My Life Stories

Panama part dos

 

After breakfast we arranged for an Uber driver to take us to Cerro Ancón which overlooks the city of Panama. Since one of the guys was en route only myself and Simen went while Andreas waited for their friend James. Our driver was very nice but the funny thing was he had never been to the park even though he is from Panama City. He was very nice to wait while we took some pictures from the overlook and waited for the others to arrive.

When the others arrived we snapped one picture and left since they ended up hiking up the last part of the road to the top, so they had their fair share of views. We then proceeded to head to the Panama Canal where we said adiós to our driver. Later when I got WiFi again I saw the fare was only $28 and some change, which meant my $30 credit was able to get us a driver for over an hour at no cost Uber credits only work in the US I later learned. Bummer!

We seemed to arrive too early at the canal as no boats were scheduled to go through until two hours from when we first arrived. So we just killed time by seeing the museum and eating out of a vending machine. By now you can imagine the suspense that was building to witness the thrilling act of seeing a boat pass through the locks.

 

And then, with the speed of a sloth, some boats came into the lock! First was a group of three small boats which they lashed together, followed by a very large ship which barely fit in the lock at all!

And that my friends is the Panama Canal.

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Hola Panama

I arrived in Panama hoping to stick to my plans, but as life has taught me plans can and do change. I ended up taking a taxi for $30 to my hostel. So much for using my $30 Uber credit. But, I made some new friends last night and we will all share an Uber ride to some of the tourist sites today. We are about to leave now, so I will leave you with a picture of the hostel's pool that I didn't swim in.

Norway: A Life Changing Experience

In December of 2014 I traveled to Norway. What would make someone decide to go to a Scandinavian country during winter? A cheap ticket, that's what!  I didn't regret my decision when I booked it more than 6 months in advance, and I don't regret it now after having gone.  It was one of the best travel experiences of my life.  

Day 1 - 3: Oslo

After connecting through Vienna airport, I arrived in Oslo to a fresh covering of snow. I suppose it's the sort of thing you would expect.  Oslo is fairly easy to navigate, albeit at a cost.  The cheapest option to get downtown from the Gardermoen Airport is the NSB train which costs you about $13 (after transaction fees) from the ticketing machine in the airport. The other option, which I did take on my second time around, was the Flytoget, for about $23.  Only take this if you have a deadline to meet, or the next NSB train isn't leaving for 45 minutes.

Day 4: Train Ride

Technically this started the night of Day 3, but it was almost midnight and I just slept on a train until the next morning, so we won't really count that.  I decided to take a train from Oslo all th way up to Bodø which is in the arctic circle. Believe it or not, the weather was slightly wamer that far north!  For anyone traveling to Norway, I definitely recommend taking a train through the country at least for one journey. The views alone are worth way more than the ticket price (which is actually cheap compared to most things in Norway).  

Days 4-6: The Arctic Cirle

You wouldn't think so, but being in the arctic circle was actually more pleasant than being in southern Norway. Upon arriving, however, it was sleeting and at night which made getting from the train station to my host in Bodø a little annoying. I looked all over for where the bus would pick me up and only found it as the bus was pulling away! At this piont I was too cold and tired to wait 30 minutes or more for the bus to come back, so I just walked.  Turns out, the town of Bodø is easy to walk around. On my first full day I did just that. Only having a few hours of daylight available, I walked down to the harbor to take some pictures. I ran into some fellow travelers who were just in town for a few hours on their way to chase northern lights in Lofoten. We ended up killing time in a nice wooden hut bar playing card games and chatting, followed by a grocery store visit and some coffee.

The first two nights were disappointing as I did not get to see any auroras. Little did I know that trying to see it from my south-facing bedroom window was nearly impossible unless the lights were extremely intense. So on my last night I gave it a shot even though the forecast did not seem to great.  In fact, it was reading almost double the strength the night before, but cloud cover was too much to probably see anything, much less photograph it.  So down to the harbor I went around 10:30pm, alone, in the snow.  I'll be darned if it didn't pay off!  As soon as I came around the last corner before reaching the harbor it was there, ominously dancing overhead.  My reaction was that of amazement but deep down inside I felt a sense of fear, perhaps a feeling of insignificance in the presence of such a great natural force. I spent a couple hours in the harbor photographing every flash of green that I saw.  Sadly, the aurora was growing weaker the longer I watched, but I am grateful just to have caught a glimpse of such a beautiful natural wonder.

Having accomplished what I came to Bodø to do, I left the next morning satisfied, albeit sleepy from being so excited I could barely sleep the night before.  So I walked to the airport, yes I said walked, and waited for my plane back to Oslo.  I was lucky enough to be rewarded with some great views of the fjords on the takeoff before clouds obscurred everything below.

Days 7-9: My Life Changed

After returning to Oslo I opted to hang out at the hostel for the last night before my girlfriend joined me on the trip.  The next day she arrived in the early afternoon which didn't leave much time for daylight, so we only walked into the city center to check out some shops and have some drinks at the hostel bar.

We did however take advantage of the daylight the next day when we went to the Vikingskiphuset (Viking ship museum) and the Folk Museum.  If you only have time to visit two museums in Oslo, visit these two. They are easily accessible and are right next to each other making it easy to visit both.  Luckily for us the Julemarkedet (Christmas market) was going on the same day so we were able to enjoy plenty of hot gløgg (mulled wine) and Christmas treats.  

After the museums we made it down to Aker Brygge (boat harbor) to catch the sunset.  We walked down to the end of the pier and set up the camera on the tripod to take pictures together as we usually do on our trips together.  That's when I caught her by surprise by reaching into my pocket, getting onto one knee (the pier was cold by the way), and asking her to marry me.  Thank God she said yes because I was so nervous carrying that ring all over Norway all week thinking I'd lose it!

Following the proposal we walked around to catch the last of the gorgeous sunset before heading to the downtown Christmas market on the way back to the hostel.  Oslo has one of the best sunsets I've seen in my life, truly beautiful.

The nighttime Christmas market offers many sights and smells, along with ice skating.  One is sure to find something here worthy of eating or taking home as a souvenir.

Overall Impressions

I have to say I really enjoyed this country.  Having gotten a good impression during the cold months, I can imagine how much in love with this country I would be if I go in the summertime. I really want to make that happen sometime in the future. Of course I will need to go for at least two weeks to really see all that I want to see, and even then it won't be enough.  What a beautiful country and I won't soon forget my time there.  Tusen takk, Norge!

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