Hornborgasjön

Last week Michiel was here, and on Friday afternoon we drove to Fjällbacka and spent the night there. On Saturday we went for a short walk. I didn’t take that many photos, as I had taken so many the week before, but here are some photos from my mobile phone of our walk through Kungsklyftan (the gorge)…

Entering Kungsklyftan

Michiel looking small beneath the hanging rocks…

Michiel and the hanging rocks

Descending the stairs back to the town…

Descending back to the town

And a view of Fjällbacka from the (mostly deserted) marina. It was a lot warmer than the week before, and we even enjoyed a coffee outside by the water, without wearing coats. Lovely! 🙂

Fjällbacka marina - quite empty this time of year

After our walk, we drove 2 hours towards Skara. We were staying in this beautiful B&B:

Our B&B near Hornborga Lake

The reason we came here was to see the spring migration of thousands of common cranes (they counted over 16.000 of them while we were there!) on the shore of Lake Hornborga (or Hornborgasjön in Swedish). Marie had told me about it, and I’m so glad we went. The viewpoint for the cranes was about 7 km from our B&B, so after we checked in we went there. So impressive to see (& hear!!) so many cranes.

The cranes! More than 16.000 of them!

I bought a new zoomlens just before this trip, so this was a nice opportunity to try it out…

Practicing my new lens on birds flying overhead

Greylag geese in for landing…

Greylag geese in for landing

And the oh so elegant cranes, I love these birds! I saw them for the first time in Fairbanks, Alaska, where they also gathered in large numbers – such a magical sight.

Two common cranes in flight

SO many of them…

Impressive to see so many cranes in one place!

Lovely view from the viewpoint. Here three cranes are crossing the creek.

Three cranes crossing the creek

Afterwards we drove a bit further around the lake to go for a walk to a watch tower. We started the walk amongst those yellow fields near the lakeshore…

Starting our walk between the fields

A boat in the reeds…

Reeds and a boat

And a lone tree in beautiful yellow evening light.

Beautiful tree!

Nearing the end of our walk. While there were many people at the cranes viewpoint, we didn’t meet anybody all evening while on this walk.

Walking in golden evening light

At the end of the trail there was this cute little cottage next to the watch tower.

A cute (and a bit abandoned) cottage at the end of the path

View back to the cottage, from the watch tower.

The trail ended at a watch tower, this is the view from the top looking back at the cottage

And over the lake…

View over the lake from the tower

Here we didn’t see that many cranes, but we saw lots of swans and other birds.

LOTS of swans, and if you look carefully, even more smaller birds on the lake

A group of swans at sunset…

Sunset view over the lake, with Castle Dagsnäs in the background

The sunset was really beautiful, especially reflected in the calm lake.

Sunset over Lake Hornborga - beautiful!

With some spectacular pink colors!

Some very pink clouds reflected in the lake

We were walking away from the sunset, but kept looking back…

Sunset views on the way back to the car

The next morning it was nice and sunny again. The garden of the B&B was full of these lovely snowdrops…

Snowdrops in the garden of the B&B the next morning

Our first stop that morning was Naturum, the information centre of Hornborga Lake. What a fantastic building! They had really nice bird art made of driftwood inside, and lots of information about birds.

Naturum, the information centre of Hornborga Lake - fantastic building!

And upstairs you had this great view over the boardwalks and bird hides (on the left).

View from Naturum over the boardwalks and bird hides

Loved the yellow colours everywhere…

Reeds & boardwalk, lovely place

A black-headed gull seen from one of the hides.

Black-headed gull

And a northern lapwing – they remind me of home (the Netherlands).

Northern lapwing

Enjoying the beautiful sunshine, although the wind that day made it feel a bit chilly. I did get a bit sunburnt!

Enjoying the sunshine!

We went for another nature walk, this time on the shore of the lake between these beautiful old oak trees.

Going for a walk among old oak trees on the shore of the lake

Loved this trail! It was close to the cranes, so we could hear them chatter in the distance at all times.

Beautiful hiking trail

A blue tit chatting away in a nearby tree… against a very blue sky!

