trolltunga

Skimming Through Scandinavia by Kimm Otto

Okay.

How has it already been just about two months since my first post? I guess time flies when you're living in a van. Now that September is here a few things are brought to my attention. One being that I recently just spent two months traveling Scandinavia and all my site has to show for it is one post about a week worth of hiking in Norway.

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Another being that people who don't know me and are reading this have absolutely no idea what this blog is even about. And finally, September reminds me of some of my previous bad habits. Two years ago on September 17th I decided to quit smoking - cold turkey. I'd say I haven't looked back but I'd be a liar. Sometimes I miss it so much. Other times I walk by someone smoking and want to puke. I wish I could channel that kind of commitment into other aspects of my life. Like writing blog entries or completing photography projects...

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Alright. Well. Pointless ramblings aside, perhaps it's time to back track a little and explain a little about myself and my intentions behind starting this project. As some of you may or may not know, my name's Kimm Otto. I started this to share some of the photos, stories and adventures of life on the road with my partner, Kevin Otto. More than anything, I wanted it to be a way for our friends and family back home to follow along while we spend the next year of our lives road tripping Europe. 

Lonely Planet Books - Van Life

A little about us?

Well, Kev and I met almost five years ago and are in our first year of marriage. A lot of people think that this trip is our honeymoon but the truth of the matter is we were planning this long before we decided to tie the knot. We both love traveling and road trips have seemingly been our means to do that. Most notably in some form of van. After only six months of dating we drove straight across Canada and USA in a mini van. Shortly after that we did LA - Edmonton in a 79 VW bus. After that we spent three weeks exploring Maui and Oahu in a rental U-haul van. Of course these are only the big trips. I've lost count of how many Vancouver Island and Edmonton trips we've done. Long story short - we like to travel and we like vans because accommodation is cheap and it allows us so much more freedom to roam.

Norway Van Life

The plan?

Spend a year driving across Europe. We started this journey at the end of May this year in London, England (which means the steering wheel of our van is on the wrong side). It was nice that we started in the English speaking part of Europe. It was also great that Kev's brother and famjam live downtown London. Looking back on the start of this trip, I'm beyond grateful for their hospitality while we overcame our jet lag and got used to our new surroundings. It was also really nice just spending time with family. 

Family Drinks in London

As of now, it's been three months since we landed. So far we've driven over 10,000 miles already and have visited twelve countries - spending most of our time touring the United Kingdom and Scandinavia. Next we begin the long trek down to Greece through the great unknown of Eastern Europe. Our goal is to hopefully make it to Athens by December 21st in order to make our flight back to London for Christmas. 

Van Life Post Cards

Now that the boring basics are covered I can briefly touch base on the past two months in Scandinavia. If you read the last post then you're basically caught up on our Norway experience. Mountains. We climbed a lot of mountains. And it was beautiful. 

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Lofoten

Finland. 

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We were there for two weeks but five of those days were spent lounging in a private cabin up in the Northern alpine forest. Something that was completely necessary after spending a month hiking and freezing our buns off in Norway. We spent another few days trying to figure out where/how to get the oil changed, and then the remaining time was spent sight seeing the cities of Helsinki and Turku. It's always kind of mind boggling to look back at how much time we spend in some places and how little we actually got to see.

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Norway was so ungodly expensive that we almost never went out for food or coffee. To put it into perspective, one can of cheap, crappy beer from the grocery store was $7 Canadian dollars. If you wanted that same beer from a restaurant then you were looking to spend at least $15. So in other words... you just don't drink in Norway unless you're a millionaire.

It was bitter sweet leaving Norway, but crossing over to Finland meant that we were switching back to the Euro. Still a pretty bad exchange rate, but not nearly as bad as the Norwegian Kroner. Beer and coffee shops were an option again. An option we were super thrilled about having again. 

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Finland.jpg

Fast forward a ten hour boat ride across the water to Stockholm, Sweden. 

Stockholm, Sweden
Stockholm, Sweden

Our time in Sweden was short lived. Just like Finland. We spent at least two days doing all things Ikea, including the Ikea museum and visiting the very first Ikea. The most notable memory I will take away from Sweden is having a sewing competition with Kevin in the Ikea museum. The result was three very poorly made tote bags. To be completely honest, by the time we made it to Malmo (where the bridge over to Denmark is) we were exhausted and looking forward to relaxing a bit at our friend's house back in Copenhagen. We had some time to kill so we had another library day. Electricity and wifi is a rare combination to have when you live in a van. But it just means that we spend some days just hanging out in many different libraries. Which is also okay, cause just look at how epic some of them are. We also have a pretty wicked collection of library cards from across Scandinavia. Woo. Souvenirs! 

Malmo Library.jpg

Denmark.

About seven years ago Kev made friends while traveling Asia. We're lucky enough that one of those friends lived in Copenhagen AND was kind enough to take in two very tired van people. On two different occasions, at that. Before we headed up to Norway we spent some time with them, exploring their city and being shown some of the amazing traditional Danish food. It's very possible that their generosity and amazing hospitality was what revived us after a tiring two months in the North.

Danish Breakfast
Copenhagen

The country of Denmark, in my mind, is completely underrated. I guess it's pretty tough living in the shadow of places like Norway and Iceland. Maybe it's just because we had some very lovely locals showing us around but the city of Copenhagen is probably one of my favourites so far. So clean. So friendly. So beautiful.

Copenhagen, Denmark
Copenhagen, Denmark

Thus concludes an incredibly shortened version of our time driving through Scandinavia. One day I will do a blog post with all the photos from my Nikon, but in the mean time I'm more than content with just using some snaps from the Iphone. But that's for another time and another post. Till then, keep it cool fam. 

