Intro Picture

Intro Picture
Hi! My name is Anne. Welcome to my traveling blog! Read the latest stories below or check out the list of previous stories in the blog archive on the right!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A trip to Norway - Part 4

Man, it's high time for this last part of the Norway trip, isn't it?
I've been meaning to do it much sooner, but besides being a procrastinator extraordinaire I did have some valid reasons for putting it off haha. I've spent time over at friends, got too busy working or had other distractions. Despite that, I could have done this sooner and I didn't. It's been gnawing at me all that time.
So no more! It's time to wrap this up.

When we woke up at the hostel we went for breakfast in their cafeteria, which was quite good.
We didn't waste much time though, as there was a time limit on the passes we had gotten from the two girls the previous day. We wanted to visit a museum, and two options caught our eye: the National Folks Museum and another one that had old Viking ships. We decided on visiting the National Folks Museum because it seemed to have the most diversity and could teach us the most about the country. It was somewhere on the other side of Oslo, so we needed to go back to the busstop and make sure we got there in time.
Along the way we stopped at a supermarket to buy some food and drink, and after two bus-rides, some walking around trying to find the boat that goes back and forth between the harbor and the museum area, we got on it and made it to the right place. After getting off the boat it was just a short walk to the museum.

The museum consisted of two main parts: some main buildings with several exhibits containing clothing, tools and weapons from several times in the history of Norway, and an outdoor area containing buildings in the old style that you could watch, and some of them were enterable too. In some locations they had actors living out that history.
We left our backpacks at the foyer and started exploring the inside exhibits first. They were pretty interesting but there were a lot of clothes that didn't hold our attention for a long time. Before long we found ourselves outside, where we could get a glimpse of the actual living space the items we had seen inside were worn or used in.

It starts out in a time closer to the modern day...

As evidenced by this oldtimer car.

But things got more interesting quickly!

Here, a farmer and his 'wife' were cutting the grass with a scythe.

Some very nice-looking farmland.

And as I said before, some of the houses were enterable. This one was very nice, with the fire and stove in the centre of the room. The boxes left and right are the beds. Not a lot of room but with the deer skins and other furs on top they did look pretty comfortable still!

This is the outside of the house in the two pictures above.

Close by a new house was being constructed.

The kids were helping out and were instructed by this man. I suppose they are children belonging to other museum employees, though I'm not sure.

After spending several hours in the museum we decided to get out of Oslo that same day. Our bus-tickets had timed out by this point, and so we gathered our packs and started walking the road back to the highway closer to the centre of Oslo.
It didn't take us too long to get there, and we set up shop at an on-ramp. And so the waiting began.

We stood there for quite a long time, though I can't recall the exact length of time we stood there without being paid attention to by anyone other than any passers-by. We were in a bad spot for getting to where we wanted to go, the plan being to be in or near the border of Sweden by the evening, as we were somewhere in the west end of Oslo, while we needed to be in the east end.
After a while we got restless, we wanted to try something different. Maybe we could catch a bus still? We had noticed the busses being pretty long with a rear entrance, and the checking of tickets was pretty loose. So we decided to risk it, and waited for a bus to take us to Oslo Central, where we might be able to catch the metro out of the city. We got in just fine at the back of the bus as more people were waiting for that same bus, and we could get in unnoticed. The metro was less busy but again there weren't any check-ups, and we managed to ride it to the eastern-most station.
A small walk later we found the highway and a good on-ramp near a gas station. At the gas station we met another two hitch-hikers, a couple from Poland who were trying to sell cigarettes they had bought in their home country where they were much cheaper than in Norway. They could sell them at a discounted price compared to the cigarettes in Norway while still making a nice profit to keep them going. We talked for a little while, and then after some directions from  the gas station attendants put ourselves at the side of the highway, hoping to catch a ride before the police would kick us off.

Thankfully one came along, and we managed to get out of Oslo thanks to Sulvei (I'm not sure if I spelled her name correctly, not the first name and not the last name to keep me uncertain), who dropped us off at another gas station a half hour out from where we started. I went inside to find more cardboard to write on, as this close to cities it helps to specify short goals and getting us more rides. I came back with a big box, which we had to tear up to be able to do anything with it. We would be good for the next couple of days with the amount of cardboard pieces we stuck between our backpack rigging.
We stepped over the highway railing and onto the emergency lane again, and stuck out our thumbs to catch the next ride. The sun was setting but we could get further still.

