diary [sweden cycling tour august 2010]


armed with maps and as much camping gear that could be attached to our bikes, we cycled out of copenhagen and pointed our handle bars towards oslo drammen.

03.08.2010

by now the light is fading to a greyish pink. it's quite the pretty dullness. and there's just a little more light before bed. a short time for notes.



although, we were thinking maybe we should just forget about today. forget me cutting my thumbnail in two, and then burning the other finger on the hot pipe in the toilet. about the three inner tubes we've been through. countless punctures and repairs, one of which cost us 190SEK, because i couldn't face taking the tyre off one more time. and this young guy, he made it look so fucking easy with his cheap tyre levers. not that his repair even lasted 20km up the road before the tube punctured again. we patched it up on the roadside. but not even 2km further down the road it was flat again. like a fucking curse. like the whole wheel has to go.

we walked the last few kilometres to the campsite along a highway. but hey, we got here. exhausted and needing carbohydrates. super noodles. the fucking wheel can wait til morning light. i can patch it again, or walk it into town, whatever. right now i don't want to speculate.

anyway. our journey took us about 45km north of copenhagen to helinsgør (first puncture), where we caught the ferry across to helsingborg in sweden (another puncture). we then cycled about 30km over to ängelholm, where i'm currently sitting enjoying the sunset. and i burnt myself in the shower again.

route for day 1



04.08.2010

this is my favourite place in the world right now. at least in sweden. out spot in the little skoven. i've never been happier to see a campsite.



and we worked for it today. first thing in the morning i patched up all my inner tubes and we cycled into ängelholm to the friendliest bike shop we could have hoped for. we bought a new rim sheath, a new tube, and a new tyre. this all for 190SEK, and they even put it all together for us, since we were obviously having such bad luck. they even sent us in the wrong direction for the konditori, which meant that i ended up eating jacket potato with chilli and cheese for second breakfast. it was about as perfect a meal i could have eaten to prepare me for the hill we had to cross to reach båstad, where we took our main lunch. bread, cheese, tomato, and chocolate milk. the coastal route is very pretty, zig-zagging between the beaches and the forest, but crossing inland was brutal. the rest of the day is a blur. i complain a lot. but it is hard going and we're going far. past so many summer houses and mini-golf courses, punctuated by pine tree forests, so straight and tall. and now, on the other side of halmstad, all around is a minefield of pinecones. the taste of dinner still lingering, more noodles (just like when were cycling in the black forest, except i didn't burn them to the bottom of the pan like my dad did), this time with baked beans and mushrooms. a luxury and i love our ethanol camping stove. now we play some cribbage.

route for day 2



05.08.2010

i'm starting to like sweden a lot. providing the weather holds out the night. all nice countryside, nice people, nice supermarkets full of wonderful vege products. and today we came far. we had a good wind behind us on all the right roads. perfect conditions despite the small shower and the odd heatwave. in top gear most of the day. we're warmed up and can keep up the pace. the good sleep helped too. we we're up at eight, but it felt early since noone else had risen.



we were on the road within the hour. we stopped at the first supermarket we found for pastries and bananas. essentials. we kept going all the way to falkenberg where we had lunch looking down over a huge river.



we stopped for an icecream on the beach just outside varberg, then had a walk around the town. tourist info for campsites, the supermarket for dinner. it's a pretty tourist town, with a huge fort and an abnormal number of flashy old american cars.

we cycled another maybe 10km north and that's where we are now. the evening sun in a strip of blue sky. a huge meadow all to ourselves. more like a football pitch.



it's the priciest campsite we've stayed at, and also the worst. they have mini-golf and a pizzeria. all these families in their caravans with nothing to do. the shower is 1kr a minute. but i'm all happy. struggling to recount the day because whilst cycling i completely lose track of time. putting places into order is difficult, even tying locations to days is hard. what i mostly remember are the places i recognise from family cycling trips when i was young. entering a certain forest. a particular downhill. a curving road. cycle paths along potato fields. all these different countries mirrored. also the smells have been great today. someone baking chocolate muffins, a wheat field, the malty arla factory. the smells almost make up for all the ants, them hyped out on so many the discarded snus bags.

