Tag Archives: living the dream

The last night of the Scandinavian AdVANture in Europe

Wednesday 20 November 2019

So here it is. My last night on the continent on my Scandinavian AdVANture. This epic journey is reaching it’s conclusion and I’ll be heading for Rotterdam and the ferry home tomorrow.

It has been life changing for me and has made far more of an impression on me than I envisaged.

I have been overwhelmed by some of nature’s most spectacular landscape and I have found that I am very much emotionally involved in the landscape and nature’s importance in my life. I have gained a very small insight into the way that Scandinavian people live, particularly those in the far north and the journey has reinforced my belief that travel is the most important part of any person’s education. If we don’t meet and communicate with other peoples and cultures, in their own country, then we become xenophobic and remain ignorant of the other’s point of view.

A couple of facts and figures –

After over 500 hours of driving I have covered over 14,100 miles (22,700 kilometres) and visited 6 countries, 4 of them twice and 2 of them three times!

Not forgetting that I have made the 12 mile walk to the most northerly point of the European mainland, Knivskjelodden, and raised £1095 for the Alzheimer’s Society in the process. I must say here that I am so grateful to all those lovely people who contributed to my donation pages. Thank you.

I do feel guilty about the amount of pollution I’ve caused by making this journey but when I compare it with the amount of HGVs on the road, my minuscule contribution is put into context.

I’m currently in a rest area in the small Dutch town of Zaltbommel (love that name, it could only be Dutch!) and I’m going to get my head down and leave early in the morning to make my way to Rotterdam.

I’m hoping to get an exhibition together sometime next year of the images I’ve captured and I’m creating a couple of different presentations of the Scandinavian AdVANture. Details in the New year.

Thank you Scandinavia, it’s been a blast!


Tuesday 1 October 2019

0900 Tømmerneset

Woke up to a fine morning and sorted the van out ready for travel. I’m now about two and a half hours drive from Bodø, so a gentle amble in that direction and see what I come across on the way. 


A change of plan! Before setting off I decided to take a little wander in the area of the rest area and found a gem of a place made up of small pools containing water plants with really good reflections. I ended up spending 2 hours photographing small details. 

And so I made my way south on the E6 passing through Moan (I’m sure it doesn’t mean the same in Norwegian!), Sildhopen, Vesterbotn and Straumen where I stopped and checked into the Strømhaug Camping campsite, having decided it was time I had a shower!!

I spent the rest of the day tidying the van up and giving it a clean inside (it has to be done sometime) and tidying myself up with a shower and washing some clothes.

The evening was spent processing photographs and writing this blog.

Myre, Langøya island

Saturday 14 September 2019,

(Most of this post written by FIONA Illingworth, whilst enjoying her well deserved holiday with me here in Norway)

9.50 am

The site of our wild camp last night was stunning. There were three vans parked up overnight. A couple of Norwegians next to us, must have been easily in their 60’s, were out under their awning almost all night, the bloke feeding a small wooden fire whilst his wife read the newspaper. Completely mad! Having said that, the weather looked and sounded far more foreboding from inside the van than it actually proved to be when we went out ourselves to take some video and stills. The start of the sunset was beautiful but then low cloud on the horizon deprived us of a final peek at the sun going down behind the waves. It was magical to be out watching it unfold.

Sunset on the beach near Nøss

The sun is shining this morning and we are heading across to Langøya to camp at Myre, which is on the outer side and facing Prestfjorden out to the north west. The campsite has good reviews and is somewhere new. John suggested the campsite at Bleik but I fancied a change of scenery.

It is good that the sun is out; it brings out the fabulous autumn colours. There are so many shades of green, yellow and red. The leaves are slowly turning and I’m sad to say that I think I will miss the best of it. John is in search of a single yellow or red tree against the green backdrop of other trees but we haven’t found one. All the trees are turning around the same time so there are few lone trees standing out from the crowd.

