Saturday, December 17, 2011

Dogs and snow

Well, I lost 4 days that I wrote about my dogsleding (or lackthereof) trip so I have been a bit slack. I will try and finish it off.

We went from the station to the dog camp (or the kennel), met the dogs, and were given a brief tour of the kennels - via the crazy mob of 50 barking and howling dogs. The best part was that our room was very close to the kennels so we didn't get woken up in the morning.... oh wait.. that was our 8am wake up call...

That night after some milkless coffee.. ewww. Amazing how bad something tastes when you are not used to it... we got given a tour on snowmobiles through the darkened and eventually pitchblack forest to a sami style tent that overlooked a frozen lake (that we couldn't see until later) We were given moose and bread cooked over the fire - it was cold.. -10 I think. The wind made it feel about -10000. We jumped back on the snowmobiles after dinner and then hooked across a few frozen lakes which was extremely fun. Nothing like 50kmph across an ice lake. An interesting thing to note is that the snowmobiles have built in hand warmers! Very nice :)

The next day we didn't do alot - we met the guy that we going to take us hunting into the bush for 'birds and wildlife' and chatted but didn't do alot more. Sat around, drank coffee - went for a few walks with the dogs - did a snow dance to try and encourage the clouds.

Another 8am wakeup call from the nice dogs and we were to get ready for a trip out mobiling again and then also to go hunting with a hunting dog - emlah. We didn't see much - actually, we didn't see anything! So it was really a walk in the woods carrying a gun...  But it was nice to be out in the snow and seeing things that are totally different to that of what you would normally.

As it got dark we went on a longer mobiling tour - which was fun. It was a shame that there wasn't enough snow, as most of it we were going over heavy bumps and rough tracks. At times you had to hold on and lean (abseil style) so that you wouldn't tip it over. Tarks didn't and consequently rolled his. But I think that is made us get used to them much faster. We arrived back after a good day - about as good as a fishing day with will. (saw nothing, caught nothing)

The last day we headed to the ice hotel - which due to the late winter was closed - but we still got to see the icce bar and the making of all the ice sculptures that would be on show in a few weeks. Tarks got to drive the car in the snow - which was fun.
 Amazingly the kiruna airport had free wifi - Amsterdam and Stockholm didn't.... Ridiculous.

We left via 2 planes from kiruna to amsterdam to where I met andrew who dropped me off at Koen's place, the person that lives in Amsterdam.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

From train to northern dogs.
On the train I had a chance to organise some things that I hadn’t had a chance to do for a while, being write up some coaching things for next year, as well as get my blog uptodate. I managed to get some sleep on the train ~ 3-4 hours I predicted. Couldn’t see a lot because we it was dark. But when we changed trains about 7am and took the narvik train to Abisko, it was like traveling into another world – everything was white – with snow covered frozen lakes, snow all over the trees, it was exciting, except that there wasn’t a huge amount of it. It was a short 2 minute walk to our hostel, where we met the kind and interesting man that owned it. Making sure that we knew that we couldn’t have a shower with hot water for longer than about 1 minute, but the room was good.
That day we didn’t do a great deal, we did some shopping and then slept (well mark did) for a great part of the day. We left about 10pm to go down and see the northern lights. Boy was it cold, I don’t know if it was the fact that we sat on a rock watching, or that the temperature was -10 but either way, after a few hours, I needed to get back inside. It was excellent fun – such a strange phenomenon, seeing this green coloured mist drift across the sky. We also found out that photos make it look oh so much better than what it actually is – I wonder if anyone ever writes or says that when they see it.  Luckily mark had his camera, cause the settings on that were so much easier to modify then with my camera.
The next day after waiting for the sun to come up I got my job offer from NarreWarren high school, so I am off to that school next year. Teaching just VCE classes, so goodbye Trafalgar. Thanks, but get stuffed – seems to be the jist going around atm.
Anyway, we walked back to our hostel, freezing but happy.
The next day was trecking day in the snow. Choose a path… We jumped on some walking path and headed in a loop wearing boots we borrowed. It took us past a frozen waterfall – blew my mind, I climbed on it – ice is pretty slippery!! We also gingerly (although quite safely it turned out) walked on a frozen lake. (we later rode snow mobiles over the lake…..)
We went back via the supermarket, quick stop for dinner purchasing, and then did nothing as we had ran out of light already…. Stupid sun… We cooked reindeer and pasta – interesting combination, (it wasn’t that bad) and then bed.
The next day was leave day, we didn’t have enough money to pay for our hostel and the train ticket, so we went in search of an ATM.. alas, we didn’t find one. We luckily found the online booking for the train, and had enough Swedish money to pay for the hostel. We then jumped on the train back from Abisko to Kiruna. We were standing outside the front of the station thinking how we were going to find out who we were going to meet the person that owned the sled dog company and then… a van rolls up and out came mats – the Swedish guy who came straight over to us and picked us up. Nice… So off the dogsled place we went – now to hope for snow, which is not looking good so far…
Train Snowplough

