A Travellerspoint blog

Squirrels, Starlings and Surprises (part 2)

The actual final bit of #Jexit!

Ok so the last blog was true to about 90% or so! It was written at Craig's, we did spend our final night there (Monday 2nd September) and we did book our onward travel. However, the route and the intentions might not have been quite what I suggested! I write this (part 1) on a canal side just south of Berlin in Germany, having spent a fab few days in the city.

So what was the plan then - well, the idea (and at this point, with 6 days still to go, we think it's all under wraps) is/was to spring a massive surprise on Step Dad Paul in Dresden for his 60th birthday this coming Saturday (21st). It's been planned all year, but only my mum was in on it - it's part of their club rally and she somehow had to wangle us onto a couple of their tours without Paul spotting the numbers not tallying! Whether we've got away with this, we will have to wait and see. Obviously this won't be posted until at least next weekend, but I wanted to get things drafted so I can a) be honest again with you all, and b) capture truly the last bits of #Jexit part 1.

While at Craig's back in early September we did booked both our tunnel crossing (Thursday 26th September) but also a ferry crossing from Trelleborg in Sweden to Sassnitz in Germany - this wasn't a crossing that had previously been on our radar, but thanks to our new friends the Motoroamers who'd crossed that way the previous week, we took a look and worked out it was not only a very similar price to all other options, it also took us into Northern Germany about 3 hours north of Berlin, a city we'd fancied visiting for a long time, and saved us about 500kms of driving all around Denmark. The only downside, it was a 4.15hr crossing so even longer than our arrival into Sweden! We booked it up, and prayed for calm weather!

With that all booked, and our final night's chilli delivered to our fabulous hosts Craig and Sofia, plus an impromptu visit from Jase's brother Mike and nephew Vinnie to deliver my birthday tea-bags (thanks mum-in-law Sandra) we packed up the van and rolled away from their lovely place on Tuesday 3rd - a very, very wet morning! First stop of course was supplies at Lidl, then a short drive to a nature reserve at Alingsås. Having been out of the van for a few days, we wanted somewhere to just get back used to being in smaller surroundings, and get things back as they should be. The biblical rain did stop long enough for us to have a wander around the reserve, spotted a good few "kettle" rock formations, created by years of glacial activity. We also had a lovely couple of red squirrels for company all afternoon which was really ace.





Wednesday 4th and with our ferry crossing not until the coming Sunday, we had a few days to fill. We'd picked up a load of leaflets back in Skuleskogan park for the other national parks in the south of Sweden, and one of these was Store Moss, near Anderstorp. We arrived there in time for lunch, and managed to dodge the showers for a brief look around the bird hides.



Thursday morning and a lovely bright day. Rain was forecast but not until 1pm, so we set out fairly early for the 12km lake circuit. Unfortunately the rain had other plans, and by the point of no return, we were soaked! We completed the walk though, ending on about 16km! It had been enjoyable though, and as they say, skin is waterproof!



Friday 6th and another cloudy but dry day. We'd planned to head further south and towards the Ikea museum at Älmhult. However, we got a bit waylaid! Initially by a Glass factory at Boda Glasbruk - this southern area of Sweden is big in glass production, thanks to availability of wood and good labour. It's seen its share of good times and bad, a more artistic boom is currently being felt throughout the area. (Thanks Sofia for the tip off)



After a great wander around we headed on and spotted a sign for Åsnes National Park - another leaflet we'd picked up. We headed there and found a good parking spot. A short walk and we were lakeside, with a great firepit complete with wood, so it would be rude not to have another campfire!



Saturday morning and we took on a couple of short loops around the national park - mostly forest areas with so many mushrooms and berries around.




After a good leg stretch, and with an early ferry the following day, we needed to make tracks towards Trelleborg. Jase had spotted a great place on Park4Night just a few miles up the coast from the ferry terminal, at Smygehuk which is officially the most southerly point in Sweden. Meaning we'd truly been from the top of Norway at Nordkap, right down to the toe of Sweden - definitely a great place to finish our Scandinavian adventures. And yes, there were a few tears to be leaving (me).




Sunday morning and thankfully, although skies were murky, there wasn't really a breath of wind and the sea looked calm. We loaded on time, onto a boat which also carries rail from time to time! Parking up and heading to the passenger deck, with enough snacks and toys to keep us entertained for the morning, we found ourselves a nice spot to sit. The crossing was so calm it was almost enjoyable! Jase even found us a shower to use on the cabin deck! The route is heavily used as a Scandinavian booze cruise - although it's longer than our cross channel sailings, by going into German waters means they can stock up on drink both ways at almost 50% less than their state run shops. I was fascinated by the ingenious methods of transport - from sack trucks, to shopping trolleys (complete with bubble wrap) through to common old suitcases, they were all stuffed full of bottles & cans by the time we docked!



On arrival into Sassnitz, we'd hoped to have a visit to Prorus which was the site for Hitler's answer to a Butlins holiday camp. Unfortunately, the parking was less than welcoming (thanks Germany!) and we had to move on.

Our final stopping place was right by the sea near Binz. We were both fairly sad to have finally said goodbye to our fantastic Scandinavian adventures, and knowing that Germany isn't always the easiest country to be in for us, we resolved to make the best of our final few weeks. A lovely walk along the coast restored our faith though by seeing a few deer, a massive flock of cranes and also a fantastic starling murmuration right over the van as the sun went down, awesome.





Monday morning and a jobs day. It was fairly wet and cloudy and with the next few days booked into Berlin, we needed to get some food and gas etc. First stop was Aldi, and we were quite literally like kids in a sweet shop! Having got used to very cautious shopping throughout Scandinavia, it was lovely to be back to the relatively cheap prices in Germany - the land where you can by a tin of beer for less than a quid! Equally, diesel at €1.17 a litre, and LPG at €0.54 a litre. It might not be the friendliest place, but at least our money will last a little longer! After our main supplies we headed to a camping shop for yet another bathroom tap - we think this is our 5th replacement of the trip! We've gone a little more sturdy this time though to try and see whether that makes a difference, fingers crossed.