7.45 pm

We had a wonderful drive through fabulous autumn colours from our wild camp just outside Nøss in Andøy to Myre. We have had mixed weather this afternoon … rain showers followed by sunny spells, with plenty of rainbows. I have never seen so many rainbows in such a short space of time. I am glad we gave the Versterålens more of a chance.

Yet another glorious rainbow!

I think we were both tempted to give up on them yesterday as the landscape, though beautiful, appeared nothing like as breathtaking as the Lofotens. But, actually, though it is a gentler landscape, it is truly beautiful. Today we were blown away by the autumn colours, reflected well during the bright sunny periods. We could easily have been in the Trossachs or the Canadian Rockies.

The sea on the outer side of the islands can get quite rough and we watched some significant waves crashing against the rocks in Andøya first thing. When the sun is out it looks lovely but there is a cold breeze. I managed to go out for a run in Myre this afternoon. It started to rain just as I planned to go, but I waited half an hour and, lo and behold, the sun came out again. I found I could run along very quiet roads the whole time and just saw a glimpse of Myre before I turned back. Apparently, Myre is a modern fishing village and its port is one of the world’s biggest exporters of seafood. I saw a large factory out of town, presumably where all the seafood is processed, but other than that there was nothing to suggest this accolade!

The campsite here is excellent. After my run, I had a brilliant shower and had to turn it down a bit as the pressure was so strong! This evening I have cooked meatballs in the kitchen: all mod cons and very clean. It is good to be able to save on the gas in the van. I worry that John will run out and he cannot buy more cooking gas in Norway as they don’t sell it here (because it freezes in the winter).

Our view on the campsite at Myre, Andøya
A dramatic sky over the distant hills this evening

I have managed to persuade John to attempt The Queen’s Route tomorrow. This is a 15km circular walk along a marked trail. It is classed as a hard route mostly due to some steep sections I think. It is called the Queen’s Route because HM Queen Sonja walked this route in 1992. In 2015 it was voted amongst the top 10 most spectacular hikes in Norway. It is just up the road. How can we not give it a go? I am sure we will both be fine with it. The route is between two fishing villages, Stø to the north and Nyksund slightly further south. On one leg of the trip you follow a coastal path and on the other you follow a mountain path. Sounds awesome and I can’t wait. The walk is said to take between 5-8 hours. Knowing us, stopping every hundred metres or so to take photos, it’ll probably be the 8 hours!

Arctic Anniversary

Friday 13 September 2019

Today is our 22nd wedding anniversary!

(Most of this post written by FIONA Illingworth, whilst enjoying her well deserved holiday with me here in Norway)

9.45 am

In the bakery at Andenes. This building had housed a bakery since 1912. It appears to be the hub of this small town, as we have seen in so many other places. People come here and have coffee, eat a huge sandwich or a pastry and catch up with friends. It all seems very civilised. They are calm and quiet places. Bread and cakes are an important part of Norwegian culture from what we can gather. Each place has its own version of cinnamon bread for a start. There is a lot of choice of other cakes, but cinnamon bread appears the staple. The people here are solid, heftily built but not fat – no wonder with all the bread and cake they eat, combined with their love of the outdoors.

Bårds Bakeri, Andenes

11.45 am

We had a walk around Andenes. There is much new building going on – a new hotel opening next year and work is ongoing in a new visitor centre at the Aurora Space Centre.

Aurora Space Centre

But much of it seems down at heel. We have seen more houses empty and/or with peeling paint today than before. We have been wondering what work is available for the locals. Once you have accounted for the emergency services and other public sector, the army, the fish farms and tourist trade … what else is here? The surrounding areas beyond town are made up of farms … mostly small family farms, so I expect they will offer limited work opportunities.

I suspect we are not seeing the place at its best. The tourist season ended on 1 September, so many things (such as some of the restaurants and galleries) are closed now for the winter. But I have to be honest, even so, Vesterålen does not appear nearly as impressive as its big brother, Lofoten.

