While traveling in Norway last year, we were impressed by the amazing views and luxurious nature that Norwegian people could enjoy daily. And the best part was that they weren't moving from home, but just by sitting in the comfort and warmth of their houses, they could stare outside at the magnificence of Mother Nature. During these moments I was recalling the view that I'm used to see from my parent's apartment in Rome, not the worst of the city actually, but still just a never-ending series of buildings; the same from the window of Oti's house in Romania with other communist blocks just a few steps in front to obstruct the view. The following is just a small selection, since only the one with the window frame visible were chosen, but it's probably enough to give an idea of the Norwegian spirit.
The first image is showing the landscape also from a moving point of view: the window of a train. Traveling by train in Norway is like watching a National Geographic documentary, with the difference that what you are experiencing is real. Fjords, forests, rivers, snow, sun, mountains, sea: just a few of the beauties you can see directly from your seat.
In the next photo is shown the apartment where we were hosted in Øverbygd. In the living room there was a huge window covering almost all the surface of the wall: the feeling was like being in the nature, even if we were indoor. You can sit on the couch and enjoy the river flowing through the snowy forest. Not bad isn't it?
Outside view of the river in Øverbygd
In the same place we also used the family sauna, located outside of the house and even closer to the river. It was amazing staying in this steamy room and sweating like being in tropical climate, while enjoying the icy landscape outside separated only by a piece of glass. And of course at the end of the treatment we dived naked on the snow !
Also the sauna is immersed in nature and visually connected to it
And also while moving from one location to the other by train, ferry or hitchhiking a car, in Norway we had plenty of views opening over the landscape to enjoy! No ride was boring if we were just looking out of the window.
Snowy road in Norway seen from the car window
This is the scene that was visible from the window of our hosts in Hol i Tjeldsund, very close to Lofoten Islands. We were invited by a nice couple that picked us up while hitchhiking to stay at their house, and we had a great experience. More details here about this hitchhiking story.
View over the fjord in Hol i Tjeldsund
And in the next image we are moving not too far away, still in Hol i Tjeldsund, in a recreational area built over a rocky cape. The view is from a hut built to shelter the visitors, with the possibility to make a fire inside. The structure is right on top of an old military bunker, still partially visible through the window. During the right season it might even be possible, if not probable, to spot killer whales in this stretch of sea.
View from the visitors' hut in Hol i Tjeldsund
By moving further and further north, we are arrived with our photo story in Olderdalen, Lyngen Fjord, where we saw the best Northern Lights of our lives. Right in front of the window are the Lyngen Alps, one of the most famous Norwegian mountain chains, not far from Tromsø. Being right outside of a small village almost in the middle of nowhere it was the perfect location to see Aurora Borealis. And when a strong one was coming, it was possible to enjoy it directly from the window!
Lyngen fjord and mountains seen from a house in Olderdalen
Going a little bit to the west we reached Svolvaer in Lofoten Islands. Right outside the window is still nature to dominate with the snowy peaks dipping into the water. It looks like in Norway to have an amazing view out of the window, is the rule rather than an exception: this is part of the Norwegian spirit.
Backyard lake in Svolvaer, Lofoten Islands
And to finish, the view from another bunker, this time in Kristiansand, in the very south of Norway, the only picture not taken over the Arctic Circle. As you can judge by yourself, also Norwegian soldiers were able to enjoy, even while in duty, a quite remarkable landscape that we would dream of in our gray, busy cities!
View through the window of a bunker in Kristiansand
This is an experience that is still clearly impressed in my mind despite not recent. It was August 2010 and I was almost at the end of my 9 months Asian trip, planning to visit the legendary Buddhist hamlet of Leh in Ladakh, India. Unfortunately I wasn't able to reach my final destination, because we got stuck on the famous road from Manali to Leh, hit by unexpected floods.
August generally means monsoon in India, but not in the Himalayan region where there is a totally different climate, thanks to the altitude and the protection that the mountains give against the rainy clouds. That's why I decided to go in Ladakh in that period, sure to find the dry climate I couldn't get anywhere else in India. Getting to Leh from Manali is a 20 hours trip at high altitude, across amazing landscapes and primitive roads, strangely called "highway", split into two days.
