Posts Tagged With: Lake

Jotunheimen to Oslo – from the mountains to the sea

Having been to Nigardsbreen Glacier, the most northerly point of our Norway tour, we aim for Jotunheimen National Park.

On the way we pick up some very delicious raspberries of a farmer for 30NOK. A rip off unfortunately, as we discover them in the supermarket for 20NOK about 30min later.
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Arriving in Lom, we stop at a Stave Church and the tourist information centre where Logan picks up a 2013 calendar with pictures of Norway.

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We drive over a pass, overlooking Norway’s highest mountains of up to 2469m. There is even plenty of snow up here still and many glaciers make their way down.
Gjende lake is described in the travel book as Norway’s most beautiful lake. Unfortunately we arrive there when the sky is dark grey and rain is just starting to fall. We are very low on diesel and feel a little too nervous to stay, so instead just drive on, hoping to finally find a petrol station.
The mountain scenery is incredible and distracts us from our worries for at least a little while.
Finally in Beitostølen, we discover a petrol station – thankfully!
After filling up diesel, we backtrack a few kilometers and then turn right in a private toll road called Jotunheimsvegen. The entry fee is 80NOK (11€/$13), pretty expensive I think at first but considering that this is privately owned and supposedly the most beautiful mountain road in all of Norway, we are happy to pay.
Along the road we pass a few small huts and houses and many lakes. Some cows block the way and even though we almost hit them with our van, they only move out of the way veeeery slowly.
We make camp here on Jotunheimsvegen for the night. Logan is off fishing again, comes back soaking wet but as (almost) always: without any fish.

Oh we’re not the only ones from Australia! This campervan parked next to us at the Stave Church in Lom. The raging river is also in Lom, while the other three pictures were taken on Jotunheimsvegen:
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In the morning the road takes us to Skåbu and then onto Lillehammer. The scenery changes drastically from a treeless mountain landscape to green fields, forests and blue lakes.
Lillehammer was host to the winter Olympics in 1994, so we are driving up to the well maintained ski jump and athletics track. Logan even does three 800m rounds on the track and I time him. Next time I’ll bring my “cheerleader pompoms”!

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Eventually we drive on to Oslo and the find-a-carpark game starts all over again. We are driving back and forth, doing u-turns, searching, looking.. THERE! What’s this? I can’t read the sign and get out to translate it. Within 5 seconds a bus arrives and angrily beeps the horn at us. I run back to the van and the game continues.
We decide to leave the city centre and drive west. There actually seem to be streets in which no parking tickets are required. Since the sun is still out, we get the bicycles and ride back into town.

Oslo has a beautiful mix of architecture but I mostly prefer the older style buildings:

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Flowers are to be found everywhere throughout the city which I personally enjoy looking at very much. The colourfulness of the city continues along the harbour. A very colourful Indian bus is displayed at the front, along with a young boy playing the drums, a guitarist, fairy tale figures and green elephants (which I think are part of a music festival).

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The port also has a small beach and grassy area to relax or enjoy the day with the children.
I noticed a lot of young women have children here, probably because Norway is said to be the most child friendly country in the world.

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The best surprise of the evening are the swing dancers who probably belong to a dance club. We keep watching them for quite a while and I keep laughing and smiling at this genius dance style. Some people even wear old fashioned clothes.
I really want to join a dance class now!

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More on the fantastic Oslo Museums in the next post!

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Lucerne: the city, the lake, the mountains

Since Naples we can’t ride our bicycles anymore because Logan has a flat back tyre so we finally decided it was time to find a bicycle store to get it fixed. Unfortunately the only bike store in Lucerne is closed today but just when we want to leave, Logan discovers a tube automat. That’s right! Like a cigarette automat, this one sells tubes! How convenient. 

The next challenge is to find a car park. We come across the big bus park next to the train station and decide to risk staying here for the day. There is no parking meter so we don’t need to/can’t pay. (I still don’t know whether we were allowed to park here but we were lucky enough to not get a ticket.)

While Logan is changing his tube, I’m having a look through the nearby park and the Vierstättersee. The lake is not just one of Lucerne’s biggest attractions, it is also somewhat part of the city. 

 

We’re riding past dozens of students enjoying their lunch time at the water front, a street artist presenting his Ice Age painting and swans trying to snatch some bread from the passing tourists. 

Lucerne is enjoying a warm break from the long swiss winter and it seems as if every Lucerne resident is out and about. The streets are filled with joy and laughter and the cruise ships are overflowing with tourists. 
Arriving at the end of town, we turn around and this time navigate away from the water front, into the city. 

