Lockdown: Week 9 – Places we’ve been (Part 2 – Sweden, Norway and Finland).

Albi in Norway 2019

We’re still in Lockdown, social-distancing and trying to keep busy. Reg still can not socialise, but he’s happy and we’ve been trying to fill our days, with some activities indoor and out. We’ve been on some bike rides, we’re trying to complete our circuit in different ways!

Reg has now had his full sets of vaccinations and can shortly socialise. We’re teaching him commands, slowly, and trying to keep him amused each day. He’s progressed from his basket to the dog trailer and has had a couple of trips in that.

In addition, we’ve been reminiscing about the places we’ve been to in the last year, this is part two and our trip around Sweden, Norway and Finland. We crossed the bridge from Denmark and headed up the Eastern Coast to the Norwegian Border, through Norway up to Nordkapp and over to the Russian Border, before heading through Finland to the Arctic Circle and back into Sweden, travelling down to Stockholm and back over to Finland by ferry.

Sweden

  • Malmö -We’ve had good and bad experiences in Malmö. Our first time here. we stayed at what felt like a pretty rundown site but it was quirky and we liked it. We set off to return here, but it has had a facelift and was FULL! We found another, but although we had a spot for the night on the edge of the sea, the facilities were not up to scratch and we chose to use those on board.
  • Halmstad – a lovely town on the edge of the river. The camperstop was just on the edge of the town right on the river and a short walk to the town centre and a bakery! There is a sculpture trail through the waterside gardens, too, complete with a Picasso!
  • Bua – this is one we don’t want to share! We loved it here, right on the marina, and with the wild coast on the other side of the road.
  • Henån – so good we came here twice! Seriously, we did like it here, another marina with a FREE laundry and town, walking distance away.
  • Gällivare – a ski resort in the winter, but a lovely town in the summer. We saw hares here on the morning walk (and picked up a Chinese takeaway)!
  • Moskosel – we stayed here at Ljuselforsens Rastplatz, by the side of the river. The views were stunning, but the river was very full and as newbie wild campers, was a little unnerving, but we survived and loved every minute of it.
  • Täfrea – we stopped here at the Kvarkenfisk Restaurant Stellplatz. It’s right on the sea with a fish restaurant and cabins (hytte). It was here we met new friends, Ana-Lund and Tommy, while sampling the Surströmming (stinky fish). Don’t be put off by the road to the restaurant – you are heading in the right direction!
  • Ramvik – we had not intended to stop here. but the effects of the stinky fish had started to take its toll and a night in a campsite was required. We headed off from here to the Motor Museum in Harnosands.
  • Galtstrom – we stopped in a wild camp site, next to the sea, with plenty of walks in the woods, a restaurant at the end of the road and the sea, where you can fish.
  • Angra – here we stopped at a campsite, where they will take you on a safari to see bears in the wild. We were joined by free-range chickens in the field, as we cooked. There is a river which runs through it too. Whilst out walking, we discovered there had be a forest fire nearby, and it had literally stopped at the campsite.
  • Nusnäs – home of the Dala Horse Factories, the carved painted horses traditional to Sweden.
  • Lesjöfors – wild camping spot with a toilet on the edge of a lake, with woodlands behind, and a sandy shoreline, perfect for the dog to run around on. It was a quiet place to stop, when we were there.