Despite it was supposed to be a good season to go toward Ladakh, unexpectedly torrential rains and floods caught us on the way, and while we were blocked on the road, at the same time on the city of Leh over two hundreds lives were lost. Below my point of view of the event, seen from a much further and safer, though still dangerous, condition.
We started the trip with a minibus from Manali, the most common starting point to venture in direction of Leh. We made friend very soon with the other passengers, a necessary and welcome step since we were going to share a long trip and an important experience.
Since the beginning the weather was quite bad, rainy and foggy; the road was really tiny and muddy, hardly two car could cross the road at the same time, and despite this there were even trucks coming both ways, pushing us to find dangerous trajectories to overcome the obstacles.
The muddy narrow road after Manali
After just a few hours we had to say goodbye to one of our new friends, a girl that was sharing the bus with us. We were still not arrived at 3000 meters of altitude (10 000 feet) that she started to feel sick. It was mountain sickness and we had no other chance than leaving her in a taxi to go back to valley as soon as possible. The weather was still not improving and in the rare moments of rest, dramatic views were opening over the valley.
Bad weather and dramatic landscape over the mountains
Soon rain started to accumulated and to transform into streams of torrential water that we had to cross in several occasions. We were constantly hitting our head on the ceiling of the bus while gong on this bumpy "highway". The adventure was getting more and more extreme.
But we still were able to enjoy the landscape, the amazing views and the experience, unaware of what was going to expect us.
Waterfall on the road from Manali to Leh
The rain was falling with almost no interruption, and trucks filled with road workers started to appear, trying to make up for a situation that was almost going out of control. Most of the workers were coming from Bihar, one of the poorest region of India.
Public workers arrive in the flooded road
Eventually we couldn't go any further. The road was blocked by a landslide some kilometers in front, and we had to find a location to pass the night. The possibilities weren't a lot and the pretenders many: the few Yurta tents available along the way soon filled up. We found recover in one of them and we were all fed with industrial "Maggi" noodles and tea. We managed to find enough space to sleep one next to the other in an emergency situation, but it was still a very uncomfortable night for me: it was pouring water over my head from a hole in the roof, and I couldn't move anywhere else, since every inch of space was taken.
Sleeping at night in a Tepeh tent
In the morning the situation apparently looked better, it wasn't raining despite still cloudy. But the road was still blocked by the landslide. The main problem was that we were cut out of every communication with the outside world. Mobile phone weren't working, it was no network at over 4000m of altitude (13 000 feet), and the road being blocked, we couldn't have any information about the condition of the "highway" further away. We were waiting for somebody able to make it the opposite direction, from Leh to Manali, to have some fresh news, but the landslide was still not cleared.
The Tepeh tent where we slept in the Indian Himalaya
Eventually we had to take a decision: to try to keep going to Leh, or to give up and go back to Manali. We were still at one third of the distance and a long and tiring way was waiting in front of us, but I was ready to take up that challenge and try to reach Leh even with some days of delay. But only a few others were supporting me, we were the minority and we had to start our return trip against our wills. Eventually this revealed to be a life saving decision, but at that moment I was very pissed off, because we had no clue of the floods and deaths that were happening in Leh at the very same time.
Workers try to unblock a taxi stuck in a torrential river
So we started our way back, and still the conditions of the road to Manali were catastrophic. New torrential streams appeared since we passed there the first time, and they were so big that looked more like rivers and waterfall. Cars were systematically getting blocked attempting to cross the water, and they were left to pass one by one under the supervision of the road workers, that were having a big will and abnegation but not much equipment.
Torrential River invading the road between Manali and Leh
Eventually it was our turn to cross the torrential river, and we luckily managed quite easily to pass it for the happiness of the passengers.
