Monthly Archives: August 2011

Mind the Moose

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From the beautiful and unanticipated allure of Amsterdam we made our way towards Denmark. I think both Will and I were slowly starting to realise at this point, that the end of our amazing journey was nearing. We drove on into Germany. We’d been told by some German friends we’d made in Amsterdam that Hamburg was a must see on the way to Denmark. But as we neared this great port city we decided it would be better to stay in a smaller town where it was more likely to be cheaper and much less industrial so we continued on, leaving Hamburg for another time and another adventure. We did, however, stop about 100km on in a little town called Elmshorn. The police there turned out to be so friendly and directed us straight to the most beautiful and interesting little camp site we’d seen. It was a little further on in one of the neighbouring villages and had the greenest of grass. Right next to the site was a large field with a big embankment. On the other side was a view of the main channel between Hamburg and the ocean. There were sheep scattered all over this field and embankment, which had a little bench where we could sit and watch Germany’s main water traffic slowly go by. It was so peaceful here. The country side was just as beautiful. We were surrounded by farm houses and farm lands that I thought belonged in the best housing magazines. It was really such a beautiful and peaceful area. Unfortunately it started raining shortly after we unpacked the tent so we couldn’t really enjoy this magical place properly. We had an early night that night seeing as we’d driven so far that day.

The next day we despondently left that haven and headed for Denmark. We decided we would try to get as far as the first big bridge seeing as the weather still wasn’t looking too good. We drove through the beautiful Danish country side. Here we saw the most wind farms. I thought it was quite a beautiful sight to see these silent moving spikes forever turning all along the country side. It was very green with lots of horses, cows and sheep all along the roads we chose. We tried to stick to the back roads as the highways were usually tolled and much too busy. We drove as far as Nyborg which is on the coast just before the first large bridge we’d have to cross. This was also a very nice little coastal town. The campsite we stayed at was right on the beach and had really nice facilities. There was even a stove and mini oven we could use. The beach was very pretty too and had the most amazing rocks strewn all along it. When hit against each other it sounded like glass but and broke quite easily but inside it looked like a smooth marble, the outside being pure white. Will thought it might be flint but it never made a spark, just broke making some stunning patterns in its grain. By this time the sunrise and sunsets had become so stunningly beautiful. You just have to wait a bit long before you can admire its beauty. We’d sometime even go to bed and then wake up to a stunning sunset. But I remember this night being a particularly pretty one. At about 11 at night we went down to the empty beach and watched how the orange sun had infected the entire sky and sea which was as flat as glass with its burning colour. The next day, however, we were awoken by a very nasty storm. Our clothes still weren’t dry from our previous encounter with rain so this didn’t help one bit. We then decided to stay another night in Nyborg as the weather was apparently going to clear up that afternoon and be much better the following day. We needed our jackets and pants to dry at least. It’s no fun riding in cold wind with a wet jacket. The rain continues most of the morning but stopped in the afternoon as predicted. Will and I were making some dinner in the little kitchen when I noticed it had started drizzling again. Seeing as we’d packed out wet things out again to dry in the afternoon sun, Will quickly ran to go pack them away again. That is when the heavens completely opened up. I have never seen such hard rain in my life. And all within the same minute Will ran out. I couldn’t control my laughter. Poor Will had to then run around in this torrential downpour trying to get our clothes and things covered and out of the rain. He’s only been there a few minutes but when he returned to the little kitchen he was more than soaked. It looked like he had just jumped into a pool. I felt so sorry for him but at the same time thought it was completely hilarious how he had been totally soaked in a matter of 5 minutes. I made him some soup to make up for it. He was very brave and took one for the team that day.

The following sunny day we headed across the giant bridge toward Sweden. It was quite scary to cross this incredibly long bridge on a motorbike because the wind was very strong and at times was pushing us so hard that we were driving at an angle. After driving past Copenhagen we crossed our last incredibly long bridge. Though this one was longer than the first it was slightly less windy so we could enjoy the scenery a bit more. There were large wind farms built in the middle of the ocean. Quite a cleaver idea I thought. Sail boats scattered all across the intensely blue waters and then finally, Sweden. After paying quite a sum to cross the bridge we drove on into the beautiful country side. I had been unaware that Sweden was covered by so much forest. I was expecting open fields with farm houses and cows everywhere which was the trend throughout the rest of Scandinavia. But here there were trees everywhere. It was very beautiful but after the second or third hour of just looking into a wall of trees I was hoping for something different. The trees are mostly fenced away by a giant, ever stretching moose fence. My mission was to spot a moose and I was very determined. But, alas, I saw none. That day I think we drove the furthest we had gone on the bike in one day, about 600km. To say the least my ass was in some serious pain. We eventually reached our first stop, a little town called Motala which was situated on the shores of one of Sweden’s big lakes. There we met another of Will’s friends. We only stayed one night as we were both quite excited to get to Stockholm where we would stay for about a week and meet some good friends of Will’s. Motala was quite a beautiful little town. There was a giant fountain that sprayed a huge tower of water into the air in the small harbour. We spent a pleasant evening with Will’s very vegan friend. We had to be very careful what we brought into the house and had some interesting conversations with her about her routines and principals.

Next we were off to Stunning Stockholm to see Agnes and Sasha.

From French to Fenomenaal

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I can’t believe I’m typing this sitting in our study at home in little George. It’s been raining since I’ve been back and our house feels cold and empty. I came home to a new alarm system and a very excited little dog. My parents are still enjoying the Italian summer and will only be back late August, so I have to house to myself till then. It did feel a bit strange to come home after such an amazing 4 months, ready to share all my stories and have (almost) no one to share them with.  But I’ve had plenty of time to rest and catch up on the lazy life I’ve missed out on these past months. It’s been nearly a week since I returned but it already feels like a month. On Tuesday I go to Cape Town for my US visa interview. I’m super nervous but trying to stay confident.

