Goodby Norway

And They’re Off Again!

It’s become apparent that winter has not just hit Norway – We had ice on our roof on our last night there, but it is still only 3°C in the morning and no more that 10°C in the afternoon. We will probably be heading off southwards a little faster than anticipated.

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Icy roof = time to leave

It’s been an interesting 10 days since we last blogged, and has included some time out of our little bobil (Norwegian for motorhome – cute, no?). We had an early morning dash to Oslo airport on Saturday 22nd September followed by a less speedy but more adventurous early morning parking session at the airport. Although we are small we are not quite car-sized, and the openings on offer were less than generous. Onto Ryanair bound for Stansted. On the upside – we got there. On all other sides, well, you get what you pay for. It does seem bizarre to have a company policy in place that absolutely separates a couple travelling together (booked together, paid by one credit card, joined at the hip, clearly in love…) from each other when tickets are issued – unless you fork out another few quid. As a matter of principle, then, we travelled apart. And I slept.

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Goodbye Norway
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This guy has no problems parking cars!

I had a great week in London on a school accreditation visit – if you are in international education you’ll get the sense. Had the opportunity to see a new bit of London, ate out in a variety of restaurant including Thai & Lebanese, didn’t wash dishes, showered / dried / showered again, flushed the loo without counting litres – all in all, highly civilised. Spent a weekend with family in Windsor, where Niki had spent the week – Thanks Chris & John! And then early morning flight back to Norway. Hmmm, making sense of all that: 1) Enjoyed the professional time with colleagues in a school that aims to be different, and is positively successful in doing so 2) Hated waking up with the alarm, putting on a suit and joining the morning workers 3) Loved getting back to the bobil and being on the road again.

We were going to get the front fender sorted out – you may remember this was dinged in our first week in Sweden. Well, 0/10 for my friend who promised to have the fender ready on our return from London, was surprised when we did, in fact, return, promised to call and update us, failed to do so …

So we had a full day in Oslo – rained all day but we put on the waterproofs and set off. What a great day! Started at the Oslo Botanical Gardens – which I’m sure would be stunning in June, but had some bare patches in October – our fault, not theirs! Still, lovely to walk through a great park with some hidden gems, including 5 sculptures by British willow artist, Tome Hare, installed 2014.

 

We followed this with a gentle walk around Oslo’s historical fortress, the Akershus, first built in the 1290’s. Views from here across the fjord and into the old part of the city were well worth the effort. The cannons date from the 18th C, but show damage, perhaps from the numerous Swedish sieges. So happy those guys now brew beer!

Then to Vigeland Park, home to some 200+ sculptures and works of art in stone, bronze and wrought iron. This is the largest sculpture park by a single artist in the world. Completed between 1939 and 1949 by Gustav Vigeland, who was also involved in the layout of the park, the park runs off 1 axis with 5 units portraying various themes. The gentle rain actually enhanced the atmosphere, and we spent the better part of 2 hours wandering through – and still saw only a quarter of what’s on offer.

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Imagine the conversation…
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Brilliant!

And then it was off to Langesund for the ferry across to Hirtshals in Denmark. We had a bit of a think on this, and decided that the long drive down south would prevent us from a decent trip down through Denmark.

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Ferry Langesund to Hirtshals

So we are now currently camped on the northern tip of Denmark, at Råbjerg Mile, a fascinating area of sand dunes currently migrating across the far norther spit. Standing on the dunes you can see where they’ve come from in the west, leaving a flattish landscape punctuated by remnant dunes – and you can see the migration track with the coast in the east, to be swallowed up in the next hundred years. The dunes are like 2 large waves – that’s it, but comprising 4 million cubic meters on the move at 18 meters a year. Nice a quiet, given that 250 000 people visit each year, but we’ve got the carpark to ourselves tonight.

 

So, after 10 days away, happy to be back home, happy to be on the road. Our gas heating is working a treat, so a quick blast in the morning gets us up, while the duvet is great at night. Not sure what sub-zero would look like, living in the bobil, but heading south means we don’t have to find out!

