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In Sweden 2010 PDF Printable Version E-mail

 

IN SWEDEN SUMMER 2010

Margaret and Barry Williamson
July & August 2010

Following our 8,500-mile winter and early spring journey through Italy, Malta, Tunisia, Greece,Albania, Montenegro,UK_2010_(13).JPG Bosnia, Croatia, Slovenia, etc, we had to settle in the UK for a while. There was much to do. There were friends and relatives to visit from Hampshire to Clackmannanshire; passports, driving licences and MOTs to be renewed; new managing agents and tenants to be organised for our rented house. We had to move our home from Mercedes Sprinter to Fleetwood Flair (image on left); visit Cheltenham's Motorhome Medics for their excellent service, accessories and fitting of a new Pendle Bike Rack (also visit: Pendle Engineering). And, not least, Margaret's 95-year-old mother needed comforting in her Care Home just off Beach Road, north of Blackpool (not a mile from where Margaret was born). So, the end of spring passed us by and we finally left England on Midsummer's Eve, on our way to the land of the midnight sun.

Leaving the UK on the Norfolk Lines ferry from Dover to Dunkirk, we travelled slowly along the coast of the North Sea, through northern France (briefly), Belgium, Holland, Germany and Denmark, before taking the Stena Lines ferry from Frederikshavn (near Denmark's northernmost point) to Gothenburg in Sweden. For the full travel log of this earlier part of the journey, click: Holland & Denmark 2010. For the next stage of the journey, click: In Norway and Finland 2010)

For more detail on some of the above subjects, you can click:

Articles

Our Paul Hewitt Touring Bicycles   Our Fleetwood Flair Motorhome

From Flair to Sprinter     Summary of Tour of Southern Europe and Tunisia 2010

From Greece to Tunisia 2010      In Malta 2010      In Tunisia 2010

Lest We Forget     From Greece to the UK 2010 

Images

In Holland 2010 In Germany, Ferry Crossing the Elbe  
Pendle Bike Racks From Sprinter back into Flair

In the Greek Peloponnese 2010.  In Sicily 2010.  In Malta 2010.  In Tunisia 2010. 
In Igoumenitsa 2010.  In Corfu 2010.  In Albania 2010.  In Montenegro 2010. 
In Bosnia 2010.  In Slovenia 2010.  In Austria 2010.  In Germany 2010.

1 Dover-Dunkirk Ferry

2 Afsluitdijk enclosing the Zuider Zee

3 Frederikshavn - Gothenburg Ferry

4 The Arctic Circle

5 Nordkapp

Scandinavia_Summer_2010_E.jpg
This is the information we give for each stage of the journey:

The start and end point of the day's journey
The country or countries for the day's journey
The name of the campsite or place where we spent the night
The cost of the place we spent the night (if any)
The distance covered that day in miles
The height above sea level (asl) of the place we spent the night

For example:

Nuorgam to Kaamanen, Lapland, Finland (via Norway)     Jokitorma YH & Camping     €20     157 miles       510 ft asl

On days where we don't move on, we simply give the location, country and place where we spent the night. For example: For example:

At Manamansalo, Kainuu, Finland     Martinlahti Camping     

Overall, in the travel log, distances are given in miles; heights in feet; and costs in Euros. 1 mile = 1.6 km; 1 foot = 0.3 metres and, at present, 1 Euro = about 0.85 Pounds Sterling. The current exchange rate for each non-Euro country is given in the log. The daily rate quoted for campsites includes 2 adults and an electrical hook-up (children and dogs are often extra).

TRAVEL LOG – FROM 26 JULY 2010

(continued from In Holland and Denmark 2010)

Sindal to Frederikshavn (via Skagen), North Jutland, Denmark     53 miles

Before taking the Stena Lines ferry from Frederikshavn to Gothenburg in Sweden (departing 10.30 pm) there was plenty of time to visit Skagen. We drove 7 miles north to Tversted, then turned east on busier road 597. At 16 miles we met main road 40 and followed it to the top of Denmark's northernmost spit, along with a queue of motorbikes, cars, caravans and campers. The cyclists on their separate paths sometimes made faster progress.

At 27 miles, a mile Sweden_(11)[1].jpgor so south of Skagen, we turned right at crossroads, following signs for 'Den Tilsandede Kirke' (the sand-buried church). They led us along a mile of narrow lanes to a very large free car park, complete with small café and toilets, a short walk from the church: an ideal place to leave the motorhome for the afternoon while we explored by Sweden_(14)[1].jpgbicycle. The café hot dogs were good too!

