A lap of the Kattegat - Denmark / Norway / Sweden from the UK, June 2012

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Funkster, Jul 8, 2012.

  1. Funkster

    Funkster Adventurer

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    Hi all,

    I wanted to write our recently-completed trip up for posterity, and this seems like as good a place as any. I'm not going to pretend that we pushed back any of the boundaries of adventure riding, and I dare say there have been many other ride reports like it but this one is mine!

    Prologue
    Before I get to the actual riding, a quick note on the inspiration for this trip. Sometime in ~2002, my good friend at university, Kenny Thompson, suggested doing a lap of the north sea on his bike, starting out in the midlands (we were at Warwick uni at the time), going anticlockwise through lots of countries after a dover-calais ferry, and returning via Kenny's various family in Scotland - in its compact form (i.e. cutting through Denmark and Sweden rather than also riding around the Baltic sea) something vaguely like this:

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    Sadly Kenny was killed in 2009 while flying for the RAF in Scotland, so he never got the chance to do the trip. I'd been keen to do it back at uni even though I didn't have a bike or licence, but it's taken me ~10 years to get a bike (well, got that in 2008), find some people to attempt something like this with, and have enough pocket money to make it happen.

    In the years since, the available ferry crossings have diminished and it's no longer possible to get a boat from Norway to Scotland. I even put out feelers to try to find a fisherman who might be prepared to put a couple of bikes in the hold, but to no avail. Couple that with the size of the proposed route vs. people's available holiday time, and we ended up having to scale it back a bit - but I hope we still kept at least some of the original trip's spirit: we were still going to do a lap of a sea (albeit a smaller one), we would go further north than we'd ever been before, and we were still going to get a taste of some Scandinavian roads!

    We still wanted to avoid going back over the same route as much as possible, so although we decided on a return ferry Harwich-Esbjerg, the rest of the trip would be circular. Also by cutting out the western european section, countries that most of us had been to on holiday before, we gained some time and could use that to get even further north and east than the original idea had suggested. Excellent!

    Here's the route plan we ended up with:
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    I only managed to find one other biker friend to join in, but three others joined in a car and made the group up to a nice size. So, on to:

    The team

    Bikes & riders:
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    I'm on the right with my extremely stylish 1994 Honda Dominator (radio callsign TELSTAR), 17000 miles on the clock and probably not the smartest saddle to attempt this kind of mileage on, but it's what I've got! Note the storage space where the left-hand silencer would normally go, used to carry a foot pump / tyre levers / etc. but referred to as the Whisky Carrier as a bottle of malt fits in perfectly.

    On the left is Chris, with his Yamaha FZ6 (radio callsign SPUTNIK). Two very different bikes but that just makes life richer!

    The car & drivers:
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    An extremely capacious Megane, radio callsign LAIKA. On the left is K8, to her right is Anneley (my other half). K8's husband Mags appears to be invisible in this picture but I'm sure he'll show up later.

    We basically cheated and carried lots of stuff in the car to keep the weight on the bikes sensible (plus I don't own panniers). This did however mean we could travel with all our camping gear, a selection of tools, and the occasionaly luxury, so I'm not apologising for anything!

    I shall now proceed to do one post per each destination of the trip...
    #1
  2. larshoejberg

    larshoejberg .

    Joined:
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    Copenhagen, Denmark
    Yo Funkster

    Give's a shout when you come to Copenhagen. We're a little scarce on space, so having 4 people staying over night might get a bit crowded. But anyway, would be glad to show you around.
    Ride safe and keep the shiny side up :wink:

    Subscribed:lurk
    /Lars
    #2
  3. Funkster

    Funkster Adventurer

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    Hi Lars! Many thanks for the offer, however I should have been more clear in my first post as we have already returned from this trip - I didn't have the resources to write it up as we went around.

    We had an excellent time in Copenhagen, which feels like a very cool city. Definitely planning to return there at some point (same goes for lots of other places we passed through) and spend some more time so you never know, our paths may cross someday :)

    Cheers,
    --
    Olly
    #3
  4. Funkster

    Funkster Adventurer

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    Right, sorry for the pause - not trying to be dramatic, just lacking free time to go through photos!


