Adventures in biking through Norway’s Lofoten Islands

It’s been a long time since we posted a travel entry, but we’re baaaack! Jason took his first vacation from Lenda and Erin had teacher vacation, so the stars aligned and we decided to see Scandinavia in three chapters: Stockholm, Sweden; Lofoten Islands, Norway; Helsinki and national parks, Finland.

We just completed part 2, our biking adventure through Norway’s Lofoten (pronounced Loo-fa-ten) Islands! We’d like to share our itinerary, Strava maps & some quirks with anyone else who is interested in unsupported, self-guided riding, as we didn’t find anything of the likes online when we planned our tour. A special thanks to Michael Stafford for your local tips over email and to Corin Greenberg for connecting us.

Our Dates: June 26, 2017- July 1, 2017

Itinerary for Prep Day and Day 1: We arrived at Svolvær airport and took a taxi to Lofoten Rorbuer, where we checked into the rorbuer– or traditional stilted fishing cabin– and picked up our  reserved bikes. A test drive was in order, since we’d be pedaling for the next 5 days, so we took a spin down to the town center for bacalao (local fish stew) and a burger (not so local but with a tortilla chip and cucumber addition ON the burger. Hmmm…) A quick run to the supermarket stocked us up on snacks and a pop-in to the tourist office produced a map and ferry schedule. We hurried back to organize our bike panniers and hit the sack early, wanting to be refreshed for the first day!

Fourteen hours later, we awoke. (Yep, it’s possible to pass out for that long, even in the midnight sun! We’d blame it on jet lag but we did that for the first 3 days in Stockholm.) After oatmeal and goji berries made in our kitchenette, we loaded up the hybrid bikes on the deck and began the 24 kilometer journey to our lunch destination, Henningsvær, where we planned to rest and eat before pushing the last 32 kilometers to Gimsøy.

Just before take-off we loaded up in the morning mist at Lofoten Rorbuer.

 

Roses and Thorns: (This section explains the highs and lows of the day.) The best part of our first adventure was stopping in Henningsvær for a lunch break– the Klatrekafeen (climbing cafe) served tasty, t Nader, tomato-based lamb soup; a fireplace inside warmed chilled bikers and hikers, rejuvenating them for the second part of the day. Visiting the neighboring outdoor apparel shop, we purchased necessary wardrobe embellishments– a new rain jacket and rain pants for a pricey Scandinavian sum!

You may have guessed, the rain was the only thorn!* We were SOAKED by lunch and realized that packing in the 103 degree heat wave of Marin County, California had thrown off our sanity– we forgot how it felt to be soggy and chilly! But the glacial blue waters and the craggy, saw-toothed mountain spires made up for the overcast weather. Trying to compare this place to anything we’d seen before was impossible. Was it Hawaii, New Zealand, Ireland or Patagonia it reminded us of?! Maybe a bit. But then we settled on acknowledging that Lofoten was like no place we’d ever visited.

Climbing the bridge to Gimsøya, the wind raged and the cool mist blew, but we were focused on the sights below– a real maelstrom! The way the water swirled and bubbled added to the mystery of this new place. After four hours of biking, we arrived at Lofoten Links and realized it was a golf course on the sea! The chef, a Canadian transplant, served us coffee and rhubarb cake and delivered a bit of wood to our cabin up the road so we could dry out and warm up. This accommodation won the award for the best design and the most beautiful hotel of the trip. In fact, we dreamed of recreating the lodge closer to home some day.

Accommodation Contact Info: Lofoten Rorbuer AS, Jektveien 10, Marinepollen NO-8300, Svolvær.  (Bike rental and rorbuers)

Lofoten Links Lodges, Hov Tore Hjortsvei 389, 8314 Gimsøy, Norway. Phone: +47 76 07  20 02

A cozy double room in luxury standard lodge at Lofoten Links Lodges welcomed us. A loft above sleeps two more.

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Lofoten Links Lodge has three bedroom suites with private baths, plus a shared modern kitchen and living space with ocean views.
Fore! Jason rides past the golf course between the club house and lodge.
The daily menu at Lofoten Links Lodge offers snacks and dinner. (Divide prices by 8 for US$.)

