Cycling Through Værlandet-Bulandet

Right after a work stint in the North Sea, I spent a couple of days exploring the islands and fjords surrounding Florø. Small town Florø is also the westernmost town of Norway and the administrative town of the municipal Sogn og Fjordane. This is a region completely unfamiliar to me (even most Norwegians have not been), so asking around my Norwegian colleagues did not bear any fruit.

The tourist information center (Visit FjordKysten), on the other hand, are a helpful lot. Their replies were prompt and personalized. They also helped to draft an itinerary for me! And afterwards, a week after my trip, they emailed to check how my trip was. 

I left early in the morning to catch the 8:30am express boat. The town was still quiet and wet from a shower the night before. The Norled express boat arrived 2-4 minutes later than scheduled but boy, I was bowled over by the sleekness of the boat. 

Boarding is fuss-free: a hydraulic gangway lowered smoothly onto the harbour. The gangway is sturdy and wide enough for wheelchair-bound passengers to board without much help from the crew. Great way to travel if you have large suitcases or a bicycle.

They also make trips to Bergen and Oslo. Loved the boat, super fast and comfortable with a little canteen onboard.

The layout of the boat makes perfect logic too, a large area for storing bags and bicycles greets you once you arrive onboard. You then purchase your tickets once you've sorted with your luggage - none of that pre-buying tickets on land and frantic searching of tickets when they are checked onboard. Tickets are only checked when passengers are getting off - with a handy barcode scanner. 

The journey to Askvoll took about 40mins, and there, another ferry was waiting for me (literally, just waiting for me to board. As soon as I was safely aboard, the gangway lifted). It's all pretty seamless, I just have to notify the Norled expressboat that I am heading to Værlandet so the ferry in Askvoll waits for me.

The second ferry was less shiny, and took a little more than an hour to Værlandet... I had a grand time sitting out on the top deck, with a great view of passing fjords and islands... until it got too chilly.

We chugged and arrived Værlandet just after 10am - it was beautiful with the sun just barely peeking. Temperature in low teens - couldn't ask for more!

A bike rental is available just at the harbour - manned by a very nice and friendly guy. I asked if I needed a bike lock but he smiled and say just leave it out by the roadside, no problem. Hired a cross-bike (some USD20 a day, if I remember correctly) and then popped into the small convenient store for some Noggie nosh - waffle and brown cheese, heh.

I can't remember the last time I was so excited to be out on a bicycle - on my own! Granted, much of that feeling has everything to do with being cooped in an enclosed vessel for 5 weeks at a time. That whoosh of crisp, fresh air and actually putting my legs to use - is bliss.

The roads are in a good condition  - would have been great if I had a road bike with me :-) (yes, I acknowledge the snob roadie talking). Barely any cars on the road, though I did attract a number of stares - foreigner on a bicycle. That's as touristy as it gets, just me.

The day's ride started out sunny and gradually more clouds rolled in.... as long as it isn't raining, I'm a happy camper!

Never a dull moment with these stunning views - makes me wish that I live here! 

Værlandet to Bulandet is surrounded by a number of small islands, and connected by a series of six bridges. It's darned intimidating cycling on the bridges with the waves beneath furiously crashing and breaking on jagged stones. Beautiful, but eerie at the same time.

Can you pronounce these places correctly? ;-)

While it is a joy to trek these wonderful and beautifully kept parks (at no charge!), the same cannot be said for meals - they do and will burn a hole in your pocket!

A fish burger served with potato wedges at a steal price of 150 Krones, or USD 18, or MYR74 :D

The Havsalaten cafe is nested within a grocery store in Bulandet, and has seats overlooking the waterways. I chose to sit indoors though, it was still too chilly for me to be sitting outside, and besides, I prefer to have my meal warm before it is finished. 

The cafe also grows their own seaweed (the black-green glob on the left). I quite like it - was slightly crunchy with a touch of heat.

And then on the way back:

Pristine perfect.

I just can't say how much I love the parks here - they are very well-maintained, clean with plenty of signs so you won't get lost. The ground is soft and mossy, cushioning and absorbing any noise. The forest is silent except for the rustling of leaves from the breeze and the occasional chirping. Not trying to paint a romantic scene here, but it is what it is!

I loved the cycling, but I preferred the trekking into forests. It's a damn shame that I had to leave by 2ish to make it for the return ferry. I did milk all the time I could spend in Værlandet, though! I must have trekked 3 different trails (wanted to hike up the highest point in Værlandet but didn't have enough time), plus the round island cycling - a day most well spent.

Back to Askvoll where earlier in the day I spent a grand total of 2 minutes running from the expressboat to the ferry. I had 1.5 hours to spare till the returning expressboat arrives.

Askvoll is another small but picturesque island, with too many of expensive yachts around.

Here I found a few more trekking trails - the shortest one is 2km round trip. I started on the trek but wasn't sure if I could finish the loop in time for the ferry (couldn't possibly risk it as I have a flight the next day, and that was the last ferry for the day), so I aborted the trek and made a U-turn back (when in doubt, chicken out). The trek was most pretty though, and I was determined to return some day and finish it!

Back in Florø, finished a great day with a fish soup (I know it sounds gross but it's heavenly!) and a local brew-

Fish cuts, mussels, scallops, squid and some root vegetables in a warm, creamy broth on a cold night. Now, what's there not to like?

Florø Power

My final work trip - exploring the Land of the Vikings. Getting there was undoubtedly the longest flight I've taken to work: Ferry from Havelock - Port Blair - Chennai - Dubai - Oslo - Florø! 

