NORDEN 1996 - CHAPTER 3 - Shivering in Sweden

Wed-26-Jun. Skäralid-Laholm [88km 308m climb]

I am camping in a beech forest on Söderåsen near Ljungbyhed. The weather in my first 2 weeks had been fairly nice. There had been a few cool days but only a little rain. There had been a thunderstorm yesterday afternoon but after it passed it was a nice sunny, summer evening. I was looking forward to nice summer weather as I rode through southern Sweden, there are many lakes for swimming.

Where did the sunshine go? It was cool and cloudy but I thought it might be just morning fog. After cooking breakfast in a picnic area, I rode to Ljungbyhed and went to a bookstore to look for some maps. I spent too much time browsing but I did find a "Red Map" 250000 scale, 25m contours. This series is probably the best for cycling, although there are often new highways not on them and the road numbers have changed.

Most of the day was through woods passing the towns of Klippan and Örkelljunga. I finally found out that "ljung"(Sw.) = "lyng"(Nor./Dan.) = "ling"(Engl.) , ie. "heather". "Hede" is a heath where heather grows.

It remained cool and cloudy but I could see clear skies far to the west so my route swung towards the sunshine which kept getting further away.

West of Hishult there were open fields. Finally, in late afternoon, the sun came out but it didn't get very warm. I was heading west towards Laholm but at Ysby I turned north then got on a little road down to the river Lagan where I crossed a power dam at Karsefors. I saw the cycle route signs for Cykelspåret. The dam is ornamented in a neo-classical style, looking like some medieval castle. A quiet road goes along the canal and then a lane goes down to the power house which is also classical architecture. This was one of the oldest hydro stations in Southern Sweden.

I got to the nice town of Laholm in late afternoon. Although it was early, I decided to stop for the day and went to the hostel. Sweden has a large hostel (vandrarhem) system, about 300 in the country. Often one can get cycle touring info at them. I got a free booklet on the cycle routes of Halland province. The 2 main routes are Ginsteleden and Cykelspåret. I had ridden over most of Ginsteleden 2 years ago, along the coast. That would be the quickest way north. But I wanted to head inland and see some new territory.

Thurs-27-Jun. Laholm-Segerstad [102km 552m]

It was cloudy and cool (15 C) again. I won't have a sunny warm day for 2 weeks! I headed north to Veinge, then north-east to Mästocka Hede. It's a rough treeless area looking like the vidda of Norway, although it is only about 120 m elevation. It was foggy so I didn't see much.

For most of the day it was mostly woods with a few small farms and little towns like Vrå, Lidhult and Unnaryd. It was cloudy, cool with some drizzle but at least I had a slight tailwind. It felt like I must be far north by now. When I unfolded the map I saw that I was still far in the south of Sweden, this is a long country!

On many of these back roads there are still the old stone "mile-posts" from the 1700s. Historically the Swedish "mil" was about 10.6 km, while the Norwegian mil was 11.2 km (things are bigger in Norway!). But now the mil in both countries has been rounded off to 10 km.

South of Reftele I turned off on a gravel side road towards Segerstad in the hope that there was a hostel there. The woods open up into big farms.

The hostel is in a big agriculture college. The students have left for the summer, so the residences are empty. I get a big room, luxury for less than 100 Kr. There are only a few other people here. There is a huge kitchen. Outside there is a wildplant garden, with samples of the native plants. They are labeled with Swedish names, but also the "Linnaean" names. Linnaeus (Von Linne) lived only a few Swedish miles from here.

Fri-28-Jun. Segerstad-Borås. [134km 828m]

I left at 0900 and headed north to Gislaved. There were cycle paths near town and I saw the green Sverigeleden signs but I lost them somewhere so I chose my own route past Våhult to Sjötofta. It was cool, and mostly cloudy.

