Hobbit Hut

Day 49: June 6th, Gothenburg, Sweden to Brønden, Denmark

We got up very early, giving ourselves plenty of time to ride to the ferry dock. That didn’t stop me from freaking out when we hit construction and got turned around. We made it with 17 minutes to spare, and boarded with about eight other cycle tourers. The ferry between Gothenburg and Frederikshavn is pretty big, and sometimes the crossing can be a little rough. For us, it was sunny and smooth. I was stunned by the number of people I saw buying draft beer and drinking in the sun before the ship left port: it wasn’t even 10 a.m. Impressive.

We’d planned a short ride south along the coast to a campground, but with the free WiFi on the ferry, we looked at other options and decided to take a more direct route towards Aalborg (our planned 2nd night) taking Denmark’s National Cycle Route 3: The Ancient Road.

The docks in Frederikshavn were right by the Tourist Info building, so Deb ran in and got us a good map of the cycle route.

A word about National Cycle Routes. We’ve learned that a National Route does not mean that it is direct, or that the terrain will be suitable for loaded touring bicycles. In fact, whoever lays out these routes seems determined to get bikes off of roads with any cars at all. You’ll be happily rolling along a quiet highway with an excellent surface and a good, wide shoulder, and the route will suddenly turn you onto a muddy logging road with steep hills and loose gravel. It’s always a gamble, because the route often takes these annoying turns to get you to something fabulous: like an incredible view, or a cycle path next to a lake. Other times, it winds through the muck for 8 km and then you meet up with that nice road again, which has gone in a nice straight line for 3 km.

The Ancient Road Hærvejen basically follows the track used by medieval ox traders. I thought that meant it would wander around a lot to avoid hills. Nope.

It’s not that bad though, Denmark isn’t exactly mountainous. Denmark is windy though, and we got some of that on our first day back.

We stopped in Brønden, at something the locals call a “Nature Camp”. There are simple shelters and a covered place to eat. Also firepits and wood. There’s an outhouse, and there’s supposed to be a water tap. This place had a busted top, and a sign that read Vand (water) with a vague arrow, pointing at nothing in particular. We went on a water hunt through the nothing town, and found a tap at the soccer field.

We ate and got into our hobbity shelter just before the rain hit. We were very glad we weren’t in a tent like we’d planned, for we woke in the middle of the night to a serious downpour. The structure was small and simple, but it was water-tight. We really enjoyed our little taste of wild camping, and the fact that it was free was nice after the extravagance of Oslo.

Distance: 50 km (plus ferry between Sweden and Denmark)

$76

Lakeside Park

Day 48: June 5th, Gothenburg, Sweden

We slept late and had a leisurely breakfast. We met a Hungarian couple staying in the same house, visiting their son in Gothenburg where he’s doing a Masters in percussion.

This felt like a “turnaround” day. We were as far north as we were going to ride in Europe, and it was time to prepare for the ride down to Amsterdam where we’ll catch the ferry to Newcastle. I spent the day working on an itinerary for the ride through Jutland, figuring out the route, and potential campgrounds to stay at.

We took the time to go for a walk around the lake near the house. It was much more impressive than I’d expected. There was a small beach, places for barbecuing, big dramatic rock formations to climb on, or hang out on, and many, many kilometres of trails filled with joggers. It made us wonder what our hosts needed a summer house for, when this was practically in their backyard.

In the evening, we met another couple staying at the house. They were young Germans, from Munich, on a nearly four week tour of their own, but by car. They planned to stay in campground cabins some nights, so we told them about our “barrel” adventure. The guy knew exactly what we were talking about; apparently those barrels are a thing in Germany.

Distance: 0

$99

Beer by the Fire

Day 47: June 4th, Oslo Norway to Gothenburg, Sweden

We had all day in Oslo, as our bus back to Gothenburg left at 10 pm. Sadly, it was raining when we got up, and it showed no sign of letting up. It was also Sunday, so most stores were closed, leaving fewer places to hide when it really started coming down.

We decided to walk the Akerselva river and check out a couple of small, free museums. The river is amazing, with numerous small, beautiful waterfalls. It winds through interesting neighbourhoods. There were cafes with great views, parks, and old factories converted into homes, schools, etc.