    Part 1: home to Harwich and ferry, 180 miles

    I'm going to assume that no-one really needs to see photos of us riding through Milton Keynes, right? Good, because we didn't take any. The journey to the ferry port was a necessary evil, no particularly interesting sections apart from a little bit of the Cotswolds. It would also be the furthest that I'd ever ridden in one day! Sorted out a few radio issues along the way, and my bike failed to explode when subjected to a 60-mile section at ~70mph. Result!

    Anyway, the main point is that we arrived in plenty of time for our ferry, got checked in with no bother, had a quick wander round and then got to the most important thing to do that day - have a beer to celebrate having made it out of the UK.

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    #4
  5. Funkster

    Funkster Adventurer

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    Part 2: to Aalborg, 218km

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    Given that we were trying to fit a lot of latitude into a short amount of time, we didn't plan any sightseeing on the first Danish leg. Instead we just headed north out of Esbjerg (trying to keep from being run over by a gaggle of Audi TTs who happened to be on the same radio channel). Joined up with route 12 and stuck with it. Boy oh boy, what a boring road! It was like riding through a drawn-out version of Cambridgeshire. Oh well, this is just transport... we stopped off for a late lunch in Viborg:
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    And thence, onward to our stop for the night - Aalborg. We stayed in Hotel Hvide Hus, ate pizza at San Giovanni, had a walk across the bridge and at that moment discovered that in Denmark, you can ride a moped on the cycle paths. Odd!

    View from the hotel:
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    #5
  6. chelo5sur

    chelo5sur Been here awhile

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    i m in :1drink .
    #6
  7. Funkster

    Funkster Adventurer

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    Part 3: to Hirtshals (70km) then a ferry to Norway!

    A quick morning dash up the E39 to Hirtshals and we were on our way to our second (foreign) country of the trip! All aboard the sea cat:
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    The captain came on the PA to give a weather forecast, and predicted both rain from above, and heavy rain. Presumably heavy rain doesn't come from above?

    Any road up, it was a fairly choppy crossing and a (Danish?) landlubber came to lie down near where we were sitting, and then proceeded to vom into several bags which he lined up on the floor. Classy. Mags wisely hid under his coat:
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    With the major deadlines (i.e. the ferries we'd already paid for) now met, we decided a somewhat more relaxed day was in order and rather than pressing on north, we decided to stick around and see some of Kristiansand. Not sure who this guy is but he's managing to stay dignified in spite of the wildlife's efforts:
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    We set up camp at Rolighelden campsite (58.147358N, 8.030694E was our plot). I was slightly concerned when approaching the site as you have to go through a somewhat crappy boat yard to get there, but it's actually very charming and has a nice little beach / coastal walk:

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    #7
  8. conchscooter

    conchscooter Long timer

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    I am looking forward to following this trip (I'm working most nights this week, please note).
    It may be nothing much to you lot but a Scandianvain tour only happens every so often on advRIDER and this looks to be a treat with great pictures and nice commentary.
    I like the sag wagon including the broadly smiling women, but I hope they are kind when sleet and rain strike and you are stuck out in the weather.
    #8
  9. GB

    GB . Administrator

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    Looks like a great trip! Thanks for taking us along :thumb

    :lurk
    #9
  10. jmcg

    jmcg Turpinated..

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    Enjoying the report and pics.

    Thanks.
    #10
  11. Funkster

    Funkster Adventurer

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    To the north!

    Well-rested, we cleared up camp and took stock of the next major leg of the journey: a 1000+ km trip up Norway's west coast, a route that includes five ferries and many hairpin bends.

    We (a term that definitely includes myself and Anneley and adds various other friends depending on the year) always celebrate the summer solstice by going somewhere with a view and staying up all night until the sun comes up. Not because we're (particularly) pagan, but because it's generally a good excuse to get some friends together, walk up a hill, and spend all night drinking beer. When planning this trip we made the dates cover the solstice so we could have the experience of more latitude than we normally had at hand in the UK.

