Category Archives: Swimming

SE Sweden – Knäbäckshusen & Simrishamn

Following the coast further around SE Sweden to Knäbäckshusen beach & the town of Simrishamn, with a stormy overnight stop in Skillinge.

We were awakened early in our quiet Gyllebo lake swim-spot parking by a large group of kids undertaking what looked like an orienteering initiation, and thought it was best to move on so as not to be in their way.  We packed up and headed off, intending to move only a handful of miles between stops, looking in at all local walks and beaches.  We stopped first at a small car-park where we could walk into a nature reserve, but the walk was only 1.5km and led only to a picnic spot, so we decided it was hardly worth booting up for.  The day was looking much brighter, with an open blue sky and no wind, so instead we thought our time would be better spent in search of a beach to lounge on.

Knabackshusen (walk through village)

Knabackshusen (village end)

Knabackshusen (midsummers heart)

To reach Knäbäckshusen beach we walked through an entire relocated village, comprised of 17 houses that had been removed in totality from a newly formed military zone to make way for their firing range, and plonked down by the sea 15km away.  The 17th century houses were all quite different construction styles, timber, brick and render, but equally picture-postcard perfect, like a tiny Suffolk hamlet.  Their gardens were well-tended, replete with flowers and decorative plants, bounded by neatly painted picket fences. The end of the path leading to the beach was decorated by a large midsummers floral heart, long past its best now, but must have been a colourful delight in the early summer.

Knabackshusen (a at chapel)

Knabackshusen (chapel interior)

We passed a small chapel, its cobbled floor lined inside with simple timber benches and white-washed walls.  Above, a continuous timber wall-plate supported many smooth stones taken from the beach, marked up with names of visitors or pilgrims passing through. This tiny chapel was one of many stops on The Pilgrim Way- Skåne Blekinge, itself a small part of the incredible trek leading from the northern reaches of Norway all the way to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain.  Each chapel or church on the vast route are said to be like pearls on a rosary, all rather insignificant individually, but together forming something greater.  We had day-walked a part of the route near Palas de Rei, but it was difficult to comprehend the dedication, or guilt, that could drive someone to walk all the way there from the northern wilds of Norway.

Knabackshusen (overview of bech)

Knabackshusen (the steps down)

The beach below looked spectacular.  It had a border of smooth, rounded stones with a band of white sand leading into the water.  Overhanging trees cast areas of light, dappled shade on small portions of the white sand, while other gnarled trees lay supine, their branches whitened by sun and waves.  We walked along the sands a while, marvelling at the easy, simple beauty of the stretch of coast and how fortunate we were to be able to enjoy it all to ourselves.  We found our place to relax and we settled in, laying down our towels.  We lazed, read and played, getting up for the occasional easy skinny dip in the chilly sea water to cool off.  The air was only around 19 degs but lying in the direct sun on the warmed sands we felt tropically hot.  The setting on the white sands with clear lapping waves framed by blue skies was simply exceptional, as good as any Caribbean island could offer.

Knabackshusen (beach tree climb)

Knabackshusen (beach selfie)

A few more dips and a few more hours of lazing on the sands kept us busy.  Nicky did a little pilates and this inspired me to do a few press-ups, but we soon exhausted ourselves and got back to simple, easy lazing again.  Only two squawking swans, dipping and diving in the water near us, disturbed our blissful silence. Around 1pm we began to lose the sun from our playful east-facing beach, lost behind the tall trees lining the bank behind us, so we sadly called an end to our beach time, packed up and wandered back to Benny.  We were very happy to have had a wonderfully lazy morning in the sun on such a beautiful and deserted beach.  This was one of those special moments you always remember.