Alternative tips: if you’d like to book a short fishing trip or boat ride, Svolvær’s Lofoten Rorbuer offers these excursions to people who are not as jet-lagged as we were. Also, Lofoten Links Lodge check-in is the club house for a seaside course if you have energy for a round of golf!

*As I read this aloud to Jason, he had an addition to the “thorn” section. The Queen Anne’s lace on the side of the road smelled putrid, he claimed! Ha! I enjoyed it’s presence, and must not have as delicate of a sniffer. 😉

Photo Gallery Day 1:

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DAY 2

Itinerary Day 2: We cycled 66 km. from Gimsøya (stopping at the gorgeous Brustranda Sjøcamping just over 1/2 way –after Valberg– for lunch) to Ballstad. We used mostly quiet back roads until reaching the Hagskaret area before Leknes, the first climb of the trip. From there, through Leknes and into Ballstad, there are a few bike paths, but it’s mostly busy road riding. The good news is that drivers respect bikers and there are signs encouraging drivers to share the road, such as the one below. We ended in Ballstad at a large old home on a rocky inlet now turned inn.

Roses and Thorns: An obvious rose was waking up (& actually falling asleep to) sunshine! We cycled 1k to the traditional European buffet at the clubhouse of Lofoten Links, commenting that vacation food always tastes better.

An unfortunate thorn soon pierced our banter–we got stuck in a rain storm on the way home, soaking the clothes we were about to wear all day during biking. From this we learned to always dress for rain, even in sunshine, because the weather changes quickly. We avoided the temptation to just jump back into bed and instead changed and hit the road, with some light precipitation swirling.

Other roses of the day soon blossomed, one being the beach we stumbled upon before Valberg, where we dismounted and played in the sand, and another being the lunch spot mentioned above– red rorbuer cottages over the water with a spunky woman serving warm apple cake, GF chocolate desserts, and coffee to name a few.

Although Villa Ballstad had incredible views, we do have to report a thorn– the inn was noisy, with 6 bedrooms sharing 2 bathrooms. Our tiny attic-type room had 2 single beds and 2 hand towels for the shower. You can imagine the dance back to the room from the community showers in a 1’x2′ towel!

Checking out a white sandy beach, but not sun bathing.

 

Alternative Tips: Stop at the grocery store for food in Leknes before continuing to Ballstad, as you may not feel like getting back on your bikes when you arrive at the seaside villa. (We didn’t, so we ate cheese, crackers and cashews for dinner on the patio! This is Erin’s perfect dinner anyway.)

Jason finds some local goodies at REMA 1000 Grocery Store (Idrettsgata 61, 8370 Leknes)

Also, if you feel like biking longer today, you can add 20 k to the itinerary by going to Stamsund, via Sennesvika, to Ramsvika, where you’ll see stunning views of Gravdal and Leknes. (We did not opt for this detour.)

Lastly, if you’re into diving, you can dive with a heavy wetsuit right off the beach of Villa Ballstad. The inn’s family also owns a PADI diving operation.

Accommodation Contact Info: Villa Ballstad, 8373, Skarsjyveien 67, 8373 Ballstad, Norway, +47 400 51 852, lofotendiving.com

 

 

Photo Gallery Day 2:


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DAY 3

Itinerary Day 3: From Ballstad, we took a one-hour ferry to Nusfjord, a tiny yet touristy fishing village. From there, we cycled 40 km. to Sakrisøy, using many alternate bike paths to avoid the tunnels blasted into the mountains. Sakrisøy, just outside of touristy Reine, was a gem and we didn’t want to leave!

Roses and Thorns: This day we deemed “the perfect day” and we had to reach for ANYTHING negative as a thorn. The only hurdle in the whole day was finding the bicycle ferry dock, but with the instructions and purchased tickets from Kræmmervika Rorbuer (Kræmmervikveien 3, 8373 Ballstad, Norway) we eventually found our barge, manned by one friendly captain. When the wind picked up, Erin relocated to the warmer lower deck while Jason chatted with the other 3 passengers up top. Noticing this, the captain hustled down from his watch tower, rummaged around in a closet, and pulled out a winter weather fisherman’s one-piece! Erin was giddy to slip that thing on– and honored to be wearing the presumed outfit of many professional Norwegian fishermen! It felt like a down comforter and she giggled, anticipating climbing back to the top of the deck for the makeover reveal. Jason was, of course, thrilled and had a photo shoot.

