The last couple of days have got me quite a way down the coast of Sweden, alongside the Gulf of Bothnia. I made the mistake of looking at an overall view of my planned tour, and realised how far I have to go, so figured I’d put a few big mile days in now to speed things along, and to allow me a few recreation days when I get down to France and Spain. I’m still planning on visiting Stockholm so I’ll probably have a day off then anyway.
The 17 May turned out to be be my longest leg of the tour so far, covering 165 kilometres, which is about 102 miles, in 8 hours and 20 minutes of actual riding. Here’s a link to my route and ride stats:
I wasn’t sure where I was going to stop for the night when I set off from Byske. There are allegedly two campsites around a place called Bygdea, according to my map, but I didn’t know if they’d be open or not, which left wild camping or cycling all the way to Umea. Quite a few of the campsites round here don’t open properly until June; not much call for it until it gets a bit warmer.
Pedalling off from the campsite I stopped in by the beach, looking out over the waters of the Baltic/Gulf of Bothnia.
It was all very peaceful, but I felt like I was being watched, and not by a Russian submarine; sure enough the stalkers from home were at it and had spotted me on the webcam. I gave them a wave then set off; it’s fun seeing where they might spot me next!
I couldn’t find the back road the girl at reception had mentioned, or at least couldn’t be sure I wasn’t about to embark on a massive diversion, so I rejoined the E04 after a brief tour of Byske town.
I stayed on it for most of the day, therefore not a lot of interest to report unless you like big lorries with two trailers, dust, and slightly hair-raising narrow sections with crash barriers closing you in.
I had a bit of a break from the E04 around Skelleftea, for about 20km, taking quieter roads that run alongside it, and didn’t take me too far off course. Unfortunately there don’t seem to be many roads that run parallel to the main route, they all branch off North or South.
Someone at the Byske campsite, I think one of the rather inebriated dog show attendees, told me you pronounce Skelleftea like ‘She left you’; they found this hilarious. I took a couple of cut throughs, hoping for the best, to join up the small roads.
The E04 wasn’t in fact too bad compared with previous days. A lot of it turned out to be single carriageway, with a good hard shoulder at least 1m wide, and with a slight tailwind and not very many hills the kilometres flew by.
I set a new record for the fastest 40km on Smaug; 1hr 48 mins, not bad for a fully loaded touring bike.
The scenery did start to change, with the appearance of meadows, and even a few fields being ploughed by tractors. There was still many a pine tree in evidence, and at times it felt like pedalling through Thetford Forest at home, albeit on the wrong side of the road, and with more hills.
I also saw a lot more birdlife again, including a few really big birds; do they have Emu’s in Sweden? I really think they don’t, unless they’ve escaped from somewhere. I could have sworn I saw an Emu, but maybe it was a big stalk, or a pigeon in disguise. There were the usual geese, migrating somewhere, as well as swans, and quite a few what I can only assume were Curlews from the look of it. All good stuff for twitchers, however my bird identification skills have somewhat lapsed since being a member of the Young Ornithologists Club as a kid; did see a few cool hawks I’ll have to look up.
Another different thing about Sweden; the cars. For one thing some of the tyres sound odd. Some cars still have their snow tyres on, which make a very distinctive noise compared with normal tyres, the small studs rattling down the road. And then there’s all the classic cars around. It must be a popular hobby in Sweden, restoring old American classics; I’ve seen several old Chevrolets and a wonderful Pontiac. Moving into the modern era I’ve also been passed by a few muscle cars; Corvettes, a Farrari, and lots of cars making satisfying growling noises, if you’re into that sort of thing.
After discovering there really aren’t any campsites around Bygdea, I put my head down and pedalled for Umea. It was getting late but my legs felt fresh, and I was in the zone, so I decided to head for the First Camp campsite. The E04 stayed relatively kind and the kilometres continued to fly by.
I pedalled to the outskirts of the city, Sweden’s 12th largest and a big University centre, and found the campsite just off the ring-road, very convenient.
Reception was closed, it being Sunday and gone 18.00, but I pitched up anyway and would sort it in the morning. The one drawback of this is you can’t get into the toilet blocks for a shower, or the kitchen, as you need a key card. With a all the dust and grime from the road a shower would have been welcome, however I settled for a wash from an outside tap instead; needs must.
It wasn’t long before I decided to get some kip, after demolishing bread, cheese, salami, a ready to eat expedition pack of curry, and of course chocolate; it’s quite hard to keep eating enough calories to replace what you burn off, but also quite enjoyable. I fell asleep pretty swiftly, after a very satisfying day’s riding.
—>18 May 2015
I wasn’t aching in the morning, which I was somewhat surprised yet pleased about. I say wasn’t aching however my posterior was, and still is a bit; lots of hours in the saddle tends to have that effect – padded shorts help, as does chamois cream to prevent chafing. I think I’ll need to change my saddle at some point as this one isn’t quite right. The bike in general is performing very well to date, with nothing needing fixing. It’s just a matter of keeping the tyres pumped up, and things lubed.
Like yesterday I wasn’t quite sure where I’d be stopping today, however there were allegedly several campsites en-route, and if all failed I’d find a quiet spot amongst the pines, away from any ants nests; some of them are huge, must get a pic.
It was raining when I packed up; not a good start, having to pack away a wet tent, however with many kilometres yet to pedal I thought I’d better get underway. There was a big hare hopping around as I stuffed things into panniers; nice to see, and not the first I’ve seen in Scandinavia. It reminded me of the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland, but I decided not to follow it, not today anyway. I haven’t seen any rabbits at all so maybe they haven’t gotten this far North.
