on the second floor looks straight out over the town toward the bridge.
The Hotel, as you will see in several other reviews for the place, is a weird mix of Hostel and Hotel. Obviously an expensive Hostel and cheap Hotel. There is a fully equipped kitchen (but no Fridge?) and a nice dining/sitting area. We were also able to use the washing machine and dryer free of charge in between the cleaner’s loads of bedding, etc. The wifi works well and the young staff are very helpful and friendly.
Obviously everything is very expensive in Scandinavia, but we were able to eat fairly cheaply. For example one night we cooked Salmon steaks (which made all the other guests pretty jealous) with chips and frozen vegies for about AUD$17 from the local Eurospar supermarket. If you ate at Burger King or similar, a small meal would set you back about AUD$25 each. So cooking at the hotel is definitely the go. The hotel offers a cold breakfast for NOK 50 each, but we just bought some cereal and milk for breakfasts.
We can confirm that the rumors about how visible the Aurora is right now are 100% correct. One night we walked about 20mins from the hotel up the bridge to grab some photos of the city by night and were rewarded with another magical display. Very cold, but very worth it.
A dog sled trip is also definitely worth the cost while your in Tromso. About AUD$300 per person.
You’d think that spending 8 hours asleep on a seat in Oslo airport would be reminiscent of hell on earth. But to be honest it was less than half as bad as expected. We slept most of the night and it actually went pretty quickly. The short flight to Tromso, in Northern Norway was spectacularly beautiful and a good taste of what was to come.
By 10am we’d sold a kidney each and booked ourselves into dog sledding for later that night and were making our way up through town to our hotel. Tromso is an awesome town, it’s the biggest Norwegian city in the Arctic Circle and is a small island surrounded by towering mountains. Everything is covered in snow and the air is so clear and cold it stings your face. We love it! It’s small enough to walk just about everywhere in a short enough time that your face doesn’t fall off. Unfortunately walking on icy footpaths is not something Jono does best much to the amusement of the local folk. He has hit the ground twice and I have caught him once, which has earned me the non-flattering nickname ‘Stablor’, I am not encouraging its use and will drop him next time. All the locals here wear a reflector wrist strap and wrap their prams with a reflector belt. This must be so no one hits you at 3:30pm in the dark.
At 4:45pm, long after the sun had set (it rises about 1030am and is gone by 3pm), we were picked up in a coach and driven an hour and a half into the frosty wilderness. When we arrived it was a balmy -20 degrees C!! Luckily they equipped us with some delicious and attractive winter suits and snow boots. We had our own husky team, which for the good of mankind I declined to drive, with 5 dogs. They were pretty scary at first especially when our team took us for a quick detour through all the other dog’s kennels. One of the dogs had had a litter the day before which were super cute. The path took us up through stunning moon lit mountains and snow covered valleys. As the dogs turned the sled for home (luckily they knew where they were going because they were in complete control, no offence Jono) we saw something in the sky we’d been hoping to see. Aurora Borealis.
We weren’t exactly certain it was the Northern lights when it first appeared as it was pale white and looked like thin cloud but it gradually got stronger. After a hot meal in a Sami tent with a toasty open fire someone gave a shout from outside. We all rushed out into the cold and looked up at the most amazing display! What a sight! The pale white had become fluorescent green and it danced across the sky swirling into figure 8’s and changing into columns and separate swirls.
It’s our second day in Tromso today and we spent awhile exploring the Polar Museum. The museum was great fun, dedicated to explorers and hunters of the Arctic. We’ve now seen and touched almost every type of stuffed arctic animal you could imagine; seals (7 different types including babies), walrus, polar bear, arctic fox, ptarmigan, puffin, bear, reindeer, some kind of yak thing and huskies. They skin just about everything here. Our favorite was what some genius decided to do with the sealskin below. You can also buy sealskin handbags, belts, boots and jackets (for the low low price of NOK 15000, AUD$2600).
