Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Ups and downs

Written 27th July

Of course it was all fine and Jules heroically made it all the way to town without so much as a single hiccup - we even got up to 70mph in one tunnel, although i'm not sure you're supposed to be able to go faster with the engine switched off than with it on... :) - clever little van. Bit of an anticlimax really, I was all psyched up for a hitchhiking adventure, and it would have made for much more interesting reading than the trouble free motoring saga you're getting at the moment :)

We did manage to fit 55l of petrol into a notionally 50l tank though, so maybe the hitchhiker karma was swinging in our favour... :)

And whilst at the petrol station, we met our first classic vee-dub, other than a very few we have passed on the road over the months, and some more Swiss van dwellers! A 1971 batyleship grey bus from Zurich carrying Andy, Dina and their little boy Juli (i think). They are in the middle of a nine-week trip and will make it as far north as Tromso before heading slowly for home again.

Apparently they hadn't set out to be vee-dub owners - had even bought a different van for a previous trip - until one day Andy passed a garage with a classic sitting outside it. That one was already sold but as luck would have it, on seeing the same van on the forecourt that very morning, a guy had come in looking to sell his which he had owned from new, and the rest is history. And a very fine little van it is too, although somewhat more heavily laden than Jules :)

Separated from the mainland by the Vestfjorden, the Lofoten islands rise from the sea as a sheer jagged wall, carved by ancient glaciers. The main town, Svolvaer was very pleasant in the afternoon sun but no supermarkets open on a sunday so in true Ready, Steady, Cook style, we have a new addition to the van dwellers cookbook made from 'things we had in our cupboard', sundried tomato flatbread - flour, water, sundried tomatoes, fried in the oil from the tomatoes jar - yummy! We'll be trying that again.

A bit of a walk for the view

and an unexpected view of norweigan summer transport

before back on the road where we unexpectedly found a beach, just at the turn for Henningsvaer, the next of our planned fishing village stops.

Fine white sand, crystal clear blue water with the sun dancing and sparkling off the gentle ripples - too good to pass up on this unexpectedly hot day. So we stopped. And sat on the beach. Perfect :) and it was even warm enough for a paddle... well, actually, I think 'crystal clear blue' equated to 'glacial melt water' and it was more that my feet were too numb to feel the true temperature rather than warm per se... no swimming in this body of water :)

Mindful of the petrol situation, the following morning, we set of on our bikes again in the pleasant sunshine, along the twisty coast road.

Built on a series of small islands connected by bridges and dubbed, a little enthusiastically, the 'Venice of the North', Henningsvaer is a pretty enough little town,

with its typical Rorbus - red-painted fisherman's huts on stilts and wooden houses. Today it is full of teashops and artists but also one of the few remaining working fishing villages on the islands as apparently many of the older villages were just too small and lacking in a proper harbour to accommodate the change from small rowing boats which could be dragged on shore to the larger powered boats of today which need proper morring. And it was quite pleasant for a bit of a wander and a peek into the various galleries and craft shops, including actual glass blowing - its fascinating to watch.

But the clouds came down again :( so the epic landscape through which the road winds and sweeps was just lacking that extra sparkle.

A night in Eggum, a recommended midnight sun watching spot where we were hoping for a nice sunset at least, resulted in some pretty harbour and beach pictures

but no sun and even worse - although not strictly Eggum's fault - we found we had run out of gas :( all the baltic state's rice in the world won't help you save money if you can't cook it! So bread and tomato olive oil for dinner and bread and honey for desert, although 'honey art' to make it more interesting - a recent lunch theme as well - who says you shouldn't play with your food... :)

But in the morning, even worse, no tea. We had been doing really well on the tea front. Back home it was five cups a day and serious withdrawal symptoms without. However, having run out in Ile de Re, for most of western france, we were tealess and the enforced cold turkey seemed to have cured the addiction such that, at a rate of one per day (shared) the 160 teabags my mother smuggled out of the UK at New Year looked set to last us all the way home. But then we had our unexpected trip home which bumped up both my body's expected caffein levels and the teabag stock so we have been back up to a whole two cups a day and today, in the absence of tea for a whole two hours since I woke up, I found I had a tea craving and a headache :( not good, especially as coffee is so expensive we can't get our fix another way...