Workers controlling the situation from a rock
Worker pushing a car in the middle of a torrential stream
After passing the obstacle of the water, some more landslides blocked us on the way. The rocky walls weren't able to retain all of that water, and the rock was just disintegrating.
A landslide is blocking the road from Manali to Leh
It was still a long and dangerous journey to reach Manali, constantly under stress because of the circumstances, with little sleep and the disappointment for to having reached Leh and Ladakh. But even in a worst condition than us were the poor workers, moving rocks and earth with bare hands to recover the road service.
Workers clearing bare-hands a landslide on the road from Manali to Leh
Eventually even the TV arrived and our misadventures were broadcasted live in the Indian Subcontinent and around the world.
Indian Tv interviewing people
And when eventually we passed also the last landslide our misadventures still didn't finish. Our minibus got broken, and we couldn't go any further. The thread of the accelerator broke up, and we literally couldn't move. But some smart Indian mind found an effective and hilarious solution: one man hanging outside of the bus pulling the tread of the accelerator while the driver was steering the wheel inside. It was really funny but at the same time scary since the road was muddy, narrow, crowded and the precipice just a few feet away. We managed in this conditions to reach a safer place where to temporarily fix the bus to be able to reach Manali.
While going down the mountain the situation was slightly improving and we were able to enjoy again the landscape and to feel a little bit more relaxed. The view was full of contrasts and we had mixed feelings thinking of our failed journey.
Beautiful view of a Himalayan valley not far from Manali
We still had to pass through other obstacles and to stand in long lines before arriving to Manali but at least we were sound and safe. Only after reaching the city we were told about the hundreds of people that died at our initial destination, and we were supposed to be there exactly at that moment. We felt really sorry for the news, but at the same time extremely blessed and lucky to be able to tell this story.
A line of vehicles seen through the fog, blocked by the floods and bad weather
We recognized that while we write many articles in our travel blog about places that we visit, we say how amazing they are, we upload photos, and we tell you how to go there, we never say anything about us, and more than that we rarely put photos of the gypsy travellers in action! So we thought about making up for this mistake and to offer you an insight into our lives while we travel, and while we are "in vacation", that is while we are off duty at home. When we visit our families we like to relax and have fun when we can, as you can see from the cover photo, but the reality is that often we are at the PC, updating the website, dreaming about our next destinations and more than all, organizing our insane amount of photos and videos! Yes, you wouldn't believe it, but we have also plenty of video material, that unfortunately struggle to "see the light" and got blocked somewhere in between dimensions. Our You-Tube channel is kind of craving for new videos, and it can't wait for Oti to fill it up with new amazing adventures! And if you still don't believe me, there is a proof!
The Silhouette of Oti shooting a video
And when you are bored of staying at the computer in a city that doesn't offer too many distractions, then you have to care yourself for your entertainment. Davide likes to fight against himself at night and to throw light beams to defeat his clone. But don't worry, he is not doing that every night, he did it just once and it was a lot of fun. And you might not believe it, but he was paid to do that, that's how gypsy travellers fund they lifestyle!
Davide experimenting with long exposure photography and light painting
When it's the moment to go out in the city, we never leave our bicycles behind, we simply can't live without them, and we miss them so much while traveling. Now you are probably wondering: So why don't you travel by bike? Don't worry we are working on that! Actually that's a quite recent evolution since when Davide first met Oti almost 3 years ago, she didn't know how to ride a bicycle! Maybe she just missed a good teacher like Davide, or probably just good will, because after only a few days of "private classes" she took her bike, and together with Davide they cycled in the scary roads of Rome for over 50km to attend a cyclists demonstration! Now Oti completely trasformed into a new bike-human mythological being.
Davide and Oti attending the Critical Mass in Rome
And talking about means of transportation, the funniest one we used while travelling, was probably in Scandinavia, during our trip to see Northern Lights in Norway. We were hosted in a isolated house a few kilometers away from a village, and to go and take food, we borrowed two sledges that we rode in the empty and icy roads of the Arctic Circle. Funny but how tiring! On the way back we couldn't anymore, and we were looking for two reindeer in the woods to pull our sledges. We didn't find them.
