We will publish the letters in both Norwegian and English. This is the site where the letters will be found.
The map showing the route as we progress will also be published on this page.
We will also have a blog somewhere, and this will be all English language. More information will follow.



SY SIRIUS - CIRCUMNAVIGATING
2008 -
PREPARATIONS

We have now started on the last preparations before we are finally leaving! It is two months left until we are going to leave Skien and go to Greece where the boat is kept. The house is sold, and we have started throwing away/selling what we don't want to keep. Vaccination of everyone was finished some time ago as we were originally planning to go last year. We have to end our subscriptions to papers and resign from the memberships that we don't really need, it is a lot of formalities with insurance and official instances. The last known milestone before we leave, is the confirmation of Thorstein the 3rd of May. We think it will be some hectic weeks before he is celebrated and the house has been cleaned out.

This winter Stein and I have had several periods in Greece to prepare the boat, while the youngest ones have been at home to go to school. Friends and family have been stepping in as reserve-parents in some periods. It has been an exhausting year. But since we have look forward to fullfilling  dream we think it has been worth it. Thank you to everyone who have helped us!

When the boat is going to be our home in such a long period of time as we think, we have to make it more into a home for everyone. Therefore, we had to re-build a bit to give each of the the  youngest ones a private room. We also wanted to split the big cabin in the back so we could get a separate storage. The carpenters at Agmar marine are very skillful and does the jobs so nicely. We nearly don't dare to do any of the interior work ourselves after this. But it has been more than enough of other tasks. We have changed the through-hull fittings to some with ball valves in bronze. We have read scarying stories about brass through-hull fittings and took the extra cost without hesitation as the old ones were ready to change anyway. The old sails were also over the top, and as the old roller furling system was hard to use, we decided to change the booms and the  standing rigging, too. The hatches had begun to leak a little, so we had to try to find some new ones to replace them. We will probably go to more cold waters, too, and as the boat was not very well isolated we changed the thermal insulation. We have installed 13mm Armaflex everywhere above the waterline. In the kitchen, the refrigerator was the main concern. It was a combined gas/12V/220V powered front opening fridge. It was poorly insulated and therefore used a lot of gas or electric power. We decided to change into a well insulated top opening box with cooling against seawater. The insulating polyuretane boards were bought from Inotan in Vestfold, Norway who produces them. Much cheaper than a pack of boards from the boat shop. The experience from using gas as a main energy source for cooling has been an eternal hunt for filling stations. We also dislike the concept of gas tubes running inside our floating home. Norwegians are not used to this in landbased homes even. On this basis, we decided to remove all gas, and has got a Wallas stove that runs on diesel or kerosene. We hope it will work as fine as it looks, it is at least very pretty! Everyone who knows it are bragging about it too, so then it probably is good.
The electrical system inboard had to be checked to make sure we had a full overview of all the courses and what was connected where. We have bought new tinned cables for a fortune to pull new cables. A new generator/watermaker is going to replace the old Petter that worked, but was a bit too big and noisy. Hydrovane is going to be installed, together with a swimming platform. In other words, enough to do!

When are we going to launch the boat and leave Leros? All the jobs seems to take a long time and involves a lot of thinking and rethinking. I hope we are finished before we have gone too far into the summer and the extremely hot weather! But then Leros is a nice place to stay, too! And when we get that far we are not going to rush. Then we are going to enjoy the new lifestyle of cruising sailors.

27th of April 2008
LEAVING HOME - first leg of the journey

At last we have started on the first leg  of our journey. It has been a hectic time moving out from a house that is much bigger than the storage room we have rented, and at the same time packing down equipment for the big voyage. We held a garage sale in the Pentacost weekend and worked through a big clearing and cleaning job á la the TV-shows where all dear belongings are questioned "What do we really need this for..?" In between all this we were celebrating confirmation for Thorstein. This is a big family event in Norway where relatives from far and near came to visit. It was a very nice day when we not only celebrated the confirmation but also got the chance to say goodbye to relatives from our hometowns. We had planned to leave on the 15th of May, but it was luckily changed to the 17th. The pulse sank a little, but we still had no time for lazy days.17th of May is the Norwegian National Day, which is also an event of great importance to Norwegians. Some day to leave when all the flags waved around us!

Most of our equipment was sent by truck from Norway to Greece. It was a bit hard to find a company that would do the job for a private customer, but luckily we found Askim Transport & Logistikk. They were recommended to us by the crew from another Norwegian yacht that had sailed off from Greece some years earlier, Blaatur. Thanks to all of you. We are awaiting to get everything arrive in Athens later this week, and hope that we can arrange the rest of the transport to Leros with help from the staff at Agmar Marine.

After the garage sale the local press had also picked up the news about this family that was going planning for a trip. There was an interview and a photo session in the garden, and Thursday the 15th I woke up to a phone call from the local radio station. They had seen the local newspaper which had a big picture of us on the front page and more across two pages inside the paper! "If I was ready for a small chat on the air in about 30 min…?" Of couse, I prepared myself and was ready. It was a weird feeling bein gon the air, but I think it was OK. You get a feeling that others don't think you are quite normal..and maybe we aren't. But so what, we can live with that. Now we are just looking forward to the trip.

Yes, it was a strange 17th of May for us. The youngest dressed in nice clothes and celebrated in a traditional way with parades and lotteries while Stein and I had to prioritise
to get the house in order for the new owners. As they are going to renovate the house they had traded the wash-down of the house for some of our furniture. We could therefor leave when we thought it was in reasonable shape. We hope it was okay for the new owners, too.

It was a tearful goodbye between the two best friends, Ingeborg and Anniken, before Anniken went with her parents to watch another 17th of May parade. It wasn't easy for them, but we hope that regular internet connection and visits will keep the friendship going. All other friends have also got their share of Ingeborgs good-byes, and not the least Njål from 1st grade (her spewho came with pictures so he wouldn't be forgotten.

Even though much was sent with a truck it was still a lot of things we needed to bring along as baggage. Not least an electric outboard for the dinghy which had been hidden in a corner in of the garage. It was 8 big bags, all besides one were above 20 kilograms. The nice lady at the check-in counter was sorry to charge us for the overweight baggage. Hard to overlook with an overweight of 27 kilos… We can't say that we were unprepared.

We are now sitting in a hotel in Voula outside Athens. The plane to Leros is leaving in the morning. It is lovely weather, and we can look out at the sea where the bathing season has started. We have a job to do in the boat when we get to Leros, but now we have started!

