Posted by: glenswatman | April 11, 2007

199806 England France Belgium Holland Germany Sweden Norway Finland

Monday 1 June 1998    Say a final farewell to Sandra but hope we can arrange to meet up with her in Warsaw.  Had planned to leave very early but it takes us until 9.00 to track David down and until 10.30 to get his things together and drop the bikes at Claire’s.  Have now decided that the bikes are not worth having.  If we are within a couple of miles of something we walk and much further than that we use public transport.  A small motor bike if now on our shopping list but until then we will manage with nothing.  Drive to Travelworld to get some work done on the van but they are very busy but will squeeze us in if we arrive for 8.30am on Wednesday.  Head to Telford and drop the laptop in at Mitac for them to look at the battery problem.  On to Mavis and Trevor’s where we manage to get level parking outside and decide to stay overnight.  It is nice for once to be able to see them for a longer period as we usually rush in and out like whirlwinds.  Lisa pops by on her way from work.  David goes swimming with Sian as he needs to get fit for his Army training.  Mitac call to say the laptop is ready for collection and the problem was only a fuse costing £1.50 –  but with an hours labour and VAT the bill totals £55.  They assure me they have checked it all over so I shouldn’t have any further problems.
TELFORD
Tuesday 2 June    Lots of rain in the night and a horrible morning also. Think the good weather we brought back with us has well and truly run out.  Mavis takes us up to Telford town centre for a shopping trip to kit David out with his Army basics.  The credit card takes a further battering as he convinces me the gear must be the right (as in expensive) stuff or he will get the p..s taken out of him.   Leave Telford (Mavis and Trevor’s not the shopping centre) after tea and drive to Wolverhampton where we park up and visit our friend Jem and his son Mark who is at home.  Haven’t seen them for far too long so once again lots of catching up to do.
WOLVERHAMPTON
Wednesday 3 June    Arrive at Travelworld just before 8.30. I try to do some work on the computer but it grinds to a halt!  Finally get the van up on the ramp at 10.30.   We are most concerned about a crack that has appeared over the door but they spend most of the time testing the ABS which has been a problem since day 1 of our trip abroad and conclude that they need a special computer chip which they don’t have –  neither do dozens of Ford dealers in many European countries!  We are forced out to lunch as we cannot get into the van and return to be presented with a bill for an £11 part for the converter but a total of £97 to include VAT and labour.  The only good news is that the crack seems to have been caused by us grounding and no permanent of further damage is expected.  Back to Mitac where they re-programme the laptop having lost some start up info during yesterdays work!  On to Drayton where we park in our usual plot by the swimming baths. Decide to crank up the generator to check if the battery will now hold a charge following the repair at Travelworld.  It starts but shortly after stops and we repeat this procedure a few times before giving up in despair.   Give up on the van and walk over to Mum’s.   It’s lovely to see Auntie Joan again  she’s looking well and Mum is doing her best to fatten her up! She comes to the van with Mum for a chat and look at our photos.
MARKET DRAYTON 
Thursday 4 June    Leave Steve sleeping and mopping in the van – he is not a Happy Bunny!  I take David up into Drayton to open a Bank account and get the rest of the things on his "shopping list".  Steve fiddles about with the generator and with a bit of help from Mum’s John manages to bodge a loose connection.   I brave the cellar at Mums in the afternoon and manage to retrieve some things we now require and make space to store others we no longer need.  Visit the Spooner’s late afternoon.  (I chuckle to myself each time I write Spooner’s as the laptop spell check always suggests I change it to spongers!).  They arrived back from Florida this morning and look disgustingly healthy (just like we did when we first arrived back in England). Nic and Bobby join David and I in the van in exchange for Steve.  We all sit in bed – David, Nic and Bob in the top bunk – and watch Ace Ventura When Nature Calls on video.
MARKET DRAYTON 2
Friday 5 June  At last the weather is improving.  I take a walk downtown with David, Bobby and Nic so that Nic can buy some goodies with the bag of coins we have given him for his Birthday on Sunday.  He manages to come back with bags full of toys and even more coins than he set out with as he stashes away the change from every purchase. I spend a couple of hours writing letters to anyone and everyone in Australia, New Zealand, USA and Canada sending out adverts for a motorhome exchange in the hope that we can organise a swap for this September/October.  Drive up to Tern Hill Hall Hotel in the evening where we are given a prime pitch with a wonderful view over the gardens.  Mum has organised a get together meal for family and friends before Auntie Joan returns to Canada tomorrow.  A lovely meal is enjoyed by all but Steve is most concerned at the house wine costing £10 a bottle and beer £2.20 a pint as we are coming here tomorrow night also and had planned a bit of a booze up!
