Leaving Trondheim, passing Hell, and arriving in Sweden at Ristafallet Camping
We left the quiet beauty of Trondheim behind and headed due east out of town. It was a beautifully sunny, dry morning, as it had been the past few days. But we knew it wouldn’t last, as the cloud armies would regather their forces and combine to block out the sun by early afternoon; it was becoming a predictable pattern, making us embrace early morning starts much more than we have recently been used to.
We stopped briefly in the town of Hell, simply because the name was amusing to us. There was an event on, a cycling race or a triathlon, with marshalls sat around at key junctions to facilitate smooth passage for competitors. We didn’t want to be in the way, so moved on quickly, after grabbing a few photos of their humorous (to us) signs.
The main road to the border was rather uneventful; an easy, smooth drive on a relatively straight road. No hairpins, no steep mountain climbs, no grandiose mountain views reflected in mirror-blue fjords. Just pleasant, rolling countryside hills and pretty meadows as Norway toned down its scale from the wild exertions of the fjord regions. We expected a nominal border, and there was nothing but a closed up building where you could volunteer declarations, although it seemed customs didn’t open on a Sunday. So, we arrived in Sweden, our fifth country since we left the UK in late April, with rather a whimper. The clouds had indeed now gathered, and the spitting rain began as we progressed along the easy, empty road.
We passed a sign on the roadside pointing to a visitor centre and café positioned at Sweden’s largest waterfall, Tännforsen, so decided to investigate. We parked near the café and walked the few hundred metres along the river’s edge to view the falls, the gushing, bubbling noise increasing with every step closer, growing to an almost deafening roar. The volume of water was incredible and it was an impressive sight, especially from one thin, jutting viewpoint built just below the falls, cantilevering over the wild, white river. Cold spray thrown up by the power of the flow soaked us as we stood gaping at the noise and spectacle. Yet, with all the energy and volume of water passing under us, one thought nagged at us; largest in all of Sweden, at 30m high? Oh Sweden, how Norway must laugh at your puny waterfalls.
We arrived early afternoon in the ski resort of Åre, which we had planned to make our base for a few days. It was a centre for hiking in the summer months, and had that generic look and feel of ski resorts the world over. We parked in the centre and visited the tourist office and an ATM for local currency, whilst we sussed out what to do. There was a free aire outside of town that we’d eyed up before arrival, but when we visited it was more of a noisy truck-stop on a grubby road-side track, so we decided it wasn’t for us. Instead we both agreed a campsite was the way forward, and chose to base ourselves in Ristafallet, a few kilometres out of Åre, just off the main through road.
We found ourselves a nice level spot beside the rushing river, with the familiar noise of another waterfall nearby. The rain that followed us from Norway continued unabated, so exploration took a backseat to simple relaxation. We read, drank lots of tea and caught up with the world, all with the background percussive accompaniment of rain on roof. The following day brought more of the same, and we obliged with continuing our lazy ways, until late afternoon brought a cessation of weather hostilities and so, with a rain armistice declared, we walked along the local river banks to see Ristafallet waterfall. It was an impressively wild stretch of river, with sharp rocks, deep bowls and whirlpools, entirely unnavigable, but great to look at. The recent heavy rain had swelled the flow to a torrent.
The next day was brighter and with our batteries fully charged and our stagnated minds in need of fresh air, we set off for a hike through local forests to visit a small lake beach we read about. We walked from the campsite uphill, following small gravel local-access roads for much of the way. The road was a hardened fire track in pine forest. Twice the heavy rain returned with an almighty burst, catching us out and soaking us thoroughly, but like a tap was soon turned off and we dried off as we walked on. We arrived after 6km at a small car-park near a pretty red house, and just behind, accessed by a short timber walkway raised above muddy ground, we reached our small, stony beach.
We sat a while on rough timber log seats surrounding a recently used fire pit made from a metal barrel, looking out across the lake. The water was rough and wavy from the blustery cross wind, yet with the light turquoise glow of mineral-rich freshness. We could see snow-capped mountains and tall forests in the distance, framing the lake. After some initial trepidation we decided to go for it; we stripped off and quickly jumped in the cold lake, repressing involuntary yelps. It was chilly, invigorating, adventurous and a little bit crazy. We splashed around, swimming only a few strokes, before returning to our benches to dry off, shivering with cold and excited from the refreshing thrill.
We walked briskly, stomping and swinging our arms to get the warming blood flowing to our digits. Our return walk took us on an alternative route, across the nearby railway line and through some tall, grassy meadows, to arrive at a familiar path. We linked up with the end of the riverside walk from the day before, and followed this all the way back into camp. The river was still in fine, boisterous flow, and the short waterfall continued to throw a fine white spray high in the air as we passed. It had been a long wet, walk of 13km for a very short dip, but it was stimulating, nerve-tingling, titillating and made us feel we were livsnjutares, embracing our inner Scandinavian spirit.