My mood then dropped to a definite low point when I arrived at the last lock before Lake Vättern and it was almost impossible to put out - and no decent put in at all in sight. I left all my gear at the lock and ventured into the tourist information with tons of questions about the Vättern. The girl working there was eager to help me but basically had no clue - and what was worse also no decent map of the Vättern. She sent me to the local bookstore where the sales guy turned out to be a boater himself. I left with a decent map and lots of information. But I was still undecided about the most important question: should a paddle around the whole lake or take a short cut via a big military island in the middle of the lake which involved a 5 km traverse. I had to play it by ear.
|Paddling under Motala highway bridge|
As the archipelago was another nature reserve I stumbled across a picture perfect camp site with wind shelter, campfire site and toilet. Still I was so worried about the wind that I could hardly enjoy all this. I was very low on food and could not really sit out this wind for a very long time. I could definitely have survived on eating the many mushrooms on this island - if I had know which ones are edible..... Basically I had to get to Karlsborg the next day. I studied the map back and forth and luckily there was a major road nearby. If bad came to worst I would have to pack up my boat and take a bus or hitch to Karlsborg - an option on which I was not too keen, but at least the situation was not desperate. The forecast predicted lower winds in the morning and I wanted to start paddling at sunrise.
The wind situation was so worrying me that I hardly slept that night. At 4 am I stopped tossing and turning and switched on my cell phone to check the weather forecast again: it had worsened. Wind from the East the whole day. I was so nervous I nearly puked over breakfast but I still wanted to give it a try. Sunrise was at 6.30 am and I was ready to paddle at 6 am. I waterproofed everything, put the sea sock into my kayak and even inflated it a bit more. Then I ventured out - into the fog.
I soon started to worry whether I was doing the right thing. The lake was not as choppy as yesterday but visibility was less than 200 metres. There were lots of shallows and I worried about running ashore or getting overrun by a motor boat. In this fog even my neon orange hi-vi cap wouldn't be much help. Slowly I progressed with the help of my GPS and after 2 hours I reached another sheltered archipelago which had been my goal for yesterday. I could take out here and portage the boat 10+ km - or try to paddle on. I paddled on. The lake became choppier and choppier but I got more and more used to it. Unfortunately right before Karlsborg there was a huge military area. If I ventured past its beginning I had to go all the way. You were not allowed to go ashore here - if it had been possible because the shoreline as so rocky that my kayak would get smashed in the waves.
I fought on and on and became very determined to reach Karlsborg that day. The last stretch was the worst. A 1,5 km long spit of land, totally exposed to the waves. Normally I would have just beached and portaged the kayak 100 m to the other side where the water was totally calm. But this was a military installation as hundreds of signs warned me. After what seemed forever I came to the end of the spit of land and could hide behind it. According to my map that was illegal, too because even the waters here were a military restricted zone but I hadn't seen anyone for hours - and honestly, I was so exhausted I just needed a break. I had just begun to start paddling again as a motor boat approached me. Oh dear, this must be the military.... They stopped alongside but were very friendly. They told me that I was in a restricted area (which I knew but didn't admit) and when I apologized and promised to leave they just left without causing any problems. Even Swedish military is friendly....