Proving us right were Uni and Elena, a very interesting couple that were very good to us. They offered us diner at their place, and a place to sleep in their bus that had a double roof that you could put up to create a sleeping area on top of the vehicle.
Elena was from Romania, and created a national dish for us that tasted absolutely fantastic. She had met Uni through a dating website and had actually swindled him for money the first time they were supposed to meet. She had promised to come over to Norway if he would send her money, and obviously she kept it and never came. But Uni wasn't one to give up and actually managed to find her again, didn't care about the money, and made the relationship work, and they were now happily living together. Elena's sister was over too, to work in Norway for a while before moving back home with the money she made. In Norway she could  earn in a few months what she would earn in Romania in an entire year, on just a regular waitressing job.
Uni and Elena had similar plans, to save up for a few years in Norway before retiring in Romania ending up much richer than they would have been if they simply stayed in Norway. 
The minimum wage in Norway is around 20 euro's for entry level jobs, cleaning, painting and other such things, where in Holland the minimum wage is pretty much half that. But living costs in Norway are much higher, so you end up spending more money on food. Uni and Elena were close enough to the Swedish border to drive there for groceries though, where food is cheaper than it is in Sweden. There are no border patrols to keep Norwegians from doing this or to stop them from taking more than a specified amount, so this is pretty much a common practice along the entire border.

Uni had a very interesting background prior to his stay in Norway.
He grew up in Malaysia. He told us a little about his childhood in a small village and how he and his friends used to go into the jungle and would often find wreckage from battles fought in the second world war.
Burnt out Japanese tanks would often be found in their 'playground' that were never reclaimed or moved, and sometimes they would still find skeletal remains and old rifles, as well as unexploded ordnance.
Still young, he decided he didn't want his future children to grow up there and decided to move to Europe.
But how was he to do that? All he had was 40 U.S dollars (this happened somewhere during the 70's, so I would imagine it was worth a bit more than now, but it's still not a lot) or the local equivalent, but he spoke of Dollars. That wouldn't get him very far. But this being a hitch-hiking blog, you can kind of guess his solution right? 

Yeah, he hitch-hiked from Malaysia to Europe, through Thailand, Burma, India and eventually ending up going through the Middle East, making his way through countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran before ending up in Eastern Europe. He then hitch-hiked through nearly all of Europe and all of it's countries before settling down in Norway. He had a great story for pretty much every country he had passed through.
We were thoroughly impressed, as well we should be! The amounts of miles he has traveled, the danger and the adventure he had seen... This was a man with tons of life experience, yet completely humble and inconspicuous. He's a hero to me. I wouldn't mind making the same journey he made myself, though I have a feeling going through Afghanistan as a white guy wouldn't be the smartest thing to do right now.
On this trip we've heard lots of good things about Iran though, so.... We'll see!

Anyway, we gladly accepted their offer to stay for the night and had a good night's sleep in Uni's bus.
When we woke up the next morning Uni was ready for us and called us on inside, where he had been preparing breakfast for us: bacon and eggs on toast. Now I'm not the biggest fan of eggs but didn't dare tell him, but I have to honestly say it tasted great. The added taste of kindness, maybe?  :P

After breakfast they drove us to the Swedish border, where we thanked him for a great evening and all they had done for us. Back to hitch-hiking!

Our next target was the city Göteborg, where we would get on the ferry to Frederikshavn in Denmark.
We spent some time waiting for a ride but eventually we got lucky, and we got a ride from Emmelie and Prebben who happened to go all the way there. They dropped us off at the ferry terminal before moving on to get to the theme park they were going to.
We had to wait a while for the ferry that would take us to Denmark, so Willem and I settled for a game of chess, then played some more chess on the ferry. It was around dinner time when we were done and we were hungry, so we went to look for some food. We found a truckers diner on the ship that was obviously reserved to truck drivers, but Willem used his charms on the cafeteria lady who allowed us to get in and eat a really good pasta dinner.
Once the ferry docked we made our way outside past some drunk truck drivers who were swaying their way outside, and started to look for a decent place to hitch a ride.
We walked to the edge of town and set up shop at some stopping lights. We got a ride pretty quick from a guy called Christian. I can't quite recall where he took us, but after he dropped us off we got another ride from a man called Jonas, the final ride of the day.

He was a guy who worked with the homeless, a very interesting and friendly man. I think he dropped us off at Vejle, just north of Kolding which is where originally started our trip.
He let us off at a gas station that had a playground and a big wall in the back running the entire property.
We decided to camp there for the night, and climbed that wall to set up our tent behind it.

Clear night behind a gas station... :p

The following morning.

Next morning we broke up our tent and climbed over the wall again, dropping down right in front of some playing children and their bewildered parents. We walked over to the gas station all casually like nothing was unusual about the entire situation and went to get some breakfast. Thankfully no scene was made haha.
After breakfast we had to walk a short distance to the highway on-ramp, where we got the first ride of a very busy day from Ilya, a truck driver. He dropped us off at a gathering place for trucks, hoping that we could catch a ride all the way into Germany from there.