Our overnight spot was lakeside (not that we ever saw it, thanks to the relentless rain!) at Fürstensee. It was a fairly quiet spot, with one caravan for company, and a succession of dog walkers.

Next morning (Tuesday 10th) and a brighter morning. Today we were booked into a Stellplatz (paying car park with facilities) on the outskirts of Berlin. This would be the first place we've paid to stay since leaving Brittany back in May. We opted to go this way as with all cities, you need to be sure of security and location to make the best of it. On arriving, it was clear it wasn't going to be the most salubrious place. Pitches were quite small, and in usual German fashion everything came at an extra price. We'd started off by thinking it would be €16 a night, but by the time the bathroom access, toilet emptying, water filling and city taxes had been added, it was €23 a night with an extra €1 a person for a shower! In fairness €25 a night with showers for a capital city location really isn't bad, it's just the charging structure that makes you feel like you are being constantly ripped off.

That said, the location was superb - just a 10minute walk (via an Aldi) took you directly to both the U (underground) and S (more extensive) railway lines, and a 15minute journey (€7 day ticket) dropped you in the centre of Berlin.


We spent a total of 3 whole days in Berlin, and this felt about right to cover off the main spots. The first day we did a fantastic walking tour with the Original tour company - they are the ones that offer a free tour but you are encouraged to give a tip at the end - we've done several of these and they are always great. This took us around the main sites:

Berlin TV tower - the East's beacon of power, visible across the West


Berlin Cathedral


Humboldts University - the site of the 1933 book burning that is arguable the rise of the Nazi power build


Checkpoint Charlie




The Wall


Line of the wall


Nazi Headquarters - now the German Finance Ministry


This panel shows the marks where the Swastikas were removed


Hitler's bunker - unknown for years, and now simply a car park


The Holocaust Memorial park - 2,711 concrete slabs, all the same size but different heights which you can walk around - interpretation is up to you, but for me it has a sense of being lost and invisible, yet still getting glimpses of the outside world




The Brandenburg Gate


We also learnt the story of the Stolperstein - literally stumbling stone - 70,000 brass plaques situated throughout the city, sitting slightly proud of the surface (hence stumbling or tripping) and located outside a place of work or residence of a Jew lost during the war.



If you are heading to Berlin any time soon, I'd thorough recommend this tour as a way of getting your bearings but also learning more about both WW2 and the Cold War and it's effects on the city. 9.5 miles walked today.

Day 2 in Berlin and another fairly early trip back into the city. We headed further afield this time though with our first stop at Tempelhofer Feld which is the former airfield. Initially built to test early airships and balloons in the 1890's, it was reconstructed by the Nazis between 1936 and 1941. It only ever got to 80% complete, but the terminal alone was 300,000 sq meters with an airfield of 303 hectares. It fell into the Western (American) sector of occupation, and played an incredibly important role in the Berlin Airlift (the 1st photo is a memorial to this), and remained in their hands until 1993, housing over 2,000 military personnel. Today it is a recreational space, with cyclists, joggers, roller bladers and walkers enjoying the smooth tarmac.





Our second stop was at the Treptower Park - may not be a name familiar to you all, but back during the Cold War, and certainly as depicted in Spooks, it is a hotbed for spy activity! It is also the place for a rather extensive Soviet memorial.



Our final stop for the day was the East side gallery which is the 2nd of 3 sections of wall that remains, this one covered in artworks - including some of the iconic images we all recall. The wall itself is a lot thinner than I expected, but equally I hadn't realised that there was in fact two parts, with a so called "death strip" in between. Add to that patrolling soldiers, wire, nails and look out towers and you can see how it became impossible to cross. And to think this is what Trump wants............!




Our 2nd day proved to be an epic distance wise, with almost 12miles being clocked by the time we got back to the van!

Friday was our final day, and with a determination not to walk quite so far, we hit the rail again, heading further out of the city to see the Allied Museum. This was a free museum, housed in an old US movie theatre and extremely interesting as it covered a lot of the post war stuff I hadn't thought about. Like how a 4-way Government tried to rule, the process of denazification and how as a result of the Berlin Airlift, the country slowly started being rebuilt. I guess we all know the stories of the war, but rarely think about the aftermath. The museum also housed the original Checkpoint Charlie, along with a sector of spy tunnel which ran from the West into the East, and was used to steal secrets from the Soviets.





After a brief bit of shopping at the biggest and best stocked Decathlon we've ever seen, we had our final visit to the DDR Museum. Designed to almost transport you back in time, this museum is essentially a tribute to a bygone age. My expectation was for this to be very grey, and dull. It wasn't at all, it was very like 1950's England - what you have to remember of course, is this is how it stayed until 1989, with a background of censorship and total lack of freedom. It feels quite different then.




We'd loved Berlin and definitely recommend it as a city break. The transport system is easy to use, cheap, reliable and clean - nowhere near as packed as London either! It feels like a melting pot of cultures too, which when you consider the history, is quite an achievement.

And so to round off part 1 - we left the city yesterday (Saturday 14th) and headed for the peace and quiet of a canal side spot near Märkisch Buchholz. Jase has spent time fishing, and caught two yesterday, including his first catch with the fly rod.



We are due in Dresden for the big reveal on Friday, and will probably go into a campsite for a few nights between now and then. The plan during our time in Dresden will be to do a few more WW2 sites and enjoy spending our last few days on #Jexit.

So into part 2 which should then see this posted hopefully with all cards fully on the table! We left the lovely canal side spot on Monday morning (16th) and initially headed to Lübenau for some supplies, and then onto Lubben where we had a wander around. Lübben, in Spreewald, is a sweet little place, just an hour or so south of Berlin. It is all set around a number of rivers, making parts of it an island, but for reasons we weren't able to discover, it is also massive in gherkin production - who knew?! We did have an enjoyable time playing in the water garden though!