Knabackshusen (a on beach)

Knabackshusen (n on beach)

We ate a quick lunch in Benny then drove another few miles to the next place of interest.  Only a short drive away we reached the narrow streets of the village of Vik and parked up on the water’s edge.  This long stretch of cracked sandstone coast, worn into tooth-like fissures by weather and time, was speckled with yellow lichen and many small sea pools.  We bounced along, up and down the jagged, broken rocks as we made our way to the Prästens Badkar, the Priest’s Bathtub.  This turned out to be a flower-like circular arrangement that was formed in the coastal rocks, likely by a sand volcano that lay on the seabed in the Cambrian period, over 500 million years ago.  A visiting priest was once said to have bathed in the geological feature after a long journey, hence the name.  We found it interesting but rather small and, after our beautiful sunny morning beach time, not especially inviting for a comfortable dip.

Prästens Badkar (a at priests bath)

Prästens Badkar (n at priests bath)

From here we visited the main town of Simrishamn for a short while, walking the streets lined with hopeful but empty restaurants, it easy to imagine them loud and busy in the height of summer.  A quick visit to the tourist office allowed us to pick up a few maps for upcoming areas.  We walked to the main square, passing the central red-brick Simrishamn church and its adjacent buildings. A further wander through the nearby pretty streets and along the side of the marina completed our whistle-stop tour of the region’s main town.  There was an aire at the marina, but it was a simple car-park and relatively expensive, so we decided to move on out of town and find a quieter spot.

Simrishamn (main square)

Simrishamn (church and statue)

We drove a few more miles then parked up to overnight on cobbles in the town of Skillinge, in a free parking area at the marina.  One cup of tea after stopping we watched the skies turn quickly from blue to cloudy to dark grey clouds to pouring rain in a few short minutes, glad to have made our parking spot in time for the deluge.  With this change of fortune in the weather we quickly re-planned our evening and decided to immediately open the wine we had picked up in Simrishamn’s System Bolaget and settled in to watch the burgeoning storm overhead.  It was difficult to comprehend that this was still the same day that we had lounged in the sun and swam naked on a stunning Caribbean-quality beach, but that’s motorhoming for you – the art of ever-changing fortunes and horizons.

 

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SE Sweden – Friseboda & Kivik

Continuing our explorations in south-east Sweden, we visited Friseboda & Kivik, with days out to see beaches, arboretums and nearby national parks. 

After our blissful week in Långasjönäs camping, we finally packed up and said goodbye to our amenable host, and to our beautiful swim lake.  We drove south, with our customary Lidl stop on the way to restock our fridge after a week of sitting still.  Our SatNav was very confused for most of the journey as we crossed wide green fields, meaning the smooth, fast road we travelled on must be less than two years old. We passed many sign-posted options for nearby picnic areas, beaches and swim spots.  We finally chose one and cut left down a narrow, bumpy road, following tight bends to reach a large, empty car-park at Friseboda beach, a 5km long sandy strand on the Baltic Sea.

Friseboda (woodland trees)

Friseboda (woodland mosses)

We parked in the green embrace of the nature reserve.  We were surrounded by spacious, mixed woodland, replete with pine trees, with thick moss dominating the groundcover. Wispy lichen hung from branches and helped create a feel of ancient forest, and perhaps it is – the area has been settled, farmed and manipulated by man for over 7000 years.  We walked over pine-needle paths to reach the calm, clear sea.  With the exception of one elderly jogger, we had the long strand as far as we could see in both directions all to ourselves.  We laid a blanket out in the small dunes and settled in for some serious relaxing, interspersed with cooling sea skinny dips, reading and snacking.  The only sounds we could hear were the light buzzing of nearby insects and the soft lapping of tiny waves.

Friseboda (lunch spot)

Friseboda (n on beach)

Friseboda (walking along beach)

Late that afternoon we drove to Kivik, but the first possible aire we had in mind was mostly flooded, so we moved on to the marina parking nearer the town centre.  It was late Saturday afternoon and the aire was fully packed with vans, and we just managed to squeeze into a nice spot between two others.  We had a short walk around the town and the harbour walls, seeing several great swim spots and lots of birdlife.  A square housed the beginnings of a festival, with stalls and stands under construction.  We checked a local noticeboard and read about the upcoming Apple Festival.  It would not be starting for a few days, so the current visiting crowds were simply weekend warriors.