We checked out a “Museum of Labour”, which had displays about factory girls, and paintings of the river through the years. I think we woke the poor girl who was working that day.

We explored some more, then went for coffee at one of the cafe’s on the river. Finally, we went to a fantastic brewpub, located in an old cellar. They had a wood fire burning, and some seriously good craft beer. Later they had a “Tap Takeover” and we had beer from Spain. We even talked to one of the brewers, a guy from California who relocated to the Basque region. This seems to be a common theme in craft brewing over here: American or English brewers setting up shop all over Europe.

There was still light for the first hour of the bus ride back to Sweden. At the border a sniffer dog got on the bus and thoroughly checked us all out.

In Gothenburg, it was too late to take a local bus back to the cat house, so we took a cab, then tried not to wake everyone else staying there.

Distance: 0 (riding, long bus ride)

$342

A Fast Bus to Oslo

Day 46: June 3rd, Gothenburg, Sweden to Oslo Norway

The decision was made: we were not riding to Oslo, but we were going to see a little of Norway. We would’ve loved to have taken a train to Oslo, but the bus was not only significantly cheaper, it was faster too.

Our hosts in Göteborg were happy to let us leave most of our stuff behind, as we were coming back after one night in Norway. Unfortunately, they booked our room for the one night we didn’t need it, so we lugged our stuff from the third to the ground floor and piled it up in a corner.

The bus ride featured some good views. The area around the Swedish/Norwegian border there is spectacular.

We reached Oslo around lunchtime, and, as our Airbnb was a short walk from the station, we went to drop off our overnight bags. But at the store where we were supposed to pick up our keys there was only an envelope for “Frederick”. Were the previous tenants confused by Deb’s Airbnb profile name “Dak Pig”, or did they simply forget to drop the keys off as instructed? We went back and forth with our very apologetic host. She contacted a friend with a spare set who walked over and handed them off. It was a bit of a wait, but the place was nice.

By pure chance, we’d arrived during Musikkfest. At almost every turn there was live music: rap on bar’s outdoor stage, reggae in one park, rock in another, techno, pop, etc. Hundreds of artists and almost forty stages. All free. We stopped and listened at a few.

We toured the big sites then stopped for craft beer at the Crow Bar. For 40cl (less than a big can) we paid about $13 Canadian. Pretty much the same as I pay at a Raptors game.

Distance: 0 (bus)

$172

Ink

Day 45: June 2nd, Gothenburg, Sweden

Enjoying the complimentary espresso with our breakfast, we met Johan, the master of the house. He was busy having what sounded like an interesting Skype conversation about nuclear waste with a journalist. We chatted for awhile before he went to work. He told us about the nearby lake we could walk to (he’d been out for an 8 km run followed by a swim – these freakin’ Swedes!).

We couldn’t get the bus App to accept our credit cards, and we couldn’t find a kiosk, so we walked into town. Once in the core we followed a walking tour map. We kept seeing young kids wearing white, dancing and shouting in the backs of trucks blasting pop music. We figured it was graduation related. A bartender later confirmed our suspicion.

In the midst of seeing the sights we popped into a tattoo parlour, and I talked to a guy named Demon. It just happened to be his “walk-in” day, so I told him what I wanted and we got started right away. I noticed that Demon had a Brooklyn accent, and asked about it:

“How did you end up here?”

“Swedish girl.”

“Oh, that old story.”

Demon just happens to be the same age as me, and when he put some music on, he said, “You like New Wave?” A fellow child of the 80s. While he inked my arm we listened to Depeche Mode, the Smiths, and the Cure. Awesome stuff. Demon did not look like a Depeche Mode fan.

We celebrated my commemorative wound at a brewpub, where we discussed the stupidity of sunglasses indoors with a funny bartender and sampled local brews.

Distance: 0

$151 plus tattoo

Cat House

Day 44: June 1st, Åsa to Gothenburg, Sweden

The kattegattleden cycle route takes a rather circuitous trip to follow the coast in the section we rode this day. We could’ve taken a shortcut and cut off many kilometres, but the weather was perfect, and we knew we could do the distance. Besides, we figured there had to be a good reason for the long detour.