A blue tit calling out

Blue tit and blue sky

We had a quick lunch in Skara, and then we drove to Fredrikstad. Marie and Pål had invited us for dinner, a perfect stop on the long drive back to Oslo. We arrived a bit early and decided to walk around Fredrikstad at sunset.

Fredrikstad in soft evening light

I found crocuses!

I found crocuses in bloom!

A last photo of Fredrikstad at sunset…

Fredrikstad at sunset

It was a lovely trip, and a first taste of spring weather, which made me very happy!

Fjällbacka, Sweden

Last Saturday I drove to Fredrikstad early in the morning. By the time I reached the old town, it was 09:30, but it was still totally deserted…

The deserted old town of Fredrikstad on a Saturday morning

After some lovely french toast made by Marie, we got back in the car and drove to Sweden. Our destination was Fjällbacka, a really picturesque fishing town / summer resort on the west coast of Sweden.

The deserted old town of Fredrikstad on a Saturday morning

The town is lively in summer, but now in the off season it was very sleepy. Almost all shops had signs on them, saying they’s reopen “1 April”, “After Easter”, or even “in June”! No problem for me, I prefer to visit places when they’re deserted.

The deserted old town of Fredrikstad on a Saturday morning

Especially when the weather is actually nice, as it was on Saturday. We even found a bench in the sun and out of the wind to have lunch – so nice! After lunch we walked up to the impressive Kungsklyftan, a cleft or gorge with huge stone blocks wedged in like a roof.

The deserted old town of Fredrikstad on a Saturday morning

From there, you can climb stairs up to Vetteberget, with great views over the town…

The deserted old town of Fredrikstad on a Saturday morning

The landscape on top of Vetteberget was really pretty, as were the clouds…

The deserted old town of Fredrikstad on a Saturday morning

On the other side we had a nice view towards the town and the church, as well as the archipelago of islands.

The deserted old town of Fredrikstad on a Saturday morning

We also walked around an area with a lot of fisherman’s cottages. They were so pretty!

The deserted old town of Fredrikstad on a Saturday morning

And we found lots of nice things to photograph, like this color coordinated collection of fishing gear.

The deserted old town of Fredrikstad on a Saturday morning

And nets hanging on the outside wall…

The deserted old town of Fredrikstad on a Saturday morning

So idyllic…

The deserted old town of Fredrikstad on a Saturday morning

We also went for a short hike at Veddö Naturreservat, a nature reserve a few kilometers outside Fjällbacka. You could walk all around the peninsula, and they built this lovely boardwalk to connect two beaches.

The deserted old town of Fredrikstad on a Saturday morning

It even had a built-in bench! Very nice…

The deserted old town of Fredrikstad on a Saturday morning

Lovely views when the colors started to get soft towards sunset.

The deserted old town of Fredrikstad on a Saturday morning

We took the scenic road back towards the border, and I was hoping to find a nice place to watch the sunset from. We found a dead end road with views over the fjord reflecting the sunset, soooo pretty…

The deserted old town of Fredrikstad on a Saturday morning

There were lots of summer cottages and jetties by the fjord.

The deserted old town of Fredrikstad on a Saturday morning

Marie on the jetty at sunset…

The deserted old town of Fredrikstad on a Saturday morning

And a group of geese flying over in the sunset, beautiful moment.

The deserted old town of Fredrikstad on a Saturday morning

What a perfect day! I had dinner with Marie in Fredrikstad, and then drove back to Oslo. I had driven about 400 km that day, but I really enjoyed it. So much so that I’m taking Michiel to Fjällbacka this weekend, and we’re combining it with watching the crane migration at Hornborga lake – I’m looking forward!

A sunny weekend in Oslo

A week ago I had visitors: not only Michiel, but his mum, sister and sister’s boyfriend came to Oslo! The weather has been really sad and grey this winter, I was really getting fed up of all the grey low clouds. I was so excited when the weather forecast showed sun for this weekend: excellent!

