torsdag 10. september 2009


I planned to go right from the airport in Panama City to the bus terminal to take a bus to Managua, Nicaragua, but due to much bus driving the days before (it is 15 hours by bus from Arequipa to Lima) I needed at least one day in a proper bed before I went on with another 26 hours in bus. The next day I went of though, first a 14 hours drive to San Jose in Costa Rica, wait 3 hours and then another 9 hours bus drive to Managua.

As those who have followed my blog from the start know, I was in Nicaragua 29 years ago. The old centre of the city was then in ruins after an earthquake in 1973 and under the Somoza regime little were done to rebuild houses and so on for the area near the bay of Lake Managua. In 1980 the only thing remaining of buildings in this area was the Bank of America and the shell of the cathedral, together with the Parliament. All these buildings stand like they did last time, only that the cathedral has been more damaged due to decay, there is no Bank any more in the Bank of America building and the Parliament building is today a museum. Around it the ruins are no more found though most of the new constructions since 1980 has been done in other parts of town which is considered to be more secure of earthquakes. In the old centre you find a park, a theatre, the presidential palace (which is not used by the current president, Daniel Ortega, which also was president in 1980 after the sandinist revolution in 1979) and other public or governmental buildings. The Plaza Hotel, in the near outskirts of this area, is the same more or less. This was the place Somoza stayed in the last days before he fled the country, and also the place from were the international journalists followed the events in July 1979.

What else is changed is the atmosphere. In 1980 I could walk around both day and night without feeling insecure and there was a generally friendly atmosphere. Most of the people are still just as friendly, I have to point that. But Managua has also got their amount of people who seem to live of extorting money from tourists. I guess one could argue that this come from the poverty in the country, and to some extent I can agree. But there was more poverty in 1980, so there has to be other explanations too. At the moment the unemployment rate in Managua is high, and I also guess that it for some may pay more to extort money than a lot of jobs will do.  

But all in all, I had some nice days in Managua. I spent some time to find out how to go to San Juan del Norte, a small village I visited in 1980 and spent a couple of weeks in. It was not to easy, until I finally found out where the official tourist information was. They did not know at my hostel, even if it showed to be only two blocks from there.

Pics from Managua

A little about my travel in Nicaragua in 1980.

To get to San Juan del Norte at that time was not easy. There was a ferry crossing the Lake Nicaragua to San Carlos at the beginning of the San Juan river, I was a night ferry where you hung up your hammock on deck and slept there. From San Carlos I had to ask for boat heading down the river. After a day there was a small barge going to El Castillo, some way down the river. I spent some days there, and was told that every fortnight there was a cargo barge going to San Juan del Norte. They were not sure if it was coming the week I was there or the next week, but I was lucky so it came the week I was there. I got the lift and it took two days to get down there, at the end of the San Juan river.

After almost two weeks there I wanted to go to Bluefields, the only city on the Atlantic coast at that time. Today I guess you can also call Puerto Cabezas for a city. To get there I could ask for a ride with a fishing boat, but there was none available at the time, so after a short ride with canoe to Cocal, where I also stayed for a day or two, I started to walk to Rio Maiz, which was a walk along the beach, with just one river crossing. From Rio Maiz I hoped to get a boat to Bluefields, but because of rough sea there was no boats going into Rio Maiz, After some days I followed some locals to the Punta Gorda river which was one days walk from sunrise to sunset through the rain forest. This walk is some of the hardest I have ever done. From this river we borrowed a canoe to get to the Punta Gorda. From there I got lift with a 25 feet cargo boat that first went to Monkey Point where we stayed overnight, and then started before sunrise and came to Bluefields at 4 in the afternoon, almost 12 hours after we left Monkey Point. In Bluefields I spent a week, including Christmas Eve, and went back to Managua by boat to Rama and bus from there to Managua, This is about the same way to travel and same time as you will use on this trip now.

The Atlantic coast of Nicaragua

I went the other way this time, because else I would have had some days waiting for a boat to San Carlos and San Juan del Norte. I did not fancy an8-10 hours bus drive to Rama so I took a plane. There is one domestic airline in Nicaragua operating an old Short SD360 that takes 33 passengers and has a max speed of 390km/h and a couple of Cessna Grand Caravan that takes 12 passengers and has a max speed of 317km/h. It is the Short that goes to Bluefields.

The Atlantic regions in Nicaragua is inhabited with creoles (black people that inherit from former slaves that moved to the region after the emancipation in the Caribbean islands), various indigenous people (indians, in the Pearl Lagoon it is mostly Miskitos and Garifunas) and of course also mestizos (Spanish speaking, both inherited from Spain and mixed people). The creoles speak English, or creole English or pigeon English as it is also called), while the different indigenous groups all have their own languages. They all can speak Spanish though, the indigenous groups very often speak both Spanish and English in addition to their own languages. It is not uncommon that some of them use four languages, for instance Miskito, Garifuna, English and Spanish.