We are sitting in a little café, sipping a $7 coffee (!) writing this blog. We’re about to head home soon and cook up our salmon fillet and veges for dinner. Tonight we’ll walk up the massive bridge to the mainland and capture the island ablaze with lights in the arctic night. This really is a special place. Svolvaer and the Lofoton Islands tomorrow.
As you may have guessed this place is a little quirky. To be honest I haven’t stayed in many backpackers, but if 30% of travelling stories are true then this place is perfect!
It’s pretty small and has a pub down stairs off the street with three floors of rooms above. We stayed in a ten bed mixed dorm on the top floor for 4 nights, so the buns are tight thanks to the stairs. The top two floors only have one shower each, but even though our room was full I never waited for a shower. Could be coz we were up an into it pretty early, having continental breakie (which is included) by 8:30am most mornings. I did see one or two peeps wait maybe 5-10 mins to shower late in the morning.
It’s in a pretty rad location too. We walked to Oxford St most days, via Leicester Sq, Parliament House, Big Ben, the Eye, Hyde Park, etc etc etc. At night when it wasn’t drizzling we walked down an checked out the Tower Bridge which was about a half hr journey each way. There are two tube stations within 500m, Waterloo and Lambeth North.
There is a small but functional kitchen and you can just eat at the tables in the little pub down stairs. We bought food from Sainsburies and M&S to cook for ourselves, but the M&S food was heat up only and was pretty good. We never spent more than £12 on dinner for two and spent as little as £4.
If all the backpackers we stay in are this good and this clean I’ll be stoked. Quick question though, why do people think it’s ok to fart in a room full of sleeping, or wishing they were sleeping people?
On Monday Jono and I met up with my good friend from school, Mel. Mel has been living and working in London for a year and a half and I haven’t seen her in about 3 years! It was so awesome to catch up! We met her boyfriend Dean and escaped the snow and cold in a traditional English pub for a beer or two and lunch.
We chatted like not a day had gone past since we saw her last, she’s hilarious and it was great. Jono and I had grand plans to visit a museum after however the cold won and we snuggled back into the backpackers pub to kick back in the warmth. After dinner we ventured over to Shepard’s Bush on the underground for a pub quiz night with Mel and Dean and some of their Aussie friends – awesome fun and we won the quiz somehow.
I have decided a few things about the english people/cold living people over the last few days. 1. it would be really sucky to be a smoker and 2. having a baby in winter when you need to leave the house even occasionally would be really really sucky. You see people huddled on the pavement with no gloves on and red noses clutching a cigarette glancing longingly into the warm pub where their friends are and I pity them. It would be really good motivation to quit. Seeing people going for walks with their baby in a pram makes me think they are crazy. Could you possibly imagine how many layers you’d have to wrap your baby in to make it warm enough then I bet you’d step outside and it would poo and need changing. I will admit its taking me a few days to adjust to this business of wearing a thousand layers and stripping them off and on all day, going from freezing and snow to sweltering cafes and shops. But after doing a bit (a lot) of shopping for thermals etc I feel much better about life in the cold.
We went to the British Museum today and spent hours wandering around. This was my second visit but there are always new things to see and amazing things worth revisiting. What an incredible collection of awesome stuff. I loved the Egyptian area of course and Jono was fascinated by Lindow Man. Lindow man was a young man who lived around 2000 years ago and after he was killed was thrown into a peat bog to be forever immortalised as a leather man. He even made me take a photo which I will include for your viewing pleasure:
We’ve spent hours just walking around the centre of London, finding little alley ways. cute cafes and beautiful old buildings. This afternoon we spent some quality time in Marks and Spenser’s food hall – most awesome place ever. So thanks to their delicious looking fancy pre prepared meals we are off to have Lamb Rogan Josh with basmati rice and naans and an almond crossaint for dessert all for a grand price of 7 pound, winning.
England is cold, wet and awesome!
It feels crazy to say considering how much stuff we have crammed in, but we have been in London for just over 24hrs now. When we arrived we headed straight to our backpackers and caught up with Heidi and Carmen.
The backpackers is a pretty fun little place with a pub downstairs and the rooms upstairs. I’m sitting in the pub now watching England beat Ireland in the rugby on the big screen. The rooms are clean but pretty small and we’re in a ten bed dorm. It is definately going to take some getting used too sharing a room with this many randoms.