And Niki finished her puzzle. For fans of Jan van Haasteren.

September 2018 Budget

Firstly, the good news!

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On our (generous) monthly budget we are in the black by €755. This is really good as we leave Norway and some of the world’s most expensive groceries behind. Diesel, which varied in price up to NOK16.14 per litre (or €1.70, NZ$3.00, ZAR28.76) is also a thing of the past. We are still awaiting a massive toll fee, as we signed on to an automatic toll fee charge, and we have not yet received a bill. Expect this to be an extra €200 per month in Norway.

Camping fees remained very low at €96, and I’m surprised at how readily available sites were in September – made easier by the fact that most other campers have done a run down south – check our next blog for why!

Our public transport costs for the month were blown out the water by a trip to England – me for some accreditation work, while Niki visited in Windsor with her sister, Chris, and John. The flights from Oslo to Stansted were around the same price as a burger, fries and a beer in Norway, but British Rail remains exorbitantly expensive, with Stansted-Windsor return for a single person at £70. Ouch. It was lovely seeing family again, and a big thanks to Chris & John for putting up with us.

Fuel costs reflect much shorter distances, often only 60km per day. In Norway that simply moves you from one indescribably beautiful spot to the next indescribably beautiful spot – same same but different.

And that’s it for Norway budgets. We are now at the northern tip of Denmark with weather definitely closing in, and a decision to start moving southwards. First night, off the ferry, staying at a gas station (100 DNK), and tonight, free camped next to the Shifting Sandunes at Råbjerg Mile – hopefully we can continue to avoid the more formal campsites as we move towards Portugal.

Oh, and to put this in perspective: What a fantastic holiday (or more extensively, Way of Life) at €1200 per month!

North of Oslo

It has been a quiet week as we travel around Oslo – We are flying out for 10 days on Saturday, so a down time for the blog.

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Cruise ship in my parking spot, Oslo

A couple of firsts, though, in Norway: 1) We hit 100km/h for the first time in 2 months as we travelled towards Oslo. Bear in mind that on the routes up north we’ve averaged around 42km/h, while on the scenic routes we’ve been down to around 34km/h. Couldn’t believe how quickly we made progress. 2) Got a haircut. On the upside, happy to have hair, but having prices of NOK550 – NOK650 quoted (that’s €65 or Rand 1140, or NZD 117), I’m just not that precious. Anyway, stopped in Gjøvik on our way around an enormous fjord/lake and dived in to a Kurdish barber who cut for NOK180. I think he did a good job, and there’s only 2 weeks difference between a good cut and bad cut in any case 3) went shopping for groceries. Ouch. So glad we stocked to the brim before arriving here. There’s not many places that make you look back fondly on Swiss grocery prices. But there’s only 1 piece of salmon in the deep freeze (for a tom yum soup) and some cheese left for the week. I may make full use of the full British fried breakfast obsession next week!! 49 New found respect for positive assumptions. Everywhere we’ve been in Norway the assumption seems to be: Welcome, look after the place as if it were yours, and yes, we trust you. Look at this stuff next to the road. Great BBQ, fire starters, wood and charcoal provided, huge BBQ toolset … Wow. How many places do you know where this stuff would not be gone in the time you flipped your burger?

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Free to use …
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Best public BBQ spot EVER!!

 

And the van – well, we went to our designated Fiat dealer to have the front bumper repaired – but they don’t do that. Sent off to a fairly nearby panel beater, yes, they do that sort of thing, but no bumpers in stock and these need to be ordered and painted. To end – we’ll have the bumper done on our return to Oslo week after next. As far as our very faulty Navi is concerned (different error messages weekly) a lot of muttering, head-shaking, and no, we can’t help. Will see what we can do in Germany.