That didn't happen. After waiting for a while we decided to pack up and walk to an on-ramp somewhere, and hope for the best there.
It didn't take long from that location for the next ride to come along from a guy called Jerry who took us to a gas station along the highway close to the German border. We got some food there and positioned ourselves at the gas station exit. We waited for an hour or two, eventually trying the emergency lane on the highway before deciding to head back to the gas station and simply wait there.
Car after car passed us until eventually a convertible that had passed us stopped on the highway entrance and went into reverse. We ran up and talked to the driver, Aage, who felt bad for leaving us standing there and offered us a ride to Stedesand, even though he had very little room in his car.
We made it work though, stashing Willem in the back with the backpacks while I sat in the front seat next to Aage. He was going to drive us across the border into Germany.

Aage was an older man with grey hair and weathered skin, but in a very good physical shape and very muscular. It turned out he was an adrenaline junkie and the owner of a fitness centre in Stedesand. At his fitness centre he offered training to people with agression problems, so they had a place to work out their frustrations. He was very big on natural training, and would kick away anybody caught doing anabolics.
I liked that, and Aage and I spent the entire ride talking about it, as well as exciting stuff like sky-diving and my experiences with it in Canada, while Willem sat in the back unshielded from the wind, unable to hear anything because the wind was blowing past his face with 80 kilometers per hour, pretty much incapable of even so much as opening his eyes.

Like this.

When we got to Stedesand Aage gave me his business card, suggesting I'd get in touch at some point in the future which was a very nice gesture, though I don't think I will be passing through Germany again soon.
He dropped us off at a bus stop close to a supermarket, so Willem and I went to get some food first before setting up at the bus stop.
It turns out Stedesand was a pretty small place with hardly any traffic, and quite a bit removed from the major highways going to Hamburg, our goal for the day.
After sitting there for an hour Willem started to get pissed off, but before too long we got a ride out of there from Dieter who drove us to the next place along the road we were on. I believe it was Husum, but I'm not sure.

When we got there we decided to go west from there, to get back to the main highway to Hamburg.
We stood on a T-section waving our sign when a truck stopped. As I started to move towards it I saw it didn't stop to pick us up, but to let somebody out. Out came a pretty girl, who was hitch-hiking her way home after a trip to Istanbul. We had a short conversation before she walked away to move home.
I regret not asking her for her email adress or her Facebook, she seemed like my kind of girl. But I let the opportunity slip, and I haven't been able to find her again. I really need to stop doing that haha.

Shortly after we got a very short ride from a guy we don't even know the name of, because that's how short the ride was. He initiated a conversation right away and we kept talking untill he let us out of the car again at an intersection. My German isn't that great but I think I held up pretty well in the conversation.
We walked a short distance down the road we needed to follow after some consultation with our driver, and put our backpacks down at a gardening centre of some sort. Almost immediately after we put up our thumbs another car pulled over.

A woman got out of the car, and the first thing she asked was if we had weapons on us in German. I replied no, knowing full-well we had pocket knifes in our pockets but I didn't know how to tell her that. Besides, we weren't going to use them on her so there was no need to alarm her.
Her boy sat in the front seat, so Willem and I crammed into the back with our stuff. Even if we had meant her harm, we would have been unable to move haha. I was barely able to move my hand.
We introduced ourselves without shaking hands (how could we?), and as it turns out her name was Anne as well. That made her laugh as she thought I was joking with her, but no, that's my real name I assured her.
In all of Germany Anne is considered to be a woman's name, as it is in the rest of the world too, even the Netherlands. Friesland is the only place it's a normal guy's name, so I'm used to this reaction by now. It doesn't bother me though, so I could laugh about it with her. We had a conversation in German as she didn't speak any English. It was good practice, these last few rides!

She dropped us off at an on-ramp to the highway going to Hamburg, where we said goodbye.
She had to drive off quickly as there wasn't a real place to stop her car, which unfortunately also meant there wasn't a proper place for us to stand to catch another ride. We walked up the on-ramp and set up in a bend in such a way that incoming cars could see us in time, but there was also kind of enough space to pull over quickly. There wasn't anything other to do than just try to make it work right there, and we were hoping for the best.
Thankfully we got a ride within half an hour from father Henri and his son Simon, both of whom spoke good English. They could take us all the way to Hamburg and drop us off at a gas station on the highway.
We had come a long way today, but we could go further still. It was late when we got to the gas station where they dropped us off, and the sun had gone down. But we decided to keep trying.

At the gas station we met another couple who were hitch-hiking, but we didn't talk for too long. If we wanted to get any further tonight we had to get into action. The parking lot was very spacious, with a restaurant about a 100 meters from the gas station. So we moved to the exit of the parking lot and tried our luck there. Funnily enough these other two hitchhikers got a ride before us, simply by chilling out next to the gas station. The sky had gotten cloudier and cloudier as the day went on, and now the clouds finally broke and it started to rain. Willem and I first sought shelter at the restaurant, but it being very quiet there we ran over to the gas station.
Hardly any cars were coming through here and so we simply sat down at the gas station entrance with our little sign. We were too tired to make much of an effort anymore, so we simply sat and waited.
Some cars passed by, most ignoring us and some others telling us they didn't have any room.

