The Adventures in Arctic Summer

As we drove in our white minivan straight up north towards the arctic on E4, I took a sigh of relief that finally, this trip was happening. For the past two weeks, we were on the brink of canceling the plans many times. We had been unsuccessful in finding a rental car that could fit 6 people. Eventually, after spending a couple of afternoons calling each rental agency in Gothenburg and Stockholm we somehow found a white minivan at a fuel station in Västerås, a small town an hour away from Stockholm. At last, we had found our ride for the next ten days.

Fully aware of the anti-petroleum sentiments in the north of Norway, we started our journey in a van covered with ugly stickers of an oil company. Nevertheless, the ugly exteriors of the van were easily outdone by the vastness and comfort of the interiors. We were six, and the maximum capacity of this minivan was nine, so there was plenty of space for everyone.

After making a few quick pauses along a few lakes on the way, we made our first stop at Skuleberget at Höga Kusten. When we went to the information center at Skuleberget to know our options for hiking up the mountain, we were presented with two options, either to take the long but easy route which was 2km long or to take the short but steep route which was 600m. Of course, the word ”easy” was too hurtful for our egos and we chose to take the steep route, well, wrong choice. It was a climb of 300m in a distance of 600m, so almost a climb of 80%, most of the trail was stairs or rocks with ropes for support. All this was still doable, but, it was one of the once-in-a-year 30°C days of Swedish summer. By the time we reached the summit, all of us had our shirts dripping in sweat and had to take them off. Thankfully, there was a small cafe atop Skuleberget selling ice cream and without losing a second we headed straight to it. The cafe offered a majestic panoramic view, and it was definitely worth all the sweat.

We were calmly enjoying the view with icecream until someone noticed that the area was full of blueberries, so the next half an hour went by in plucking blueberries. For the obvious reasons, we took the ”Easy” route back to our van and proceeded on our journey up north. The warm sunny day had a perfect ending with a magical sunset worth stopping for. 1000km and 12 hours after leaving Stockholm, we entered the Arctic circle and spent the night in Jokkomokk.

A perfect sunset, somewhere near Jokkomokk

As we continued on our journey the following day, we were still 600km away from our destination in Norway. En route, there was a plan to hike to a lake called Trollsjön in Kiruna close to the Norwegian border. As we started our drive from Jokkomokk up north, we could see that the landscape has completely changed from what we had seen in the 1000km journey before entering the Arctic circle. Our drive was pleasantly interrupted several times by reindeers and arctic foxes wandering onto the roads. Not just the landscape, but a cultural change was also evident with all the places marked in Sami in addition to the usual of Swedish. I picked some words in Sami too; like Jaure is a lake and Johka is a river. The lake we were headed to also has a more popular Sami name called Rissajaure.

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Road Tripping Croatia

A few years ago I saw an unreal picture of a dreamy place with crystal-blue water flowing through a series of lakes. At that point, I didn’t know where this place was but the scenery had convinced me to find it and pay a visit. Later, when I found out that it was in Croatia, I discovered that those lakes were not the only thing worth a visit to Croatia, the country is a photographer’s paradise. At the beginning of 2018, when I and my friends were thinking of options for our next road trip, we decided to go to visit this beautiful Balkan country.

A week in Croatia was full of amazing experiences. If I had to pick three highlights of our trip that would be: beaches, national parks, and most definitely, the roads. So I would go in that order.

The Beaches

Zadar

Upon landing in Zagreb, we felt a welcome change in temperature, it changed from around 10°C to 25+°C. So the first thing we did once we got the rental car was to drive towards the sea. As it turns out, the sea is a little far from Zagreb – a 300km drive brought us to the beautiful city of Zadar. To our luck, we got a brand new car, so we didn’t realize when those 3 hours passed. The route from Zagreb to Zadar perfectly narrates the diversity in the Croatian landscape. We started the drive along lush green forests, then came the tree-less boulder filled valleys with distant views of the water, but before we could reach close to water, we drove through small Balkan villages with fruit plantations all the way to Zadar.

Right before leaving for Croatia, a friend of mine had suggested not to miss the sunset in Zadar. Luckily, we were close to the perfect place for a majestic sunset – the old town of Zadar which sits right at the Adriatic coast with uninterrupted views of the sea. We spent some time exploring the Venetian walls of the old town till we found the ideal place to enjoy the sunset with some soothing natural music in the background from a special musical organ – öalskdfj organ, which is a unique installation making amazing melodies with sea waves. Whenever a ship or a boat passes making waves, you hear a different melody which is quite scintillating. We sat by the sea enjoying the sunset with a soothing breeze brushing across the face as the sky changed its color from bright white to blue, then purple and orange and finally the street lights took over. This setting sounded a bit romantic, but we had no choice but to make it bromantic and have fun. The things I had heard about sunset in Zader lived every bit up to the hype and more.