Past Sjötofta I was riding beside an old railroad track. I heard the clickity-clack of a train but no sound of engines, just the sound of children laughing. Out of the bushes came two rail-bikes (dressin). These were used by Swedish track workers until fairly recently. I went to the station in the next village, Ambjörnarp, but didn't see any sign of railbikes. I could see that the tracks were quite overgrown. I will see more of these in a few days.

At Svenljunga I followed the red Väst Götaland Leden cycle route signs for a while then took a nice back road at Snårsbo. Then it was north on a paved road towards Borås. The old road into the south side of town is a cycle path. Borås is a medium size city with lots of cycle paths but the names on the signs are for city districts which I didn't know. I tried to stay on the ones marked "sentrum". I stopped for a late second lunch in a square by a canal. They were setting up the Nordic Jazz Festival tents on an island in the park.

How to get out of town? I found a cycle path along Rv 180. The cycle path ends about 5 km from town. I decided to take back roads to Alingsås. I turned off on a paved road to Bredared, then a road to the northeast on a road that turns to gravel and goes through forest.

I had supper beside a lake near Bastås but there wasn't a good spot for my tent here. But then I found a woods road which led back down to the lake.

Sat-29-Jun. Borås-Roshult. [124km 652m]

I had breakfast on a flat rock at the waters edge. Too bad it was cold and cloudy. I had looked forward to sunny warm days in Sweden, swimming in lakes. Maybe it will warm up soon?

Then its down some nice gravel and paved roads to E20 (formerly E3) near Alingsås where I cycling path went into the town. I did have a good topo map (50000 scale) with cycling routes in Alingsås and Lerum Kommun from 2 years ago but I left that at home! I had a Red 250000 topo map but it didn't show roads in towns.

A Swedish guy saw my bike and said he was planning a big tour. He told me where the nearest cycle shop was. I bought some spare break pads. Riding on wet, sandy roads has worn down my brake pads. I also must have picked up some glass slivers on the street too!

I want to go to Hålanda. I wish I had brought that good map! The road numbers seem to have changed since this Red Map was printed. Finally I found the road (Rv 180 ??) going west and came to a junction (Rv 190?) near Anten. Now I had a flat tire in the rear. I found a sliver of yellow glass. I had an extra inner tube. By Anten church I turned off a paved road , then another turn on a gravel road. The Red Map shows a thin red line winding through the hills I find a road which I hope is the right one. It goes up through woods and hills and twists and turns but generally heads north-west. Downhill out of the woods I join a paved road just out side of Hålanda. Here there is a junction of 2 branches of the Sverigeleden cycle route. I was at this corner 2 years ago.

So I follow the green cycle signs on a nice narrow paved road over to Lilla Edet (is there a Stora Edet?) where I cross the Göta canal on a footbridge at the locks. I have lunch and watch the locks in operation. Fairly large ships use this section of the canal.

I am ready to leave but now my front tire is flat! I found another sliver of yellow glass, I probably picked it up in the same place. It is very uncommon to find broken glass or any roadside litter in Norden. I had to patch both tubes, since I already had used my spare.

Now there was some cool rain. When I was here 2 years ago it was very hot. The rain stopped as I headed along the canal towards Trollhattan. I found out that there was a Stora Edet at Trollhattan.

I have reached the edge of my Swedish maps. This area is on my map of Southern Norway but it is missing some detail in Sweden. The green Sverigeleden signs lead me past Trollhattan towards Vänersborg. A bike path takes me to Öxnered. I cooked supper in a picnic park. Then got on the red marked Dalslandleden cycle route. A new bypass for Rv 45 confuses the route here. I was heading west instead of north. Later, when I got a good map of Dalsland I discovered that I could have taken a bike path to Sverigeleden and then north along Vänern. But at lake Hästefjord the route swung to the north, then I turned off west towards Rv 45. I found a woods to camp in near Roshult.

