San Vito Lo Capo, Sicily, Italy

This was our first trip to southern Europe, and it was all that I expected it to be! Bit like Port Kembla… 🙂

Pete and Kobe, or was it just Kobe, organised the trip, found the hotel and provided a rough itinerary. This was also the first time we tried TripIt, and it was great! No more endless forwards trying to sort things out, but rather Skype and a central repository.

Anyways, we flew in to Trapani, and picked up our Fiat 500c, and headed for San Vito Lo Capo. I had a discussion with Pete earlier regarding directions, and I had said I thought I should get a GPS, but listened to his advice and didn’t get one. Then at Trapani, Hertz had decided to not include any maps anymore, but they where kind enough to give us a 1:4 000 000 map, and instructions to “keep to the left”. After some run arounds, we got on the right track and found the hotel.

Fiat 500c

Somehow Pete, Kobe, Mark and Debbie, in their 2 bedroom apartment, had exactly the same apartment as us right across the hall! Lucky for us, it turned out that our visit coincided with the 1st International Kite festival, hosted by the council. It was so nice, to sit in the sun, lounge by the pool, gaze at the kites and sip beer.

We headed out to town, for a restaurant that was meant to be very good. Ristorante profumi di couscus. It was very good, and €300 later we were very full! Pete had the squid and all his dessert.

Dessert

Next morning we headed towards Corleone, Godfather country. The drive was very nice, lots of winding roads, and the first thing that greeted us where some hideous swiss style highrises. Not much like the movie though, but we got the compulsory tourist shot:

Corleone mafia

Next up was a restaurant that I read about in the SAS inflight magazine on some other trip. There was some disagreement between Tomtom, Google maps and the signage/directions. After doubling over a couple of times, we found the place. In the end, TomTom and the directions where more accurate than Google Maps.

Antica Stazione di Ficuzza had a wedding on, but they gave us some champagne and coffee, and after a short wait, we got the second floor to ourselves. We had no idea what we where doing, but got the set menu. It seemed like we where the only non-italians there, and it was such a nice and relaxed mood. Our waiter kept the food coming and it turned out we had quite a meal ahead of us. We didnt quite know what would happen, but we ate too much of the entree. Lots of food, warm weather, we should have had a nap!

Full

After that meal, we decided to head back to the hotel, and go for a dip with a few beers. We were there out of season, so it was nice and quiet. We ruined it tough by playing Marco Polo.

Pool

It took us a while, but we ventured out for a small supper. We ended up at a pizza place, and Mark ordered a Calzone with Pepperoni as extras. It turned out that wasn’t all that straight forward. Pepperoni in Italian means capsicum, and that’s what Mark got. Although when he complained, they just brought it back with more capsicum. We finally figured out that Peperoni in English is Salami Picante in Italian. In the end he got what he wanted:

Salami Picante

Next day we split up, as the others where staying longer and wanted to see Cefalu as well. We stayed behind, and headed to Erice first.

Erice Old man in Erice

It is a beautiful town/fortress/castle on top of a hill, overlooking everything. The drive up is long and winding, and we just beat the touristbusses.

Next on our little loop track was the Segasta temple ruins, it didnt take us long to wrap that one up before we headed to Castellammare del Golfo.

Segasta temple

Castellammare del Golfo from above

From the harbour

We then headed back for more Gellato, and a peek at the kites.

Kites

Kites again

While we had our gellato , we figured we would have a look at the show. This old fellow squeezed past, and walked down the beach. It turned out he was Ray Bethell, and he did this 3 kite show that was awesome! They where spinning around, chasing each other, whipping about and creating quite a impression!

As the sun set, the kiters packed up and people headed home. We went for a walk up the hill to get a view of the city, and also spotted some very familiar fencing work!

View

Fencing

Sicily was great, sunny and nice. We loved it there, and this is a place we would want to see more of!

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Norway

I wanted to do a kind of wrap up on arriving in Norway, about coming back and starting up. Since I’m writing this retrospectively, Ill probably jump back and forth a bit…

Anyways, we got back, after 2 months worth of traveling Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru and Brazil. We where keen to start up again, and get back into a routine.

I started looking for work, and having forgotten about “fellesferien”, it was a bit unnerving. I had completely forgotten about how July shuts down everything, and you cant get anything done since everyone is on holiday! Because of this, we where kind of landlocked, and couldn’t go to far, in case an interview came up. The longest trip we made was to Luleå, but we also made a few short trips!

Our first trip out, was to the woods east of Oslo, creatively named Østmarka. We figured we walk out, find a nice spot to camp, a chill by a lake, which is what we did.