Later in the afternoon, wanting to continue our "big kid" theme, we had a look at Tropical Island - the biggest waterpark around here for miles - we'd spotted an early bird offer for entrance before 9am at €14 each. We already knew there was free overnight parking there, so we headed across and spent the evening on the apron!


Tuesday morning and up very early for our date with the pools - the early bird offer is essentially entrance between 6am-9am for 4hrs from your time of arrival. It's a pretty slick operation, with automated lockers which time your entry. Now, I know you'll be disappointed at the lack of photos, but the place was amazing and all built inside (with a bit of outside too) a Zeppelin hangar - think the Oasis crossed with the Eden project! It is designed to feel like a Caribbean resort, with beach huts and tents for people to stay in on the beach, as well as exotic birds and plants. Then to the business end - lazy rivers, Jacuzzis, 3 massive slides (including German's highest) and a set of rapids that no matter how hard I tried, I always ended up going down backwards! We cleared the lot of course! Such a great way to spend the morning.

The rest of the day was spent feeling pretty tired out, so another night on the airfield was in order!

Wednesday morning and it was time to confront the washing! We'd been on the road since leaving Troll, and with another week before getting home, things weren't going to last! Germany, much like our time in Scandinavia, isn't awash with the laundry facilities that you find in France, and it doesn't feel like the sort of place you can discretely get your smalls dry. The only option was a campsite. We'd found a nice sounding one lakeside just outside of Lübben and headed in. The rest of Wednesday and Thursday was spent on getting ourselves, the washing and the van clean and spangly! After 9 months of not seeing Mum and Paul, I didn't want to look too much like the hippy I'd become!


It's been very odd being back in a formal campsite after so long on the road. The catering shop takes a bit to be desired.............


So to today, Friday 20th and Surprise day! Jase and I headed from camp at Lübben this morning and across to Dresden with the intention of being parked up and hanging around reception to spring the surprise - getting mum as well this time, as she's not expecting us until later! I think it worked a treat!



The plan over the weekend is to see Dresden, with bus tours, boat rides and a visit to Colditz Castle. Plus of course, spending with family. We leave on Tuesday and then #Jexit really is all over, for now at least...!


From here it will be a couple of long driving days to meet our tunnel on the 26th & then homeward bound. Look forward to catching up with you all on the other side. I really hope you've enjoyed our tales and travels. We've had a total blast, which I hope has come across. There are so many reasons to stay in "normal" life, but if you have the chance, get out and see the world, it's so good for you.

Til our next trip, stay safe all J&J x



Posted by One streetaway 23:23 Archived in Germany Tagged germany sweden cycling travelling westfalia Comments (0)

Lakeside, Lounging and Laundry!

The final run south back to Trollhättan

Wow so here it is then, probably the final chapter in the #Jexit journey, and definitely the last post from "on the road" as I plan to do the last wrap up summary once we get back to the UK with the head space to reflect on both the trip home and the overall impressions of our big adventure.

It's safe to say this second 9 months has totally flown by - it was far less planned than the first part, and while I don't necessarily think that made any difference to the overall enjoyment, I think it says far more about how much more relaxed we were this time around. To think that just 4 months ago we were in Western France having attended a lovely wedding, to finding ourselves now having been to the top of Norway and spent some great times with friends and family in Scandinavia. It just goes to show how far you can get if you just get on with it!

Anyway, I have the last couple of weeks to catch you up on, so here goes.

The last blog saw us at Njurunda, which was a pretty seaside spot in mid Sweden, after our second visit to the High Coast. The local commune had installed a free (although donations welcome) Aire with the usual facilities but an added bonus of a shower too! We made good use of the site, spending 4 days there in the end. The town itself has an interesting industrial history as it was a major player in the saw mill industry during the 1830's. Being so close to the coast made transportation easy. There are many remains in really good condition that you can wander around, again all for free (or donation of course).




During the course of our 4 days, we had a great explore of both the industrial heritage and also the coastal waters, doing plenty of walking, fishing and generally making the most of the sunny weather.


We left Njurunda on Wednesday 21st August and headed further south to Sveg. Keen readers will remember this is a place we visited on our way north, and it was probably the first place on our Scandinavian adventure that saw us with a "proper" wild camping spot on the lakeside. That time it was sunny but we had 4 campers for company, this time it was cloudier but we got the plum spot lakeside, complete with campfire and no neighbours. It was a great location, and we ended up enjoying a couple of nights there, making the most of the campfire, and really immersing ourselves into the great outdoors. On reflection now I think it's clear that these last few weeks have really been about taking the time to enjoy the simple and quiet things about camping. We definitely dialled the pace back a bit, and just enjoyed being - if that doesn't sound too pretentious!






We also fulfilled one of Jase's dreams - to have sausages cooked on the open fire - took us both back to our younger days in the Guides and Cubs!


Friday 23rd August and with less than a week to get to Craig and Sofia's in Troll, we knew we needed to roll further south. We were headed to Loftsdalen, home to skiing in the winter, but mountain biking trails in the summer. On arrival we had a look at the uplift system - essentially using the ski lifts to take rider and bike to the top & then speed your way down. Not for me, but Jase was keen, until he saw the prices! We opted to head lakeside and a parking spot which would give us access to some free cycling and walking trails for a few days.

Now this is where things got quite exciting - this is bear country, and the chap in the bike shop said a couple had recently spotted a bear along the lakeside trail we intended to have a ride on - cue much excitement (and a little fear!). However, what we also needed to appreciate is that this is hunting season - now being more of a tourist than a hunter, the thought of hunting something I am desperate to see (be it bear, elk, reindeer etc) feels a little at odds - but I think it is really important to understand and respect the laws of the land you are travelling in. The bear hunt is all about population control - they have 3,000 bears in Sweden, and are allowed to cull 10% each year - there are specific dates for this (and every type of hunt) - we'd happened to arrive at Loftsdalen just 2 days into the bear hunting season.

