Sverige (Sweden) immediately treats us to a beautiful road to the hamlet of Skillingfors. One statement is immediately disproved. Someone told us that in the Swedes the slopes are never more than 4% so that in winter a car can get everywhere. It might apply to highways, but we don't cycle on them. From here it will be mainly gravel, because tomorrow we will pick up the European Divide trail!
The supermarket in Skillingfors is open on this Saturday until 3 pm. We quickly dump some luggage at the campsite and cycle to the shop, annex liquor store, annex post office. The next supermarket is far away and therefore we need to stock up. The shop is small but crowded and here and there you have to squeeze to grab something from the shelves. No beer of glass of wine tonight, to pick up alcoholic drinks apparently an personal order had to be placed a week in front. Light beer (maximum 3.5%) is however sold. The cashier is Dutch and says that she sometimes has so many Dutch customers that she also speaks Dutch to her Swedish colleagues.
The managers of the campsite are a Scandinavian man and Thai woman. We notice that many of the camping guests consist of the same combination. We also saw relatively many Asian ladies in Norway. Earlier on a holiday in Thailand, we were surprised by the high number of Swedish tourists. We then heard that every winter 1 million Swedes travel to Thailand. The Swedes then seek the sun and the warmth, and others apparently find something else.
The campsite is, just like we have seen a lot in Norway, a gathering place of fixed places with caravans and attached huts, verandas, canopies and fences. Most camping guests are not Swedes however bur Norwegian.
The Thai lady shows us a spot in the middle of a couple of old caravans. One caravan was removed; all that remains is a narrow hut that was built in front of the caravan. A very large broad lady (Harry thinks her name is Yeti) crawls out of that small hut and looks curiously at us. We have little appetite for this supervision and search for a better spot with more privacy ourselves. We choose the spot on a kind of sunbathing lawn on the lake. The terrain slopes down quite a bit towards the lake, but at a picnic table in the middle of the meadow we find a spot that is flat enough. When the campsite comes alive in the evening, we zip up the tent for a well-deserved night's rest. The children are still playing in the playground and the parents are here and there with the neighbors on the talking chair with drink. Harry is putting in his earplugs for the first time this trip.
After two weeks of cycling, we finally arrive at the intended route: the European Divide Trail (EDT). The EDT runs from high in Norway to the corner of Portugal and takes 3 to 4 months to complete. We will only cycle part of the way from Adolfsfors to Cologne. Harry thinks it is mainly a gravel route and Roelie fears it is a technical MTB route. The first part is therefore disappointing: a wide and busy asphalt road along a lake, but after that we reach the gravel paths and we dive into the woods. So far, Harry was right.
A few things strike us in this second Scandinavian country as we cycle through the Glaskogen nature reserve. Still few birds, fewer (summer) houses, many more places to wild camp, fewer campers and caravans, much more gravel through endless forests. But the most eye-catching are the dark clouds that hang in front of us. According to the various weather stations, it won't rain until late in the evening, but the first raindrops fall on us early in the afternoon. It will not be the last time that we are misled by the weather forecast.
In the pouring rain we cycle 15 kilometers to a campsite. We no longer have an eye for the many wild camping spots, but head for camping Grinsby and a warm shower. Once there it is stated that the campsite is full. Because we are on bicycles, only have a small tent and the rain is pouring down, we ask at the reception if we please could stay. While at the reception, we see a family with three sad looking children. Their dog has been bitten. We don't know why, but apparently it's not life-threatening and the family breathes a sigh of relief. So do we, because we are assigned a nice spot.
The Belgian campsite owner points out that we can set up the tent behind the 'no camping' sign. Before the tent is up, the sky breaks open again. The neighbors call us to offer shelter.
The Belgian-Dutch combination is on holiday with two boys with the camper. A year earlier, they spent a week without the boys canoeing around this area and ended up at this campsite. At that time, recordings were made. The owner has been a presenter and program maker known in Belgium. A program has been made about the takeover two years ago of the campsite and since then the campsite has been very popular with the Flemish. The Belgian-Dutch couple is popular with us and gives us tea and biscuits while the rain continues.