During history the area has been central in the struggle between the Colonial Powers Spain And Great Britain. In periods of British dominance it was called the Mosquitia Kingdom and had the status of a British protectorate, until the independence of Nicaragua in ….. where it became a part of Nicaragua. But due to these historical reasons there has always been a lot of opposition and resistance against the central governments. Today the two Atlantic regions, north and south, has an autonomy, the only part at this coast that hasn't is the area nearest the boarder to Costa Rica where you find San Juan del Norte. This belongs to the region of San Juan which stretches along the San Juan river and a part of the east and south side of the Lake Nicaragua.


Bluefields has changed a lot since 1980. The hurricane Joan in 1988, one of the strongest hurricanes ever seen, almost destroyed the city (and other parts of the Atlantic coast in Nicaragua). In 1980 the vast majority of houses were wooden houses, today the city is rebuild in mostly concrete and bricks. It has become a bigger city though it is more in area then in number of inhabitants. What also have changed is the atmosphere. In 1980 the terraces of the houses went directly to the street, people where sitting there and I was often stopped for a chat, and invited to something to drink. Today the houses are behind chicken wire and grids. The people are still friendly when you make contact, and also helpful, but Bluefields has also got a number of people living of extorting money from the tourists, which the town was totally free for in 1980 (at least I did not meet any).

Pics from Bluefields

Pearl Lagoon and the Pearl Cays

After some days in Bluefields I went to Pearl Lagoon. This is about one hour by boat, an open river boat (pangas) with a 200 horsepower outboard engine, with those engines the boats only occasionally are in touch with the water. The Pearl Lagoon is a big brackish water lagoon, connected to the Lagoon of Bluefields through a canal partly natural and partly man made. You will not be able to see where it is man made, because the rainforest and mangrove is covering the river banks all the way. The annual rainfall here is considerable, though it is quite dry from end of September until December. I had mostly sunny days, but usually there was a shower or two during the day.

The first day I took a tour to the Cays or the Pearl Cays which is the official name. There are no regular service to the Cays, so I had to buy a tour from one of the local tour operators (which usually means a man that owns a boat that can take you there). This was also an open boat with an outboard engine, 23 feet and a narrow boat built for rivers and lagoon, but wide enough to do the sea water if the weather is not too rough. The Cays are placed about 19 nautical miles from Pearl Lagoon. Traditionally these islands have been used by the miskitos. They do a lot of fishing around the islands, they are used as a safe shelter when the weather turns bad, and they have harvested from the coconuts and other fruits growing there.

But some 10-15 years ago a Greek-American real estate businessman named Peter Tsokos, claimed to have bought the islands from some locals that produced a document saying they had the ownership. Tsokos resold several of these islands to foreigners for more than ten times the price he bought it for, and the miskitos suddenly found that their access to the islands were denied by armed guards and dogs. This lead to an ongoing legal dispute in the Nicaraguan tribunal which it seem clear will end up in the supreme court at last. The attorney of the Miskitos, Maria Luisa Acosta, has even got her husband killed in this conflict. The murder was committed with a gun registered on Tsokos lawyer, and after a lot of trouble under the investigation, due to judicial misconduct and persons in the legal system possibly not interested in investigating the murder, two men were arrested and convicted for the murder.

There are built some houses on the Cays, some not finished, and as far as I could understand only a British woman and her kids actually live on one of them (I coincidently met them in Pearl Lagoon). On one of the island I was told it was forbidden to take pics of an unfinished house there. I did take a pic of it though – when we were out in the sea.  

I later search a bit about the Cays and the legal conflict, and found that Tsokos at the moment has three more of these islands for sale, the prospect is found on the internet, and there is not a word about the ongoing legal conflict and that his ownership is disputed, not only has the miskitos raised a legal case, but now also the government through the general state attorney has questioned this ownership according to the Nicaraguan laws about foreign ownership and the legal rights of the indigenous people in Nicaragua to maintain their collective ownership and common use of their traditional areas. This should give you an idea of how serious Mr Tsokos is.

But enough of this... the islands are just beautiful. I can understand why someone wants to own islands like that – but cannot support it. I have grown up and is raised in the Norwegian tradition of right of access to uncultivated land, though it is also unfortunately threatened in Norway. Besides I also support the right of indigenous people of maintaining their traditional collective ownership to land where this has been the situation.

Besides the Pearl Cays I also visited a nearby Miskito village, Awas, and took a trip to a part of the Atlantic Beach which meant I had to take a boat through the swamp area inside the river banks, and also walk a bit through the swamp. When we moored the boat to walk we saw two caymans (small crocodiles) just beside the boat, one disappeared before I got the camera in position, but the other one remained to pose for my camera. The Atlantic beach stretches almost along all the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua, from where I was you can almost walk along the beach all the way to Honduras, there is just some river crossings on the way you will have to deal with. As you can see a gorgeous beach, though sometimes (as when I was there) there are a lot of flees which might make your stay there not so pleasant.

