Spending a week in an off-season ASCI campsite in Långasjönäs, our days filled with swimming, cycling, walking and running, interspersed with some quality downtime.
Leaving the nature reserve at Almö, we headed to Långasjönös as planned. This happened to be the place where our batteries ran out, wound down like the non-Duracell bunny, and we simply had no desire to drive any further. We availed ourselves of a cheap ACSI deal, with the additional carrot of 7 nights for 6 on top of that. Then we sat still, almost alone on the edge of the campsite, taking stock. This was to be a week of lazy reflection, under somewhat rainy skies. There were two short road loops within the campsite, the first served area the site of many long-terming caravans, some occupied and some not, but the second area was empty of casual visitors, so we parked up on the only flat site we could find, peacefully excluded and content on our private half of the campsite.
We begin our casual exploration of the area with a 13km cycle around the main lake, following fire tracks and simple off-road trails through the forest. At one clearing we passed a large gathering of cars and people in the woods without ever discovering what event was occurring, but it was something quite popular. We rounded the top of the lake and returned south on the western side, more removed from the shore and on a relatively traffic-busy road. We passed an old 19th and early 20th century drinking water treatment works and reservoir in the leafy village of Froarp, now dry and grassy but with well-preserved stone culverts and a decorative pump-house building. From here we re-joined the dedicated cycle routes that brought us along gravel trails and home to the campsite.
That afternoon the weather brightened, so we decided on what became a 1.2 km swim around our nearby headland. We suited up, even though the lake was a relatively balmy 19 degrees, and entered the water at the swim pontoon at a neat sandy beach. We swam to the left, the smooth, fresh water and my injured shoulder both feeling good. We hugged our nearest coast, but not too close as the lake remained shallow for a long distance out. The sun was on our faces and the banks lit up, everything looking tidy and bright. Turning the corner near to where we would exit the water we surprised two young local girls happily sunning themselves on a large flat rock that stretched from their beautiful home’s garden right down into the water. I think we were quite the novelty to them as we passed.
The next morning we went for a 21km cycle into the nearby town of Karlshamn, to both explore the town a little, and to pick up a few fresh provisions. We followed the easy bike trails south, mostly alongside the main roads, until we reached the outskirts of town. From here we skirted around the water’s edge, seeing the more industrial side of town, reaching the tourist office and passing through the cobbled market square. The streets of the town were set out in a grid pattern, a layout that made it easy to find your way but left something wanting; it felt anonymous, even with neat, pretty buildings all lined up, it lacked the spirit or centre that pervades a typically knotted medieval town.
We devised a plan to swim a round trip to a faraway island we could see from the pontoon. We had walked to it the previous day on a short ramble and thought it would make a good target for a longer swim. We entered the water, stopping briefly at the central floating pontoon in the centre of the lake that was used more by ducks than swimmers. The water was sweet and clear, but a tail wind was chopping the surface at our backs and we knew the return journey would be much more challenging. We reached the pretty tree-covered island, passing it on its left shore, where we spotted an easy place to climb ashore. We wandered through the trees in our wet-suits, where we found signs of a fire in a small clearance, the island perhaps a popular camping spot for local canoers or fishermen.
After our island explore we re-entered the water, completed our circumnavigation and continued on our way back. As expected, the rough, choppy lake took more effort to swim into. There was little respite from the winds on our swim home, having to work a little harder, swallowing more of the fresh, tasty lake than planned. We returned to the same spot on the beach pontoons and exited the water via steps, feeling good. The swim back took us less time than going, even though it was into the wind, as without all the heads-up sight-seeing and excitement of our island adventure, we simply got on with it. It was a 2.5km round trip in total, our longest swim since the Arctic Circle.
During our stay we kept an eye on the night sky. Even though we had travelled a long way south, the nights were now quite dark, and on days with no cloud cover there was always a possibility of seeing the aurora. One clear night around 11pm we walked out to the floating swim pontoon, with its wide view north up the lake. We stared up at the northern sky, seeing a multitude more stars than we ever would in the light-polluted skies near home. But we were too far south now even to catch the glittering edges of the aurora, so it would have to have been hugely active and us exceptionally lucky to mange to view it here. We still had a long, peaceful moment under the starry night sky.
Another time we followed a long forest trail walk north, the soft ground heavy with rotting leaf-fall and peppered with a multitude of different mushrooms. A deep blanket of discarded pine cones and needles covered much of the forest floor, with other areas thick with luminescent green mosses or sun-loving lime-coloured lichens. We passed the ruin of an old paper mill, built over a weir on a small river feeding into the lake. We scared a large gathering of ducks by walking across the timber bridge, then in turn they scared us right back with their rapid squawking flight out from under our feet. As routes led on through more deep forest, we wandered off the paths, marvelling at the quantity and variation of mushrooms sprouting up everywhere and wished we had knowledge to forage properly.
When we reached the shores of a nearby, much smaller lake, we passed a small opening that led out along some slippy narrow planks, through a bed of reeds, to a small square timber pontoon floating in the lake. Nicky decided that she needed to have a refreshing dip to help both cool her off from the walking and cleanse her of a minor but niggling hangover. She stripped off and jumped in, yelling briefly with the chilling shock as she met the water, but was soon luxuriating in the silky freedom of the beautiful lake and peaceful surroundings. Not to be outdone, I had to have my own lake skinny-dip later on the walk, a brief yet refreshing swim at a small beach area near to our base.
We ate a few times in the service block kitchen and lounge, cooking our meals there and setting a neat, formal table, just for the variation. There was an area for cooking with lots of sinks, ovens and hobs, an area for dining with many tables, and an area for relaxing with books or TV. Amazingly, we saw no one else use the facility in the time were there, so it became an extension of our van, our own extra living room area. There were comfortable settees and a TV with English-speaking channels where we could catch up with the news as we relaxed post-dinner. One rainy evening we watched a movie on our laptop in the lounge, it suffering much less percussion noise than Benny.
I completed four books whilst resting here, a reflection of the time we had to simply sit and do what we enjoy. I went for a short run while Nicky walked the nearby trails to find a comfortable spot to sit and sketch a mushroom. I passed her three times on my short running loops, each time stopping in to check the progress of her drawing. We had a 1.9km swim on our penultimate day, a wider sweep following our first route around the headland to the right. This time we crossed the lake first, then skirted the opposite bank, checking out the beautiful properties that lined the grassy shore. The water was much calmer, barely a breath of wind disturbing the surface – swimming perfection.
Motorhoming is such a different life when you stand still, rather than the constant rush of daily discoveries. No driving, no planning, no sights to see, no moving on. After a week in Långasjönäs we really felt we had gotten to know the area in detail. We had walked, ran or cycled most of the local trails, had had three long swims and a few dips in the lake, and had visited the main town of Karlshamn. This form of static exploration brought forth a narrower but deeper pool of discovery, within which we began to find a greater connection to Swedish nature. Our extended stay opened the way to living with casual freeness and with easy accessibility to the calm waters we have come to crave.