18th of May 2008
LETTERS

GO DIRECTLY TO THE LAST LETTER
 
THE WORKING PERIOD HAS STARTED

We've been here a week already. We've started to work on the boat, but there are a lot of things that need to be done. Originally we had thought that the weeks that we've spent in Greece during the winter would have brought us a lot further, but things don't always turn out as planned. Before we left Norway we made a list of activities for this period when the boat is on land. The time needed for each activity was estimated and we ended up with a plan that would take us 5-6 weeks to work through. Time will show whether this was a too tight schedule, the list had 150 points.. There are many other people working on their boats in the marina, too, Norwegians and of other nationalities. There is always someone to share the experiences with and we learn from each other. We'll have a chat about new equipment, ways of doing things and places to go. So even if it's a place for hard work, we are among friendly people with similar interests. 

Friday afternoon we got our stuff delivered from Norway. It only took a little more than a week and that is quite good, we think. Especially as it turned out to be difficult to get a greek company to meet up with the Norwegian truck at the place that was specified for the delivery. Luckily the driver from ATL, Sune, took the extra trip to deliver at the greek freight companys adress at other side of Athens. Thank you! Not bad, and not expensive either!

So far we have been working on the fridge that we have designed and build ourselves, we have come closer to finish the installation of  insulation and we have worked on the mounting of a windvane. There are mounted new navigation lights in the mast that is presently down. And a lot of other minor things has been done.

Ingeborg and Thorstein are presently doing a lot of self study, only interrupted by swimming in the hotel's swimming pool. We are staying at an apartment hotel for the moment, as the boat is not very suited for family life just yet..There are tools all over, madrasses and bed sheets have been removed, pressurised water is dismounted and the cooking facilities are poor. To give Ingeborg and Thorstein a possibility to do some homework while we are working we have found hotel Marilen to be a good alternative for some weeks. And like I said, there is a pool here..

We have tried to organize the school work with special focus each day this week. Monday was English day, then we were trying to speak english all day, and Ingeborg and Thorstein had to write their diaries in english and hand them in. Tuesday was maths day as Ingeborgs class in Norway would have the same that day. One of the tasks was to calculate the amount of water in the swimming pool, and to measure how fast they are swimming. The results have not been handed in yet, but we are sure they will be soon. 

Yesterday we were invited over for dinner to Nancy and Dimitri's house. They are the greek/american owners of hotel Marilen and live in their house next door to the hotel. It was a very nice evening and we got the opportunity to tell them about our plans, as far as they have come by now. They had never heard about any greek people doing anything like us. But there is supposed to have been a finnish sailor who ended up at Leros in the 60's after his circumnavigation, and he wrote a book about it while living on the island. They told us about how they ended up at Leros themselves, and about how the hotel was started. They have an interesting story, too. We were served delicious barbeque with greek specialities, and were more than full. Very tasty!

The weather is wonderfull these days, warm with a bit of wind. All we need now is to be disciplined enough to keep a steady sleeping rhytm and keep up with the work on the boat. Tomorrow we must finish the installation of the Hydrovane, then there is the diving compressor to be installed, generator, watermaker, and.... It seems like we'll stay quite a while before finishing our list of activities!

28th of May 2008
12.06.2008 POWERFUL TOOLS!

Mr. Captain wears his sunglasses today. That is to stop people around us from thinking Mrs. Captain has become impatient and mad at him, and because of that has given him a straight punch. Because that is not what has happened. Mr. Captain has gotten his hands on a marvellous drill of the Milwaukee make (28 Volt Li-ione battery), and it has showed us that it was carrying just as heavy a punch as we had expected. When you are crawling into the smallest cramped chamber of your boat to make a bigger hole for the new water hose, which is a bit bigger than the last one, it may happen that your big drill get stuck. Then, when you want to get the machine started again, it may well start turning itself, instead of the hole-making tool tip,.. and if the drill is big and heavy, and if your forehead is in the way of the drill, you may get quite a heavy punch in your face! And that was what happened to Mr. Captain. Thats why he wears his sunglasses today...
As we have indicated earlier, the work is taking longer than planned. A swedish guy, Ingmar, at the marina has started presenting us to everyone around as "the norwegians that are building a new boat". It may look a bit like that with all the stuff lying around. There are pallets and boxes, tools and work benches, materials and a lot more. Our swedish friend, who got his boat on the water yesterday, has planned to come back in August. It seems like he thinks he will meet us here then. He keeps going: " see you in August.." Oh well, we'll see. We hope we have water under the keel before Ingmar is back, but we can't guarantee anything!

We are soon finished changing gaskets and to repair corroded areas on the aluminium frames around the windows. We will mount new roof hatches which we got delivered from Germany last Monday. We did try hard to get hatches that would fit right inside the cut-outs for the old ones, but no.. Luckily we have the Milwaukee with some powerful sawing tools. We  also have a Fein machine and a jig saw and all the tools imaginable... It sure isn't the lack of tools that are going to stop us!

THORSTEIN'S REPORT 20.06.08

I have now decided that I should give an update how life is for me on the boat (read: at hotel Marilen) now, so here you are!

We have the past week started helping more and more in the boat. It is not coming along very fast, but it is still progressing. We have helped with painting the roof boards in the boat white, and putting on fibreglass. When we are in the boat we are usually working, but we do take quite a lot of breaks. Still, I am quite happy with what we manage to do, Ingeborg and I. We are a good, if maybe a bit lazy, team.

At home, I have started learning how to make games with the software Game Maker. This is basically a software which is designed with the programmer in mind, and has got different difficulty  settings. You can either use "Drag&Drop commands" or GML, the programming language of the software. I have started learning about GML, and I feel I have quite good progress in it. My biggest problem is that I can't settle on one project, so I jump from one to the other all the time. Despite the fact that this stops me from finishing a game, I think I learn more with this approach than finishing all the games I start.

I have also started learning trigonometry. This is quite challenging, especially because I try to learn the maths staff at the same time. It is quite fun to learn about trigonometry, and I feel I have started going to a bit more advanced stuff than the core stuff, and rather apply what I have learnt to something new.

We are not bored in this life, but I hope the boat will be finished as soon as possible, because I miss sailing in the sea.

Thorstein

 
01.12.2008 CHRISTMAS?

I realise that another two weeks has passed  since my last report! It's hard to live up to the ambition of at least weekly reports, but I'll keep trying.. And now we have reached the christmas month! It's a bit hard to imagine when the trees are still blossoming outside and there are still mosquitos that sting at night! As you might have noticed I have changed to English this time. This has been my intention for some time now, as I know that quite a few people who might visit the web-site can not understand my native language. Many of the yachties that we have met at the boatyard this summer has asked for our web-adress, and we have handed out cards. So it's about time now that I make these reports readable for you, too!