Michiel and his mum arrived on Friday afternoon, and we went to visit the Viking Ship Museum that I hadn’t been to yet. I really enjoyed it, very impressive to see the big ships and I loved the way they made the museums – it’s almost like a church. And the shadows were the best…

The Viking Ship Museum - loved the shadows

Viking Ship Panorama

After we were done at the museum, we walked to Paradisbukta where we enjoyed the sunshine and did some people (and dog) watching…

Michiel and his mum at Paradisbukta

Michiel and his mum at Paradisbukta

We watched ferries go by, and people with dogs

We walked along the fields, I really love how you can feel like you’re taking a walk in the countryside at Bygdøy, while actually you’re in central Oslo. So pretty…

I love how you can feel like you're taking a walk in the countryside at Bygdøy, while you're actually in central Oslo

Jessica and Sander arrived later in the evening. On Saturday we got up early, as we had a lot planned for the day! We started at my favourite place: Vigelandsparken. Never fails to impress. I have been there so many times now, but I still discover new details and I never get bored. And it looks extra good with blue skies and sunshine!

Vigelandsparken

Vigelandsparken - I have visited many time but I still discover new details and still get impressed

My favourite sculpture: the dancing girl with the wild hair

The most famous sculpture in the park, the angry baby

We then walked to the Royal Palace, and continued into the city centre.

In front of the Royal Palace

Of course we visit the Opera building, where you can walk on the roof. It’s such an amazing building, inside and outside.

Starting to climb the roof of the Opera

Jess and Sander on the roof of the Opera

View from the Opera - what a beautiful day!

There was still a thin layer of ice on the fjord… and a lot of cranes surrounding the Opera, as they’re building a new library and a new Munch museum next to the Opera.

The Opera - plus a lot of cranes as they are building a new library and a new Munch museum next to the Opera

Portrait in front of the Opera

Near the Opera there’s a new art project: wooden A-frames based on the structures they dry (stock)fish on in Northern Norway. Some of them had sounds of whales and dolphins coming out of them. Quite cool!

A frame art near the Opera

We continued to Akershus fortress…

Akershus Festning

And then the murals inside the City Hall, always impressive. And free to visit!

Michiel in front of one of the many murals inside Oslo city hall

Jess took a photo of us :)

More murals and more Michiel :D

Oslo City Hall

I love this mural, it continues even on the ceiling

We walked around Tjuvholmen, had a very nice lunch there, and then took a bus to visit the waterfall in Akerselva.

All of us in front of the waterfall at Akerselva

From there we followed the river to Mathallen where we had some drinks in Smelteverken, “the longest bar in Scandinavia”. Afterwards we walked back into town again, where we had dinner. And walked home. We walked almost 20 km that day!! And we managed to see everything that Michiel has seen on all his visits combined PLUS some places that he hadn’t seen yet (Akershus fortress, and the city hall murals). Not bad for one day!

They left the next morning, when the weather also decided to turn grey. Never mind, we had made the most of the sunshine!

Canada Highlights – part 1

I spent a month in Canada in the summer of 2015, but I never shared any photos – this blog post has been a draft for over a year, so I thought I should publish it as “part 1” whether or not I will ever get around to part 2 😉


WHISTLER


 

The reason I went to Canada was a conference in Whistler. Colin, a friend from my time in Norwich who now lives in Victoria, was also going to the conference. We met up a couple of days early and went on a beautiful hike to Rainbow Lake. It was warm and sunny, but the lake was still frozen. It was a really nice day and a great way to catch up after so many years!

 

Rainbow Lake near Whistler With Colin who I hadn't seen for many years

VANCOUVER


After the conference, I spent an evening walking around Stanley Park on the Seawall. I fell in love with Vancouver – what a fantastic city. It was great to see so many people walking, cycling, jogging, inline skating or just enjoying the beaches.