Kivik - birds on rocks

Havang beach (bikes at the beach)

Havang beach (a on the sand)

The next day we cycled from our spot in Kivik to Haväng beach, a rare area of sandy steppe, caused by dry climate and lime soil, where the Verkeån river runs into the sea.  We reached the beach by dirt road shortcuts across private land, avoiding the main roads wherever possible.  The beach car-park was busy with dog-walkers and visitors.  We cycled right along timber walkways and onto the grassy hillocks in front of the beach where we locked up our bikes and lay down, enjoying the sun on our backs and legs.  We could see the military base right next door and later watched Special Forces undertaking training manoeuvres and mock rescues on the sea in heavily armed rib-boats.

Havang beach (special forces)

Havang beach (tree roots)

Havang beach (nicky tangled)

On top of a small hill there were a few interesting trees with wildly twisted roots, all now above ground.  We played here a while, like kids, filled with memories of similar trees from childhood.  Near these trees was Havängsdösen, a Neolithic stone circle and dolmen grave site. We caught the distinctive aroma of wild curry plants as we walked over to see the standing stones. We walked the length of the beach and back to our original spot, then relaxed on the dunes to simply people-watch and read.  The sun remained out and the air warm; bliss.  Later we were passed by a string of Icelandic ponies being ridden across the sands, fording the river at its widest point as it entered the sea.

Havang beach (a on bridge over river)

Havang beach (river meets sea)

On our cycle home, we saw a gathering of red kites circling over the freshly-cut fields.  We stopped to watch them hunt, seeing them easily spotting the voles or mice disturbed by the farmer’s work.  We watched them glide, pause and then violently swoop, dropping almost vertically to pick off their prey in the short stubble at will.  It was a compelling site to see so many red kites circle the same field.  We cycled back on main road, before cutting back into Kivik and through, passing popular in-progress Sunday league football games, to visit Kiviks Esperöd arboretum.

Havang beach (ponies on beach)

Havang beach (red kite)

Leaving our bikes aside we walked the gardens, where we saw an old Swedish phone box set among the trees, its short swing doors open lattice design, Elven-like, a real contrast to Scott’s famous British equivalent.  We crossed an arched blue bridge set over waterlily-rich waters that reminded us  a little of those in Monet’s Garden in Givenchy.  The ducks happily sunning themselves on the banks quacked us a greeting. We walked many tiny paths around the arboretum’s perimeter, finding all manner of exotic trees from all over the world, and simply enjoying the wander.  We returned to our parking spot in Kivik marina to find a new motorhome beside us.  Our new neighbours were Brits, originally from Peterborough but now of Morecombe bay.  It was the first British van we’d seen in a long time so we had to stop for a chat.

Kiviks Esperod (bridge in arboretum)

Kiviks Esperod (old phone box)

Next morning we packed up and left the now almost-empty aire, saying goodbyes to our British neighbours on one side and to a black BMW with a full set of interior curtains and someone sleeping inside on the other.  We drove only a short distance to Stenshuvuds National Park, in Österlen, where we parked up at the central Naturum building, the visitor centre.  It wasn’t yet opened, so while we waited we hiked one of their marked routes to the south, 3.2km long through light forest and pasture land.  The sun was bright but the shaded trails in the forests were still sharp with cold this early in the morning, so we walked fast to keep warm, glad of the occasional hill to work up.

Stenshuvuds NP (lighthouse)

The national park covered quite small area at just over 400 hectares, but it packed in a lot of variation in both landscape and habitat.  Around half of the park was leafy deciduous forest, mainly gnarled hornbeams with a thriving population of hawfinches.  Pasture lands provided grazing for some wildly hairy, wild roaming highland cattle.  There were thickly heathered and flat sandy heaths, wet and dry meadows and peat-rich mosslands all providing a rich variety of ecosystems for the many creatures and endangered plants of the region to live in.  There were a number of well-marked trails through the park, and we followed several of these in turn, taking in the ever-changing landscapes beneath our feet and around us.