TERN HILL HALL HOTEL CAR PARK
Saturday 6 June  Up early to drive back into Drayton to see Auntie Joan off.  Meet up with Claire and family round at Mums as they have brought Daniel to introduce him to Auntie Joan. Park up on Drayton baths car park where we left Steve with Daniel asleep whilst Claire, Daz, David & I walk into town.  Claire’s prediction of Daniel having a long sleep was wrong and Steve has spent most of the time amusing him.  They leave us with Daniel until 3.00 and we enjoy looking after him in the short term but there is no way we could cope with another one at this age and stage in our lives!  We are visited by a couple from Stafford Shirley and John with their daughter Daniella.  They are setting out next February in a motorhome to travel overland to Sri Lanka and then ship to Australia  It’s great to be talking to like minded people once again and funny to think back that less than two years ago we were in their position and pondering our future "on the road".  Return to Tern Hill Hotel in the evening but we are relegated to a corner spot by the field as they are expecting a very busy night.  We are joining Netty & David, Anne-Marie & John for a Charity summer ball and it seems strange to be getting ourselves done up in our finery.  The high heels are crippling and very alien to me now.  A champagne reception welcomes us followed by an excellent buffet   There is a band and disco and the time flies by.  Fortunately we are on the same table as the boss of the Hotel and wine bottles seem to keep arriving without any of us ordering or paying for them.  Steve has seen an American stretch Imo outside and whilst chatting to the chauffeur we are invited inside.  Netty & Anne-Marie walk past and are amazed when we tap on the window to them.  Netty climbs inside and reclines on the leather sofa looks at the TV and asks "can you get Corro’s on there? ……, take my photo!" What an embarrassment.  the chauffeur quickly announces that his guest is due out and would we leave – I wonder why?  There is a good fireworks display in the gardens just before midnight and then at 2.00 the hog roast is served.  We leave around 3.00 totally exhausted but having thoroughly enjoyed the night.  Glad we don’t have too far to go home
TERN HILL HALL HOTEL CAR PARK 2
Sunday 7 June    We are rudely awoken just after 7.00 by bottles being broken into the bottle bank which just happens to be located by the side of the van – how inconsiderate.  Call at Mum’s to collect David and say our farewells and then round to Netty’s to wish Nic a Happy Birthday and say goodbye to everyone.  Netty looks about as groggy as  I feel – what a pair!
Visit Pete & Carol’s with Claire, Daz & Daniel.  Paul & Elaine join us and we all enjoy a lovely  buffet.  More goodbyes to Claire and family as they leave to visit everyone in Telford.  Slob around all afternoon & evening before retiring to the van for our last night on English soil.
NEWPORT
Monday 8 June  David has to be taken to Whittington Barracks between 1000hrs and 1400hrs so we leave Newport at 0900hrs in the Army Recruitment Vehicle to drop off our last shipment.  Watch to make sure he does actually go into the Barracks and then take a quick look around the adjoining Staffordshire regiment museum before heading on our way.  We come unstuck on the M25 as the lorry convoy protesting about taxes on Diesel fuel have decided to make a procession at 20mph and we are in the slip stream or should I say on the M25 car park!  Arrive at Dover at 6.30 and board the SeaFrance ferry for Calais.  As the weather is so awful it might be better to head SE to Czech republic and try to find some sun and then Scandinavia later.  Arrive in FRANCE at 9.30pm local time and have  fun filling up the LPG at the self-service petrol station.  First the pump won’t lock on and then eventually it won’t come off.  The French staff are most unhelpful and a queue builds up behind  us as we have purchased Diesel as well & I refuse to pay for the Diesel and make that pump useable until they help us with the LPG.  They understand that all right and someone helps us out. – B….y tourists!  Call at the Calais Beer & Wine warehouse to top up our stock before heading just North of Calais to retire for the night on a motorway parking area.
NR CALAIS, MOTORWAY SERVICE AREA
 
Tuesday 9 June  A  damp cold miserable morning again – just like yesterday in England.  Drive north into BELGIUM where we stop in the pretty town of Nieuwpoort to make some phonecalls. We know of 3 couples in Holland and decide we will call them and perhaps pay a visit.  I need cash to buy a phonecard so end drawing the minimum of  1000 Belgian Francs from the ATM (Current exchange rate £1 = 58.80 BF) and then spending 200BF on a phonecard.  Jo & Haan are back in England,  Conny & Henk are in France and Suzan and Gerban have an answerphone.  Drive a little further feeling very undecided what to do so pull over to a parking area for a major planning meeting.  Weigh up all the possibilities – Where do we start to head for? – Nordkapp?, Lower Scandinavia? , Berlin then Poland and Czech Republic? or Prague, Warsaw followed by either Berlin or Gdansk to Scandinavia,? The world may be your oyster but actually deciding where to cast your net is not that simple.  We are both like minded, equally undecided and can talk ourselves in and out of every option.  The final decision is to head for Czech Republic as we much prefer the sun and it is about 2,500 miles to Nordkapp which would be very expensive in fuel alone to visit to just one place as we wouldn’t have time to stop anywhere en route.  Have a few hours kip and both wake up having changed our minds and decided that we should go for Nordkapp now as a Motorhome is the only way to do it and the other places we can always do at a later date in another way. Set off at 5.30pm with a new focus (trendy expression hey) and spend our remaining Belgian Francs on Diesel at 25BF litre as it is cheaper than Holland but not as cheap as Germany.  Travel via Antwerp and into HOLLAND at around 7.30pm.  Take the fast motorway route NE and pull up for the night at a service area just east of Amersfoort.  Now beginning to feel like we are back on tour.