So bread and water (again) it is. Luckily, yesterday at the beach, we found a tap which we believe was drinking water - well at the very worst it came straight from a nearby lake labelled drinking water - so we're not going thirsty but a combination of lack-of-tea-headache and the weather has sadly spoilt this end of the Lofoten islands where we were hoping for beautiful views of pretty fishing villages nestling at the foot of epic vertical cliffs. Still, it could be worse, I could be at work like the rest of you...

We found the villages, Vikten - and some more glassblowing,

apparently the first workshop in northern Norway, completely different style of stuff than the one in Henningsvaer but still fascinating and beautiful stuff -

and then back on the road, to Hamnoy, Reine and A (pronounced, according to our german biker friends as, 'Uh', like they got there and went, 'uh, I guess this is as far as we can go then misery, misery' but which from a bit of Norweigan poetry I found in a guide book, may translate as 'Oh!' as in 'Oh! What a beautiful morning!''

Eitherway, the villages were pretty but not really terribly photogenic in the damp grey light and by the time we got to 'Uh', which is now mostly a living museum to the fishing trade, it was properly bucketing down. And no prospect of tea to cheer us up :(

we wandered for a bit anyway, saw the typical houses

and learnt some fascinating things about fishing though. The Islands' biggest (and probably only) export is stockfish - dried cod - known in the rest of Europe as bacalau or some variation thereof. Their biggest markets are Spain, Italy and Portugal - so all the fish we ate with my parents back at New Year, because it is a Portuguese specialty is not actually Portuguese at all, just the cooking and eating of it, it most likely came from here! - and in April something ridiculous like half the island is covered by some hundreds of thousands of tonnes of fish hanging out to dry on the racks like so many toothy, tortured wraiths. Did you know that the weight of the fish is reduced by 80% during the drying process and the resultant stockfish ready for export is 80% protein? Well now you do!

And when we came back to the van, we met yet more Swiss van-dwellers - is there actually anyone left in Switzerland? Has anyone checked? They all seem to be on the road!. Well to be strictly honest, they are actually motorhomers, having originally wanted to be van dwellers but having decided that, as two very strong characters, they might stand a better chance of coming home still talking to each other after their year away if they went for something bigger :) even after our assurances that Jules is bigger on the inside than it appears by looking in through the window - especially when it's tidy which it isn't particularly right now - I think they were still convinced they made the right choice, me? I still believe this is the only way to travel! :)

They are right at the beginning of their trip having spent a month getting this far through Sweden and Norway - where they are currently accompanied for three weeks by some friends who are just on holiday - and are planning on heading north, then down through Finland and across to the Baltics from there - pretty much our trip in reverse - so they have so much to look forward to! We spent some time swapping travelling tales and things we enjoyed before it was just too cold to stand around outside anymore so we bid them farewell and headed for the ferry.

So here we are, 9pm, near the front of the the ferry queue, having been here for three hours as there wasn't enough space on the previous ferry. Its a shame to be leaving so soon and suddenly but the weather forecast is not good for the next two days, it is so wet and miserable that it is actually nearly dark for the first time in what feels like a month, we have bread and tomato olive oil for dinner again whilst sat within smelling distance of a cafĂ© serving fish and chips for a mere €22 per portion - i'm sorry but no fish and chips in the world can be that good and even in my weakened, miserable, bread eating state I can't bring myself to give in to that! - and I am so in need of a cup of tea. Even if we found someone who would boil us a kettle, which i'm sure someone would (we didn't think to ask the swiss until we were driving away) we haven't got any milk so it wouldn't be the same but honestly, I am seriously considering chewing a tea bag for the caffein - its pretty desperate...

pathetic isn't it

But we know there is gas in the town on the other side of the water so it will all be better in just a few short hours.... Won't it??


I can confirm it is better but only after being much, much worse. The boat was late, the sea was rough so I spent two of the three hours in a semi comatose state of seasickness - what a waste of expensive fish and chips that would have neen but at least it made me forget about the tea withdrawal though, there's always an upside! - and it was getting light again by the time we got into Bodo on the otherside. But, we have gas, and milk! Hurrah for 24h Shell petrol stations!

We have slept well, the sun is amost shining and I am on my second cup of delicious tea. Mmmmm tea, sweet, sweet tea....

Toodle pip!

1 comment:

  1. So good you posted it twice!

    Still good reading notwithstanding the poor weather you are having.

    Lucky you're not in Greece - no petrol even when/if you make it to the station.

    Keep safe now