Kimm. Out. 

Covered In Dirt & Sun Burnt by Kimm Otto

Can we just talk about Norway for a second?

I know this is my first blog entry and I should probably talk a little bit to who I am, the intentions of this website/blog, and possibly even what the heck I'm doing in Norway.... but that doesn't even matter at this point. You guys... Norway. Stating that it's amazing here may be the biggest understatement of the year.

NorwayForest

Coming from the land of sky scraping trees and the chilling bite of the Pacific Ocean you would think I would be immune to some of the scenery here.

That is not the case. Norway is basically British Columbia on steroids.

NorwayFjord
CliffNorway

In the past week, spread out between three different hikes, Kevin and I have hiked 62.5km.

The first being Preikestolen - an 8km round trip that leads to a cliff that drastically drops 608m into a frigid fjord. Reflecting on the past week I'm very glad we started with this one. Definitely the lesser of evils in comparison to the other two. Such a beautiful hike if you ignore being shoved by the groups of hooligan school kids that are racing each other to the top.

PreikestolenNorway
Preikestolen

It had it's challenging parts of sketchy stairs but like any other hike, just be careful of your footing. Something I thought to be common knowledge when entering the outdoors but I guess not as someone had to be airlifted from the trail on the way back.

Preikestolen

Next up on our hiking list: Kjeragbolten. A boulder located in the mountain range of Kjerag that is the result of glacier deposit which left it wedged between two cliffs. Sounds pretty boring till you realize it's suspended above a 984m deep abyss.

For those who don't know meters, that's 3228 ft.

Kjerag

The only word I can think of when I think of this trail is absurd. Just. Absurd. I would not even consider it to be a hiking trail as 90% of the time you're either scaling the side of the mountain or just straight up rock climbing. There are four peaks you must summit in order to get to this rock. "Thankfully" there are large chains placed in order for you to repel down or regain your balance as you scale the side of the mountain. But they basically just shred your hands. 

Kjerag
Kjerag

Kev likes to refer to this place, as well as Trolltunga, as Norway's Disneyland. Basically, people from all over the globe travel to this one destination where you're forced to wait in a ridiculously long line up to have a 30 second thrill. 

Kjeragbolten
Kjeragbolten
Kjeragbolten

I, on the other hand, have a crippling fear of heights. Probably something you wouldn't assume based on some of the places or things I agree to do. My philosophy is, "well this may be the only time in my life that I'll actually get to do it. So I might as well."

I did not get on the rock but I was more than happy to photograph the surrounding areas away from the other tourists. And, I did go below the rock. Close enough, right?

Kjeragbolten

Out of the three hikes we did I still believe that this was the most challenging. Although it wasn't the longest (16.5km round trip) it was definitely the most psychologically and physically demanding of the three for me. Not being good with heights makes it very difficult to comfortably scale down the side of four mountains. And as hard as it was getting to the rock, getting back was even worse.

Kjeragbolten

There were points on the way back where I would finish climbing down and would be on the verge of tears from being so scared. Looking back, it's kind of crazy how far you can push yourself out of your comfort zone. Can't say I'll be doing this hike again any time soon, but I'm thankful I pushed through.

Kjeragbolten
Kjeragbolten Defeated

Huge shout out to Kev for helping me push through those scary parts.

Oh. Also. The road to the trail head? Nothing crazy. Just a silly ol' road with 27 hairpin turns complete with a 1.5km long one way tunnel. 

Kjerag Switchbacks

Last but certainly not least, Trolltunga.

Now, if you know me, you know that I've been talking about doing this hike months before leaving Canada. I've done my research, or at least tried to, for this hike. I was expecting a 24km round trip; however, this was not the case. We clocked in our round trip at almost 40km and it took us about 10 hours.

Trolltunga Hike

We started our day with some poached eggs at 5:30 in the morning and were on the trail by 6:07am. To be completely honest, after doing the Kjeragbolten hike, this was kind of a breeze. It did have some steep parts and there were sections where you were walking across snow patches, but it was manageable. There were no chains chewing at the flesh of your hands and you didn't feel like you had blown your knees out by the end out it. 

I actually didn't take a lot of photos during the Trolltunga hike. There was this one section where you crest the peak of a mountain and you get your first glimpse of the sapphire blue waters of the lake. Just. Amazing.

Trolltunga
Trolltunga

This section of the hike was a little over half way to the tongue and the perfect spot to have lunch and restock the water bottles from the glacier streams near by.

Trolltunga
Trolltunga

I don't want to say that this hike is easy because it was definitely challenging to persevere the entire length of the trail. By the time we got to the tongue I was exhausted and so sun burnt. To top things off, there was a three hour wait just to get out on the rock. Norway's Disneyland strikes again.

Trolltunga
Otto Trolltunga

Overall, it was a pretty active week. We camped about 2km away from the Trolltunga trail head the night before and made friends with our neighbours - a German couple touring Norway in their converted firetruck. We drank beers, discussed Norwegian norms, and swapped van stories. Strangely enough we ended up crossing paths a week later at a different spot. We took this as a sign that we should exchange contact information and make plans to grab beers when we're passing through Germany. 

Side note - the guy's name was Adrian and after a few drinks this just resulted in us quoting the Rocky movies.

Van Life

So I guess this is the end of my first entry.

Cheers to blistered feet, supportive husbands, new friends, and challenging the borders of your comfort zone. Can't wait to see what the rest of Norway has to offer.

Shoes Trolltunga