Wednesday, September 3, 2014


A couple of post notes from my most immediate prior post:

1) Does one of our Swedish Outback tour guides (Jan) resemble Ed Harris in a crazy/similar fashion?  Allow me to help you see the similarities.  Jan is on the left, Ed is on the right:

2) C. Green mildly ribbed me for using "y'all" with our European counterparts in safari.  But, I held firm on my response that it's close enough to "you all" and "you guys" for fellow travelers to understand what I meant.  I also pointed out to my better half that I may have used 'y'all' but he was speaking extra loud and extra slow to folks using the same language as us.  Hmph.  So there.

Several months ago I obtained my group fitness teaching credentials through ACE (American Council on Exercise) after realizing the many benefits of doing so, including being able to take advantage of fitness teaching vacations through an organization that bestie Andrea introduced me two a couple of years ago. I posted about our first experience with fitness teaching vacationing back then:  

This time, it was my opportunity to lead the masses!  Well, as massive as a class tends to be in the Caribbean during the slightly less busy summer season.  Read:  low class attendance.  But that's ok!  Come all, or, come one.  I taught two classes daily and they were smartly scheduled back to back in the morning.  Andrea and I then had the remainder of each day to ourselves to do as much or as little as we desired.  Neither of us had yet traveled to Cabo San Lucas so this was a new experience for both of us.  Here is a map of the area; with Cabo San Lucas pointed out on the Baja Peninsula:

We lodged and I taught at Secrets Marquis Los Cabos, a beautiful, quiet, and serene resort.  Here are some highlight photos taken from and around the property:

View from room:

Who doesn't love room slippers?

Those coconuts were free rolling and we were involved in an unfortunate incident one evening; totally not our doing, though.  (honest):

When without a pool bag, simply use the laundry sack:

This group of men sold their wares on the beach each day.  Tough business, trying to lure tourists out of the infinity pool:

The bananas weren't free to pick:

This was our room niche for room service exchange.  I really like that word. Niche:

Pens?  I'm a teacher, of course I took them:

I liked the leather work on the room lamp:

I won! I won more chips.

A jaunt into Cabo San Lucas starts off with trying to determine just the right spot to catch the bus despite a lack of bus stops:

The bus curtains made us happy:


Jesus with camera flash:


These coffee beans made me smile:

"The Teacher:" (no clue)

Internet cafe:

Proof that work was involved in this vacation:

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Swedish Outback, part two of our adventure in Sweden

Post notes from part one---

Mr. Green nearly took out an entire Stockholm City block when he married together an American surge protector with a very cheaply constructed European socket converter.  Perhaps I exaggerate.  But, there were a few scary minutes when we were without power (not that we needed the lights) and when I played "is it the yellow wire, or the red wire?!" with the apartment circuit breaker box.  Nothing to see here, folks, moving right along!  We didn't hear any feedback of the electrical sort from the apartment's owner, so there was apparently no permanent damage done.

Those who know me know how I do enjoy my wine.  Well, it could be anyone's wine, not just mine.  Trusty Mr. Green ventured out to a grocery store during one of our evenings while in the Stockholm City apartment and returned with some essentials, vino included.  It turned out to be the only wine sold at the store.  Flashback to pre-trip organization:  we read about Sweden's approach to alcoholic beverage sales in stores.  In a nutshell (or grape casing), Sweden manages the sales of beer, wine, and liquor in government stores (though pub and restaurant sales are as typical as anywhere else in the western world).  This reminds me somewhat of beer and wine (and liquor) sales in Philadelphia, sold in "state stores."  Sweden takes it a step further and limits the hours their govt. stores are open and they do not allow flashy promotion of products through billboards, signage, etc.  I don't know if Sweden has a lower incidence of alcoholism or related problems, but I kinda respect this approach, from a purely health and welfare perspective.  Moving on.  I pop open (or unscrew) the bottle of wine and sip on it for a couple of days.  It tasted different, sure, but don't all things taste a bit different when you're away from home?  At some point later, while cruising grocery store lanes for bug spray (we were prepping for the bugs we were warned about in the forest, since there are so many lakes), we noticed the very same wine (and the only wine) being sold at this particular store.  One of us pieced together the Swedish words for "non-alcoholic wine" on the label.  Huh.  So THAT'S why it tasted different!  