Stenshuvuds NP (forest traisl)

We clambered over leafy trails and tree roots, large boulders, deep sandy paths and marshy bogs by still, dark lakes. The hornbeam forest was cast deep in light and shadow by a bright, low sun, with lichen covered boulders lit up like beacons when in full sunlight.  We climbed timber steps to the ancient hill fortress of Stenshuvud, at the grand height of 97m, where we enjoyed views out to sea from a rocky plateau.  We passed Stenshuvud lighthouse and old cottages still used by eel fishermen as they have been since the 18th century. We reached a beautiful white sandy beach and felt drawn to dip in the water, but we abstained for once.  We returned to the Naturum building and ate lunch in Benny, glad to have taken the time to visit this wonderful nature reserve.

Gyllebo lake - swim spot

Only a few miles further on, we stopped at a dedicated swim place on Gyllebo lake and decided to overnight there.  We parked in the corner of the small car-park and walked out to explore their wonderful set-up, with pontoons and ramps reaching out into the pristine lake.  A couple of large fire pits were provided to allow cook-outs, along with many benches, making it a tranquil, but also popular picnic spot.  There were local cars buzzing around most of the afternoon, dog walking and picnicking, and it was good to see the area being put to such good use.  It had chilled down and the wind had picked up a little, so our desires to swim here were dampened somewhat.  Later we walked out to the swim platforms to watch the sun drop behind the black treeline on the banks of the blood-red lake.

Sweden – Långasjönäs Camping

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.

Langasjonas- (our pitch)

Langasjonas- (local trails)

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.

Langasjonas- (checking the water)

Langasjonas- (swim pontoons)

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.

Langasjonas- (on the pontoon)

Langasjonas- (ready to swim)

Langasjonas- (n in water)

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.

Langasjonas- (cycle to Karlshamn)

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.

Langasjonas- (swim to that island)

Langasjonas- (reachng the island)

Langasjonas- (on an island)

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.

Langasjonas- (island rest)

Langasjonas- (swim ending)

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.

Langasjonas- (n at papermill ruin)

Langasjonas- (old paper mill)

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.

Langasjonas- (exploring forest)

Langasjonas- (forest mushroom)

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.

Langasjonas- (small lake swimspot)

Langasjonas- (n gone swimming)

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.

Langasjonas- (a skinny dip)

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.

Langasjonas- (n after last swim)

Langasjonas- (a on rocks)

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.

 

 

 

Sweden’s Central Lakes

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.

Camp Grinsby - (pontoon walk)

Camp Grinsby - (lake stillness)

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.

Camp Grinsby - (forest cycle)

Camp Grinsby - (running trails)

Camp Grinsby - (nicky sunset lake)

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.

Camp Grinsby - (early monring mists)

Camp Grinsby - (morning mists)

Camp Grinsby - (butterfly visit)

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.

Camp Grinsby - (island canoeing)

Camp Grinsby - (canoe beach)

Camp Grinsby - (canoe beach chilling)

Camp Grinsby - (canoe beach swim)

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.

Camp Grinsby - (lake canoe explore)

Camp Grinsby - (n in canoe)

Camp Grinsby - (changing to swim)

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.

Camp Grinsby - (ready to swim home)

Camp Grinsby - (n swims home)

Camp Grinsby - (n swimming in lake)

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.

Otterbergets - (easy hiking trails)

Otterbergets - (foraging for wild blueberries)

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.

Otterbergets - (pre-swim horseriding)

Otterbergets - (starting pontoon)

Otterbergets - (long swims parallel to shore)

Otterbergets - (contemplating a swim)

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.

Saltstraumen & the Atlantic Coast Road south

Leaving the Lofoten Islands and following the Atlantic Coast Road south, passing Saltstraumen, Mo I Rana and Trondheim to reach the outskirts of Oslo.

We said our goodbyes to Mummy Finch and the Lofoten islands and headed along the E10 in the direction of Narvik.  We’d already had a long drive from our base on Vestavågøy to reach the airport drop-off at Evenes, so had no desire to push on too far.  We started looking for a place to pass a quiet night, and we found a suitable place at our second attempt, at a small marina in Bjerkvik.  It was a little scruffy but it was also supremely quiet and we parked overlooking the water on a beautiful still evening.  The overnight fee was an honesty box noting that they would be delighted if we chose to donate 50 NOK (about £4.50), and we were glad to.  We had drinking water and could have had electric too if we parked on the other side of the groin, but preferred to forego that in preference of a sea view.