Erin, shivering on the top deck.
The captain’s wardrobe contribution

Back on the bikes after a coffee in Nusfjord, the scenery was jaw dropping, towering high above us, the traffic was mild, and we found the best restaurant in our final area, Anitas Sjømat (8390 Sakrisøy, Norway.) From the moment we woke and were offerd free bacon, to the time we checked in and got a free accommodation upgrade, we didn’t stop grinning.

Our favorite accommodation of the trip, Sakrisøy Rorbuer, served bottles of wine, homemade ice cream, and chocolate whip right on our front deck while we played cards. (See if you notice anything weird about Jason’s card hand below!)

The ride from Nusfjord to Sakrisøy

Alternative Tips: Before going to Nusfjord, travelers of this route could hike in Ballstadheia, which showcases supposed beautiful views.

Also, if the weather is cooperative, Sakrisøy Rorbuer rents stand-up paddle boards and kayaks.

Accommodation Contact Info: Sakrisoy Rorbuer AS (aka our favorite spot of them all!) 8390 Reine

Photo Gallery Day 3:



DAY 4

Itinerary Day 4: This is an easy day of biking, since Å, or “the end of the road,” is only 12 km. away! This leaves some time for the fish museum or for sun bathing on the rorbuer deck. Don’t forget a quick stop at the mini mart if you’d like to stock your rorbuer’s fridge!

Roses and Thorns: Roses today included some down time of reading in the sunshine on our porch after arrival and tasting stock fish for the first time.

A thorn here, and really in most places on the trip, was the service in the restaurant. Although tipping is costly in the USA, it sure motivates servers to be prompt and friendly…but we get it. We Americans are uptight diners, so we tried to relax and be patient as best we could!


Alternative Tips: C
heck out the fish museum in Å.


Accommodation Contact Info:
Smaken av Lofoten, Å i Lofoten, 8392 Sørvågen, Norway, Phone: +47 76 09 21 00


Photo Gallery Day 4:

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DAY 5

Itinerary Day 5: We woke at 8:30 and pedaled the 4 km. to Moskenes Camp Ground, where we unpacked our trusty panniers and repacked our backpacks. Since the bikes were a one-way rental, Lofoten Rorbuer picks up at the camp ground weekly. We walked 5 minutes to the ferry terminal. The ferry then transported us for 3.25 hours to Bodø, where we enjoyed our first jog along the water and overnight stay on mainland Norway.

Good morning from Å: only 4 km. left!

 

Roses and Thorns: We arrived at the ferry 45 minutes before the 11am departure, soon realizing we would have had plenty of time for a leisurely coffee or later wake-up–a slight thorn when on vacation. The ticket buying process started at 11, which was when we were scheduled to depart, and took 30 minutes to process everyone. Despite the late departure, coffee and a game of rummy occupied us on the calm seas, and soon we were walking the .5 miles to our hotel on Bodø’s water edge. Other roses involved our jog along the water’s edge– we still had energy since we only biked 4 km. We also loved the stellar views of the sea from our hotel room and (souvenir spoiler alert!) finding a grocery section for varieties of “Mager Ost” squeeze cheese, Norway’s version of EasyCheese, to take home!


Alternative Tips: Roast, the restaurant on the top floor of the hotel, offered breathtaking views, a hearty menu, and a bar open til 3 am, even though we were too pooped to participate in that scene!

Accommodation Contact Info:

Scandic Havet, Tollbugaten 5, 8006 Bodø, Norway, Phone: +47 75 50 38 00

Photo Gallery Day 5:



Ice Cream: Rocky Peanut Butter Road (Adventurous version of “Rocky Road”)

As promised, here is the recipe for Rocky Peanut Butter Road, which I made as the decadent option for Carter’s birthday. Looking for something more fruity, see the Lemon Berry Graham swirl recipe here.

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
5 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup whole milk

1/2 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
5 egg yolks
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup miniature marshmallows
1 cup pecans or walnuts
1 cup peanut butter cups, chopped (I use the dark chocolate p.b. cups from Trader Joe’s)

Trader Joe's dark chocolate peanut butter cups are our favorite for this recipe!
Trader Joe’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups are our favorite for this recipe!

