Saturday, 4 October 2014

Dalsland I

Assembling my kayak again
Mathias' offer to pick me up gave me a lot of new options and I decided to start sort of in the middle of Dalsland st Skapafors to do a loop first before paddling the Dalsland canal itself. We first headed to Ösan campsite but when we walked back to the car after checking it out a couple on a motorbike passed us and immediately occupied the site - what a bummer and incredible bad luck. After that I have not seen another occupied campsite...

We ended up at a campsite nearby which was unfortunately close to a relatively busy highway. I still felt like in a luxury hotel, especially in the morning when I awoke to high winds and a drizzle. I decided to take it easy and just stayed in the comfy shelter. Around noon a group of rangers showed up doing a shelter inventory. One of them was German or as he put it: "When the Americans conquered the Wild West they always had an Indian interpreter in their expeditions - here they have a German." I guess that proves pretty much which is the biggest tourist group in Dalsland....

Launching into Svärdlangen
It was incredibly interesting to get some first hand information from him as Dalsland has the reputation of being overrun in summer. The ranger confirmed this although community authorities  are now working in a scheme to regulate the tourist masses, especially since the main "culprit" is a German travel company called Scandtreck. Each summer weekend they shuttle up busloads of Germans from various German cities - including their food. And as Scandtreck as a German company pays taxes in Germany their tourism doesn't leave much in Sweden - except trash.... The ranger was especially condemning the "boot camp" mentality of these tourists - of which I could see a good example when he was gone. A group of four Brits landed - all of them outfitted with Bowie knives on their belts. Of course the first thing they did was chop wood and light a huge fire.... Luckily by then I had assembled my kayak and left them to their bonfire. I just paddled to the next campsite were I had peace and quiet and enjoyed another shelter.

Access to a portage
 I immediately loved Dalsland and realised that it had been the right decision to skip parts of Vänern and come here. The lakes are much smaller and the wind much less of a problem. And I love the shelters...
Still I was struggling a bit next evening when I was on the wrong side of the Västra Silen - the water was very choppy due to high winds. So once I had managed to beach at a campsite I didn't want to leave again and master the waves. The result was a long portage next morning into the Östra Silen where I could mostly stick to the "right" side and paddle out of the wind.

Portage sign
I now had to do several longer portages from one lake into another and they all turned out to be problematic. First of all they are not marked in any map and they were not described in my guidebook either. That meant I had to spend a lot of time scouting out the location. Luckily the portage route was marked on the ground but still I first had to find the put out place - which in the first case was hidden in plenty of reeds. It was therefore already very late when I arrived at the next luxury shelter where I was awoken by a logging truck st 5 am! (Sunrise is at 7 am now....). After doing a 2 km portage I was so sweaty I had to take a quick chilly bath. (Water temperature is around 12 Celsius now). I was dinking around too much and with bathing and washing clothes I arrived too late at the next portage place to complete the 3,4 km portage and paddle to the next campsite. I scooped out the portage and decided to camp at a site nearby. Good choice as it would soon turn out.

3,4 km portage
Because I had plenty of time now I decided to have a campfire although that meant I would have to saw firewood. Knowing my two left hands (and not having safety shoes to protect my toes) I soon concluded that I would have a rather small campfire with the wood left from former campers. I had just coaxed.a fire into life and put grill sausages on the grid when a couple appeared from the nearby summer houses. It soon turned out they were Swiss and we could chat in German. They owned a summer house nearby and soon we were immersed in interesting philosophical talks. They refused my grill sausage but invited me to breakfast next morning - am exciting prospect. I put on my nicest clothes (though I don't have much choice in that compartment) and spent a lovely morning with the Swiss. Shower (with hot water in a heated bathroom), huge breakfast with authentic Bircher Müsli and lots of more interesting talk. I left with my own (and my cell phone batteries) recharged. The 3,4 km portage wasn't so bad after a huge breakfast either.

The next portage into the Animmen unfortunately turned out to be a nightmare. Although around a lock there was no decent put out place and I was afraid of breaking my kayak when lifting it onto the steep quai. Then an impossibly steep portage up and then down again. At least the put in place was a nice sandy beach - and the official campsite on the Animmen a real gem.

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