Sunset at Nøss …

We are in a small carpark not far up the road from Nøss, a spot that John discovered on a phone app he has used a lot on this trip, (Camper Contact) which details lots of sites, paid and unpaid. We tried another one earlier on, where we had a go at cleaning the solar panel on the roof as the leisure battery has flattened on us a couple of times recently. It has to be said that we are charging a lot of batteries and devices and the sun hasn’t made much of an appearance lately. The car park was fine but there wasn’t much of a view so we decided to move. I am glad we did because here we can look straight out to sea and there is a beach where we went to do a piece to camera. Fiona wore a Norwegian hat, in which she looked completely ridiculous. She tried to write the dates of our wedding anniversary in the sand, but didn’t do a very good job. She needed a long stick to avoid messing up the sand with footprints. Hindsight is a wonderful thing!

Beach near Nøss
Sunset at Nøss

More information about Skulpturlandskap Nordland (Artscape Nordland)

I picked up a brochure in the tourist information office today that provides a lot more information about the sculptures we have seen dotted about Lofoten. This is a county wide initiative, inviting international artists to take part from19 countries, including Norwegian artists (so not as first thought). Nordland is a province of Norway. From the name, you’d think it was the northernmost part of Norway, but in fact it forms the middle section. There are 36 sculptures all together, two of them are by English artists: Anthony Gormley and Tony Cragg. We won’t get to see either of their artworks as they are in places we don’t have time to visit. There are 5 artworks on Vesterålen and I am particulary keen to see one by a Norwegian artist called Kjell Erik Killi Olsen. His piece is at Bø, in the south western part of the islands, and is titled The Man from the Sea. Perhaps we will do that tomorrow.

There are 5 art pieces on the Lofotens and we managed to see 3 of them – not bad going!

The idea of the project is to reflect the fact that the landscape shows traces of struggles through time. Each piece is designed to take up its own place in the landscape and to create a new dimension in the landscape. Some of the ones we saw worked really well; others spoke less to me but perhaps they will appeal to others.

Hello Vesterålen Islands

Thursday 12 September 2019

(Most of this post written by FIONA Illingworth, whilst enjoying her well deserved holiday with me here in Norway)

1.20 pm

We are on the ferry from Fiskebøl to Melbu. So that’s me at least saying goodbye to the Lofotens but hello to the Vesterålen islands.

On the ferry to Melbu

4.20 pm
First impressions of the Vesterålen islands are that there is much to explore. It is clear that the tourist season ended on 1 September and by the time we got to the Tourist Information place at Sortland, at 3.55 pm, it was already closed. But there was a free information brochure in English, which looks like it contains some helpful information. The islands offer walking, cycling, whale watching (would love to do this!) and I think we could easily spend a week here. The whale watching is expensive – probably cost us nearly £250 but may be an experience we will never repeat.

We’ve decide to drive right up to the northern most tip of the islands at Andenes and then slowly make our way back down south. Given that I have to be at the airport in Tromsø on Friday afternoon, we really only have 5 days here.

As we drive along the road, we keep turning corners into amazing vistas in the distance, hazy mountain recesses with the hint of sun and the promise of rainbows.

7.30 pm
We have driven up to Andenes as planned but bypassed it and driven on the smaller road to the outer side. We have passed Bleik and Stave and are parked up just beyond the small village of Stave. This island looks beautiful and there is scope for some good photographs I think, but it also feels immediately obvious that it is not as touristy. There are many fewer places to park up and enjoy the views; I imagine that might get frustrating as we drive past potential photo opportunities, with no chance to stop and make the most of them. But we will see what tomorrow brings. We thought there might be a possible sunset tonight but it is very cloudy and I am not sure we will get anything. It is also very windy so taking photographs with the tripod may prove tricky.

The weather does not look all that promising for the next couple of days but better again on Monday and Tuesday. Fingers crossed we get some good spells! This string of islands is much less populated I think and the towns/villages are further apart. There are lots of flat plains with mountains rising on either side. This most northern island is Andøya according to the atlas, Andøy according to the tourist booklet. I have noticed that the atlas has many different versions of the names used in other books. I don’t know why. There are five municipalities in the Versterålen: from north to south you have Andøy, Øksnes, Sortland, Bø and finally Hansel. Most of the hotels and facilities appear to be in Andøy but Sortland is also a large town, with many attractions.