NR AMERSFOORT, MOTORWAY SERVICE AREA
Wednesday 10 June   What a lazy pair – our new plan to head for Nordkapp doesn’t get off to such a good start as we sleep in late and don’t set off until 9.30am  Cross into GERMANY (DM2.80 = £1) and pull up on the services just outside Hamburg for information and so that Steve can watch the football.  Pick up the ferry brochures and settle on a crossing from Rostock to Trelleborg at DM160 and book for Friday 8.00am. We hear a lot of sirens and the service area seems to be blocked with trucks so we cannot leave.  Just infront of us a lorry has swerved off the motorway into the barriers and blocked the road off.  We change in the van ready for our "night on the town".  Eventually the road is cleared and we drive through the centre of Hamburg and park by the zoo.  The underground is normally reasonably priced but I press the wrong button on the machine and buy a first class ticket for 5 people!  Anyone for a free ride?  Down to the famous Reeperbahn red light district where sex shops, shows and prostitutes abound – quite tacky and not as nice as the areas in Amsterdam and Bangkok.  You’d think we were experts on these things wouldn’t you. Take another U bahn ride to the area around the lake and browse for awhile before returning to the U bahn. As we wait for the train three policemen come onto the station and start walking along the tracks obviously looking for something but no one else takes any notice so we try not to look too eager to board.
HAMBURG
 Thursday 11 June  Very early start 7.30 and we tank up with fuel (180 litres) at DM1.07 which is the cheapest we have seen except that the next station is DM1.06 – typical, that would have been another Mars bar with the extra DM1.80 we could have saved.  A slow journey through Hamburg as we have hit the morning rush hour.  Just out of town we detour to Ahrensburg to an RV dealer to pick up an oil filter.  Ahrensburg is quite a surprise with a huge pretty castle complete with moat on the edge of the town.  The RV dealer has moved to nearby Hoisdorf so we go there but they don’t open until 10.00 and no one comes until 10.20 (so much for the German punctuality). The correct filter is not available so we leave and head for Rostock.  Arrive at 3.00pm and having filled up with fuel decide to try for the 3.15pm ferry.  Once again the German punctuality has failed and it still hasn’t finished loading which is lucky for us. We sit on the dock and can’t believe our eyes when a long train drives on board. We are the last to board and the ship sets sail at 3.45pm.  The DFO shipping lines have two boats, a really huge posh one and a small older one and you can guess which one we are on.  There is only one restaurant with basic but expensive food and a tiny and also expensive duty free shop.  A taste of prices to come I think.  All is redeemed however as we spend an hour in the complimentary Naturist sauna. (Well we decide it is Naturist as it is  listed as a mixed session and there is no one else using it to complain).   Dock in SWEDEN (12.60SKR = £1) at 8.45pm and the customs people direct us to a parking area by the beach about 1km away. 
TRELLEBORG
Friday 12 June  Head  around the coast via Malmo and Helsingborg towards Stockholm.  Pick up a hitchhiker en route who is going to visit his brother.  John is in a band called "Cat rapes Dog" which aren’t doing too well or to put it another way he is unemployed.  Chat and learn a lot about Sweden before we drop him off at Jonkoping.  Stop for lunch and a nap and arrive in Stockholm early evening as it starts to rain.  As we approach the city be begin to see more than the occasional car and eventually a steady stream of traffic leaving the city. Discover that a Stockholm card costs Skr199 for 24hours parking, transport and admission to museums and attractions.  Pull up  near the end of the tube line and spend the rest of the evening planning our impending visits.  Cold rainy evening.
STOCKHOLM
Saturday 13 June    Wow, clear blue skies and hot weather.  Action stations and we are in the city by 8.30 doing a walking tour of the old town and queuing up at 10.00 for the royal palace to open.  By 11.00 we have seen the treasury, chapel, apartments, exhibition and statues.  The medieval museum fits in just before we take the 11.30 city canal tour. A quick walk through the royal gardens where a rock band is playing and on to city hall for the 2.00 tour.  Shock horror the 2.00 tour which is also the last tour of the day is cancelled and our plans begin to fall apart.  Hop on the historic boat tour (1 in 4 Stockholmers have a boat and so we see loads anchored up) and then climb the city hall tower for an overview of Stockholm.  Return to the van and en- route stop for a bite to eat.  A busy snack bar has a sign out for something reduced from Skr50 to Skr39 and we can understand that it is 4 items including a sausage. I order mine and the man asks me if I would like a drink of Sprite or Coke,  glancing at the expensive prices I say "not just now thanks, perhaps later."  I take my meal out to Steve. It turns out to be an enormous fat spicy sausage wrapped in a type of rolled up round pitta bread and stuffed with mash.  Can’t figure out the fourth item but think it must be the bits of chive in the mash.  Steve reckons it is poor value so we get more food from the van.  Back to the Aquarium with an imitation tropical rain forest complete with nightfall and thunderstorm and then as we are ahead of schedule we add the Vasa museum to the tour.  It is the best thing we have seen in Stockholm with a 300 year old wooden warship with magnificent carvings.  It only sailed a few yards in Stockholm harbour before sinking and is in superb condition.  Spend so long looking at everything we are thrown out of the museum when it closes at 7.00.  I see a sign on a drinks stall for Lask and it suddenly dawns on me that Lask is the same word as one of the items on my lunch menu.  Steve can’t believe I actually turned down the free drink and says he will send me back in to the snack bar on the way home to ask for the drink I said I would have later!    Stroll around the theme park to which our card offers us free admission instead of Skr40 but the rides are another Skr40 each.  Final visit is to Skansen a village full of old houses and building transported from all over Sweden and rebuilt.  Stagger back to the van rather wearily at 10.30 and can’t get used to it still being daylight.  Skr565 used on each card so far and one more visit planned for in the morning.