    However, bearing in mind that we're sat in Kristiansand on the morning of the 19th of June and the solstice sunrise is the following morning, we knew that we had no chance of reaching our northmost goal of Kristiansund in time. But, having done a bit of planetary maths before we set off, I knew that if we could get there only a couple of days after then we would still be able to celebrate the shortest night that we would experience on the trip whilst at our most northerly point. So, we gave ourselves four days to get to Kristiansund!

    Should be easy, right?

    Right!

    Onwards...


    Part 4: to Stavanger, 255km
    Our GPS trace went wonky this day so you'll have to make do with the planned route, but I think we managed to stick to it completely:
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    We left Kristiansand heading west along the E39. As main roads go this is pretty spectacular, but we got our real first taste of what was to come when we turned onto the rv44 at Flekkefjord. A glorious, windy coast road! Hooray for wiggly-edged countries!

    <iframe width="480" height="360" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/DpU2l-CMQzg?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

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    For no other reason than that it was the first hit on google when searching for campsites in Stavanger, we headed HERE and set up camp. A bit of a strange campsite, it feels like someone's put on a festival in a park. There's a fairly major road very close by and we all got woken up at about 3am by what sounded like a street sweeper passing within about six feet of the tents... oh well, all part of the experience.

    There was a little bit of rain, and while we were cooking dinner a friendly local asked us where we were going, and assured us that there was lots more rain coming! Oh boy, hairpin bends in the wet? Hmm... well, let's at least try to stay dry for the evening and see what fortune brings us tomorrow.

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    #11
  12. OneBall

    OneBall Been here awhile

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    :lurk

    I'm heading that way in a few weeks, any tips?
    #12
  13. rdwalker

    rdwalker Long timer

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    Telstar, Sputnik and Laika? You guys rock! I don't feel that old anymore. :evil

    Congrats on having better halves, who do not mind accompanying you in the adventure - riding cage is a great idea.

    Looking forward to your report!
    #13
  14. Funkster

    Funkster Adventurer

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    I think it's pretty easy to have a great time, and even the main roads are surrounded by fantastic scenery. But:

    - If you're camping, maybe look out for smaller sites rather than the biggest one in town - you should be able to get a comprehensive catalogue of sites from any big campsite's main office.

    - Don't ride with sunglasses on in areas with tunnels, they are dark. Chris' helmet had a flip-down sun visor of which I was very jealous; I developed a pirate-like technique of closing one eye as soon as I saw the tunnel warning sign to get more time to adjust :)

    - Take extra pocket money if you want to eat at restaurants or have a beer!

    Do you have a rough idea what route you'll be taking and what towns you'll pass through/near?

    --
    Olly
    #14
  15. Funkster

    Funkster Adventurer

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    Part 4: to Bergen, 210km

    Hokay, so, we appeared to be being lucky with the weather so far, something we're all very glad of since we'd left the UK during the wettest (period of time) in (all other periods of time). But the guide book says it rains on 270 days of the year in Bergen, so better expect rain at least on approach!

    We decided to stick with the E39 all the way, since we needed the ferries on this route and anyway it looked like we wouldn't be wanting for scenery. All aboard again:

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    It appears that no-one took any pictures of the actual riding part of this leg, so you'll just have to use your imagination (and google streetview) to fill in the gap. Must get a bike mount for the camera!

    Anyway, up we rock in Bergen to glorious sunshine! We have a whale enthusiast amongst our number so we visited Bergen University's museum where they have recently re-opened their whale hall (and have an extensive collection of slightly creepy stuffed animals). Museum guarded by this chap:

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    The university area is obviously very affluent, you don't get these kinds of houses round the corner from most universities in the UK... I felt a bit bad parking my heap in front of them (though it's obviously a huge improvement over all the bloomin' beemers and audis).

