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And so it ends, nearly a year of travelling is over. And what a year it’s been! Got so many fond memories of places I’ve been and all the amazing people I’ve met. This adventure surely wouldn’t have been nowhere as good without all of you, so thanks for all the fun times we’ve shared. It truly has been a remarkable experience, and with a very healthy refill of new impulses.

Throughout the year, I’ve had about 130 sessions of surfing. It’s taken me from absolute beginner to intermediate, but more importantly, it’s been heaps of fun πŸ™‚ I’m definitely a little sad that I have to put it aside now. I’ll miss being out there, and the thrill of joy when catching waves. Going to have to find an opportunity to get back in the water sometime soon.

The journey has been running pretty smoothly. The list of unpleasant surprises has been short. I’ve only suffered minor injuries, and barely been sick over the last year. That I’ve avoided food-poisening and bed-bugs alltogether, I find pretty remarkable. Got lucky, I guess πŸ™‚

Going back to Norway, I really look forward to seeing family and friends again. Some Norwegian food and nature is also most welcome, and I look forward to picking up the hammer and getting back into track & field πŸ™‚ Private space has been sparse over the last year, so that I will enjoy too. I’ve lived in about 90 different hostels, motels, hotels, and private homes since I left! So getting settled for a while in one place, will be good. It’s not going to hurt having an income again either, and I’m excited to see what my future career will bring of experiences and learning.

Thanks to all of you who have been reading my blog! I hope it’s been somewhat inspiring and fun, and hopefully you can apply the information provided if you plan on going to some of the same places.

Happy travels and hang loose! πŸ™‚

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Chicago

Since my route from Costa Rica to Norway went through Chicago anyway, I decided to grab the opportunity and spend a few days in the city. It’s the third largest American city, with a population of about 10 million people (suburbs included). Let’s start with a photo of the skyline:

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As you can see the city’s situated on the waterfront, being that of Lake Michigan. It has a length of 494 km and a width of 190 km, so I guess there’s no wonder it’s kind of hard to see across it πŸ˜‰

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I’m staying in a neighbourhood called Wrigley, a little north of downtown. It’s a pretty nice area with small shops, cafΓ©s, and some parks. It’s also quite close to the waterfront. The weather was nice today when I took these photos, but besides that it’s been raining heavily here.

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The timing for visiting Chicago was good with regards to one of the largest sporting events in the US, the Stanley Cup, as the home team Blackhawks won yesterday. Thousands upon thousands of people took to the streets to celebrate, and it got wild very quick. It surely was an interesting mob phenomenom to observe, as I’m pretty sure people wouldn’t act that way if they were in a small group. Most were just happy, some were singing/ yelling/ screaming at the top of their lungs, while some became “happily destructive”, if there’s such a term. They smashed bottles, sent up fireworks in the middle of the crowd (some of the firework went into the crowd instead), and climbed up on trafficlights etc. So, it didn’t take long before a bunch of police arrived, and they ended up breaking up the crowd before things got completely out of hand. It sure was a cool thing to experience though, got a video of it.

Jaco and return to Tamarindo

Been spending a few days in Jaco, which is located only a ten minute drive north of Playa Hermosa as mentioned in the previous post. I’ve been on my own since last Saturday, as my travel mate Eivind had to return to Norway due to disease in his family. So, we parted after travelling for about 11 months together. It’s been a great adventure with a great friend! So I’ll just finish up the last couple of weeks on my own. Yeah, this trip’s coming to an end really soon.

The surf in Jaco has been pretty average. The swell has been there, up to ten feet surf even, which is the problem, since Jaco doesn’t seem to handle large swell very well.The result is often major close outs (when the wave pretty much collapses in one piece, in case you’re not familiar with the lingo). Here’s Playa Jaco at low tide (it works best at high tide).