Pics from Pearl Lagoon and the Cays

Bluefields to San Juan del Norte

While I, as I told used several days on the reversed trip in 1980, this time I made it by boat in less than 4 hours, including half an hour at El Bluff for the bureaucratic paper mill connected to trips like this. The regular service from Bluefields to San Juan del Norte (which now has the official name San Juan de Nicaragua) is run by an open 27 feet boat with a 225 horsepower outboard engine. It goes really, really fast, but a very pleasant drive it is not! You better hold yourself tight to the wooden board which is your seat, and preferably bring something soft to sit on. I did not, and was rewarded with some blisters and galls in my ass, one of them got infected later and developed to an abscess which needed medical treatment. I also discovered, some time after arrival to San Juan that the screen on my mini computer had been broken during the trip, even if it had been packed in all I had of clothes.

We only had one stop on the way (except for El Bluff where you go out in open water) and that was Monkey Point. After a short stop there we went in a straight line to San Juan, if you have a look at a map you will see that we then are partly quite far from the coast which meant navigating by GPS. There were two crew on board, one in front and one skipper, the one in front had a small hand-held GPS and shouted the directions to the skipper when he got a bit too close to the Caribbean islands and too far from the coast.

San Juan del Norte

The first attempt to build a canal between the Atlantic and the Pacific was done here. It was an American businessman, Cornelius Vanderbilt, that took the initiative and wanted to build the canal here. The building of the canal started in 1849, a long time before the Panama canal (opened 1914), and there are built some km of canal here. A lot of incidents, political unrest, struggle between interests of the British and the Americans, and also different interests within the US, led to that the plans were postponed, the final end of it was the plans to build the Panama canal. Into this is also the period of the invasion of the American soldier of fortune William Walker, which there is made a film of some years ago that some of you might have seen. His invasion started in San Juan del Norte or Greytown which was the British name of the town. Later the Nicaraguan nationalist president, Zelaya, forbid the foreign ownership of Nicaraguan land, which probably made the US more interested in building the canal in Panama.

Though the canal plans never where realized, Vanderbilt started a route from New York to San Francisco with boat from NY to San Juan del Norte /Greytown, river boats to San Carlos and from there another boat to La Virgen in the Lake Nicaragua, from there railway or stagecoach to San Juan del Sur and the boat to San Francisco. This was in fact the only public transport from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast of US at that time. Due to the invasion of Walker and other incidents it did not operate for several years and was shut down when the Atlantic-Pacific railway in the US was completed in 1866. An earthquake in 1893 changed the formations in such a manner that San Juan del Norte no longer where placed in the bay, but is now found along the Rio Indio, which is more a lagoon than a river.

But about 6 km of the canal is there, this part was supposed to be a short cut to the San Juan river, which mainly was meant to lead the route for the canal. Some of the equipment used for the building of the canal is still there. But the end of the canal plans and the route from New York to San Francisco also ended the great times of San Juan del Norte and it has never had the amount of inhabitants it had in those days.  

During history San Juan del Norte has not been located on the same spot. The time of British influence and control and time of the starting of the canal it was placed at the start of the canal, where you see the old wreck (from the period of the canal building) on one of my pics. Also the smaller wreck inside of the rainforest you will find on this spot, together with a few other remains of the town from this period. On the other side of the canal you find the five star hotel which I also have some pics from.

But the village has also been moved after I was there in 1980. Some years after the sandinist revolution in 1979, just about a year after I was there, the US financed and supported “contras” started their armed struggle to overthrow the sandinist government, and they were especial active in the Atlantic regions. Mostly they had their base in Honduras, but a former sandinist comandante, Eden Pastora, broke up with the sandinists and formed a contra group operating from Costa Rica. His operations in the border area made it impossible to live in San Juan del Norte, and he burned it down in 1982 and made an airstrip there which is the grass coated area you see on one of the pics. The people there either went at refugees to Costa Rica or settled down other places at the Atlantic coast like Rio Maiz and Bluefields. Eden Pastora must be the incarnation of an opportunist as he has now joined the sandinist party, FSLN, again and has become a minister in the government of FSLN. I would say that to me it does not point in the favour of FSLN that he has been taken into the party and even the government again.

Today's San Juan del Norte, or de Nicaragua as it now is named, is placed some km further up the Rio Indio, and while there in 1980 was just about 200 inhabitants, there is today between 2 500 I was told. It look totally different, and today there is almost none of the creoles living there, in 1980 they were about 50% of the population there. But the people there are just as friendly as they were in 1980, and there is almost nothing of the chicken wire and grids as in Bluefields. At the former location for the village there is now only the old, historical graveyards left, an American, a British, a Catholic and one for the so called Freemasons (from the St. Johns Lodge in Delaware).

Pics from San Juan del Norte

Rio San Juan

There are some boat services from San Juan de Nicaragua up the river to San Carlos at the beginning of the river, one takes 6-7 hours and one take 11 hours, each having two weekly departures. I took the slowest one, so it would be easier to take pics. The boats are very narrow, like most river boats, but these also have to pass the very narrow river that connects the Rio Indio with Rio San Juan. If you don't know where this river start, you will not find it, because it is almost hidden of the reed and mangrove.

