We headed back into the main part of Svolvær and sat by the scenic harbour to eat our lunch. We had a view of the ocean, the mountains (including Svolværgeita), and the town centre. Across the water were wooden racks with fish drying. All in all the scenery here is stunning at every turn.
We wandered around the small town after that. The town centre consists of only a few main streets and mix of modern and older buildings.
We visited Magic Ice next, where you can see a large collection of ice sculptures. Magic Ice is located in an old fish warehouse freezer, therefore quite cold. We were given gloves and fashionable warm cloaks to wear. Then we entered, marvelling at the many ice sculptures, dimly lit in coloured lights.
We were also given a drink of ice wine in glasses made of ice at the ice bar. You can order drinks there all day if you can stand the cold.
Once done, we headed for dinner. Again, once we got outside we caught some more beautiful shots.
We ended up at the restaurant Bacalao. Aptly named, we both ordered Bacalao, which is a Norwegian dish recommended to us by our climbing guide Charlie. Bacalao is a tomato based stew of clipfish, potato, onion, red pepper, olives and garlic and served with bread. A satisfying end to this scenic and exciting day!
I awoke today in Svolvær, relieved to be spending the next few days at this location and ready for some thrills to shake off any jet lag. It was around 8 AM at Benjamin’s house, and for breakfast I had muesli, blabær (blueberry) yogurt, a piece of cheese and a piece of ham. Then we walked into the town centre to pick up a rental car. It was a beautiful and refreshing sunny morning and on the way we passed over a bridge, under which the ocean flowed through to fill a mountain valley like a lake. Once we picked up the car, we made a quick stop at the Kiwi minipris grocery store to get some food for lunch. At the grocery store we learned that eplejuice == apple juice, but “appels in juice” <> apple juice.
Next, we set out southwest to Kalle. The drive was nothing but gorgeous ocean coastline set against dramatic mountain scenery. The lodge Kalle i Lofoten was around the edge of a bay. There we met our guide from Northern Alpine Adventures who fitted us into climbing gear (helmet, harness and climbing shoes). Then, we headed back to Svolvær, at the trailhead to Svolværgeita.
We headed up the trail with our guide Charlie, who is actually from BC. He was friendly, chatting with us during the hike.
The hike took 1 to 1.5 hours, entirely uphill. It was well marked, but we had to step over various large boulders. Luckily it was sunny and the trail was dry, so it was a good day for the excursion. Along the way, one could look back to see views of Svolvær, the surrounding mountains, and the Norwegian Ocean as we ascended.
We came to the end of the hiking portion, to a steep but grassy hill lined with rocks. The base of the Svolværgeita rock tower was very windy and cold. Here, we put on our climbing gear. There is more than one way up Svolværgeita but we are taking route 1, Rapellruta on the north face, as illustrated in this book below of climbing in the Lofoten, which we found at a later date in a café in Henningsvær. The description reads:
Rapellruta 48m. Fine climbing up the line of the abseil ascent, steep and juggy after a surprisingly tough start.
5, 28m. Struggle up the leaning groove to reach a resting ledge then step out onto the steep face on the left and plough up the ladder of jugs following a crackline to reach a ledge and double-bolt belay. Exhilarating climbing.
4+ 20m. Continue up the deep groove system on the left to reach the notch between the horns (view). Traverse right across the inner face past flakes (exposed) to reach the western arete of the Storhorn and climb this to the top. Cross the gap to a belay on gear on the Lillehorn. Take care with rope work on this pitch.
Charlie climbed first, then once he was at a higher section, Shawn went. I followed after. I climbed the rope ladders and had gone some ways, but it was not long before I was in a bit of a panic. I couldn’t find the next hand hold. The wind was also blowing strongly, and it was a cold wind so my fingers were going numb. I had a long way to go and I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do other than fall off the cliff. However, there was really only one option, which was to carry on. Eventually, I grabbed at something and took a step up, then another, and the way to go started to get a bit clearer.
Right before the resting ledge was a bit of an overhang, which I somehow got over with a bit of a struggle and encouragement from Charlie who was now in sight. Here, I warmed my hands a bit before our group finished the final ascent. This last portion was easier for me, and the wind had calmed. Soon I was sitting atop the goat’s horn! There was a 150 m drop off the side, but a fantastic view of the area – Svolvær, Skrova, and the ocean and mountains in sunny weather. I also had the satisfaction of accomplishment and relief for having reached the top and completing my first mountain climb.