The weather has finally turned to a more winterly type, after a extraordinarily warm and dry November they say. The last week we saw heavy rain fall a couple of days, and it has been cloudy and much colder than it was before. When the wind is blowing it really takes an extra layer of clothing to be comfortable when we are working outdoors. We have been asked if we need extra blankets and a heater in the hotel room also, but so far it has not been necessary. It certainly is far from freezing temperatures.. What we experience is of course that the installed systems are mainly adapted to summer weather, for instance the hot water which is heated in solar panels at the roofs. After a cloudy, windy day we cannot necessarily expect a nice and warm shower the next morning. We are therefor cautious to use as little hot water from the tap as possible, and for instance heat  water for the dishes on the stove. But there is of course no harm in getting used to economise with these resources before we move into the boat again!

Last week we also celebrated the 15th birthday of Thorstein! We made a family trip to the bowling club and went to our favourite pizza place afterwards. Not all that different from what the celebration would have been like back home, even though we realise that bowling in the company of your parents is not quite comparable to having a similar party with other 15-years olds.. But we had a good time all of us and the teenager was happy with what we had planned for his day!

These days we are not many yachties left in Partheni. There are still Rosie and Marko working at Barbara, and some other foreigners that we haven't spoken to are also here. Otherwise some of the local boatowners come now and then to look after their boats, in addition to the people working here. But the yard is really filled up with boats. Most of the boats are lined up side by side, row after row, while latecomers who are probably not planning for a long winter on the hard are put in between, wherever there is room for another one, it seems. The marina people have no lazy days. It seems like many boatowners have asked for work to be done during the winter season. The men (and one woman!) in blue are climbing the ladders all around us and service motors, repair gelcoat scratches and more severe damages or whatever other work there is to be done on the boats. By the way our push-pit extension that they have made is now in place around the cockpit and we are very satisfied with it. We are still waiting for the swimming platform and our new double bow-roller, but we have been told it's soon to be installed, too.

We are still not ready to move into Sirius, even though we feel that the work is progressing a lot faster now than earlier. It's probably because many of the tasks that has been done earlier were not so visible as the things we work on now. There are still some cables to pull from one point to another, but most of these things are finished. Most "big things" are now finished, and what is left are many little jobs that can certainly add up, too. Like mounting lamps and electric outlets around, line the ceiling panels and mount them, attaching the waterhoses to the galley and bathroom sinks, cut and glue the new cockpit area corkbased seat and flooring sheets.. We were a little afraid that our new portlights were not of an adequate quality for a short periode, but after some communication with the producer we are now convinced that they are safe. After all we have replaced 11 old portlights with new ones (of the same make as the old ones), and it would not have been very motivating if they should all have to be changed again!

As we are now entering the christmas month we have realised that we will stay at Leros until after the holidays. Kalle and Birgitta who are swedish Leros residents were kind enough to let us borrow their christmas three(!) and some decorations this year as they are spending the winter months at home in Sweden. Thank you again! So now we can look forward to a holiday season with some familiar ingredients like the christmas three and probably some norwegian christmas music. In addition we look forward to experience some of the not so familiar greek christmas traditions that we might be lucky enough to bump into.

Gjertrud
8.1.2009 HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Happy new year to everybody! Time for another letter.. It has been a very different Christmas celebration this year, some things were missing while other things were new to us. The week before the holidays Ingeborg and I went to a Christmas play performed by the 5-6 years olds on the island. It was of course all Greek to us, but just as noisy and chaotic as an arrangement like this should be. A nice and familiar atmosphere for Ingeborg, just what she has been missing these last months of home schooling.. So that was good.! Then we were so lucky to be invited to Nancy and Dimitri for Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve is the main celebration in the Norwegian tradition, so it was good to have this day filled with happenings! After finishing work early at the marina we dressed up like we should on a Christmas eve, and lit the candles at five o'clock in the afternoon. After singing our favourite carols around the Christmas three we could open presents that had piled up under tree. Ingeborg and Thorstein have always liked to read, but  this year they were especially happy to find so many Norwegian books among the presents. Even though we had brought a small library of Norwegian books when we left Norway most of the suitable litterature had been read by now. Knitting yarn and chocolate, home-made cookies and various clothes were also welcome! Even though we had reduced the number of gifts this year we all agreed that  it was more than sufficient for a proper Christmas. The party at Nancy and Dimitri's were to start at nine o'clock. Nancy has told us before to "never eat anything before going to a Greek party!" According to her any Greek party is all about lots of food and lots of people. And so it was. The Karanikolas family (including grandmothers and brothers and sisters with their families) counts more than 20 by themselves, and besides our family other friends were also invited. We were around 30 people gathered around the table with lots of delicious food: roast pork and turkey, salads and other "meze". Then there were cakes, of course. (We had been invited to join the baking session the night before. There were made sugarcakes, christmas cake, jellyroll and other cakes that I do not know the name of. We had made up a doug ourselves also, for "pepperkaker" or gingerbread  to give our hosts a taste of Norwegian Christmas as well. They tasted almost like they should, even though we were unable to find molasses in any of the island's grocery shops. But I found some corn syrup and used that as a substitute for the molasses.. )
The rest of the Christmas week was more like normal days for us working at the boat, but the children could enjoy long, lazy days of reading, knitting and chatting with friends on the internet. One afternoon we were, however, invited over to another Greek family for afternoon tea together with Nancy. Costas and Popi live in one of the traditional island houses, and has decorated it accordingly. It was a house with a very warm atmosphere, both physically and otherwise.
Another happening of the Christmas week was skygazing at sunset when it was possible to see Mercure clearly side-by-side with Jupiter, and Venus also close to the moon. The Norwegian, enthusiastic astronomer Rød-Ødegaard had led our attention to this rare opportunity through internet newspapers. We were lucky to have a clear sky to the west where it could all be seen on an otherwise cloudy night.
At the marina it has been quiet over the holidays. Besides ourselves we have seen few people at the boats. However, the cats and the dogs have been fed almost daily by their friends among the staff, and the manager has stopped by many days.
So, what about the boat? When are we ready to launch? I wish I knew, but there are still too many unfinished projects. The bathrooms have been in focus over the holidays. Painting and new flooring, plumbing work. Many little things that adds up to full days of work. We have also installed speakers for our radio/music machine and strengthened parts of the floor. We feel that we are closer to working at the "finishing touch", working at the interior details. Things that are still left to be done includes new cockpit decking, finishing the mast preparations and raising the masts, pulling off and reinstalling the propeller (a neverending story that I think deserves to be reported separately when mission is accomplished..) And then the boatyards people still have our bowsprit and swimming platform to install.
I few remarks regarding the weather to round off this first letter of 2009. It has been very rainy and also windy over the last couple of weeks. A large percentage of the years precipitation must have fallen during the rainfall of the last days. A couple of nights we have enjoyed impressive shows of thunder and lightning. I must admit that not all of us appreciate this entertainment..