Bjerkvik Marina - sunset

Later a group of four backpackers, couples from both Poland and Germany, turned up looking to camp on the only patch of grass on site at the marina, which meant right by where we were standing.  They politely asked permission from us, as if we could or would refuse, but this endeared them to us immediately and also earned them a slice of yummy fruit cake each.  They invited us to sit around their improvised cooking fire, but we were tired and opted for an early night.  The following morning we gifted them cereal bars and carton drinks, as they looked malnourished and because we felt guilty that everything was so casually easy in Benny and camping was just such hard graft.

Road to Narvik

Storoya - coast at aire

We followed the coast of the fjords and the North Atlantic, arriving in the northern hub of Narvik soon after.  We had considered making this a base for a week of local activities, but after we stopped for an hour we decided to push on, instead stopping at an island aire at Storøya to sit out the newly arrived rain.  The next morning we caught a short ferry across to Bognes, then continued the route south, arriving in the town of Fauske in early afternoon.  This was to be our only paid aire on our long journey south, in a motorhome-only area of the neat seafront of this pretty town.  We took the day to catch up with shopping and reorganising Benny back into order.  We also decided to skip the regional centre of Bodø in favour of a quicker route south. Our first stop next morning was at Bobil-Nord, a local Benimar dealer where we checked a few warranty issues with their helpful staff then it was on to Saltstrumen.

Fauske - artwork

Saltstruman - boat trips

Touted as the world’s strongest tidal current, the Saltstrumen is a narrow 2km long channel between two deep fjords.  At its peak flow, under a full moon, the tide drags over 400 million cubic metres of water through a channel only 150m wide, causing a wildly powerful maelstrom with eddies and whirlpools popping up erratically in the rushing force of water.  We watched, transfixed at the swirling power of the surging incoming water, some areas looking more like a hot fissure below the surface was boiling the water. We half expected Godzilla to rise out of the wildly bubbling water.  Tourist-loaded boats skirted the whirlpools with familiar ease, utilising the central thin band of smooth current as a respite between excursions into the extremities of the frothing fray.

Saltstruman - mountain view

Storvik beach

The jagged mountains behind formed a stunning back-drop to the continuing maelstrom, moody and grey against the sky.  We watched one brave fisherman in a small dingy with a wheezing outboard slowly cutting through the flow, heading upstream.  A few hundred hard won metres later his chugging engine cut out and in the time it took him to restart it, he had been forced back beyond the point where he’d started.  We walked up to look at what we thought was a visitor centre, but it was closed, the grass uncut and external seal enclosure area outside empty and dried up.  The whole place carried an air of sad abandonment.  The building itself looked quite new, so perhaps it was a seasonal thing and had closed up for winter, but in mid-August this seemed a bit of a stretch.

Hovden Tourist aire - glacier

Hovden glacier - close-up

Hovden - breakfast with a view

We pushed on south, eager to make good time, passing through Storvik and Oanes to reach the aire at the Hovden Tourist centre, directly overlooking Svartisen, Norway’s second largest glacier.  We passed a lazy afternoon and a colourful night watching the light change on the glacial tongues and undertaking short local walks.  We ate our breakfast under the gaze of the glacier and a clear blue sky before driving the short distance south to catch the early ferry to Ågskaret.  On board we floated past a large Polar Circle marker, denoting that we had now left the Arctic Circle, again further south than we were many weeks ago when we completed our Arctic Circle Swim.  We stopped in at several nice aires with ample parking and beautiful sea views, but we decided to overnight at Stokkvågen museum, where we had the opportunity to see the ruins of a fort, complete a coastal walk and visit a nearby sandy beach.