It was about 22:00 when a camper came by with a couple inside. The woman felt bad for us and talked her boyfriend into taking us along. He didn't say it but we could tell he wasn't too excited about the idea, but he went along with it. Their names were Wiebeke (again, no idea if I spelled her name correctly) and Jesse, and they were going on vacation to France, and they were hoping to get there sometime in the morning.
That meant a long ride for us. They were going to take us all the way to Cloppenburg, which is nearly the same distance from the Danish-German border to Hamburg from where we were at, so this single ride would take us as far as all the other rides of the day had taken us.
We talked for a while but Willem and I sat in the back of the camper and they were sitting in the front, so we had to raise our voices to talk. Eventually we didn't speak much anymore, and we could tell Jesse was starting to get eager to get us out. But we did end up all the way in Cloppenburg, for which we thanked them greatly!

It was now around 3:30 and we needed to find a place to sleep. We started walking around from the place they let us out, and couldn't find anything. Eventually we settled for an open grassland area between two crossing highways, one of them running over the other with an overpass. We had one of the highways to our side, about a 100 meters, and the other below us at relatively the same distance, so we had a pretty safe spot to sleep.
We didn't bother putting up the tent because we thought it would draw too much attention, so we simply rolled out our sleeping mats and bags and went to sleep. In this area it was no longer cloudy, so we thought it was pretty safe and we wouldn't get wet. Thankfully we were right.
We didn't sleep long, and got up shortly after sunrise. Today was the day we were going to make it back home.

We needed to get to Emmen, where Willem had his car waiting for us at his parents' place.
We figured out which way to go from our current location and started walking in that direction. There wasn't a good spot anywhere so we kept walking down the road, eventually settling beneath a small overpass and in front of a small emergency parking spot. This wasn't a very good position to be in, but we had walked for about an hour and didn't get any better, so we decided to try it from that spot for a while. It wasn't a good place to be in. After about half an hour the German police showed up telling us we had to go away from there, but having no means of going anywhere they decided to drive us to the next town.
Willem told them about being in the police academy in Holland, and that surprised them quite a bit. "Du bist ein Polizist?" I guess they couldn't figure out why he would want to hitchhike.
Anyway, they dropped us off at the nearest town which I don't know the name of, from where we tried to get a ride to Meppen, the closest town to the border and Emmen.
Here's where we got into trouble, as the town we were dropped off in was a horrible spot for getting rides. We spent hours in several locations trying to get a ride, first inside of town and later on near an on-ramp to the highway. We saw the police come by a few times, probably to check up on what we were doing.

Eventually we got completely fed up with waiting around and we decided to walk along the highway to the nearest gas station or parking lot, hoping to get there before a cop car would find us.
It was a long and shitty walk but we managed to get to a resting area before we got caught. There were several trucks parked there and we decided to try and ask for a ride, something I normally dislike doing but we were both tired after a short night and dismayed at the lack of progress so far. It so happened that one of the truck drivers was a Dutch man who could take us to Klazienaveen. He wasn't supposed to take anybody along but he wouldn't mind having someone to talk to for a while, and there's no way he could get caught doing this. Finally we were going somewhere again!

Once we got to Klazienaveen we went to get something to drink at a gas station before trying our luck again at a roundabout going to Emmen. Thankfully we didn't have to wait for long.
We got our last ride from Imad, a local restaurant owner who was willing to drop us off at exactly where we needed to be. I'd say he's got some new customers now!
Once we were at Willem's parents' place we had to wait for a little while as his mom was out for a walk. We had something to drink and then got into Willem's car for the last drive home.

And thus I will conclude the tale of our trip to Norway.
I'm looking to put up another post at some point in the future with some documentary stuff about hitch-hiking that I've found over the years, as well as some music that I think will appeal to the traveling souls among you.
So keep an eye out for that, and I hope you enjoyed all my posts so far!

Monday, August 12, 2013

A trip to Norway - Part 3

To pick up where I stopped last time, we just hiked back down from the Preikestolen in the early morning.
When we made it back to the parking lot we finally ate breakfast. The hike down took half the time it took us to get up there, which was still a good 2 hours of hiking with heavy packs.
So when we got down my legs were trambling again, and I could really use the food.

The walking wasn't done yet though. The parking lot was still a pretty long way off from where we needed to be to get a ride, as the only people up where we were just arrived and still had to climb the Preikestolen.
They wouldn't be back for hours, maybe even the entire day, so nobody was going back to the main road yet.
After breakfast we sat around a little longer and then started our walk back to the main road.

