Spending some quality downtime playing in and around a few of central Sweden’s many lakes, enjoying the simple cathartic pleasures of a life lived outdoors.
We had a leisurely start with a short over-breakfast conversation with our neighbour, a retired structural engineer who, travelling in a small van with her dog, was heading in to see Oslo for the first time. We talked up our favourite bits of the city then said our goodbyes, wishing her well on her travels. We left Oslo heading east, briefly stopping in the town of Ski to swap our almost empty Norwegian gas bottle for a full one that should see us back to the UK in October. We drove east on a monotonous and unchanging road to reach the nominal Swedish border, where we said our final farewells to majestic Norway after a full 60 days of in-country exploration; Tusen takk, Norge.
We soon arrived at Camp Grinsby on the shores of lake Stora Bör, a spot we decided would make a good place to rest up and relax for a while. As converse as it seems, this life of constant travel is a tiring endeavour and we occasionally need a break from the trials of the road to recharge and re-calibrate. Our brains needed the downtime to file away, make sense of and solidify the memories of all the grandiose scenes, spectacular activities, enthralling experiences and fascinating historical facts we had amassed over the last few months. We physically checked in to this pretty, exceptionally quiet campsite then mentally checked out. We saw this time as being a break from the normal, hectic rush of exploration and discovery; a true holiday.
We had nothing to do and nowhere to be. Switching off and taking all of a very pleasant, slow day to do two or three tasks that would not normally take longer than an hour was cathartic and renewing. We enjoyed early morning mists, warm days and cooling sunsets. We cycled many empty, peaceful forest trails, following the shores of the lake or cutting through thick copices on well-tended paths. One day I ran the trails instead, with Nicky cycling alongside for company. We swam, short dips and long lengths. Exercise may not be everyone’s idea of a relaxing time, but having the quality time to run, cycle, hike or swim meant there were no other pressing or distracting tasks eating up our time. We slept so well, sucking up copious amounts of fresh air and quiet stillness, and felt supremely rested.
At this slow pace, we appreciated the little things so much more. Out canoeing, a dark, velvet butterfly landed softly on Nicky’s hand, happily remaining there a minute of more as we watched, marvelling at the deep, surrounding silence and the enveloping closeness to nature we were being gifted. It flitted off to be replaced with a large pearlescent dragonfly that hummed closely alongside us as we slowly paddled. We made tiny, perfect whirlpools in the still, clear water, each lasting long after the paddle stroke was complete. We drifted carefully through shallow areas with tall, stiff grass rasping on the metal sides of our canoe, with peaks of large rocks only millimetres below.
We found a tiny secluded beach on a small island and landed, ready for a break from paddling. It was a south-facing suntrap and we sun-bathed, swam, read and dozed for a few lazy hours, whilst snacking on our packed lunch. We saw no one during this time and heard only a small boat engine, distant and faint, somewhere far across the lake. Stora Bör seemed huge when floating in the centre in a small, fragile canoe, but at 14 sq km it was hardly a blip on the map in comparison to the sea-like proportions of other nearby Swedish lakes. We paddled on to explore another group of islands in the centre of the lake, finding easy landings on several and gaining differing perspectives of our glorious watery neighbourhood.
From one vantage point, we saw three other canoeists pass nearby, heading back towards a small red cabin on a nearby island. We later paddled a lazy circuit around this island, seeing the cabin and an additional four other tents discretely hidden away in private corners, barely visible but for rows of colourful washing hanging brightly in the trees behind. It was good to see others out enjoying both the great weather and the natural beauty of this lake. We waved as we passed, then continued back in the direction of our campsite. We stopped at a small tree-covered rock about a mile from home, where Nicky decided to hop out of the canoe and swim the remaining distance back. The water was a warm 21 degrees and crystal clear, providing an embracing silky glide as she flowed alongside my canoe.
We spent four glorious sunny days at Camp Grinsby, a very welcome rest away from the daily rigours of the road. From here we drove through Karlstad, stopping only for supplies, before turning south and checking into another small campsite at Otterbergets. Here we had a kilometre long sandy beach on hand and several new forest trails to hike or run. The lake was shallow and the bottom sand continued out as far as we ventured, swimming smooth lengths from pier to pier, parallel with the shore. We walked and ran the pretty forest trails, enjoying the burn of some steep off-road rises. We filled tubs full of foraged wild blueberries on our forest walks. We considered picking some of the multitude of wild mushrooms growing in the forests, but were unsure which were safe for eating.
Each night we cooked an unhurried meal in their central kitchen, revelling in having so much space to work in and a comfortable social area to then eat our dinner. We caught up on laundry. We swapped books in their mini-library, ensuring we had enough reading material to see us home. We returned to the beach again and again, with Nicky enjoying swimming more long lengths as I jogged along the shore for company, my recently and annoyingly damaged rotator cuff prohibiting my participation in the water. Even with the wind picking up force and the sun deserting us, we still had a wonderfully relaxing few days in Otterbergets under moody, cloudy skies.
Spending a lazy week in campsites was a little out of character for us, so we headed off north the next morning and found the very comfortable free aire in Karlskoga. It was possibly the best provided free aire we had ever stayed in, with each generously-proportioned parking place provided with not one but two electric points (why?). All services were freely available, including WCs with warm showers and, to top it off, a dedicated free WiFi network. We happily parked up looking out over a stormy lake and decided this would make another great spot to linger a while.