Downtown Vancouver seen from the Seawall Canada Geese
The beautiful Seawall, with one part for walkers and joggers and one for cyclists and skaters Foxglove and the Lions Gate Bridge
A cyclist near Siwash Rock Fantastic beaches
Lots of people enjoying the sunset The Seawall at sunset

SOPHIA


 

Sophia is the name of the Volkswagen campervan I rented for the remaining three weeks. She was OLD and had lots of problems (doors that couldn’t lock, parts broken, she needed the garage at some point too), she was a PAIN to drive (no power steering, gears that got stuck), but somehow everyone fell a little in love with her. I think it was the feeling of freedom and adventure, the waves and smiles from other VW drivers and the convenience of always having your “home” with you.

With Patrick - and Sophia :) Campfire in Yoho National Park Meeting fellow VW travellers - this couple had taken their van from Switzerland to New York and were travelling for a whole year

During the three weeks with Sophia, people came and went (friends from the US and from Norway) – this was the most complicated trip I ever organised, where I needed a google document to keep track of everybody’s arrival times and places. We were never more than 4 at any one time, but I often slept in my tent next to the car as the “double” beds in the van are not very spacious.

EMERALD BASIN HIKE WITH NICOLE AND PATRICK


After driving for two days to get from Vancouver to the Rockies, we were really looking forward to go hiking. Our first hike started at beautiful Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park, and climbed up to Emerald Basin (a natural amphitheatre). We added the remaining part of the Emerald Lake Loop Trail to the end of the hike, which made it about 11.5 km in total. A beautiful hike!

Canoers on Emerald Lake, Yoho National Park Starting our hike along Emerald Lake
The destination of our hike: Emerald Basin, above Emerald Lake Patrick & Nicole at Emerald Basin
Cooling down in the stream On our way back
A Yellow Lady's Slipper, an orchid Emerald Lake in the evening
It was such a nice evening we added the rest of the Emerald Lake Loop to our hike It was a quiet and calm evening
Nice reflections The river feeding into Emerald Lake
Walking the loop around the lake Such a nice evening!
Emerald Lake reflections

PARADISE VALLEY OVERNIGHT HIKE WITH NICOLE AND PATRICK


We really wanted to do some overnight hiking in the Rockies, but we were having problems finding good hikes as it was still early in the season and many of the higher trails were still snow-covered. We realised later that a lot of the people working in the visitor centres for the national parks are overly careful and tell you there’s still a lot of snow on the trails to discourage people from visiting too early – once they even told us it would be dangerous to walk on one of the park roads due to avalanche danger – in the end this road opened two days later and there was NO snow in sight.

Anyway, we finally got lucky with a cheerful lady at the Banff National Park Visitor Centre – who did sell us backcountry permits to stay at Paradise Valley campground. It was a 10 km hike, passing beautiful Lake Annette, and with beautiful views of Mount Temple with its impressive glacier. Paradise Valley is often closed later in the season because of high bear activity, but we didn’t meet any bears.

During certain times of year you are obliged to travel in groups of 4 or more - now it was only 'advised' Starting our overnight hike
Catching glimpes of the impressive mountain and glacier Reaching the river
Mount Temple in all its glory! River panorama
On the bridge Following the river upstream

Time for a break at Lake Annette! Most hikers returned at Lake Annette, but there was a group of 4 young guys who were also camping at Paradise Valley Campground, who we kept passing on the way.

A break at Lake Annette Panorama of Lake Annette and Mount Temple
Looking towards Sentinel Pass, but from this angle it's hard to see the sentinels Getting ready for dinner at the campground - pestered by mosquitos

The hike had been beautiful, but as Patrick put it, the lady should have explained the hike as follows: “It’s a really beautiful hike, but it ends up in a huge swamp where you have to spend the night”. This was kind of true 😉 it also meant there were a LOT of mosquitos around which was quite annoying. This was my first night backcountry camping in bear country, and I had been very nervous about it. As long as you take precautions it’s fine though, and they have bear-proof lockers to store your food (and toiletry products) during the night. Of course, you do worry about every funny noise in the night (most funny noises came from all the rock slides coming from the mountains in the distance) but I slept surprisingly well!

Before hiking back the way we came, we stopped at the Giant Steps waterfalls. A very pretty place, and we wondered why they couldn’t have put the campground there?!

