May 2007 – How long do you think it would take to drive to the arctic circle?

17 July, 2010
And of course, the answer to that is that there is only one way to find out, so we packed up our car, our picnic rugs, sleeping bags and some warm clothes and headed off to find out……17 days, 4600 miles (that’s about 7400km to folks from the modern world), and one headlight bulb and just two litres of oil later, we knew….

Heres the route we took, and where we stopped, thanks to the new google maps thingy:

Our plan was to whizz north as fast as we could, then have a nice relaxing drive home. So having zoomed through France, and really, really zoomed through Germany (the Alfa sitting on 190km/hr on the Autobahn) here we are about to cross the bridge between Denmark and Sweden,
The Nordic countries were everything we had heard about them, from what we saw everyone up there has an amazing quality of life, great public services, beautiful cities, great education, public transport…. and really really expensive… well everything!Our third night was spent in Stockholm, a really beautiful city spread over 100’s of small islands:
Stockholm has the oldest open air museum in the world, its packed full of ancient houses that have been collected from all over the country, like this traditionally grass roofed farm house:
We headed from Stockholm up the the east coast of Sweden, stopping in camping grounds overnight, because as with everything else in Scandinavia accommodation is really expensive, its not often you have to pay London prices outside London, but we paid London prices almost everywhere we went.
So it was a holiday of home cooked evening meals and packed lunches, as advised by the locals we even bought our alcohol with us from Germany!
Here we are heading across the mountains from the coast of Sweden up into the wilderness in the mountains:
On our last night before crossing into Norway we stayed in the village of Tarnaby, a massive skiing town in the winter months, it was practically deserted when we were there, so we got a whole ski chalet for ourselves.And yes that is snow you can see falling from the sky!
This far north we were in the land of 24 hour sunlight (which is very interesting experience when combined with alcohol) so here we are standing outside and enjoying the somewhat chilly mid night sun – thus the chilly toe curls:
The road from Tarnaby to the Arctic circle is one of the most dramatic drives we have ever done, beautifully mountains, massive snow drifts, ski field after ski field and here we are beside yet another massive frozen lake:
And here we have a couple of reindeer looking for some fresh spring grass to munch on – we also saw a massive Elk but unfortunately he didn’t hang around to have his photo taken:
It may have been lovely and sunny when we were there, but you can imagine in winter it would be pretty grim with 22 hours of darkness and even more snow  – enough to justify metal spiked tires and a snow plow this big:
Finally after over 2000 miles, we were almost there:
But of course as it was 7th of May everything in Norway was closed for Norway’s National Day, unfortunately this included the Arctic circle visitors centre, which is why none of you got a post card and we didn’t get to pick up a prized fridge magnet!So here we are at the pole:
After reaching our destination, we began the much more sedate trip home – it had to be sedate as the maximum speed limit is 90km/hr and the speeding fines range from 1,000-10,000 euros!Here is one of our first glimpses of the famous Fjords, even in the rain the scenery was absolutely breath taking:
We stopped for three nights here in Sogndal, a cute little village with a lake in one direction and the dramatic  Sognefjord (the worlds longest and deepest glacier – over 200km long) on the other and of course the standard snow capped mountains all around:
Here is our little cottage on the edge of the lake, we stayed on the Svedal farm which was just magic, as well as cute cottages, stunning lake views, an art gallery – Hans and his family also had a barn full of little lambs and kittens for Cath to play with!Here’s the link to their website if you are looking for magic accommodation in the middle of the fjords:

Svedal Hytter

Here we are settling in for nice quiet night of crappy magazines, baileys and a 500 piece jigsaw puzzle:
And heres the view out the window and back up the valley at around 10pm – even down here, theres not a lot of darkness:
Ok to be honest, the weather wasn’t perfect the whole time, so here we have Cath standing at the end of a rainbow (trust me, she is there) Unfortunately the traditional pot of gold at the end of the rainbow never got translated into Norwegian so when Cath got to the end, the pot was empty!
Another day, another beautiful fjord, its a tough life heh?
Another day, another grassy hill, soaring mountain, dramatic waterfall and sheepies and lambies with bells ding-donging and gamboling everywhere:
Luckily for us, if this global warming thing keeps on getting worse, we will be able to tell our grandkids that we actually got to see the rapidly retreating Nigards glaciers before they disappeared completely:
With so many massive mountains, fjords, snow and lakes, you need about 1,000,000 ferry’s and some mighty fine tunnels to get anywhere in this place, here we are about to drive into worlds longest road tunnel:
And after 15 minutes driving straight into the mountain here we are stopped 12.25km from daylight in either direction:
Next stop was Oslo, again another beautiful, civilized, crime-free, litter-free, child and wheel chair friendly Nordic city full of massive carvings of writhing naked people shaped like a giant pencil
Then back into Sweden, and onto Goteborg – another clean, crime free – yeah you get the idea, its a very nice part of the world….
Next stop was Germany, and after a great night and a lovely lunch in Koln as guests of the ever lovely Pitze clan we headed back to Gregs favourite European city (Brugge) for more Belgian beer.We then filled the car to the brim with super-duper cheap french booze, and jumped back into the Eurotunnel..
then, wham, bam, 4600 miles later we were back home safe and sound…
Till next time, see ya!