Suffice to say, although I totally respect their rights, I went very quickly from wanting to see a bear, to kind of hoping they kept their heads down!
On the flip side, we did see plenty of paw prints and other items suggestive of bear activity, so I know there were there.

We had a lovely 40km ride along the lakeside, with some lovely views. Also this time of year is very much harvest season - and this weekend was big for the wild blueberries. It really feels like we've seen Sweden through 3 out of 4 seasons during our time here - from the late spring, through the summer and now into autumn. I love the way that Swedes interact with their environment, and have so many of the "old ways" kept alive - foraging is still a way of life here, which by definition has to mean you look after the land so that it keeps delivering. We spoke to an older couple who were out ready for the blueberries, but the following week were looking forward to the lingonberry season (a cross between cranberries and red currents).




In the early evening we were treated to a huge reindeer just wandering through the car park....as you do!


The evening at Loftsdalen was incredibly clear and we were able to see the stars and the Milky way for the first time since we've got here - of course for every bit south we come, the darker the skies are.

Sunday 25th August and after a lovely couple of days riding around the area, we had a bit of a drive head - this time to Torsby, via Mora for a few supplies. After a fairly long riding day I was pretty happy not to have to do much more than sitting in the van, although we did spend a tense hour or so listening to the conclusion of the 3rd test in the Ashes!

We had a good lakeside spot overnight, fairly close to the road, but ideal for our onward trip the next day.



Our initial plan had been to enjoy a few sunny days at the west coast, but with limited time and information suggesting wild camping was much less easy, we decided to stay inland and found a super spot at Kristinehamn at the top of Lake Vanern - eager readers will recall that Vanern is the largest lake in Sweden, and where we started our adventure on leaving Troll back in June. This time though we were at the top end, in a super spot with access right into the lake.

The weather gods were on our side though and we spent 2 lovely days enjoying the sunshine, fishing and swimming in the crystal clear (and refreshing) waters. The perfect way to round things off.




Wednesday 28th August and our final trip from Kristinehamn to Craig and Sofia's in Trollhättan. The weather was on the turn, so it was great to pull onto the drive, and load ourselves into our lovely basement room - complete with a stack of laundry that took 3 days to get done!

I had a great birthday on Thursday, spent here in town, and enjoying homemade pizze with our great hosts. Both Jase and I have had (long overdue) haircuts, enjoyed a stunning curry with Jase's brother Mike, Karro, Robin, Vinnie and Molly.

On Saturday Kathy and Göran took us out on their boat again where we all enjoyed a bash on the hover board - a bit of a cross between a body board and a water ski that gets pulled along behind the boat. Robin and Jase were pretty good at it - I had a good go and it was great fun - not sure my arms will ever recover though!





We also had a fab meal at Musselbaren in nearby Lyckorna which we reached on the boat.




To round the day off, Jase drove the boat back to Uddevalle too.



Yesterday (Sunday) we spent a nice time catching up and chilling out with various members of the family. We were meant to be leaving today (Monday), but with less than sunny weather, and a chilli to look forward to later, we'd decided to stay an extra night.

From here will head south across to Denmark and wend our way back towards the UK - Jase will be booking the tunnel later today which I think will really make things feel somewhat real!

As I mentioned before, I will do a final summary post once we are back and can reflect more on our adventures, but suffice to say we've had a total blast. I've seen and experienced things I never expected, and we have so many people to thank for helping and supporting us along the way. Mostly though I guess we need to thank our families and friends for not thinking we were totally barmy to have jacked in our "normal" lives to go and be hippies for 18months! For me though, I'd also like to thank Jase - there's not many marriages strong enough to live in a metal box for 18months, and even less than would still have plenty to talk about at the end of it. Thanks babe, you are the best traveling companion I could ever wish for. Here's to #Jexit part 2 at some point in the future...............!

Thanks for reading and sticking with me, I hope you've enjoyed being part of it to. If our trip has inspired you in any way - be it long trip, or just a weekend, feel free to get in touch. There's nothing I like more than talking about our adventures!

Til next time, stay safe all

J&J x


Posted by One streetaway 03:17 Archived in Sweden Tagged fjords sweden norway cycling travelling scandinavia Comments (0)

(More) Fjords, (Even more) Fishing and Fungi!

Our last few days in Norway, back to the Swedish High Coast

Ok so I've done it again, left it more than two weeks since the last post which means
a) it's going to be an epic read - get yourself a brew!
b) I might run out of puff towards the end....this off grid living takes it's toll!

So mid August now then, which means we've had some proper dark skies - perfectly timed for the Perseids Meteor shower which happened on Monday 12th August - our spot wasn't totally cloud free, but we did manage to spot about 6 or so decent ones before it got too cloudy and cold!

This blog finds us back in Sweden, on the East Coast having done a fair bit of driving over the last couple of weeks - in amongst which we've had plenty of time for walking, picture taking and devouring yet more books. The last entry placed us at our lovely beachside spot on the Norwegian coast at Sandhornøy. Jase spent the day fishing on the rocks, although not catching much this time around (seaweed notwithstanding!). We also got treated to a good few sightings of both Golden and White Tailed (sea) Eagles up high on the cliffs.

Friday 2nd August and with clear, sunny skies we headed away from our beachside spot. Our initial plan was to come a short way inland, but with such clear skies we decided to drive a bit further, spotting amazing waterfalls along the way. The coast road was stunning, and interesting to spot this U-Boat Memorial in a spectacular setting.



This was our lunch spot, followed by a short walk to a stunning waterfall.





Bus stop, Norwegian style!


Our final spot was a great free Aire overlooking the Svartisen Glacier (9th largest in Norway, and again at sea level) - just amazing. We had hoped to do a kayak trip to the face, but unfortunately (or in the event, fortunately as the weather turned the following day!) the company never replied to our booking enquiry.



After a stunning sunny day, Saturday 3rd was a much cloudier affair - you couldn't even spot the glacier today!


