Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Long and relaxing holiday

I am now half way through my second day back at work after a fantastic trip to Scandinavia.

Having treied to leave Sheffield twice to go on holiday, we eventually succeeded on the third attempt - 1st time we forgot coats, second time, we were 20 mins up the road, filling up the car and I had forgotten my wallet, but C had hers, we went back and got mine!

We left the UK on the DFDS ferry from Newcastle to Gothenburg on Thurs 21st July and met up with several SAGGA friends onboard. We took our bikes with us standing upright on the roof of the car. We were expecting to have to take them off and wheel them on to the ferry since an overheight vehicle added considerably to the price, compared with paying for the 2 bikes separately. We were the penultimate car to board the ferry, but they decided that there was no room for us in the over-height section, so the bikes had to come off - much to the ammusement to all the onlookers who were already on deck and watching the car-boarding process!! Our cabin was near the engine, so was quite noisy and full of vibrations, so we didn't sleep very well on that crossing. :-(

On our arrival in
Gothenburg (Göteborg - prononced like yoo-ti-bor in Swedish) we didn't go straight to the campsite as most of our friends on that boat did, but we spent a few days with friends on the southern archipelago island of Donsö.

From here we went on to join the rest of the SAGGA members that had made the trip to Kragenäs, near Strömstad, Sweden. The service project me & C were working on (Along with Jo & Ian and others) was building the 'Swinging Steps' for the Obstacle course (Photos will appear on my Flickr when I get them off my camera). Me, C & Lizzie spen a night on an island with 5 of the SAGGA kids in a shelter built around the canoes we got there in - this was very exciting and I think that quite a lot of the other adults were quite jealous of us!

The day we were due to leave camp, it was raining quite hard, so we wimped out of packing up the (wet) tent and stayed for an extra day. When we did eventually leave the camp we took the Ferry from Stromstad (just a bit up the Swedish coast) to Sandefjord (Norway) for the grand total cost of around £20 for two people, car, two bikes and 2.5hr crossing. This journey saved at least that amount of time and money from the equivalent road journey and although we only paid for a normal height car, we didn't have to take the bikes off the roof!

On our arrival in Norway, it took a while to find a campsite, on of the first ones we saw looked a bit "dodgy" according to C, the second one we found, but could find a reception or office, neither could we get the car close, then the third one had a camping hut available, so we took that! This was near Larvick on the coast between Oslo and Kristiansand.

From here we travelled up into the mountains to Rjukan. This is a strange town as it's over 6km long, but is never more than 500m (that's metres, not miles!) wide due to the steep mountain side either side of te valley bottom. It's not the best town suited for tourists, but the Tourist office staff are very helpful. We stayed in the former Youth Hostel, now converted into a guest house. It wasn't until breakfast that we realised that anyone else stayed that night! The following day, we took the bikes up in the cable car to the top of the moutnain (thankfully - a bit of a plateau!) which was quite nice, and some great views of Noway's highest Mountain.

From Rjukan, we took a gentle drive* along a not-particularly-direct-but-very-pretty road to the Setesdal Valley. This was a much nicer place, and somewhere reasonably geared up for the tourist and families. The first night in this area was in Hovden at a campsite, then a further gentle drive down Route 9 to near Evje for the last two nights of our holiday.

On the last Saturday, we were booked into the Troll-Activ Mountain Activity centre for White Water Rafting in the morning, and a Beaver & Elk safari in the evening. The rafting was great fun, and lasted around three hours, including instructions at the beginning and fun-and-games at the end. Bearing in mind that te river was flowing down from the mountains, the water was a balmy (not barmy!) 20-ish deg C. The instructor did say that when the season starts in April, there is normally still snow on the ground and that water temperature is barmy! The Beaver & Elk safari was also quite good - the first part (beavers) took place on the river in two-person canoes and the elks were spied from a minibus. These two activities cost us around £50 each, which was exceedingly good value, considering the expensive prices of everything else in Norway!

The journey back to the UK started from Evje, but that's only about an hour's drive from Kristiansand, where we got the ferry back to Newcastle with Roger, Gill and Hugh and Paul & Hilary. We, again, had to take the bikes off the roof, but we're well practised at this now and these 5 peoeple were watching and timing us (45s from car doows opening to bikes on the ground aparently!) and gave us a big cheer and round of applause when we got them down!! The overnight crossing back to Newcastle was fairly flat, but our cabin was right in the bow of the boat, very close to the water-line, so we could hear the water sploshing on the side. At least there wasn't any annoying vibrations though!

We eventually got back to Sheffield around 6:00pm on Monday and C fetched Daisy from my Mum's near Nottingham yesterday. All(!!??) we've got to do is finish unpacking, attack the washing pile and tidy the house!

I don't think I've ever taken such a long holiday (13 working days off) and it really feels like I've had a break.

* - it had to be a gentle drive as the national speed limit in Norway is 80km/hr=50mph and is rigidly enforced


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