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As you may have noticed from the photo, dark clouds are looming in the horizon. That’s no coincidence as the rain season has started here now. The pattern seems to be that during daytime it usually holds up and there’s some sun, but in the evening it comes pouring down hard! And the rain is often accompanied by severe lightning and thunder. Still though, nice of the rain to stick to the night for the most part πŸ™‚

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Yesterday I took the bus back up to Tamarindo, and checked in at the same hostel we stayed at earlier (the Pura Vida), and I even rented the same board I had a week and a half ago. It’s such a good board. I know you’ve probably seen it before, but it’s definitely worth looking at again πŸ˜‰

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Had an evening session at Playa Langosta after I arrived yesterday. It’s about a 35 minute walk from Tamarindo to the spot. You got to go down a dirt road, then down to the beach, and then you have to wade across a rivermouth. The river has crocodiles in it but they usually stay further up the river. Still, I’m fairly certainΒ everyone takes an extra look before wading across πŸ˜‰ It takes about 30 seconds to cross, and you walk further along the beach for about ten minutes to get to the sweet spot. Had a good session there πŸ™‚ Will go again tomorrow morning. It’s a high tide spot, due to some rocks sticking up here and there.

Thought I’d wrap up this post with a photo of my room at the Room 2 Board hostel I stayed at in Jaco. Nice hostel and really friendly staff, btw. It just goes to show how life is like living out of a backpack. Please excuse the mess, that’s how I roll these days πŸ˜‰IMG_2755

Playa Hermosa

On Sunday we took an express bus from Tamarindo to Playa Hermosa. The ticket cost $49,- per person and the ride took about six hours. That’s including the one hour we had to wait for a new bus as our first broke down. It quite simply stopped and wouldn’t start again. No worries though, we enjoyed the time outside to stretch our legs a bit πŸ™‚

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The drive took us through some nice scenery, a mix of farmland and forests.

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We even stopped and saw some crocodiles below a bridge. I was a little alarmed to see a boot next to this large croc!

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Despite it being some sort of asphalt for most of the ride, the roads here are pretty bumpy, so we arrived “shaken, not stirred” in the surf town of Playa Hermosa πŸ˜‰

Tamarindo to Playa Hermosa

Playa Hermosa is a 7 km long black sand beach, and is known to be ultra consistent, but also an advanced spot for surfing. The waves here are really powerful! Nevertheless, we looked at the forecast and decided to give it a shot. On Monday and Tuesday we enjoyed some of our best surfing on this trip. The waves were ranging from 4 to 8 feet, and although not all of them were easy to catch, we still got some really good ones. Had a couple of long rides were I had to jump off right before the shorebreak to avoid crashing on the beach.

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However, on Wednesday the swell picked up and the waves were reaching heights up to 10 feet. And with about twenty seconds intervals between each one, the power in those big waves became massive. We looked at the conditions from the beach for about ten minutes and decided it was best to stay out. When in doubt, don’t go in. Went for a run instead to burn off some energy. Same conditions today (Thursday) at Playa Hermosa, so had a decent session at another spot called Playa Jaco instead.

We’re living comfortably here in Playa Hermosa, as we rented this sweet villa for $90 a day. The villa’s located right on the edge of the forest, so we’re slowly getting accustomed to the sounds and the life of the jungle, like hearing weird bird calls and having frogs jump around our legs at night πŸ™‚

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Besides, it’s been three of us staying here, as my friend Carly came down for a few days. Good times, let’s wrap up this post with a selfie from the beach πŸ™‚

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Tamarindo

Our current location is the town of Tamarindo on the west coast of Costa Rica. It’s a nice little place with about 1.000 inhabitants and probably nearly as many tourists. We’re staying at a hostel called Pura Vida, meaning Pure Life. Pura Vida is a widely used expression in Costa Rica, and it’s meaning is rooted in the lifestyle of taking it easy and to be happy with what you’ve got. The hostel lives up to its name with a chill and friendly atmosphere.

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Some fellows from France having a go at the balance board.

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The surf on the Tamarindo Beach has been pretty average, waves about 2-4 feet but breaking a little too close to shore, so they’re closing out for the most part. Nevertheless, it’s been some good times in the water. Furthermore, it feels so good to be able to surf in boardshorts again, the water is very nice and warm here, and the air temperature is around 30 degrees Celsius.

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My GoPro is still not working despite efforts on downloading new software etc., so the GoPro support team has told me they will replace my camera. It is what it is. I did however get a hold of a sweet rental board here. Measuring 6-2 long, 21.5 inches wide, and 2.9 inches thick with a volume of 42.7 litres it’s a little shorter and stockier than my previous board. I really like it though, the width and volume make it easy to paddle and balance on, and the shortness make it easier to catch the relatively steep waves here without nosediving, I find.