We spent the day yesterday doing a bit of site seeing and shopping for warmer clothes, coz it is cold! Its been a bit wet since we arrived too which has been a bit average. Last night we went out for a dinner that Ruth had organised. Was great to meet a few of the locals and catch up with Ben Bremner and Adam Clarke.
This morning after breakfast we said bon voyage to Heidi and Carmen and headed out to Ealing for the meeting. We are now masters of the underground, as thanks to a lot of track work it took us over an hr and a half to get there and included three trains, a bus and some walking. But luckily we arrived just in time. They had a lunch at the hall so we hung around for that too which was nice. It took us even longer than the trip there to get home thanks to some other incident on the tracks.
All is well now though, back in the warm pub and about to grab a beer.
The trip up to Carey’s Peak was a bit of hard yakka, but more than worth the effort, with views all the way back to Newcastle. Spending three days in the cool, fresh air with good people was top shelf.
It was a Friday morning in the middle of Winter, late June 2012, when Clare, Matt, Carmen, Heidi, Brody and Theaker stopped in at Macca’s for our last taste of deep fried salt and sugar for the next few days. By the time we’d reached the dirt road up toward Lagoon Pinch, turned right at the fork in the road onto Allyn River Rd (not Upper Allyn River Rd, which came earlier) and followed it all the way to a closed gate and the sign for the start of the hike, it was 9:30am.
The hike is an immediate uphill, with only a few flat sections. Fairly difficult, but manageable for even the first time hikers amongst us. The landscape on the way up was beautiful, and even became quite rainforest like.
With a short break for morning tea, but setting a pretty good pace, we reached a secret side trail to Selby Alley Hut by 12:30. The track was pretty well covered by scrub at it’s entry which is along side a big, white tree stump on the right on the track. It wound its way down to a beautiful waterfall and small, quite dingy hut.
We continued onward and upward for another couple hours, following the signs at any junctions to the Peak. In the saddle just below the peak was a really nice little camp ground with an old hut and fire place to keep us warm and dry. The views from the top were pretty special too.
The following day we had decided to do a bit of a circuit down to Junction Pools and then back via Black Stump. It had a double benefit being able to see the sites, but also meant we could leave the tents set-up and hide our packs in the scrub near the camp site to lighten the load.
Heading back down from Carey’s Peak we took the first left, which was sign posted to Junction Pools. A few hundred meters down this track their was a small timber sign-post sending us to the right along Edwards Walking Track (apparently if you miss this, you can just follow the main track around though). It soon joined a 4wd track and wound its way up and over a large swampy marshland.
Eventually we reached a gate and a fairly deep creek, which Brody thought he could cross with shoes on. He was horribly mistaken. Once we crossed the creek and made our way along its bank up the hill we turned right onto a more pronounced 4wd track down to Junstion Pools by 12:30pm. It was a fantastic place, and somewhere we would love to drive to and camp again.
Walking through the campsite we crossed the creek and followed a very light walking trail up the hill beyond onto Aeroplane Track. From here it was a 4km gentle uphill to Black Stump, where we took a right hand turn at the track junction, crossed a small creek and continued for another few km back to camp. The boys took a slight detour back down to Wombat Creek to refill the bladders and bottles before we all headed back up the Peak to watch the sunset. Watching shooting stars from the hut by the fire sipping on port and jim beam was pretty special.
That night was pretty cold, close to zero, which made sleeping pretty difficult. As soon as we were up we packed up and made for the car, as a large windy cold front continued moving in. The trip back down was a breeze and we reached the car by 1pm and headed straight to Maitland for a pub lunch, passing a particularly interesting fence along the way.
A Short Prayer at the Airport:
“Almighty Heavenly Father,
We give You all praise and thanks because You give us so many reasons to be thankful. You have given us so many fantastic things to enjoy in life and some awesome people to share them with. We pray for the soon return of Your Son and that you will keep us safe until He comes.
Through Christ, Amen.”