  • Karlstad – we headed for Karlstad as we had been craving a KFC and it didn’t disappoint.
  • Åmål – a campsite just on the edge of town, but beside Lake Vänern – the largest lake in European Union (and the third largest in Europe – the other two are in Russia).
  • Holsljunja – another Rastplatz, on the edge of another lake. We parked up behind an elderly Swedish couple, who were foraging mushrooms in the woods – not knowing our mushrooms from toadstools, we didn’t venture in too.
  • Solvesborg – we’d driven to a different campsite up the road a little, but it was so busy and the pitches weren’t all that great, so we drove on and found a little site on the edge of a lake.
  • Smålandet Markaryd alg safari – The Moose Safari. As we hadn’t been fortunate to see Moose in the wild we took Nortia on a trip through the Moose Safari Park, after our first circuit, we were fortunate to follow the train through and were able to see more Moose than we did on our own! The fact the train passengers are given food for the moose might have had something to do with it!
  • Tosteberga Hamn – a little Rastplatz on an archipelago. The spaces can be a little tight and not all have electricity but it was lovely. You can also pay in Euros (if like us you didn’t have cash!). They do have an app, but it didn’t recognise an English Bank Account.
  • Karlskrona – we drove into the town, there is a Stellplatz, in the centre of the town, but it was a hot day and the spaces are on tarmac, a bit too hot for the dog. There are a lot of sights to see here and you can get the ferry to Poland.
  • Bergkvara – we stayed on a nice grass pitch as the weather was quite hot. The site is close to the beach and the little town.
  • Öland Island – the second largest island in Sweden. We stayed here for two nights both on the sea. The first was at Grönhögens hamn, a small harbour town, we had a view of the sea and watched the coastguard sail up the coastline. We cycled out to Långe Jan the lighthouse on the southernmost point, through the nature reserve and marshland. The second stop after travelling up to the Northern Point and Långe Erik Lighthouse., was at Boda Hamn, and we had a spectacular thunder storm throughout the night.
  • Paskallaviks – we stopped here, originally for one night but stayed three, it was so nice. We travelled up to Oskarshamn, to see a vet, before heading on to Finland. The Stellplatz has a coded restroom and free laundry. There are two sides to the Rastplatz, so don’t be fooled by the fuller, EHU supplied left hand side! There are walks into the village and a pizza takeaway nearby. There were several locals who arrived to have a Birthday Party picnic tea on the benches laid out on the grass.
  • Valdermarsvik – located on the only fjord in Sweden. We stopped at the campsite on the beach (no dogs). The pitches are lovely and big and there is a restaurant, on site. We later discovered walking along the fjord, that there is a Stellplatz in the town on the edge of the fjord.
  • Oxelösund – stopping in another Stellplatz on the harbour. there is a restaurant on the end of the pier and it is a working port. We had another thunderstorm and lightning display.
  • Sollentuna – a lovely stop over just outside Stockholm and convenient for the Ferry to Finland. The site has access to the forest and lake.
  • Tallink Silja Galaxy – our overnight ferry to Finland, with dog friendly cabin and dog deck. We actually went on a pub crawl (3 bars – 3 drinks) and had a meal on board, before an incredibly early start (disembarkment – 06:00). Finland is 1 hour ahead of Sweden (2 hours ahead of the UK).

