–> 29 May
I burnt a lot of calories today; 4796 according to my Garmin device, not that I entirely trust it. It’s hard to eat enough to replace all the calories you burn when cycling every day, but good fun trying. This isn’t normally an issue when not cycling, when it’s usually the other way around.
I wasn’t sure how far I’d get today, and had planned several possible ‘outs’ should the need arise. The uncertainty was down to the weather, with a strong headwind and showers forecast, which isn’t a pleasant combination. At least it was dry and sunny when I packed up.
I bid goodbye to the friendly campsite owner, and pedalled my way towards Lake Vattern, back through Odeshog.
As it turned out today was one of my most successful days yet on this tour. I was on the road by 09.30, after a slightly late start due to laziness, but made good time after that. This was despite the weather; the initial sunshine disappeared behind clouds, and then the rain literally rolled in across the lake.
I could see the squalls coming in, as a dark line moving across the surface of the water, with the area behind it very grey and obscured by rain. I took shelter behind the occasional large tree, however in the end there was nothing for it but to keep pedalling and not worry about it. Needless to say I got a bit damp, but my core was dry under by anorak, and my legs are waterproof anyway.
The sun came out between the showers, helping to dry me off prior the next soaking, and allowing a moment of respite from the elements. During these periods it was a lovely ride, with the birds singing, and the smell of Wild Garlic infusing the air. The sun quickly dried off the roads too, which meant less spray from passing cars and lorries.
I arrived in Granna, one of my possible ‘outs’ should I have needed it. It looked like a nice town, and set up for the tourist trade, however as it was still raining I pressed on heading towards Huskvarna.
As I pedalled along I started to pass a number of teenagers on bikes, replete with rucksacks, rain coats, and a support van. They must all have been on a charity or challenge bike ride, and appeared to be struggling somewhat with the hills and headwind. I passed more and more of them, strung out as they were over a couple of miles, with some resorting to walking up the hills. It made me realise my legs have got a lot stronger over the past few weeks. I soon left them behind but it was nice pedalling along saying hello to them all for a while.
It was a bit of a wriggly route to Huskvarna, including a few biggish hills, and passing lots of apple trees in blossom; must be a few weeks behind the UK.
I avoided Jonkopping, and had to deal with a big climb up to over 900 feet as I rode South. My Garmin device thought I was below sea level at one point, but I’m pretty sure it was just having a senile moment.
After the big climb it was a lovely ride down through pine forest, interspersed with the odd lake, and the headwind eased up; a big relief.
I crossed under the E04 and flew the last 40km down to Varnama, pushing hard to get to the campsite.
Varnama was my stretch target for the day, but with little in the way of wind, and the rain holding off, I decided it was worth the effort. It also put me in a good position to get to Helsingborg and over to Denmark on Sunday.
I cycled 143km in 8hrs 12mins, and felt pretty chuffed by the time I stopped. Here’s a link to my route and stats:
In other news I’m very impressed with my new Brooks saddle. I’m still wearing it in, and will be for a while, however there’s no chafing and it’s already more comfy than my old saddle, if a little hard still.
And another major breakthrough; I took off my cycling gloves! This seems to have alleviated the problems I’ve been having with my right hand in a major way. I’m not getting any pain in my hand or elbow anymore, and whilst it’s still a bit wonky it is recovering. I still need to remember to change my grip regularly to avoid numbness but seems like I’ve sorted the biggest issue; either my gloves are too small, or they don’t work with Ergon grips. I read somewhere that sometimes gel padded gloves can be counterproductive with Ergon grips. It does mean I have slightly cold hands, but I’ll change to wearing thin gloves with no padding instead; got some somewhere in my panniers, along with other excess baggage!
Other points of note from today include seeing a Red Squirrel, with very tufty ears, and lots of biker posses out on tour. I could hear the rumbling of motorbikes from a long way away, with the roar increasing as they got closer, sometime numbering 20 to 30 bikes in total. One of the larger groups had Swedish Fire Rider badges on their jackets; I looked this up and it’s a biker association for active or retired Swedish Fire Fighters, pretty cool. I love bicycle touring but reckon a tour by motorbike as part of a large group would also be a lot of fun, and something I’ve thought about doing since I was a kid; maybe something to explore if my legs go on strike.
Oh, and dinner was excellent; I opened the can of baked beans, delicious.
