Sweden Part 2, the Middle.

I left Sysslebäck, a village alongside the Klarälven river at 18:40 hrs only.
The whole day the rain had been pouring down.
A few km north of the village, I made a right turn and started mounting into the hills, going from 160 meters to just under 600 m.
I’m 5 weeks into this trip now, but still my physical condition doesn’t seem top. I can’t say I suffer, but, the climbing does not go easy.
Near the top of the hill are some chalets for rent, I guess for cross country skiers in winter.
It’s all deserted now.
The road descends a bit towards Eggsjön lake, where I hope to find a spot to pitch my tent.
Just when I start descending, it starts raining again and the moment I unpack my tent, it’s a real downpour. Damnit, couldn’t that wait for another 5 minutes.
I crawled into a wet tent and didn’t bother eating anymore.

Next day, Saturday May 21st, was cloudy but a very beautiful cycling day over gravel roads. I stayed high on some plateau, always between 400 & 500 m.o.h., passing several lakes like, Tasjön, Tossan, Tisjön & Grycken. The one even more beautiful then the other.

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I took some mountainbike single trails going into Rörbäcksnäs, a little town with even an outdoor store. Again, the part I was looking for for my stove was not available. I had a chat with the friendly shopkeeper. We checked the weather and it seemed it was gonna rain tomorrow Sunday evening and Monday morning.

As it was dry and too early in the day to stop, I said goodbye to the people from the outdoor store, bought some provision in the local supermarket and continued my ride towards the Norwegian border. Quiet an unexpected climb.
Near Stoa, I made a left turn into the Ljordalen and 6 km further on, I found a fantastic spot to pitch the tent, right next to a wide bend in the river, facing an almost 1000 m high hill.

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Sometimes, I thinkI just go a bit too far in searching traffic free roads 🙂

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Sunday came and I woke up to an overcast sky. Apart from a bit of condensation, I could pack the tent away dry, backed some sausages for breakfast, lubed my chain and tightened it with the eccenter. Just when I was ready doing all this and packed everything away, it started raining.
I smiled. Perfect timing.
However, Sunday morning still was half a day too early according to the forecasts.
And raining it did.
Just after I crossed the border back into Sweden, I saw a small wooden shelter. 37 km on the odometer wasn’t a lot, but even with the best raining gear, you start to feel uncomfortable after a few hours continuous rain.
I put on some dry, warm clothes, made pasta, read a bit, but the rain wouldn’t stop.
On my gps I saw there would be another shelter 2 km’s further down the road and decided to give that one a try for the night.
I was hoping for some kind of small wooden house with 4 walls, protecting you from the elements, but it turned out to be the same kind of wooden shelter I was 2 km back. A 2 m by 2 m shed with an open front. At least this one had a wooden floor i.o. a muddy one.
I made a construction with the small plastic tarp I carried with me to have at least some protection.

It rained all night. I’d put my empty coffee mug outside in the evening and this morning it was more than half full with rain water. That must be about 40 mm of rain during the last 10 hrs. The forecast spoke between 2 & 5 mm.

And it continued raining all day.
And I stayed in my hovel. Reading books, drinking tea and coffee.

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The first shelter with muddy floor.
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2nd shelter with a nice wooden floor, but they forget to built one wall.

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Next morning, Tuesday 24th May, it had stopped raining when I woke up.

Of course, by the time I ‘d had breakfast and packed all my stuffed, it was raining again.
The barometer kept going down as well, which promised no improvement.
41 hrs in this shed was more then enough, so I decided to leave anyway.
A head wind.
Ah well, Mp3 on, some summer music in my ears to soften ‘the misery’, and go.

I was near the highest waterfall of Sweden now, but decided not to have a look. I saw enough water falling the last days. And anyway, I had to keep moving just to keep my body warm.
15 km or so after Gördalen, there were signs on the road that the road I was coming from was blocked. I’d seen some heavy machinery going up and down the day before, but apparently they couldn’t fix it.
I took a left turn, a 15 km gravel (and mud) road north towards Idre.
Idre was half flooded. The guy in the tourist office said the lake rose 60 cm over night. He also said the road was blocked just beyond my shed. That must be just before the Norwegian border. Whole parts were flooded. I guess I’m lucky I cycled these 2 km to the 2nd shed last Saturday, or I would still be up there. On the Norwegian side many roads were closed as well, the guy said.

From Idre, I headed further north, direction Foskros.
After about 6 km I pitched my tent at a nice ‘natural campground’, just along the swollen river.

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Continuing north, after Foskros I had a nice 23 km gravel road, passing the most Southern Sami village in the world.
At the junction with the main road, I met Frans and his wife, a nice Dutch couple traveling with their mobil home. They fed me, and would continue doing that the day after.

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In the afternoon, I cycled through Hogdalen, the highest Swedish village.

Also the next day, Thursday 26th may was a day of extremities. First I passed the highest church in Sweden in Tännäs. After Tännäs, I followed a good gravel road for 15 km towards Funasdalen.

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Sweden’s “highest” church.

