Tag Archives: camping

The Battle for #Nordkapp

When ever you watch a movie, there is always that point where the protagonists are in a house and common sense says that one would leave, but they never do, they stay and invariably the worst happens.

I wonder sometimes if Norway is our house, and we should have left at the first sign of trouble, but like those characters, we ignored all the warning signs and are now paying the price!

It started off so beautifully.  Wonderful weather, great roads, and awesome scenery.  It was on our third day, heading towards Bergen, that the first sign of trouble began.  Rain.

Not normal rain, short heavy showers, or light and long, but heavy and long, like monsoon in India.  At these degrees north it is only warm or hot when the sun is out, put some clouds in the equation, thick low, freezing clouds, and it is considerably cooler.

Day 3

So on that 3rd day, we rode the high mountain passes when the snow never fully melts at super cold temperatures and intermittent rain, and descended into monsoon lower altitudes that drove us to find proper shelter for the night.

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Day 4

I checked the forecast for Bergen, which was only another 100miles down the road, and it was heavy rain for the next 3 days, so I made decision to head back to the main road to head north towards our goal of Nordkapp.  The weather agreed with us, and we had a lovely ride in the sunshine on our 4th day, stopping at a campsite for the night after having an altercation with a truck on a hair pin bend sending my nerves in hyper drive and draining all energy from my soul to cope with finding a wild camp for the night.

Day 5

we only covered about 150 miles in large part because of traffic. July is holiday month for Norway, where 80% of the working population are on holiday (for Sweden it is August) and entire factories will close down.   The vast majority of these holiday makers have camper vans or caravans, and have to where to go quickly as they have seen it all before, Norway being their place to holiday every year.  A camper will travel at about 40-50 mph, slowing down over time, and then speeding up if there is a straight section in the road.  They have no consideration that a line of about 100 vehicles including lorries has built up behind them, and that the road is the only main road north, or rather very few showed consideration and gave opportunities for people to pass.  Throw in some really bad weather, and average speed will drop dramatically!  The weather was cold and cloudy and rained 60% of the time and again we stayed in a campsite that night.

Day 6

The following day, the heavens opened so we packed up early and set off.   We must have been on the road for about 5 hours with the rain pouring down the whole time, but only travelled about 100miles that day.  In part the weather, but also the traffic was now particularly slow and we were taking a stop about every hour to warm up with some hot chocolate.

So drenched again, we pulled into a place and got a room to dry out including all our camping kit.  In the process my jacket got oil paint on it as they decided mid-season was the best time to paint with no signs up.  They refused any compensation, and whilst ‘you can hardly’ see the paint on the jacket after they scrubbed it, it is none the less damaged and I insisted that they must take some responsibility for it.  But we don’t have time to hang around and argue about it all day so eventually we hit the road and got soaked again!

We were lucky this time to find a really cheap cabin by the side of a river, however, again the distance travelled was only about 150miles.

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Day 7

Today I had to make a decision – do we cross into Sweden or battle on with Norway.  I had been scanning wind, satellite and rain maps for the last 3 days to determine the direction of the weather systems, as I didn’t want to have the weather follow us and it was clear that the forecasters had been caught off guard as well, as the forecasts were rarely correct!

It was clear the weather would move west so we made the run for Sweden through cold wet mountain passes and once again we were utterly drenched!  However, this day was better than the rest because for the first time I had some conversations with people!   Norwegians are very closed and not prone to being interested in strangers, no matter how exotic they may be (a GB number plate is pretty exotic in these parts!), and even the foreigners vacationing are so wrapped up in their own world they are not interested in others either.  For me this was a strange as travelling people, in my experience, tend to be more open and enjoy the experience of meeting others on the road – yet even my attempts at engaging conversation seemed to fall flat on its face.

All this changed when we entered Sweden.  The Swedish loved talking to travellers!  and even the travellers seemed more open.   So after over a week of what felt like total isolation in our own experience, the world started to open up.  That night, soaked again, we stayed in a cabin.   Our costs of this trip had now officially spiralled out of control!

Day 8

The weather was splendid!  Sunny day, beautiful roads, and hardly a camper van in sight!  We covered about 450 miles and could have kept going, only I found a beautiful camping spot by a river at about 7pm despite its swarm of mosquitos and some sort of fly.  Luckily some finnish fishermen were camping near by and lent us some coils which had a magical effect!  None the less, I did not sleep well as the ‘brightness’ of the light at night started to bother me.

We passed the line for the Arctic Circle this day, and a big tick in the box of goals as Sofia wanted to go to the Arctic Circle.

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Day 9

Our final push to Nordkapp!  the weather was great, even at Nordkapp where the winds promised to be light, which was a relief after one altitude pass on the way had such a howling cross wind it was a battle to keep hold of the bike!