This part of Norway is covered by roads that hit the water, turning into ferry crossings - making fairly short journeys way more time consuming as you often have to wait a good hour or so for the crossing. They aren't too expensive though, usually around €10 or so for a 10 minute crossing, but can save you hours to drive round (although sometimes that's not even an option!). From our overnight spot at Holand, we had two crossings ahead of us - one a short 10minute one, and the second was an hour. We hit the queue for the first one, and soon realised that they didn't just shunt backwards and forwards like the previous one we'd used. We waited a good hour or so, but did make the crossing we'd hoped for (max capacity seems to be about 40-60 cars, but that does depend on how many big motorhomes/caravans/trailers turn up!). The weather hadn't perked up much, so we drove a short distance from the ferry and parked up for the afternoon at Tjongfjorden.


The next morning, and we made an early start in order to get the 11.45 ferry trip back to the mainland - it was early though as we had a bit of a drive to get there, but equally needed to be in queues 1 or 2 in order to make sure we got on that boat - lane 3 onwards would be the next crossing some 3 hours later! We made it though, and had a very pleasant crossing, including leaving the artic circle for the final time. We also spotted a lovely seal alongside the boat.



After such a busy (!) morning, we headed from the boat to a parking spot not too far away at Utskarpen. This was a layby spot with plenty of space, and easy access to fishing in the fjord. Jase duly headed out and this time caught a decent sized cod! We were getting a bit low on supplies (with Norway being so expensive) so we duly dispatched this one and set about filleting it - not the easiest thing to do without much kit, but we did our best. That evenings tea was stunning - definitely the freshest fish we've ever eaten, and zero food miles to boot.


Monday 5th and still fairly overcast. Our first pit stop was Mo I Rana for some much needed supplies, then we headed from the E6 main road, onto the 806 scenic road. Very much rolling forested hills, with lakes aplenty. We spotted a young Elk on the road, and as I got out to grab a pic I realised that he was part of a family group with another young one and mum too. Sadly they were too quick away into the bushes for a decent shot. A special moment though.


Our overnight spot was just away from the E6 at Laksforsen - a stunning waterfall which at this time of year is full of Salmon trying to make their way upstream. We've seen this once before in Canada, but it never ceases to amaze me - they just don't give up! At times you felt you could almost put out your hands and grab one - they were huge too!




The next morning and a very welcome return to clear skies. We rolled back along the E6 and then onto the 76 scenic drive toward Lomsdal National Park, where we were able to have a short walk around the hills.



Onwards from here, and the views just got better and better - Velfjord in particular was stunning - I can't see how Gerainger could improve on this, especially as we had this view to ourselves!





We pulled in for a short stop further down the fjord, and set about sorting fishing Jase's fishing line (it had got into a bit of a muddle in the excitement of landing the cod!). While we were working, a Swedish chap came over for a chat, asking us about our travels etc. Ended up giving Jase 3 extra lures which was lovely of him. We had a short fish there, but not catching this time, even with our lucky new gear!


From there we moved on to Sømna, our overnight stop, and another opportunity for a fish!




Wednesday morning and another lovely day. As the weather was so good, we'd picked a seaside spot on the island of Kvaløya - connected by bridge at Vennesund. The drive to the parking spot was a bit hairy - 2km of reasonably rough gravel, but we made it without too much issue. The beach was stunning - white sand, turquoise waters and cliffs either side. We picked a level spot and set off for a walk along the coast road. We had hoped there was a circular walk around the island, but the elderly gentleman at the last house told Jase (in Norwegian) it was all overgrown now, so we ended up with a lovely out and back, spending the rest of the day on the beach. Oh and that water might look tropical, but I can tell you it definitely felt Baltic!





Next morning and we'd been hoping to get the bikes off and maybe explore further - the sound of the foghorn soon put paid to that! We stayed put, partly as it was so nice, but our next place needed a ferry, and it was fairly unlikely they were going far in the fog!

Friday and although cloudy, the fog had lifted. We left fairly early in order to get the ferry across from Vennesund to Holm - just a 20minute crossing this one.


From here we picked the road 17 back up and headed to the E6 main road. On the way we stopped at the Foss waterfalls which had some unusual rock formations that looked so smooth from years of erosion.



Our overnight spot was a lovely nature reserve near Grong - we parked up and set about the 2.3km circular walk - which thanks to a landslide ended up being more like 8km! Lovely views though, and plenty of wild blueberries too.




Saturday morning and time to leave Norway. We'd had a lovely time, and although expensive, it is so worth it for the scenery and places you can stay. Motor homing here is a real joy. For now, we'd done what we wanted to, saving the southern area for another trip perhaps. Our journey took us over the border and back into Sweden near Gäddedes (no sign of any kind of border control here). We'd been planning to do part of a scenic drive the following day, and the starting point was the waterfall at Hällsingsfallet which also had a car park for overnighting. The downside? A 21km drive up a gravel single track road! Jase, knowing my love for waterfalls, wasn't deterred though, and we set off - a steady pace throughout. It was totally worth it - 43m drop into a steep sided canyon.





Sunday morning and another cloudy sky. We headed along the scenic drive route which coasted through a variety of landscapes - rolling hills, through bolder fields and stopping at another set of waterfalls.



In the pouring rain we did our good turn for the day by helping a French family changing a wheel on their car - only to find 4 of the 5 wheel nuts were one size, and the 5th another! Luckily Jase had all bases covered and we torqued their wheel up and sent them on their way (the first weeks of a 9month trip around Europe with 2 kids).

Our parking spot for the night was a short distance further down the road, by another set of falls at Saxnäs - which looked all the more stunning in the pouring rain!


Monday 12th August and with bad weather forecast for the West of Sweden, we decided to head back towards the East Coast and the Skuleskogen National Park. Most of today was spent driving, but we arrived in the National Park in time for a tea. Into the evening the sun came out and, once dark, we were able to spot a good few shooting stars thanks to the Perseids Meteor show.