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Texas

After spending about seven weeks on the west coast, we went over to Texas. And btw, we were able to send our surfboards back to Norway with our friend Audun! πŸ™‚ He flew with Norwegian and they only charged NOK 450 (USD 60) for taking the boards, which we fitted in one boardbag. Awesome!

Anyway, so Eivind has relatives here in Texas, and we had the pleasure of visiting them. We’ve been staying with Melissa and Randy in their home outside of San Antonio.

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They’re such good people and took really good care of us. Besides, Melissa’s mom and dad came down to visit as well. Here we are out enjoying a Mexican dinner.

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The company was great, but I can’t say the same thing about some of the weather. We’ve had some really nice and sunny days, but on Saturday a big storm hit us. It was raining cats and dogs, and we even received tornado warnings on our cell phones! That’s pretty full on, but luckily we never saw one. Nevertheless, it was an exciting experience to see such weather conditions.

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On Sunday the storm cleared, and we could spend some more time outside. With no more thunder in the skies we created some of our own, as we went out shooting some rifles. Good fun and a true Texas style activity, here with Colton (Melissa and Randy’s son).

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Cold water surfing and family reunion

Here’s a little update on some recent activities. First, we met up with my second cousin Jahn who took us surfing on his home turf: Westport on the Washington coast. Here are the boys lined up and ready to go πŸ™‚

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Got no GoPro video to show for though… My new camera (Hero 4 silver) which you might recall I bought in Hawaii only a month and a half ago, is acting up. The screen on the back sometimes goes purple, and sometimes it goes pitch black. I’ve been in touch with the GoPro support team, and this fault appears to be happening to some of the cameras of this model. Not happy at all with it, but at least the support team promises that if the solutions for fixing it (such as downloading new software) don’t solve the problem, I’ll get a new camera. This is the only photo I got from the session.

On Westport Beach

The session was quite an experience. With water temperatures of about 12 degrees celsius (53 Fahrenheit) we had to rent gloves and booties. Still it felt cold with our wetsuits. What was really different was the feeling of paddling with gloves. I guess the ones we rented were pretty cheap models, and they filled up with water, and it felt like paddling with weights in our hands! Not very comfortable. The conditions on the day we went out were average, pretty bumpy out there. The crowd was non-existent though, and little wind also helped. It was still fun to be out there, but after about an hour and a half I was so cold I had to get back up. Think I started suffering from hypothermia actually, I found my focus slipping and I felt light headed in a weird way. However, it was all in all a very good experience as I know what cold water surfing feels like now. And I sawΒ a seal out there! It popped up about ten meters in front of me to say hello, and then disappeared again. Very cool πŸ™‚

Another highlight from the last week was visiting my old host family from when I went to High School in Oregon. My host mom wasn’t there unfortunately as she was over in Hawaii, but I did get to meet the rest of the family. Currently they’re living outside of Junction City.

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We had a very active and fun weekend with them. Went to a trampoline park, a water park, watched part of the High School District Championship in track & field, and hung out in their house and played video games. And enjoyed good food together. Here’s my host dad Kevin and his daughter Devin preparing pizza for us πŸ™‚

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And here’s the whole gang gathered around the dinner table.

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Now we’re heading back down to California for a few of days. This fine piece of machinery (Ford Taurus) is our rental car. The surfboards fit perfectly inside along with all our luggage. Thinking back to the motorbikes we rented in the Phillipines makes it even more comfortable πŸ˜‰

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A Norwegian, bears, and a High School reunion

The road has taken us further up the west coast, into the state of Washington. We’ve enjoyed some solid fun-packed days here now.

The first thing we did when we got here was picking up a friend of ours at Sea-Tac airport who’s come over from Norway to visit. His name’s Audun, and he’s going to be travelling with us for a couple of weeks. Then, we linked up with a friend of mine from High School (I had a year as an exchange student down in Harrisburg, Oregon). My friend from High School is named Peter. So we stayed with him and his wife Sydney for a few days, we had an awesome time.

One of the highlights was a hike we did in the area around Lake Wallace. It was a beautiful sunny day in the forest. Washington is nicknamed the Evergreen State, and the forest in the area we hiked surely lives up to the name.

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We passed by some nice waterfalls on the 21 km hike.