Gjertrud

05.02.2009 HIBERNATING?

Oh no, we have not been hibernating even though this update has been delayed a bit. I have just had a tendency of writing block or simply been to tired after a days work at the boat. Now, however, I have got mails from some of you who are awaiting new reports, and I found it was time to pull myself together and finish another letter. I appreciate these requests, it must mean that my writing brings pleasure at least to some of you!

This morning Ingeborg and I was interviewed by the local radiostation in Norway again. Obviously some of their listeners remember us, and ask for updates there, too! Fun!

The last couple of months we have learnt that there is a dark season at these latitudes, too. We didn't think it would be any noticable difference in the length of the days over the year, but it is! However, now we see that it is getting lighter again. After some weeks with showers every now and then the surroundings are quite green. And now it has also become a lot warmer. This morning the thermometer showed 22 degrees C at our balcony. We know that there might still be a cold period, like last year when I saw snowfall and chaos in Athens  in the middle of February. However, we hope it is the spring that is underway! Many Greek people have found it cold for a long period now with temperatures down to 10 degrees. They are wrapped up in coats and hoods and are mumbling " krio, krio" (= cold)

I must also tell you that I received a mail one day in January, from Australia! Norwegians living in Surfers Paradise (!.) are reading our blog. It's very inspiring to get this responses and thereby find out  that people far away, and who we don't even know (yet) are actually reading our stories. This time we are even invited to visit them in Surfers Paradise when/if we go to Australia! Surely tempting! A special greeting to Arild, Merethe, Asta og Olve this time! We might even see you in the Mediterranean this summer!

A totally different topic I would like to mention is the illegal migrants that we see here at Leros. We have seen groups of young men strolling  the roads all year, and have understood that they must be many. Reading the internet pages of ekatimerini.gr told us that 3500 illegal migrants have arrived on Leros from Turkey in 2008. This is a lot compared with the 8000 inhabitants of the island! People observing the Coast Guard ship arriving in the Lakki harbour every morning told us that around 30 people were picked up at the island of Farmakonisi every night and brought to Leros. This small island lying very close to the Turkish coast makes an easily approachable entrance to EU. What happens next when they have arrived i Greece we don't know, but we understand that the central authorities are not among the most generous hosts to these migrants. But from what we have read about Leros the local authorities here along with aid organisations and private are doing their best to make life easier for the migrants who have arrived. We like to mention this to fill in the picture of how Greece treat these people.

And then, about the boat: We are installing lights now, and are soon to order madrasses for the new beds. About the propeller, it still sits there, so that story must come later..

Gjertrud
29.04.2009 BACK ON LEROS!

We are back again on Leros, and Stein has taken a new trip to Norway for work at REC. Marit, our good friend in Porsgrunn, let us stay with her during our visits to Norway, and this is very much appreciated. So much better than a room at the local hotel..
It has been hard to keep the web site updated lately, when all focus has been on the boat. The head feels empty after a long day, and then nothing will come down on the keys.. In the evenings we have rather sat down to watch some Norwegian TV through the internet, to keep updated on the whereabouts of Norwegian TV celebrities. And to keep updated on the news via one of the popular Friday night talkshows. I read somewhere that this is the main news channel for many people these days, the talkshows on TV! Well, we do add some reading of the internet newspapers, too, to stay informed. But it doesn't really give you the indepth background to the news of the day either. Stein wanted us to watch a film one of the days too, a heavy Russian movie.., but Andrej Rublev was a bit too much for me at the time. I'll have to try again when I feel up to it..
Here in Lakki we have met many familiar faces. Many of the boats that are wintering in Partheni start the new season with some days in Lakki before heading to other places. Or they use Lakki as their base the whole season and only take shorter trips to other places. We, who have been present in Partheni through both the lay-up and launching periods of the other boats there have become familiar with many people now.! When we arrived in Lakki the first one we met were our friend Rosie, sitting on the deck of a neighbouring boat. She offered us a big bag of lemons, which they had got from a friend who is growing them. Now they had had enough, and we accepted to take the rest! Therefor we have had lemon on the meny the last days! The kids have fallen for fresh lemonade (with sugar and water added..). Very tasty! The cooking books has been searched for recipes including lemons, and I  cooked a very successful meal of chicken, baked potatoes and lemon sauce that we'll have to repeat! Then Barry has passed by with a bottle of wine! He lives a different life here on Leros and is very glad if he can take over other peoples rubish! From this he has build himself the only wooden house on the island, and is growing grapes where nobody thought anything would grow. He asked if he could take over our leftovers when we launched the boat, and there was a big pile of some useful things and junk. But he wanted to sort it himself and throw away what he couldn't use! It was very helpful for us, and it seems he found things of value to him.
Now we have everything onboard, or even more than that! We have not been able to find room for everything yet, and the waterline is a bit higher than it should have been before the water tanks are filled.. So, we have to throw away some more stuff. It is hard when we know that everything we have can become useful..

Gjertrud
13.04.2009 AT LAST - WE ARE FLOATING AND ARE TAKING A BREAK IN TURKEY!