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    Sadly, no photos of the over-stuffed weasels :-/

    Bergen centre has a really nice feel to it, not sure if it was just because it was sunny for a change but it seemed very relaxed. Definitely one to return to with a bit more time to spend!

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    We wanted a fish for tea, so a visit to Bergen's famous fish market was called for where we found plenty to choose from:

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    And thence onto a cabin HERE - still no rain, in fact conditions call for ice-cream! And also a handy opportunity to dry some laundry...

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    Time to check the next day's route plan...
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    #15
  16. findlj

    findlj How much fun is that

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    I'm in. Looks to be a great trip.:lurk
    #16
  17. Funkster

    Funkster Adventurer

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    Part 6: to Stryn, 290km

    GPS log mostly worked today, ignore the times though as they appear to be totally random:
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    Back on the E39 to start with, still plenty of scenery to distract those who are supposedly in control of motor vehicles (Laika is RHD, remember).
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    Norway, I know I really shouldn't complain but I think most people can be trusted to do more than 80kph along here:
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    This is a bit twistier though:
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    We stopped for a quick rest HERE, meeting some friendly bikers from Oslo who were on a riding holiday, and who were very glad to have pulled in because a few seconds later a police car arrived too. Let's just say they hadn't been doing 80kph exactly ;)

    Now, nearer home the best you can expect from a main road's rest lay-by is an overgrown hedge and a bin overflowing with happy meal boxes. Seems on the E39 things are somewhat more picturesque!
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    Back on the move again, things get a little twistier before we hop on another ferry across Sognefjord.
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    Time for another stop and some lunch HERE, looks like we needed a rest!
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    Again, awesome scenery especially considering we're about six feet away from a main road.
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    Then it's time to press on again. We kept on up the E39 until Brykjelo where we took route 60 around Innvikfjorden...
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    Quick pause for a posed shot!
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    And then after Stryn itself we carried on a little further out of town on route 15, to Strynsvatn campground where we got ourselves a cabin with a serious view.

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    There was a diving platform on the shore opposite the campsite, and we saw a few (presumably) locals down there so Anneley and I said to each other, "Right! We're definitely going to go and have a nice swim in that there lake. It's sunny, it'll be nice to cool off!"

    However, once we got down there we noticed that the locals would dare each other to jump in, and then roughly one New York Second later they would explode from the water straight into their towels. Seriously, I've seen dolphins come out of water slower. A quick dip of the feet reminded us that this is glacial meltwater, and neither of us fancied the instant death that would no doubt ensue should we immerse ourselves any deeper than knee-height. Oh well, we tried. Well, not tried as such... nevermind.

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    This guy knows the score - safer to just look at it.
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    We went back to Stryn for tea (in seemingly the only open place in town - luckily they did good pizza), there aren't really many landmarks in town but I did decide that a pink grey fergie was worth a snap!

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    #17
  18. Funkster

    Funkster Adventurer

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    Right, sorry for the big paws. Onwards...

    Part 7: to Kristiansund, 285km

    Overview (with some slight gaps, just fill in with a map of route 63):
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    After prying our eyes away from the beautiful scenery around Strynsvatn, our route took us north on what was for me the coolest (both literally and figuratively) bit of riding on this west-coast leg. We would cover both the Trollstigen and the Atlantic Road, both heavily featured in many bike magazines.

    We headed north on route 63 and pretty quickly approached the snow line:
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    Excellent twisty roads, snowdrifts all around, 1000m above sea level and the bike's running smoothly. I can't think of much better to be honest! We took a quick break to take a closer look a the snow and check that it was real...

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    After all, when the scenery looks like this you can't usually get away with a vest top...
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    Mags he is incredulous.
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    Anyway, best press on - these hairpins aren't going to ride themselves!
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    Rv63 dips back down to sea level where there's a small port:
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    And then shortly after there's a handy viewing platform where hordes of tourists from the cruise ships get bussed a couple of miles up the road so they can take photos of the boat they've just got off. Seemed rude not to join in the photo-taking action, including the view of the vehicles from which we'd just disembarked!