STOCKHOLM
Sunday 14 June  Drive SW out of town to Drottningholm Royal Palace. Based on Versailles but on a smaller scale. The royal family live here and only use the city centre palace for official functions.  A beautiful place in a huge park on the lakeside.  We obtain our tickets the minute the office opens at 10.00 as our 24hr card runs out just after.  A quick tour of the main palace building and then down through the lakeside gardens to the Chinese pavilion.  Many years ago the king had it built overnight as a surprise for his wife’s birthday and the two of us become the English tour group.    A walk up through the formal gardens and into the theatre for the Swedish tour as it is now hot and we don’t want to waste time hanging around for the English one!  Return to the car park and grab a picnic and things for sunbathing.  The park is full of local people doing the same thing as it is now scorching.  Final total for the Stockholm card SKR 745 each plus free parking – although had we paid the normal prices only the boat trips and the Vasa museum would have been worth the money in our minds. This is the reason we like this system so much as we get a nibble at all sorts and as it turned out we stumbled on the Vasa museum by chance which we would not have picked out normally.  It starts to cloud over at 4.00pm so we head North calling at the other Royal Gardens of Haga to see the Copper imitation tents.  The E04 is an excellent route North and as we are heading away we notice a traffic building up on the opposite side coming back into the city.  Apparently Stockholmers like to get away for the weekend either in their boats or to their country houses.  Pull over for a meal at 7.00pm and then drive on until 10.00pm and pull up by a lakeside just South of Hudiksvall.  I say lakeside as this is what it looks like but in reality most of these areas are actually part of the sea . It is fantastic being able to drive so late in broad daylight but difficult getting to sleep.
S OF HUDIKSVALL
Monday 15 June  Don’t get much sleep as it was light until after 11.00pm and from 2.30am onwards – will have to hang blankets over the windows tonight.  Leave at 8.00am and stop at Sundsvall – nicknamed stone city after the wooden buildings were all burnt last century and rebuilt in the same style in stone. By the car park is an information office but also a board with a town plan and a machine dispensing free city maps.  I need the Post Office and entering the building I have to take a number from a ticket machine.  You then sit around on the comfy chairs until you hear a ding dong and  then a board shows the next number and which cashier desk to go to.  I notice another area where free wrapping paper, tape and labels are provided.  Can just imagine running this system at Broomhill-not.  (Half my old customers wouldn’t hear the ding dong , the other half wouldn’t have their glasses to see the board, all the paper etc would get nicked  and people would just be coming in for a sit down!).    Stroll through the town admiring the buildings before heading out of town to the big Ikea shopping mall at Birsta.  We need oil for the van and some basic food items.  6 Eggs, a small tub of marg, 1 litre carton of milk and a salami sausage type refill tube of Apricot jam come to £4 and that was choosing the special offers or cheapest version of each item.   Fortunately the vehicle oil is on promotion.  Continue our drive North noticing hardly any traffic on the road even though some stretches are still motorway.  Pull over in the afternoon for Steve to watch football,  end up driving round the car park with me trying to tune the TV until we get a decent signal.  Whilst he watches the match I knock up steak, with a brandy cream and mushroom sauce, and chips to be eaten at half time.  Continue our drive north until just after 9.00am where we find another harbour stop just south of Javre.  There is still plenty of daylight to drive in but I think 365 miles is enough for one day.  It is cloudy so although it is light all night it is not so bright.  We are now level with Iceland and only 1000km from Nordkapp.  Later on it starts to rain.
HARBOUR S OF JAVRE
Tuesday 16 June     A rainy miserable morning so we get up late and revive ourselves with a shower.  We need to fill up the LPG at Pitea as there is no supply further North.  Luckily we know it is at an OK brand filling station and the one we spot from the motorway is the correct one.  No more LPG available now until we drop down the west coast of Norway to Trondheim in a few weeks time.  A little further north we stop following the main coastal road and head directly North.  Huge signs tell us we are entering the Arctic circle and so we make a photographic stop.  Lots of reindeer by the road and they don’t move when you get near unless it is to deliberately cross the road in front of you.  There are an average of 40 killed on the road each day and we can see why.  Very sparsely populated area  with most of the houses built of wood and stained red.  It is a damp drizzly day and the road seems endless as we head towards FINLAND finally crossing the non-border at 3.30pm.  (Approx. 9 Finmarks = £1).  Stop for diesel as it is cheaper here than Norway or Sweden and notice a thermometer saying only 10 degrees.  Stop again later on for a final top up of fuel before the garages close and Steve notices football on the TV at the service station.  Needless to say this becomes our meal stop with him popping back at half time to eat.  The terrain changes rapidly to spindly trees and long straight roads.  You begin to feel that you have tunnel vision and the rain doesn’t help. Enter NORWAY in the middle of a vast stretch of wilderness and the first thing we see is a frozen lake.  There are no towns along this 50 mile stretch of road and very little traffic.  After 336 miles and just North of the border we pull over by a lake.  It’s very cold and we are dismayed to find the heating not working so snuggle up in bed with hot water bottles and extra blankets.
