Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Cycling Scandinavia: Oland to Stockholm

I have been experiencing Sweden at its best. To start with for more than two weeks I have had perfect summer weather. Hardly any rain, warm temperatures and the wind has been kind to me, too. Almost every morning I wake up to picture perfect blue sky. I actually have to camp under trees or I'll get roasted in the morning when the sun comes up...

Along the Göta Kanal
The ticks have almost completely disappeared and although there are plenty of mosquitos they aren't too vicious. And of course they are much less of a problem cycling than hiking. Also ever after Kalmar the camping situation has become what I expected it to be: very easy! As soon as I got out of very agricultural Southern Sweden there is forest almost everywhere. At the end of a day I just go down some forest road and look for a nice spot to camp. Sometimes it takes a while because the ground is rocky or overgrown but generally the camping situation is great now. To make things even better now the wild strawberries, raspberries and even blueberries are ripe. Of course this calls for extended cycling breaks for picking berries which improves my diet but doesn't help to increase my daily mileage...

The greatest sightseeing event on this stretch has definitely been the Göta Canal. As a part time boater and auxiliary helmswoman on my friend John's narrowboat I could not miss that chance and had to see it - which paid off immediately. When I was cycling towards Linköping I first crossed the Kinda Canal. I just saw some locks and decided to stop and take some photos when I noticed a toilet sign. Toilets are always a welcome stop on a hot day to clean up but this exceeded my expectations by far:  a sparkling clean toilet, shower and even a kitchen! This merited a long stay.... I took a wonderful shower and hand washed my clothes - and even managed to take some pictures of the lock. I love boaters.... The next day the experience repeated itself at the end of the Göta Canal with another free shower.

The cycling along the canal was great but alas there was not much canal!
Unlike the British canal system the Göta Canal its less than half man made canal. It mainly connects lakes and rivers and along those there is no nice and flat tow path but you are routed along gravel forest roads that are anything but nice and flat. All the locks on the Göta Canal are manned which seems to be a popular summer job for Swedish students and of course I had to quiz them extensively. There are no narrowboats on this canal and no one lives on their boats like my friend John. All you see is yachts with a more or less experienced crew and the occasional kayaker. I ran into a Danish guy who had paddled here from Denmark and of course he had to be quizzed, too. The lock keeper let him go through the lock with some yachts although this is theoretically forbidden - and I soon realised why. Because the Göta canal connects huge lakes there is too much water and the locks are continually overflowing, creating a strong current in the lock. The Danish paddler had to hold onto ropes with both hands to not be swept away. Paddling the Göta Canal is free, but quite expensive for yachts. When I realised a couple of days later in Stockholm that the Göta Canal not only connects lakes but also three canal systems (Trollhyttan, Kinda and Dalsland Canal) an idea for a paddling trip started to form.

But my next important stop was Stockholm and after I had secured accommodation there I just passed through the towns on the way, Söderköping and Nyköping. Along the way I saw a lot of orange trail markers, some with an S on it and eventually it dawned on me that this was the Sörmlandsleden, a long distance hiking trail that I had partly hiked years ago, also in a very hot July. I was a bit behind schedule because I had spent a lot of time talking with some German cyclists (all other bike tourists in Sweden seem to be German) and because I like to my leisurely pace. But eventually on Sunday, July 21st I reached Stockholm - after bravely cycling through endless suburbs and learning that my GPS can't deal with routing and switches itself off. I still made it somehow although the GPS problem cost me a lot of time and even managed to see a museum before I set off through another endless string of suburbs to get to my warmshowers hosts.

1 comment:

Mattias said...

So true - don't trust the GPS to much. It can blind you from the obvious and make a trip take lots of extra time.