Yippi, yippi! At last we have been launched, and have taken a trip to Turkey for testing, for formalities and not least to meet family! This is the first update in a long time, and updates on what has been going before launching, must come later. We have been even more narrowminded than before the last couple of months, when we knew that we had to leave Greece before April 7th. Then our cruising permit would run out, and we didn't want to find out what will happen if we exceded this limit..
Anyway, we made it, some days after the cruising permit ran out though. But as you understand, they let us pass and now we are fine. And now we are in Kusadasi, Turkey where we were met by my brother and his family. Guess who had looked forward to this! Some weeks ago we were a bit nervous as Easter came closer and we felt that lots remainsed to be done before we could go in the water. There were tools and boxes with equipment to be mounted everywhere, the boat had to be washed and polished and still the rig had not been erected. But with hard work and long hours, and in spite of rain, rain, rain the last days, some days overdue we came in the water. Of course, the engine was troubling us a little in the beginning. After all it had not been running in 2 and a half years. At first it would not start, but with a little help from the boys at the yard, and some start gas it was running. Then, in our first attempt to "get away" from the island the engine overheated after only a few minutes, and we had to turn around. Quite frustrating.. In addition to this we had managed to attach the hydraulic pipes to the steering wheel in reverse order, so when I turned the wheel to starboard the boat would turn to port and vice versa. And after changing the gear wires it had not been adjusted properly and needed a helping hand in the engine room to get in gear. However, these details mainly contributed to the "entertainment" for the small group of friends that had gathered to see us off. And to a minor grounding upon returning to the dock.. But the sea was flat and were driven afloat again after a few minutes. It had been very little sleep the night before as stowing and organising our belongings as good as possible before the travellift would come the next morning was prioritised. So now we were tired, but we had reached a milestone. The boat was floating, and all our new through-hull fittings seemed to be tight. The waterline had raised so much that some are now a bit low, but that will have to be looked at later. The mechanics started on the engine the next morning. Their first assumption was that the cleaning of the heat exchanger had been performed unprofessionally by the owners.. After a new cleaning and de-airing of the system it seemed like the problem was solved. But it was too late in the afternoon for clearing out from either Samos or Patmos and we decided to wait until early next morning before leaving. After dinner at the nearby taverna with some good friends we made ourselves ready to leave at sunrise. We woke up at 5 o'clock and let go from the dock one hour later. It took less than half an hour to find out that the problem was still there, the engine had become very warm. At this point it was hard to stay optimistic and positive, but we tried our best as we turned around once again. The mechanics came to help us right away. Michalis, the chief engineer sat down over the engine and tried to figure out what was wrong.
Well, after a few hours the engine was fixed, and we set off towars Samos in the middle of the day. The port authorities close up at 14:30 so we had to wait until the next day before we could clear out. We arrived in Pythagorion after ~4 hours and anchored outside the monument over the islands celebrity Pytagoras. The next day we had to get ready for the encounter with the officials, with a cruising permit 4 days overdue.. The customs offiser told me to make sure to notice the expiry date next time! I told him as it was true, that the delay was due to engine problems. As it turned out he was very nice and helped me formulate a note to the authorities in Athens about this. That was it! With a signed note we avoided to get a fine and once again we had our papers in order.
Now we were very quick to cross the sound towards Kusadasi, where we were met by the easter tourists from Norway! they had stayed at a hotel for some days, but were ready for the yacht life right away! We have had some quiet days together now, and will probable stay a couple of weeks before returning to Leros. There we have some finishing work to do, and some clearing up in the boxes we have left.
It was a struggle to get started, and we don't feel quite relaxed yet. But if we are going to make it around the world we should be able to handle some startup problems!

Gjertrud
09.05.2009  MAY - AN EVENTFULL MONTH

We never thought we would be staying this long on Leros. But as we are still waiting for the new sail we fill our days with all the little things that still needs to be fixed. However, our patience is starting to wear, we want to start the real journey!
Greek wedding!
Oh well, we shouldn't complain right now, as the waiting has given us the opportunity to take part in a real Greek wedding! Since last summer we have heard about the big celebration that would take place on May 30th this year. We even knew that we were welcome as guests if we were still here.. Eleni, the oldest daughter of the Karanikolas family, owners of hotel Marilen where we have lived much of last year was getting married to Odysseus! A big celebration due to a big family, both Greek and American, and a father with ambitions as a local politician meant that close to 1500 people were invited to the ceremony. Around 300 were invited to the dinner party after the church ceremony, and we were in this lucky group!
On Thursday night, two days prior to the wedding ceremony, another ceremony took place: The Making of the Wedding Bed! We had misunderstood as we thought this was a ceremony for the girls, so only Ingeborg and myself took the bikes up to the hotel where this ceremony was gonna happen. As it happened it was a ceremony involving unmarried girls who would make up and decorate the wedding bed with rose leaves, while priests would come and bless the made-up bed. 200 guests took part in the gathering. After the bed was blessed the guests would come into the room and lay money or other gifts to the couple on the decorated bed. And the party continued with a buffet serving of greek dishes and music by a Greek traditional band.
On Saturday we were invited to the church in the evening. Ingeborg had even got a role as the girl to hand out bags with rice to the guests in the church! We came early and could enjoy the car corteges, first with the groom and his family and friends, then with the bride and her family and other followers. Both corteges drove around in the village and made music with their horns before ending up by the church. The couple led their guests into the church and we enjoyed a very different ceremony from what we have seen in Norwegian weddings. A lot of things happened that we didn't undrstand, but it culminated as the married couple took three turns around the altar while people threw the content of their rice bags towards them. Ingeborg must have done her job well because a lot of rice was in the air!
The dinner party at a hotel in Alinda was a lot about music and dancing. We also got delicious food of course, various traditional greek dishes, but people was really more often on the dancing floor than they were sitting down! We all took part in the traditional Greek dances that I had even learnt at school in Norway many years ago. We had a great night! You can find photos from the wedding among the albums from 2009.

Earlier in May we had other celebrations worth mentioning also: Ingeborg celebrated her 13th birthday on the 13th, Norway celebrated victory in the Eurovision song contest on the 16th and followed up with our National Day on the 17th. We enjoyed the company of Bjørn from SY Courage, another Norwegian sailor while watching the Eurovision Finals from Moscow at the local bar, and had even brought our flags to show the other audience who we were. The Greek audience was a bit disappointed as their big star didn't do better this time, but we think they accepted our modest celebration in their vicinity. The day after we wanted to celebrate the National Day in some manner. We ended up at a taverna to treat ourselves with an icecream. But as we all ended up with different variants than we had ordered we chose to rename the taverna we visited "Ice Surprice". Even though some of us feel strongly about certain likes and dislikes in icecrean variants this time it didn't destroy our good mood..
Anyway, the Lerian audience was more interested in the arrangement taking place the next week-end it seems. In the annual arrangement "Leriakos" they are compeeting in speeding with RIBs. A lot of large RIBs with a lot of horsepower had arrived by Friday night, and motor tests were carried out where the boats were standing before launching the next day. A lot of noise to scare off their competitors maybe.. We could watch the competition from our foredeck on Sunday, and saw boats at high speed making a lot of spray. The arrangers had hired cameras in helicopters to document the event, and it can now be seen on YouTube. It shows pictures of the action of the competition but also nice pictures of our island!

We are now soon halfway into June and really hope we can leave very soon. We cross our fingers that the sailmaker will give us some priority.. Even though we can still find projects to work on on the boat for a long time we hope we will be able to report from other ports very soon!

Gjertrud
18.07.2009   CRETE

Finally, we have reached Elounda, Crete after an eventful crossing from Leros, via Kos. We had hoped for a trip to Egypt also, but as it seems that will not be possible this time. We have quite a long trip before we reach Gibraltar and there are lots to see everywhere. Egypt would have been interesting, but a big detour. We have had problems with the generator, which must probably have a major fix (water into the cylinders from the water inlet to the exhaust). It is not really diagnosed yet, but that is the main theory at the moment. We also had a problem with the main engine during the crossing, but we don't know what happened. It was suddenly very hot and the engine room was filled with steam! Luckily we could start it again when it had cooled off and was refilled with cooling water. Maybe we got a fishing net in the propeller or something like that. Thorstein dived down to check if something could be spotted at the propeller when we arrived here, but he could not see anything. Maybe the rope cutter had done it's job..
We've had Meltemi here the last week, and are glad we have found a secure bay. I will write more when I find a new Internet connection!