Trail

Campsite
Little tent, nice lake

I had promised Sara that there would be no mozzies, as we where a bit to early still. I was right about that but I had completely forgotten about the Knott. After a while we started feeling some bites, but there was no mozzies around. Then it finally clicked, and I remembered about the Knott. The vicious little things got through the mesh, and bugged us all night!

Campfire
Campfire

It was nice though, and good to be out in the bush!

A bit later, Kate & John arrived from the UK, and hung out with us for a while. We where staying with my Mom & Dad until I had a job, and we could afford somewhere to live. So we all crammed in, and went to town.

Fat Aass
Fat Aass

Pete & Kobe came over too, as we where having our “second wedding”. Since so many couldn’t come to Oz for it, we arranged a second one in Norway. I have only just now realized that I don’t have any pictures from it! Must have been to busy hosting…. Anyways, it was great to have the whole family there, and to get to catch up with everyone!

While overseas, Mom & Dad had bought a cabin, where we also spent some nice summer days!

Cabin view
Cabin view

Lush grass
Lush grass

Midst all this, I landed a job. It was exactly the kind of job I was after, so very happy with that! 🙂 It was interesting also, as dads work had just completed a study in Norwegians with overseas education, getting work in Norway. Turns out I matched all the findings…

As soon as I had a job, we where on the property market. We ended up buying a flat within the 2 week looking, and we won the third we place a bid on. About the time we bought the place, Sara started Norwegian classes, and I started work. Ill finish the initial entry here, and rather do another reflective one later for our current situation. We have had a few challenges, and some positive experiences as well 1 year down the track. Well, that’s it for now!

New flat inauguration
New flat inauguration

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Luleå

So we ended up in Norway, after having packed up and shipped out stuff, gotten married, and then traveled for 2 months in South America. To me, if felt weird to be back, but also very nice!

I started looking for work, while we also started the process of getting Sara going in the Norwegian society. First thing we found was that Norway was shut in July, I hadn’t taken that into account…. So we had a restless summer, chasing job interviews and preparing all the legalese for Sara to get sorted.

Hence, first trip we did was to Luleå, not to far, and on a budget! Malin had traveled back with Matilda, and we flew up to see them. We left on a Sunday, and came back on a Saturday. Malin picked us up from the airport, and we headed to Ersnäs (the western part).

We got to stay in the little guestroom above the shed, just the two of us. It was very nice! Malin took us on all kinds of excursions, we went to Gammelstaden in Luleå, cought the ferry out to Junkön, and Storforsen. We also went swimming at Luleå beach, which could only showcase freezing water!

Junkön
Junkön

Storforsen
Storforsen

Towards the end, Albin, Åsa and Claes came up from Stockholm. The 2 cousins, Albin and Matilda spelt trouble with a capital T!

Trouble

Sweden was out first overseas destination after arriving in Norway, it was excellent, long summer nights, a bit cheaper and nice weather. Bit like Norway actually, except for the cost! 🙂

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Ilha Grande

So, we arrived from Rio through a series of bungled transportation options, with 2 other British girls. To top it of, one of them got promoted to captain on the little fishing boat bringing us across to the island!

Ilha Grande is an old prison and lepper island, and thus not too popoular with the Brazilian tourist crowd, and this was low season, so at times, it felt like we had the place to our selves! The whole island does not have any cars, or paved roads. everything in Abraão, which is the biggest city, is within strolling distance along the beach. We had a hostel up the eastern end of the beach, overlooking town and the bay. Very nice and cruizy!

Our first day, we felt like some excersie, so we walked to a beach called Lopes Mendes. It is said to be one of Brazils most beatuiful beaches. It was ok, but Oz has better….

Hmm

Beach

It was a nice walk through virgin rain forest, 2 hours each way, so by the end of it, we where pretty knackered. We contemplated catching a boat back, but persevered and walked back instead. We could feel the hills in our legs the next day!

And because of that, we spent the next day relaxing in town, strolling along the beach, dipping in the ocean every now and then, and eating ice cream. They got this brilliant concept here, where you have self serve ice cream parlours. So, you pay per the gram, and the price is not cheap, and you tell yourself that you will only have small scoops. Then you try and decide what you want to eat, and forget everything about the price, until you stand in front of the register with a 300g cone with only 2 scoops! And then you cant take it back of course. Twice we fell in this trap, although its hard to argue that we fell in it. I think we let ourselves be tricked… Of course, the street cake stalls have been very sweet to us too.

Anyways, I had wanted to go scuba diving, and I had heard about the helicopter being an interesting thing from the Lonely Planet. Turns out the helicopter is pretty boring, and the diving agencies where kind enough to tell me that visibility was not all that good. Max 4 meteres currently. So I passed. For future reference, 2 dives with all gear included was quoted as 150R. There is a wreck though, that looked quite interesting, and not too deep!