Monday, November 28, 2011

Skiing - So long boxmeer and hello sweden

Ski trip – Austria. - Sorry for the massive slab of text

I have delayed writing this for a couple of reasons.
We hadn’t been doing a lot in old boxmeer – apart from watching movies and the odd postal package home. But my blog is upto the point where we are at the snow.
We drove the car upto the mountain base, grabbed the bus for the 500m walk upto the gondola and then past the two lift stations to the place where we hire our gear. (mark didn’t need to hire his as he carried his snowboard from Canada to Holland – Austria) The first thing we noticed (apart from that it was horribly busy and that there wasn’t a lot of snow was that the people in the (Stubai Glacier Intersport hire gear sport shop cheap snowboard ski – added keywords for google searches) shop were terribly terribly rude. Grabbing receipts, shouting orders, general bossiness was just purely uncalled for. Andrew didn’t know how his snowboard bindings were to be set up, and the guy rolled his eyes and then snatched the board, and set it up without any questions. Basically – customer service = -5.
We got our gear (I added a helmet) and took off on a few basic downhill runs, the runs that were going slightly downhill to start. I got a board given to me that was far smaller than mine at home, which made it quite difficult to start with (especially because the snow was essentially ice) and it hurts a lot when you fall over.  I changed it much to the annoyance of the people working at Intersport. The annoying that was that Andrew wasn’t as good as we were, which wasn’t his fault, but it doesn’t make it any less annoying when you have to keep waiting for him. In his defense, he improved a lot towards the end and was keeping up if we stopped to try jumps and stuff.
We got home after going to the supermarket which wasn’t horribly overpriced to our surprise, but what was surprising was that there was no mince. So spaghetti bolognaise turned into spaghetti, with chopped up sausages and tomato mix. It was.. ok.
The accommodation that we had was good, we stayed in a self contained unit which had cooking facilities that were quite good at first glance. Anyway, the next day was not so good. Dealing with a few work issues and then not really wanting to go up and fall over on ice put a dampener on most of my morning. Also having to deal with rude Austrian/german people. It was ridiculous, opening doors for people and not getting at least an acknowledgment from them was ok at first, but after the 10th time my patience was getting quite strained. Lets say – very strained. Add to that the fact that the line at the resort to get onto the lifts was huge 5 minute wait at the bottom…
In the afternoon though the slope started to soften up, people started leaving and Andrew went down so mark and I could fly down the mountain as fast as we could and try out jumps by ourselves. Nothing like speed and adrenaline to get you back in a good mood.  Cooked tea and early bedtime.
The next day Andrew didn’t want to get out of bed – I think it was a double factor of staying up to late (we were in bed early, but he stays/stayed up late watching movies/playing games, so when he wakes up in the morning, he is crazy tired. He did have a bad fall late in the day the day before though.
So Mark and I took off to the slopes by ourselves, we were treated to an almost empty mountain. That isn’t exactly true, but it was far less crowded than the weekend. Even tried out our crappy german to some of the people on the ski lift with us, who – to my amazement, talked to us for a
while. Nice…
The day was filled with jumps, fast downhills, crashes, self-catered lunches and more boarding than in the last two days put together. Good day. On the way down I got yelled at by a stupid german for not going down the hill fast enough at the end of the day, which was so annoying. Stupid Germans, even when I told him in German that I didn’t understand he kept yelling to our amusement.
The last day for boarding was much like the first two, except we had got Andrew to go down the hill faster, and there was still not that many people on the hill (well 3000m hill ;)  We found a few trails that had nice jumps on them, and although we are not very good at all, it feels like we are good!
That fourth day we thought that we had to go home, so we had already packed and had the car ready to go, so we were planning on leaving about 2pm to make it home before midnight. We then realised about 1pm that we had another night at the accommodation.  All good, we skied till late, and then headed back after some not so great pizza’s we headed off to sleep again. The next morning we awoke to someone (the person that greeted us had gone out) who was asking us to pay 72 euro extra! We knew that we had to pay 30 euro for a cleaning fee, but the person (the owner we found out later) wanted us to pay tax (even though on our invoice it clearly states “TAX INCLUDED”) as well as an extra 10 euro for cleaning as well as a wifi fee (not specified when we asked for it, or written anywhere.) So mark went downstairs to talk to someone about it, and show them the invoice, this other women then comes up yelling about how we owe her money and was really embarrassing herself and her company. It was ridiculous. Telling us that our room was a disgrace (which just had clothes on the floor) and needed the extra money for cleaning. To put it frankly, the women was rude, obnoxious, and just personified the majority of Austrians that we had met that week. The name of the place was “BELLIS HUIS” (Bellies huis review, reviews, stubai accommodation). Don’t go there. Teach them a lesson for being crazily rude to customers.
I wanted to drive home, as it would be my last drive of the car on our holiday, and so I set off driving from Austria across Germany to boxmeer. We left about 9.30 and arrived about 7.30.
Back in boxmeer.
So arriving in boxmeer for the last time. The place that was my home for about 4 months, and then a place to come back home after we traveled for months on end. Our friends were there, and it was a place to relax and home in Europe. We spent the first day not doing a lot – movie watching and I organised what I was going to send home, which was quite easy actually. Packing on the other hand was annoying.