JUST OVER BORDER INTO NORWAY
Wednesday 17 June  The colourless barren terrain suddenly changes and the trees have bright green leaves.  Lots of frozen lakes and waterfalls – we are surprised as we turn a bend in the road and get a free car wash.  At the northern coast we reach Alta and our first sight of the Arctic sea.  It remains unfrozen all year due to the Gulfstream and there is much more life along this coast than inland.  Call at the bank to buy Norwegian Krone (NOK12.40 = £1) , PO for stamps and phonecard and shop for bread and basics.   Believe this to be the last place of civilisation on our route.  The local caravan dealer can’t help with the heater problem as when we come to show him it works perfectly.  He does however have the correct oil filter that we need!  Following the road east the landscape changes from the Yorkshire moors to the slate mountains of Wales.  It is still raining and with the engine heater on full blast we are only just warm.  Roll up to Kafjord to catch the ferry to Honningsvag (the island where Nordkapp is at the top).  There is a price per vehicle including one person and this is based on length.  The clever people have marked the road in metres and the man frowns and then laughs when Steve says we are 7 metres (actually 7 1/2) and then adds that we have 6 people hidden under the seats.  We pay for 7 metres NOK243 and 1 extra person NOK 34.  There are big queues made up of about 50% motorhomes, 30% coaches and 20% cars and motorbikes.  Don’t make it onto the first ferry and have to wait 90 minutes for it to return.  The ferry is heaving with Japanese and Italians most surprisingly.  The last few years the tourist industry have got wise to the appeal of this area and suddenly Hotels have sprung up everywhere and coaches and cruise liners call here.  Consequently the last outpost of Alta is no more and Honningsvag has supermarkets, petrol station and everything else you might need.  Pull up by the harbour and notice we have travelled 2162 miles from Calais, 2412 from Newport in 10 days with quite a few stops enroute. Heating not working again so we start the generator to operate the electric fan or don’t start it as the case may be.  Are we jinxed or what.  Steve finds a nice warm cosy pub showing the football so we pop over.  Order two small beers and are shocked to be charged NOK76 (£6).  I am bored so at half time I leave Steve with my beer and return home.  Just settling into bed after 11.00pm when there is a banging on the outside of the van and then the door.  Hesitate before deciding that as it is broad daylight there shouldn’t be any problem with me opening the door. It’s Malcolm who we last met in Crete last winter he has just pulled up with Claire in their motorhome on the same car park.  We had tentatively agreed to meet here but when they phoned our Claire a few weeks ago and heard we were going back to England they didn’t think we would make it.  They have just arrived on the ferry and this was the place they chose to park and were surprised to see our van.  Malcolm pops back for Claire and returns with a bottle of Whisky.  Steve joins us at 11.30pm.  It’s great to see them again and there is a lot of catching up to do as they have arrived here via Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia and Poland.  The first time we met them was on a car park in Thessaloniki/Greece and then by chance at Siteia/Crete and then again by arrangement at Festos/Crete when Claire, Daz and Daniel were with us. It was their suggestion that we head for Nordkapp and we jokingly parted with plans to meet up on Midsummer’s eve.   The chances of us arriving on the same day and rolling up on the same car park show what a small world it is at times. We part at 2.00am although it doesn’t feel like it as it is still broad daylight.  We calculate we will not see darkness for at least 3 weeks.
HONNINGVAG
Thursday 18 June  Still cold and raining. Do a recce on the town and return to see a huge cruise ship the Fred Olsen "Black Watch" docked in front of us.  We get chatting to John the band leader and feel sorry for the passengers who are only here for the day and must go on a coach to Nordkapp now knowing that they will not be able to see very much.  Steve and Malcolm have a go at mending the heater and the generator.  Malcolm has a very comprehensive tool kit including soldering iron and they manage to adapt a fuse holder for the generator.  The heating seems to have a mind of it’s own and is once again working.  Claire and Malcolm come to us for lunch and bring some smoked reindeer liver.  Lunch lasts from 1.30pm – 4.30pm when we all decide an afternoon sleep is in order.  Regroup at Claire and Malcolm’s for an 8.00pm meal.  Norwegian pease pudding with bacon on the menu.  Play Scrabble and return just after midnight.
HONNINGVAG 2
Friday 19 June  A brighter morning with no rain.  The Fred Olsen ship has been replaced by a military craft and we are treated to a display of Army manouvres on the car park.  Soldiers bomb around in 6 wheel quad bikes (does that make sense) and every so often leap out and crouch down posing with their guns.  Wonder if this is what David is getting up to?   Malcolm has established that Nordkapp is not quite the northern most point of Europe and to reach this we must take a hike to Knivskjelodden peninsula just west of it.  Drive up to the appropriate car park and the board tells us it is an 18km return walk taking 4-6 hours.  Leave at 1.00pm. Walk over bogs, snow fields and  frozen rivers spotting Golden Plover and Arctic Tern birds  finally reaching the beach with lots of beachcombing opportunities. There are Oyster catcher birds here as well as Gulls and Steve gets dive bombed when he walks too near to a nest.   We are still not at the most northern point and have to walk further to the headland.  Malcolm insists on touching the water whilst we stand  back and video him.  Wonderful views on the wild windy headland.  Rather than return the same way we decide to climb up the cliff as we have seen cairns indicating a path along the top.  It is a difficult climb up and Claire begins to struggle having injured her ankle last year.  At the top we realise we have to go down a dip and up another hill to reach the ridge but this still looks the best route.  Halfway up the going gets really tough but Malcolm says it would be impossible to go back down and we must carry on.  Reach the cairn on the top but it is different to the walking trail cairns and looks like it has been dropped by a helicopter.!  The route onwards reveals an impassable crevice and so we are forced to scramble down the cliff face.  It is a very slow, dangerous process and takes a very long time.  By now Claire is struggling with her ankle, Steve’s knee is playing up, my feet are covered in blisters and Malcolm’s big toe is bruised as he forgot to cut his toe nails!  As we start our walk back a Swedish family catch up with us and we start chatting.  I suddenly turn back and find that I am about 1km ahead of Steve, Malcolm and Claire but decide it is better if I keep going as my blisters are killing me and if I get back first I can get the van ready.  Quite a bit further on I realise I don’t have the van keys but the others are nowhere in sight. The snow is melting on the way back and damp seeps into the walking boots.  The Swedish family have come from Stockholm in a 24 foot American bright yellow stretch limmo with MGM studios painted on the side. The family have 4 boys and an exchange girl student from Argentina and one from Japan.  Arrive back at 9.45pm and they have to rush off to catch the last ferry.  I freeze by the side of the van but am relieved to see a lot of traffic on the road should I need to alert someone if the others don’t return.  Steve hobbles up at 10.20pm and we dive into the van to soak our feet, warm up (thankfully the heating works) and start cooking a meal. The tail party roll up at around 11.00pm (so much for the 4-6 hour walk) and we are all pleased to have lived to tell the tale.  Manage to stay awake until midnight and nip outside to photograph the midnight sun as there is a convenient gap in the clouds.