A lot of the route was separated cycle path, and I noted that we’re spoiled now. What would be an amazing part of the ride, with farmland on one side, and no sharing the road with cars, is now not all that exciting.

After about 22 km, we hit Kungsbacka, a spa town, where we would’ve stayed, except we couldn’t afford any of the accommodations there. It is very pretty, with a nice river running through it. We happened to ride right into their Thursday Market. We dismounted and walked our bikes through the fun. We couldn’t stay long, though, for we had over 60 km left to do.

It took awhile, but we finally found the nice coast again. The route hit the resort area of Särö and we had to slow down for a lot of pictures. From there all the way to Gothenburg it’s basically a single cycle path: like a commuter’s route for the city people to reach the holiday town.

Our Airbnb was about 9 km from the core. We rode right into town along the waterfront, and then uphill, lots of uphill. “HereWeGo” the offline map app we use gave us directions that involved pushing the bikes up some stairs. Two things I wish for Google Maps and HereWeGo: a no forest logging roads option, and a no stairs option, for routes.

We got there with burning thigh muscles, and Rasmus, our hosts’ son, arrived on his longboard to give us the tour. His parents work in the environmental movement and the house had a bit of a homey-hippie vibe. Three friendly cats, a lot of crafty stuff, and just a plain-old lot of stuff. We liked it very much, and Rasmus, who is a serious e-gamer (Counter Strike), was charming.

Distance: 95 km

$97

A Windy Åsa

Day 43: May 31st, Varberg to Åsa, Sweden

Grey and windy today. Really windy. But it was off the water, and so generally across the bikes. We got off to a late start as we didn’t plan a particularly long ride, and the weather was supposed to improve in the afternoon.

It got really sunny, but the wind didn’t let up. The route was a nice mix of green countryside and rocky/beach coast. We stopped to watch brave kitesurfers jetting around like rockets.

As at several other sites, reception was closed at the campground, but a nice lady with a cane appeared and handed us a map, told us we could pitch our tent wherever we wanted, and set us up with the wifi password, etc. It was the best check in we’ve had to date.

We were a little concerned that our old tent might not survive the wind, but she held up well.

There were a couple of other tenters, including a guy on an older BMW touring motorcycle. He was Mehmet, from New Zealand, and now living in Turkey. He was riding north, and seemed a little conflicted about it, talking wistfully about the sun and heat back home. I admired his ride, and the list of countries on his hardbags. He was curious about our gear, especially my beloved kitty bins.

Åsa is very small, but it had a grocery store and a candy shop. I had fun buying lots of bulk candy. I focused on stuff that looked good, but I was just guessing. With one big exception, I was happy with my choices.

Distance: 41 km

$51

Tell me about your mother

Day 42: May 30th, Falkenberg to Varberg, Sweden

Still drizzling, and even though we’d spent the night in a cosy apartment, we had a lot of damp clothing – because not all the stuff we’d washed had dried yet. We weren’t concerned, because we’d already booked another Airbnb in our next stop, Varberg, and it wasn’t a long ride, so we’d be unpacking and hanging everything in only a few hours.

It was, again, a great ride, but it was different than most of the previous days in Sweden. The Kattegattleden in this region was very flat, and spent a lot of time on separated bike paths next to roads. For us, this meant unusual speed, and the chance to ride side-by-side stress free. For long stretches we had farm land around us, and glimpses of the Kattegat away to our left. We chatted.

For some reason, the deer seemed to be out and curious on this morning. Twice, we rode by fawns that we could almost have reached out and touched.

We stopped at a roadside picnic table for a break (digestive cookies and an apple). Another rider joined us. She was a young woman from Poland doing an epic tour of her own. She had ridden from Oslo, and confirmed that it was very hilly up there.

The drizzle ended, and we stopped at a picnic table near a rugged beach. It was very quiet, and we were startled by the thumping feet of two hares who ran right past us, through a fence, and chased each other around the grassy dunes.

Varberg is very nice, with public art on nearly every corner. We entered the town along a fantastic coastal path: sea on one side, rock wall on the other. Then we were in the shadow of a massive old fortress. We waited while a long line of school kids on a bicycle outing rode by. There are a lot of little boys here with what I would call “Thor Hair”.