The Rio San Juan is beautiful, and I hope to be lucky to see some of the amazing wild life in this river. The river has since the 1960's been known to contain creatures you normally just find in sea waters, like bull shark, dolphins, sea turtles and rays (skates and sawfish). The bull sharks is also often seen in the Lake Nicaragua (so if you thought you don't need to fear sharks in fresh water, well.. think otherwise).

I did see two dolphins, but was not fast enough to take a pic of any of them. But I got a lot of pics of birds, which Rio San Juan also is famous for. And I got some turtles as you see, though I don't think it is sea turtles.

My trip ended at San Carlos, where I stayed one day and took a plane to Managua, this time the Cessna.

Pics from Rio San Juan

Pics from San Carlos

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tirsdag 8. september 2009

Bolivia to Arequipa, Peru

The old road from Coroico to La Paz is called the death road. A high number of cars and buses have had severe accidents here in the steep mountain road. Today several tour agencies in La Paz arrange tours with bikes down this spectacular road. That road reminds me of a road in Peru I travelled by bus in 1980, the road from Huancavelica to Pisco which takes you from 3600m up to 4850 and then down to the coast. It is only about 270km but it took 13 hours on a narrow dust road carved into the mountain sides. After that trip I had to go back to the bus company the day after and give them back the armrests for the bus seat... But now there is a quite new and mostly paved road from Coroico to La Paz (there is still parts where the road is not totally completed), so I never got the experience with the death road. Next time I will do it on bicycle for sure. The new road is also quite spectacular though, so there is a lot of viewpoints – for those who are not squared of heights.

After a night in La Paz I went on the bus to Arequipa. I – and others – were told that it would be a 10 hours bus drive, and it was said to be a direct bus with so called semi beds. The bus we got on had OK standard but no semi beds or chairs you could regulate. It brought us to the border to Peru at Desaguadero where there of course were all the things with border crossings, control of passports out of Bolivia and into Peru, customs and so on, and we were then told to go 200 metres to another bus company and change our tickets into new ones. There we got the message that the bus was not going to leave before 2 and a half hours later! So much for a direct bus. So I have one advice for those doing the same trip: Don't use the company Nuevo Continente. We arrived in Arequipa 14 hours after we left La Paz.

Well... the bus drive took us by the Titicaca Lake, both the Bolivian and Peruvian part of the lake. Though placed some 4000 m above sea level, Lake Titicaca has in fact once been a part of the sea. After the ice age the Andes raised and the water in Titicaca were “trapped”. In fact the land here still rises with about 3 cm each 100 years.

Arequipa should be the only place in Peru I visited this time. I had some other plans, but due to a longer stay in Bolivia than planned, I had to skip most of it. But Arequipa showed to be a good choice for the few days I had in Peru. It is a beautiful city placed at some none-active volcanoes which is about 6000 m a.s.l, Arequipa itself is around 2000 m a.s.l. It has some great buildings from colonial time, included a big and great Dominican monastery. A tour here will tell you a lot about the way Christianity was imposed and used in the colonisation of this continent.

And for those of you who think about monasteries as a place with equal human beings – a tour here will show you that this is far from the truth. Nuns from families with good economy could buy themselves their own flats in the monastery, and get their own maids, which would be girls from the Quechua or Aymara indians.

After some days in Arequipa, at the family of Marina, a Peruvian cs'er at the moment living in Stavanger, I went on to Lima to take a plane to Panama. I just stayed one night and did not get the chance to see much of Lima unfortunately.

Pics from Coroico

Pics from Titicaca/Desaguadero

Pics from Arequipa

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torsdag 27. august 2009


After a short flight to Amsterdam, about 11 hours from Amsterdam to Lima, 6 hours of waiting in Lima airport, 1 hour waiting inside the plane and a couple of more hours flight, I arrived in La Paz, Bolivia 2 am local time. A taxi drive through empty streets brought me to the hotel I had booked, which in fact was closed, but I managed to wake up the night porter and got myself to bed. La Paz is about 3600m a.s.l so I took it very easy the next days, both to recover from jet lag and to prevent high altitude sickness. So I took a lot of rest, drank my mate de coca, and used some time to look around in La Paz. I got a bit headache, and had a little heavy breathing, but in fact it got better when I got outside La Paz, even if I ascended to a higher altitude with about 400 m. I guess this is due to that La Paz is placed in a valley going down from the high plateau (altiplano), with a lot of polluting traffic which give the body even less oxygen than in the high plateau itself.

Pics from La Paz


Most of the long distance buses in Bolivia is night buses. So also with the bus from La Paz to Potosi. Most of the bus companies have quite good buses, and some are excellent. I chose a bus with “beds” which means seat more or less like the first class seats in long distance planes. Maybe a bit lack of space for a long legged European like me, but I slept well and had a very good trip.