LAYBAY ON ROAD TO NORDKAPP
Saturday 20 June  Better day with clear blue skies but a cold wind.  Following a full monty cooked breakfast we drive up to the North Cape itself.  NOK175 per person admission for up to 48 hours stay.  Pull onto the car park amongst many other motorhomes but we are the only two from GB.  Pop into the visitor centre where we watch a video of the region, walk along the underground tunnel lined with historic scenes and out onto the viewing balcony.  Plan a midnight BBQ and so at teatime we eat a light meal of reindeer meat (tastes like beef but is a bit chewy) and mash that Claire has cooked.  The car park fills up with motorhomes and coaches.  Looking down the road it is clear to see when a ferry has arrived as the procession of vehicles appear.  Trot out to the point at midnight and can’t believe the crowds of people jostling to get a photo of the midnight sun directly north over the sculpture of a globe.  There are over 40 coaches and 100 motorhomes but the coaches leave shortly after as the only accommodation here is a honeymoon suite for the weddings that are now performed here.  Back at the van we call the BBQ off as it is too windy and cold and decide to cook inside Claire and Malcolm’s as our heating is not working again.  Alas their heating is also not working as the wind keeps blowing the flame out.  Survive with the heat from the oven and enjoy reindeer burgers, turkey burgers, pork chops and lots of wine.  Retire to our van at 3.00pm and can’t help but keep commenting on how strange it is to have continuous sunshine.
NORDKAPP
Sunday 21 June  All get up very late as without heating the bed seems very inviting.  We have had enough of the cold wind on the Cape and think it will be better to drop down inland to a campsite to recharge our batteries and do some washing etc.  Claire and Malcolm have never been on a campsite so it is a new venture for them.  NAF Nordkapp Camping at Skipsfjorden have the operation sewn up.  A Hotel for the coach parties, Cabins for motorists, Youth Hostel type rooms with kitchen facilities, Parking with hook ups for motorhomes and caravans and a field for tents.  Our hunch pays off and we are amazed at how much warmer it is out of the wind and manage to sit out in the sun.  Steve and Malcolm get busy with the oil change and Claire gets her portable washing machine out.  I sit and read in the sun vowing to get on with my work later.  It’s ironic that now we have an electric supply and can use the heater it is so warm that we don’t need it!  The campsite rate is NOK120 night but we get a 10% discount on the first night, 20% on the 2nd and 30% on the 3rd and subsequent nights because we have a camping card.  Sounds tempting.  I cook us a traditional Sunday roast for tea with chicken, stuffing etc.  We follow this up with an evening viewing of the Fully Monty followed by the cartoon Father Christmas which seems very appropriate.
SKIPSFJORDEN CAMPSITE
Monday 22 June  With a hose pipe running in from the hot tap  I enjoy the luxury of a bath.  An active morning follows doing the washing and catching up on the computer diary.  Malcolm has a better TV than ours and can pick up the Norwegian channels so we decide to stay put for another night and watch the football.  The video gets edited and we begin to feel on top of our job list at last.  Regroup in our van for an evening meal followed by the football.  Malcolm says it is another first for him to sit in and watch a football match.  Unfortunately England loose to Romania but Steve consoles himself with the fact that even a draw would have been no better! 
SKIPSFJORDEN CAMPSITE 2
Tuesday 23 June   Breezy but sunny day and we really should make a move and start to head south.  Get chatting to John & Pam from Australia who are on a huge overland expedition.  Offer them a lift to Honningsvag for them to catch the ferry & bus.  Leave at 2.00 and as we pull up for the ferry notice two more British motorhomes.  One couple just on holiday and another an elderly couple Ian & Mary who have been on the road for over 10 years as their large family is spread world-wide and they spend the time visiting them in between being on tour.  Unfortunately they are heading in the opposite direction to us.  John & Pam’s bus doesn’t leave until 2.00am so they opt to stay with us to Alta where there are more frequent buses.  Overtake a bus en route and grab a timetable from the driver.  Find out we have 10 minutes to get to the next village where they can connect with the correct bus.  Rapidly wind up our very interesting conversation, exchange names and addresses and drop them off.  Such a shame that we keep meeting interesting people when we don’t have time to chat.  There are a lot of caravans parked up in prime places with no one around.  At the first sign of summer the locals tow their vans out to a good spot to leave it there for the season.  As the laws of the land are so relaxed here they are able to do this  legally.   Carry on to Alta and park up by the supermarket so that Steve can watch football once again at the local bar.  I have acquired another cardboard box today and so make good use of the time making more contraptions to put at the windows as black out blinds.  Our going to bed routine now takes twice as long and still doesn’t anywhere near darken the van.  I would recommend anyone coming this way to bring proper black out linings with them as I noticed from the Tourist Information visitor book that a lot of people were having the same problem in hotels.  Although the battery indicator level was showing high when we pulled up it is now low and so we seem to have another problem!  Luckily the battery we need is on offer at 999NOK.