We shared the second floor of a very nice old house with a Professor of Economics from Colombia. She was in town visiting her son who was doing postgrad work in Sweden. Deb did not expect to have to dust off her Spanish on this trip. The first floor was office space for our hosts, Psychologists, judging by the books on all the shelves. There was some interesting objets d’art, and paintings in that place. I felt like somebody was going to ask me how they made me feel, then write notes down in a little book.

Distance: 35 km

$103 plus KeepGo and Skype top-ups

Swedish Dudes

Day 41: May 29th, Halmstad to Falkenberg, Sweden

We woke up to spitting rain. As our English tent neighbour told me, “You have to pay for the good weather”.

Our friend, Mathew Bates, an experienced tourer, told us that we won’t mind riding in the rain, and he’s right, so long as the rain isn’t combined with near-freezing temperatures. This drizzle was no problem, and the riding was great. The thing I don’t like is bagging up a wet tent.

sculpture of man on a horse with a lance, next to a windmill

Now the coast was getting noticeably more rocky and wild. It looked a little Scottish, and a little Northern Ontario. Unlike home, the cycling infrastructure was outstanding. And now’s as good a time as any to say that the Kattegat trail is the best marked cycle route we’ve been on so far.

Just south of Falkenberg was a big beach, with a huge community of rental cottage-boxes all crammed together like lego bricks. They barely have windows. The beach, and the facilities around it, looked great though. It was all pretty empty on a gray, rainy Monday in May, but we sure appreciated the nice, clean public washrooms.

We entered Falkenberg on a picturesque, old stone bridge, complete with a nearby fly-fisherman.

With a rather wet forecast ahead, and three straight camping days behind us, we decided to check Falkenberg Airbnb listings, and found one that looked very, very good. Request accepted, and less than a km away. It was another backyard apartment, and lucky for us (unlucky for him), our host was home with a sick child and could check us in right away.

A note about the Swedes. The stereotypical Swedish man is (according to me), tall, fit, tanned, beardy, a bit weathered, plays golf and tennis, and would be excellent at poker. I seriously can’t tell what they’re thinking, even as I carry on a perfectly nice conversation with them. It’s a little unnerving for me.

Our inscrutable host Carl Gustav set us up, and we took full advantage of the tiny European washer/dryer. My “Monkey House” bag is empty!

Distance: 50 km

$130

Hobo Tea

Day 40: May 28th, Ängelholm to Halmstad, Sweden

Paved bicycle path next to a rocky coastline

The Kattegat Trail took us alongside beautiful beaches to start. The coast just started to become a little more rocky and rugged as we continued north.

A Christmas themed collection of gnomes and decorations sitting in the forest

At times, we were on trail through woods, usually paved. At one point we discovered a gnome christmas scene for some reason.

At times the trail took us a little inland, usually, it seemed, because it wanted us to see something. In one case it was more un-excavated bronze age burial mounds. These were high on a ridge, supposedly to get close to the “life-giving sun”.
Two grassy humps in the distance

The first campground we stopped at seemed deserted, but there were a lot of caravans there. Reception was closed but there were instructions available in English on how to check in. We called the number and were told there were no tent pitches, so we’d have to pay for a caravan spot. Seriously? A tent pitch is a bit of flat lawn. We kept riding.

Sadly, the next campsite was owned by the same company. At the gate, wondering what to do, were the English couple we’d met at the campground the evening before. We explained what had happened at the last place, then called the number again. For whatever reason, it was a bit cheaper. The lady on the phone gave us a code that opened a safe with keycards for the washroom, and gave us a (caravan) pitch number. The English couple called, and were very specific that they wanted a tent site. They ended up paying $3 less than us and were told they could pitch wherever they wanted. Weird.

Again, the campground felt empty. There were a few people around, but, with the weather getting a bit cool, they mostly stuck to their caravans. Deb made couscous, and we used the chickpea tin to boil water for “hobo tea”. These Swedish campgrounds all have kitchens, but most don’t have anything other than microwaves and stoves. We’re not carrying pots, pans, cooking oil, etc. the way these caravaners do. We have to be creative.

Distance: 70 km

$51