Where have we been?

It seems ridiculous that we haven’t posted on this website for almost four months! So where have we been? And what have we been doing?

Well, as far as travel goes, we last posted in Finland and since then we have been to Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, France, The UK, Malaysia, Indonesia and our current location in Thailand, which is our 23rd country this year.

So why no updates? Well it’s a combination of a few factors. Firstly, blog exhaustion. It takes time to create and publish a post and we want to do them properly so I suppose we ran out of steam. We read a lot of travel blogs ourselves to get ideas and inspiration. The Internet is littered with travel bloggers posting about, ‘The best 27 things to do in Guatemala’ or ‘How to get the train from Singapore to Bangkok’. Every one is 90% the same. The same things to do and the same train to catch.

This is gold dust and invaluable information when putting together the framework for a trip, but we have always tried to put a personal and, if possible, slightly comedic angle to our posts. Yes, it’s great to know where the local supermarket is in a Mexican town, but the pain and frustration of trying to buy something in there is often omitted! “Hey, I know you have been waiting to pay for 20 minutes, but I’m talking to my amigo, then I’m going to have a cigarette and anyway, I just don’t care!”

So keeping the blog interesting was starting to become a chore rather than a pleasure and we didn’t want that to happen.

Secondly, as they say in South East Asia, we thought it might be sounding a little “Same, same but different”, and we certainly don’t want to have a dull blog!

Another hike, another bike ride, another beach, another photo of a city scape etc etc. To us it’s amazing, we see new places all the time, we meet new and interesting people from all over The World with their different views, opinions and priorities. We encounter different weather, different smells, different languages, different procedures for so many things. It’s often hard to articulate it in a few words or display it in a few photos. A climb up a mountain in Norway and a climb up a mountain in Chile can appear similar but in reality are much, much different.

So Steve in particular decided to have a break from the blog. We started running another travel app a few years ago which Sarah keeps regularly updated. It’s called Polarsteps, which tracks us through GPS and we upload photos to that. It is a sort of travellers instagram.

But now WE ARE BACK ON IT!

So, firstly here is a quick summary of the last four months.

FINLAND: “The Best 27 Things To Do!”…. I’m only joking!

After watching the wild bears we continued North to the city of Rovaniemi on the edge of The Arctic Circle and home to Santa Clause Village. Yes, it was over 30 degrees centigrade, Yes, Santa was home and Yes, we went to visit him.

On the way to see Santa

We also spent a few days sunbathing and swimming in the river in ridiculously hot weather. “Is this really The Arctic”, we asked ourselves.

Steve at the Arctic Circle

Finland had been a real surprise. One of our favourite countries so far. The weather helped, but it was beautiful, clean and fresh, and it had bears and Santa. What’s not to like?

Sarah never thought this would happen in the Arctic.

SWEDEN: After an amazing couple of weeks in Finland we drove further North into the Arctic Circle and back into Sweden. We had enjoyed our time in the South of the country, especially Stockholm which was awesome. The North, however, was slightly different. It was wonderful to view the scenery from inside the car. But get out at your own risk! It was summer and we were in mosquito country. Zillions of them, everywhere. Every outside movement had to have an anti mosquito strategy.

A mosquito free sanctuary.

Camping was impossible, so we reverted to small huts in an attempt to stave them off. We must have looked comical dashing out of the door towards the car and throwing ourselves in with nets on our heads. Then driving to the petrol station. “It’s your turn to refuel”. “No, I think it’s yours”. “OK, I’ll give you a thousand pounds to refuel for me.”

“No way am I getting out”

NORWAY: Needless to say we didn’t last long in Northern Sweden and headed for the Norwegian Coast with the promise of beautiful scenery and much fewer mozzies.

We headed for The Lofoten Islands and spent four days camping there. When it comes to the landscape it’s like nowhere else we have been to.

Right up there with the best …. the view isn’t bad either!
The Lofoten Islands are spectacular with no rain.
But with the rain? Well, what can we say!