Tuesday morning, and having made the request for a load of walking this week, we packed our rucksacks and headed into the park. First stop was Slåttdalsskreven - the amazing split rock formation. From there we headed to the lake at Tärnättvattnen for a paddle, almost losing my walking boot in the drink! Finally back down to the seaside at Näskebodarna for lunch and then back to the van - a 9.5 mile epic walk!



The next morning we decided to take another walk, but shorter and maybe easier this time. Again, from the same parking spot we headed this time to Stampberget for lovely rocky plateau views, through rolling forests covered in all times of mushrooms imaginable. Ended up being an 8.5 mile walk though!





Thursday and after a combined 17mile effort, we decided a rest day was in order. We left the park, and headed to nearby Docksta - we'd stayed here back in June, but since then some "no camping" signs have been put up, (nothing to do with us, I'm sure!) so we headed a short way on, finding a new spot overlooking a lovely lake. We spent a restful afternoon enjoying the view, especially when we spotted a couple of beavers in the water.



Yesterday we felt a little less tired, and had one walk left in us for the week! This time we headed to the National Park West entrance to do an easier 5 mile walk to Långtjärnen lake and the hut at Lillruten where we had lunch, and Jase tried his hand at log chopping! Sweden is great for walking, there is nearly always a picnic bench, toilet, campfire (with wood) and many huts for overnight use along many routes - a real walkers paradise.




Last night we stayed near the bridge at Utansjö again - just dropping a bit from today's journey. We needed to get to Sundsvall in order to get LPG this morning, plus another shopping trip. We are now parked up in Njurunda which is a seaside spot with a fishing pontoon where Jase is trying his hand.


From here we've very much got the clock on now - we need to be at Craig & Sofia's for 28th August just 11 days time. We might stick to the east coast and then cut across nearer Troll or we might pitch back west for some mountain biking fun at Åre before heading south. I strongly suspect the blog that I write from Craig's may well be the last one until we get back the UK with some kind of wrap up, but we shall see - writing of the trip home just feels a little too depressing (although of course we are looking forward to seeing friends & family, and shopping without bankrupting ourselves!).

Til next time, stay safe all

J&J xx



Posted by One streetaway 07:59 Archived in Norway Tagged fjords sweden norway cycling travelling scandinavia Comments (0)

Beachside, Bathing and Boiling!

From Northern Norway, heading South (ish) through Finland, Sweden and back to Norway!

Hey there and happy August! This blog finds us back beachside back in Norway, having spent some miles on the road coming down out of the artic circle, and then back into it again (oops!). We've had some fantastic weather, with some baking temps, but more on that later.

So the last blog post found us in our parking spot at Jøkelfjord overlooking the spectacular glacier and beautiful fjord. We ended up staying there for 3 nights in all, moving on Sunday 21st July, mainly due to supplies running low. Luckily there was a service point not too far away, so we headed there to do all the necessaries, and then being such a sunny day we found another fjord side spot at Langfjordbotn to while away the afternoon - planned to be our last in the very north of Norway - it was time to start heading south.



The (loose) plan had always been to head back to Sweden to stock the van back up on food (with it being about a third cheaper than Norway) but equally, the route south is quickest, easiest and avoids tolls by heading you East through Finland, and then back into the top of Sweden near Harparanda (there are some odd borders around these parts, take a look at the map!). So that was the plan.

Monday 22nd July and with another sunny start we rolled away from Norway, pit stopping at Alta for some LPG (much easier to source in Norway). Our route south took us from the spectacular rolling mountains of Norway, and through into the forest river valley of Finland. We were lucky to spot a few more reindeer plus an amazing Golden Eagle.


Our overnight spot was at Leppäjärvi, Finland where we were back on the Euro and lost another hour - who knew Finland was a extra hour behind European time? Equally intriguing as we parked up at a lakeside (what else?!) spot, was the prospect of a sunset - the first we'd seen since arriving in Sweden some 6 weeks ago. It wasn't going to get dark anytime soon, but the thought of the sun actually setting for a few hours was quite exciting! We parked up with a true lakeside spot. It was a very warm day so it would have been rude not to have a brief dip.....!



Tuesday morning and we both surprised ourselves by waking up extra early! Whether it was having had more darkness than we've seen for weeks, but we both woke about 6.30am and felt pretty refreshed. It was another sunny warm day and our plans were to head back towards Sweden - after all the dramatic scenery of Norway and Sweden, Finland isn't particularly inspiring! We had planned to head for Luleå which is a big university town, with a nice big supermarket. However, the weather being so nice we decided to head lakeside for the afternoon and do the shop the following day. We found a lovely place from our usual source, Park4Night, and parked up. It was a small beach, with just a couple of parking spots and a picnic bench. We headed off for a wander by the beach, only to see a local heading towards our van. Turns out we'd park up next door to the only Swede who doesn't understand the concept of "All Mans Right"! Cue a bit of a heated discussion between him and Jase - we knew we were in the right, but when someone starts threatening to call the police (I'm fairly sure they have better things to be getting on with), you don't exactly feel welcome. We duly packed up, and headed off. Luckily, there was a spot just along the coast at Töre. No such troubles at this lakeside parking area. It was very warm again, so we spent the afternoon lakeside, enjoying a dip or two - so refreshing and way better than the sea!



Wednesday morning and time to get the all important supplies sorted out. We headed the short distance to Luleå and managed to get our food supplies sorted, plus replaced Jase's walking trainers which had taken a good hammering since we bought them in Obertsdorf back in August. After that, the temperature was well into the 30s so we picked what looked like another lakeside place at Alvsbyn - turned out to be a large-ish car park with a beautiful lake & sandy beach, well frequented by the locals. The lake temperature was pretty bracing, but just what you need to cool off - and the water was so clear you could see fish all around you! We loved the spot so much, we ended up staying 3 days through what will probably be our summer of 2019!