I am hoping that we might be able to do a walk or two whilst we are here. There are many hiking trails, of differently lengths and grade. It would be good to do some more exercise. I am eating far too much bread, chocolate and cake!

We haven’t taken any photographs today, which is unusual. There simply hasn’t been the opportunity. We saw a possibility for photographs just as we turned off the main road to Andenes. The sun was breaking through the clouds out at sea and you could see some lovely shadows on the mountain peaks to the left. But, at that point, the sun was still too high in the sky. Maybe we should have gone back, but we didn’t. Just goes to show you sometimes just have to seize the moment and hold on until it comes good.

There appears to be a significant military presence here on Andøya. We have seen a lot of masts perched on the ridges of mountains, with supporting infrastructure down at sea level. There is also the space centre just up the road, so maybe much of the antennae we have seen are connected to that? Of course, none of this is mentioned in the tourist brochure, except for the Spaceship Aurora, which is widely publicised.

Andøya Space Centre

The ferry trip from Fiskebøl to Melbu was super efficient. We were lucky in that the ferry was in dock when we arrived at Fiskebøl and we only had to wait about 5 minutes. I am sure that I read that the trip took 45 mins but that couldn’t be right as it seemed much shorter. I’ve just checked, it takes approx 30 mins.

More coffee, more cake!

Wednesday 11 September 2019

(Most of this post written by FIONA Illingworth, whilst enjoying her well deserved holiday with me here in Norway)

8.30 am

We are already on the road! It is both windy and fine this morning and we are driving along a rather poor single track road through the sizeable villages of Austre Nesland and Vestra Nesland. Before roads, these places must have seemed quite accessible by boat. The road becomes increasingly bumpy as you get to the end. I do wonder how many of the houses we see here are occupied all year round and how many are summer houses only. According to the guidebook, Nesland was quite an important port in Lofoten when boats were the main means of transport.

The plan today is to explore a few of the quieter roads on the Vestågøy island before catching the ferry from Fiskebøl to Melbu, which is at the tip of the Vesterålen islands.

10.50 am
Visiting the sculpture at Eggum, designed by the Swiss sculpture Markus Raetz. “The Head” is beautiful and somehow, at certain angles, turns upside down. Very imaginative. The idea was to display the transitory nature of the sensual experience and how things are not always what you expect. I like it. It is very small and seems somewhat lost in the incredible landscape that surrounds it. But maybe that is the way it should be: we are not masters of this place but merely one species amongst many. The place we hold in the grand scheme of things is small indeed. You only need to look at the landscape and see evidence of the impact of the stone and ice ages to realise that.

“The Head” by Markus Raetz

I am looking out to sea and observe nothing on the horizon. We are creeping closer to the north of Lofoten here but not quite. There are other islets jutting out on both the inner and outer side of Lofoten as we drive further north. We are in Vestågøy municipality now and will head further into Vågan and the Gimsøy Nature reserve.

At the carpark we looked at the circular stone building, up on the hillside. It was used by the Germans during the war to service a listening station. Some of it remains to this day, all broken up and rusted but enough of it intact to see what it is.

All that remains of the early radar device abandoned by the German army during WW2.

1.55 pm
Wow. Hov is a beautiful place where you can go horse riding. It truly does appear idyllic. From the cafe you look out onto a small field where there is a campsite (not good reviews due to the complete lack of decent washing and toilet facilities), but beyond that there is a fabulous white sand beach and sea for as far as the eye can see. Just stunning .

The cafe was in what appeared to be (in appearance and name) a converted barn. (Låvan i Hov). It was beautifully done out, with old tin milk urns used as lampshades, wooden tables and sheep skins on all the chairs. There were large windows looking out to the bay and easy chairs with low tables, where we sat and ate our cake. It definitely had a woman’s touch.