You do, however, need the weather and I suppose we were lucky to get two out of the four days with almost clear skies. We were able to do a couple of the good climbs which were very much on the difficult side. We both like our hiking and we would say the climbs here are more difficult than most we have done. Not especially long but steep and rocky. There are a couple of well known ones where the Nepalese Sherpas have been brought in to place long concrete staircases, but where is the fun in that? It does, however, open up some superb views to people with less mobility.

We also camped on the beach in Lofoten and experienced the midnight sun for our entire time there. It was great to watch the surfers at midnight in broad daylight. Weird!

Time for bed in the midnight sun.

We made our way down the length of Norway back across the Arctic Circle. This time at a higher altitude, 25 degrees colder and we had a short snowball fight.

Snow at last.

We eventually stopped in Oslo and camped on the edge of the city. We loved Oslo, compact and friendly with plenty to do in a great setting.

Oslo is a cool but expensive place to spend a few days.

If you do come to Oslo though, bring a little more cash than normal. Wait a minute, no, bring a lot more cash than normal. Even the Scandinavians complain about how expensive it is!

After Oslo our plans changed dramatically.

We had planned to spend a couple of weeks walking and cycling in the Norwegian Fjords and then a week travelling back to The UK through Denmark and Germany. However, the weather took a serious turn for the worst with a long term forecast of single digit temperatures accompanied by rain and even snow (we were sunbathing in the Arctic two weeks ago). So we decided to head back to The UK, spend a few weeks there and head over to somewhere in Europe after that.

It turned out to be a good call with us swapping the rain and snow in Norway for record breaking temperatures in Yorkshire!

It was Steve’s parent’s Diamond Wedding Anniversary in the middle of August and we had planned to go on a cruise together to celebrate ….. ironically, back to Scandinavia. Luckily the weather had improved and we had a totally amazing time. We have not all laughed together so much in years. Sarah being Sarah had organised a multitude of things but the highlight was a congratulations card from The Queen which brought a tear to everyone’s eye. We look back now at the significance of it with the death of The Queen happening just a couple of weeks later.

A really great week.

The last couple of months had all seemed a little fragmented with things not going to plan, which no doubt contributed to a loss of motivation to update this blog.

We needed to take stock, reorganise and get a plan together. We were also becoming more and more aware that pretty soon we will need a couple of months of stability, to allow us to fully recharge. We weren’t there yet but we knew we needed to plan it in.

So we packed our camping equipment once again and headed to France. We find France easy, Steve can speak a little bit of the language, the country is set up for camping and on the whole they love cyclists.

Cycling high above the clouds in France.
Lac d’Aiguebelette. A great location to hatch a plan!

We pitched our tent by the beautiful Lac d’Aiguebelette and formulated a plan. Not one of those plans that looks great on paper but in reality is a logistical jigsaw puzzle with pieces missing. We have had some of those for sure. “Let’s cycle from Canada to Mexico”, “Let’s travel from Australia to The UK without flying”, ” Let’s drive to the Arctic Circle and back”, “Let’s backpack on public transport around Central America”. All of these I can confidently say are much, much easier said than done. What looks great on paper changes infinitely when you throw a large dose of reality into the equation.

So this is the plan we have formulated for the next six months.

We are heading to South East Asia in early October for six weeks. We are keeping it simple. Steve’s son, Mike, is joining us for the first couple of weeks in Malaysia and Indonesia. Then we are heading to Phuket and Chiang Mai in Thailand for a couple of weeks in each location. The locations have been specifically chosen by Steve as they are good areas for him to train towards racing at Ironman New Zealand in early 2023.

At the end of November we will head to New Zealand where we have secured six weeks of house and dog sitting in two locations. Then we are in a campervan for two months on a New Zealand road trip. Then it is back to South East Asia for a month (probably Vietnam, Cambodia and Borneo) before returning back to The UK for Easter.

As far as long trips go, in our world, it’s one that is pretty easy to plan and execute. But I’m sure by next summer we will be definitely looking for that couple of months of down time, probably eating tapas in Andalucia or fresh croissants in Provence! We can taste them now!

Edvard Munch and ‘The Scream’