Note that we did not do the part in the book with the man jumping across the 1.5m gap from the Storhorn to the Lillehorn, ie. “jumping the goat’s (geit) horns”. You will find all sorts of pictures on the Internet of people making this ridiculous jump. Interestingly, we had picked Norway to travel to because this jumping activity was listed in Shawn’s book The Best Place to be Today: 365 Things to do & the Perfect Day to do Them as something to be done in June. Svolværgeita looked neat anyways, nevermind the jump. The climb itself was enough for me.
We were lowered down, then hiked back to the bottom making it back by 3:00 PM.
We said goodbye to Charlie, who gave us some additional suggestions for places to go around the area. Wow, what an adventure.
The ferry ride to the Lofoten Islands was beautiful. It headed north along rocky coastline. I was weary from a few days of travelling, and yet with the excitement of being in this new land, my eyes were peeled to the window nearly the entire time.
It was a lengthy trip, over two hours with short stops to along the way, but the scenery was stunning. Even despite periods of rain. The trip was filled with rocky coastline, islands of rounded boulders and jagged peaks.
Most of the stops were along the mainland (Helnessund, Nordskot, Bogøy and Skutvik). Each of these locations were quaint little settlements. Too small to be towns, just small fishing villages or hamlets.
In between these little villages stops, the landscape seemed quite remote. That being said, it was quite a surprise to see a long, narrow and sweeping bridge, which we passed under.
Gradually, the mountains rose both higher and steeper straight out of the ocean as our journey continued on.
It was quite rainy when we arrived in Skutvik, but it looked like a picturesque little coastal village nestled among the mountains. Once past Skutvik, we crossed over to the Lofoten Islands, an archipelago off the coast of northern Norway. Across the water, the first stop was at the village of Skrova, located on an island with rocky terrain.
Once we left Skrova, it was not long before the approach to Svolvær, our final destination of this journey, and where we would be staying over the next few days.
We arrived at the port at 8:50 PM, entering almost directly into the main square.
It was about a 25 min walk with all our luggage to the outskirts of the town. There, we arrived at a house we’d booked through AirBnB. Our host Benjamin, a friendly Italian man showed us around before we settled for the evening and got a good night of rest.
First off, the pronunciation of Bodø is actually like “Booo-duh”. It didn’t take long to learn that Norwegian pronunciations often don’t sound like how one would expect from the spelling.
During this quick visit in Bodø we headed from the airport to the harbour on our walk. It was a short distance past homes, and as we began to approach the water we visited a playground, where there was also an old war bunker.
After going down the slide in the playground a few times, we continued on to the waterfront and along the promenade lined with small boats. It was a small and quiet town, with a mix of old and modern (though not as old as most European towns. Bodø is only 200 years old). While peaceful, it also has a bit of a “wild” feel to it with the cold Norwegian sea and backdrop of mountains. We had pleasant weather during our walk but a hint of storminess was on the horizon.
We purchased our ferry tickets before buying some maps of Lofoten and Andøya at the local tourist centre and a bookstore in the Cochs shopping centre called Ark. Next, we headed back to catch the ferry for 5:15 PM. As we left Bodø it began to rain, quite hard at times but not enough to obscure the dramatic Norwegian coastline as we travelled still further north.
Time for another new adventure, this time with my friend Shawn! We left home around 9:30 PM from Edmonton to the airport to catch a late flight. Passing quickly through check-in and security, we boarded our flight to Toronto around 11:30 PM, which left at 11:55 PM.
On the flight, I mostly tried to sleep, although I did not sleep the whole time. It was fairly uneventful. We arrived in Toronto at around 5:00 AM and played silly chance games on the free-to-use iPads at the Pearson airport. As the shops started to open, we got hungry and went to Lee’s Kitchen. We ordered some shao mai chicken and shrimp dumplings, and chiu chow pork peanut dumplings to share, where we also played a few games of Hive.