Gjertrud
29.07.2009    AK MALEAS AND FAREWELL TO THE AEGEAN SEA!

We are sailing along slowly, at around 3 knots. We are in The Messiniakos Kolpos which separates the two western fingers of the Peloponnesos. Greek Waters Pilot has directed us towards the Kalamata Marina, where it is supposed to be so nice and friendly that this itself makes the visit worth it. And also, of course, which is famous for the olives, Kalamata olives.
We have many days of sailing behind us since leaving Elounda in the eastern part of Crete and have earned some more experience with lack of sleep, gale and such challenges that the cruising life will give. We left Crete after two weeks at anchor in a lovely bay, Ormos Porou in the larger Merambellou bay. The Meltemi was blowing most of the time, but we could still work on the details that had to be improved. As the diesel generator is not functioning at the moment we found it was time to put the wind generator in operation. The two solar panels could really only keep the fridge cool, so we needed more power. We hoisted the propeller in the mizzen top lift, and it really had some wind to work on! Up to 20 m/s. I got a bit nervous by the sounds, as if it took off(!) but it was fine and gave us a lot of extra power. Our Kubota diesel generator needs a repair, and for that we need a repair manual. We got in contact with the Greek representative, and hoped they could help us. However, it was a lot of back and forth and in the end we had to leave Crete without ever receiving the material.We rented a car for some days and went to Heraklion to visit the aquarium and a visiting Leonardo da Vinci exhibition. Very interesting! We  found a wood supplier who could help us to some swedish wood strips. These have been made into front bars for the shelves containg our food supplies. No more jam and ketchup to be emptied out on the floor anymore (like on our Kos-Crete crossing). We also found a supplier of 2 mm fishing line and bought the 1 km he had! In other shops they have just made big eyes, thinking of the fish it sounds like we're after.. But that was the recommendation we got on a seminar before leaving Norway, so we have searched for it. It remains to be seen how we'll handle it if we actually catch a big tuna.. We'll keep the vodka bottle ready to give it a drink I guess, and hope that will make it calm down..Other things we did in Elounda was swimming, diving and reading while we waited for a good wind to sail on. A nice Englishman runs a shop with second hand books in Elounda, and there we could hand in the ones we have finished and buy new ones at a reasonable price. He even had books written in Norwegian, and we bought one of them, but even Ingeborg reads English books now.
Towards last week-end it seemed like the wind would die down for a couple of days. Since we were going westwards the wind that was blowing from NW, as it normally is in the Meltemi season, was really not what we wanted. So even if we have a sailboat we waited for the wind to die... On Sunday we were finally lifting the anchor again. Before we could leave though, Stein had to cut us free from a fishing net that had wound itself around our chain. After an hours struggle we were free, but had found out that we need a better knife! We expected to get some wind some time after leaving, but it took 15-16 hours before the sails would add anything to our speed. Then after 24 hours a Gale warning was ticking in on the NAvtex. You'll either have everything or nothing at all, it seems! NE 7 to 8 Bf in our area. The windspeed increased over the afternoon and the sea became rougher. We had of course forget to close one of the hatches before the first sea washed over us. Not much of a problem, just a warning! We reduced our sailarea to be prepared for more. The autopilot had no problem steering and we were fine. Our course was set towards a small island inside the Ak MAleas, the SE point of Peloponnese. We knew this coast have a bad reputation when the weather is rough. However, we didn't know how rough it would be in this weather. We read a note about this area in our map: Citing "The Pilot" from 1910: "Sudden gusts are sent down the mountains with northerly winds, which are strong enough to rip your sails apart, to break the mast or even to cause the boat to capsize. You should keep a distance of at least 3 nm from the coast and even then be ready to loosen your sails. The steamers should also keep their distance as the waves close to the coast are irregular and accompanied by a strong current." Still, as there are few good alternatives in the area, from what we could see, we took the chance and kept the steering course. It would be close to midnight before we reached the cape, so before Ingeborg and Thorstein went to bed we reefed down further to handle some extra gusts.. It was blowing 20 m/s, not that much, but the sea was quite rough. We had a speed of 6-7 kn through water as we came under the cape. The hull speed of Sirius is a little more than 8. We wouldn't like to go beyond that! So when we reached 8.2 knots south of the Maleas we woke Thorstein up again to help us reef further down. Much better to have more hands in the strong wind. Ingeborg was also awake and would like to take part in the actions. Our crew is really not unwilling to help out! The reefing operation was not a problem, and soon we had reduced the speed through water to 6-7 kn. Now with very little remaining sail area, and we were finally out of the Aegean Sea for the first time since we bought Sirius in 2002! It was very dark, but we could see the lights from both the Peloponnese and the Kithera shores. Only the small island that we were stearing against was all dark. We had to find the bay with help of the radar, but that was easy. The anchor sat at the first attempt, and finally we could relax. We had eaten and drunk too little all day, so only after a little refueling we went to bed. It had become almost 3:30 in the morning. So the next day we slept until the afternoon before crossing the Lakonikos Kolpos to the bay Porto Kaiyo. There was no wind, I think we left it when we left the Aegean. I had baked bread and cooked dinner underway, so when we had dropped the anchor we could just take a dip in the sea before the day was over. Today we left Porto KAiyo again with the course set towards Kalamata. Not much wind today either so we started on the engine. Our first dolphins of this year crossed our course and played with us for some minutes. Between 10 and 20 individes swimming and jumping. Great entertainment! We are approaching Kalamata now, and look forward to showers, laundromats, internett and other pleasures to be found in a marina. Then we'll buy a Maltese courtesy flag, and plan for our next crossing! Thank you for reading!