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Here’s the gang, catching their breath πŸ™‚

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But the absolutely extraordinary experience of the hike came towards the end. We were hiking along a gravel road and came around a bend, when all of a sudden we spotted a black bear with two cubs! The distance was about 70 meters! They turned around and looked at us for a second, then they ran off into the woods. We were thrilled to have seen them, if only for a few seconds. Anyway, we kept on hiking down the road, and after ten minutes the bears reappeared on the road! This time a little further away but it was definitely the same mommy bear with the two cubs. We kept our distance to them and tried to be quiet despite our high level of excitement. Naturally, one needs to be careful when encountering a bear with cubs, as getting between the mother and her kids could have been catastrophic. But they didn’t seem to mind us too much, they just trotted along down the road in front of us for about a minute, then they disappeared into the woods again. This was my second bear encounter in under a week, and I can only say wow, this was something really special. To see a bear from the car was amazing, but to meet a bear with two cubs out in in the forest qualifies as magical πŸ™‚ Here’s the evidence, although you might need to put your specs on πŸ˜‰

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Up the coast

After having such a good time in San Francisco for a week, we drove further up the American west coast.

A highlight along the drive was the redwoods in northern California. These ancient giants which can grow more than one hundred meters tall and become up to 2.000 years old, are surely worth a closer look. We made a stop in Redwood National Park and did a nice little hike for about an hour and a half.

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Only 5% of the original redwoods are still intact, the rest have fallen victim to aggressive lumbering over the years. Preserving the last ones is such an important task, and the state and national parks are really doing a good job. The redwoods are after all the largest trees on the planet, so it’d be a terrible shame if they were lost. One truly feels tiny when walking among these giants. Mindblown in such a good way πŸ™‚

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We also found this nice riverbed when hiking in the redwoods. And as you can tell by the blue skies, we picked a good day to do the hike (the redwoods don’t get that big without a lot of rain).

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Another highlight occured shortly after we drove into Oregon. We were cruising along when all of a sudden a black bear ran across the road in front of our car! We had to hit the breaks a bit to allow it free access to pass, and the encounter was over in a few seconds, but how exciting! I’ve never seen a bear in the wild before, so this was really something special. Very happy with my share of luck right there πŸ™‚ Got no photo of the bear though as it was much too fast for that, so I’ll just wrap up this post with a photo I shot along the Oregonian coast. It’s a nice drive coming up Highway 1 and 101. Definitely qualifies as a scenic drive.

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San Francisco

The road has taken us up the Californian coast, to San Francisco. It’s my fourth time here, and there’s a reason why I keep coming back. I reckon it’s one of the nicest American cities. Love the certain style of neighbourhoods that is so prominient around the city, it’s fairly safe here (except from a few shady areas downtown), there’s heaps of things to do, and the geographical location provides fresh air from the sea on a daily basis.

Furthermore, got really lucky with the choice of accommodation this time. Found this hostel up at Fort Mason (close to Fisherman’s wharf), which is essentially an old army barrack which has been transformed into a fine shelter for wanderers and globetrotters. Great location, friendly staff, clean enough, and reasonable prices. Look for this hostel next time you’re in town!

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The hostel also offers the occasional organized trip. Such as the other day, we rented bikes and went riding across the Golden Gate. By the way, did you know that the American Army wanted to paint it black and yellow and call it Bumble Bee bridge? Wonder if this landmark would have been equally famous if that had been the outcome? πŸ˜‰

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Here’s the gang from the hostel giving their spinners a break after crossing Golden Gate. We then had lunch down by the water and took the ferry back.

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On the ferry back, a funny episode occured. A fellow working on the ferry picked up that I spoke Norwegian, as he knew a little. We started chatting, and then it turns out his wife is from the same valley in Norway that my mom is from, Gausdal. This made my new friend, Karl, very excited! He had been to Gausdal several times and could name several places there I know of, such as Svingvold, and it even turned out I know some people he does. Karl’s wife had lived in Gausdal until she was twelve years old, and Karl called her up for me to talk Norwegian with her. Pretty hilarious, I found. In addition I was invited in to meet the Captain of the ferry. Quite a scene, and a most enjoyable acquaintance. We ended up taking a photo together πŸ™‚

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I’ve also been exploring the city a bit on my own, such as yesterday when I walked over to Telegraph Hill. Went up to see the Coit Tower, pictured here:

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The walk up to the tower is rather steep, but as often, the view is worth the climb. Here overlooking downtown on this fine sunny day.

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