live naked flesh auctions, lasers, smoke machines, a podium, a cage, a dodgy MC, terrible music and of course cows?!?!?!? It must be late night TV Brazilian style

20 April, 2008

Every day we are here, we learn a little bit more about Brazil, late last night for example we switched over to Canal Rural, one of the many local channels (we have four channels solely dedicated to religion alone) to see what looked like a combination of a strip club and a rotary club dinner, a large room was full of tables of blokes dining and drinking, at the front of the room was a large podium, with a cage around it, the room was full of loud music, laser lighting and a lot of smoke and the crowd was pretty excited, of course this had to be something dodgy didn’t it, well it was in fact a live cattle auction. As well as the people there attending, you could also phone in and bid, I was of course tempted, but given the size of our flat I didn’t think that we really had room for family of Brahman cattle beasts. At least it means that Brazilians are going to be among the few other nations in the world that would understand how come “a dog show” could make it onto TV in New Zealand.

So we have been a bit quiet on the blog front for the last couple of weeks, Greg has been focusing on writing his book, which has somewhat taken away the urge to write for fun, but with a long weekend over here and our adventure plans cancelled at the last minute, I now find myself with some time on my hands. So here’s a quick recap of what we have been up to:

Last weekend we headed down to Buenos Aires to watch our friend Robert Lindstedt play in the Davis cup tie between Sweden and Argentina, now we don’t need much excuse to visit BA, it’s one our favourite cities in the world, but we also got the chance this time to celebrate/disrupt the Olympic torch which was a great bonus.
So Greg went and watched the first days play on Friday while Cath worked in the BA office, now the only other time Greg has seen live tennis was watching Robert play in the very civilised atmosphere of Wimbledon, these games turned out to be somewhat different, the Argentines’ hadn’t lost a single match at home in the last five years of Davis Cup, and after spending some time there I think I know why, they have a 15,000 person tennis stadium, and every day there was at least 10,000 argies there, they acted like they were at a soccer match which was great, continually yelling, chanting and screaming, we joined in the very small Swedish supporters group (about 20 of us) but any attempt at a chant or a song was quickly drowned out by the Argentinean supporters, there screaming and yelling was continuous, even the umpires couldn’t shut them up.

So after watching some tennis on Friday I headed down town to try and get amongst the action at the torch relay, now let me explain my politics here, I fully support the Olympic movement, and the right of athletes to compete, but I also think if you are stupid enough to want to host the Olympics, you better make sure you have clean underpants on first, because the whole world is going to be watching. I also think that any non sporting part of the Olympics is fair game for protesting and point raising, so I was glad to get the chance to join in the free Tibet protestors during the torch relay. After watching the “events” in Britain, France and USA, I thought the argies may have clamped down on things when their moment in the spot light came around, but I didn’t expect it to be as heavy handed as it was, it appears that the argentian police don’t focus on the same sort of community policing that we are used to, they more fancied batons and motorbikes as crowd clearing tools. Groups of pro Tibet and Falungong supporters were forcibly dispersed by the police, anyone who waved a Tibet flag or any type of protest was quickly dragged away, and groups of people who congregated to protest were quickly dispersed by groups of police or pro china supporters. As you can see in this shot, by the time the Olympic torch actually arrived, there was no chance of anyone getting through the five lines of protection that the torch had surrounding it.

The great celebration of Olympic spirit (and police brute force)

I have to say though, if China feels a little uncomfortable with people invading it’s parade, imagine how the Tibetans felt when China invaded their country… I did join a group of mainly English backpackers in chanting free Tibet for a brief period of time, but we were again quickly dispersed by a large mob of pro china supporters, these people were a bit of comedy in themselves, nothing says organic community based support like having absolutely everyone wearing matching red jackets now does it?

Pro china supporters – I wonder who funded these smashing jackets?

But it was great to see people making their protests in their own way – something that is just not possible in Tibet:

Libre Tibet!

So after that adventure I caught up with Cath and we headed out for another beautiful feast of Argentinean meat, after this trip there is no doubt, they have the best beef in the world….
Saturday we went to watch Robert play his doubles game with Jonas Bjorkman against the fairly impressive pairing of Guillermo Canas and David Nalbandian and 10,000 of their supporters. Though Robert had a great game, it didn’t go their way, and they went down to the Argies 5-7, 4-6, 4-6. Here are some shots of Robert and Jonas in the game:

Robert Lindstedt

Robert and Jonas

And you think you had a bad day at work, imagine this feeling…

On the Sunday we headed back to SP, where we are now, enjoying a nice quiet long weekend at home in BA, but planning our next set of adventures.
A quick update on work from us both, Caths work continues to go great, she is making a name for herself over here and already delivering some great results in LatAm, I think there is a good chance they will try and adopt her at the end of the 6 months. Gregs book continues to roll along, with 100 of the 350 pages submitted, Greg is realising just how hard it is to write a book, the first chapter was a complete nightmare, but now he is settled into something of a rhythm, so hopefully the chapters will start to flow a bit faster!
That’s all for now. Over and out of here.
Lots of love,
Greg and Cath