We boarded the flight from Toronto to London at 8:20 AM on a dreamliner. On this flight, I slept some and watched The Scorch Trials, the second movie in The Maze Runner series, which was good overall. The movie was action packed, though the plot build-up in The Maze Runner was better. I slept some more, then played some games on the flight entertainment system. We arrived in London, England late in the evening at about 8:40 PM. There, we met with Shawn’s aunt’s and uncle’s, greeting us with excitement. From there we headed out to get some food at a KFC, eating spicy chicken, coleslaw and french fries. It was very nice of them to all come out to meet us during the stopover and treat us to tasty fried chicken.
Back at the airport, we had to wait to check in, so we finished picking and booking our accommodations in Oslo for the end of our trip. I also tried to sleep, but the seats aren’t too comfortable in the London Heathrow airport and there was also a loud alarm thing that kept going off… ugh. 😕 After checking in we ate at EAT. I had duck gyoza dumplings for breakfast. Finally, we boarded our next flight around 6:30 AM. The flight from London to Oslo took about two hours, but was slightly delayed. On this flight, I fell asleep, mostly the whole way. In Oslo, we picked up our bags and passed through customs very quickly. Then, we picked up food for lunch at the airport 7-11 and got a SIM card for emergency mobile use.
For our final flight of the “day” from Oslo to Bodø, we checked in again, and went through security. At the gate, we ate our pastasalat with curry and kreb from the 7-11. This flight left Oslo at 1:05 PM with a duration of 1 hour and 30 minutes. Finally, our stretch of flights (but not traveling) was done for the day, and we headed out of the Bodø airport at 3:00 PM.
It was exciting to finally get to explore our destination a bit! Bodø is a small town with a population of around 50,000, and just north of the Arctic Circle (in terms of latitude at 67°16’48″N, it is north of Iqaluit and Iceland). It was a 15 minute walk from the airport to the harbour, where we were to catch a ferry to the Lofoten Islands.
Today I got up at 7 AM, then rolled my bag down the sidewalk and caught the bus to Century Park. From there, I caught the 747 bus to the airport. After checking in and passing through security, I went to the Air Canada Maple Lounge and had breakfast for free, thanks to the guest pass from Amanda! At the lounge, I had pink grapefruit juice, a fruit cup, key lime Greek yogurt, and a pastry. Then I boarded my flight to Vancouver, which left at 10:15 AM. I arrived in Vancouver at 11:00 AM and met up with my parents there.
The next flight was from Vancouver to Beijing, China on AC029, which we boarded at 12:45 PM. We had to sit on the plane for a very long time though – about two hours – before even going anywhere due to mechanical problems. 🙁 For lunch, I had a muffin, Mediterranean flatbread, and Clamato juice. During the flight I watched How to Train Your Dragon 2, Lucy, and Transformers: Age of Extinction. I also slept for some of the flight (like in the middle of parts of the Transformers movie). Oops! Supper on the plane was bread, stir-fry noodles, coleslaw, and chocolate cake. Breakfast was a bowl of instant noodles. For lunch (again?) was chicken with noodles, fruit salad, and bread. The flight was 11 hours long, but not including the two hour delay, and I landed in Beijing at 6 PM. After clearing customs and getting our bags, we met up with our guide Alice/Din-Din, and went to our hotel. We are staying at the Sunworld Hotel, about 50 minutes from the airport. It was dark already by the time we landed. The hotel looks pleasantly nice, although the room was a bit cramped with three single beds. Mostly, we got settled in the room and went to sleep early.
We woke up early the next morning, around 6 AM. Breakfast started at 6:30 AM, and had a wide variety of items, with both Western and Chinese style foods. The only thing was the hot food wasn’t that hot. I ate bok choy, fried rice, chow mein, spring rolls, steamed buns, ham, potato balls, sausages, and dumpling soup. At 8 AM we headed to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall of China. On the drive out, the skies were surprisingly clear and blue. This was due to the APEC (Asia Pacific Economics Committee) meeting occurring in the city. There is a ban which permits only half the number of cars on the road each day (three out of six million). Dates with odd numbers allow license plates ending in odd numbers to drive, and likewise for days with even numbers. Also, factories around Beijing have been temporarily shut down. These measures had not been done since the 2008 Beijing Olympics, so we are lucky to travel in low air pollution and traffic conditions.
