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  • Jamie Shannon

Through Sweden. Freezing nights

Cycle touring through Sweden - part 2

I set off bright and early the following morning as I knew I had a mammoth day ahead of me. I at least wanted to make it past Norrkoping and this meant cycling another one hundred km’s.

I took the main highway all the way to Mjolby which meant smooth wide roads and yet, oddly enough, hardly any traffic at all which was great. A short look around the town produced no signs of anywhere where I could hook up to the internet. It just seemed desolate but I suppose it was still only eight in the morning.

I took some smaller roads that now ran directly east out of Mjolby and was simply flying along and making great progress. The sun was finally shining again and it was even hot enough to enable me to dry my clothes too. I thought this was strange as I expected it to be colder the further north I went but I was not going to complain.

When I at last came into the town of Linkoping, I accidentally took a wrong turn and ended up on the motorway. Not the first time it has happened and it certainly won’t be the last I’m sure. Back on the bicycle path and a lady pointed out that there was a McDonald's just down the road which is where I went next. They are brilliant really. For the price of a cup of coffee, I’m able to use the internet and charge all of my electronics, enough to last me four or five days. I’m sure it won’t always be this easy though.

I made my way out of Linkoping but took a little diversion as I saw there was a Lidl located just south of the city. An extra five km’s is definitely worth it for the prices they charge when compared to the average Swedish supermarket. I just could not go on paying nearly two euro’s for a simple baguette.

Once again, I became a little direction-ally challenged when I tried to leave Linkoping. I became hopelessly lost in the outer suburbs of the city and must have spent a good half an hour cycling through street after street that looked exactly the same; there just didn’t seem to be any roads leading out towards the main highway or if there was, I certainly couldn’t find them.

After a little light screaming and a bit of a tantrum, I finally found a road heading in more or less the direction I wanted to take and, with some relief, was finally on my way again.

I spent the remainder of the afternoon just pushing on east with the hope of making up as much ground as possible. Along the highway, I encountered a van that would stop just ahead of me to do some repairs along the road and which would cause me to take the inner road in order to avoid them. This happened four times and on the last time I stopped to ask what they were doing as they were continually pouring water on the road whenever they stopped. Turns out that they were just checking for cracks. I guess when the climate is so varied, this needs to be done. I couldn’t imagine how it must be in the winter.

It was becoming a little more difficult to camp the further north I went as the ground, that at first appeared green and pleasant, was actually made up solely of rocks thus it was not conducive to the plight of my tent pegs. With a little searching though, a spot could always be found.

Another freezing night and another freezing morning followed. This was getting tiresome. I knew though that I had only one nights camping left for a good while after this evening and this did kind of keep me going. I had now booked a hostel for Stockholm back in Linkoping and with the following night being spent aboard a warm ship I was more than happy to accept this.

I had a nice new system now whereby I would leave my stove burning after having boiled my coffee in order to kind of flash dry my gloves from the inside out. This worked particularly well but my feet were always cold for some reason. Perhaps it's bad circulation but it’s definitely something I need to take care of.

It turned out to be a beautiful morning to be riding the bike; the hills were the kind that rolled, the wind was almost non-existent and although I was still pretty cold, at least the sun was now shining and for that I’m always grateful.

I entered the small town of Ostra Husby at around nine, stocked up on some water and took the road north towards where the small ferry departed across the strait.

When I first started travelling by bicycle way back when I was in New Zealand, the mere thought of doing 30 km’s by nine am would have frightened the life out of me but as time moves on and, even with all the gear I’m carrying, it just get’s easier and easier. It’s really not so difficult you know.

Having caught the ferry across the strait, I was immediately presented with a one km climb. It was time to put the bike in its lowest gear and spin, spin, spin. It’s the only way if you want the use of your knees for the remainder of your life.

I was enjoying cycling along so much, through densely wooded forest whilst listening to music, that I actually missed the turn off for the road I wanted to take. This route curved and swung its way through the forest in a way that, from previous experience, usually suggested steep hills. I was a little surprised however to find none and very happy I had taken it. It was indeed very picturesque and in fact was mostly downhill too.