Norway

  • Oslo – Bogstad Camping, we made the mistake of expecting to be able to stop in a Rastplatz in Moss, on the edge of the harbour. When we got there it was full, the weather was perfect, as was the view. We continued on our journey and despite trying to find another couple, indicated on the app, we booked into Bogstad Camping. It is ideal to visit the city.
  • Notodden – Lystang Camping – this is one of our favourite camping spots. Our trip was slightly marred by the loss of our phone in a shop, which we did retrieve! The last time we stayed here we took a boat trip on the river, but we’d arrived in a heatwave and it was too hot this time. We relaxed by the motorhome, and cycled to the town.
  • Edland – we followed the Hardinger Scenic Route north to Edland and stopped in a campsite by a lake. While we were here, we (Ric) had to sort an Electricity failure on the campsite, caused by a faulty cable on a different Motorhome. It was solved with a lack of English and Norwegian but just sign language!
  • Taulen – heading further north, we stumbled across this lovely campsite, by the side of a river. It was fine until the middle of the night when the river sounded like rain!
  • Odda – We stopped in Odda for lunch, and after filling up with fuel, we spotted Thord from Ice Road Rescue, a programme we watch and were greeted with a wave.
  • Horndola – We followed Ditsy Daisy Sat Nav, further north and she managed to tell us that the road was closed and gave us a detour. After a lot of tunnels, including the Laerdal Tunnel, we found a place to stop in Horndola. Looking up the attractions nearby we found the Giftesteinen Stone. It is a large stone with a hole in the middle, with a myth attached. We popped up to see it early on a dog walk, and by 09:00 there were over 11 coaches, from the cruise liners.
  • Hellesylt – We continued to following Ditsy Daisy, having passed the point of no return and we found ourselves at the Cruise Ferry Terminal to Geiranger. Although a bit of an expense, we would probably spend the same retracing our journey back around. The cruise was lovely, the sun was shining and the scenery spectacular.
  • Geiranger – Disembarking in Geiranger, the campsites were full so instead we headed up the Eagles Road and on to the Trollsteigen Pass, stopping at the top of the Trollsteigen to complete our previous visit (we arrived in heavy snow and the path was closed).
  • Isfjord – Romsdalseggen Camping, Åndalsnes. We stopped here by the side of a ski resort in a very nice campsite behind a hostel.
  • Levanger – Gullberget Camping (outside Trondheim). We stumbled on this campsite by accident The one we had stayed at before, didn’t look as nice this time around, so we carried on and found this site, on the edge of a nature reserve and close to the main E6 heading north.
  • Mosjøen – we stopped here before on our way to the Arctic Circle and for the return back (the last trip we did was a three week holiday, so only just enough time to get there and back and back to work)! The campsite is close to the edge of town and has a some nice walking paths around. On our way up to Polarsirkelen, we stopped at Mo-I-Rana to fill with LPG.
  • Polarsirkelen – Arctic Circle Centre. As it wasn’t snowy, it looked a lot different to the last time we were here, and we expected crowds, but gratefully it wasn’t too bad. It is definitely somewhere to stop and be a tourist.
  • Saltstraumen – heading north we took a turn to the east and found ourselves at Saltstraumen, crossing over the bridge to the archipelago. On the dog walk, we discovered the saltstraumen tides. In the evening, there was no tide at all, it was as calm as anything , but the tide times said the tides we be high at 08:00 the following morning. The maelstrom is well, worth a visit.
  • Ballangen – continuing our journey north, we stopped on the edge of a fjord. The amenities in the campsite were amazing with a large kitchen for campers. There was so little darkness here, on our trip, that hearing the rain start at 03:30, and heading out to get the washing – it was as if it was 08:00 at home!
  • Tromsø – heading up the coast further north, we were greeted by reindeer walking down the road. The campsite was ok, but the real bonus was an Indian restaurant, nearby with an English app and delivery. It was possibly the most expensive Indian take-away we have ever had – but well worth it!
  • Storslett – Fosselv Camping, another great find on the edge of the fjord and an ideal fishing location. The views near here are amazing and we passed Karen and Myles from http://www.motoroaming.com
  • Russenes – at the end of the E6 and turning east again, we stopped here for the night before heading towards Nordkapp.
  • Honningsvag – we stopped here to get provisions before heading to Nordkapp. The cruise liner, TUI Mein Schieff 3, had just docked and we were amongst several tourists in the town
  • Nordkapp – on our arrival (and we didn’t exactly know what to expect), we were asked if we wanted to camp for the night – it’s included in the price of parking! Facilities are free to enter and open from 06:00 to 02:00. What’s also lovely is you can be there almost alone, once the cruise liner passengers have gone and before the next ones arrive. The views are spectacular and despite the cold, a must to see and do.
  • Ifjord – heading away from Nordkapp and on towards Finland and the Russian border, we stopped at a small campsite, which was in the process of being renovated but had potential. It’s not a part of Norway, regularly visited by English tourists, according to the campsite owners.
  • Kirkenes – the border town for Russia and Finland. The town was completely rebuilt after World War Two, when it was destroyed by bombing raids. We had hoped to view the Russian border, but Ditsy Daisy and Gloria Google Maps, couldn’t decide where the border was and we didn’t want to take a risk, especially with the dog.