Hiking to the main road

As you can see the area wa beautiful, and thankfully the hills weren't very steep except for at the start.
Along the way we came across a camping ground that turned out to be run by a Dutch family. This was day 5 for us, and in those 5 days we haven't had a shower. And especially after the hike of the previous day, we really would've liked one. And so we walked up to the reception building and asked if we could take a shower in their facilities, and said we could and would pay for it. But we were denied, which soured our mood a bit.
But that wasn't quite the end of it. We did have access to their public bathroom, which was quite roomy. And one at a time, we simply washed up at the sink inside it. So we still had a 'shower' and got the last laugh in the end. 

We decided to try our luck hitchhiking from this spot, hoping for a camping guest to go back down to the main road.
We set up our position in a less than favourable position, a bend in the road in front of camping entry, but it was the best spot there was. Luckily we didn't have to stand there long. 15 minutes later a full car pulled over, and the driver rolled down her window. She told us to wait, she was taking two guys up to the Preikestolen parking and she would come back down after to give us a ride to the ferry back to Lauvik (which is where we wanted to go).
So after waiting for a while longer she came back down again. We loaded our stuff into the car and started the drive to the ferry. She had her younger sister (Sophia) with her, who sat in the backseat with Willem. I sat in front with Kathrina and had a nice chat with her. She was studying to be an engineer in green energy, and was already promised a job 5 or 6 years from now! (there is a massive demand for engineers in Norway, if that wasn't apparent by now :p)

She dropped us off in time to get onto the ferry, so we hastily thanked her and Sophia and ran onto the ferry. This time we didn't get across for free, but the price was maybe three or four Euro's so we couldn't complain: those 4 Euro's were all it cost us to see the Preikestolen, whereas if we had taken the ferry and bus ride from Stavanger we would have had to pay around a 150 Euro's!
And this time we prepared our sign while on the 15 minute cross-over, and I took it for a walk along the cars before we arrived. Nobody responded, but when we got off and walked up to the road a car pulled over anyway. Maybe they had second thoughts? I don't know, because the English of the elder couple Jarnfrid and Svarre wasn't very good. (Jarnfrid's English was good enough to have a basic conversation, but Svarre didn't even know what I said when I asked him for his name. I had to point at me and introduce myself, then point at him to get him to understand). They took us to Oltedal, where they dropped us off at some kind of gift shop.
We went to get something to drink at the shop, and inside we saw a chessboard carved into the table with the rather large chess pieces already set up. So we stuck around for a little bit and played some chess before trying to get another ride.


That ride came not long after setting up. We were picked up by a couple from Lithuania, Willia and Sigatas (that is how his name sounded to me, I am not at all sure if I got it right haha).
They were on their way to climb up to Kjeragbolten, a place that we had also wanted to visit initially, but after the hard climb up to Preikestolen we had decided to pass by it for now. Maybe next year?
Anyway, if you are curious, Kjeragbolten is up in the Kjerag mountains, and is essentially a boulder stuck in between two cliffs.

I found this image via Google. How is that for awesome? Serious balls of steel on that one!

Willia and Sigitas took us to a small place called Rysstad I believe. It was just a small spot of the map, it's main feature a T-section with a gas station. And that was about it.

Our next goal was to see the stave church in Heddal, which was the largest stave church in Norway.
These stave churches are protected by the government as heritage. There are only 30 left in all of Norway.
And what makes them special is that they are completely made of wood, they have some kind of Viking architecture in them despite being Christian churches. 
The Heddal stave church lies close to Notodden, and to get there I had chosen a route through the smaller villages. I wanted to see more country side, away from highways. As a result, we ended up in an area with relatively few cars. Rysstad was such a place, and we got stuck there for a few hours.
It did give us the chance to fill up on water and food though.
Eventually it got up to the point where we started hitchhiking in two directions, anything to get out of that place. Ideally we would go up north through Valle, but should the opportunity present itself we would have gone south too. It would have been a detour but it would take us back to bigger roads.

We were rescued by Harald though, and he was going up north through Valle, and all the way to Seljord, which is a LONG distance. Harald would prove to be one of the best rides we've had.
He had a story or some interesting information about pretty much every small place we passed through and kept us entertained for the entire way.
Along the way we had several stops as well, the first in the mountains.

And believe it or not, this place actually had wifi. We didn't make use of it though, just some interesting trivia.

Later on we passed through a place called Dalen, which has a famous hotel in which many kings and queens had stayed, so we pulled over there as well, and Harald took us inside and around outside to show it to us.
To give you an idea of the prices, the cheapest room available was 300 Euro's per person, per night! The more expensive ones range in the thousands!

Dalen from above

Dalen hotel with it's unique style. That's Harald on the left.

The hotel from the back

This was a famous ship too, though I can't recall the specifics.

Eventually we passed through the Telemark area, which is where the modern ski got invented, as well as the Telemark technique (

As I said before, we ended up in Seljord that day. Harald dropped us off in front of a camping ground.
We thanked him for the fantastic ride and watched as he drove off. We got some food at the camping cafetaria, but we had already decided that we wouldn't stay on the camping grounds.
Instead we walked across the bridge situated next to the camping grounds and set up our tent on the other side of the river. That night we watched a movie called Easy A.