The area around the Mutianyu Great Wall appeared cooler and dry, where trees had mostly lost their leaves, unlike in the city. The weather was quite pleasant for site seeing though.
The Great Wall of China is an amazing structure with a total length of around 21 000 km. It was built from the 7th Century BC to the 17th Century AD. The section we are visiting was built in the 6th Century in the Qi Dynasty and then rebuilt in 1569, mainly of granite. We took a cable car up to the wall, and walked along a section of it.
It was fun to walk along the wall and go up the watch towers. I went up many stairs, where there is a great view, up to the limit where tourists are allowed.
This morning for breakfast, I had cereal (Vanilla Almond Cluster Crisps), and a feijoa. The feijoa is a little green fruit that looks like an avocado a bit. The texture is like a pear, but smells like a kiwi. It tastes like a sweet tart candy (sweet like candy but also is sour and tangy).
We went out, walking by the harbour on our way to the fish market. It was a nice sunny day with lots of boats and yachts.
We crossed a bridge that lifts up to let boats through (Wynyard Bridge). There were some funny things along the way including short colourful chairs on artificial turf, and washrooms in railroad train carts.
We arrived at the fish market soon after. It was a lot of fun looking at all the produce and fish for sale, as there are many different things being sold there compared to at home.
From the fish market we bought live mussels and a whole trevally fish.
We headed back to the room, first stopping at the Voyageur Maritime Museum. Here, there were exhibits about yacht building and racing for the America’s Cup. There were also displays of lighthouses, historical ships, and Maori canoes.
After this museum we had lunch back at our room and cooked up the trevally fillets. I also had brown rice and some yogurt.
In the afternoon we walked away from the city centre, past the University of Auckland to Auckland Domain, a large park. The Auckland War Museum is also in the Auckland Domain, and we went through some paths to get there (Domain Walk). The vegetation is like a jungle with lots of ferns and large trees (redwood, norfolk pine, etc.)
The museum had a Maori presentation at 1:30 PM. In the show, the Maori sang songs, such as one for battle. They also demonstrated some of their pastimes such as swinging a ball on a string, and wooden sticks. We walked around the museum after that, and saw a Maori artifacts exhibit, Pacific lifestyles (items from indigenous people on Southern Islands like Tonga, Cook Islands, Fiji, etc.), natural history, and volcanoes. There was an entertaining exhibit in the volcano section where you sit in a “house” and it simulates an underwater volcano erupting in the bay “outside”.
Despite being called a war museum, this museum is actually more a general museum. But also, we didn’t actually have enough time to visit the third floor with the war exhibits. We walked back to our room after we had finished looking.
For supper, we cooked up the live New Zealand mussels we got from the market, which were really big! They were also really yummy. We ate these with some broccoli and brown rice.
After just arriving at a new place, it’s always a good time when you go for a walk to look around and explore. Everything you see is new – the buildings and streets, plants, and people.
After leaving the Sky Tower, we tried to walk to the “Victoria Park Market“. Well, it turns out there was nothing to see here except for an old and unusual chimney on one of the buildings. Instead, we went a few blocks further and went into a large building that looked like a warehouse, but had a couple of stores in it – Helen Cherry and a coffee shop/historic motorcycles display. Other than this, there wasn’t much here either. Apparently, this building was mostly being used as a big car park, but the space was also being rented out to the couple shops here.
Continuing our walk, we went towards the harbour. First we went by Viaduct Harbour. This used to be the old harbour in Auckland, but has since been converted to upscale shops. Eventually, we came near the water, and walked around the Viaduct Basin. The ocean was quite beautiful.
Continuing along the water, we went by the National Maritime Museum and made note that we would have to take some time to visit here at some point during our visit in the city. Then we went down a wharf. Here, there were some unusual buildings, which were shaped to look like two ships. This was actually a Hilton hotel.
Past the wharf, we went by the Ferry building. Also there was a neat looking shark bus parked by the road!
For lunch we stopped by a mall. We ate at St. Pierre’s Sushi at a food court. My food had sushi, salad, shrimps, some fish ball sort of things (?) and sashimi.
Then we went to an electronics store to buy a GPS with NZ maps, and a Countdown supermarket on Quay Street to pick up some groceries for dinner and tomorrow’s breakfast. For the afternoon, we had a quiet time in the room as we were tired from the long travel to New Zealand today.
