South from the Arctic

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terry nathan

Well-known member
Mar 9, 2005

We?ve been on the road four months now ? a long time ? if only it could go on for ever!  Most of the summer months so far have been spent in Finland and Norway.  We had crossed into the Arctic Circle just north of Rovaniemi in Finland  - the climate there is quite temperate, the roads dead straight, no hills much less mountains to speak of, quite amazing when you consider this is on the same latitude as a spot 400 miles north of ANCHORAGE in Alaska.    Father Christmas has his home here and we were lucky to be able to meet the great man ? and we have the photo to prove it!                                           

Our ultimate destination was a place called North Cape in Norway, the land of the midnight sun and the most northerly road in the world, on a latitude equivalent to being 60 miles due north from Prudhoe Bay in Alaska (61.7 degrees N).  When we arrived the sun was shining, the 300 or so motorhomers and caravanners already parked there were relaxing in the warm sunshine.  By evening the fog rolled in making it impossible to see more than 50 metres away, and in the early hours of the morning came the wind ? stronger, more vicious, more violent than anything we?ve known before.    North Cape stands on a plateau from which there is a 1000 foot sheer drop into the Arctic Ocean and then nothing until the North Pole.  There is no impediment to the wind, it roars in from the high Arctic and punishes anything in its path ? especially motorhomes and caravans.  All through that night we could hear vehicles starting their engines and driving away, seeking to escape from the danger.  We joined them the next morning, part of a long convoy making its way back down the narrow winding roads, totally unprotected sides and long drops down into the valleys below.  Indeed one Dutch car and caravan fell prey to that wind ? sadly they didn?t survive.

Moving on.  Hammerfest is the most northerly town in the world.  Here we celebrated our wedding anniversary and my birthday by dining out in style ? a pizza restaurant no less.  We really know how to live!  Next stop was Alta where they have a mammoth display of rock carvings reliably estimated to have been drawn up to 6,500 years ago.  One of the nearby fjords is called Kafjord, and it was here that the German battleship Tirpitz, the world?s largest battleship in its day, ?hid? from the Royal Navy for almost two years until it was finally spotted and damaged to such an extent that it had to make a run for it to seek repair at Tromso ? it didn?t make it!  The museum dedicated to the Tirpitz was nearby and the photographs were particularly memorable.  We also went on to Tromso, happily in rather more peaceful times.  The Arctic Cathedral was worth a visit, particularly the midnight concert we attended while the sun was streaming through the beautiful windows ? this is still in the Land of the Midnight Sun of course. 

Next stop was the Vesteralen and Lofoten group of islands, and it was here we ?discovered? the ultimate campground at Andenes.  Full hook-up, the Atlantic Ocean and a scattering of islands immediately in front, glorious sunshine ? we stayed for almost a week while we went whale watching (five sperm whales with their massive tails), and a bird safari to see puffins, kittiwakes and white tailed sea eagles on the island of Bleiksoya. 

From Lofoten you must take a ferry back to the mainland, a journey of four hours in which we were surrounded by more than a hundred killer whales.  Still heading south we recrossed the Arctic Circle line, this time in Norway of course and as different from the Finnish crossing as it is possible to be.  Forget being in shorts, forget seeing Father Christmas, this land is desolate, it is cold, there is a tiny souvenir shop, an insignificant cafeteria, a monument built by some Russian prisoners of war who were ?billeted?here during WWII, and a place to wild camp for the night.  It was so bitterly cold outside, the wind was raw, much snow still around even in early July, but inside the motorhome we were warm and cosy and watching Fox News on the tele ? I love this camping!

Towns such as Trondheim and Molde, were on our route, and then Andalsnes.  It is here that we met the serious mountains, and the Norwegians are famous for tunnelling through them.    Indeed by this time we had passed through well over fifty tunnels of varying heights, widths and darkness, but at this place they have kept the old road, called Trollstigen. 