Some 36 hours later, I landed in Florø to a crisp, cool weather (that was back in August).  

Temperatures dipped to 15-18 degrees - a far cry from the tropical warmth in the Andamans. Still trying to acclimatise, I was bundled in a fleece and a windbreaker.

Florø is a fairly small town - less than 2 hours to circle around with ample time for photos. Tired and jet-lagged as I was, I could barely resist exploring the small town. Also a big plus for long summer days!

I wasn't the only one feeling nippy, see!

The Norwegians are a truly lucky bunch. Here, nature is well preserved and the raw beauty of the country is absolutely stunning.

I could spend the rest of my life in a place like this... *sigh*

By the pier.

It was my first time working in the North Sea and it certainly lives up to its reputation! The worst weather I've ever endured lasted for 3 whole days. Waves up to 10m and strong gusts of wind means we are down for production but plenty of unsettled tummies there!

Next post - I spent a day traveling to the nearby fjords and island-hopping. Jaw-droppingly beautiful country!

Perth: Of Margaret River and Devil's Curry

The last instalment from last break!

Feels good to be churning out post after post, clear the cobwebs a little from this blog ( for some reason, when I re-read this, it sounds like clear the bowels).


Last trip I was working off Australia and word was it could be our last trip. I've spent some time in Melbourne before, and I thought perhaps I'll do Perth this time. I contacted Limay who is living with her husband there and she said she'll be in town! 

A couple of days before we met, she texted me that luck wasn't on my side - the next three days I will be in town is forecasted to rain. Damn.

Still, it all worked out perfectly, you'll see. Limay and her husband, Adrian, picked me up from the airport (Pretty chilly at mid-teens!) and we took a short stroll in King's Park before heading back to their place for a much-needed dinner.

Bless her, she'd even made nasi lemak!

Bit blurry, oops.

Bliss, I can't remember the last time I've had nasi lemak. She also made beef rendang and the sambal was as good as any. She'd even decorated and sliced the cucumbers in pretty shapes! If that isn't admirable, I don't know what is.

After breakfast the next day (pulut inti made by her mom-in-law and then at a local café for a good cup of cappucino), we went back to King's Park. She insisted I should see it in the day time as well. 

Check out the brewing clouds!

We took a leisurely stroll before driving towards Fremantle, or Freo, as it is affectionately known. It isn't far from Perth, approximately 15-20 minutes drive is all.

We stopped by at Cicerello's for lunch - yummers

I'll let you guess what S.O.Y means.

Battered and deep fried salt and pepper squid (my ultimate favourite!!)

And a baked fish of the day with a side salad and chips.

Seafood chowder which Limay confirms is the best in the world - complete with scallops, mussels, and prawns.

Washed down with Bundaberg ginger beer. The only downside eating al fresco in this weather - our food got cold real fast

We finished, and walked around the small harbour town. A very light drizzle was present, but otherwise nothing worse than that. I bought a pair of Emu boots too ;) I was initially looking for the Australian Uggs but was told by the shopkeeper that there isn't a lot of difference between the two, except that Emus are Australian made whereas Uggs can be assembled in China (she emphasised that sheepskin and wool are definitely local).

Limay was most enthusiastic over my choice of boots, lol. She kept taking photos and exclaiming how pretty the boots are - that alone was well worth the purchase!

Another home-cooked meal for dinner, yay. Eating out in Australia can get really expensive (AUD30 per pax) and besides, I'm a sucker for homemade meals!

Aglio olio penne and roasted root veg that Limay announced she'd forgotten to include garlic and onions, hehe. 

The next day we left early for Margaret River. First things first: headed for another coffee place frequented by Adrian - he used to work as a barista and I'm'glad he knows where's good for coffee! 

3.5 hours to Margaret River, and a couple of pit stops before - 

The iconic blue houses on Busselton Jetty - It was cold, and we only stayed briefly. There is an aquarium at the end of the jetty (a covered undersea tunnel to view the aquarium under the jetty!) but we decided it was too expensive - about AUD30. On the posters it looked pretty cool though whole array of marine life between stilts of the pier.

Hehe, I borrowed Limay's jumper because I wasn't prepared for the cold!

There is plenty to do in Margaret River, and generally holidaymakers stay for 3 days, at least. The sides of the roads are lined with vineyards, and I'd say cycling in the vicinity will be very pleasant! There are great views to keep you occupied - beaches, greenery, and a beautiful weather.

We went to a German restaurant for lunch - the servings were massive! Between the three of us, we struggled to finish two mains and an entrée.

Pork knuckles that every table seem to order as well. Crackling isn't, well, crackling! Disappointed.

Ending with sunset at Canal's Rock:

A lovely infused water Limay made and brought with us - rosemary, cucumber, strawberries and lemons - an effective thirst quencher!

Spoiled by Limay's MIL - she made devil's curry (a Eurasian dish of pork with potato curry and supposed to be very spicy. For us veterans, it was only mild, but delicious), a simple stir-fried bok choy (requested by yours truly) and fried omelette!

Honestly, nothing beats a home-cooked meal. I cleaned up every last drop of curry, and every last piece of bok choy.

We planned to have Vietnamese pho before Limay sends me off to the airport but because she had an interview just before, we didn't have much time left. And so, we went for an express duck rice-

Salivating thinking about it now!

Thank you lovebirds for a most awesome stay :)

The Georgian Adventure - Hike to Chalaadi Glacier

Our third, and last hike in Svaneti. There are so many more places to hike and explore around Georgia, it was a hard decision to premature...