The next day was cooking dinner for Wouter day – a thankyou for having us as well as a repayment for the many dinners that he cooked for us. I really enjoyed cooking there, and made chicken casserole and chocolate ripple cake for dessert. I spent the morning doing some minor shopping, post office walking around, and communicated in my best Dutch to get by (quite easily really – although lets not get carried away here – my dutch is terrible). Furthermore – so is my language of all European countries! The night went well, spending time talking to Wouter was nice. He has helped us so much with everything, posting things, with food, with setting up our accommodation,  helping me with an interview at a school, lent us his car, translated documents, helped us with city hall and appointments, bought phone credit for me when I was away, picked us up from the airport and bought us a welcome meal, lent us his bike, let us store things in his apartment, let us bring our countless laundry to his house smelling and let us use his washing machine. I could go on, but he has helped us so much and has been such a good and kind friend to us and me more personally, having long and amusing chats till late in the night. The most disappointing thing is that I didn’t get to say goodbye properly.  **, If you do happen to be still following this Wouter, thank you again, and I hope that you have enjoyed my stay as much as I have. You have helped me and allowed me to see Europe, and hopefully the guys took a little bit away from my visit. Without your help, I wouldn’t have been able to see and do what I have.
The night after having dinner at wouters, we rode our bikes to the hockey club to see them at training and to see them before I left. The night was fun, we danced, went out – and caught up with most people before I left. It was not the easiest thing to do – not knowing if you will ever see people who you have had such a good time with and played with, as well as making some very good friends. I wanted to stay, but I knew that sooner or later I had to go. We got home at about 5am, and leaving to Sweden at 16.00 that day.
I woke up to go and see Wouter a little late (about 10) but I think he must have already left, which was so disappointing, it made it easier in a way – but I still wanted to say goodbye.
Last minute packing of my bags (ready for Andrew to drop off at the airport) and then a goodbye to bongo who has helped us out so much – we basically took over his house for a long time(about 3 weeks in total) – not to mention borrowing his GPS after the debacle from NAVMAN. (Don’t buy a navman for overseas) That was about 6 months that we borrowed it for.  Our trip with him to Norway is one I will remember for a long time.