To say that the mountain road is 2.5 miles long, with a gradient of 10% throughout its entire length and has eleven true hairpin bends does not do it justice.  The road is single width for almost its entire length with just a few passing places hollowed out of the mountainside.  It is a two-way road with tour buses, motorhomes and caravans all pushing their luck to ?do? the Trollstigen.  It is awesome to stand on the top (by which time you?ve done your bit) and watch the road below as tour buses and caravans try to pass each other as they climb/descend.  The road is limited to a maximum vehicle length of 12 metres (approx 40 feet), and there are clear signs warning you of this.  Not to be fazed one coach driver with a fifteen metre (45 feet) tour bus tried it and managed to get to turn 7 but then couldn?t manoeuvre one of the hairpins; he couldn?t go up and he couldn?t get back - the authorities had to close the road for 36 hours while they extricated the coach.  He?s probably still in gaol! 

Further south ? in fact the other end of the Trollstigen road ? is the resort of Geiranger.  This has a total population of 400 people, and is a popular venue for cruise ships.  The new Queen Mary 2 arrived on the day we visited ? awesome sight.  The mountain roads around Geiranger are notorious for being narrow, steep and often with unmade surfaces.  One in particular is Mount Dalsnibba ? we drove that mountain road in the little Smart car, being chased by a dozen tour buses carrying passengers from the Queen Mary cruise ship ? it was daunting trying to navigate the sharp bends etc while the rear view mirror was full of tour bus!  From Geiranger we headed for the ferry port of Bergen from where we took the ferry back to England.  Still in the mountains we passed through twenty seven tunnels in one day, the longest being 25 kms (16 miles) long, the longest road tunnel in the world, another of 17 kms and many others.  I hate tunnels!  Anyway we arrived safely in Bergen and after a week hanging out to recover from the tunnels we boarded the ferry for the 24 hour journey to Newcastle in England.

The ferry ship is called the Neptune, and it is the fourth time we?ve made this crossing in this ship in the past fifteen years.  Like all of us it is starting to show its age!  However the North Sea was calm, we had a reasonable cabin and a very enjoyable dinner on board.  Disembarking in Newcastle next morning was straightforward; the UK was the ninth country we had entered since leaving Spain four months previously, and it was the first time we had gone through a passport control ? a reassuring presence remembering that the bombings in the London underground trains had taken place just four weeks previously.  From the docks we entered the tunnel under the River Tyne and then turned onto the A1 road ? the Great North Road.  This was built in Roman times to connect Londinium as it was then called with Hadrian?s Wall, built by the Emperor Hadrian and stretching the width of Northern England as a barrier against the marauding Scots.  Most of the A1 is now a very busy motorway, and makes short work of the drive south to our next destination of Woodhall Spa, about twenty miles to the east of Lincoln (Lindum Colonia), my birthplace.  It is always reassuring to see Lincoln Cathedral, built in Normal times and imposing itself on the skyline, visible from many miles away ? reminding me that since I last visited Lincoln the world has suffered the atrocities of 9/11 in New York, the Madrid train bombings and now the London bombings, and this proud cathedral still stands rock solid, more than one thousand years old and still in everyday use. 

During our visit they were in the cathedral filming the Da Vinci Code with Tom Hanks ? apparently the producer had been unable to get permission to film in Westminster Abbey (which was the setting in the book of that name) but for a donation of ?100,000 the Dean of Lincoln Cathedral was only too happy to oblige.    One of the original Magna Carta documents, four copies of which were signed by King John in the year 1212 on the Island of Runnymede just southwest from London, repose in the Cathedral ? I can only wonder what those Barons who forced King John to sign that document all those years ago would think if they could be back here today ? they?d probably wonder if it was all worthwhile!  The Magna Carta is of course the nearest thing we have in England to a constitution. 

Four days in Lincoln, time to catch up with old friends from school days.  We had been invited to attend the wedding reception of the daughter of a fellow motorhomer who helps keep the law around that area  - I had drunk two glasses of beer during the reception and was therefore a little concerned that I might fail a breathalyser until I was reminded that most of the local constabulary were at the same reception!  I had a haircut in the village and was shocked to find the charge was just ?3.90 ($6.70) ? the reason the price was so low was because I was a pensioner! 

South again, to a campground near London, close to where our two sons and their families live.  We were able to attend the christening of our latest grandson James, born twenty weeks prematurely back in February and now hail and hearty, weighing in at 14 pounds.  A real little miracle. 