Many, many years ago I read about the mines of Potosi in a book of the Uruguayan historian and writer Eduardo Galeano called “Open veins of Latin America”. I read about the Cerro Rico (rich mountain) the richest silver mines in history, where the Spanish took out or stole silver enough to build a bridge from Potosi, across the Atlantic Ocean and to Madrid (this is not my words). They first tried with slaves from Africa to work in the mines, but they could not make this hard work in these altitude and relative cold temperatures, so they started to enslave the indigenous people both around Potosi and from other parts of the Andes. While the people living there when the Spanish came was mostly Aymaras, you will today also find a big Quechua-speaking population in Potosi, descendants from slaves from the Peruvian parts of Andes. But the life of a miner was – and is – short. They worked – and work – 24 hours a day, with nothing else than the chewing of coca leaves as food. Lots of people have died in and of the mines. Eduardo Galeano writes that after a while the name of the mountain – in Aymara – changed from the “rich mountain” to “ the mountain that eats people”.

The silver from Potosi paid, to a large extent, the industrialization of England and thereby also much of the rest of Europe. Ships loaded with silver sometimes went on Spanish ships directly to England as payments of the industrialized goods which the Spanish aristocracy bought a lot of in these years. Today there is almost no silver left in the mines of Potosi, but the town still live of mining. But today they take out what is left there, which mostly is sink Thinking of what amount of riches and wealth Potosi has created on another continent, it is quite a contrast to see the poverty in this city today. The miners work with just hand tools (and dynamite, but the holes for the dynamite is made with hammer and chisel), life expectancy for a miner is about 10 years after starting to work in the mine. A miner might earn about $35 for 14 days, those working outside earn less I think.

Well, I guess you have figured out that I have had a special interest for Potosi, and finally I have also been there, not only read about it. The tour to and in the mines included some playing with dynamite, saying hello to Supay (El Tio in spanish, which means uncle but is hardly the original meaning or source of the name El Tio, it is a bit more complicated), and the day I was there was the day they sacrifice lamas to Pachamama (Mother Earth). The lamas in the pics are already dead, and their blood is thrown over the entrance of the mine and other places that need the blessing of Pachamama. If you think Supay reminds of a familiar guy from the christian myths, it is not coincidental, there is also a story behind that. I can tell more to those who are interested, or you can google for more info.

Pics from Potosi


Another night bus, this time not quite the same standard, but fair buses. You can't say the same about the road though. While it is paved road on the altiplano from La Paz to Potosi, the road from Potosi to Tarija is a dust road, and what we call a wash board road in Norway. Also a night bus, but not too easy to sleep.

Tarija is the capitol of the wine district in Bolivia and of course I had to see some of the vineyards and bodegas. They consist of both some industrial bodegas and a lot of traditional bodegas. In my opinion the industrial wine production of Bolivia can be compared to their more famous neighbours in Chile and Argentina. In the traditional ones they make more sweet wines (but not only that), and the locals mostly prefer the sweet wines I was told.

Pics from Tarija

Pics from wine bodegas

There is a lot of beautiful nature around the city, and for those who like trekking and hiking, Tarija has a lot to offer. The so called “Inca trail” which is a road built buy the Incas in pre-Colombian time, is believed to have gone from the north west parts of Argentina to somewhere in the Colombian Andes, through La Paz, Cusco in Peru and Quito in Ecuador (if this does not tell you anything, then look on the map). The first part, if you go from south to north, which is still visible and in good condition, is just outside Tarija. I did a one day trip along this beautiful road here, together with a guide and a French couple, Aurora and Simon.

Pics from Inca trail Tarija

The Inca trail El Choro

One of the better preserved parts of the Inca trail starts at Cumbre not far from the La Paz, in the deserted landscape at 4900m and descends to about 1300m at El Chairo, about an hours drive from Coroico. This is a 3-4 days trip, I made it in 3 days. You won't really need a guide on this trip, it is impossible to get lost, but I took one for safety reasons. I had no one who wanted to go at the same time as me, and as one of the hiking rules is in Norway: Never walk alone! It turned out to be the best, my guide, Milton, was a very nice guy and we had a great time together. We also met some other groups on our way.

The first day we descended to about 2800m, and in the afternoon we had our dinner and put up our tents at Challapampa, one of the tambos (a place that offered shelter and lodging for the travellers on the road) along the road. In pre-Colombian times these roads had a messenger or post system. The chasquis were postmen that would service an average of 10-15km of the road (the distance depending on the land and challenges) and there was always a running mail man at his post. In these days it is estimated that news from Quito in Ecuador reached Cusco in Peru in 6-7 days, which is less than a letter sent by mail takes today!

Pics from Inca trail El Choro day 1

Well, enough of that, you can find more about this if you google the Inca trail I guess. The next day was a lot up and down, which also included to go up the so-called Cuesta del Diablo, which means Devils Hill or Slope. I think I was a bit better fit for this than Milton, because he got completely exhausted after this. We were supposed to stop at a tambo called Bella Vista, but here the lady in charge had taken a visit to La Paz so it was all closed. In stead we had to go on to Sandillani, a place where a Japanese settled down 50 years ago and have made himself a beautiful Japanese garden where you can camp with a spectacular view of the valley hundreds of meters below (800m or so). At this place there is also some sort of a hostel or inn, where you can get a bed in a dormitory (which I gladly paid 25bs - $4 -for in stead of another night in tent). But first we had a good meal and some beers after the hardest part of the trail – and the longest day of trekking.