Instead, we signed up for a speed boat trip for snorkling, that included the helicopter. Hence Im not too upset, as I could see it wouldnt be all that. I think Sara was pleased as well, as she wasnt too keen on reading any more trashy novels while I was diving.

The snorkel trip included our very own celebrity travel reporter, who gave us some very helpful tips on São Paulo! She of course got the trip for free, while us normal humans had to pay….

Video of Sea Monster

Crazy puffer fish

The day was nice, although with had some overcast so it wasnt all that warm at times. However, the Island is great, and we could easily have spent another day there! Today, we have travelled to Parati, still getting closer to our deaprture for Norway.

View Ilha Grande in a larger map

Rio de Janeiro

Well, not too many g-strings I’m afraid!

We arrived in Rio with blood shot eyes after a longer than usual bus ride, and went through the now almost too familiar ritual of finding a taxi and negotiating our fare, before signing into the hostel, and dumping our load.

For our first 4 days, we had pretty shonky weather. The city was gloomy, the beaches where deserted, it felt like it was only us trudging along in our poncho’s and thongs. A charming sight, but not quite what I had in mind when we headed for Rio.

We spent the days wandering, mingling with the rich and the very beautiful in their shopping malls, exploring food (juice bars on every corner, with juices made from all kinds of weird fruits, cocktails that just kept on coming, and buffets where you paid per the kilo), and we even went to watch another movie (I think Sara was expecting the Sex and the City movie to be showing, but it hadn’t opened yet and after watching the only thing on offer, I’m not sure if I’m glad or not).

Yesterday afternoon, we went on the city tour, only just got to squeeze in Christ the Redeemer one of the hills overlooking Rio, before the clouds closed in around him. It was a gamble, as we didn’t know if the weather would improve, but we made it the whole way through without any rain! The Cathedral was a definite highlight, so was the Sugar loaf.

Jesus on the hill

Samba street

The Cathedral is the most modern I have ever seen, and it was a colossus building with a very nice feel to it! The natural light was streaming in from thousands of little windows all around. We also passed by the massive soccer stadium “Maracana” (that was apparently built at massive expense in the 50s for the World Cup -to the publics disdain- in which unfortunately Brazil lost..), the main street of Carnival and Santa Theresa (a suburb of massive old mansions which was where the rich used to live… until the favelas decided they also wanted in on the area. As they built their massive, ramshackled communities up, the rich trickled out of town)!! Finally we made it to the Sugar Loaf, which looked a lot more daunting from the bottom, however, the ride up was a breeze, and the view was spectacular! It was excellent seeing Rio in the sunset and by night!

The Cathedral
The Cathedral

Cathedral Roof
Cathedral Roof

Copacabana
View from the SugarLoaf at night towards Copacabana

More night

Night still

Today was our first break, we have had sun all day, cruised the Ipanema and the Copacobana beaches. I have been keeping my eye out for the famous g-strings, but unfortunately, the hot bodied must also be employed, because all I saw was sour wedgies and cellulite… Sara didn’t do too much better, and only got the previous generation of stud muffins (50+ bracket, which is also where I was looking).

The lake
You can see Christ on top of the mountain in the background

Ipanema - The most sexy beach in the world!
Ipanema – The most sexy beach in the world!

Copacabana
Copacabana

Water is freezing
Water is freezing!

With a cruizy day like that, we decided that tomorrow we head to Ilha Grande so we can hang by the pool, and hopefully get some dives in.

Before I sign off, I just wanted to comment on Rio in general. It is by far the most expensive place we have been too in SA! But it is beautiful! And the food is awesome! We are eating so much nice fruit and food, the likes which we haven’t seen for quite a while! And with that, we only have 9 more days left here in South America. With any luck, we will post again before we leave here, but we are not promising!

View Rio De Janeiro in a larger map

“Copa- Copacobana….”

We are writing this, having arrived in frigid Puno, Peru and are attempting to whittle away some time as there’s not a whole lot to do here apart from the tours…but thats an experience yet to come and a blog for the future… On that note, we wont be in touch again until early next week, we are headed to the Amazon on Wednesday…

So, Copacobana (thats the Bolivian one), beautiful Copa. It was a fantastic sight after the smog of La Paz!
We left La Paz early in the morning. There was a bit of confusion, as it turns out that the 1st of May is a public holiday (workers day) in Bolivia. Originally, we had been told that we would be picked up from our hostel, which is on the main street. After going down early for breakfast, we noticed that the street was blocked off and there was a marathon taking place..an annual marathon.. Luckily a representative from the bus company came down to collect us and take us the the bus. Everything is uphill in La Paz, so poor old Jo had to lug his enournmous backpack the whole way there (for some reason, he packed an excessive amount of womens clothing and toiletries that havent all been needed… he’ll never learn..). Anyways, it was like a wild goose chase to get to the bus and we collected more and more equally confused backpackers on the way. Very few of us understanding the instructions.. Luckily we got there fine and started our journey fine.. only to stop about 20 minutes later after getting caught in a noisy traffic jam in El Alto just out of La Paz. The street here was also being used for a parade and only 1 lane was being used (which developed into a 5 lane jam of honking busses, trucks, mini vans, taxis and the odd car if it could fit also).. Luckily it only took 2 hours before we were able to move again and 3 hours until we got to Copacobana!