  

At a shopping mall we have lunch and once we’re back outside, unlocking our bicycles, we are being stopped by two police men. “Are these bicycles your’s?” I wish I had asked: “Would you mind if I just take out my camera and you repeat your question?” I wasn’t quick witted enough and responded: “Yes?!” Then they asked for our lock and key as proof. 
Rather amused about this occurrence, we ride through the city, browse through a couple of shops and eventually arrive at the popular chapel bridge.

   

The Chapel Bridge is a covered wooden footbridge spanning diagonally across the Reuss River in the city of Lucerne in central Switzerland. Named after the nearby St. Peter’s Chapel, the bridge is unique since it contains a number of interior paintings dating back to the 17th century, although many of them were destroyed along with most of the centuries old bridge in a 1993 fire. Subsequently restored, the Kapellbrücke is the oldest wooden covered bridge in Europe, as well as the world’s oldest surviving truss bridge. It serves as the city’s symbol and as one of Switzerland’s main tourist attractions.

 

Leaving Lucerne and the Vierwaldstätter See, we are driving past some beautiful mountain scenery and eventually find ourselves a camping spot for the night at a lake not far from Lucerne. There is even a waterfall nearby. 
Logan tries his luck fishing for a couple of hours but has to give up after two hours, blaming the fishing rod for not having caught anything. 

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Switzerland, St. Moritz and Lake Lucerne (Vierwaldstättersee)

From the Dolomites in Italy we’re making our way to the country with Europe’s biggest mountains: Switzerland. Okay to be correct, the biggest mountain in western Europe is Mt Blanc (4807m) in France, but Switzerland then follows with 48 four-thousander summits.

Via the Julier Pass …
 
… we drive into the “Confoederatio Helvetica”, the latin name for Switzerland which gave it the country abbreviation CH. We are now not only confronted with a new currency but also with four different languages: German, French, Italian and Romansh. The latter is spoken by only 0.5% of the population, nevertheless Logan managed to befriend some romansh speaking young lads later that night, but I’ll get to that later.

We aim for St. Moritz, a popular spa town in the South East of the country.

St. Moritz is surely a nice place and we stop for lunch at the lake. Due to the time of the year, there are not many people here, so we soon keep going. We are planning on staying mostly in southern Switzerland, but as so often our plans are at the mercy of other forces and this time mother nature puts a spoke in our wheel.
We stop in a little village before Chur to spend the night. Logan feels like going for a walk downtown to watch the tennis and have a couple of drinks. Around midnight he comes back to let me know that he met three young lads who asked him to join them at the club which happened to be only meters from our van. I wake up one more time when we returns and think I can finally sleep through until morning, when suddenly the van is shaking heavily. At first I’m utterly confused, still half in my dreams, then I think someone is trying to break into our van. I try to wake up Logan and when he finally does, he drunkenly mumbles: “I can take ’em!! Shhhh I can take ’em!” I realize Logan is in a foggy-brained state due to his alcohol intake and decide I have to do something myself. I open the blinds and bang at the window and all I see are three young men running away. So we were victims of a joke, lovely! Apart from being woken up the third time tonight and a 5-second panic attack, it made me laugh now myself. Especially thinking back about Logan’s response.

In the morning I ask Logan whether he knows what happened last night but he can’t remember anything. He is very amused about his reaction though. He then tells me that those three lads he befriended, spoke romansh and only a few words of English but they explained to him, that the Furka Pass was still closed due to snow and the only way to get to Western Switzerland was via a train or driving a big detour.
I wasn’t gonna believe it at first but at some stage we got to the sign: Pass closed! Instead we drive north and I’m planning on taking the road south along the “Vierwaldstätter See“.

Driving along the lake, we discover windsurfers and stop to watch their acrobatic jumps and turns for a while.

Of course that road ends in a little town called Baumgarten and we have to backtrack and follow the road north around the lake. The only road south is a highway and we decided against buying a vignette (toll ticket). This way we got to see Lucerne and Interlaken, two very beautiful towns.


We found a beautiful camping spot not far from Lucerne and will explore the town tomorrow.
More about Lucerne (Luzern or Lausanne) in the next post.

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Lago di Scanno

It has been raining all night and I’m so glad we were able to heat the van. There is a new layer of snow only a couple of hundred meters above us.