At least I was dry, but I needed to get pedalling to stave off the cold. The expedition beard is coming along but doesn’t provide much insulation as yet, must concentrate harder on growing it.
I’m not sure I’ll keep the beard very long. It’s nice not having to shave when it’s cold, but I’m not a massive fan. I’ll keep it going until I leave Sweden, then have a beard review session and see what the consensus is between Lobster and I on keeping it, or going with a more streamlined affair as I pedal through Denmark.
On the way out I stopped at reception to pay, and had to buy a Swedish Camping Key (SCR) card too. This meant a night of camping with no facilities cost me 310SEK altogether. I should have just wild camped, although the card will hopefully be useful elsewhere in Sweden, as you need to have them for a lot of campsites; not sure why.
Pedalling out I passed a backpacker who’d been staying at the campsite too, marching resolutely into the city in the drizzle; we exchanged glances indicating mutual dislike of the rain and chill. I rode through the University area, which was awash with people on bicycles, attracting curious looks from pedestrians and cyclists alike, no doubt due to all my luggage and hopefully not my pirate look.
Umea, the biggest city in Norrland, has roots going back many centuries. It was probably first a Sami settlement, but they didn’t tend to have permanent bases, being nomadic. In the 14th century it was settled by Germanic people, but the Vikings were there before then. For a while it was just a place to trade with the Sami, and the last inhabitance before the wilds lot the North, but was made into a city in 1622. You can look up the rest on Wikipedia; it has an interesting history.
There’s all that history, and then there’s the fact it has a Mcdonalds, the first I’ve seen in Sweden. Whilst this is in some ways, slightly disappointing, in other ways, such as on a damp and chilly morning, it’s an important feature. I opted for a second breakfast to wait for the rain to ease off; it was meant to according to the forecast. The sausage and egg muffin and hot chocolate was a welcome calorie boost, and the free wifi a bonus.
The rain eventually started to ease up, so I bid Umea goodbye and rode out of the city over the river, getting slightly turned about by the numerous and maze like cycle paths; they loop around under the roads and it’s easy to lose your sense of direction. Cycling must be a very popular method of transportation in Swedish cities, as there were again bikes everywhere. I eventually found the E04, joy, and passed the same backpacker trying to hitch a lift. He would’t fit on my bike, with all my panniers, but I wished him good luck anyway.
I probably pedalled 15 to 20km more than I needed to today, due to taking roads running parallel to the E04, rather than staying on it for ages. I say 15 to 20km more, it doesn’t really matter, and the smaller roads are far more pleasant and interesting to ride on, however I don’t want to extend my route too much as I do have a bit of a schedule I need to maintain. After a couple of hours I took a break in the woods.
And of course, there’s always time for a thumbs up moment.
I crossed several bridges over fast flowing and turbulent looking rivers, which would no doubt be fun to raft or kayak down; I think I’d just capsize.
At one point I decided to risk it and took a cycle track down a clay path through the forest, hoping it linked up with a road on the other side; this is after all supposed to be adventure. I’ve got a video of this I’ll try and upload, however here’s a picture in the meantime.
The road surface was pretty claggy and slow, but traffic free and made for pleasant riding, aside from the odd sneaky pothole. After a while I began to think I’d taken a wrong turning, but thankfully was able to join a fully functioning road near Nordmaling. I continued to loop around the E04 on smaller roads, but eventually had to rejoin it after Logdea, as I ran out of options.
It was okay riding, but again the narrow single lane bits where you’re enclosed by crash barriers can be unpleasant when you’re passed by the really big lorries, especially wide loads transporting houses! Some of these lorries come very close and there’s nowhere to go, so you just have to hold on and hope for the best; there’s probably more room than I think but it’s still not very nice cycling. As mentioned before the lorries also kick up a load of dust, so I was regularly having to wash my mouth out, and felt rather grimy by the end of the ride.
I stopped prior to Ornskaldsvik, after covering 110km in 6hrs and 4 mins, at a slightly slower pace than yesterday. Here’s a link to my route and stats:
The Mosjon campsite sits on the edge of Mosjon lake, and looks to be a big fishing venue; lots of places in Sweden are big fishing venues. It’s a lovely spot, if a little close to the main road so you can hear the traffic.
I was fortunate that the campsite owner turned up shortly after I arrived, as reception was closed. She needed to give a cabin key to the only other person here; I’m the only camper, which isn’t an unusual occurrence so far. Lots of campsites aren’t fully open yet, and won’t be until June.
A hot shower to wash away the day’s grime and dust was most welcome, as is the warm kitchen for typing this up in, and to cook up a noodle feast. I’m trying to dry a few clothes I’ve washed through, but it’s not working too well; can I microwave them?!
I’m in the High Coast area of Sweden now, a World Heritage Site, so I’m hoping for lots more beautiful scenery, coupled unfortunately with a few more hills to contend with.
I did my best not to fall in the lake.
The High Coast is so named because it’s slowly rising at about 8mm a year, after being massively compressed by the last Ice Age. Lots of cool wildlife to look out for tomorrow, including Beavers.
That’s all for today, tomorrow I head towards Sundsvall, probably stopping in Harnosand.
One thing, on cycle tours you have a lot of time to think, and sometimes sad thoughts can return. Yesterday I spent quite a lot of time thinking about Lu, my ex-wife and best friend, who passed away from cancer in 2012. Sometimes you just want to meet them for a coffee and tell them what you’ve been up to, and even though that’s not possible physically, I rode along telling Lu about my latest adventure anyway. I started off sad, then got inspired and motivated and pedalled on, one of the reasons I hit 100 miles yesterday.
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