Camping grounds on the right, our sleeping spot on the left!

Tired after a long day!

The next morning we decided to go for a real shower. We didn't plan on asking for permission anymore though. This time we simply walked over to the camping ground one at a time, and walked into the shower facilities as if we belonged there. Willem went over first, and after half an hour he came back.
Now was my turn. I packed the stuff I needed and slung it over my shoulder in a small bag, crossed the bridge and walked straight to the showers.
The shower required 10 krone coins of which I had two, and each coin gave me about 4 to 5 minutes of showertime. Refreshed and clean I walked back to our campsite to pack up.
Today we were going to try and make it to the Heddal stave church. We hoisted our packs onto our shoulders and started walking to the edge of Seljord.

We had run out of cardboard and had these shitty bags that flapped in the wind. Quite annoying haha.

We tried sticking to the shadows as much as possible because it was very hot. After that one rainy day we've only had good weather, almost always a good 30 degrees celsius. We were already sweating again.
From the location in the pictures above we got a ride after trying for a short while.
We got a ride from a French guy called Jeremy from France. He was on a solo car trip through Europe, so his car was packed quite full. He had to move around quite a lot of stuff before I could get into the front seat and Willem in the back. I could get rid of my backpack but Willem had to have his on his lap, which ended up getting him stuck (it wasn't the first time and certainly not the last in our trip for him to be in this position!).
As we got to talking it turned out that Jeremy had been to the Preikestolen on the same day as us, and he was actually one of the people who arrived in the middle of the night while Willem and me were sleeping on the edge. He hadn't recognized us or we him just by looking, but what a coincidence! He is actually on one of the pictures. I'll show it again:

That's Jeremy in between Willem and the group in the back.

And he had actually gotten us on a picture as well. That's me and Willem packing up our stuff.

Jeremy took us to Heddal as it was along the route he was taking. He was going north from Oslo, and passing through Notodden. As I said before, Heddal was right in front of Notodden, so this was perfect for us.
We took a wrong turn at first, which took a little bit of time to get back from as we noticed too late, but eventually we were back on the right road and saw the church coming up. That's where he dropped us off, and after looking for a minute or so he was back on his way.
Now we had a little break as both Willem and me were very tired. We sat around in the shade of a tree eating some cookies before exploring the church.

And there it is!

Most of the gravestones were pretty recent, which was a bit weird to us.

The church is interesting in that it has an outer walkway inside the  building. You can walk all the way around the walls you see here. If you want to go through this door however, you need to pay some money. Which is weird because the church is not that big, and you can see everything just fine from within the doorway.

See? One meter further and I would have had to pay.

Going around the back

The woodwork is very nice, and overall it looks more like a Viking building than a Christian church.

Now in motion!

There was another building close by with a restaurant in it. In the basement of that building there were some display cases. The one below was interesting. Apparently it was common for people to go to the church with their axes, which they would leave in the walkway outside of the inner building. These weren't for self defense apparently, though they certainly could have been used for it.

Maybe you can read it, but probably not. My camera isn't at it's best inside.

From there we made our next plans.

We were going to try to get to Notodden from there, and move on up to Oslo if possible.
This time we were standing at a pretty busy road again, and we found a bus stop which was ideal for cars to pull over. It only took maybe 20 minutes before Amir pulled over for us. He could take us all the way to Oslo.
Amir was from Kurdistan, and apparently Willem and he had a very good conversation. Unfortunately I didn't get too much from it. Amir was a softspoken man and I didn't catch much, and with the heat and exhaustion from the previous days I fell asleep. I woke up to the mentioning of Amir spending two years in prison. It turns out that Amir went to Iran to fight for human rights. The government didn't like it much and arrested him, and so he lost two years of his life: fighting for the good of mankind. 
He dropped us off in the centre of Oslo, near the central station. 

We looked for a McDonalds but settled for a Burger King, to make use of the wifi. I hooked up my netbook and started looking for a cheap hostel.
Two Asian girls were sitting close by, and I don't remember how but Willem struck up a conversation with them. Turns out they were studying in Holland, though they were both originally from China. They were on a trip of their own, taking the train through Norway. They were going to go to Stavanger the next day, and they had public transport tickets for the entire city of Oslo that they were not going to use anymore, but were still valid for the next day. They gave them to us to use, with the promise that we would send them back by mail. They even helped us finding a cheap hostel, as the oldest of the two knew some good websites.
After a while they took off, and we planned the best way to get to the hostel with public transportation. We needed to get to the far northern side of the city.
We eventually got there by metro and a bus ride after. The bus station was in a kind of decrepit part of the city. The entire area looked a bit poorly and at the bus stop stood a guy that was completely drugged out of his mind with no shirt on. At the bus stop we found a wallet that belonged to a Polish guy, with creditcards and all other kinds of passes and cards. We gave it to a bus driver the next day.