Pics from The Inca trail El Choro day 2

The next day started with a visit to the Japanese garden, and the old Japanese told us the story about how he came there, showed us maps drawn by hand of all the countries in the world with points to where his visitors in these years came from. He also had a huge amount of postcards from all over the world (which reminds me that I must send him one when I get home), and about 15 from Norway, among them one from Stavanger and one from Sand in Ryfylke, about 3 hours drive from Stavanger.

After saying goodbye to the Japanese, we descended down to El Chairo at about 1300m, from where we hired a mini bus to Coroico. I would have loved to stay at Coroico, but had a bus ticket from La Paz to Arequipa in Peru the next day and had to leave short after we arrived there.

Pics from The Inca trail El Choro day 3

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Brügge, the Cactus Festival and Tracy Chapman

After the Roskilde Festival and Copenhagen Jazz me and Steinar and another friend, Helge, drove down to Brügge in Belgium to see and hear Tracy Chapman who was going to play at the small Cactus Festival here. First of all; Tracy Chapman was worth the long car trip!! Great concert!! And the small and intimate Cactus Festival suited her a lot more than I think any of the stages at the Roskilde Festival would have done. The Cactus Festival was quite a contrast to Roskilde, but we all liked the atmosphere here, both at the festival and the beautiful city of Brügge. Not much more to say about it, if I have the chance I would like to go there another year as well.

Pics from Brügge

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onsdag 26. august 2009

On bicycle in Denmark and Roskilde Festival

Since 2004 I have been every year to the Roskilde Festival. The first years I went there with my daughter, but the 3 last years I have been allowed to go there on my own, or with friends. Also the 3 last years I have made the trip to Roskilde by bicycle, together with my friend Steinar. This year his daughter, Katarina, and one of her friends, Linn, also joined us, and a second friend of hers, Katrine, joined us for the last 2 days. All in all it is a 5 days trip by bicycle if you do it our way, take it easy, and take the ferry from Århus to Sjællands Odde. The first ferry is the ferry from Norway to Denmark though, the port we have left from has been a different one every year, this year it was from Risavika a bit outside Stavanger.

We have not been blessed with such a marvellous weather as this year before, the sun was shining from start to end. There is not so much to say about the trip except for that we all enjoyed it, but in spite of that the girls insist on that they will go by car or plane next year. There is some pics from the last night before we got to Roskilde that might seem a bit strange, but the hoods on the girls and the hardly “trimmed” tent was caused by a lot of mosquitoes and since they did not start to put up the tent before after sunset there was quite a performance going on before they rushed into the tent.

Except for that the trip went on with cycling, eating, beer-drinking and eating and a night on town in Århus. We all stayed at the flat to Katrine who is studying in Århus, but there was no spare key, so when me and Steinar came to the flat the girls where sleeping steady, and no one heard either the door bell or cell phones. The flat was on the floor over a shop at street level and since it was hot the windows where open. The shop had a gitter and by climbing this and out on the shop sign I managed to climb in – still without waking up any of the girls. I still wonder what went through the minds of those two drivers that passed us when the climbing was going on.

Well... then it was the Roskilde Festival. Great as usual.. though I must say that in spite of better “names” this year that last year, I did not have as many really good concert experiences as I have had the other years. But still enough to go next year as well.

What also has become a tradition for me is to go to a concert at the Copenhagen Jazz Festival which starts the last weekend of the Roskilde Festival and last for some more than a week. 3 years ago I went with my mother, the last 2 years also some of my siblings, nephews and niece have joined us. This year we went to a great concert with Roberto Fonseca band (Cuba), which really was a great experience.

Pics from bicycletrip

Pics from Roskilde Festival

Pics from Copenhagen Jazz Festival

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This is in fact the first time I have been travelling by train in Europe, except for Norway, Denmark and a single trip from Newcastle to London many years ago. I have always preferred train to bus or car, and sometimes even to plane, so it is maybe a little strange that I haven't travelled more this way. On my list was some of the cities in Europe that I have never been to before, like Prague, Budapest and Berlin. I would also very much liked to go to Italy, especially Rome, but I had to make some choices to get some more time on the places I visited, rather than rush through a lot of places and cities. And there will be more chances.

I will not write a lot about each city, you can have a look at the pics, just some words about the travel in general, the route I took and what I think about it.

Well, I started with a trip by plane though, my interrail ticket could not be used in my own country, so then I could as well start with a cheap flight to London. I have been to London some times before, but never to other places in the UK, so this time I wanted to see at least one more city on her majesty's island. My choice was Manchester. Unfortunately I have no pics from there, and I guess Manchester is not a tourist magnet, but I got what I wanted; to see one of the old industrial towns of UK, which also has its China Town. Not like the China Towns in South East Asia, in Manchester it is more some streets with basically oriental restaurants. But they call it China Town.

Then back to London and the Eurostar train to Brussels You don't get free passage with your interrail ticket on the Eurostar train, but you get a very reduced rate, the earlier you book the more reduced (I think). It is quite amazing that this trip don't last more than 2 hours.. so why on earth do someone fly from London to Brussels?