Sun-30-Jun. Roshult-Bengtfors. [99km 480m]

It was rather foggy in the early morning as I rode along Rv 45 To Frändefors, then turned east towards Timmervik. I wasted a bit of time trying to get down to the lake and find a nice spot for breakfast. Finally I just stopped by church and cooked breakfast. There were a few sunny breaks, maybe summer is here?

Just after breakfast I found a much nicer spot in a picnic grounds at the beach at Sikhall. This is Vänern, the largest lake in Norden. There was a German cyclist drying off his tent after a wet night.

I'm now following the green signs for Sverigeleden, then the red signs of Dalslandsleden. This area is flat farmlands like Denmark and an easy ride up to Mellerud on nice narrow paved roads with little traffic.

I had a lunch in the market square in Mellerud. Then I headed out on busy Rv 45, but it has either bike paths or shoulder. Later I found that the cycle route goes out of town on Rt 166. Then I turned west on a side road. There was a sign warning of 20 % grade hills!

I got back on the cycle route which turns off to Upperud. There I stopped in to the Dalsland Museum and got a tourist brochure which had a map with the cycle routes. I had this 2 years ago but last it.

I had a second lunch by a lock on the Dalsland canal. Several pleasure boats and several canoes went through the locks. Canoeing is quite popular in Dalsland, 11% of the province is covered by lakes.

There are some steep but short hills, Maybe these were the 20% grades that the signs warned about, but they didn't seem that steep. Maybe I'm in such great shape that I don't notice steep hills! Dalsland has some of the greatest variety of geography in Norden. The farmlands by Vänern look like Denmark and the hills, forests and dales look like Norway. It could be called the Lake District of Sweden. It is a nice place to cycle-tour. I wish it was sunny and warm so I could enjoy the many lakes. Two years ago I did have some hot weather.

Dalslandleden continues through some hills to Dals Långed. Then there is a cycle path To Bellingfors. In this town the cycle route signs go up a very steep hill, along a side street, then steeply down again. Maybe it was for the view of the lake? Then there is a very pleasant 6km on an old rail-line right along the edge of the lake. There are several canoes and kayaks on the water.

In Bengtfors I found the tourist bureau still open. I bought a good cycle route map of Dalsland- now that I am about to leave the province! There was also a place selling strawberries!

The hostel is up on a hill in old farming village museum "Gammelgården". There are samples of the common building types, including the STABBUR, storehouses on pillars, which I had seen in Telemark. There is a maypole, which was put up for last weeks midsummer festival.

Fortunately I put my bicycle in the storage shed before having supper. It rained hard for an hour. There was more rain during the night. Maybe when it rains hard, it means that the cloudy weather is ending and it will be sunny and warm tomorrow? No such luck!

This was quite a day. This morning it looked like Denmark and it looks like Norway here.

Mon-1-Jul. Bengtfors,S -Skotterud,N. [131km 940m]

Today I put up a Canadian flag on a pole on my rear rack.

I went down to the railway station on the DVVJ: Dal-Vestra Vermlands Jernveg or De Vackra Vyernas Jernveg. They rent rail-bikes (dressin), both single and tandem, for the 52 km rail-line to Årjäng. I hoped that I could put my bike and luggage on a dressin and ride the rails but it wouldn't fit. There were many people starting out on a rail ride. I went on Rv 172 which was close to the railline in many places so I got to see them in action. Since it is a single track, when two dressins meet, one will have to be lifted off the track. I didn't see how they did this. Those things are quite heavy. Until at least the 1950s these were used by track workers and inspectors all over Sweden and Norway.

I followed Rv 172. It was cloudy and cool, temperature less than 15 C. I stopped for lunch along a lake. Any brief sunshine was a rare treat. It was hard to believe that only 2 weeks ago in Telemark it was so hot I would have to sit in the shade during rest stops. Some children came down to the beach, jumped into the water, but got out fast. They must think it's July. Oh, it is!