dinner tonight is noodles (still popular) with chickpeas and kidney beans with mushrooms and seeds in a pasta sauce. tomorrow we're buying hotdogs for sure.

route for day 3



06.08.2010

so today is my birthday. it has also been our rainy day. it was a test and we excelled.

as usual we were up before everyone else and on the road. then the rain started. this menacing sky bisected by powerlines, carving it up into a heavenly barcode. all too big. huge above the wheat field we're trying to get across so fast. and that's where we met the cat, all of a sudden out of nowhere curling itself around my calves as i'm trying to sort out my raincoat. a fat ball of persitent furryness. then it really rained. no similie required. cold and hard and we just rode through it. like brave idiots, passing the people sheltering in the bus stop we wanted to shelter in. all this water totally counts as my birthday swim. wet and not quite too cold, we bolted the 18km to kungsbacka, beating everyone else and treating ourselves to a 50cm wide pizza. the largeness was required so that we'd dry whilst eating it. then we had tea and hot chocolate and my birthday cake, a beautiful pink and green pistachio halfmoon, before the other cyclists arrived in town looking far too dry.

the weather had eased up and we cycled on to göteborg. the clouds spread and the sky blasted brilliant hot sunshine onto us. speeding along the coast, sweating the glacial rocks. the return of the mini-golf. impressive geography. göteborg was a blur as we whizzed through. one of these days i'll return to see more of its cobbles. we were burning up that pizza, worth every ore of the 140SEK. we'd been recommended a campsite 20km past göteborg and we were on a mission. it was 6pm and our route was becoming ever more poorly signposted. whenever we find the next sign it's a comforting relief that we are still on track. but these days the signs are mostly recognizable as a white square, the blue all worn or peeled away.

the sun is getting lower and we're cycling past endless megastores along the highway, our path disappearing into the vanishing point. but at least i'm not longer imagining a rope tied between me and the car infront. i'm not longer wishing i was on the bus. we're spinning along and it feels great. we're racing the setting sun and we beat it to kungälv. we're camping beneath the castle. besides the river, so wide and reflecting the sunset. ducks quack. and apparently now i've put the damp sleeping bags the wrong way around and julie officially hates this tent.



route for day 4



07.08.2010

this has been our up and down day. so many hills. they're exhausting but we managed. it was a damp start. woken by a flock of geese flying low across the block of grey sky visible through the gap in our unzipped tent door. everything damp. i shouldn't have gone back to sleep, dreaming lonely dreams. and then we set off in the wrong direction. the correct way was even more tiresome. a boring road with weird people. we were almost overtaken by a jogger.

we took a quick detour into the small town of diserod to collect food before the long stretch before the next town. welcome to redneck sweden. the supermarket is a barely done up old garage. concrete walls, all grey and dark with bad fluorescent lighting. cheap clothes for sale, barely any food stocked on the shelves. but sustenance enough to prepare us for the forest route up through svartedalen. many times we think we're lost but we're not. cautiously taking the downhills, wary incase we have to cycle back up them.

we bought lunch in a mall in stenungsund before crossing the awesome (and very high) bridges over to the islands where we are now.



a place called stocken near ellos. it was far but we got here early, and i'm so very glad for that. it's time to relax. this is another family campsite but it's much more to our tastes. rocks and a tree to hide our tent. a much needed washing machine and a useless dryer. i am wiped out but happy. surrounded by french people and i'm sitting here in my trunks because everything else is being washed. i had a great shower. the head wouldn't sit in its holder the stream was so strong. dancing to tainted love.

it's interesting watching the geography change as we head north. the coast becomes more erratic, breaks down. the roads curl more, around lakes and enormous rocks carved out by so many millenia of ice. but we've still have lots of fast roads, traffic at 90km trying to be as polite as possible. we saw a dead ferret. yesterday we saw a dead badger. fresh and unlifelike. so much roadkill.