And now, off we head into the Swedish Outback!  Or, as my friend Sharby kept referring to it:  "Now, when are y'all going to New Zealand?"  We started our trek to the forest by taking a regional train from Stockholm City to Koping, Sweden (via Wikipedia).  Here is stereotypical evidence that we Texans like to spread out:

<No passengers had apparently booked that side of our booth.>

The train ride was smooth, easy, pleasant, and quick.  Eh, less than two hours, I think.  I appreciate the train safety engineers' trust in my might should we need to evacuate through the window, by breaking the glass with a bare hand:

Instructions on the left side of sticker:  "Crush the window."

Koping (pronounced like 'sherping') is adorable.  We spent less than 15 minutes there, awaiting the bus ride leg of the trip:

Our bus ride was equally smooth and even quicker, less than an hour.  We ventured from Koping to Skinnskatteberg which is where we were scheduled to meet our tour guide contact.  This photo was taken just before the bus driver admonished me for propping my feet on the railing.  He was speaking Swedish but I translated his, er, demeanor:

We met our tour contact from Wild Sweden, the group facilitating our adventures in the forest.  A twenty minute cab ride later and we arrive at our home for two nights:  Kolarbyn Eco Lodge



Common area fire pit:

Expertly tending one of our numerous short lived fires in our hut:

Camp kitchen:

Common room/hut:

Common hut table:

These two dogs were with a set of grandparents and their granddaughter (more on them later) and I was head over paws enamored with them.  We were told they are Swedish Garden Dogs:

Our nightly tours (safaris) provided a sizable and delicious meal created from locally made products, and we brought some snacks with us from Stockholm, so we didn't actually cook much at the camp.  I boiled up and munched on some Ramen noodles one afternoon and then made the trek to the dish washing station, much to Charley's delight:

 Charley kept our water bottles sufficiently filled with cool, clean, spring water:

Because I know you're curious, here is the (Elton) John:

***It was actually quite non-intimidating and, like the camp itself, fell into the glamping category.

We attempted several fires in our hut but learned that perhaps fire making won't be our skill to contribute to our tribe during the zombie apocalypse.  It did give us a chance to practice wood shopping techniques, though!

Wake up!  Time to work:

Check swing:


Not enough elbow grease:



Check swing:

First time success!  Must be all of that recreational softball:

Our first tour was the beaver safari.  We were picked up by Jan (pronounced Yon) and taxied off to a guesthouse (think:  bed and breakfast) that served as our meeting and launch point on the water.  After a little prep work, we were on our way!

Guesthouse (think:  bed and breakfast):

Boat dock:


This is Amelia.  She was traveling with her grandparents, and they were also lodging at the same camp as us.  Amelia struck as the most well behaved, adorable, and intriguing little girl!  She didn't speak English because she was a newly graduated Kindergartner/upcoming first grader, and not yet confident with her second language skills.  So, she could have been a total beast and we merely didn't understand what she was saying.  But, I don't think so:

Beaver house (den):

The only other boat on the water that evening (it was well after 9pm in this photo), and this group was a part of our tour:

Little ovens for use on the island we stopped at for dinner:

Unloading the dinner supplies:

While Jan (pronounced Yon) set up our dinner, Marcus (the owner of Wild Sweden) toured us around the tiny island, pointing out beaver work:




Wild Sweden truly cuts no corners and their meal provisions exemplified that.  Locally sourced items for the most part, and tonight's dinner was wild boar (think:  roast), potato salad, a vegetable, bread, juice, coffee, cookies, and tea:

I snapped this photo simply because I can share it with students when they look at me cockeyed anytime I use the term boggy:

We saw many beavers (and dens) this evening, I lost count at some point around ten.  We had the BGC (big girl camera) but it was nice to be in the moment on the water and let Jan take care of wildlife photos with his NSA quality camera.  He snapped this photo of two beavers that played for several minutes, about twenty yards away from our boat:

More photos of the beaver safari wildlife, along with the other Wild Sweden tours, are in the photo gallery on their site:

Safari #2, Moose Tour:

I loved these violet colored flowers, which reminded me of bluebonnets.  They are apparently an invasive species harming some native plants, though, and not loved by Swedes.  Sounds like they were brought over from another continent and then...

Our rendezvous point was Guesthouse Udden:

A former school, now guesthouse:

Being seated for dinner:

Do these antlers make my ears look fat?