In the field adjacent were a whole bunch of sturdy looking ponies. Clearly horse riding is a thing in the summer. I loved it. I don’t think John was quite as enamoured. He didn’t have any cake as it didn’t really appeal and he only had a little bit of mine to try. I had to eat the lot myself; it was gorgeous! It felt so decadent to sit in such a fabulous setting, drinking coffee (sadly not very hot), eating cake and looking out onto an amazing scene. The sun was shining and we had nowhere we had to rush to. Just perfect. As far as I was concerned, it was worth the £10 we paid for one cake and two coffees.

Coffee in the converted barn
Great view

5.10 pm
We have driven slowly up through Vestågøy and Vågan municipalities towards Svolvær, where we are again camped for the night. On route we went via Eggum and Hovsund, both of which were worth the trip. We found another sculpture at Lyngvær, which was designed by the American artist Dan Graham. It was essentially a mirror in which you can see the landscape reflected. As you approached it, the perspective changed. Sometimes you saw yourself in the panels and sometimes not. It was so simple but very powerful. It doesn’t have a name but has been parochially named “the shower cabinet” and it was easy to see why. The panels were like the heavy glass doors of a walk-in shower. I really liked it and think it is the best one we have seen. Interesting that none of the artists who have contributed are Norwegian, but from all over the world.

“Untitled” by Dan Graham
Fiona contemplating the artwork by Dan Graham

John has gone for a shower with the single 10 NOK coin that we have. Hopefully we will get some change from reception when it opens at 6 pm. We have been on a lot of beaches in the past few days so there is sand everywhere. I have just given the van a really good brush out and wiped down the floor. It smells much fresher. We bought some bleach the other day and I’ve just soaked the two dish cloths, one of which was getting a bit smelly. Not easy to keep things clean when we are in such a confined space. I do think that we could use the space in the van much more effectively. I have had a glimpse into other people’s van as we have been travelling. Many of them have a much better storage system than us, with hooks and shelves all over the place, to be utilised. We have lots of potential to do the same so we need to think about that.

The best cinnamon buns in the world!

Tuesday 10 September 2019

(Most of this post written by FIONA Illingworth, whilst enjoying her well deserved holiday with me here in Norway)

We spent a peaceful night, along with a number of other miscreants in a range if mobile homes, camper vans and tents in a place where it says “no camping”. There are Germans, French, Spanish and Italians here. The large group of French young people played volleyball on the beach. We thought they might be rowdy later on but not a bit of it.

The weather looks good this morning but it is due to rain later. So our plan is to have breakfast and then set out for Myrland.

2.50 pm
Bitty day stopping at lots of places. Watching surfers at Unstad. Called into Unstad Arctic Surf for coffee and very expensive cinnamon bun in the cafe. Very nice place. Gorgeous buns! £21! Their tag line is “The world’s best cinnamon buns!” I think they’re right 😁

Definitely the world’s best cinnamon bun!

On the way back southward we called in to a beach we missed near Flakstad. Just stopped to take mist over the mountains and some cormorants. Hoping they would spread their wings but no joy.

The beach at Flakstad is right next door to a carpark and loo we’ve used before. The waves here are pretty good … hard to believe that surfers would find the cold bearable but they seem to think it is worth it.

6.25 pm
We have driven down a small road to Nesland, which feels like it is at the end of the world. We were hoping to camp her overnights get but the place we are parked up (and where we had had dinner) is not the best. We are on a slight slope and even with the wedges under the rear tyres we are still sloping downward. It is a shame but I do agree that it is a bit precarious and we don’t have any kind of view. So it looks like we will move once we have had our coffee and a John has downloaded his photos.

After coffee we moved to a fantastic spot just down the road and having got the van all set up we were treated to the most gorgeous evening sky lighting up the fjord. We were perched on top of a cliff and the view was just tremendous.

What a place to spend the night and what a glorious evening sky we had.