Eventually we got to the final busstop but we weren't quite there yet. We asked a cyclist for the route to the hostel, and went on our way. The area was completely devoid of people. 
After a bit of a walk up hill we made it to the hostel, and booked two beds for the night in a dormitory.
We had only one roommate called Öden, though we referred to him as Odin. He was a philosophy student.
We didn't talk a lot though as Willem and me were both anxious for a shower. (the second that day, but this time I put on a new pair of pants and put the old one in my laundry (read: garbage) bag.

The next morning we went to see the National Folk Museum, but I will tell you about that the next time. :)

Sunday, August 4, 2013

A trip to Norway - Part 2

When we woke up the following morning it was under a slightly overcast sky.
We had talked about maybe staying a day but decided to move on to Stavanger, and plan our best route to the Preikestolen, our main goal for the trip. So we had breakfast, packed up our stuff and did a small hike back to the main road where we found a good spot for hitchhiking at a busstop.
As mentioned before in the previous post a main theme to the trip was having bad luck in good spots and good luck in bad ones, and this was to be the first example of having bad luck in a good spot. We stood there for quite a while, perhaps an hour or an hour and a half untill we got a ride. As also tends to be usual though, the rides we waited long for also took us quite far, and Orian (turns out I got the previous name right, but from now on there will be more mistakes, and this is probably one of them haha) took us all the way to Stavanger.

When we got there after a bit of a drive the weather was slowly getting worse. The clouds grew darker and upon arrival there was a slight drizzle falling down. We discussed the possibility of staying at a hostel and taking a ferry and a bus to the start of the Preikestolen trail, and to see how much this would cost us we looked for and found the tourist information centre. As we looked at our map and discussed the plan another two guys with backpacks walked in, who also turned out to be Dutch, were also hitchhiking and who's goal was the Preikestolen as well. What are the chances right? Their names were Rick and Bernhard, a bit younger than us, sitting around 19, and we would run into eachother several times from this point on.
After getting some food at McDonalds we (the four of us) looked around on the internet to look for hostel prices, and found them to be too steep. Along with the ferry and bus ride it would cost too much for our liking, and so a new plan was made: to backtrack a little bit to Sandnes, and follow the road further east into the country to another ferry at Lauvik.
The road from there would take us to the Preikestolen from the south, while the ferry and bus would have gotten us there from the north.

So after dinner we walked through the centre of Stavanger to the nearest road that would take us in that direction. This is where we split up again, because getting a ride for four people is ofcourse nigh impossible.
So we left them at their spot close to the centre and moved further down the road ourself, walking to the city edge (which thankfully wasn't very far at all) and setting up our position there.
Now at this time the sky was completely overcast and the drizzle was getting thicker and we were getting slightly wet, but we had decided to push on and make it as far as possible. It wasn't too bad yet.
After a little while of standing there we suddenly heard a honk and saw waving arms from a car as Rick and Bernhard passed us by with their ride. And not two minutes after we got a ride too. Her name was Anita and she would take us to Sandnes. She was a nice lady who worked as an engineer who designed plans for laying oil pipes under water. The vast majority of people in the area of Stavanger work in the oil industry as we were told several times. Orian worked in the oil industry as well.
After reaching Sandnes we were a little bit lost as Anita didn't know the town very well. She dropped us off at a place she went to shop at, and from there we gathered intel as fast as possible.
After asking around for a while we had a direction to head to, and so we started walking again. By now we were taking turns carrying the tent which was quite a nuissance throughout the trip, at least for me. I hate having to carry stuff around in my hands, that's not what I have a backpack for, but it didn't fit in there or in Willem's. So carrying it in my hand it was!

Eventually we made it to another bus stop, not an ideal position but it was shelter for the rain, which was coming down a bit harder now.
As I was standing out by the road trying to catch a ride a guy walked past who started a conversation with Willem. He wanted us to come with him to his place, where he could give us some food and where we could wait for the next bus to come later on at night, but Willem declined. There was still daylight left, and we had more road to travel.
This turned out to be to our benefit as soon after another car passed us by, then turned around at a roundabout and came back for us. In the car were another two very good-looking young girls, who were bored and had decided to give us a ride just to give themselves something to interesting to do.
Especially the driver could have been a photo model, she was that good looking. Another major surprise haha! What's more, they were going to take us all the way to Lauvik.
Now this was one of the harder names I've had to write down, and I'm not at all sure if I got it right. The girl in the passenger seat was easy enough, Marianne, but the driver was called something like Reinhilde.
Her English was really good, which was understandable enough since she had spent quite a bit of time in England as an au pair. After maybe an hour's drive they dropped us off at Lauvik, which turned out wasn't a town but just the ferry port, and lo and behold: Rick and Bernhard were there already!