The second last part of my trip then started with Andrew dropping mark and I at the airport and we flew to Stockholm (or nykoping for ryan air) which was quite a peaceful and smooth flight. We only waited about 10 minutes at the airport before we saw tuscani – who we were crashing with for the night. It was really nice again seeing someone that was so friendly and had many stories and feelings that correlated with ours.  Silvia then drove us the 30 minutes back to her house and then we had dinner which consisted of Chicken wings, rice, salad and curry paste – nice and tasty. We also saw old johnny – who still hasn’t really opened up, although he has upped his sentence count to 3 or 4 – much higher than his .09 on my last visit. He almost talked more than funky! (kidding haha). We were so tired, a) from the night before, b) you always seem to be more tired after flying I think. We talked and chatted until 11ish but didn’t end up going to sleep until well past 12 – closer to 1am. I barely had time to lie down before I was asleep. The next day Tuscani and Silvia were going to church to sing in the choir, so we went along – it did mean an early get up though. So at 8.30ish we got up and had breakfast – nicely prepared by someone (Silva or Tus – I didn’t ask) but I was grateful (yogurt and muesli apparently does work J )  We then headed off to the next town over (I think) and sat in a house opposite for a little bit while they were practicing – came for coffee and then went back in for mass. I went in a little later than mark but it was still interesting, being able not to understand anything at all didn’t really matter. The choir was actually quite good. We then left after mass finished, had some nice coffee and Swedish cake – they were all celebrating advent. (I don’t know if I used it correctly then) We then drove back to their house for lunch. It was an amazing lunch – we had salmon.. and wow. It was amazing.  We felt so welcome in her house, and although we left only after 1 night, I can appreciate why Tuscani feels sad about leaving. I don’t know what her other family was like, but if they were similar then she has been very lucky.

We then got driven to the train station to catch a train to catch a train (amusingly enough). A nice warm and happy/sad goodbye was had and then on we went to Stockholm. We arrived after about an hour from nykoping (booked online) and then tried to find a a) a toilet b) a supermarket. Thankfully the people in Stockholm were very nice, and directed us to a supermarket – everyone we asked was helpful. (5 people lol) but food was bought for our 20 hour train ride, and we were so stuffed from carrying our bags around we piled them into the trolley and then went about buying enough that would have only fit into a basket – but our trolley was overflowing! The looks we got were amusing, but we didn’t care! I would like to comment about the bread in Europe. It sucks. Especially in Sweden, it is hard and can be extremely dry at times. (most times it is a little dry). So we bought a couple of sweet pull aparts instead, which at least have some moisture built/baked into them. We got back to the train, and I started writing this. – Annoyingly there is no internet on this train, so I won’t get to update this for a while – but we go with 3 things that are hopeful.

1)      The dogsledding is great and there is enough snow to hold a sled and a snowmobile.
2)      The food and accommodation that we have is nice and comfortable.
3)      We see the northern lights.
It is by far the most expensive part of the trip, but I don’t think that I will be back in Sweden any time in the next.. well at least 2 years at least, but more likely a lot longer than that.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

From England to Austria

So I have had a little bit of a break from writing my blog, apologies to those who have visited and read the same thing over and over.