i haven't looked at a clock since before lunch. we're going by the sun. watching it set from atop a rock. it's fairly crap as sunsets go, but watching with all these other people somehow transforms it into an event. a special shared experience. as if. there'll be no rain tonight. and somehow we will dry our clothes. always the same problem. drying. not a problem that can be solved with candy. everyone here smells like mosquito spray. i hate the stuff, but now i have to suffer four bites instead. brushing my teeth to martin luther king. radios in the bathroom, strangest thing.

route for day 5



08.08.2010

sweden is not flat. it is not denmark. these fucking hills, all scarred by wavey tire tracks. the marks of bored youths, circle drifts at every other junction. and the islands are the worst, for the number of hills and the number of bored kids trying to destroy their parents vehicles. a sentence which would make a good seque, but it'll have to act as foreshadowing instead.

we had a hard start in the morning. going slow. then the raindrops started. no rain, but just drops. enough to kill the joy and drag out the hours.



we thought we could make it to lyskil for our morning snack break, but that turned into lunch. we didn't even have cash to pay for the ferry from fiskebäckskil (all narrow cobbled streets and tiny dense white houses piled up on each other like they always in in fishing towns), we had to rush to the bank when we docked. then it was straight for shelter and pasta.

words that have been going around in my head - idyllic, ambitious, encouragement, discouraging. they go in a cycle but not in that order.

i can smell a dead thing. i don't think we like this campsite. but that's just our mood. unrelated to its actually quality i mean. of the campsite. two seagulls just swooped me.



so after the pasta and three toilet trips we were on our way and making up ground, getting inventive with the route, picking fast routes and avoiding those 10km detours. i like the main roads. we go fast and i can zone out. not in the sense of having no concentration, quite the opposite. my brain is focused on one thing. like being a machine. blah blah.

then we decide on another shortcut and halfway up the hill, me pushing my gears a little too hard because (i should never admit this) my front middle gear is completely worn down (not my fault), the derailer makes a horrific sound, like jamming a fork through a kneecap. crunch snap. it flips around and jams itself in my spokes, pulled up and pointing towards the sky. fuck. fuck fuck. and just like that the whole trip is fucked.

i manage to fix it, but on the next hill (me being nice to my gears) it happens again. worse. the metal where the derailer attaches to the frame is bent way out of line. the chain wont catch on anything. it's limp and sorry looking. gashes over everything. i'm out of my depth, but i know enough to know it's totally done for. in the middle of nowhere with 18km to go before the next campsite. 20km hadn't seemed very far ten minutes ago.

i tighten it up somehow and i'm able to freewheel down to the next small town where we find a bus stop. it's a sunday and the buses are every two hours, but we're in luck and one is due in ten minutes. just enough time to clean all the dirt and grease off my hands using suncream (pro-tip). the driver lets us on with our bikes (stowed underneath) and starts driving us to hunnebostrand. halfway there a local starts asking us what the problem is and the driver joins in too. it turns out he owned a bicycle repair shop for 12 years. and at our stop he jumps off with us and starts fiddling with the bike, pulling it around, bending stuff. "try that" he tells me after 30 seconds. i hadn't even got the bike off the bus properly. he only went and fixed it. i'd had the whole trip written off as hopeless, that someone can come and rescue us in a car. but now the bike seems ok. i'm being very careful with it.

i still feel shitty though. i've been relying on the victorious arrivals at our optimistically chosen campsites. but tonight was disheartening. we may have a purple bruise sky, but we're over 30km from where we wanted to reach today, driven back in the wrong direction. it's hard to be positive. when i arrived i was so bummed out that i forgot to take my towel with me into the shower. and i was looking down at my calves thinking wow my muscles have grown. but it's just the mosquito bites. trying to stretch my back out. it's like being at the gym eight hours every day.

the sky is getting lighter as the sun sets behind the big rock. it must look amazing from the harbour. and it's raining too. just to rub it in. sheltering in the open kitchen area. even lighter still. "it looks like a really bad painting".