DIRECTIONS:

1. Warm 1 cup of the cream with the cocoa powder in a medium saucepan, whisking to thoroughly blend the cocoa. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer at a very low boil for 30 seconds, whisking constantly. Remove from the heat and add the chopped chocolate, stirring until smooth. Then stir in the remaining 1 cup cream. Pour the mixture into a large bowl, scraping the saucepan as thoroughly as possible, and set a mesh strainer on top of the bowl.

2. Warm the milk, sugar, and salt in the same saucepan. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm milk into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.

3. Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula (and reaches 170 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer). Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the chocolate mixture until smooth, then stir in the vanilla. Stir until cool over an ice bath.

4. Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. (If the cold mixture is too thick to pour into your machine, whisk it vigorously to thin it out.) Once the ice cream has finished churning, fold in the marshmallows, nuts and peanut butter cups.

The Love and Art of Ice Cream

Ask any of my friends and family and they’ll tell you my naughtiest craving: ice cream. Maybe you’re my mother. Maybe you’re my friend since grade school. Maybe I just bumped into you after 5 years in the line at The Fairfax Scoop. In any case, we’ve probably bonded over our obsession. And if you’re like me,  you’re probably just as excited when you see chain restaurant fro yo as you are when spotting Italian gelato, say, in the Cinque Terra.  I even convinced Jason (and it didn’t take much) to replace traditional wedding cake with ice cream concoctions. I created “Erin’s late-night bake-athon” and he crafted “Jason’s chocoholic chow down!” It was a marriage made in dairy bliss.

And yet, it’s taken 2 weeks shy of 32 years to actually make my own. My good friend and ice cream lover, Eric Carter, celebrated his birthday last weekend in Tahoe, but the sun-drenched mountains and the chirping birds inspired me to stray from the usual January birthday treats. Yup, I lugged a brand-new ice cream attachment for my Kitchen Aid mixer up to the vacation house, and started the art of ice cream making. I wanted to make one fruity option and one decadent option for the birthday boy, so the first was inspired by the Liz Lemon Ben and Jerry’s flavor. Here is the first of two recipes that successfully rang in Carter’s birthday, and kept us hydrated in this California drought. See the second recipe, “Rocky Peanut Butter Road,” (a more adventurous rocky road) here.

Lemon Berry with Graham Swirls lemon berry graham ice cream

Put your ice cream mixer bowl attachment into the freezer at least 10 hours before making this recipe. You may want to double the recipe, as this will only make one pint.

Ingredients:
Blackberry Sauce:
1/8 cup sugar
1½ teaspoons cornstarch
¼ cup water
1-1.5 cup(s) fresh or frozen blackberries
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Graham Mixture:
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 teaspoon sugar
¼ cup butter, melted
Ice Cream:
1/4 cup sugar
½ (3.4-ounce) package instant lemon pudding mix
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon extract
zest of one lemon

Directions:

1. In a small saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch. Gradually stir in water until smooth. Stir in berries and lemon juice. Boil, then reduce heat to a simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally. Cover and refrigerate until chilled.

2. In a large bowl, combine the cracker crumbs and sugar. Stir in butter. Pat into an small ungreased baking pan. Bake at 350° F for 10-15 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely on a wire rack.

3. In a large bowl, whisk the ice cream ingredients. Fill ice cream freezer cylinder two-thirds full; freeze according to manufacturer’s directions.

4. Crumble the graham cracker mixture. In a large container, layer the ice cream, graham cracker mixture and berry sauce three times; swirl. Freeze.

LizLemon
This recipe was inspired by Ben and Jerry’s Liz Lemon, with the graham cracker substituted for lavender.

Back-To-School Ceremony in Kaski District, Nepal

Nepal Notebook Campaign

The generous donations you gave to our “Nepal Notebook Campaign” are still being used for children’s school supplies and scholarships! Check out pictures of the back-to-school ceremony where these scholarships were presented by Nepal Volunteers Council for the second year in a row!

Special thanks to Keshab Acharya and Manoj Dixit for their organization and continued efforts to educate all children. THANK YOU to our donors who made all of this happen. We are so humbled by your love and support– always!

See more photos of the newest scholarship recipients!

Tongariro Volcano Comparison

Wow! What a difference between this video and our photos of the serene Tongariro Crossing! This volcano blew today on New Zealand’s north island, and a teacher took the video footage below. Then see our peaceful photo from 2008 and Jason’s blog post about the trip.