The planning for the final part of this journey back to Spain looks like being changed.  Our London flat is under offer from a prospective buyer, and if this comes to a successful outcome then we will need to remove the furniture and personal items from the flat.  I?ll let you know how we get on.

Terry and Liliane

Hi Terry. Thanks again for another great chapter. Sounds like a really wonderful trip. Good luck with emptying the flat.
Hi Terry and Thanks for the interesting commentary of your trip.  Good to hear from you and know that you and Liliane are doing well and enjoying your travels.  Good luck on sale of the flat.

Hi Ron, are you at home now? 

Interestingly we lost use of the Datastorm as we crossed the Arctic Circle - the dish wouldn't even raise.  We did all the tests, to no avail.  As soon as we recrossed the line coming south everything started working again.  While we were 'dishless' we had to resort to going wireless, something we hadn't done before.  Amazingly, even in the far north of Norway, we always managed to find someone to leapfrog onto - and at speeds which leave Datastorm out in the cold.

Love to Sam.

Very interesting travelog, we're enjoying your travels vicariously.

The Datastorm won't deploy if the calculated elevation angle is too low.  At your latitude, it was probably around 0 :)

Yep we are at Sam's Camp till the 27th or 28th.  Have had several mini-rallies this year and another should start as early as this weekend.  Ned & Lorna is due in Sunday or Monday.  Hopefully there will be some apples left so Sam can bake a pie while they are here.

We still have the deer coming through here.  The folks in the house saw two 3 point bucks in the back yard.  Also the three legged Doe and her twins are around quite frequently.  I posted a couple photos a while back of the twins visiting behind the motorhome on their way to Shirley's garden. We haven't seen the Pheasant this time but Shirley says he is still around.

We have enjoyed your travelogues.  Sounds like you had a great time.  Give Liliane a big hug for us.

how come you know that the dish won't deploy at that elevation but the folks in SLC didn't!  They had my computer engineer (Liliane) doing all the tests to see what was wrong.

Of course Lorna will tell me you are a genius - but she is prejudiced.  Have a great stay at Ron's Camp - the applie pies are to die for.

how come you know that the dish won't deploy at that elevation but the folks in SLC didn't!

Maybe Ned read the manual and SLC didn't.  Or maybe Lorna is right and Ned is and SLC isn't. ;D ;D
Just something I picked up on the Datastormusers forum awhile back.? I believe it can be overridden in the D2 configuration someplace but it's intended to avoid low elevations where say, an A/C unit could block the antenna.

If you have a D1, I don't know if it can be changed or not.
Thanks Ned - since we don't have plans to go that far north again it becomes irrelevant.  It's 10.30pm here at home, I'm working on next years' itinerary.

terry nathan said:
Thanks Ned - since we don't have plans to go that far north again it becomes irrelevant.? ?It's 10.30pm here at home, I'm working on next years' itinerary.


Since your working on your itinerary don't forget you guys are always welcome at Sam's Camp.  Maybe we could work up a rally here in Big Sky Country.
Thanks Ron, we will be taking you up on that - June to August are the months to travel from Boston on the east coast to Seattle - all I have to figure out now is whether that will be in 2006 or 2007.  A mini rally would be great fun.

Great we are looking forward to your visit.  Maybe others will be in the area while your here and we can have a larger rally.
terry nathan said:
Thanks Ron, we will be taking you up on that - June to August are the months to travel from Boston on the east coast to Seattle - all I have to figure out now is whether that will be in 2006 or 2007.? ?A mini rally would be great fun.

Well guys, count us in if it is 2007.  That is my year to plan the "vacation"  travels.  We have enjoyed your travel log to places we will never ever be able to pronounce , let alone visit!

Betty Brewer
Great trip Terry.  Sorry about the folks in the Caravan that didn't make it on the narrow road.  Seems they would have been better off waiting the weather conditions out.  Look forward to your return over here.  Hugs to Lillianne.

Hi Terry & Lilliane,

Glad to see you are safely back in the old home country. Your trip sounds like it was great. I'll be interested to know how far you traveled when you get back to Spain. Have you thought about posting some of your photos on a site like I'd sure like to see more of your trip.

We saw quite a few smart cars like yours while we were in Canada this summer, but haven't seen any here in the US yet.

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