From Funasdalen, it’s all gravel till the end of the day, 60 km further on.
A steep 10% climb leads you out of the village, but all this altitude I will win and loose several times again, until I reach a true highlight,cycling over the highest mountain pass in Sweden (Flatruet, 975 m.o.h.).
Make no mistake, this doesn’t seem very high, but the going is very tough and very steep.
I’m in Samiland now.
Going down Flatruet, I decide to make a shortcut, following the valley of the Skarkan river. A mistake, because this is a 12 km wet clay & mud road, sucking in your tires.

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Where I’m coming from.
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And going too 🙂
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Highest pass in Sweden.
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Beyond the pass.

Just before entering the village Börtnan, I took a left turn, on another 40 km or so gravel road which leads along the Oviks mountain range. Lot’s of swamps and wetlands here, very beautiful, but no suitable place to pitch the tent, so I camped Galabodarna at a place where they rent out cabins.

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After a night on the campground on Fröso, a little island in the lake next to Östersund, I headed towards the Norwegian border taking road 340, the sun above my head and the wind in my back.. This road should become a bicycle classing. All paved (nice change after all the gravel the last days), not too much climbing and stunning scenery. It’s called the ‘Fiskevagen’ (fishroad), probably because you cycle from one lake to the next.

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Leaving Sweden, I had 2910 km on the odo-meter.
Sweden has been very kind to me.
The weather was reasonable, I saw plenty of reindeer and moose, found lots of y beloved gravel/dirt roads and above all, it’s car and truck drivers are the best and most respectful towards cyclist I have ever seen.

A country that begs for further exploration.

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The Swedish roadside toilets are heaven for cyclists.
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Always super-clean, and they even have decoration to make your time inside comfortable.
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Leaving a top-country.

Total kilometer Sweden: 1.200 km
Average km per cycling day: follows later

Total kilometer so far: 2.910 km
Total altimeter so far: 15.873 meter
Total time on the bike: 185 hrs 0 min

Nights slept inside: 0
Nights slept outside: 18 (3 on campgrounds, 15 wild camping)
Average daily cost Sweden:

Zweden
Route – Sweden
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Sweden Part 1, the South.

The crossing of the Kattegat Strait went really smoothly. On board M/s Stena Danica, I arrived in Goteborg, Sweden at 17:30 hrs. New country = new money, so first task before leaving town was finding an atm to collect some of it.
Whilst cycling through and out of town, I got a real positive impression of the city. A lot of green, many nice historical buildings and the people seemed very relaxed.

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Last km’s in Denmark, looking out over the Kattegat.

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Sweden has a few National Cycling Routes, known as ‘Sverigeleden’. I followed nbr 28 out of Göteborg which was terrific. My first 30 km or so were on an old railway line. I camped my first night out in a field 35 km north of the city.

The 2nd day I found a really nice camping spot along Göta Älv, a river/canal connecting Swedens’ biggest lake with the sea. From my tent side, I even saw some small coasters working their way up.

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Sverigeleden bicycle path.
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Camping along Göta Älv

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I arrived in Vänersborg, at the bottom of Lake Vänern completely wet and frozen. I tried warming up a bit in the train station, but that was a cold place so after I did my shopping, I lingered a bit near the entrance of the supermarket, wait for better weather.
That’s where Nisse & Annette picked me up and invited me for a nice dinner at their home, not far away. It turned out that was exactly what I needed at that moment so with a few hours delay, but much better spirits I left the town in the afternoon. Thanks a lot !

So, Sweden has 2 big lakes in the South, lake Vänern & lake Vättern.
I wanted to cycle north going up between the Norwegian border and Lake Vänern (the western one of the two). To give you an idea of the size of this lake; it’s 5.648 km2, exactly twice the size of the province of Antwerp.
The Sverigeleden cycle route seemed to go via a bit too busy roads for my liking here, so I went a bit further west, following some gravel roads. Steep (12 upto 14%) gradients, but much nicer scenery.

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Some people call this the boring Swedish landscape.  I love it.

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Since the second day after leaving home, I am suffering from deep cracks in my thumb, index- and middle finger. A painfull problem I always have when starting a tour, especially when the weather isn’t too good. On top of that, I got a deep cut in the palm of my right hand from one of these sharp Hilleberg tent pegs. Looks like the hand of Christ after crucifying. Not ideal, cause you’re leaning on that the whole time during cycling.

After Viborg and Fredrikshavn in Denmark, also the 2 outdoor stores I visited in Karlstad (at the top of Lake Vänern) did not have the spare part I needed for my camping stove (problem at the connection between stove & fuel bottle). But it still works.

From Karlstad, you can again follow for 90 km another old paved railway track to Hagfors along Swedens longest river, Klaralven. After Hagfors, there’s another section of 120 km over paved and gravel roads along the same river.
I passed the 60th parrallel near Hagfors, which is apparently the same latitude as St. Petersburg, or the southern tip of Greenland or Seward (Alaska).
Days are becoming quiet long already here mid May. The sun sets around 22:00 hrs (but it doesn’t get really dark until long after that) and rises again just after 4 am.

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klarälvsbanan

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Kläralvsleden, a network of mostly gravel roads along Sweden’s longest river.

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Köttbullar !

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