We have driven around much of the Lofotens in the past 4 days. Given the weather, we have probably not spent as much time in some places as we might have. We are wondering if it might make sense to explore somewhere different in my last week. I would be up for that but the big question is where? I have no idea about where we should be going. John thought we would take much longer to drive down to the bottom of the islands; he hasn’t got a plan B in his back pocket. So we are looking at an empty canvas. The danger is that we will waste this time and neither of us want that. So it’s not an easy choice!


Monday 9 September 2019

(Most of this post written by FIONA Illingworth, whilst enjoying her well deserved holiday with me here in Norway)

We’ve had a good overnight stay in a campsite called Brustranda near Valberg. It was quite windy last night so having gone to bed we got up again and put the roof down. We were both lying there waiting for the next slap of canvas.

11.30 am
Just stopped at a viewpoint on the 815 – stunning location and looking across the water to mountains. Beautiful. The sun is shining again today and all the red berries look fab, lots of autumn colours in the ferns and bracken. We just spent a very pleasant hour taking photographs and drone footage. Perfect!

2.30 pm

We’ve had some fun on a long stretch of beach on the road to Utakleiv, which was gorgeous. I did some yoga in front of the lapping sea whilst John filmed it with the drone. Took a while to find my balance and it wasn’t perfect by any stretch. But it felt so exhilarating. How amazing to sit in front of the waves just trying to be in the moment.

Cinnamon buns by the sea!

5.45 pm
It has been a glorious afternoon. We have driven to the end of the road, through a short tunnel to Utakleiv. They are charging 250NOK to camp on the other side so we have come back through the tunnel and are now parked in front of a wonderful white sandy beach called Hauklandstranda (stranda = beach). It is a popular spot with picnic tables and some loos. There are families here with young children. The notice board says No Camping but it looks like a few, like us, are going to chance it. Who’s going to check in a Monday night? It is not clear, to be honest , if the sign even applies out of season. It doesn’t say otherwise, so I am sssuming it does. We are hoping for a good sunset over the water. With the light shining on the coastal mountains. It is idyllic. We had a 6km walk round the peninsula to the other side. Half way along there is a small opening in the rock and someone has built a beautiful table and chairs there, together with a BBQ! Amazing!

BBQ under a rock and free for anyone to use – brilliant!

I suspect today may be the last of the sunny days but let’s hope the forecast changes!

It was magical to walk along, feel the sun on your face and hear the water crashing against the rocks. Invigorating and relaxing at the same time. We almost made it to the other side but headed back after approx 3km.

It’s raining……again!

Sunday 25 August 2019

The rain continues to pour down so I drove from Ersfjord a couple of kms and parked up in a quiet spot by a small pier where a couple of locals were fishing.

Ersfjord in the rain

I stayed there most of the day and did some writing and picture editing.

I returned to Ersfjord for the night.

Ersfjord bay
At least it has a good loo!!
….and a very impressive backdrop.

…..and I’m off!

Monday 22 July 2019

Day 1

I finished packing, said goodbye to my long suffering wife, Fiona, and filled up with fuel. I made the hour long journey to Hull and boarded the “Pride of Rotterdam” Parked on Deck 7 and made my way to my cabin on Deck 10. On time we departed at 2005hrs and that’s when I discovered my first big mistake in that I had forgotten to bring from the van the camera, toiletries bag, spare top and phone charger. Doh!

A ticket to adventure!

It was a beautiful warm evening and the perfect sunset as I left the Port of Hull and the UK for quite some time.

Such a lovely evening

I had a small adequate cabin and looked like it would give me a decent night’s sleep, ready in the morning for a long drive to Germany.

I went to the central area of the ship and had one pint in the bar. Looked in on the “entertainment” (not great) and decided to turn in at about 10.0pm.

I got settled in the quite comfortable lower bunk bed and noticed bad vibrations coming from the engine causing a constant tapping from the cabin wall by the upper bunk.

I couldn’t get to sleep at all and finally got up, put the upper bunk down and slept up top. Result! End of annoying tapping.