ALTA
Wednesday 24 June  Steve checks things under the engine and fiddles about with the fuses. Drive round to the local caravan dealers on the edge of town and unbelievably the battery dial is showing good and the meter reading is also good.  They are selling the same battery we saw last night for 1399NOK but we don’t think we need one.   Head out west on the E6  and pass loads of wooden frames with the fish hanging out to salt and dry.  The locals are very clever as they dry their fishing nets on the same framework providing protection around the fish at the same time.  Spot an English motorhome and pull over to chat to Desmond and Eileen a couple of Geordies on a 6 week holiday.  He says he is having the same problem with his battery and it is because the bumpy roads keep causing the fuses to work loose.  ?Problem solved.  They have driven all the way up the E6 and say it is a superb journey but if we detour off it at all be prepared for double the mileage and lots of ferry crossings.  Drive on but stop for a sunbathing session.  Pull up at Storslett to call in to the tourist information office but like all the others he says it is too early in the season for him to have received any information on the other regions!  Park in the town where Steve conveniently notices a Pub which just happens to be showing football.
STORSLETT
 
Thursday 25 June   Battery level low so back to the drawing board.  Pop to the local Rimi supermarket (advertised as Norway’s cheapest) and pay £1 for 6 eggs and notice bread at 15NOK for the cheapest small loaf.  How can it be Norway’s cheapest when the same loaf in the same chain of supermarkets was 9NOK in Alta?  Put a drop of Diesel in to get us a bit further on our way – it is the highest price yet at 8.11NOK litre.  Notice the same battery on sale here for 749NOK so decide to buy one if nothing else to eliminate so many other possible causes of our various problems.  Toddle along a bit further enjoying the magnificent scenery.  The snow is now melting quickly and producing fabulous waterfalls and a wonderful picturesque view around every corner.  Keep stopping to take photos and videos but must refrain as there is so much.  Afternoon sunbathing stop for a few hours which is halted when the sky clouds over.  It has been continuous sunshine in blue skies since last Saturday so this is a bit of a shock.  Stop once again for diesel in Nordkjoksbotn (North jocks bottom as we have been calling it), now down to 7.99NOK and also call in at the local version of Aldi/Netto called Rema 1000.  Slightly cheaper with bread down again to 9NOK but we can’t believe most of the prices.  2 or 3 times the price we pay in England.  Steve wanted some cheese but at £7 kilo says he will wait a bit longer.  Stop for a meal as we are having trouble finding a suitable parking spot.  Plenty of spots but we are getting fussy and expect peace and quiet with a view.  Spot a car park by a museum just south of Setermoen with a tourist office as well. Steve is horrified to find our beer stock getting low and can envisage going tea total rather than buy any more in Norway – think if we stayed here long enough we would be wafer thin also.  Black out the windows and both manage to sleep until nearly 9.00am.
JUST S OF SETERMOEN
Friday 26 June  Tourist office not open until 10.00am and then very limited information.  Can’t understand why they only have information for the immediate surrounding area also why they haven’t received this years stock!  Miss the turning for our diesel and shopping detour to Sweden and end up in Narvik.  Manage to get enough info for us to make the decision to follow the E6 rather than the coastal route 17 which would involve 6 ferries and double the mileage.  Usual sunbathing stop followed by the pub with a TV hunt.  Stop at a small town called Ballangen where the tourist office is extremely helpful, TV showing football in the pub and good car parking.  Chat to a young lad who is helping in the tourist office whilst Steve checks out the afternoon football.  Return to the van and a little later Stian the 13 year old lad calls and says he has come to keep me company whilst Steve goes to watch the evening match.  His English is excellent and I learn about life in this part of the world.  He enjoys nature and enthuses about the midnight sun and also the northern lights in winter and the way they have proper dark nights where the sky is pitch black.  A Scandinavian mile = 10 km which explains some of the difficulty we have had finding places as the sign boards are in km and we thought people were telling us English miles to make life easier for us!  He tries to teach me some Norwegian but my pronunciation is appalling.  I get my own back as like many Europeans he cannot say "v" and keeps saying wery.  Steve gets a good deal in the pub as to decide the price of the beer (normally 45NOK) you have to roll 7 dice and the price you pay is the total score.  Steve returns and Stein is still showing no sign of leaving at 11.00 and so we end up pretending to go back to the pub to get him to leave!