We finally decided it was time to move on Saturday 27th July. Our plan was to head back towards Norway, but via a couple of stops in Sweden. The route took us slightly back the way we'd driven to Jokkmokk way back around mid summer, only this time the weather was on our side. We stopped again at Storforsen, the huge waterfall. It looked simply stunning this time, and the cooling spray was very welcome. Hard to believe this actually freezes in the winter! NB the jumper isn't either of us, we aren't quite that crazy!





Back in the van, and with the temp showing at 49.5 in the full sun, we headed towards Arvidsaur for a lakeside lunch stop - spotting a few reindeer on the way. The lake was nice, but very shallow and as a result like a warm bath!


I'd spotted a mountain top view point near Arjeplog which was noted as windy, so in an attempt to grab a little breeze, we headed up. The views were breath-taking - but it was still scorchio!




On the drive up, we'd seen a couple of lovely lakes, so headed back and bagged ourselves a fab little spot with our own lake - perfect! We set up our chairs and spent the rest of the day alternating between sweltering and cooling off - bliss!



That night was the hottest in the van so far this year - definitely a welcome reminder that while the weather here hasn't been that great at times, I think I'd still take that, to the 40+ degrees southern Europe has been seeing! With the temp at well over 30 in the van, and not a breath of breeze, it was a restless night. I think I dropped off around 3.30am, only to be woken an 4.30am to an odd clip, clopping down the road - yes reindeer, 4 of them!

Sunday morning and thankfully the worst of the heat had now passed, although still very sunny. We headed away from our parking spot and hit the road 95 towards Norway.


On the way we spotted a lovely picnic area near Guoletisjávvre and pulled in to take a closer look. The views over the river and surrounding snowy peaks were stunning. We found a great spot & parked up, spending the rest of the day drying some hand washing & listening to the end of Le Tour.



Monday morning and again sunny but cooler. We'd spotted a few signposts at the parking area, suggesting a 7 (or 8, depending on the sign!) km walk to Jurun. We didn't know what would be there, but it sounded like a good distance, so we packed a picnic and headed off. The views were simply stunning, with Jurun being a refuge hut beside the most amazing green cascading river. Breathtakingly beautiful and totally worth what ended up being an 11 mile round trip! Amazing too to see piles of snow still remaining - makes you wonder just how cold it gets here and how deep the snow could be!







Tuesday and both feeling more than a little knackered after our previous days hike, we set about crossing the border into Norway once more. Our initial stopping point was Misværfjord. Cue more lovely views I'm afraid! The afternoon was spent reading (me) and fishing (Jase).





And so to yesterday and today. The trip yesterday saw us leaving Misværfjord and driving the spectacular road to Sandhornøy, to our beachside spot where we are now parked. The fjords have been incredible - mirror like and serene. Equally, unlike some of the honeypot areas (Lofoten Island, Geirangerfjord etc) it's pretty quiet and definitely without cruise ships!




In fact as I type this, I can see no one, just the sea, the rocky mountains and the odd seagull. On the drive in we spotted a (white tailed) sea eagle, and as we parked up we had a golden eagle for company. We are under the flight path into Bodø, but as we love planes, that's no issue (and it's hardly Heathrow in terms of busyness!). We also spotted an F16 doing the rounds yesterday, which we are hoping will come back!







In short, it's bliss. The weather is slightly on the turn from tomorrow, with more cloud being forecast, but dry still, fingers crossed.

Our plan from here will be to head towards the Svartisen (black ice) Glacier hopefully, and then head our way south and back into Sweden probably. We've discounted doing much more in Norway on grounds of having seen so much amazing scenery so far, we don't want to spoil it by joining the masses.

We've also got a line in the sand in terms of dates as we plan to be back at Craig and Sofia's for my birthday (29th August), and after spending a few days with them as well as Jase's family there, we then need to start heading back towards the boat & Denmark before the long trip back to the UK and some kind of normality. We've had a total blast though, and I am so glad we decided to do the last 3months of Jexit in Scandinavia. It is simply the most amazing place I've ever been - and that does include New Zealand and Canada too.

Just to round off with a fact - we've now been on the road (and not used a campsite) since we left Brittany! So, since leaving Craig's that's well over 7 weeks on the road, off grid which is our all time record - with no real intention of changing that anytime soon either. With July being a totally off grid month, we've generated 7.17KwH of solar energy - more than enough for what we've needed, and I'm told this would be enough to power an electric oven for 2 hrs. Makes you realise how little you really need, or else just how much an average roast dinner really warrants.....!

Til next time, stay safe all

J&J x



Posted by One streetaway 06:21 Archived in Norway Tagged fjords sweden norway cycling travelling scandinavia Comments (0)

Fjords, Fins and (more) Fishing

A fabulous week in Norway

So I've managed to keep good on my promise and make the blog a bit earlier this time, only 6 days worth of material so hopefully a bit less than 8hrs at the laptop this time!

It's also a very different scene this week, with a welcome (and long awaited) return to some warmer weather! The last blog saw us hunkered down, heating on after hitting the most northerly point at Nordkapp, this one sees us fjord side, with fishing leaping, glaciers sparkling and a giant shiny thing in the sky that hasn't set for days - oh and instead of the heating, I've actually deployed the fan for the first time this year! This really is a special place to find ourselves, and feel like something lifted from page 23 of the Norway brochure! Anyway, more on how we got here later (*stops to adjust the curtains, too much glare....!)


Back to Sunday then in Gjesvær (yep I finally worked out how to get the Scandi letters to work on my laptop!), the day was spent mostly on the blog, although we did brave the cold for a wander around the village in the evening - I think you know you are somewhere remote when the choice of vehicle is a snow mobile! We also spotted this little fellow.


Monday and time to move on, we were getting low on water so needed to find some civilisation to top the tanks up. The journey was literally littered with reindeer at every turn - from the odd couple through to big herds along the shore line. I've chatted to many people about seeing reindeer, and most are quite disparaging really - one choice quote being "oh yes, I've had my fill of reindeer"! I really don't get it - I know to a degree it's a bit like seeing sheep grazing on the moors, or at a stretch the New Forest ponies, but when you've grown up with tales of Rudolph and his mates (10 points for anyone who can name them all!) they just don't cease being magical. The male reindeer's antlers seem to grow in front of your eyes this time of year, and look so velvety to the touch (not that you should or can get anywhere near that close of course). Anyway, for me, they've been worth the trip alone.