We dropped off the boat and headed to the war memorial (the great escape from Dunkirk) and then onto to an abandoned town called Doel. (a tip from the duckfarmer (Peter) in Sweden)
It was very interesting, to see what happens to a town when a nuclear power station gets built in/right near the town that you live in. It was deserted, a whole town - complete with infrastructure that would come with a town. There was pedestrian crossings, street lights, all the road markings, phone boxes etc - all smashed or graffitied in some way. The houses were all boarded up, but we walked into a few of them that were already broken into. It actually looked like the house that we had fixed up a little. We then moved on to go back to boxmeer.

Boxmeer - staying at bongo's. He cooked us a dish called boerenkool, sausage and Kale (a vegetable that is apparently one of the healthiest going around). The next few days were recovery days, I went for the odd run (maybe 2-3) and we watched the boxmeer guys lose their game again. Bongo broke his foot - which resulted in him being bedridden for the next week and a half. We watched movies, I wrote a job application, and basically did nothing - it was really nice. We left on the friday to go to austria - to go snowboarding! With high expectations we headed off (8 hours drive - but really not that long considering the drives that we have done so far) we arrived at our accommodation at about 5pm, made a uick stop at the supermarket and then went to bed. I can't be bothered writing about the actual skiing conditions because it will take too long now. But it was good enough.

Will update later.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Hiking up Mount Snowdon

Today 11/11/11 was an early getup and leave via a traditional english breakfast - Seemed very similar to the traditional scottish breakfast really... But it was still good, a small scare because I left my camera on the stairs where I had to move to get the wifi - luckily a good Samaritan handed my camera to the owners of the B+B and I got it back in the morning. So a stroke of good fortune in the morning. We then were to go to Mount Snowdon. We hadn't looked at where we were going, so we took off in the general direction - found it after I found a old window (on my computer) open of where the mountain pass was.

We arrived after about 40 minutes of driving, stopped in the car park of Pen-y- Pass . There are about 4 or 5 paths up to the summit, we chose the shortest and fastest route. The weather whilst not raining, it was cloudy, windy and cold. Andrew didn't come - and wanted to stay in the car for 5 hours.... Fine. Doesn't like hiking. Mark and I set off the mildly steep path the went past two lakes before it started to incline, and our nice gravel path turned into a steeped rocky path. Eventually we climbed far enough for the path to turn into more of a steep climb rather than a walk. The track wasn't the easiest to follow but wasn't that bad. The mist that we were climbing towards got a little thicker, and the wind was strong as we got higher. It was mountain conditions - but the mountain was only 1100m high! We reached the summit, trekking the last 15 minutes through heavy fog and fierce winds. It was fulfilling reaching the top after about a 1.50 minute hike. Half of that time was steep uphill. On the downside it was terrible weather with mist and fog - as you will see from the pictures! We then got down in about 1.30 minutes. The drive from the mountain to Tunbridge wells was ok - I started reading 'Tomorrow when the war began' (book 1) and the drive went fast. We arrived to see Kwko our host from Tunbridge Wells we stayed with last time. As what happened last time, we had a huge meal prepared for us, and drinks to be. We were pretty tired, so we chatted for a bit and then went to bed.

In summary - my leg is obviously better now, there is no way it would have got through yesterday if it wasn't, also the hike was really nice to go on. One of the longer hikes we have done - nice to get out and bash out some energy on a good walk.

(photos will come - but not on the boat cause internet is waaaay to slow)


Thursday, November 10, 2011

2 nothing days - but not bad ones!

Today (2 days ago) was our drive day from Broadford, Ilse of sky to York. It was 8 hours of driving with a stop off at the Ben Nevis distillery for andrew to buy his dad a gift. We didn't do anything really.

We arrived to our B+B place with no breakfast (it was a cheap deal we got) and had a great dinner at a carvery, new to them myself, you could order a meat that was carved for you, then all you can eat seasoned vegies! They were delicious! mmm My plate was pretty full!! Bam.