In the night it continues to rain. In the morning the sun slowly returns. It takes till noon to pack all our stuff somewhat dry and get back on the road. There will be a lot of rain later this afternoon and we have therefore booked a hotel room.
As said before, the weather forecast is unreliable. There is no rain at all and it turns out to be a beautiful afternoon and evening. So we could easily have gone camping somewhere but the hotel is booked and payed for. The restaurant of the hotel appears to be fully booked and we cook a meal ourselves in the garden. Then take a walk around the 'castle' Baldersnäs where the hotel is located. After a few kilometers we come across a beautiful spot where we could have camped in the wild, complete with shelter and primitive toilet. With some satisfaction we see that the place is occupied.
After an almost complete gravel day yesterday, today we cycle relatively a lot on asphalt roads. We suspect that the route maker has included a technical MTB course in the route to compensate for this. But except for a climb, everything can be cycled. We have completed our first piece of 'hike-the-bike'. Roelie helped Harry to lift and push his bicycle over the rocks and tree roots. When it's the turn for Roelie's bike, Harry starts taking pictures. It's a matter of setting priorities, he explains.
After seeing a number of flattened variants, there are also a few ones alive on the road today: snakes. We now have a suspicion what bit the dog at camping Grinsby. Different colours, sizes but certainly one thing to keep in mind when camping in the wild: Sweden has snakes. This one in the photo is not a snake but a slow worm with a beautiful copper color.
It starts to drip when we arrive at the shelter where will spend the night. We placed the tent under the tarp, the picnic table under the shelter and stay dry. Rain is forecasted for the afternoon, evening, night and the whole next day. It starts a bit later, but it does indeed drizzle during the evening and night.
Roelie starts the morning with a refreshing swim in the lake. The temperature of the water is very pleasant. We pack the dry tent and then it starts to rain really hard. We had breakfast and are ready to leave. We have three options for the distance on this rainy day: 30, 45 or 80 kilometers. We put on the rain gear and take off. We'll see how far we get.
In the end, the rain is fine. It's like a game with (rain)coat on, coat off. The road is again beautiful with the exception of the part before and after the village with the nice name Lilla Edet. There we cycle on asphalt, boring with busier traffic, a strong wind and heavy showers. First we take shelter in a bus shelter, the second we can't escape it. Lilla Edet was our second option to stop. We will continue cycling to Kungälv at 80 km.
Soaking in our shoes we cycle through an incredibly beautiful part of Sweden: the Svartedalens nature reserve north of the town of Kungälv. We speed up a bit to reach Kungälv. In addition to the threatening skies, we checked the rain radars on internet. Heavy thunderstorms are expected around 4 pm and then we would like a roof over our heads. The threat is there, but not a drop of rain falls while we have moved into a dated hotel in Kungälv. As with the previous hotel stay, we could have camped just fine in terms of weather. There is a camping site next to the hotel. We compensate for the dissatisfaction by going out for dinner. There is an Indian restaurant with good reviews.
And then it's our last day in Sweden. We cycle to Gothenburg where we take a boat to Fredrikshavn (Denmark). In the harbor area we meet cyclists Jan and Elma from Vlaardingen. It will probably be a pleasant crossing.
Time to look back on a short week in Sweden. We really liked cycling in Sweden, and so far this also applies to the European Divide Trail. The roads are for the most part unpaved, quiet and beautiful. Cycling is like an intensive interval training because of the short steep climbs. Unfortunately the weather did not cooperate. However, the unpaved roads do not change into sticky mud paths and were still fine to cycle.
We didn't learn much about Swedish cuisine, and little about Swedish culture. We especially saw an incredible amount of trees, moss and lakes. In addition to the aforementioned snakes, we saw a lot of mini frogs, few fat nudibranchs, a very limited assortment of birds, some rabbits and hares and one deer. The larger wild animals such as reindeer, moose, lynx and bears were well hidden. We suspect that we could be heard from afar with our chains creaking through dirt and wetness.