The 14th C church of St Laurens (or rather its white-painted tower – all that remains) is half a mile along a sandy path through the dunes. Apparently, at the end of the 18th century the Danish king gave the parishioners permission to abandon shovelling and sell up, leaving the tower as a marker for shipping. The floor and graveyard (the last burial was in 1810) still lie hidden under the sand drifts but you can climb the tower for 10 DK.

The cycle path continuedSweden_(15)[1].jpg into Skagen and we cycled round the port, with large trawlers docked alongside the frozen fish warehouses, as well as a yacht marina. Bike paths ran past the lighthouse (another 10 DK to climb, but more steps per Krone!) and small beaches for about 2 miles to the end of the road at Grenen. We rode on, dodging ambling pedestrians (or pedestrian amblers?), toddlers, push-chairs, wheel-chairs and slower cyclists on hired bikes. Where had they all come from? (Answer: Holland, Sweden, Norway, even Italy and France - but not Britain).Sweden_(16)[1].jpg Grenen Camping certainly looked popular.

Grenen itself consisted of pay & display car parks (packed full), a crowded cycle parking area, café/shop with long ice cream queue, and a modern art gallery/restaurant (the latter closed for a private function). To reach the actual tip, where the North Sea (Skagerrak) meets the entrance to the Baltic (Kattegat), you can walk half a km of beach (unsuitable for bikes) or take theSweden_(17)[1].jpg tractor-drawn bus that runs in the summer months. Not wishing to leave our bicycles, we did neither. Returning through Skagen's town centre, we found it busy with more holiday-makers, well provided with places to spend their money – and a few buskers in case they had any loose change. Back at the motorhome after a 20 km (12.5 mile) ride we made tea and prepared for the voyage, with perfect sailing conditions on this lovely calm day.

It was an easy 26-mile drive south on road 40 to Frederikshavn, where the Stena Lines terminal is well signed and organised. The drive-through check-in for M/S Danica simply needed our internet booking confirmation print-out, with no checking of passports or other documents. All vehicles and caravans carrying gas were given a label for the gas locker, which had to be left unlocked, but sealed with a given sticker and with gas valves turned off. We sailed promptly at 10.30 pm and had an uneventful crossing (the best kind!), staying awake for the 3.5 hours with the aid of coffee and biscuits from our rucksack.

The modern ferry had a self-service restaurant (which closed at midnight), bars, shop (mainly for Swedes to stock up on cheaper alcohol), cinema and gaming machines. Watching a trusted employee emptying these 'one-armed bandits', scooping bucket loads of coins into sturdy bags, we were amazed at the amounts taken! We changed our own remaining Danish Kroner into Swedish currency at the ship's bank (the only gamble being the exchange rate!) and dropped small change into a handy Red Cross collecting box.

We arrived in Sweden after 3.5 hours (faster, more expensive ferries cross in 2 hrs).

Frederikshavn, Denmark to Kode, West Gotland, Sweden     Railway Station Car Park     29 miles

Gothenburg (in Swedish, Goteborg - pronounced Yurteborry), is Sweden's second city. As Scandinavia's largest seaport, the harbour is vast and busy, offering nowhere to park a motorhome, something that would have been very welcome at 0200 hours!

In the sleepy confusion of driving off, while the SatNav slowly acquired satellites, we failed to get directly onto the E6 northbound (look for 'Oslo' on signs)! Eventually we circled back past the airport and found our route, driving an empty toll-free motorway in the brief period of darkness, made more unearthly by swirling mist. We soon realised that Swedish motorways are also free of service areas, with fuel and food being signposted off into nearby settlements.

Following such a sign at the small town of Kode, we passed a closed Statoil petrol place with no parking area, crossed the railway line and turned right towards the station. We stopped thankfully on the empty free car park, opposite an ICA supermarket, and fell asleep as an early dawn broke.

Kode to Grums, Varmland, Sweden     Rear of OK/Q8 Garage     137 miles

Back on E6 motorway we drove north, passing another exit for fuel and Burger King after 7 miles. Rather than continue up the coast into Norway and Oslo, we took exit 93 at 26 miles onto road 44. After 3 miles this joined a new motorway linking Uddevalla with Trollhattan to the east – our direction.