We quickly unplug electricity and re-connect the hot dog van. Then we make our way up the 25km road to Campo Imperatore, a hotel in which Mussolini was held captive and then freed by Hitler’s SS in 1943.

After only a few minutes we get to a closed boom gate.

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Now the only way to Corno Grande is by foot up the steep snow-covered mountain. Logan seriously considers this option but I remind him that it’s probably quite nasty up there, not to mention the danger involved (which he doesn’t want to hear about). A bit disappointed we leave Fonte Cerretto and head towards another lake: Lago di Scanno. A scenic drive through the mountains and a clearing sky lift up the mood quickly.

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I found a campsite on the lake called “Camping i Lupi” or “wolves camp” supposed to be open year-round. Upon arrival we can’t find anyone, no receptionist nor any guests. Of course! So I call the number provided and hope for the person to speak English and surprisingly, she does! I’m being told that the “guard” is in Scanno with his family and will be at the campsite within 15 minutes, so we just wait.

I read 8Euros for campervan per night and when we’re being told it’s 21 Euros, we are quite shocked. 21?? So he explains (in Italian) that it’s 8 Euros for the Campervan and 6,50 Euros per person per night. Aha! Oh well, we need a place to stay and I was already looking forward to a warm shower and heating. We pick a place right on the edge of the plateau with a nice view over the lake and over to a hilltop village.

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I then grab my towel and toiletry bag and run up to the showers. I can hardly wait to jump under the warm water, as pretty much all my showers so far have been ice cold. I turn on the tap and wait for the water to get warmer. And I wait. And wait… and wait… ! It doesn’t get warm. It’s not ice cold but it’s also nowhere near warm!!! Did we just pay 21 Euros for this? I’m so angry. I hurry to get clean quickly and jump out, looking forward to blow-drying my hair, as my head is cold now. Electricity in the bathrooms doesn’t work either. You just got to be kidding!!! I run down to the van and blow dry myself warm for ages.

Logan wants to go for a bike ride around the lake but since I just had my shower and I know he likes to ride really fast, I think it’s best to let him ride by himself.

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While he’s out, I hand-wash all the laundry in the bathroom. It’s taking me a long time and I’m hoping for Logan to come back soon to help me out. A couple of hours later, I’m still washing clothes, he walks into the women’s bathrooms (no worries, no one else is here anyway) and I smell alcohol and cigarette smoke. “What have you been up to?” His tongue heavy, he says: “I have a plan for us tomorrow!” and it dawns on me. “You and I are invited for Spaghetti tomorrow somewhere! I met some Italians and they are going to take us four wheel driving!”

Hang on?! I have been going on about Italians and their insane driving and now Logan wants me to jump into a car with strangers to go 4WD-ing? No no no no! I’m feeling very uncomfortable with this but Logan says, they are coming to pick us up tomorrow at 11am. Logan has little understanding for my worries and celebrates his accomplishment outside by himself.

Not really knowing who these people are and where we are going tomorrow, I have trouble sleeping…

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Incidents at Lake Campotosto

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After a couple of days of enjoying our time in Colmurano and finally solving our sink problem with some very agressively bubbleling drain cleaner, it is time to move on and make our way to Abruzzo National Park.
We drive south through the same nice mountain villages when going to Sibillini National Park and stop for some grocery shopping in Sarnarno. The prices for food are a lot higher than in Germany; we are negatively surprised.
On the map I pick “Lake Campotosto” as our destination. A lake will be nice to look at and maybe we can try fishing again there. The lake has 40km of shoreline and we drive around it once, before picking our camp spot on a grassy bit, next to the quiet road. Logan starts a fire outside and we try to enjoy the evening. Unfortunately
the weather turns quite nasty with strong winds and eventually rain, that we have to spend the rest of the night inside. I light up some tea candles to help the van warm up a little, something I had to regret later on.
Logan then wants to move the van but suddenly the wheels start spinning and instead of going forward, we are going backwards, not seeing two
mounts in the grass. (You can see them in the picture behind the van) We are stuck! He walks out and comes back to the van, holding our waste water pipe in his hands. “Oh no, that’s not good” I say and suggest, he doesn’t try to get the van out tonight. “We should just wait until tomorrow and have a look at it, when it’s bright.” I move the tea candles from the table to the kitchen bench and we make up the bed. I think about blowing them out but otherwise, they may help keep it warm for a little longer. I mean they are tea candles and have an aluminium case. We both keep looking at them for a while but they seem to be fine there, so we fall asleep.
At around 3:30am I suddenly wake up. Something feels wrong. The air in here is bad and it smells strange I think. I switch on the light and check the candles. They are all out but what I see then, made me feel dizzy: A paper box next to one of the tea candles had caught fire and burnt a 8x5cm area of the kitchen bench. I fall back into the bed and open one of the windows. Freezing air streams in but at least it’s fresh. Then I get up again and remove the half-burnt box and candles into the bin bag. While Logan is shocked about this too, he is back to sleep quickly. I have trouble falling asleep for the next 1-2hours. We are so lucky the fire extinguished itself and nothing else happened! No more candles in this van ever again!