Road to Halsa

Ferry to Agskaret

Passing Polar Circle marker

We walked up the hill to see the fort ruins, clambering into the creepy old tunnels and seeing the bases of the gun emplacements.  The views out to sea were far-reaching.  We walked around to the wide bay with the sandy beach with all intentions of swimming, but a biting cold wind was whipping though the bay and this discouraged us from undertaking more than a paddle.  We wandered in the shallows looking at crabs and small fish that darted around our ankles as they slowly turned white with cold.

Walking beach at Stokkvagen

Stokkvagen beach - paddling

Stokkvagen rock pool

Stokkvagen hot-tub dip

We walked instead around the stony headland, and happily found a wonderful, sheltered rock pool filled with sun-warmed water.  We stripped and dipped here, in our own personal hot-tub with a fantastic sea view.  Refreshed, we returned to Benny for a quiet dinner, before spotting a wild sunset out the window.  We clambered back up over the ruins of the fort to view the spectacle from a height, marvelling in the full, deep red glow that reminded us of Île de Ré.

Stokkvagen sunset view

Stokkvagen sunset

We woke early and moved quickly on, leaving the coastal National tourist route Helgelandskysten for a more inland and quicker, straight route south.  We passed through Mo I Rana only to pick up some shopping, before eating up the miles south on a straight, empty road.  We spent a few minutes at the tourist-trap of Laksforsen waterfall, before reaching Grong many miles later.  We crossed a blue metal bridge into town and parked in a very pretty parkland picnic area only a few minutes from the town centre.  The heavy rains in Norway that seemed to follow only a few moments behind us every day arrived on schedule so we spent another evening listening to the patter on our roof.

Next morning we arrived back in Hell, crossing our initial Norway east-west path as we now moved North-South.  We skirted around Trondheim picking up a few tolls on the way, before stopping in to a campsite at Kvikne.  After a few minutes looking around we decided it wasn’t for us, so continued on.  We were seeing wide fields of golden barley for the first time, sparking memories of Ol’ England. The road was more gentle and Sweden-like here, no majestic peaks or deep blue fjords, just hundreds of miles of easy rolling, tree-lined tarmac.  We arrived at a large lay-by picnic aire just short of the busy town of Tynset.  Here we enjoyed a quick walk to the nearby lake side before the inevitable rains began in earnest and we hunkered down for the night.

Giant elk statue

Nicky with Elk statue

The following morning we followed a long, flat, smooth and (some might say) boring road, making fast progress with nothing but trees for company. We saw two young elk cross the road in front of us, reminding us to take care and stay alert on these stretches.  Colourful, striped elk antlers were hung from trees as artwork to both brighten the trip and act as a subtle reminder of the dangers of migrating elk, a call for drivers to remain vigilant. We stopped in at a rest area to swap drivers, only to find we’d chosen the place where the world’s largest Elk statue, created in shiny stainless steel and standing at a height of 10.3m (and a length of 11.3m), stood proud.  It was impressively formed and provided a dominant reflective presence in the midst of an otherwise solid green band.

Andelva aire

We continued on to another roadside aire at Andelva, where we enjoyed a long walk around the adjacent lake coast to reach a small marina on the opposite side.  We picked wild blueberries in the surrounding woodland and enjoyed a bit of quiet downtime.

Winding roads, ferries, maelstroms, glaciers, rock pools, beaches, lakes and sunsets. Eight quite variable days and over 1100 miles away from our stay in the Lofoten islands we were finally parked up less than 50km from Oslo; we had made good time whilst seeing lots of interesting sights, managing to experience a lot of the central region and also rest well along the way.  We were recharged and ready for a few days in the big city.

Lofoten Islands (Part 1)

Spending a week exploring the Lofoten Islands with special guest Nicky’s mum

DAY 1 (Tuesday) – Via Evenes Airport to a small cabin on the coast at Evensjker

We finished up our trip around the Vesterålen islands and drove in the direction of the airport at Evenes. Nicky’s mum was flying out to meet up with us for a week or so, having hired a small traditional, rustic cabin for the three of us to base ourselves deep in the centre of the island chain on Vestvågøy.  We had a false start at the airport as mum missed her connection flight in Oslo airport due to a delayed first leg, and had to await the next flight up that evening.  We called and asked if we could hang out at the single room Airbnb place she had booked for her first night (with us parking in our motorhome outside) and they helpfully said “no problems, help yourselves”.  So we relaxed for the afternoon in the warm sun by the small private beach at the pretty timber cabin as we awaited the arrival of the later flight.