The ferry here was just a small one, not like the big ships at Stavanger or the one that took us from Denmark to Norway. Just enough room for a few cars that got put over onto the other side in about 15 minutes.
It is a paid ferry but as we walked on (we had arrived just in time to catch one) nobody bothered us to pay, even while we walked past one of the ferrymen. So we got over to the other side scot-free.
Unfortunately none of us had thought to ask around for the next ride during the way over and so everybody drove off, which left us standing there having to wait 30 minutes for the next batch of cars. So we decided to walk and see if we could get a good sleeping spot (by now it was around 22:00 I think).
Not too far away we saw a sign for a house or a cabin, so there was a chance of a roof over our heads. We walked until we saw a little harbor area where a man was still at work. So we approached him and asked if he knew of or had a place for us to stay. Turns out he rented cabins out to people, as well as boats for the lake etc., and if we wanted we could stay in his barn. He didn't have any empty cabins left and at any rate he didn't figure we had money or wanted to pay for a place to stay.
So we walked up to his place while he finished up, and he showed us his barn, which was quite big and had more than enough room. Thanks to Lars we had a roof over our heads that night, and the ability to let all our wet stuff dry, and even the ability to fill up on water.
We put down a plastic sheet to lay our stuff down on and laid our stuff to dry. Willem and I played another game of chess before going to sleep.

The barn

The following morning

We could sleep in for as long as we wanted, but we woke up quite early nonetheless.
Lars wasn't around anymore but we had thanked him the previous night for his hospitality already, so he knew we were grateful. 
We knew the weather report too. It was going to clear up at 12:00. Before we moved out though Willem wanted to see if he could catch a sea star he had seen the previous evening, so we moved back down to the harbor area and as he and Rick and Bernhard looked in the water I got out my book to do some reading (Anne Frank's Diary, I had never read it before untill I decided to buy it shortly before we left).
Eventually they caught a few sea stars and we decided to move on. This time Willem and me got dibs on the first ride, so we moved back up to the road.

The small harbor area.

We didn't stand up there long. We had quite a bit of luck. We had missed the cars from the ferry but as we stood by the road Lars' neighbour from across the street walked up to check his mail, and started a conversation. Eventually he offered to take us to the Preikestolen, driving us all the way up to the start of the trail! His name was Ingval, and he was here on holiday from Stavanger. He had quite a lot of bad weather the previous week and told us our timing couldn't have been more perfect. And he was right: the clouds were almost completely gone, and there was only good weather coming up for the rest of the week.

When we got to the start of the trail we thanked Ingval, and decided to get some postcards from the giftshop for our family. We didn't have to carry them around either as the shop clerks could send them for us.
After hanging around for a little bit and eating some ice cream we started our hike to the top of the Preikestolen.
It took us about four hours. It can be done faster but we were ofcourse carrying our backpacks, each weighing in at about 20 kilo's, while everybody else was just carrying some food and water. 
Suffice to say the climb eventually got quite hellish as I was not in a good enough shape to do that climb with that backpack, and I paid the price haha. When we got to the top my legs were beat. But the sights along the way were beautiful and very well worth it. Besides, now we would get to sleep on top of the Preikestolen!

Around the start of the trail

And wouldn't you know it? Ahead of us we ran into Rick and Bernhard, who had actually gotten in front of us while we were lounging about at the start of the trail.

Nearing the top!



The actual Preikestolen! From the edge it is 600 meters straight down :)

At the very edge of the Preikestolen

Enough to make you feel a bit queasy, isn't it?

I also took this video when we first got there.

As evening fell, it got quieter and quieter untill eventually there were only a handful of people left.
We climbed further on up the mountain to stay in the sun as long as possible, played some more chess, and eventually got driven back down again by the mosquitoes. 
Bernhard and Rick stayed up on the mountain with some German friends of their's that had run into trouble at the border carrying illegal substances with them, who as fate would have it managed to get to the Preikestolen on the same day as them. Now it would probably be a good time to say that Willem is in the police academy, so we decided to take our distance from these guys. 

After dinner above Preikestolen, seen on the right below us.


When it got dark enough we laid down our sleeping bags. It was around 23:00 but it was still very light because we were so high. The sky was clear and the moon was out in force, so it never really got so dark that we couldn't see.

My sleeping bag at the edge of Preikestolen :)

And then, the following morning, we were greeted with this view...

What a great view to wake up to, isn't it?

This was approximately around 4:30. It gets dark late, and bright early.

We decided to skip breakfast and leave early before the crowds arrive. There already were some people that had arrived earlier during the night, and more would surely follow very soon.

One of the few small lakes you'll find on your way to the top

We were high enough up the mountain to stay above the morning fog, and it led to some awesome sights!

Nearing the parking lot again.

Back down at the start!

And this is where I'll finish the story for now... More to follow soon(er than this time)!