Gjertrud  











07.08.2009    CROSSING THE IONIAN SEA AND TUNA ON THE HOOK!

"Thorstein, Thorstein, we have a fish!" Ingeborg called for her brother from the cockpit. It was 8:30 in the morning and the two of them had taken the watch for some hours in the morning. Now something had happened. There had been a sound from the wheel and you could see that the handle was in a different position from before! Thorstein was reading but came leaping out to see. Yes, something was
pulling the line! Our morning nap was over, we had a fish on the hook! What now, I thought, do we have everything we need for this operation? How big is it? Stein and Thorstein was winding in the line, and it was not so hard! Was there really a fish on the hook? We had more than 100 m of line out, as we had been told by our new friend Ingmar who we met in Kalamata. Ingmar had also given Thorstein a present, the plastic squid which was now used as bait. And he had guaranteed (!) that we would have fish, if we followed his advice.. And we did! Thank you Ingmar! When the line was wound up far enough so we could see the end of it we saw something shiny and sprawling.. It looked huge! While the boys had been busy winding in the line Ingeborg and I had been running around to find the remedies: a plastic basin, knife, wooden board, a bottle of liqueur, hook, ax.. and a fish weight! Stein was holding the line while Thorstein slid down on the swimming platform with the scoop net. He was squeesed in between the hull and the dinghy, but was able to reach the fish that was actually
quite calm! Still, Thorstein emptied the bottle of Naxos Lemon liqeur into the gap and it was easy to land. Ingeborg left the scene when the fish was stabbed, but was soon after back with her camera! The fish, that we found was a tuna was weighed in to 5.5 kg. Not bad as our first catch of Mediterranean fish!
This happened on day three of the crossing, but I just had to start with it! We have now reached Malta and I will take it from the start!
We spent 4 days in Kalamata and learned that it was the 4th biggest city in Greece if we got it right. A little biger than our hometown, Skien, but not much. That we wouldn't have guessed from what we saw of the bustling citylife and what you could find there. A Lidl shop in walking distance from the marina, well, that is before you had been shopping provisions for a crossing. We had to take a taxi back.. we liked the old train station that had been turned into a park. Locomotives and train cars spread around on remaining tracks, and the station building turned into a taverna. The trains were all tagged down by local "artists" of course, but still, we liked it and so did the locals it
seemed! We also saw a new town coming out of the ruins after the earthquake of 1968, but also areas where ruins were still to be seen. This was our farewell to Greece for now. A nice city!
We were leaving Kalamata on Sunday afternoon. I had problems manouvering the boat at low speed in the harbour, it wouldn't stop when the handle was in position free, or go in reverse as expected! I was sweating.. So before we could stop by the diesel jetty Stein had to adjust the wires conneting the gear and the handle. A couple of hours at anchor and it was fixed! The diesel atnks were filled and we could go!
We had not been able to find a shop selling the Maltese courtesy flag in Kalamata, so we had to make ne. Ingeborg found that the signalflag H had the right proportions between red and white, so based on this we made a flag. The George Cross emblem was drawn with red, silver and black marker pens on a piece of white cloth and sewn onto the H flag. We think it looks OK at some distance..
We have seen a lot of vessels passing on this crossing. We experience how they all, except one, have passed us at a distance of around 1 nm. Very comfortable for us! We think our Sea-Me antenna is helping a lot. In one instance, when it had been turned off, we could see a large vessel coming straight towards us. Then, when we switched on the Sea-Me it altered the course almost immediately! A coincidence? Well, we have to keep our watch, of course. We can't be sure that there are people on the bridge in every ship. Like on Ali1 which kept a steady course in our direction until we chose to change our course. We don't know if they saw us or not, but anyhow, we didn't bother wait to find out the hard way!
One night a went to bed early to be ready to take over the night watch at 2. We had had a delicious tuna dinner after a nice, long day of sailing at 6 knots straight towards Valetta. I had barely switched out the light when I was called from the cockpit. "Fish again!" Stein had made the line ready for some fishing in the morninghours, but it took only 10 minutes before there was a fish on the hook again! So, the dolphins we had seen a little earlier in the evening was correctly a sign of tuna in the water, as Thorstein had read in our fishing book! Or they had brought luck! This time the fish only got a small shot of ouzo before it was calm. The filets were cut out and put in the fridge, and I simmered the bones during my watch later the same night. So we had fish soup for lunch and tuna steak for dinner. We can get used to this..
Close to Malta we got into a large field of anchored vessels.We counted around 30. I had problems understanding what I saw in the dark night, and was wondering if Malta had oil rigs out here? Not to be found in the map, so it was strange. But we guess it is a sign of the world economy still being out of shape.
In the morning Malta rose in the horizon. This was the fifth morning, and we were quite pleased with how the crossing had been going. Even if we had only had one day of real good sailing and not any big challenges. We have been reading, played cards, been fishing and tried to keep the boat in order. And we have been listening to all sorts of music, including Ingeborg singing. Now we are here in Grand Harbour Marina in Valetta. And we even managed to time it for the big fiesta! They are celebrating St. Lawrence here with flags, parades, music and fireworks. We look forward to everything, and to find out what it is like here in this country with so much hitory! We'll probably stay for a week, then we plan to go to Tunisia.

Gjertrud
21.08.2009    MALTA

We came to Malta without knowing too much about the island.  But it was magnificent! Entering the Grand Harbour was like sailing into a historic theatre wih castle-like constructions on all sides. As we even made it to the start of a fiesta made it even more grandeur as there were flags hanging on all poles and other places where they could possibly be displayed. It was the St. Lawrence fiesta. We never found out why they celebrate this old martyr on Malta, but it's probably got something to do with the St. Johns heritage.. The fiesta was about bands marching in the little village Vittorioso which is also the village where the Grand Harbour Marina is situated. So we were in the middle of it! There were people in the streets all night, there were fireworks both day and night and of course seremonies in the church. St. Lawrence cathedral is next to the marina.

When you come to Malta the Valletta Port Control won't let you into the harbour without an arrangement with a marina. They have a very efficient way of handling the traffic via VHF and everything went smoothly even though we had not made arrangement before we came. Grand Harbour Marina was expensive but excellent. The sanitary facilities were pure luxury even though the capacity was a little too low. We managed to avoid the rush hours so it was not a problem, though.
The majority of people in the marina, besides maltese, must have been Italians. Many Maltese speak Italian as well as English and Maltese. We learnt that at the time of liberation from Britain it was  a debate on whether Italian should be the new official language of the island. But it was not the choise of the masses so English/Maltese won. I didn't realise before that Maltese is actually a language that is very much alive. The Arabian dialect, as someone described it, has survived through the years of British influence, and we saw that today Maltese is the language of the children in the streets.

