Journey to the Top of the World : 4

Finally after 2 weeks and 3500 miles on the road we have stopped for a break. The past few days have been spent chasing or running away from the weather. Norway’s climate is never going to betropical but after a couple of good months it has turned decidedly below the seasonal average for August. We expected cold and occasionally wet in the north but it was 5-8 degrees below average and not much better in the south.

After our day trip to the Nordkapp we opted to stay in Alta for an extra day. The weather was cold but bright and we needed to shop, wash the van after the dirty tunnels and there is a an area of prehistoric rock carvings worth seeing nearby the camp site at the Alta Museum at Hjemmeluft. The museum is at the centre of a UNESCO World Heritage Site that includes 45 prehistoric sites across the area. Around the museum itself are stone carvings depicting daily life and stories from as long ago as 4500BC. They were discovered beneath turf in 1973 and would have originally been a the shoreline but are now several meters above. They depict people and animals, farming and hunting and they also have boats firstly with just a few people but in the end with many. And all this in the Arctic 6000 years ago.

The next morning we set out for Tromso for no other reason that it was the major city and warranted a visit. We decided to use a couple of short ferry crossings to shave some distance off and the route took us down some smaller roads. There were several small glaciers either side of the road and at one point we passed below one where the meld was shedding a scree of stones and boulders down the mountainside to the fjord and the road had had to be tunnelled through.

The weather had miserable most of the day and it was late afternoon by the time we got to Tromso’s one and only camp site in the city. A modern site and very regimented but oh so busy that the nice new facilities were overloaded and very expensive. And so after a very damp night with our kit stashed all over and under the van out of the rain we woke the next day for a look around the city. I cant say that we were overly impressed but at least we looked and had coffee and a bun outside a smart cafe.

Back on the road the next place we wanted to visit were the Lofoton islands. It was a pleasant afternoons drive and we ended up on a campsite by the shore in Harstad. However nice though it was there were several families of ducks that drove Fred mad and he us! WE had intended to drive to the western tip the next day but the weather forecast was not good at all so we decided to head south. We drove through some dreadful cloud bursts to a town called Furske that was having some kind of music festival. We pitched up at a site on the edge of town and hid amongst the trees from the weather and listened to the noise of the festival until the small hours.

Still the weather forecast was bad. It wasn’t much better further south but we decided to make tracks anyway. Up early and on the road we made the first 100 miles to the Arctic Circle centre, where it was only 7C, by 08:00. It was here that we saw the last herd of reindeer. It was going to be a long day, 400 miles to Trondheim, and to start with being a Sunday the roads were quiet but by late afternoon we became embroiled in weekend traffic until we reached the camp site. It is another expensive site but we decided to stop for a couple of days to do laundry and write blogs in the hope that the weather will improve a bit in the coming days.

<<<3 : Journey to the Top of the World : 5>>>

Summer is Coming

Van Blanc had its first dealer service this week at 15,000 miles and we are preparing for a summer full of adventures.

First a short trip to the Cotswolds to get Bug Blanc’s crank balanced and fetch the exhaust system. Then we are off to Edinburgh to see my relatives and the Rolling Stones (no I am not related to them).

After Edinburgh we had planned to do the NC500 but we had a late change of plan when we found out that, as well as Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button will be racing at Le Mans and as committed endurance sports car fans we could not resist. So we are heading home straight after the Stones concert for a quick turn around and heading to le Circuit de la Sarthe for the 23rd time. As we will already be in France we decided to head out to Brittany for a week at the sea side.

We do actually get a few weeks at home to enjoy summer at home and perhaps in our garden as well as going up country to a wedding but then we are off again. This time it will be the long haul to the Nordkapp and back, a round trip of 7500km. You might have read our previous Norway adventure when we got as far as the Arctic Circle since when we have regretted that we didn’t go further. Norway is a spectacular country and we are looking forward to enjoying it for several weeks.

So watch this space for updates and images from our summer 2018 adventures.

Wallas Diesel Hob

Back in 2016 when we first looked at the internal layout for our new van installing a diesel hob was not high on my list. I understood the benefits of not carrying gas on board, giving me more cupboard space and not having to worry about running out while travelling, but I couldn’t really find any information on how to use one. A couple of visits to the Wallas stand at BusFest and seeing the hob work gave us the confidence to go ahead and buy a Wallas hob/heater combination. 

 I’m pleased to say it was a good decision and I hope the following points will be helpful to anyone considering installing one:-

It does take about 10-15 minutes to reach full heat but you don’t have to wait just put the kettle or a pan on the left side as soon as you fire it up and they will start to heat up too.

The hob has no temperature control, it’s hotter on the left side so use this for bringing pans up to boil then move to the right side to keep contents cooking slowly, however it’s important not to leave the left side without a pan on it for too long (15 minutes maximum).

It’s a very different way of cooking. Took me a few goes to get used to it but I learnt very quickly to switch pans from side to side to balance the heat in the pans so nothing overcooks or burns. It seems to cook quicker than gas rings but you can’t simmer easily so you have to keep stirring which means you can’t leave it unattended. I also have a toast grid for it but haven’t yet mastered making toast.

When you’ve finished cooking and switch off the hob it will cool down reasonably quickly but you must wait for all the lights to go off before you can turn it back on so think ahead, if you want coffee after dinner boil the kettle before switching off.

Occasionally you may get the odd whiff of diesel when you first fire it up especially if you have a window open. I confess to being very concerned the first time it happened but once we worked out why I stopped worrying about it. Although the unit uses very little diesel Depending on how high in your diesel tank the pick up is you need to be sure that there is enough in the tank for the burner to work. Likewise the unit uses very little electricity except for an initial surge on start up so you will also need sufficient battery power. If there isn’t then it simply won’t switch on.