Turning on to the E69, the Nordkapp road, we were filled with excitement, we were finally there, and only a couple of hundred kilometers to go – the sun was shining and the winds were light!

And then disaster struck, the bike broke down!

Rescue finally arrived 4 hours later, and when I went to show the mechanic the problem (the engine cutting when there was no throttle applied) and the engine idled no problem at all.   So I drove to the garage with the truck following, thankfully in the direction of Nordkapp rather than away from it – but still, all hopes of making it to the furthest point North on the European continent were by now dashed.

The bike made it to the garage, however the vibration was really bad and the power was weak, this was not a simple fix and the mechanic advised that BMW were the best placed to deal with it – BMW whose closest dealership was in Tromso, some 600km.  So the discussions began with the insurance company, that have become more ludicrous as time has gone on which is for another post, however, just in this evening alone – they seemed more determined to pay for a Taxi to Nordkapp 35km away and bring us back the next day, than pay for our accommodation where we were even though is would be cheaper – thankfully the battery went flat on my phone before we came to any conclusion!

Once the phone had some charge, we waited for them to call – they didn’t – I called them – there was no answer.  Finally we gave up and by this time had booked into the local hostel (a shocking 80 Euros for one night is the cheapest accommodation in the area!)  only to have the garage owner offer us a car until things got sorted with the Insurance company!  What a star! So we dumped our stuff, got something to eat (we hadn’t eaten since 10am that morning) and with 30mins to spare, made it up to Nordkapp so see the midnight sun!

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After such battles, our elation was palpable – and Sofia did something she has never done before, grabbed me round the shoulders for the selfie photo with a big grin on her face!  It is the first time she has ever done that, normally she hates to be hugged and it is extremely rare that she may hug, and even then she hates being hugged in return.   So the picture of us grinning a is a particularly special one at is denotes not only a shared experience and achievement, but that she felt that experience as a shared one and expressed in an appropriate way 🙂

If you enjoy following our travels, please make a donation – We are travelling approximately 8,000 miles –  £5 will help us cover 50miles, £10 = 100miles  

We don’t know the costs for fixing the bike yet but any help towards that will be GREATLY appreciated!

Donate here:  http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/charity-web/charity/finalCharityHomepage.action?charityId=1005498

 

A huge ‘Thank You!’ to Rev’it who sponsored our riding gear!  It has done a tremedous job in the weather we have had to deal with!

Our Jackets and Jeans were the Horizon range

Our boots – Outdry Discovery

After 9 Months of Travelling

I really didn’t have a plan or even an idea of what the end of the trip would look like, but some how in the final two weeks it all started to fall into place with the key issue of bike transport resolved with Econotrans.  With the help of Antoinette who heads up the local branch of Autism SA, in the couple of days we were in East London, transport was arranged for the bike to Cape Town courtesy of Kargo, ‘the’ national logistics company.  Flights arranged and a week after arriving in East London SA, we were landing in West London UK.

As part of preparing for the journey we had moved out of our rented house and into a caravan, and on return, the caravan was wheeled out again until we found a permanent address.  I thought this would take a couple of months, but after a week and a half, I was done with out-door life and creature comforts were calling me very loudly.  Again, thinking that it would take time to find somewhere we would like, I was surprised that the second appartement we saw was perfect and empty and a week later we moved in.

It was strange having all our stuff out of storage, and so much of it as well – one of the wonderful side effects of travelling for a long period is that you let go of material attachments and keep only those things you actually need.  So, as I started up packing boxes, I started throwing stuff away.  I would say about three-quarters made it down to the dump.  Of course I have kept a few sentimental items, but even most of my books made it into the trash, and I love my books.

The bike arrived in port a few weeks after us, and Mick took it straight to his workshop to give it a work over and MOT so it could be taxed for the road.  The list of work was long, and mostly associated with the wheels which had become a main issue at the end of the trip.  The engine was fine, but the timing had been set incorrectly by the South African mechanic, and the gear box is having to be reworked as the efforts of the South African mechanic made the 3rd gear issue we experienced in Ethiopia return.   The side car alignment was also incorrect as well as the rear wheel alignment – the two may be connected, an expert would know, sadly the issues they created all appeared after the bike’s ‘overhaul’ in South Africa.   All in all, it seems sending the bike to South Africa for an overhaul was a massive mistake.  Whilst there may have been pre-existing wear on the bike that may have contributed, that they didn’t make note of it and warn me of any potential future problems after releasing bike leads me to assume that there were no potential issues other than those that they had created.    And with out a doubt, a missing collet and a broken universal joint, incorrect timing and gear box problems would have all been avoided if the bike had not been in their care.