Onwards and once the van was all sorted we crossed through the 6.8km tunnel and back onto the mainland. Our planned stop for the night was at Kvalsund - another Park4Night stop by a road bridge which alleges good fishing. We initially stopped on the left side of the water, but by the time we'd had lunch we realised it was way too slopey even with the chocks deployed. We'd spotted another bigger and more level site across the water, so headed over. This was much better and we spent the rest of the day waterside, Jase fishing (not catching in this instance) while I kept an eye out for the various reindeer we'd seen on the way in.



Tuesday morning and time for both food and fuel supplies - scary times indeed here in Norway! We were heading for Alta which is the biggest proper town this far north. We did the fuel fill first, then headed into the supermarket - our first visit to local brand Rema 1000 - not my sort of store at all, very industrial and not much choice. We did manage to get most of the bits we needed/wanted, but on handing over our Metro card to pay, it was declined - first time in 41 years that's ever happened to me. Luckily we have a back up, so handed that over in order to leave the shop. Jase pulled out his phone to see a text from Metro Bank warning us we'd were about to go overdrawn - the 2nd time in a week & far from ideal. What seems to be happening (the first time we thought it was a one off, but it is now clear it isn't) is that when you do a fuel fill, most are pay at pump, and as at home, you put your card in first to start the pump - except in Norway they seem to attempt to debit the max fill amount as well as the actual amount you buy, effectively duplicating the transaction! The first time it happened on our way to Nordkapp, I spoke to Metro Bank, they advised that this is increasingly common in Europe these days, and quite different from the 1p or £1 transaction UK retailers tend to go for. They also said the "rogue" transaction would disappear within a week! The trouble is, it means you have to keep a float of over that amount to avoid potentially going overdrawn. Really caused us a few stressful moments I can tell you.


Our lunch stop was a nice viewpoint overlooking Altafjord - it had been our initial overnight thought, but it was quite noisy as too close to the main road so we rolled on.


The second place we found was much nicer, although it did have the feeling a bit like a holiday camp! It was right next to Kåfjord and at water level too, which was lovely. It was reasonably busy though with plenty of campers and caravans (mostly from Finland) taking the "all man's right" to park up and enjoy the location.



Jase and I had a good late night go at fishing - no luck catching but I did a few more casts and found that I was able to cast much further and straighter from my right (makes sense being a right hander!).

Wednesday morning and a bit of a damp one. We'd realised that the Tirpitz museum was within walking distance of our camp spot so we donned our rain coats and headed off up the hill. Just to recap on our WW2 stuff - we've previously been to the Dam Busters training ground, visited the Mohne Dam on our way here, and have found the remains of 617 squadron aircraft Easy Elsie in northern Sweden - Elsie crashed (with no loss of life) after a bombing raid on the Tirpitz German warship - so it seemed more than fitting to visit the museum and find out a bit more. What we hadn't expected was that the Tirpitz (the second of two German Bismarck class battleships) spent much of its time anchored in Kåfjord, pretty much at the point we had the van parked!


There she survived a series of attacks in Kåfjord by UK midget submarines - including one that cut an 18m long gash in her side. The submariners were awarded the Victoria Cross for their actions. She was repaired though and then moved to Tromsø where she was eventually spotted by a Mosquito (the type of plane my Great Uncle Ken flew and was killed in during the war). Between April and October 1944 she was attacked a further 6 times, although none were fatal, they increase pressure for repairs. Eventually on 12th November 1944 32 Lancaster bombers from 617 squadron flew across Sweden to Tromsø equipped with the Tallboy bombs. She was hit 3 times, capsized and sunk in just 11 minutes, with massive loss of life. It seems a fitting end to our tale following 617 squadron for now at least.




Back at the van and time for a dry off, warm up and lunch! We spent the rest of the day imagining the scenes from some 60+ years ago, and wandering a bit, what could lie beneath the calm waters.

Thursday and a brighter start thankfully. We left the Kåfjord and headed slightly further east to Jøkelfjord where I'd spotted a possible glacier we could access. The drive was stunning - the sun definitely having his hat on today.



On arrival at the small car park, we had a quick bit of lunch and then headed off - initially planning to do the 1.5m walk to the viewpoint, but quickly ending up with a 8mile epic! We walked as close to the glacier as you could reasonable get -the last bits were no more than rock scrambling! The views were amazing though, and we were close enough to hear the crashing waterfall and creaking ice. Awesome.






The walk back was tough and we were both fairly shattered once back at the van. Park4Night had listed this one as an overnight spot, but although they were no signs forbidding it, there were signs making you feel less than welcome. We decided to roll away and find something else. We didn't have to drive for long until we found the most spectacular lay-by I think I've ever seen - better views than at the car park, with access to the water for fishing too. It's so beautiful and the weather so perfect, we've been here ever since (it's now Saturday).





We've had fish leaping & Artic Terns diving in the crystal clear waters the whole time, and Jase has caught (and released) 4 good ones so far. We've got a couple of resident dolphins that we've seen a good few times, and clearly too. I've got mountains all around and a glacier in the back garden - it's too perfect for words really.





We will have to move on tomorrow I think, supplies getting low again. The plan south is starting to develop - probably back to Alta tomorrow for LPG on Monday then onwards through a bit of Finland and then into Sweden at Haparanda. From there we are very much weather dependant. We'd like to see more of southern Norway - Fjordland etc - but there is little point if we have a return to the low cloud. We shall see I think.

And there we are, just shy of a week in just over an hour (there was a short break for dolphin spotting...!)

Til next time, stay safe all

J&J x


Posted by One streetaway 05:53 Archived in Norway Tagged dolphins norway cycling travelling scandinavia Comments (0)

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