Jan and Marcus providing moose education before the tour:

Salt lick left for the moose:



 Slugger, slug of all slugs:


 Breakfast, I mean, piggies at Guesthouse Udden:


We were able to socialize more during the moose tour and Elizabeth from Australia tickled me to no end.  Charley said she was my comedic soul sister.  Which means I'm probably the only guest she didn't annoy.  We saw many moose during the safari, including a couple of babies. (!)  Much better photos, again, taken with Jan's NASA quality camera; check out the photo gallery at

Safari #3, Wolf Howling (listening for...) and Tracking Tour:

We started at the wolf research and education center:



Premiere wolf scientist!  Personal lecture, here, y'all!
Flashback to months prior to journey:  Charley noted that Pearl Jam was playing in Stockholm the same week as our trip.  He also pointed out that it would be logistically impossible for us to try to attend, which I understood, begrudgingly.  Neither of us are Pearl Jammers, but it is some of the prime the music of my high school years and how cool would a giant American music concert be in Europe?!  Back at the wolf education center, we noticed that premiere scientist was speeding up his presentation and repeatedly glancing at the time.  After bidding his farewells, Charley ran into him in a narrow hallway, as premiere scientist was muscling his way through our group.  He exclaimed to Charley, frustrated, hands flailing, "I've got to get to Stockholm, I'm seeing Pearl Jam tonight!"  


Um, yes, well, Harry here lived a full life despite his rather flat affect you see:

I like this tapestry.  I don't know what it was designed to mean, but I took it as we humans should walk (coexist) in the same world as all other creatures, peacefully:

Wolf skull:

Marcus, providing additional wolf education.  It was also in this room that I experienced instant coffee for the first time and was pleasantly surprised:

In this chair - wolf, brown bear, and lynx fur:

Marcus and Jan pointing out the territory we'll track:

Recent wolf track, center of photo:

This fungus which Marcus cut off of a tree supposedly makes a popular tea brimming with antioxidants.  We didn't take any with us since, if caught with it, Homeland Security would likely toss into the Centers for Disease Control pokey:

Moose, seen during wolf tracking:

This may look scary, but it's an abandoned cabin for use by hikers and campers and we used it as our dining room: 


Two guests applying their practiced fire making skills in the abandoned cabin:

Marcus and Jan setting up dinner:


Menu:  smoked boar wraps, sausage (they were really hot dogs) on a forest stick (DIY roasting), cheeses, with no minor with us this evening a low alcohol beer (think near-bear) was offered, coffee, cookies, and tea:

This evening was by far my favorite dinner because of the atmosphere and camaraderie that had been forged by a near-same group over three nights of safaris:

The wolf howling portion of the tour began after dinner.  Because the Portland rain held strong (maintaining cloud cover) the night was darker than any night prior in the week.  It was senseless to take photos and by that time, we weren't looking so much as listening.  Unfortunately, the wind made it impossible to hear howls, which can only be heard within about a square kilometer.  So, we moved around quite a bit by van and foot, made a lot of scary movie references, but were not successful in hearing howls.  It was an adventure, though! 

We were originally slated to camp "wild" with the group that evening, but the extremely wet conditions prompted Marcus and Jan to make an executive decision to lodge us at Guesthouse Udden.  After sleeping two nights on the hobbit hut wooden pallet, I had zero argument with that move.  Here are photos taken of the guesthouse by day:

From within our room:

Common area/dining room:

Kitties!  Porcelain!  Porcelain kitties!

Marcus drove us back to the bus station in Skinnskatteberg the following morning and we rode back to Koping for the Stockholm City train:

(look near left of the driver's mirror; ominous bus number)

I was happy as a clam to crash out and sleep away the hours between arriving at the airport hotel until our early morning wake-up call, but I'm glad I was swayed to trolley back into town for one last dash in Stockholm City.  We returned to futball watching and pub grub.  Our evening's entertainment was Derek, the tiny British fish chef.  He robustly enjoyed his evening off from the kitchen and tried picking up married women, physically picked up both me and Mr. Green in bear hugs, and in general made a loud but mostly lovable arse of himself.

Back to reality, back to memory foam mattress, and back to our permadogs!  Charley truly assembled a - hands (and moose antlers) down - trip of a lifetime.  I'm a lucky 40 year old girl.

Tack! (that's Swedish for thank you - thanks for reading)

All photos from the Wild Sweden portion of our week: