Sunday, 4 August 2013

Cycling Scandinavia: Falun to Sundsvall

Forest road in the rain
Out of Sundborg I met another solo female cyclist. It turned out that she was German as well. In fact, all the other long distance cyclists I have met on th e road in Sweden were from a German speaking country. I know that Sweden is very popular with German hikers but apparently the same is true for cyclists. Anyway, we stopped and chatted a bit and of course commented on the fantastic summer weather. Big mistake: only 15 minutes later a big downpour began. Luckily I was in a little town then snug under a shelter. While it was raining cats and dogs outside I was happily writing a new blog post. No wifi though but it can't always be perfect. 

But I left my cosy little shelter in front of an optometrist shop too early. After 2 km on the road I had to stop and put on all my rain gear including shoe covers. I ended up cycling the rest of the afternoon in more or less constant rain discovering how inadequate my rain gear is. My eVent jacket leaks like a sieve and is no better than Goretex Paclite. Although it was fine when it was new it had deteriorated almost as fast as Goretex and was now basically useless. I have to find a new rain jacket for my upcoming hiking trip and I am not looking forward to that purchase as I am not aware of any real good product that withstand extended use. My rain pants are a pain in the butt but this is basically my own fault. I had bought them on my winter hike in the Appalachians in a small outdoor shop. There had only been a small selection and I had bought those pants because they were the only affordable ones that sort of fit me. Sort of fit me means they were sort of tight. Not a big deal when you are hiking, but when you are cycling you need bigger pants that can deal with the constant movement of your knees. Mine felt incredibly restrictive and very uncomfortable as they were too tight. The only thing that worked were the shoe covers.

But the next morning greeted me with sunshine and quickly all my wet stuff dried. My goal was Bollnäs with a Lidl supermarket and a visitor centre that meant free wifi. There I had to make a decision: Should I continue inland or cut over to Hudiksvall and the coast on my way North. I checked the weather forecast and it predicted more glorious summer weather for the next days. I therefore opted for the coast as I would be cycling inland once I would get to Finland.

Unfortunately the weather had not seen the forecast as it was drizzling the whole next day. As it was still very warm I ditched the rain pants and just cycled in my leaking rain jacket. Whenever the rain stopped I stopped as well for a raspberry break. There are raspberry bushes everywhere and I am feasting on them wherever possible. They are fantastic. Although I had had very low expectations I immediately liked Hudiksvall which is mainly due to the fact that as soon as I had arrived a major downpour started that I could sit out nicely in the free county museum. When that closed and it was still raining I just moved next door to the visitor centre with free wifi. The staff even let me sit in a cosy chair in their staff room right next to an electrical outlet so that I could recharge my phone while surfing the internet. Then a quick stop at the local Lidl and I was on my way to Sundsvall - unfortunately on a very busy road and this was one of the rare occasions when I did not enjoy cycling in Sweden. But soon the route turned off the main highway and I found myself a campsite in the drizzle.

Eventually in the morning weather and weather forecast were coinciding again: Sunshine! I slept in but still cycled 80 km partly due to not finding a decent campsite at night. As usually I had turned off the road onto a gravel forest road and was just exploring the camping potential of a quiet side track when I heard voices. Three cyclist in their Sunday best were coming down my "quiet" side track and were surprised to see me. They told me that this track was actually a very convenient short cut and when I asked them about camping possibilities they just laughed and said "everywhere". I should have known better to believe "civilians" but I followed their advice - and encountered the usual Swedish camping dilemma. Yes, there is forest almost everywhere and you are legally allowed to camp in it BUT: this is not a well kempt German forest, this is wilderness. That means first of all there are rocks everywhere. And when you find a spot without rocks it will be completely overgrown with brush, usually blueberry bushes. And in the rare event that you find a spot with no rocks, no brush and just moss it will be bumpy as hell. Your only chance are old first tracks because they have been cleared and might over some potential.

In my case I could not find anything and eventually had to cycle back to where I had come from to camp in one half of an old forest road. It still looked like it got some use but it was getting late and I could not find anything better. One of my nightmares is that an early rider comes down the track when I am still asleep and the horse can't stop in time when seeing my tent on the trail. But no such thing happened and I had a peaceful albeit buggy night.

Sundsvall turned out to be a huge collection of all sorts of industries lined  up. But when I had finally made it to the centre I was rewarded with one of the poshest and nicest visitor centres in all Sweden. I spent a lot of time checking the internet for options on how to get back to Berlin from Finland. This trip will come to an end in less than a month... When leaving I saw another cyclist sitting in the town square. Of course he turned out to be German as well..... and have me the chance to do my good deed of the day. He was complaining about his Garmin maps that do not show the bike routes and apparently have a problem with direct routing. I had heard the exact same complaints a week ago from a cyclist in Stockholm. But this could be helped as I have the OSM based velomaps that do show the bike routes and I offered them. With the help of my micro SD card to USB adapter and the very friendly ladies of the visit centre who let is use the computer and even stick USB sticks into them we copied the maps onto his GPS. Lessons learnt: Never leave home without a micro SD card - USB adapter. And: Garmin maps aren't always the best choice for cycling - definitely not for Sweden.

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