Sofia has settled down really well since moving into the apartment and started school the week after.  Her emotional well being is remarkable, and even now after 4  weeks, she is still positive, optimistic and looking ahead.  I hear last week that she will often apply her travel experiences to what she is learning in the class room which is wonderful.   I had originally wanted her to go to a more specialist school and had stopped the appeal process because I couldn’t find the mental space to focus on it whilst on the road, so I was really worried about how she would cope being on a large campus with a lot of students.  I’m please so say though that the special unit to which she is attached is making sure that she is fully supported in finding her way around and ensuring that she uses the unit as base between lessons.

On a personal level, the change in Sofia has been something I get to appreciate every day.  She is no so easily upset by change, personal hygiene has improved, contributing to the house by doing a few chores is no long a world war 3 scenario.  Generally her fight with me is 20% of what it used to be and I would say, it have moved into a more normal range of what you would expect of an 11 year old girl.   I am so proud of her, and every second of the journey we have taken across Europe and Africa has been worth every ounce of increased confidence she feels in herself and every inspired effort she makes to challenge herself.

For my part, I have not settled so well.  Once the first several whirlwind weeks of our return died down, I felt myself left wanting and not entirely sure why.  The sense that I was living in the real world and now had to return to a surreal world was confusing, and being at the Overland Event saw me starting to plan another trip with the idea of being back on the road in 6 months.  I had heard from other travellers about this, but I had not expected it to be so overwhelming and such a fight to redefine my identity.   None the less, I started to write, notes mostly so that I could start to get to grips with the story we had just lived.  A couple of weeks ago I found a starting point and now the first draft is under way.    I am still struggling to make sense of on my new static identity, but it is not nearly as distracting as it has been, and the more immersed I get into the book writing process, I’m sure it will eventually dissipate.

Going forward – I hope to post photos with stories of our travels, some might make it into the book, but many sadly won’t and yet still need to be told.  I hope you enjoy them and thank you for continuing to follow us.  We are still raising money through Africa With Autism (see donation links in the right column of this website)  – I’ve not decided on what we will do with the money just yet, but will keep you posted of any progress on that front.

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One of the lovely places we stayed in Namibia

 

 

 

Phew! Glad that Month is Over!

11214293_1133029870045567_694130978274829796_nFinally I am sitting under the awning at the caravan site feeling some semblance of relaxation!  A beautiful sunny day with fluffy clouds belies the journey of the last month to get here.

First was the moving and down sizing to a caravan to prepare ourselves for the trip.  I’ve moved before, but nothing resembles what this was like.  On the one hand it was such a relief to get rid of so much stuff, but somehow the packing and storing what we were going to keep, and sorting out what would make it to the next stage in our journey was stressful.  Organising, deciding, coordinating and worst of all finding new homes for our pets.

11050783_1131211920227362_942331995977007826_nSomehow it all happened, and with far more stress than was necessary, most likely because I was always conscious of making it as smooth as possible for Sofia.  Sofia, who has actually coped with it all far better than I have.  Yes, she has had her meltdowns, and currently every morning, she is going off the handle about something as soon as I wake up, but it could have been far worse, so I am incredibly proud of her and very optimistic about her ability to do this adventure.

A wonderful validation has been speaking to another parent on the camp site yesterday evening who told me that Sofia had told them about our adventure and was clearly really looking forward to it!  Yay!

Of course the month would not slip away quietly, and like a storm that brews a builds, so did my crisis-o-metre, which hit the red when I received an email from the mechanic, who was making the bike and sidecar expedition ready, informing me he was not longer going to do the work.  The why’s and wherefores was completely irrelevant at the end of the day for me, all I saw was someone trusted sweep the carpet from under my feet and I went into total meltdown myself!  Whilst I didn’t feel it was the end of the project, suddenly it was in total jeopardy as we no longer had an expedition ready bike, and I have no intention of setting off on a bike that hasn’t been prepared

After a couple of days of feeling completely hopeless, I finally had a good nights sleep and now back in the saddle and ready to make this trip happen once again.

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The foot note to all this is that I am so glad I decided to experience the downsizing stress now rather than wait for the trip.  Even if Sofia seems to be adapting to it in her own way better than expected, clearly for me it is a different story and I would have hated to go through a crisis whilst on the road in another country, and this is true with the mechanic as well.  I would hate to have had that kind of response when we were in desperate need of help out in the bush!    I think we are cool now, but we are parting ways amicably I believe and the bike will find a new doctor to take care of it before we leave.

Above all though, I think I am amazing myself about how important this trip is to me for us to do it.  Yes I felt that it was important to do for Sofia from the beginning, but I think this month has been a make or break challenge for me personally, and I think, coming out the other end, we are both going to cope with what is ahead of us.

We still have a lot of money to raise in the next couple of months – so please donate!

UK tax payers – http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/charity-web/charity/finalCharityHomepage.action?charityId=1005498

All other countries – http://www.gofundme.com/africawithautism

Sponsors:

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