Our tents in the morning On the boardwalk towards the Giant Steps
At the edge of the Giant Steps Patrick & Nicole at the Giant Steps
Impressive views... On our way back to the trail
From this side we could clearly see the sentinals - impressive! One last look back
Fascinating trees A very camouflaged toad - photo by Nicole, I would never get this close to a toad ;)

We had to drive to Calgary after the hike to pick up a friend, but we enjoyed a nice lunch at Lake Louise before the long drive…

Lunch break at Lake Louise

BANFF


We spent a day in Banff before Nicole and Patrick were flying back to Seattle from Calgary. We explored Lake Minnewanka on a very windy afternoon…

At Lake Minnewanka Windy Lake Minnewanka

I also went for a short walk along the Bow River, and stopped to watch the hoodoos from a parking lot.

Panorama of Mount Rundle and the Bow River View of the hoodoos and the Bow River

We passed through Banff several times later in the trip. It’s quite a nice place, good for stocking up on whatever you need (food, outdoor equipment), but the area is really touristy and I think we all preferred the quieter places which were just as pretty (Yoho National Park for example).

KOOTENAY NATIONAL PARK


To escape hectic Banff, we went on a side trip to the much quieter Kootenay National Park. It was the first cloudy day in over a week, and the heatwave was also coming to an end. I went on a hike exploring Marble Canyon, and then continued through a large area of burnt forest. This was quite spooky, as the dead trees were swaying and creaking in the wind, and one even fell quite close to me!

Marble Canyon Butterflies at Marble Canyon
A flower in the burnt forest The spooky path between Marble Canyon and the Paint Pots
This sign wasn't so funny anymore after a tree fell very closeby! Bridge over the Vermillion River

At the end of the trail through the forest I met the trail to the Ochre Beds and Paint Pots, a really impressive phenomenon! Aboriginal people gathered the ochre for ceremonies and for trading, and it was also mined for a while (to be used as a paint pigment). I really loved the vivid orange and the unusual colours!

The Ochre Beds Path through the Ochre Beds
One of the Paint Pots - impressive! Another Paint Pot

We spent a couple of days at the very quiet Redstreak Campground, high in the hills above the village of Radium Hot Springs, with a great view of the Columbia Valley. It was fun to watch the showers come in on a rainy day… We also tried the actual Hot Springs which was really nice!

Watching an impressive rain shower approach Spectacular sunset!
This made me giggle: three little bears went camping? Last panorama from Radium Hot Springs

LITTLE YOHO VALLEY TO EMERALD LAKE HIKE


After visiting Kootenay National Park we went back to our favourite Yoho National Park again :). One day I hiked from Yoho Valley over the Yoho Pass all the way to Emerald Lake.

The hike started with nice views of Takkakaw Falls, then went through the forest until I reached Yoho Lake. So pretty!

Takkakaw Falls in Little Yoho Valley Amazingly green Yoho Lake

There is a campground near the lake, a very pretty place. This was the only time I met people on my hike until I reached Emerald Lake.

Panorama of Yoho Lake and Wapta Mountain Flowers found along the hike

It was still early in the season, and around Yoho Pass there was some snow. Nothing problematic though, and the rest of the hike down to Emerald Lake was really pretty!

Hiking down from Yoho Pass, with Emerald Lake in the background Fantastic views of Emerald Lake

I was hoping the cafe at Emerald Lake Lodge would still be open, but I was just too late! Oh well, I had a nice break at the canoe dock, and a little chipmunk (eating dandelion seeds!) kept me company 🙂

Canoes at Emerald Lake A chipmunk eating dandelions seeds right next to me!

I was picked up from the parking lot at Emerald Lake, and on the way back to the campground we stopped at the Natural Bridge over the Kicking Horse River – impressive!

Natural Bridge over the Kicking Horse River

I had signed up for a Burgess Shale fossil hike the next day (you can only visit on a guided hike), which I was very excited about – unfortunately our VW camper Sophia broke down and we had to get to Banff to fix it. I hope I can visit this area another time, and go looking for the fossils!