i've had 9 red songs in my head all day, various songs. also a muse song. ella ella ella hey. wish you were here.

route for day 6



09.08.2010

after yesterday's setback we had big plans. we needed to get far to regain a feeling of success. to boost morale. also, there is a massive stretch of country where there are no campsites. so we decided to go for it and push ourselves. also this meant we'd been in norway the next day, and i knew that would make me happy. so all things considered it's somewhat of a surprise to find ourselves here already. norway. norgay, gayway, gaygay, whatever they call it down south.

the morning went really well. good weather and not too hilly. without gears the hills are a strain. but we got blue skies (plural). any ominous grey clouds pass harmlessly besides us. the strong winds are a mixed blessing. and i suppose they're not that strong anyway. so we made it to our optimistic lunch town earlier than our average lunch time (we'd already had a pre-lunch in the forest just outside fjällbacka, watching a grub hang ten metres down from the pine tree above us).



more bread and cheese and we met a sociable german guy and two unsociable german girls. the guy we met again in lur and ended up travelling with him all the way to norway.

we arrived into strömstad at 4:30pm. our initial plan was to camp there and catch the ferry in the morning to the island of hvaler, however the first one left at 1pm and we'd lose half the day. instead we raced back to the dock and caught the 5pm ferry to sandefjord, arriving in norway at 7:30pm. the tourist office was shut and all the campsites were terribly marked on the map, but we managed to find this nice lowkey place a couple of kilometres down the east fjord. it charges 10kr for five minutes of hot water. in both the shower and the kitchen. but whatever. i soaked a fat cricket whilst washing. he didn't seem to mind much.



the bikes are holding up. there's nothing better than clunking down into top gear and pounding downhill, but right now i'm almost scared of my gears. then julie's luggage rack came loose, but it was only the screw and not another welding. she's been riding with a luggage strap holding the whole thing together. in retrospect it probably broke when emil rode on the back, but it's better off being over cautious. i was happy because i got to use my magic tool.

so now falling asleep to the sound of the waves and the crickets. boys shouting to their dog.

route for day 7



10.08.2010

and finally to oslo. or near enough. we only cheated a little. day eight and we have arrived. the song i've had in my head for the last few days, the one i couldn't work out. it was the french eurovision entry for 2007. nevermind. but that was important to know. i'd spent hours trying to work it out, trying to not have the melody lead me into that annoying blink 182 song.

of course we were up early and made our way straight to the tourist info. we've completely changed our route and needed a map with cycle routes on. they gave us enough to get started with. so we were fast out of sandefjord and decided to take the short route to tønsberg. we saved over 10km by taking the pedestrian ferry across the islands and to nøtterøy. even though we had to wait an hour for it, staring into the water at the schools of fish around the dock, occasionaly one jumping out into the air. one of the locals lent us 200kr for the ferry, giving us his account number to transfer the money later. lovely people.



tønsberg went by fast. relentlessly uphill. we stopped for lunch in skoppum. all these weird tiny towns. then continued so slow it was painful until we hit holmestrand. this town on the coast, it looks like a run down american factory town. complete but for the tumbleweed. black clouds were coming over the rock face that towers over the town. we used the threat of rain as an excuse to stop for tea. really i just needed a longer break. it worked too. we zoomed past sande, following the coast north, wedged between the water and the overhanging cliff. these paths all sparkling in the sun. full of stars. diamonds. whatever it is they pave the streets with in norway. oil money.

by then it was 5pm and we were done with the main road. we were on our last downhill, all the way into drammen. it's 40km short of olso. near enough. so julie's mum picks us up in the car. it's success enough for me. north enough. the option to sleep in a bed is all too strong. although i'd do almost anything to put off checking my emails. anything but cycle up another hill with only the top four gears. climb any more stairs.

it's funny, the days felt so long. we'd been on the road forever. but now it seems like no time at all. the road warps time. the rhythm conducive to memory loss. just you and your wheels and the snippets of lyrics from the songs fighting to occupy the empty void.

but now bed.

route for day 8





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