Finland

  • Inari, our first stop in Finland. Having first discovered that there is a time difference between Norway and Finland. We had to pass through two border controls – one European and one for Russians entering Europe. The campsite was an idyllic typical Finnish campsite (but we didn’t see Moomins).
  • Rovaniemi – we stopped at a Rastplatz on our way to Santa Claus Village. The Rastplatz, was on the edge of a lake and beautiful.
  • Santa Claus Village – a must see tourist attraction, if you’re in this part of the world. However, listening to Christmas music in the sun in August was a little surreal! We put in a good word with Santa for the grandkids, before crossing back over the Arctic Circle again (we crossed it four times in total – once in Norway and Finland and twice in Sweden).
  • Ii – we stopped here on our way back to Sweden, just below the Arctic Circle. We might have stayed longer, but the weather changed, and we were in torrential rain, the following morning. The town, is supposed to be the greenest in Europe, we later found out. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w3ct03ms
  • Merikarvia – heading back to Finland from Sweden, we discovered that the start of September is time for Finland to start closing down. We found this campsite by chance and headed off around the southern part of the country. It was here we were contacted about meeting in Riga, Latvia for our film shoot, in a week’s time!
  • Larsmo – After a lot of rain, we arrived in Larsmo, a municipality made up of 360 islands and islets, where there is a Sauna Boat you can hire on the waterway, from the campsite shop. This community is one of the few bilingual Swedish and Finnish speaking, Swedish was the only language spoken until 2014
  • Juva – We arrived in more rain (torrential and thunderstorms) and the campsite was in a woodland by the side of another lake. It was lovely and picturesque, especially as dawn broke, the rain stopped and the mist gathered. The footpaths had a large variety of mushrooms (toadstools?).
  • Helsinki – A city campsite, next to the Metro station. Remarkably quiet and secure. We were about to head out on the Metro, when yet more rain, and again torrential. We will definitely revisit if we’re back here again.

Week 5: Norway – Hornindal to Storslett

After a peaceful dog walk on Monday morning to the river outside the campsite and the Giftesteinen https://www.visitnorway.com/listings/the-marriage-stone-virgin-stone/3573/ the tour buses arrived – by 09:00 I had counted 11, so glad I was up early enough to appreciate it. Albi wasn’t too impressed when I put him in the river though – it was a very hot morning, and unlike most dogs, he doesn’t like getting wet!

We set off, continuing to follow the route Ditsy Daisy Sat Nav had led us on the previous day and found ourselves at the Cruise Ferry Terminal to Geiranger, in Hellesylt. We duly paid the fare as it would have cost about the same to retreat and follow the road. This ferry trip was like none we’ve ever been on before. It was an actual cruise down the Fjord to Geiranger. The sun was shining and Geirangerfjorden looked stunning. We had been on a tour of the fjord when we were here last time but the weather was cold and damp, and there was a lot of mist and drizzle.

When we disembarked at Geiranger, we chose not to stay there as it was heaving – all the campsites were full and there were two cruise liners docked. We heeded up the Eagles Road – there is video footage on our facebook page. Then we started to follow Ditsy Daisy to the Trollsteigen Pass – but she wanted us to go on a different route to the map, so she was turned off and the map won. We still don’t know what the issue was – we’ve checked the settings and we’ve inputted our details correctly, but….! The route we did take was also used by tour buses, local buses and lorries – all of which are bigger than us! The route down from Trollsteigen is amazing and we have video footage on our Facebook page.

We stopped the night in a pretty village on Isfjord at Romsdalseggen Camping outside Åndalsnes. The next day we started to think about going north and using our old itinerary, headed for Trondheim. We wanted to revisit the Arctic Circle Centre and take photos as we had with our previous campervan.

We stayed just outside Trondheim, on a lovely campsite in Levanger, called Gullberget Camping. We read a lovely review about our first month posted by Etrusco UK and a post by MMM about the motorhome we’ve been given – you can read it here if you want! https://www.outandaboutlive.co.uk/motorhomes/reviews/motorhomes/details/motorhome-review-etrusco-t-7400-qbc-motorhome/997643

We then went further north to Mosjøen and stayed at the same campsite we had before – if you are intending to travel up to the Arctic Circle Centre and back, we would definitely recommend staying here – they even have Hytte to rent there. Last time we stayed there and travelled up and back, but this time our adventure is taking us North so we packed up and set off towards the Polarsirkelen – Arctic Circle Centre.

En-route we wanted to top up our LPG for the Gaslow system and checking the app it said there was a garage locally – but no, so off we set to Mo I Rana, where there was one, but not where the app said – its actually at the Bilxtra Shop and not the Esso garage. Once there we got out the European connector but NO. It needs a Norweigan connection, luckily they will loan you one in the shop – so all ok and we set off on our trip. A few miles later we were stuck in a traffic jam for road works, what we’ll never know but they are building a new tunnel and bridges on the E6 north as well as upgrading the road so it could have been anything.