For supper, we had lamb chops, broccoli and brown rice. I also ate a beurre bosch pear. We didn’t do much after supper and went to sleep fairly early. Good night!
On the flight from Los Angeles to Auckland, New Zealand I first watched a couple of movies. These included Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows, and X-Men: Last Stand. A dinner was also served, including chicken, mashed potatoes with zucchini, a salad, and berry cake. I tried to sleep after that. For breakfast I had a fruit platter, yogurt, and a pineapple coconut muffin. Meanwhile, I also watched The Emperor’s New Groove. The plane landed on April 30 at 5:15 AM in New Zealand.
We collected baggage, passed through customs, and then took a taxi to our hotel/apartment room at the Celestion Waldorf apartments. Luckily we were provided with a room that early in the morning. It was very nice with two bedrooms, a kitchen, dining room, comfy sofa, and balcony. We washed up, then went to walk around the city. We passed through the streets exploring, before stopping at a Countdown (grocery store). Here, we bought a cheese and bacon pull-apart bread for second breakfast. We were eating our bread, when a whole bunch of people started coming down the street, and bagpipes were playing. Surprised, we dashed out of the grocery store to see what the excitement was. Turns out there were a bunch of people graduating from the University of Auckland, who were parading down the street.
After that, we continued walking until we got to the Sky Tower. The Sky Tower is the highest free standing tower in the southern hemisphere, at 328m tall from ground to mast. At the main deck and observation deck, a wonderful view of Auckland could be seen. This was a good chance for us to see our surroundings having just arrived!
Another fantastic view from the other side of the tower
If you need an adrenaline rush, you can partake in the “SkyJump”. Although I would not ever do this myself, it was amusing to watch other people instead. In the SkyJump, a person jumps from the observation deck to the ground. They are attached to cables which guides their path to a sort of target/trampoline looking thing by the base of the tower.
In case you are interested in this sort of thing, check this out as well! 😉
The elevator was also scary because it moved really fast and had glass windows and a glass floor. Enjoy this quick video of the elevator ride going down.
We touched the sand at the beach, laughed, and remarked how great it was to visit here on a short airplane stopover!
Then we continued onwards towards the Santa Monica pier. There were many people here, and also musicians and artists, like with the 3rd Street Promenade. The pier was also home to a police station and an amusement park. The amusement park reminded me very much of Brighton, England (where there also is an amusement park on a pier).
The pier has a “special” significance in that it is the end of Route 66. There is a sign announcing the end of the route and also some displays.
In general, there was a lot to see here. A favourite moment was seeing a man with a megaphone spouting off words like “They will destroy all of humanity!” and carrying a sign saying “WE WILL ALL PERISH TRANSFORMERS ARE COMING”. This is one of the best advertisements I have seen.
Of course there was also a good view of the beach.
Walking back, we had dinner at an Italian restaurant called Boce di Beppe. We had some appetizers and shared a tossed salad, penne san remo, and an Italian supremo pizza. There was a lot of food and we were all really full. At the restaurant we also met up with more relatives. Afterwards we had to return to the airport and left on our flight to New Zealand at 9:00 PM.
We left home today at about 8:30 AM to head for the airport. There were few people in the lineups, so we got to our boarding gate fairly early for our flight to Los Angeles (LAX). I played a bit on my new iPad, then we boarded the plane at about 10:55 AM on flight AC570. During the flight, I drank orange juice and watched the movie “The Green Lantern”. We landed in Los Angeles at about 2:00 PM.
We had a very long stopover in LA. We started looking in a few shops before settling down to wait in the seats at the gate. Suddenly, my dad’s cousin Selwyn called and said he was coming to pick us up and take us to the beach! Selwyn drove us to Santa Monica, and we walked down the 3rd Street Promenade. This street is for pedestrians only, and is lined with many shops. There were also many singers and musicians performing their work, a puppeteer, and a crazy break dancer.
Perhaps one of my favourite things about the 3rd Street Promenade were the many dinosaur bush fountains lining the walkway.
It was very warm, lush, and sunny here. After walking down to the end of the promenade, we walked towards the beach.
Quite an exciting airport stopover this is turning out to be!