The centre of Brussels is nice to walk around in, especially the area around Grand Place with its street cafes and restaurants and beautiful old buildings. Not once did the food disappoint me, which I can't say about UK, or any other places I have visited (though most of the times I have been satisfied). One day, when I went out from the North train station, I was suddenly in what I guess is the “red light district” of Brussels I feel really bad when I see the prostitutes sitting in shop windows like some other merchandise. This way of looking at women is really disgusting, and I started wondering... this is the capitol of the European union; why is this not more discussed in a city that hosts politicians from all these countries? Or maybe a city like this need to cope with the “demands” of all the powerful men visiting the city? In my own country, in Europe and the rest of the western countries there is a lot of talk about the womens position in Islam And there is, in my opinion, a lot to criticize in this matter, but we certainly have a lot to do in our own countries. And in either Malaysia or Indonesia, big Islam countries, I found the poit of view which says that women, or women's bodies, is something you can buy or sell. 

Another thing... after having seen the centres of power, the areas around the EU commission, the EU parliament and different financial institutions, it is obvious what today's “cathedrals” are made of. It is dark glass, in fact this is also the case in South East Asia. This is what symbolizes power today. And maybe there is a symbol in the fact that you can see out from these buildings, but you can't see in. What is inside is hidden for us who have no access to them. In Brussels the women for sale is highly visible in their windows, but the men (and women) with money and power is not visible.
We just know they are inside there some place.

Pics from Brussels

From Brussels to Budapest

If you have bought an interrail ticket you can travel without additional charge on most trains throughout Europe, but if you want to be sure to have a seat, or if you travel on trains where seat or sleeping place is compulsory, you have to pay for the seat or couchette. It takes some time to find internet sites with reliable information about timetables and costs, but I ended up with the conclusion that the web site for Deutsche Bahn is far the best. And far better than the experts at the booking office at the main train station in Brussels I came there with a suggestion, but they managed to convince me that another route to Budapest would be far better. This “better” option included a 5 hour stop at Frankfurt Airport (I took the train to the Frankfurt Central and catched the next train from there). My next stop was Stuttgart from where they had booked me a night train to Budapest. To my surprise I discovered that this night train in fact started in Frankfurt where I had just been, and stopped in Stuttgart on the way. So from that time I used the Deutsche Bahn web site to plan my travels and did not ask anyone else for advice!

It was also a little amazing to discover that unlike most of the other long distance trains (which sometimes was just a few hours travel), this train did not have a restaurant or bistro car. The service if you were thirsty or hungry was rather poor. Maybe I also was a bit extra disappointed since this is in fact a part of the old Orient Express, and from the film of this old Agatha Christie story I know it was far better before. When I disembarked in Budapest I managed to forget my cell phone on board, I had put it for charge, so for the rest of my euro trip I experienced how life was when we did not have this thing by hand all the time. And also how stupid it is to let the phone be the only place you store numbers when you are on travel.

Well, but what about Budapest? Budapest is a wonderful city, I don't have to say more. And I have to say many thanks to Eszter, the cs'er who hosted me there, and which I managed to get in touch with even without the cell phone.

Pics from Budapest

From Budapest to Berlin

The reason that I went to Berlin before Prague is that I wanted to join a festival for members of CS and similar web sites (Hospitality Club etc.), the BBC (Berlin Beach Camp). After having been there I think I might make this an annual occasion to go to Berlin. It was fun to meet all these persons, and especially the polish friends I made there. So now Poland is definitely on my “to do” list. I also got the opportunity to visit some relatives a little outside Berlin, though a short visit.

One of the things I did during the camp was to take a guided tram trip, we had two experts on trains and trams with us during our travel in the eastern parts of Berlin (there is no trams in the west part, except for one who starts in the west part and goes to the east). I also got to see and join some of the carnival which was going on in Berlin at the time. I did not see so much of the central parts of Berlin though so I am looking forward to do that some other time.

Pics from Berlin

Berlin to Prague

Also a night train with rather poor service. But I had an all right sleep and arrived Prague in the morning. I had booked a hotel here since I got no response on requests on CS (the cs'ers in Prague get a lots of requests so I should have made my requests a long time ahead of my arrival). It was a little surprising to come to locked door at the small hotel, but after some calls (which had to be made from an old fashioned telephone box), it turned out to the best. Nice room and friendly owner.

I think Prague is the most beautiful city I visited. But also most crowded with tourists. Nevertheless I had a great time there, with good food in nice and small restaurants, lovely walks in narrow streets. When I needed to escape a bit from the worst of the tourist crowds I just walked over the Carl's bridge and went around in the streets on the other side. Prague is also easy to get around in, if you have a map of the city together with a map of the transport systems, it is easy to find the way. I will highly recommend the trams, they go everywhere, and you also get to see a lot from them.

Pics from Prague

From Prague to Amsterdam

Again a night train with rather poor service, though it in fact started from Prague in the late afternoon and did not arrive before late morning hours the next day. I have only been in Amsterdam once before, when I, together with a friend, drove through a part of Europe some months after I got my driving license at the age of 18. 