The next morning I got up early and went for a jog - my leg feeling a fair bit better, so off I went albeit a little slower and carefuler (is that a word) then normal. About 7kms. We then went into the city of York,parking at the train museum carpark, having a walk around the city, saw the walls (York still has medieval walls surrounding the city (or the existing city) which I enjoyed seeing. So we took a short walk on top of the walls, bought some food at the market there -york had a nice feel to it, quiet, clean and peaceful. I don't know if that was just my perception, or we got york on a good day but I found it to be pleasant the time we were there. We then went to the train museum, which was interesting - but not as good as I thought it would be. I wanted there to be more things about modern trains, and not things that I already knew. The flying scotsman exhibit was excellent though. - tour in the 80's to australia. - been there!

Andrew wanted to go to the Manchester united ground and see the stadium tour, mark and I didn't so we went to maccas for free internet and to book our accommodation for the evening. We stayed there while andrew had his tour, then we drove to Wales - IIandudno or something like that. Tomorrow we are going to Snowdonia.

Short blog - but we didn't really do anything.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Isle of Sky

We left via our massive breakfast and then went towards the Isle of sky - We changed our plans again a little bit, because upon further research I found that the scenery was much different and better compared with Ben Nevis. So we have another revised plan. Anyway, we went down to the golf course that was near our hotel, but there was nobody there - which was a disappointment as we were looking forward to it. Oh well, we then ventured onto our hostel (about 2 hours away) in Broadford, Scotland. We checked in, and then ventured on the scenic road from Broadford to Elgol a place down on the coast. The drive was very scenic. I would say much more scenic then the north of the Isle. On the way we saw this old man on the side of the road that wanted a ride. We picked him up and got treated to a very talkative Scottish old man that asked us a bunch of questions and answered our also very amusingly. His accent was crazy! He almost demanded that he take this photo for us. I have a video of him also - that is amsuing. We were running low on fuel... so we had to turn around and come back, but the views were pretty cool. My camera worked overtime.

That night we went to the rather large supermarket, Tarks cooked us dinner which was good, and then bed - rather early.

Today - caught up already!

 We had horrid night sleep - the bed mattresses were springy but when you can feel the springs it is not such a good idea, also the single be is slightly too small for us, so curled up is not a great sleeping position.  We have had some bad sleeping nights, but you always feel a bit ripped when you are paying for it. But the place itself is not so bad. Anyway, feeling a little bit tired - the others' more than me I feel - been used to getting little sleep the last few months - 1 night isn't going to changed anything, we headed off to past Portree and walked up to see the Old Man of Storr.
Old man of storr
View from Quiraing
Kilt Rock
The hike took about 1 hour each way plus about 15-20 minutes stuffing around at the top. You could easily spend another hour or two by walking amongst the hills, but as the daylight disappears early, we had to keep moving. I might add that the weather has been sublime. Clear skies - you would never know from the pictures that we are in the middle of november! We then went on to see Kilt Rock, a waterfall that flows into the see - again, views were amazing.
We then went up to see Quiraing - which has a bunch of land slipped cliffs and pinnacles all covered in green grass - well almost. Andrew at this point decided that he didn't want to get out of the car, got grumpy and slept in the car. It was a pity in a way, cause it was almost my favourite time in the last 4 days. But oh well - I don't car (I mean care) haha. We walked along the escarpment and we were treated to a great views the whole time - it was quite busy, at least for november. We then drove along the coast - the boys were quite tired so our driving was sort of useless as mark was falling asleep and andrew didn't care.  Saying that, it all turned out well, because the mountains had died down so to speak, and the harbors around the smalls towns were not as impressive as the ones further south. So we turned for home after having a kick of the footy - which revitalised them again.. Bought some food at the supermmarkter again - wrote my blog, dinner and then ate. It is so strange to adapt your body - cause it goes dark at 4pm... So you are thinking - yes it is time for dinner. But... no it isn't.. it's only 5.10... then 5.25...
Anyway - tomorrow we are going to York. 8 hours drive