Anyway, enough about the bus trip, as exciting as it was!

Copacobana is a small rural township that sits on the edge of the immense Lake Titicaca. It has a holiday beachy feel to it (well, as long as the suns up… after dark, you realise you’ve been tricked as it cools down to 4 or 5 degrees). As well as the locals and Bolivia’s (landlocked) navy (!), its home to a quite few foreign hippies. Luckily for us, our second day there, was the start of a festival (Fiesta de la Cruz). Many people came from surrounding towns and cities and all paraded the streets dancing and dressed in costume.

Blessing of the dancers

Parade for the fiesta

Most sections of the parade had their own brass band (that somehow managed to play while marching up hills and around town at 3800m)!. It was a great atmosphere and there was lots of alcohol to keep the party going!! We were going to go on a kayak but got absorbed by the festival. We did manage to climb the mountain near the town however and also (surprise surprise) eat at quite a few restaurants!!

Capacobana was cheaper than La Paz, so we splashed out on a hotel vs hostel. The second hotel even had a shower that worked! They have dubious looking electric shower heads with wires coming out to the powerpoint. Doesnt make you feel that comfortable while wet, but Lonley Planet indicates you should only expect a small shock if you come into contact with the shower head, which was a welcome relief from the full electrocution i was expecting!!

Anyway, that was Copacobana. Laid back and sunny!

Top of the hill

7 crosses

Copacobana from the hill
Copacobana from the hill

All in all, we have had a fantastic time and really enjoyed Bolivia!

Norwegian Summer

We left Sydney on a cold Wednesday night with the night flight to Tokyo. Going through security, I got my bag emptied, while Sara got checked for bombs; business as usual. Qantas looked after us well, they gave us a complimentary business class travel kit, thanks Dan! I was eager to test allmy anti jetlag remedies, so we passed up on the champagne and wine… I slept the whole way, while Sara didn’t, despite all the best travel equipment!

Tokyo was ok, we managed to get ourselves something to eat, and looked around for a bit. A few hours later we left for Copenhagen, the trip was uneventful; we both squeezed in 3 movies each, and ate a lot.

After a brief stopover in Copenhagen, grabbing the essential tax-free, we went on to Norway. We landed at 19, and it was still very bright! Dad, Svein and Gøril greeted us at the airport, and we went back to the house, where we had supper. We were reasonably tired, but managed to stay up until 22, going to bed before the sun.

The next day we had Farmors 80th birthday. The whole family was there, except for 1, so we were 32 people. And that’s just dad’s side.

Saturday followed with more walks, while adjusting to the daylight and trying to get rid of the jetlag. We went on a tour of the royal castle, Sara was very impressed by my castle, so that was all good! Sunday we went into town, for a look around, Gøril came out, and we ate a lot of cherrys! We all got very full!

Monday we drove up to Hemsedal, after visiting Mormor on the way. The cabin is about 4 hours drive away, and there is mosquitos there in summer. Sara got to experience those. The next day we went on a tour of the west coast fjords. This included a trip with the world’s steepest railway and a 3 hour cruise from Gudvangen to Lœrdal, in Norways narrowest fjord. Sara also got to meet Huldra, a fairytale creature that steals the men away, but Sara fought her off.

Wednesday Mom and Dad came out too, and we went to the world’s oldest stave church. It’s from the 1100th century. We also went to a Glacier museum, and had a peek at one of those. After that we finished up with a tour of an old costal town that we had just raced through the day before, Lœrdal. Dinner was up at a mountain lodge. The only thing vegetarian they served was sour cream porridge (a dish that looks like white sauce served with butter, cinnamon and sugar), the rest of the dishes contained some sort of salted meat.

Thursday we went up to a mountain farm, where they had baking day. Sara and I baked a flatbread each, mine was (not) the better…. The day was warm, and we finished it of by walking up to the top of one of the mountains next to the cabin.

Friday we came back to Oslo, it was 30 degrees and sunshine! Excellent weather! Unfortunately, it also means that we have less than 3 weeks to go.