Sunday, August 24, 2014

Scandinavian hiking (in summary)

My hiking course was a class and at the end of our two weeks we had a "graduation" and received diplomas. The instructors had also written and shared with us a summary of our time together. I thought it was well written and hit some of the highlights. So while I continue to get way behind in my posts, I wanted to leave this with you along with at least one beautiful picture from our two weeks. Monday I start the Inca Trail hike and the distances and elevations to be covered seem daunting. Wish me luck!

"For 13 days, 13 students and 3 instructors travelled through the Scandinavian Arctic for 95 kilometers*. We departed Katterjåkk, Sweden with boots on our feet, and our entire lives carried on our backs. We walked over boulder fields, through marshes, up and over high ridges, and we forged rivers, crossing the Swedish Norwegian border several times. After six days, we piled new food into our backpacks in Vuostagorzi, Norway, and ate homemade blueberry cake. We continued along the gorgeous Scandinavian tundra and learned a great deal from the fourth instructor, Mother Nature. She introduced us to rain, lightning, extreme white outs, sun, clouds and cold. We gladly welcomed Mama Moo, our new group member, who we cared for, and who looked after us in return. Watches were deemed extraneous, so we used the sun and shadows to tell time. Students put their skills to test and travelled independently of instructors for three days. For two weeks, laughter resonated through each campsite, despite the pouring rain. We were headstrong, we persevered, and we lived in style in the Scandinavian wilderness."

* 1 kilometer = 0.62 miles

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Back in the 'front' country

I made it! So much to post. Just got back to wifi and have been doing calls, emails, texts, etc.  However in about 12 hours I start my flights from northern Sweden to Peru. Long day ahead. 

I have lots of pictures. We had great days and challenging days. Good weather and bad. I was a leader and a follower. A great experience that I was not fully prepared for but made it work. 

More to come later...

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Radio silent tomorrow

I'm not good at keeping this blog updated with short snippets of fun info. Sorry :). I have some posts started/drafted about Colorado, my day in the Brussels airport, the weekend in Stockholm, etc, but I need to add pictures and probably cut them down rather than ramble my life story. 

Today I spent time with other participants in my NOLS course and tonight we met our leaders. Tomorrow at 07:00 we head out to pack our bags properly, do gear checks, ration food, etc. and head out to camp tomorrow night. Electronics stay at base camp :) and they floated the idea of also leaving our watches at base camp to go more with the flow. I really like that idea.  

I think we have a pretty a good group and leaders, so the next couple weeks should be fun and active!

Catch you on the flip side ;)!

My view during dinner last night

Friday, August 1, 2014

Long day (updated)

Travel is sometimes frustrating. I'm almost on 24 hours without sleep and not in the best mood, so apologies if this sounds like a rant. It probably is :).  

I usually only post the fun stuff but today has been long! It started when about two hours before leaving for the airport I tried to print a train ticket for Sweden. I remember my visa being charged but the confimation I received said it was cancelled and showed no dollar amount. I checked and was definitely charged. Finally I just decided to book a refundable ticket and try to sort it out in Sweden. That took 45 minutes that I was planning to have to pack. (Because yes, I always wait until the last minute to pack.)

Go to the airport and my status with United had expired. So I'm in regular economy and to check two bags for an international flight is now $100 (but the first bag is free). My United credit card which is suppose to have perks, only counts for that first, free checked bag. Just put the fee into the ticket. I fly southwest within the US now and try to fly an international carrier when outside the US. (I realize this sounds very snooty but that status does make a world of difference.)

However I got on the plane and had my own tv. It must be a newer plane. This helped lighten my mood and I watched several movies on the way to Europe. I did not, however, sleep. As we neared the end of the flight, I was calculating how long I'd been awake, what time it was locally and when would I actually arrive in Sweden. Oh dear. I will be severely jet lagged. I honestly think the super long Asia flights are easier to adjust to local time. 

I have nine hours in Brussels on my layover and I planned to go to the city and do some exploring. But now I was tired and realized I had no detailed plans, only a high level objective. So I went to my connecting terminal first to scope things out and maybe rest a little. That took some time. I did find 30 minutes of free wifi and ate the second half of my sandwich. Then I decided I should go into the city, even if only a couple hours. 

I head to the exit that was probably a 10 or so minute walk and see an ATM right before you leave baggage claim. I have no euro and will need some. I put in my card and request 50 euro for the day, enter my pin code and promptly receive a notice that my card is invalid and has been "swallowed".  Seriously?

I'm now waiting for some ATM cash workers to see if they stop by and can maybe help me. Sounds doubtful though. Supposedly they send "swallowed" cards back to their respective banks. I see no signs of the workers. I am tired. I have a second bank ATM, but I only activated it before leaving and am now worried it may get "swallowed" also. I'm waiting to try until Sweden. Sadly, no Brussels on this trip. 

I can only hope for a quick five more hours until my flight, some sleep on the flight and an uneventful trip to the B&B in Stockholm. I am really nervous about finding the room I booked and am thinking an exorbitant taxi fare will be the safest method of transport to avoid any more annoyances. 

Wish me luck and a good night's sleep!

Update: I'm now in the bed at the B&B I'm staying at, freshly showered and about to fall asleep. I got about two hours of sleep on the plane ride which definitely helped. At the airport, I was able to repack my stuff so I could actually carry it myself (I needed a cart in Chicago). I tried ATM card #2 and it failed. But the Stockholm airport has free wifi so I used skype to call the bank and they quickly rectified. So I now have cash and feel better about that too. I only bought half my train ticket so I had to pay the fare plus a $15 surcharge, which sucked. But the trains worked really nicely. When I exited the train though, it was hard to tell which street was the one I needed to get to my room. I asked a couple people and had to go back to the station agent. (Yes I have my iphone but I'm trying not to use it because it's pretty expensive.) I got on my way and then I had my first hitchike.....sort of. There had been a guy at the station in his car and I had asked him and he didn't know where to point me. I honestly had thought he was in the taxi queue. As I'm walking, he pulls up and his wife is with him (he was just picking her up). She knows where I want to go and they practically insist on driving me - saying the walk is too far (it said it was a kilometer). They did and it was very nice, especially considering it was after 10 and dark out. But plenty of street lights and this looks like a nice, quiet neighborhood in the near suburbs. The nice couple would not take anything for their help. I asked how to say thank you in Swedish and then laughed because the response was too long and hard to remember :). Then I met Helen who showed me to my room. She commented on the large amount of luggage, so I had to explain I was packing for a month between Sweden and Peru. She was like "oh we will have to talk in the morning" and luckily I will now have the cash to pay her in the morning too! The room is very nice and although it was dark, it does look like a cute neighboorhood. So I'm feeling much better and had to update since I was in a petty sour mood earlier :).