15 & 16 May 2015 – leaving the Arctic Circle and down to the Baltic

I’m typing this up in a communal campsite kitchen/lounge type area surrounded by Swedes who are in the process of getting gradually merrier as the evening progresses. They’re attending  the dog show that’s going on at the campsite where I’m staying tonight, down on the Baltic coast in Byske; a lovely spot. The beer and wine are definitely flowing, who knows where this evening will end!

Anyway, back to yesterday and the Grand Arctic Hotel, where upon waking in my rather comfy bed, I dashed downstairs to partake of a particularly large breakfast; I love breakfast buffets when cycle touring, sadly they’re a rarity as I’m usually camping. Eggs, bacon, sausages, ham, cheese, bit of salad, bread and jam duly consumed, I felt ready to tackle another day’s riding, this time down to the Baltic coast, and out of the Arctic Circle.

Grand Arctic Hotel

Grand Arctic Hotel

Speaking to Jon over breakfast, one of the cycle tourers I met the evening before, I learnt he has a house near Orleans, or it might have been Biarritz, I’d better check that; sure I wrote it down somewhere. He invited me to drop in if I pass that way on my tour, which could be a very handy stopover…pretty sure it was Biarritz.

As I packed up I noticed with some envy that Jon and Tim were travelling light, not needing all the gear I have as they’re staying in hotels or hostels along the way. Tim has also sent a couple of his panniers on ahead, which isn’t a bad plan if there’s kit you’re not going to need until later. They were heading East into Finland, then up not Norway, so a slightly different route to me. I guess I can be more flexible as I have my tent, so don’t need to rely on finding accommodation; both methods have their merits and flaws.

Good luck to both Jon and Tim on their ride up to Nordkapp; hope the headwind eases up.

I pedalled out of Overkalix taking the road down to Svartbyn, passing a field full of old tractors, a bit of a strange sight. Feeling energetic after my Famous Five level of breakfast, I determined to try to stay above 20km/h, hoping that the wind continued to favour me.

Tractor Graveyard

Tractor Graveyard

Svartbyn, but no Svarts in sight, so thankfully no massacres; only people who have played Baldur’s Gate will get that reference.

Svartbyn - but no Svarts to be seen, unless they were hiding, or already massacred

Svartbyn – but no Svarts to be seen, unless they were hiding, or already massacred

Cloudy day but sun attempting to make an appearance

Cloudy day but sun attempting to make an appearance

I crossed the wide and fast flowing River Kalixalven, before rejoining the E10. The river is pretty much at its highest at the moment, with all the melting snow and ice; not one to try to swim across – took the bridge option.

The River Kalixalven - fast flowing and looking very chilly

The River Kalixalven – fast flowing and looking very chilly

The E10 slowly took me down towards the coast, a gently undulating route through pine forests, alongside the river.

Views of the River from the E10

Views of the River from the E10

All the logging activity could lead to only one conclusion; I started singing ‘I’m a lumberjack…etc’. Thus ensued a whole repertoire of Monty Python songs, not a bad way to make the kilometres fly by.

Lots of logging going on; I wonder if they use the river to transport the logs at all

Lots of logging going on; I wonder if they use the river to transport the logs at all

It was lovely cycling through the pine scented valley, with the sun coming out and no rain; wonderful to have a dry day after yesterday’s damp and chilly ride.

Lobster providing Dime bar  energy top up

Lobster providing Dime bar energy top up

I was however rapidly running out of E10, and was slightly nervous about the E04 after what Jon and Tim had told me; not really any options to avoid it though.

Final pitt stop on E10

Final pitt stop on E10

At Tore I joined the E04, a much busier road. There’s a crash barrier in the centre meaning vehicles aren’t able to give you so much room, coupled with barriers often on your right hand side, which means you don’t have an escape route. They’re those nasty cable barriers too, which would slice you up if you hit them at speed, say from a motorbike.

I caught my first glimpses of the Baltic as I pedalled along, but couldn’t see any sign of the Russian submarines I’d been reading about in the news; apparently there have been suspected sonar contacts in Swedish waters. Swedish peace activists have responded by lowering a ‘Gay Sailor’ into the Baltic, a neon sign which transmits an anti homophobic morse code; pretty novel approach to defence, and might just work versus the notoriously homophobic Russians. You can read the article from the Guardian on it here:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/13/swedish-peace-group-trolls-russian-submarines-with-gay-defence-system

To be honest I wouldn’t have spotted a submarine if there’d been one with its periscope up and firing flares, because I was concentrating on the road and on not getting buffeted into the crash barriers.

After a while I got bored with the E04, and decided to try an alternative route, one that would add-on a few kilometres but would hopefully be more interesting, and lead to slightly less frayed nerves. I turned off at Ranea, following instead back roads to Lulea, a far more pleasant option.

Taking the back roads to Lulea

Taking the back roads to Lulea

I passed through several small villages as the road wound through the Swedish countryside, up and down small hills and through more pine forest, passing more logging activity.