Video of Tongariro Eruption- 2012

Jason’s blog post- 2008

Erin’s blog photo- 2008:

A peaceful view of the Tongariro Crossing in 2008

 

 

A world of voters

I’ll admit, before traveling around the world, I was not a very political person. I understood the basics and knew which way I leaned, but I never got into the (sometimes friendly) banter that excited many during election time. As I traveled I met hundreds of international acquaintances, some of which had been to the USA and some of which had not. Their experience with the USA ran the gauntlet from knowing America as a “reality tv show episode” to attending prestigious universities and living and working in The States for years.  Often finding I was one of the only Americans to speak up for my nation, answer questions, and defend this beautiful  place I call home, I had to beef up my knowledge of our political system. I needed to really decide where I stood on hot international topics such as foreign affairs and the environment and on issues that came up when speaking to others in my generation: mostly health care and education. I felt issues such as taxes and gas prices dwindle in importance to me, seeing how comparatively cheap it really is to live in the USA.  Don’t get me wrong, I see the importance of these, but you sometimes have to choose what you’re very passionate about and that’s what I did. It seemed that the sentiments of many people at home (as seen through social media and lifestyle choices) were completely opposite from those who viewed the USA from the outside, as their country’s ally, a world leader and sometimes an international bully. I’ve always wondered: if the world could vote, what would they say? Then I ran into this survey. Although I wish it were more extensive, I do feel it starts to draw conclusions from around the world, and after hearing common sentiments from foreigners for two years, I was not surprised.

Check it out if you’d like. Have you also found these opinions to be true on your international travels?

See survey here.

Country Roads

It’s not exactly a country road that cuts Shenandoah National Park in half, winding through the Blue Ridge Mountains, but we couldn’t help but sing along to John Denver’s Country Roads. “Blue Ridge Mountaaaiins, Shanendoahhh Riiiver,” we chirped. The first night of our camping adventure had started off perfectly, just our style. We’d lost our way, arrived to a locked entrance gate, and it was already dark. With headlights glowing, we rapidly assembled poles and raised our tent near the entrance, planning on leaving at sunrise to begin our four day hike in the wilderness. Knowing this was our last moment for luxury, we cracked a cold beverage from our cooler and said a “cheer” to our first night in Virginia. It only took ten minutes for headlights to illuminate our tent and a voice to call out in a southern drawl,”Who gives ya’ll permission ta camp her?” Jason and I smiled and he stepped out of the tent to chat, hoping he could smooth it over so we didn’t have to move everything in the dark.
Now this may not seem like the perfect scenario I just promised, but be patient and let me explain why it was.
Jason shook hands with Daniel, a local whose home butts up to Shenandoah National Park. After Jason finished apologizing and explaining that the National Park’s Website told us to camp outside the gate, Daniel said things had changed and this was private property, but since we seemed like “nice people” he’d let us stay and we could park our car in his yard for the duration of our trip. He said he and his wife had been surprised to see us camped near their home since we thought it was the public gate, and he reenacted the scenario by reporting they said, “By golly! Whats that?! A tent?!” We all had a laugh and were friends. May I note, Jason’s charm lead Daniel to the conclusion we were “nice people” within one minute of the conversation?!
Coming back with a can of beer and a mouthful of stories, we got an insider’s perspective to this area. He told us tales of fishing and hunting for mushrooms in the woods, which got our attention since we’d brought poles and fishing licenses. When asking if he ever found morels, Daniel got excited and exclaimed,”Well y’all do know ya shrooms!” He told us tales of finding leatherbacks, a mushroom that looks like leather on the top, but when you break it off, it drips a milky dew. He told us it was delicious with fish, fried up with grease or butter. (Note that there were only two ways to cook them in his mind: fried in grease or fried in butter. Southern home cooking!) We commented that we’d be on the lookout for them, hoping not to go the way of “Into The Wild.” We clarified the specifics and he told us we’d know we had one when our hands stained black from touching.

As you can see from the photos, this was one of the best parts of our hiking trip to Shenandoah! Mushroom hunting became a sport for us. Had we not gone astray the first night, we may have never learned to appreciate what the locals do! More on our domestic backpacking adventure to come.

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