Lofoten - (relaxing at cabin)

Lofoten - (GandT on beach)

After a quick swoop to the airport, we returned successfully, with mum on board, to the cabin to settle in for the night.  We had a short wander on the beach in the evening light, the girls with their essential G&Ts after the stressful and tiring travels of the day.  We caught up over a later dinner and chatted about the proposed activities and adventures we anticipated in the week to come, although disappointingly the forecast weather was looking like spoiling the party.  Still, we vowed we’d make the best of it all regardless, and with Norway weather, you never know.

DAY 2 (Wednesday) – Via Svolvaer to the Red Cabin

We had a relaxing breakfast, then tidied up and started out for our main base for the week, on Vestvågøy.  It was a long and very pretty drive, initially following Tjeldfjorden for many miles.  The scenery was not at its wonderful best due to the damp, grey morning, but it was still spectacular enough for new visitors from Lincolnshire.  The miles melted away as we passed mountains and lakes, crossed bridges and escaped long tunnels, all the while following the E10 west.  With no timescale binding us, we stopped at each special tourist viewpoint in turn, where we absorbed the expansive views and fresh air and enjoyed the opportunity to stretch our legs.  We stopped in for a look at the island capital of Svolvær, but found the town itself rather uninspiring.

Lofoten - (first viewpoint)

Lofoten - (lake walk)

We found another local walk nearby that we thought might be more interesting, and after a short drive to a nearby lake, we parked up at a Red Cross Centre and walked out along a stony path to the shores of another, much larger, lake.  The route would eventually lead to a camping cabin deep in the mountains, but we would only cover a short portion of the walk to a small beach area, before turning back.  Almost the entire path was built up in timber walkways, making the going underfoot easy and the navigation trivial.  We were able to pick wild blueberries from just off the route to have as tasty snacks as we walked.  It was very pleasant to spend some time in the great outdoors.

Lofoten - (arrival at cabin)

We drove on to Vestvågøy, then turned north off the E10 and followed a small coastal road for a few miles to find our little red cabin.  Its setting was lovely with a huge mountain backdrop and the fjord waters close on the other side, with huge ranges of jagged peaks opposite.  Unfortunately, inside the cabin was quite a bit more rustic than we had hoped for, with its last interior decoration seemingly having been carried out at the turn of the previous century, certainly not this one.  The electrical circuits were all max. 10 amps, so the electric heaters had to be turned off before the kettle could be boiled, and the oven, shower or washing machine could all only be used one at a time.  We must have tripped the house around thirty times during our stay until we understood every nuance – not exactly ideal.  We made it as homely as possible with the addition of all our gear, some colourful balloons and lots of food and booze.

Lofoten - (benny and cabin)

We had a short walk along the local coast road after dinner, enjoying the continuing light evenings, to see if we could find a local beach.  We could see the stony coast of the fjord but frustratingly there was no obvious public access to it, and the fields we could cross were all fenced.  We’d been told in Norway just to make your own path, but jumping fences seemed a step to far, so we would have to find alternative places to swim, if the opportunity to arose.

DAY 3 (Thursday) – The Road to Å

We awoke after a deep, long sleep to find the morning was simply perfect; it was bright and clear, with an almost cloudless sky framing the high granite peaks set across the fjord from our cabin.  We had all agreed to undertaking a long road trip today, to the very ends of the island chain.  This would also help us get our bearings and perhaps identify any wonderful spots that we may wish to return to later in the week.  We stopped soon at a high viewpoint to take in the view, before dropping down a hill where we passed the Lofoten Viking Museum.  We were happy to note it was only 15 minutes from our cabin, as we’d definitely be returning there on a coming day.  We passed near to Leknes town but kept moving onwards, eyeing up a stop on Flakstadøya island, at Ramberg beach.  We parked in a circular car-park and walked the short path to the sands and wandered along a while, enjoying the pretty bay.