But let me fill you in on the couple of countries we’ve travelled through since I last blogged. I think the last time I wrote was when we were in Montpellier. So quick catch up. We had to stay the first night in a hostel which took us forever to find. But after eventually settling in we went for a walk through the streets of this beautiful city. It was really great to have my own personal tour guide to show me all the little gems of Montpelier. Though it did take Will a moment or ten to find his bearings. We went to a magnificent park where we watched swallows diving at the water to take a drink and met a very friendly dog. The next day we met up with another of Will’s old friends and went down to the beach. I love the beach and had been itching to go relax on one since we arrived in Europe. That night I cooked us some chicken dish that I made up on the spot. I think I fooled everyone into thinking I’d made it many times before. The next day we decided to rent some bike and ride them to the beach again. Will suggested we get a tandem but I was a bit sceptical. After all, me and two wheels were not such good friends after India’s little incident. It’s all fine if it’s a normal bike but a tandem sounded scary. I folded and it ended up being so much fun!! After we got the hang of it we were cruising! Will still thinks I never pedaled.

After returning from the beach and resting our burnt bodies we got ready for the evening’s festivities. We were going to the annual Montpelier wine festival. There were live bands, amazing food (of which we had none for some reason) and great wine. The Slovenian wine festival was a bit more of a drunken mess but this one was great too. We met some great people and had a blast! The next day we did the familiar pack up routine and started on the long road to Chamonix at Mont Blanc. It was quite a drive but the scenes on the way were amazing, especially when we entered the Alps. I had never seen such amazing views. And when we finally rounded a corner and could see Mont Blanc peeking out above all the other super high mountains I think we both had to catch our breath. This is one downside of riding on a bike. You can’t really express yourself so well through a helmet going 100km an hour. Chamonix is a magical little village. Nestled between giant mountains and covered in lights. There was a very nice atmosphere in the town when we arrived. Bands were playing and people in all the streets. We met up with Will’s friend and had a nice cold beer to celebrate. That night we went to a bar, met more great people and sang karaoke to pay tribute to our Korean days. I our first song wasn’t such a hit bet second time round we chose right. I can not remember what song it was it we rocked! The next day we decided to hike up one of the mountains that surround Chamonix to a restaurant at the top where William’s friend worked. It was quite a tough hike and being the most unfit I have ever been in my entire life did not help either. Poor William was very patient to say the least. Don’t worry Will, I’ll be fighting fit and ready to climb mountains for breakfast one of these days. We eventually reached the top and treated ourselves to a giant cold bear. It was worth the 6 or 7 Euros it cost. The view was spectacular. To the left was the valley where Chamonix was and to the right was another valley with a giant glacier. Or what was left of it. It looked a bit grim but Will said it had probably been cover to preserve it over the summer months. There were the most amazing mountains surrounding both valleys. We just sat and stared for quite some time before it was time to start the hike back down. This only took half the time and was much more enjoyable. Our host Julie made a wonderful dinner for us and some friends and we hung out and chatted.

Next stop was Paris. We arrived the following afternoon in a very hot very busy Paris and started the big search to find our host (and a toilet for me). This was the usual routine when we stopped somewhere. Poor Will walked pretty far to find a phone and get the details while I waited and squeezed. We then navigated through some more crowed, hot streets and finally arrived at our host’s apartment. William’s friend Flo had such a nice apartment in a really nice area. We had a relaxed evening at home and Flo made us the most amazing salmon lasagne. The next day Will and I did some sight-seeing. We walked all over Paris and saw some of the famous sites. The next day was pretty chilled and we just went for short walks around the area. That night we met another of Will’s friends and some of her friends in return. The plan was for us to go to the Louvre the next day but because we woke up too late we decided to leave it for next time. we didn’t want to only go for a half day. Instead we walked around the little fair that was next to the Louvre gardens. We ended up spending much more time here than what was planned but we couldn’t tear our eyes away from a couple of young guys playing a coin machine and winning it big! That evening we met my aunt and cousin as they happen to arrive in Paris that day as part of their own European trip. We had a wonderful meal and some ice-cream to end it off.

The next day we packed everything up and headed for the Netherlands. The route there was just as beautiful. Riding on the back of the bike was proving to be the best seat in the house because I could just sit back, relax and enjoy the scenery while William does all the hard concentration work. I did have to navigate though which can be very tricky at times. After a very long ride which included shooting through Belgium we entered the country that gave South Africa it’s kick-start. Netherlands’ beauty was the firs thing I noticed. I absolutely fell in love with the boat and bike culture they have there. Every house seemed more beautiful than the previous. We chose a nice camp site in a little town not far from Amsterdam called Noordwijk. I was very excited about the language and seeing how much I would understand. It felt good being the once who could understand everything for once. Even though there is plenty of English there anyway. This campsite we were staying at was rather fancy too. The Dutch love their camping so the campsite was full. We rented bikes the next day and spent most of it just riding along all the little bike tracks that covered this country. We were near the sea so we sat on the beach for a while. We saw some amazing cows that were completely black except for a big white band around their waists. There were two mothers and two calves and it was a really strange sight to see. The next day we headed for Amsterdam and camped there too. This was also a very nice campsite. It was only a short walk and a ferry ride away from the centre town and there seemed to be a lot of young and interesting people staying there. Amsterdam seems to be over flowing with young and interesting people. I quickly fell in love with the city and would love to return in the near future. We spent our days wandering around the streets and channels of Amsterdam, eating way too many stroop (syrup) waffles and sitting on the most peaceful and perfect bench watching all the boats and people go by. I know we were both quite sad to leave Amsterdam.

To be continued…