Eventually, we arrived at the Arctic Circle Centre and thinking it was going to be really busy, braced ourselves as we entered the car park, but there were no crowds, a few cars and tourists. We took the photos, went inside the centre and then continued North. We had intended to return to Mo I Rana and take the quieter and scenic route but with the roadworks decided to cut across further up the E6. The road we took was really pretty and we stopped for the night in Saltstraumen.

Neither of us had heard of Saltstraumen before, but when you arrive there is a lot of information about the Maelstrom. There is a tidal phenomenon where a large volume of water is pushed through a narrow opening into the Fjord or the river depending on the tide. We had missed it for the day, but it could be seen at 08:10 the next morning – dog walk sorted!

It was amazing. When we drove over it two hours later, there was nothing – it was as flat and calm as you’d expect. We do have a video on our Facebook page.

After Saltstraumen, we headed off with Ditsy Daisy giving us instructions – the wrong way. So we checked the map, again and turned around heading our way. We’re still looking how we can convince her that the fastest route is not our best way!

We stopped again further north on the edge of a fjord, in Ballangen. We discovered this was the third campsite in the same chain – Plus Camp. If you stay at these sites they have a loyalty scheme, they don’t seem to freely offer it to the English but ask. If you stay 7 nights you get a free one! The campsite has been modernised and is very nice – one of the best free showers yet.

We headed up the scenic coastal roads to Tromsø, the weather had turned decidedly colder here, despite it being sunny. On the way up into Tromsø, we met a small herd of (3) reindeer walking down the main road! We found that there was an Indian Restaurant in the town and even better you can order on line and they deliver to your pitch! It was amazingly good too!

Next, we headed even further north, we were now becoming obsessed with the sunset times as it seemed to be ridiculously short time between sunset and sunrise! Thank heavens, for blackout blinds and curtains.

We followed the General Fleischer Vei for a while and stopped at one of the monuments to the Battle of Narvik – one of the first defeats by the Germans in WWII.

We stayed the night at Storslett, at Fosselv Camping, right on the edge of the Fjord. As its sea, Ric was able to do some fishing, but the fish were elusive. He had been inspired in Saltstraumen, when we saw a man fishing off a high bridge into the river and another man walking down the bridge with a cod in his hand!

The journey north continues – Storslett is almost at the top of the map when you look at Norway – way above the UK.

It is definitely getting colder and warmer clothes are being considered. The key destination next week is the Nordkapp, the most northerly point in mainland Europe. We’ll let you know more about our progress soon.

As always, thank you for reading – have a great week Sx

Week 4: Bua, Sweden to Hornindal, Norway

Wow, what a week that was! (Apologies for the lateness of this posting but its been hot here in Norway and sitting writing inside was too much to consider, also WiFi has been intermittent!)

After Bua, we set of to see the vet in Gothenburg, so that Albi can enter Norway. Its no big deal and its the same as re-entering the UK, but you have to wait 24 hours minimum – not 12 (the maximum is 60 hours or 5 days). We’d made an appointment and arrived – first they check his weight and look at his passport, then scan his ID chip and check it matches – when he was a pup it used to move around but now its pretty constant, then he has to have the all important tapeworm tablet. At home this is not a problem, but in the vets where he has to be watched, he won’t take it – so you have to force it down! If he doesn’t have the stamp in his passport – he’s not allowed entry! Finally all ok!

We moved on to another Stellplatz in Henan, Sweden. It was a lovely stopover with great facilities and right next door to the local shopping centre, and despite the rain (more drizzle really) we enjoyed it until we were getting ready to leave.

Both our neighbours, from the previous night had left and people had started to arrive for the next day. Our new neighbours clearly wanted their friends next to them, but instead of asking whether we were leaving they stood at the front of our Motorhome staring in. I was in two minds to go and get another day ticket just because but didn’t!

We went on a slow trip to the Norway border, as we had 24 hours to wait! We also consulted the Norwegian Customs app regarding the amount of alcohol you can import, so we could stock up (not in the UK terms of the 1990’s). We knew we had to go through the red zone at the border!