Swedish village - route more interesting than E04!

Swedish village – route more interesting than E04!

This far South there’s hardly any snow left, something I suddenly realised as I pedalled onwards; no more frozen lakes either. The lack of snow didn’t stop one person from practicing his cross-country skiing; he was out on his road skis (like roller blades), speeding the other way as I rode along one of the cycle paths that run through most towns.

The convoluted route probably added on at least 10km, taking me into Lulea. Feeling pretty tired I was keen to get to the campsite, so didn’t stop to look around.

A small bit of Lulea

A small bit of Lulea

I did pause to take in my first proper view of the Baltic, or at least an inlet thereof.

Pausing in Lulea to take in the Baltic

Pausing in Lulea to take in the Baltic

Waving to a few other cyclists; MAMILS had made an appearance now I was in a city, I rode across several bridges and out of Lulea, to the First Camp campsite, my stop for the night.

Camping at First Camp in Lulea

Camping at First Camp in Lulea

I camped down near the kids play area, as suggested by the lady on reception as it was close to the kitchen. This initially turned to be a slightly flawed plan, with gangs of children roaming the area, but they soon quietened down; Lobster scared them off apparently. Bit annoying that I had to pay for Wifi access, unusual these days, and might as well just use my phone and roaming, which costs me £3 a day on the Vodafone Eurotraveller deal, when I use it.

Today’s distance covered was 126km; 6hrs and 40 mins of riding time. Here’s a link to my route:

https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/775296622

Before a fast becoming traditional dinner of noodles, I mended the holes in the bottom of my tent, made by the ‘Vitangi Varmint’.

Holes pre-mending, Lobster for scale

Holes pre-mending, Lobster for scale

Holes post mending; bits of CTC plastic bike carrier bag and gaffer tap

Holes post mending; bits of CTC plastic bike carrier bag and gaffer tap

And had a quick look around.

Beach scene at First Camp

Beach scene at First Camp

One of the bridges I pedalled over earlier

One of the bridges I pedalled over earlier

Safe in the knowledge I was once again sleeping in a varmint free zone, aside from a Lobster, I got an early ish night. Must remember to adjust my brakes soon; cables have probably stretched slightly, coupled with blocks wearing down.

I did have a midnight snack; found a leftover from the Cycle Tour Fest in my panniers; yum.

Cycle Tour Fest snack

Cycle Tour Fest snack

—> 16 May 2015

Today was a mixed day, but on balance mostly a good one. It’s getting even rowdier in the lounge area where I’m typing this up, so might have to retreat to my tent soon. Scandinavians can be quite reserved, and always polite, but they get pretty loud after a few beers; similar to us Brits I guess! There’s some definite swaying going on, and there’s been at least one drinking song – think they’ll be a few sore heads at the dog show tomorrow morning. All good fun.

i was glad to pack up and leave First Camp in Lulea, after not a a very comfy night due to pine cones under my tent; must remember to ensure they’re all moved before setting the tent up in future! At least pine cones don’t gnaw through bits of your tent.

Grumpy after broken night's sleep

Grumpy after broken night’s sleep

Lulea - packed and ready to pedal

Lulea – packed and ready to pedal

I adjusted my brakes slightly, but will need to do it again soon, then got on my bike and pedalled off. I was back on the E04 unfortunately, but not a lot of choice, or so I thought. After I’d been riding for a bit I noticed a small track running parallel to the main road. It was tarmac’d, and had no traffic on it; looked ideal, and got to be better than being buffeted by lorries and worrying about crash barriers and vicious rumble strips. I turned onto it at the next available opportunity, taking a bit of a risk on it not being a dead-end as it wasn’t marked in my map, and my Garmin just helpfully said ‘Riding on unpaved road’.

Off the beaten track - leaving the E04 behind for a bit

Off the beaten track – leaving the E04 behind for a bit

Thankfully the track continued, up and through a village, and was even signposted as a cycle path at one point, with lamposts!

Cycle track, with lamposts

Cycle track, with lamposts

Unfortunately the surface deteriorated a bit after this, suggesting it’s not really finished yet. Fine for a mountain bike, but not so much a fully laden tourer where every jolt goes up through you wrists, not to mention your posterior.

Bike track surface deteriorates

Bike track surface deteriorates

I stopped for a break on a bridge, pausing for thought for a few minutes, and enjoying the quiet. Sometimes you can travel along without a pause, forgetting what you’re here for; sometimes it good to stop and stare…

Bridge break 1

Bridge break 1

What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare.

What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare.

I love that poem by William Henry Davis:

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this is if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

I had to get back onto the E04 for a bit, then joined a well-marked cycle path that avoided the motorway, and took me into Pitea.

Back on the E04

Back on the E04

The road into Pitea took me past a Max burger joint, must have been fate; I stopped to refuel on one of their Chilli burger meals. Very nice eating that sitting out in the sunshine.