After Årjäng Rv 172 continues through a flat dale with farmlands. Just before Koppom I turned west on a paved back road and then head north through another dale. Although the hills aren't as high it looks a lot like dales in Telemark.

At Skillingsfors I went to the churchyard to get some water but there was a sign "Inte Drick Vatten". The road of the east side of lake Askessjö was gravel for a while. Then I approached the border of Norway.

Sweden joined the EU last year, and Norway didn't but that didn't change the border conditions. It was almost as inconspicuous as my first crossing 2 years ago. There is a sign "Norge" this time. The highway signs are a different colour. I didn't say goodbye to Sweden, because I planned to ride through the Finnskogen area and cross the border several times in the next few days.

The water at the Vestmarka churchyard was drinkable. I stopped for supper at a picnic area on Rv 21. There were a few dark clouds around but I hoped they would go away. It started to rain, hard. I waited for a few hours. It continued to rain. This is a bad omen for the next week.

Finally I left in the rain to Skotterud. Maybe there would be a motel there. There wasn't. I crossed Rv 2 and headed on a side road towards Nes. I put up my tent in the wet woods in the rain. I was not a happy camper but my tent didn't leak.

Tues-2-Jul. Skotterud-Hamar. [152km 612m]

It was still raining in the morning, but I took down my tent in a brief lull. My plan had been to head east to Rv 202 then north towards Finnskogen, but I decided to head north to Kongsvinger. I went on a back road on the east side of Rv 2. I didn't stop for breakfast until I got to Kongsvinger. The rain stopped so I cooked breakfast outside in a picnic table.

I didn't cross the river to the sentrum, I stayed on the east side and could see the fortress on a hill on the other side. I followed Rv 20, partly on cycle paths to Roverud. Here I decided not to go to Finnskogen. The cycling book (SYKKEL FERIE I NORGE) had a tour there that sounded interesting. However, some of the roads were gravel and after the heavy rain it would be muddy. I didn't want to spend another wet night either. Another place I'll have to come back for! So I got on a side road before Brandval. There I crossed the river and headed north on Rv 210.

This is the Glomma or Glåma, the longest river in Norway. It flows through Österdalen, the longest dale in Norway, which extends almost to Trondheim. Here the dale bottom is very flat. The cycling book describes this whole 100 km section in one sentence implying that it is flat, straight and boring. What would they think of Denmark?!

However there was no traffic, I had a tailwind and it wasn't raining so I didn't complain. There are some sights to see. I stopped by a waterfowl viewing area and saw flocks of swans. The sun came out for about 15 minutes. It was long enough to hang my tent out in a picnic area to dry. It felt much lighter after that. All of the towns are on the other side of the river but I did find one grocery store.

Near Heradsbygd the Capellen highway map shows 3 woodsroads (bomveg) going over the hills to the west. I wanted the middle one which would be a short cut to Hamar, but there were other unmarked lanes in the area. So I wasn't sure which one was right. There was am unmanned toll gate with a few signs but the place names on the signs didn't match my map so I gave up this plan.

I had been in Elverum 2 years ago so Now I followed the same road to Hamar. The is heavy traffic on Rv 3 but there are cycle paths on some sections. There were dark rain clouds heading for me so I rode as fast as possible to get away from them. Near Löten I turned off on Rv 25 which has lighter traffic. Then there is a cycle path for about the last 10 km to Hamar. To the north I can see the Vangåsen hills and ahead I see the waters of Mjösa. There were patches of blue in the sky so I had escaped the rain, this time.

I'm heading for the hostel and it is easy to find since it is next to the huge "Vikingskip" arena (1994 Olympic speed skating). The time is 1930, I hope I'm not too late. The hostel manager, Liv, recognises me from my visits in March 1995 and 1996. I get a room to myself. The bad news is that there is more rain forecast. At least I will have at least one dry night. So after the appetizers (forretter) I start to plan the main course of my trip. Maybe I'll get some sunny, warm weather.

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