Zadar’s old town is a quaint narrow peninsula which was built during the Roman era; throughout the day, it is filled with tourists coming on huge cruise ships. But when we went back to explore the streets after sunset, the ambiance of the streets had totally changed. The day-tourists had disappeared and we could finally notice the shiny white stones on the streets reflecting the lights from the neon signs of the ubiquitous gelaterias, gift shops, and restaurants. Not just the lights, these gelatarias, and restaurants added a pleasant aroma of a myriad of flavors into the evening breeze which made our mouths water. Eventually, we couldn’t resist and went to one of the gelaterias and ordered more scopes of ice cream than we could finish before it all melted. At this gelateria, we realized two things: Surviving without cash was difficult in Croatia, and gelato is awfully cheap here. The guy at the counter was nice enough to trust us to come back with cash, which we did. And then we carried enough cash throughout the rest of the trip to satiate our gelato cravings.

Croatian Islands

After spending one evening and having next day’s breakfast in Zadar. We headed straight to the accomplish the real purpose of Coming to Croatia – Beaches. Our next stop was a town called Bol on the Island Murter. It was a short drive but we got delayed by road blockages to facilitate a half-marathon in Zadar. After almost an hour, the traffic blockage opened up, and we started driving towards Bol.

During the drive, while catching up on the past months’ anecdotes and blunders, another blunder happened. We didn’t realize that the speed limit changed from 60 to 50 close to a village and a policeman standing with a speed gun clocked us at 58 kmph. 15minutes of talking to a policeman who knew less than 20 words in English and 250 Kunas (Croatian Currency) later, we resumed our drive towards the beaches swearing not to miss any speed limit signs.

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Norway #5: Sky • Sheep • Snow

The Glacier

Our initial plan was to hike up to Trolltunga, and we even completed a figment of the hike (though the toughest part), but then our preparations were not good enough for the weather and marshy conditions there, so we decided to keep it for the next trip.

Disappointed, we arrived at our cabin in Jondal. Turns out our host worked with a skiing company, so when he got to know about our failed hike, he suggested us to go to a glacier nearby where he takes people for skiing, turns out, this was Norway’s third largest Glacier – Folgefonna.

The drive towards the glacier was one of the most scenic.

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Norway #4: Wheels • Waterfalls • Wanderlust

Estrella

If you ask me what I enjoyed most on this trip, I’d surely say Driving, who won’t enjoy driving on such scenic roads, especially when you are driving a V70, we ended up naming our car – Estrella. So here are some pictures with Estrella.

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Norway #3: Routes • Rocks • Rain

Norwegian Routes

What’s the best part of a road trip, of course, ROADS! and when it’s Norway, it becomes even better, driving across Fjords, tunnels, bridges, narrow roads, valleys, it was all unforgettable. While I wasn’t driving, I was shooting 😉 here are some of the views of Norwegian routes. The most scenic was Route 5, Route 63, & Route 64.

When Norway starts resembling Iceland, somewhere on Route 63.

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Norway #2: Cities • Cabins • Colors

Oslo

When it comes to exploring cities in Europe, I am a bit reluctant, especially when someone recommends going to the “old town” (I know there would be cobblestoned streets, a church, a town hall and a lot of expensive cafés).

However, Oslo turned out to be a pleasant surprise, a city flooded with modern architecture and music, we explored the area around the Opera House in Oslo for a couple of hours before setting off to our cabin in the countryside.

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Norway #1: Friends • Fjords • Fun

I don’t consider myself as a person with a Bucket List, maybe, because I have a broken bucket, so whatever plans I put in there, just leak out and never happen. So as soon as I realized that it’s possible to drive around Norway with an Indian driving license, I planned a road trip with my friends. Although, when we started with the plan, we were 9 people, planning to take a big Mercedes Vito van and drive around Norway. But, by the time of the trip, it was just 5 of us. So we rented a powerful Volvo V70 and sailed on the road trip of a lifetime.

So in 5 days, we traveled a little shy of 3000 kilometers, drove through and explored over a dozen of cities, drove through hundreds of kilometers of tunnels. And saw such a heavenly country that you can never get tired of watching. I won’t bore you with this text, enjoy the pictures. Continue reading “Norway #1: Friends • Fjords • Fun”