So, plans for the next couple of days. Currently overnighting in a busy carpark next to a drained artificial lake in the middle of Gjøvik (hmm, I hope Norwegians rise later than the Swiss), dinner tomorrow at friends whom we’ve not seen for 12 years, then off towards Oslo with an overnight close to the airport so we can dump water etc etc – would hate to return to a week’s worth of fermentation.

That’s it for a while – I’ll get back to the blog on 3 October.

Norway’s Riviera

Sort of, but as explained to us today by a local in a kayak, we are nearing the end of autumn … hmmm, so when the sun moves behind a cloud and temperatures drop 8 degrees, we were warned.

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Sunset over Lillesand

We are moving around the southernmost bit of Norway, taking our time and getting off the main road so that we can see the smaller coastal towns. What a good move! It’s been so interesting, and today, with the weather playing along, we took a 60km cycle along two fjords (they really do abound) outside Risør. The town itself seems to consist of more marinas than houses, more boats than people, but a gorgeous place to enjoy an ice cream after a cycle. At one stage one of the 4 largest boatbuilders in Norway – the traditions clearly live on.

We stayed overnight outside Risør – Navigator on top form, finding us this spot:

Next up is a visit to Kragerø and another coastal peep before we start heading north to Oslo. The plan now is to drop in early to the Fiat workshop and see if they can fix our poor bruised van before we head off to the UK – leaving the van behind. I’ve got a week long accreditation visit to a school in London, Niki gets to see Chris & John in Windsor. Norway is drifting to a close …

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Exit the Geopark, Enter History

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So happy not to be in a tent!

Clearly it’s not possible for our Norwegian weather app to be accurate all the time. It has been right on the button  – if rain is predicted at 4:00pm, it rains. Clear morning coming up? Don your shades. Except for today.

So, firstly a great big ‘Thanks’ to friends who donated a fantastic bottle of gin at the start of our trip. Don’t know the degree of sacrilege involved here, but it’s made a momentous hot toddy. Showered, clean, dry, very strong hot toddy in hand – who can remember belting rain and gusts that bent what little vegetation there was out of shape? A great morning’s cycle followed on from a good walk yesterday up to the Blåfjell (Blue Mountain) mines (closed) past Norway’s first protected geologic item (1923), the Rocking Stone (millimetres, but it does weigh 74 tons) …

The landscape has just continued to captivate us. The skyline is dominated by exposed domes, very little vegetation, and interspersed with a myriad of lakes fed by waterfalls coming in from every direction. The scale is immense, the sides sheer, and topping so many of the domes are erratics, there to remind you of the immense glaciation that has occurred.

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IMG_4591And to follow on from the Geography of it all, today we drove past Jøssingfjord, which had a cameo role in WWII. It was here that the German support vessel, the Altmark, was boarded by a British destroyer in 1940, freeing a large number of captured British sailors, but also violating Norway’s neutral status. Norway was invaded by Germany shortly afterwards. To bookend this, Jøssingfjiord was also the scene of a somewhat unsuccessful air attack by an international assortment of British, New Zealand, Australian and Polish pilots in 1945. A wreath is laid in annual remembrance of 4 Kiwis who died in the raid.

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Jøssingfjord

A final bit for the day was stopping at Helleren, which has the meaning of an overhang providing protection. The area has been inhabited for thousands of years, and for the past few hundred years, until recently, by crofters who kept sheep, a few cows, and supplemented this by fishing.

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I was told by a friend to do something useful today – I hope this is it!

We have now left the Magma Geopark, heading towards Kristiansand, Norway’s tropical beach paradise, or at least the most southerly part of the country. We travelled through the Geopark on a bit of a whim, urged by having a few extra days on hand. What a fantastic decision – everything has been just jaw-dropping beautiful, and I cannot overstate how many times each day we just stopped, and stared, and made weird noises – adjectives were not going to do! In part, I’m sure, this is made possible by having the time to just take the time … Contented campers indeed.

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My retirement home – lean out the kitchen window and catch salmon for dinner.