Davide riding a sledge in Norway
And the north was also a good occasion to test our abilities to make a fire in the snow. Because you never know if you are going to need it while hitchhiking! After all that's what we were teaching to the kids in Switzerland the previous summer, while working in summer camps. Davide was so proud of his one match fire in the Arctic!
Davide making a fire in the snow
And actually when you travel hitchhiking you really need a lot of adaptation and survival skills. And when you get stuck and you don't know where to go, you just look around and you find the best solution for the night. And sometimes the best solution might be to sleep in a toilet. And you still find the energy to make fun out of the situation and to build a memorable experience. With room service included: the cleaning lady coming to wake you up in the morning!
Oti dressing like a fly in a Norwegian toilet
Sometimes you end up sleeping in a toilet, and when you are looking for it instead, you can't find it! And Davide is a master of this ancient art, and he likes to find the strangest places to empty his bladder. This time he decided to water some stones in Lofoten Islands to see if there could grow flowers. We know that's not a good example, but when you can't hold it anymore, you just can't!
Davide using a natural toilet
You might think that we like cold weather and winter. But actually Oti just hate cold! She can't stand any temperature below 10 °C (50 F) and she recharge her battery when she is in the water. We never miss some weeks at the seaside during our trips, and that's not difficult when you are originally from Italy. Despite this, Davide is still struggling to feel comfortable when swimming in the sea, and he can't go any further than his feet can go. What an Italian!
Oti running on the water
And sometimes we can't choose between mountains and seaside, so we just make a compromise and we choose both. It's probably not a coincidence if we like rocks and cliffs, since we first met at a rock climbing course! Well, not that we are that experienced climbers, but we like to feel the rocks from time to time and to get connected with nature.
Oti next to a cliff in Praia a Mare
And what about drinking water while you are travelling? We always have at least a couple of liters with us, but when there is no more and you can't find it anywhere, dehydration is a serious risk. That's why Davide once decided to drink water from the drinking throught of the animals! What a gross experience.
Never miss water while hiking!
Well that was actually a joke, hopefully you didn't believe it, he was acting like drinking, just for the photo! But situations like this can really happen while you are travelling, so you better take more water than you expect to drink. Once we were hiking in Sainte Maries de la Mer, Camargue, it was almost 40 °C (212F) and we knew that there were no water sources on the way. We tried every trick to prolong our reserves of water, resting in the shadow and dipping in the sea from time to time, but eventually we didn't reach our destination. We thought it was wiser to go back to the beginning, when we had just half of our initial water left. That's a good tip to remember in similar situations. And also don't under-evaluate the power of the sun and don't forget your sunscreen when you are in sunny weather. We came back with legs totally burned by the sun!
Davide resting in the shadow in Camargue
If you didn't recognized it, we didn't put many picture from cities. We recharge most of our energies when we are in nature, but we also like to tour cities from time to time, to visit museums, beautiful architectures and inspiring pieces of art. And also to make fun of them!
A statue is caddling Davide
And it's not only Davide, but also Otilia likes to have fun and make strange faces while sightseeing. And when you see such a funny fountain, what a better occasion for a few laughs?
Otilia miming the face of the fountain
But to travel doesn't only means to move around from place to place. It's also about experiencing a different lifestyle and learning new things. That's why from time to time we stop for a few weeks and we volunteer in local projects. This help us to mix our activities, to slow down, and to reduce our expenses.
Oti making clay balls for a raw-earth construction
And of course that's also a good moment to test our social skills and to hang out with people and in places that we couldn't know in a different way. That's how we ended up in this "secret" tea house in Crevillent, when we were volunteering in Novelda, drinking chai with our hosts and their friends, in a Moroccan style residence with a beautiful garden.
Tea house in Crevillent
And when also volunteering is still not slow enough, we feel like we need our space and some comfort but it's not time to go back home, then it's the moment to think about house and pet-sitting! We had some experiences in this field, but we are actually quite new, so we hope to post some more updates very soon!
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