Amsterdam is just as beautiful as I remember it. To be a big metropol it has a calm and relaxing atmosphere. Some of it reminds me of Copenhagen, and it is not only the brick stone buildings. In Copenhagen you will also find a huge number of bicycles, but Amsterdam exceeds this number by far. But just watch up so you don't walk in the bicycle lane... I can tell you that it is not appreciated!! And when you walk around in this relaxed atmosphere and look at the beautiful buildings and canals, you might suddenly find yourself in a bicycle lane – and the atmosphere is not so relaxed any more...

Pics from Amsterdam

Amsterdam to Hamburg

There is no direct train and the best way to go is to take a train to …. and then to Hamburg. When I wanted to book a seat, which in Germany is not to much of a cost (2€) and you can do it also on the ticket automates, there is no such option in the Netherlands and they have a gigantic fee of 10€ + the seat for it. So just forget it and go on the train and find an available seat.

Even if these trains does not take too many hours they have a good restaurant car. So this is a very pleasant way of travelling. In Hamburg I had a CS-contact, Bettina, that was to meet me at the station and that would host me. I only had a day here and Bettina took me a little around in Altona where she lives, a tour in a park and alongside the Elbe where it was possible to see both the charming river front on the Altona side, and the impressing shipyards and container harbour on the other side.

Pics from Hamburg

And with a café visit in the charming centre of Altona my euro trip was at its end – the next day I took a plane back to Stavanger.

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lørdag 6. juni 2009

Norway from south west and to the north

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In august 2008 my daughter started her career as an independent adult and went to a school in the north of Norway, Malangen in Troms. Those of you who are interested can read more about the school at , here I just want to tell you that it is a wildlife school, where they learn about wildlife in general and on either a horseback or by dog sledging. My daughter had chosen dog sledging. The year included a winter week on the polar island Svalbard which I understand was quite a rough experience and not for faint hearts and wimps.

I understood from my contact with her through these 9 months that she managed very well without any of her parents, and that there is no need for me to devote my life to worrying about her (her older brother had already made that clear a while ago). But of course I have been curious about her experiences and how it was like the place she has been this period (and where she in fact is going to stay also the next year). So I borrowed my sons car and drove up to pick her up there when school finished the 10th of may. Since it is a long way up there, the shortest route is 2100km, I decided to make it an opportunity to see some of Norway that I had not seen before. In stead of the shortest route, I drove up along the west coast of Norway, with all the fjords, the mountains and the Atlantic Road. One of the most spectacular roads in Norway, Trollstigen, was not an option unfortunately though it is a winter closed road and had yet not opened for the spring and summer season.

Again I don't see the point in trying to describe it, just say that on this trip you can see most of the types of nature that Norway has to offer, except maybe for the mountain platoons, but we got to see some of those on our way back when we took the shortest route from Malangen to Stavanger. After the west coast and the mid parts of Norway (Trøndelag), I took the coastal road through Nordland, which is the first of the three most northern districts of Norway. On this road there is a spectacular wild scenery, and you pass the polar circle (sorry guys, I have no pic of it...), Norway's second biggest glacier, Svartisen (the black ice) where a part of it goes almost down to the fjord, and Saltstraumen (salt current) which is, I've been told, the worlds strongest tide current.

I got up to Malangen and the 69º North School in time to the termination party and also had time to a look around the place my daughter had spent her last 9 months. We, my daughter and I and a schoolmate of my daughter, started on our long way back the next day. We planned to leave early, but when there is 39 schoolmates to hug and say goodbye to, and the same with 50 dogs, it takes time... but finally we got started on our long trip home, this time without many tourist stops. We arrived Stavanger at night 3 days later, quite exhausted. At least I was.

Just a little about what you see. At the time of this trip (beginning of may) the shift of seasons between winter and spring has come to different stages in different parts of the country. In the western part of the country it is full spring and the leaves are green on the trees. It has this fantastic light green colour in springtime, on some of the pics you see those colours together with the all year green colours from the conifers. Some places the snow has barely melted or the ground may even still be covered with snow. This is in the mountain areas, in the south I had to come over 800 m above sea level to see the snow, but in the mid and northern parts you will find snow lower than that. In the northern part (on this trip it did not include the most northern district) the spring has just begun in the coastal areas.

The glacier (Svartisen) you will see a couple of pics of, one whit the “arm” of the glacier coming down almost to the fjord and one where you can see the edge of it a little higher up, but both pics are taken from about the same place.

The smaller bridge you see is from the Atlantic road in the western part of Norway (Møre og Romsdal district), the bigger one is from Sandnessjøen in one of the northern districts. This trip also included a lot of ferries, most of them just 10-20 minutes but some up to an hour. I find it quite relaxing with the ferries, it gives a break from driving and you also see a lot from the ferries.
In the pics from the school and the termination party you see a several of the girls are wearing the traditional clothes (bunad) which those of you who have experienced our national day, the 17th of may, have seen a lot of. As far as I could see it was just one of the teachers that wore the male bunad, so I cannot show the same range of different traditional clothes for men.