Both of us have travelled long enough, and have friends and family in airport travel, security and customs to know how unsettling it can be to get it wrong at customs! We’ve all gone through the green channel knowing we might have miscalculated and suffer the consequences but this time it could be (from what we have heard) life or death (or a long stay in quarantine) for Albi. Not something we were prepared to gamble! So under the alcohol limit, within dates for the dog we turned right into the red zone. Now what? – no idea. We pulled up in front of the Customs building. I went in with our passports and the dog information. At Eurotunnel, you have to take the pet too, but… His passport was checked and off we went! All ok to travel! Both of us have travelled long enough, and have friends and family in airport travel, security and customs to know how unsettling it can be to get it wrong at customs! We’ve all gone through the green channel knowing we might have miscalculated and suffer the consequences but this time it could be (from what we have heard) life or death (or a long stay in quarantine) for Albi. Not something we were prepared to gamble! So under the alcohol limit, within dates for the dog we turned right into the red zone. Now what? – no idea.

Around the bend, another crossing point – the Border checkpoint. Here the Motorhome was weighed and we were questioned and the driver (Ric) breathalysed. Questions included who is the new British PM? What football team do you follow? We passed and were waved through to Norway. We headed for Moss, where a lovely Stellplatz on the harbour beckoned, but being quite late in the day it was full. A few hours later (and a few choice words at the sat nav – now named Ditzy Daisy) we booked online into a campsite in Oslo.

Bogstad Camping is enormous but close to the centre of the city, so well worth a look if you’re planning a visit. It is clean and friendly. A bus stop right outside will get you directly to the city centre. We had a quick look around Oslo on our way to one of our favourite campsites ever – Lystang Camping outside Notodden, in the Telemark region. We stayed two nights here. Bogstad Camping is enormous but close to the centre of the city, so well worth a look if you’re planning a visit. It is clean and friendly. A bus stop right outside will get you directly to the city centre.

Our first day was marred by the fact I lost our phone – it’s our lifeline! I went to the supermarket and managed to leave it at the till, but worse still we drove to the campsite and set up before I realised! The nice couple from next door phoned the phone to check it wasn’t hiding but no, so we rushed back to the supermarket and there it was – I am so grateful and lucky.

The following day, we cycled to Notodden- the temperature was 28°C, it was hot! Norway was at the start of a heatwave (we know these temperatures are not like the UK heatwave).

After Lystang, we started to head north, Bergen was out of the question as they had predicted a high of 33°C – too hot to drag the dog around! So we went up the coast to Edland, having followed the Hardinger Scenic Route. We stopped right on the edge of the lake, it was beautiful. There was also a problem here with the electric supply – so once an engineer always an engineer – Ric managed to sort it! One of the motorhomes had a bad lead -once disconnected all was great 🙂 No call-out fee these days!

From Edland, we still followed the roads north to Taulen, this campsite was next to a lovely river (noisy) but relaxing, although I did have to check a couple of times in the night that it wasn’t raining! On the way we stopped briefly in Odda, and we actually saw Thord, from Ice Road Rescue. He did give us a wave too – probably just used to waving but still it cheered us!

Further north still, we headed and on Sunday after Ditsy Daisy Sat Nav telling us there were road closures (we’re not convinced, as one detour had us pulling out in front of a caravan we’d followed before!), we arrived at a campsite in Horndola. Our trip had taken us through more tunnels than I could remember including the Laerdal Tunnel – the world’s longest road tunnel at over 24 Kilometers long. It is impressive but….

Horndola is in the mountains, it was very hot here as we were quite high up and outside the campsite was a tourist attraction – a stone! This stone is called Giftesteinen and there are a couple of local legends surrounding it. https://www.visitnorway.com/listings/the-marriage-stone-virgin-stone/3573/ the following morning from 08:00(ish) I counted 10 tourist buses!

The campsite is a gem – it has a little cafe and the best shower block we’ve seen for a while!

Next week beckons! We’ll update you with more tales of Ditzy Daisy Sat Nav, the heatwave and moving north to places new!

As always thank you for reading, we’ve got some more touring to do… Sx