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    This bus obviously needed to take on water, perhaps it's steam powered?
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    Back on the road again, we soon passed a very exciting sign!
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    Mmm, guaranteed 5.3km of grins! Sat-nav confirms it, there be wigglies ahead:
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    Laika's passengers just can't help taking pictures of waterfalls :eek:)
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    Having made it down into the valley, we stopped at the shop to browse for troll-related paraphernalia and to allow our cheek muscles to relax a bit.
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    Who doesn't need a hat with its own paws?
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    Then, on to the Atlantic Road. Okay, so it's fairly short and certainly well-photographed, but it was on our way and definitely worth the detour, especially as all the route leading up to it was spectacular anyway. Obviously we couldn't help but ride over some parts of it twice to get the traditional photo:
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    And a quick walk around on one of the road's small islands...
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    We then carried on to Kristiansund, and to our hotel HERE for a quick freshen up and to plan where exactly where we would go to celebrate the solstice!
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    #18
  19. Funkster

    Funkster Adventurer

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    Part 8: Summer Solstice (or as near as dammit) 2012! Zero kilometers!

    Having spent an hour or so in the hotel's bar, drinking their free coffee machine dry (bet they regret telling us about that!), we found a few likely spots where we would get a good north-facing view of the sea, and not be overlooked by any/many houses. We struck gold (or rock, anyway) with the first one so this post's antics are all located HERE:
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    A panorama view of what would be our base for the night (click for bigger, but watch out - it's really quite big!):
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    The idea here, then, is to sit around having a nice time, watch the sun set, carry on having a nice time, watch the sun rise again, and then go home and pass out safe in the knowledge that celestial mechanics haven't mysteriously changed overnight. Previous solstices have seen us do a coast-to-coast dash across England while the sun was down, or hike up various hills with a ridiculous amount of stuff (guitars, bongos, beer, meat, camping chairs...).

    This one would be fairly tame in terms of the walking part, but definitely the most epic in terms of getting to our location! This was a really satisfying moment for me - as a result of some rather haphazard planning, we were further north than we'd ever been before, surrounded by fantastic scenery with amazing weather, and we'd kept the shiny side up all the way so far! Definitely cause for celebration.

    Anyway, on with the show... first rule of celebrating the solstice in this fashion, you need the proper apparel:
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    Then you need to be able to sit comfortably...
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    You'll need some way to entertain yourself while waiting for sunset:
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    And you'll certainly need to be able to make a nice cup of tea!
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    Keep your eyes and your cameras peeled, you need photographic evidence that there was a sun there just in case it doesn't come back up again...
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    And eventually, you'll see the last rays of the setting sun!
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    You are now free to amuse yourself for a while. In the UK we usually have about 7 hours to kill, but here it would only be three! The permanently-bright sky also makes it quite a bit easier to indulge in a bit of low-light photography...
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    Right, time for a barbecue!
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    Scandinavians, you really need to visit the UK (specifically, some real butchers) and discover what sausages are supposed to be like. I shall skip over the meat course and proceed directly to smores...
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    ... some of which obviously need to go on fire.
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    Having eaten, it's back to sitting and waiting - this time for sunrise.
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    I have no idea what's going on here:
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    In case of midge/mosquito attack, make sure you have a comprehensive air defence system:
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    Then, as the sun starts to tickle the horizon, charge your glasses and make sure you're looking in the right direction...
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    There! There it is! We've survived! Now is the moment to toast the sunrise & the success of your journey so far, and spare a thought for the friends who couldn't be there to enjoy it with you. Normally we would pass the first rays of the new rising sun through some real ale, but since we were travelling light we had to make do with single malt scotch whisky...
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    And just in case there was any doubt as to the sun's path, it's definitely up now:
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    All that's left is to stumble back to the hotel, fall unconscious, and hallucinate vividly for a few hours :eek:)
    #19
  20. Gravel Seeker

    Gravel Seeker Thomas

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    Great read and I can't wait to read more when I get back from holiday.
    #20