I entered Nykoping a little later on and stopped off at a gas station for some fuel. I still couldn’t quite believe that I had travelled for five months last summer using only my other stove that ran on gas canisters. This one is so much easier to travel with and so long as you use the cleanest petrol, really doesn’t make your pots black at all. And at less than one euro to fill the bottle up, you can’t really go wrong.

I cycled on out of Nykoping but after two km’s realised that I wasn’t wearing any gloves. Doh! I had already lost two pairs since last summer and I wasn’t going to increase that number to a third.

Back I went. I found them after a little search around the gas station, just outside it and along the cycle path. With that done, I began my journey north east again. Oh how I hate cycling the exact same road twice.

Having left Nykoping (again), I had intended to take a road that led yet still north east but was somewhat obscured on my map beneath a motorway and yet I knew it was there.

I thus came to a point where I didn’t quite know which way to turn. If I chose incorrectly, I might add on an extra 15 km’s to my journey; something that I wasn’t prepared to do at this point in the day. I did indeed take the wrong road though. Now I was travelling south before I would turn north again after 5 km’s. I was now against the wind and it was pissing down with rain. I was furious with myself and yet I carried on as I at least knew this road did eventually lead to the town on my map I was aiming for. At least I got to see a little more of Sweden and I guess that’s why I’m here.

A little later, I spotted an area of land slightly hidden from the road and more importantly, not covered in forest. This was especially important to me as it meant I could erect my tent facing east and thus ensure I would get some warmth from the sun in the morning.

The next morning was surely the coldest I have ever experienced whilst sleeping outside. I really didn’t want to leave the relative comfort of my tent.

I spent the next five hours cycling north towards my destination and by midday I had arrived in Varsta and was mightily pleased with myself. I couldn’t believe it was possible for me to make 70 km’s before midday and yet here I was. Amazing. I still had thirty km’s before I reached Stockholm though. This would of course turn out to be the hardest thirty km’s of the day. Welcome to the big city. Will I ever learn? Probably not.

The only thing I had to do was to stay on the 226 which would, should take me directly into central Stockholm and yet this wasn’t to be the case. The traffic was just too intense, the noise too loud and the road signs not clear enough particularly with all that was going on around me. Add into the mix, the fact that it was pouring down with rain and the road I was on seemed like a motorway and I can kind of forgive myself that I was slightly dazed and confused.

I took the wrong road but didn’t realise it until sometime later. With no detailed map of the metropolitan area, I didn’t know which district to head to next and every person I asked seemed only to point me in the direction of the motorway. I asked one guy and he just kept talking to me in Arabic. I mean what are the chances of an English guy like me understanding Arabic. I kept telling him I didn’t understand and yet on and on he went. In the end I just cycled off. I think he was a little crazy to be honest.

I was becoming more and more agitated by this point. I just wanted to get to my hostel now. I hadn’t showered properly in a week, was sweaty beyond belief, caked in mud and soaking from the rain. Above all else I was just shattered.

I took some time out under the motorway in order to gather my thoughts before setting off again. Two men told me that if I crossed a nearby bridge and followed the sound of the motorway, then I would eventually be led into Stockholm. Well this is what I did and sure enough, I found some bicycle signs that directed me towards the centre. At last.

After seven days of cycling through Sweden, I arrived in Stockholm

I followed the signs but it turned out these led only to the outskirts which was a bit of a pain. On the plus side, it had stopped raining now and I came across a Lidl where I procured some tasty beers and snacks.

I sat in a park and drank a f beer, satisfied that I was at least closing in on my objective. Some time later, and with the help of a few locals, I was at last crossing a bridge into central Stockholm. I could see the church spires and old buildings that dotted the waterfront and the many islands that make up this beautiful city and I was ecstatic at having finally, finally made it. It did indeed feel wonderful. 750 km's in seven days and still only fifty euro's spent and in a country like Sweden too.

I knew that my days cycling and camping were now behind me, for a while at least. Before me, lay a wonderful new city to explore, an overnight crossing to Estonia to enjoy and a beautiful lady waiting armed with a handful of razors and a bottle of Crafter's Gin.

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