After a bit of planning I retired to my tent, and wasn’t long before falling asleep, listening to the rain as it renewed its efforts at dampening everyone’s spirits; a few very bedraggled looking hikers had appeared at the campsite after my arrival.
–> 30 May
Today was tough riding, and in contrast to yesterday not fun at all. It was still satisfying to cover 94km in about five and a half hours, putting me within striking distance of Helsingborg and Denmark, despite the wind and rain; crazy weather today. Here’s a link to my route and stats:
Whilst I’ve enjoyed Sweden I’m looking forward to pastures new, having been here for a while; it’s a very long country. I’m still not sure if it would have been better to come down through more of Norway, however I think that would have involved a lot more hills, and distance, and is perhaps one to save for a standalone tour in the future.
It was raining hard when I woke up, so I put off getting up for an hour, instead going over my maps with Lobster who was his usual ‘helpful’ self. I eventually emerged after packing up as much as possible inside my tent, and was on the road by 10 o’clock. I had to pack up my tent wet which I hate doing, as it means it’ll be wet when I put it up in the evening.
I pedalled out of Varnamo as people were setting up stalls for what looked like some kind of carnival; there was a marching band and baton twirlers getting ready too. It being the last weekend in May there must be similar events going on around Sweden, and probably Europe, as there was a carnival finishing up in Markaryd when I arrived. I say finishing up, the day time stuff was being packed away, but from the sounds of it the party is still going on as I type this up; there’s a disco playing some classic tunes (including Grease) enthusiastically, and a lot of roaring of motorbikes and classic cars.
My route South West took me down a road with a lake on one side, and the E04 on the other, accompanied by worsening weather as the showers and wind got more blustery and intense. I followed the Lagan River to Ljungby, feeling a bit damp, then on through several small towns and villages to Markaryd.
Close to Ljungby I passed a lot of rally cars parked up for a break/lunch; they later starting passing me on the road South, before turning off on to tracks through the forest. I’m not sure what rally it was, however there was a mixture of old Volvo estates, Subarus, Vauxhalls, Saabs, all sorts really, and all making growling noises. The unfortunate side effect was me getting covered in a lot of spray, however I was already pretty wet where not under my anorak, so it didn’t really matter and was a welcome distraction.
Not a lot else to report from the ride, which was generally unpleasant, however these cows amused me.
Markaryd is an average sized town with a good campsite – Sjotorpet. I could have cycled further, but with the weather as it is that was enough for today, and puts me within 80km of Helsingborg. Reception was open, an excellent start, and after pitching my wet tent I went for a hot shower whilst it dried a bit; the damp seeps into the inside when it’s packed up. I went for a wander around town but the food stalls from the daytime session were packing up, perhaps calling it a day due to the foul weather, so I grabbed some food from the Coop and retreated to the campsite kitchen.
I did pass a ‘disco tent’, which had a lot of enthusiastic children jumping up and down to the sound of rap music; bad rap music in this case.
The campsite restaurant was closed due to the festivities in town – which now include fireworks by the sounds of it (or cars backfiring), bit concerning with the wind still blowing quite hard – however I was able to sit in it to plan out my route roughly for the next few weeks. I think it’ll go something like this:
Next few weeks, maybe: Helsingborg to Denmark – Helsinger – Copenhagen – round islands to Sonderborg – Hamburg – Bremen – Amsterdam – Brussels – Mons – Saint Quentin – Compiegne- Paris
I’ll be incorporating parts of Eurovelo routes, and my own navigation to get between them, or to places I’m interested in not on a Eurvelo route. As always my plans remain pretty flexible, other than wanting to get to Tarifa in July. Pretty excited to be getting to some new countries, although the rain has reminded me I must do some washing soon, otherwise they might not let me in.
I noticed some kids swimming in the lake in the photo below earlier, pretty brave if you ask me, however I’ve heard it’s the norm here in Sweden. The campsite owner says the kids often go swimming as there is little else to do.
So tomorrow it’s on to Helsingborg and over to Denmark, and my next blog post will probably be from Copenhagen. I’ll leave it there as the yodelling appears to have started from the direction of the disco/live music tent now. If I wasn’t planning an early start, and if today hadn’t felt like the dampest and coldest of the tour so far, I’d go an investigate; fiestas will have to wait.
Thanks for all the comments and tips on here or on Twitter! Useful advice and morale boosting banter always welcome. Drop me an email or leave a comment if you’ve any questions, and charity donations to the Big C always appreciated.