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Through Austria to Slovenia

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Day 3 (by Logan)

It was nice to sleep in a heated van last night, but especially nice to awaken to the view that surrounds us. I have imagined myself running through the Bavarian Alps for some time now and today is that day. A quick snack for energy, running shoes on and a stretch. Francy suggested a route for me to take, but I have a more challenging run in mind. With my GoPro camera in hand I’m heading down towards the valley, passing through the little village nestled in the side of the mountain surrounded by green rolling hills to a road. I follow that to the top, giving me two options. 1: continue along the road up the mountain or
2: head down another (which I later find out is the road to Austria, only 2km away).
I think I will go for a third option. I’ve noticed this little track beyond the fields that heads into the forest and up a very steep section of a nearby mountain. That’s the one. I’ve run as far as I can and now have to resort to walking due to the steep incline.

I keep noticing this deer every few minutes as I seem to be going in the same direction as him and must scare him off as I get closer. It is so fast and agile along this terrain, I have little hope of keeping up. It’s a shame I can’t zoom in with the GoPro and get some better footage.
Once at the top, it was back down through the forest and along a farmer’s field to the other side where I now can’t seem to find where we are camped. I’m sure I will find it.

Today we have decided to drive to Slovenia and possibly on to Croatia, instead of going straight to Italy.

Driving through Austria is awesome, however, we’ve realised that much can be missed by staying on the Autobahn (highway) all the way.

We’ve just turned off and decided to head around the Millstätter lake and a series of small villages. The Autobahn is very well designed with long tunnels that penetrate through mountains and bridges perched high up on cliffs, however it doesn’t even come close to this amazing scenery. This lake must be fed by the melting snow because the clarity and colour is just incredible. Combine that with equally blue skies, a mild temperature and a village with its style and architecture, surely belonging on the Discovery channel’s “must see destinations”.

Passing from Austria to Slovenia is through a 7km tunnel, which has a speed limit of 60km/hr. We just received a warm welcome from a local exiting the tunnel. He beeped his horn and waved his arm at us as he sped passed. I don’t think he appreciated being stuck behind a campervan driving so slowly for 7km through a tunnel. Oh well. I replied with a wave and a smile, which can sometimes have more effect than a finger out the window.

We’re quite impressed by the quality of the roads and highways thus far and after just a few hours we have reached our destination. Smlednik or as I pronounced it: Smellyd-?k. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but this village is cool. Surrounded by green fields and tree topped hills with the Alps not too far away, this little town seems to have so much pride and attention to detail in regards to all aspects of houses, buildings and landscapes.

The campsite we are staying at is actually a hotel with an area for campervans. It has been closed down during the wintertime and has the feel of a Bear slowly awakening from hibernation. For 10 Euros we get electricity, toilets and water.

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Island Hopping El Nido 25/11/11

Since the island hopping tours have fallen short on Malapacao island, we still had to check out more islands in the archipelago. We decided that Tour C to Matinloc Island, Secret Beach and Helicopter Island would cover most of the islands that we haven’t seen yet.

It was quite bumpy on the sea and after a 30-min boat ride we stopped on Matinloc Island. All you see is a massive limestone cliff and a tiny hole in it. The swell is quite big and I wonder if all the 12 passengers are capable of swimming through a hole with sharp edges. Some people seem to panic slightly and kick around with their legs and feet. The water quality is really good this time and I can see about 5 or more meters down. I watch the fish watching us human beings making it through the tiny hole and on the other side I find a coral garden in very shallow water. I glide above it, trying not to touch anything. When I turn around I see everyone walking on the coral. This is tourism. Shouldn’t the guides educate the tourists? I’m disappointed and wonder if I should say anything. How do you explain a Philippino guy that they need to look after their precious natural wonder, when they litter their town and all their waste water is going right out to the ocean.

Secret beach is nice but it would be a lot more beautiful and secret without the crowds and if the coral was still intact.