Max meal in Pitea

Max meal in Pitea

These fast food restaurants often have wi-fi too, which is handy to keep in contact with people. Took a photo to keep folks updated with how my pirate look is progressing, although I’m pretty sure it’s meant to be a parrot on the shoulder, and not a Lobster.

Pirate look in Pitea

Pirate look in Pitea

I pedalled through town, stopping to buy few bits of food at the Co-op (not sure if it’s the same one as in the UK). I needed more noodles and cheese mainly, but also found some doughnuts.

Pitea pedestrian precinct

Pitea pedestrian precinct

The town also had free public wi-fi, wish more places did.

It was a nice ride down from Pitea to Munksund. I was pointed in the right direction by a helpful older cyclist; didn’t speak a word of English, and me very little Swedish, but we got there in the end.

Riding down from Munksund

Riding down from Munksund

I was once again avoiding the E04. The small road took me along the coast in the sunshine, next to the water, through pines, past wooden cabins and houses, all very picturesque and peaceful; apart from the big chemical smelling factory I didn’t stop to take a photo of.

Then the road ran out next to a big river.

Out of road, need to get across river

Out of road, need to get across river

And I needed to get up on this bridge.

Bridge; not immediately obvious how to get up onto it

Bridge; not immediately obvious how to get up onto it

I had to back-track a bit, then cycle through a campsite to find the road up on to the bridge. I successfully made it over the river then had to rejoin the E04, trying to keep to the narrow strip of hard shoulder between the deadly crash barriers and vicious rumble strip. It wasn’t actually too bad, as there seemed to be less traffic now, however the big lorries that did pass me kicked up a lot of dust that was pretty unpleasant, covering me and Smaug in a layer of grime.

Back on the E04, again

Back on the E04, again

My stretch destination for the day was Skelleftea, however I decided to stop at the campsite in Byske; ‘Byske Havsbad’. This is probably one of the nicest campsites I’ve stayed at so far, and cheap at 120 SEK, as it’s still low season. The girl at reception gave me a few pointers on a route for tomorrow, which will avoid the E04 for at least the first 10km, after that we’ll see. I could try to push for Umea, but that would be just over 100 miles which is doable but not really necessary or that enjoyable; not much time to stand and stare. There are other campsites marked on the map on the way, so I’ll stop at one of them, or wild camp.

Thumbs up from Byske

Thumbs up from Byske

Lobster is slightly worried about the connotations that come with the word ‘Byske’, however I’ve assured him it’s spelt different, probably, he’s looking nervous. It was bad enough with the sauna the other night, which is far too close to being cooked for his liking.

A gorgeous sunny afternoon with clear skies means it’s going to be cold tonight, so it’s thermals again for me. I’ve escaped the now raucous Swedes after chatting to them for a bit as they brought out bottles of dubious looking spirits.

Here are links to my rides today; two links as Garmin turned itself off in Pitea.

https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/775937942

https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/776331230

Total distance= 105.5km in about 6 hours pedalling time, so another 65 miles nailed!

Thanks for following my blog, and for any comments, messages, tweets, charity donations etc. I had a moment today when thinking about all the kilometres that lie ahead of me, even to get to Stockholm, and it felt a bit daunting; only briefly but all the support is appreciated. I’ve found the best way is to chunk it up, and not think of the whole tour and getting to Istanbul, but of the chunks along the way, with small targets.

That’s all for a couple of days, fingers crossed the weather stays good.

7 thoughts on “15 & 16 May 2015 – leaving the Arctic Circle and down to the Baltic

  1. Phil Shaw

    If time isn’t an issue, I’d try & find alternative quieter roads at every opportunity! You will certainly see more of the real Sweden & have more of an adventure:-) BTW James, was the Varmint holes in ground sheet or tent? Keep pedalling:-)

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    1. SelfPropelled Post author

      Yeah, did a few quieter roads today, then back on E04 and blasted it to Umea. Varmint holes were in tent bottom; might have called it the groundsheet but it’s the tent really.

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  2. Phil Shaw

    Sounds good, well apart from the Varment/tent! I may have missed it in a blog, but how long time wise have you set to get to Istanbul? Are you planning to fly to UK?

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    1. SelfPropelled Post author

      The plan roughly is 3 months to Tarifa, the 2 months to Istanbul, then home, hopefully cycling, in a month or so. The home leg may have to involve a few train trips to speed things a long. I’m really flexible on stuff after Tarifa, would love to get to Istanbul but will also just be seeing where the road takes me.

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  3. Diane

    Reading this in Ontario – we are on our camper van adventure. Feel we are vaguely in the same universe – as the lakes around Muskoka and Algonquin Provincial Park only melted at the end of April, and we have seen Moose as well. Ours were definitely wild, also seen beavers and a cute little chipmunk which I am sure could compete with your varmit. The whole area is just waking up after winter and things are opening up as it is Victoria Day weekend, campsites are virtually empty but there is a jolly crowd in the Algonquin park with tents and canoes, all your sort of thing. Yours sounds wonderful, adventurous and inspiring so take care. Do you love noodles as they are quicker to cook? All love Diane and Peter xx

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