BA;;AMGEM
Saturday 27 June    Leave just before 10..00.  the scenery here is amazing as the fjords are so calm that all the mountains and small red fishing huts are reflected in them.  Cross three linked bridge over the Efjord and spot a good parking place by a stream.  The washing is brought up to date with Steve hauling buckets of water in for me to use.  Spend the afternoon sunbathing before leaving at 3.30pm.  Just along the road is the obligatory ferry from Skarberget to Bognes (NOK138 7m van including driver NOK21 extra person).  By the time we dock at 5.00pm the football is in full swing and we pull over at a tourist centre for Steve to watch Norway being knocked out.  Drive a little further and spot 3 motorhomes, one alone and two in strange positions.  Turn back to investigate and find a German van stuck in a ditch with another trying unsuccessfully to pull him out.  We are glad to have a big engine and pull him out quite easily.  They are staying there overnight along with the Swiss van so we pull up and join them.  Beers are handed out as we stand around chatting. The Germans are from Hamburg and when we return into Germany we will give them a call as they have a friend who is well up on shipping info and should be able to help us. Apparently it is cheaper to ship from Hamburg to America than from England.  Not much ground covered today – only 39 miles.
S OF BOGNES
  
Sunday 28 June  Stop and make our weekly call to Claire and learn the disappointing news that David has discharged himself from the Army.  Half expecting it, we both slept badly last night dreading making the call but it doesn’t  help.  We both feel sad about it and Steve gets very moody.  End up pulling over and fortunately stumble on a very nice spot by a river.  The lane is very narrow but has special bays for motorhomes to pull up in and stay free of charge for up  to 3 days.  Try to keep out of each others way as everything we say sparks an argument.  I sit out and Steve sits in the van and then takes a hike.
BY A RIVER
 
Monday 29 June    An early visit to the tourist office where the man kindly lets me finish my work on the computer.  The local travel agent supplies us with ferry brochures which produce even more options for our route out of Norway.  Notice in the travel agents that they make a charge of 60NOK for the phonecalls involved to make a booking or check availability for you -what a cheek, guess we will be making the booking ourselves direct.  It’s a nice day so we think we will stay put and sit on the grass to enjoy the sun.  Start to panic when a procession of fairground trucks arrive on the car park – are we going to be surrounded by a fair?  Steve checks with one of the drivers and they have only pulled up to use the dump station. Phew.  Drive on at 3.30 but have to pull up shortly after for Steve to watch the footie whilst I cook tea.  Top up diesel and notice Snickers bars on special offer at 18NOK for two (that’s 75p each for regular size) cheap!. Our drive takes us back into the wilderness where we pass some wonderful raging clear blue rivers.  Start to get a whiff of alcohol and wonder what they are producing in the region.  The smell gets stronger and we begin to feel quite light headed,  I wind the window down to take it in – except it is not coming from outside.  A bottle of wine has smashed in the fridge and by now the floor is wet through where it has seeped out.  9pm brings us to the Arctic Circle centre.  What a difference to the same area we crossed on the way up in Sweden with only a couple of sign boards.  A visitor centre, dozens of motorhomes parked up and lots of memorials – very much like the centre at Nordkapp.  It is the most visited area in Northern Norway and we guess it is because most people don’t venture further up.  It’s bleak, cold and windy and to cap it all the still camera develops a fault and won’t work.  The zoom lens is stuck half in/half out and won’t budge so we can only take photos with it in that position and can’t close it.
ARCTIC CIRCLE VISITOR CENTRE
Tuesday 30 June  Carry on with our journey south on the E6 and make a minor detour to visit the Svartisen Glacier.  You have to take a 20 minute boat ride across a lake (60NOK return) and then walk for 4km.  The lake was formed when the glacier receded and it is still the second largest glacier in Norway.  Start hiking and stop to photo some spectacular waterfalls.  The camera and video are in the rucksack and when I take the camera out to see if it will work Steve turns around and the video falls out and crashes onto the rocks.  We are not amused, it is in a bad way and won’t work at all as the electronic viewfinder is smashed.  That’s all we need as we are just getting over our Sunday upset and back on normal speaking terms.  We set off walking again at a cracking pace – wonder why?  A geologists dream as we walk over the area of the original glacier with all the layers of different coloured rock exposed. The glacier itself suddenly appears around a corner and it is fantastic.  Clear blue ice flow running down into a lake complete with mini icebergs.  We hear a crack followed by a splash as a chunk breaks off.   Signs warn us that if a large piece breaks it can cause a tidal wave up to 18 metres high and that we must be cautious.  Walk right up to the edge and pick up huge chunks of ice which look like lots of ice cubes welded together.  Real Fox’s Glacier mint advert material. Try to take a few photos with the still camera which we think will work if we don’t touch the zoom.  Try to take some video without using the viewfinder but I don’t think it will work as sparks start to fly. (That’s in addition to the sparks flying between us!)  Catch the 2.20pm boat back and then drive to Mo i Rana where we park by the tourist information centre.  Steve susses out where the England match will be shown and catches the end of the early match.  A lad with a bike comes over and tells us he is a reporter for the local paper and can he interview us. We warn him that we are not your average tourist but he proceeds to quiz us all the same.   He takes photos and says a copy of the article will be sent to us. Between matches we eat and take a walk around the town.  There is a strange statue in the harbour which looks like a person staring out to see up to his knees in water.  It is the work of Antony Gormley who also did the Angel at Gateshead – the local people are non too impressed with it. Steve is gutted by the Argies beating England and can only console himself by saying  "well at least we won the war".  A lousy night for sleeping as the nearby railway suddenly comes to life with trains shunting goods wagons all night long.  Steve said he checked at the tourist office earlier and they said that they stopped work at midnight but the man didn’t mention that they started again at 3.00am
MO I RANA
.
 
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