We swim back through the tiny hole in the wall and the nervous tour guides are relieved that no-one has been hurt. The next stop is a snorkeling spot. Another coral cemetery! A bit sad really but there are lots of sea urchins in all different colours and beautiful fish. Logan seems to enjoy himself diving down deeper and further each time. I wonder if he will pursue the carrier of a skin diver?

For lunch we stop at a small beach and get served a whole fish with rice and soy sauce and some watermelon for desert. Watermelon appears to be a great environment for E-Coli, so I just reduce it to the fish and rice.

On the way back we stop at helicopter island and everyone jumps in the water. The swell is so big that it lifts up the boat under the breaking waves on the shore and our guide is getting swallowed by one of the waves when he tries to get to the beach. The anchor just wouldn’t stay in place and we left soon thereafter.

Back in El Nido we just grab a burger from a local place and disappear in the room to work on our footage and blog.

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Island Hopping Coron 18/11/11

4:30am: 136 Roosters (or about that) call out of the top of their lungs to let the world know that the sun should be up in an hour or so. I hear no break in between their calls. It reminds me of Tonga, but a lot worse.

 

We are getting a ride downtown to have breakfast. The bread at the bakery looks different; it tastes very sweet, almost like cake.
At 7:30 we are meeting our guide Romeo, a nice 19-year-old Philippino bloke. He takes us to the markets, so we can choose our own lunch: Parrot fish, rice and beans.

 

This is the first time I’m jumping onto a banka, a Philippino wooden boat with outriggers on each side. A warm breeze is blowing around us and in the background we can see majestic Coron island. Romeo and the other guy on board take us to a snorkelling spot first. The water has exactly air temperature; you feel no difference of being in, or out of the water. Fish is all around us and they try and eat my bracelet, which is made out of shells. The coral is plenty and colourful, we feel like a fish ourselves.
We are going through a beautiful blue and turquoise lagoon and anchor the boat at the end of it. After paying an entrance fee, Romeo takes us up over a cliff and back down on the other side; the beauty is taking my breath away.

Kayangan Lake sits on top of Coron Island, there actually are seven freshwater lakes and Kayangan is only a small one of them. The others are impossible to get to and can only be seen from the air.

Logan and I are in the water very quickly. There are cliffs all around the lake and with my snorkel and goggles on, I can follow them deep down the lake. It looks magic, like an underwater cathedral.

Logan is swimming all the way across the lake. I’m watching him from the distance climbing up cliffs. Back out of the water, he is bleeding on his foot and back, typical! I don’t even acknowledge these little cuts anymore; the guide is almost freaking out and pulls out the first aid kit. We start laughing.

On our way back we stop at the top of the cliff and enjoy the lookout over the lagoon.

 

Lunchtime! We are about to stop at a beach for lunch. There are two monkeys tied up to the tree, poor things! Romeo brings over our fish with rice and beans. The fish is literally black and he tells us, we need to peel the skin off. Underneath I find bones and the guts –Fish cooked Philippino way! It’s quite good actually and Logan makes the fish talk to me by opening and closing its mouth.

While the other tourists have lunch on the beach, we make our way to a snorkelling spot with a sunken Japanese warship. A little bit of snorkelling here but since it lies on an angle, only one end is visible.
Romeo tells us our next stop is Barracuda Lake. He points down into the water and we see it’s clear and all of a sudden it is becoming all blurry. How…?
Logan and I jump in the water and then I feel it! It’s thermal!! Hot water mixed in with warm water. I find it amazing to be able to see the hot water and keep looking at the changing clarity of water with my goggles. There is fish everywhere; the water is cobalt blue and the sand very white. Logan and I keep diving down to reach even warmer temperatures. Later I read, at the bottom of the lake temperatures reach about 38 degrees.

 

Litter everywhere! “CYC Beach”, does that stand for recycle here? Our last stop could have been a lot nicer, if it was a clean beach. There are also three residents on the island: two starving cats and a very lonely monkey. Some ignorant locals are hanging out in the filth while adding to it.

 

After our island hopping tour, Logan and I are waving down a tricycle to head to the Rocksteady Dive Centre where we book our discover scuba dive for tomorrow. We are excited!
Back at Kokosnuss, we are having dinner and are being served by one of those “lady boys”. They are boys or men dressed like girls, behaving like girls and talking like girls. Sometimes you can hardly tell their gender. Lady boys are accepted as every other Philippino person, more than we are with our semi-brown skin, blond or brown hair and dreadlocks!

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