We visited a lot of museums on Malta. Maritime Museum, Malta War Museum, Fort Rinella, etc. present a lot of military history which is of course central to their history. It was a bit much for some of us, but still it was interesting!
The most time consuming project for us at Malta was, however, to try and fix the generator. As mentioned earlier seawater had been leaking in through the exhaust bend due to siphon effect. We should have installed a siphon breaker on the pipe due to the location of the generator below the waterline. The Greek Kubota supplier Agripan had been very helpful and sent us the workshop manual and the parts catalogue for the engine, so we decided to lift out the generator, open it and see if we could fix it. We found corroded cylinder parts, a broken spring and a cylinder top gasket which had seen better days. We had localised the Kubota dealer on the island, and hoped we could fix the motor with a little help from the Gaetana brothers. We got on one of he Maltese yellow buses and went as far as Zeebugg where the Gaetana company had their premises. And they did what they could! But when Italians and French have closed for the summer holidays nothing can be done to get parts from their storages. But the Gaetana brothers ground the corroded parts and found a new spring, but a new gasket was unavailable. They suggested a temporary repair of the torn part of the gasket by using a "gasket on a tube" type product, and so we did. The generator was hopefully fixed, at least temporarily. Our main engine had been installed without a siphon break, too, and now Stein started to worry that our loaded ship could have shifted the waterline to above a critical level where siphoning could cause drowning of this engine too. And it didn't take long to confirm this suspicion. So now we have installewd a siphon break on the main engine, too, and changed the motoroil repeatingly and hope that the water has not harmed the cylinders.

We think we found the homeland of the Bingo game on Malta. You could hear the numbers being announced from every corner and people was filling the benches, enthusiastically it seemed. Luckily we were able to withstand the temptations.. We didn't meet and talk to that many people beyond our neighboors on the pontoon and the personnel at the marina. There were quite a few Italian yachts with teenagers on board, but the treshold for taking contact was too high. However, Ingeborg met the local fisherman, Philip. He spent the days along the quay with a dog (or three) and four fishing rods, and sometimes his wife was there, too. They were good company several days. A green grocer selling his goods from the back of his truck supplied us with fruit and vegetables almost everyday. We had to go farther for other food, but it wasn't too difficult either when the supermarket would pick you up at the marina and also bring you back with all the shopping bags! Foods were generally cheap in Malta from our experience, at least cheaper than Greece!

Now that school has started in Norway we had to start more seriously here, too. The students have got the task to write about something they found interesting in the Maltese history. Thorstein will write about the second world war, while Ingeborg will write about the Knights of St. John. As mentioned above we visited a lot of museums which gave some insight into the different periods of the history of this island so they both had material to work from in addition to internet.

Malta was very much worth the week we spent there, and there are lots of things we didn't find time for during the week we were there. We didn't swim or snorkle as the water within the harbour was not very tempting. Other areas are said to be wonderful, but very crowded in August. Next time we come to Malta we will visit the bays, but now Africa was waiting!

29.08.2009 TUNISIA

A summary from our visit to Africa: Bakshish, Ramadan, Sahara, Karthage..

The adventure started the day we arrived in Yasmine Hammamet, Tunisia. We had motored almost all the way from Malta, caught another tuna.. 5-6 kilos and passed an oil rig some miles offshore. We could see that this was another "holiday land", paragliding, windsurfing and an endless beach. And hotels. We didn't have the coordinates for the marina, but were still able to guess where it was from the map. Once inside the breakwater we were met by a marina fellow in his dinghy, and the French lesson started! We were not prepared for the fact that Tunisians seems to expect all Europeans to speak French! But after some struggle we understood that he wanted to know whether we came from Libya! As we didn't we could just enter the customs jetty and go through the formalities with the different authorities. Everything went smoothly, except for my meeting with bakshish. It was when one of the officers followed me over to the next office that he asked whether I had something to offer to them, a small present.. I was not totally unprepared for the fact that bribery exist in these countries, but I think I looked a bit funny when I realised what happened. He wanted Euros, and all I had in my purse was a 10€. You can guess what happened.. Well, with the next officer the same thing happened, only this one knew it was not an acceptable part of the visit. He was sweating, poor man, in the 40 degrees summer temperature and from trying to communicate his unsound message in a very poor English-French mix. Why don't they charge us a small tax and use it to pay their people better? That's what they do back home! Well, normally they don't come that small though.. On departure the officer that first introduced me to the bakshish could smilingly inform me: "no presents on departure.."

The marina in Hammamet was quite new, opened in the 90's sometime. But the concept included a whole complex of shops and restaurants, and most of these buildings were still empty. Sad for the investors but also a bit sad for visitors. It's more pleasant when there are people in the houses! To see some more real Tunisia we first visited the old city, Hammamet. Yasmine Hammamet is like a touristy suburb. In Hammamet we saw a city with an arabian culture. In many ways similar to other Mediterranean communities, especially in Turkey, but there is also little things that makes it more exotic: Shop windows, clothing, signs with arabian letters, the smells, the mosques. People are very friendly and we liked it!

Ingeborg had expressed a wish to see the desert, Sahara! We thought it was a good idea and ended up renting a car to go south. It would be a two day trip (at least) to reach the sand dunes and we also added other touristy sites to our route. We didn't know that Kairouan is the fourth most holy city for the muslims. This was what Stein understood from trying to read our French(!) guide book. We had to pay a visit even though this was the first day of Ramadan and we didn't know what that would mean in Kairouan. People doing Ramadan (thats how the car renter expressed it) don't eat or drink the whole day. Will the restaurants be open at all then or is it possible to get some bread or fruit or even water? In Kairouan there was a real medina where the different types of workshops were organised geographically, so that for a while we saw only carpentry shops, then we saw tailors, and so on, and in the end we found the food market! Some restaurants might have been closed in midday, but others were more than willing to serve the visiting tourists. We continued south from Kairouan and came to Matmata where we stayed overnight. We should of course have accepted an offer from one of the boys who would take us to see a berber house from the inside! But we didn't. It was exiting to see them from the outside, too, like caves with a white painted front and a nicely arranged yard in front. And our hotel was build in the style of a berberhouse and that was fun!

Next day was Sahara day! We drove from Matmata to Douz and further on to the little village El Sabria. This was a tip from a German family we met in Matmata. They had met Toufik who had given them a great experience in the desert landscape. We met Toufik, too, as soon as we arrived in the village.  He is waiting for tourists who would like some guiding, and we can recommend this service! Toufik and his barefooted friend in the burning sanddunes. Ingeborg and Thorstein was running around, feeling the soft sand around their toes. We were taken to an old French fort, just like the ones used by Legion d'Etrange in numerous books from Stein's younger days. We could have spent the night here, inside or in a tent, had dinner with the nomades from the village, taken a trip on a camel into the sand. Toufik would have arranged it, but we couldn't..this time. I hope we can go back.

We went to Tunisia and Karthage the next day. I always seem to get stuck in the middle of a terrible traffic jam when I'm visiting new places. This time I drove through downtown Tunisia around noon.. But I came through without a scratch, even though I must admit that part of the distance was driven along a street reserved for the tram.. I just ended up there, somehow! Then we came to Karthage with the President palace and all the nice villas. What a contrast after being in the villages closer to the desert the day before! Of course, we came for the museums and ruin parks that are very nicely presented. It was an interesting day!

Gjertrud