Lofoten - (A at Ramberg beach)

Lofoten - (on ramberg beach)

After such a wonderful start the weather had slowly become dull, cloudy and overcast, but the rain stayed off for our entire trip down, and with the occasional bright sunburst escaping through the clouds we were treated to glimpses of the raw beauty of the Lofoten islands.  We had short stops at several viewpoints on the quite busy route, feeling like proper sight-seeing tourists for the first time in months. We reached the beautiful fishing village of Reine and instantly recognised it as the cover photo on our Norway travel guide.  We stopped a short distance out of town for a few photos, but we were double-parked and couldn’t find anywhere else to stop to allow us to walk around the village.  With little other option we kept moving, weaving our way along the narrow coast road, passing Moskenes, to arrive at Å, the last very town on the road.

Lofoten - (Reine overview)

Lofoten - (approaching Reine)

Lofoten - (town of A)

We parked in the large car-park with many other motorhomes and decided on a cup of tea before exploring, and in the time it took to boil the rains began, heavily falling and fully dampening our determination to hike the path the ends of Moskenesøy.  Instead we had a short explore around the town before beginning our journey back along the same road, in very different weather.  The clouds had absorbed the distant mountains and encroached on the nearby fjords, giving the whole region an ethereal glow, leaving us glad we had taken the time to stop at each viewpoint on the road down.  We made it back to our red cabin and had a relaxing dinner and a few drinks over the evening, whilst watching the every-changing view and colours of the surrounding fjord and mountains from the warm safety of our living room windows.

Lofoten - (on the way home)

Lofoten - (sneaky whisky)

DAY 4 (Friday) – Henningsvaer

After a long day’s driving west to Å, we headed east this morning, only a short way along the E10 road we had arrived on before turning south to head for Henningsvær.  Almost immediately after turning of the main road we spotted a wide sandy beach, and we had to stop to appease the swimming instinct of our visiting mummy.  She had a burning desire to have a dip somewhere within the Arctic Circle, and weather be damned, here it was to be.  Mum changed within Benny and, towel in hand, walked down the beach past a group of Spanish tourists wrapped up in scarfs and gloves like it was mid-winter.  She walked into the chilly sea and swam a while, as she loves to do, and on exiting the water was greeted with a rousing and heartfelt round of applause from the Spanish onlookers.

Lofoten - (swim beach)

Lofoten - (in the water)

We continued on into the fishing village of Henningsvær, where we parked up in a very tight space and walked around the pretty town.  We continued through the harbour and out onto the stony headland behind, passing under rows of tall timber racks constructed for drying stockfish.  Cod has been dried here in a similar manner from perhaps as long as 6000 years.  Beyond them we climbed up a rippled stone hill, riven with long cracks and fissures, to reach a small view point adjacent to a tiny red and white lighthouse building.  The views out over the fjord and back to town were magical, even under the dull, dark skies we were experiencing.

Lofoten - (Henningsvær)

Lofoten - (cod drying racks)

 

Lofoten - (view behind Henningsvær)We drove back along the same road, the rain beginning to spit, in search of a short hike we could all undertake.  We found a nearby climb to a pretty lake, and despite the rain we decided to give it a go.  The start was along the main road, not ideal, but we soon turned to face the mountain, only to find a large boulder field and a difficult scramble that proved a little too much from mum. We got a short way up, enough to give great views back over the bay below, before retracing our steps back to Benny.  We decided that was sufficient exploration for one day and headed back home for a relaxing evening.

Lofoten - (hill climb)

Later this Friday night the ladies had planned a special beach trot (or tolt) on Icelandic horses under the midnight sun, but the persistent drizzly rain and, more pertinently, high cross winds, led to the ride being cancelled.  We waited each subsequent night to see if it would be rescheduled, finding out only a few hours before if it was to be on or not, but unfortunately it was cancelled again and again.  This could have been a real highlight of the trip had the weather been kind, but unfortunately it was not to be.

To be continued – part 2 to follow.