At 42 miles shortly before Trollhattan we turned north on the famous 2-lane highway E45 - the Inlandsvagen (Inland Road) - which runs up the centre of Sweden, through Jokkmokk on the Arctic Circle and beyond to the Finnish border in the far north. Route-finding made simple! After 2 miles at Vanersborg a generous rest area on the right was a good place for lunch, with picnic tables, WC, and even points for emptying cassette toilets labelled 'Latrin'. A footpath led to a café on the shore of vast Lake Vanern; a glance at our map (Freytag & Berndt's enormous road map of Sweden at 1:600 000) showed more water than land in any direction. In fact, Lake Vanern is the second largest freshwater lake in Europe, after Hungary's Lake Balaton.

Driving up the west shores of Vanern, through Dalsland province, we passed fields of golden corn or purple clover and red wooden farmhouses, their features picked out in white. The trees were already a mix of silver birch and tall pines in varying shades of green, with deer fencing along the roadside. Farmers literally made hay while the sun shone from a blue sky, a gentle wind coming from the south-west. Rural Sweden and neighbouring Finland have a very special appeal for us - in the light summer months, that is!

At 110 miles weSwede_(50).JPG turned right into Saffle to a large shopping complex. There was plentiful parking (2 hours max) around the shops and a long-stay area signed for caravans behind the nearby theatre/music school – all free of charge. We shopped at the Co-op, raided an ATM and visited McDonalds before driving round to the caravan parking area. However, not keen on the sloping ground or the only neighbour (a truck that was having problems turning off its alarm), we decided to drive further in search of a more peaceful overnight.

After 14 miles the Inlandsvagen joined motorway E18 (leading north-east to Varmland province's capital, Karlstad, at the head of Lake Vanern). We turned off at the small town of Grums and found a quiet road to park for the night, behind a petrol station and in front of a motorhome dealer's yard. A full moon lit the sky and no-one disturbed us (nor we them).

Grums to Rottneros, nr Sunne, Varmland, Sweden     Sunne Hotel & Camping     180 SK     33 miles

After a fill of petrol at the OK/Q8 (12.93 SK per litre, at just over 11 SK to the pound sterling), we continued through Grums and onto E45, the Inlandsvagen, northwards once more. Traffic was light – mainly caravans and campers or an occasional logging truck, bound for a wood processing factory or paper mill. The scenery is serene, with the calming effect of small blue lakes reflecting the sky, surrounded by forest. Snow poles at the roadside recall the winter conditions, even here in Sweden's warmest region.

At Rottneros, about 3 miles before the town of Sunne, a small motel/camping stood on the left of a crossroads. The quiet grassy campsite, open year round, is delightfully placed alongside woods that slope down to the Rottnan River, and has coin-op showers, a small kitchen and free WiFi in the Reception/café area. The price (which includes electricity) is less than we've been paying in Denmark and Holland of late – we do wonder why Scandinavia has such a reputation for being expensive, alcohol (and maybe Norway) excepted.

Most campsites in Sweden (including this one) are members of the Swedish Campsite Owners' Association and guests must have a 'Camping Card Scandinavia', which is also valid and required in Denmark, Norway and Finland (though the Danish sites had been satisfied with our CCI instead). This card is on sale at all member sites, valid until the end of the year of issue, and cost us 130 SK. It came with a free guide to all the Swedish campsites, which are also marked on a good set of maps, along with every branch of McDonalds!

We settled into a peaceful corner (the furthest from the facilities, always quietest!) to watch the birds – white wagtails and brambling, up here for the summer, and the ubiquitous scavenging jackdaws and magpies.

After lunch we Sweden_(19)[1][2].jpgcycled into Rottneros (a neat settlement of houses and school near a wood processing factory, where the Rottnan River enters Lake Fryken), then north on a cycle path alongside E45 to Sunne. Rottneros Park (flower and sculpture exhibitions and café) had a large car park that forbade overnight parking. North of the Park we passed the Stamfrande Monument, its eagle resting atop a stone profile of Varmland to survey the golf course. It commemorates Varmland Province's many immigrants (from Finland) and emigrants (to the USA).

Entering Sunne we rode by a much larger campsite on the lake, Sunne Swecamp Kolsnas, rightSweden_(23)[1].jpg by a huge waterworld and sports complex. It was full to overflowing, onto an adjacent field, and there was a long queue at a ticket office next to Reception. Investigating, we learnt that this very evening is the start of Sunne's annual 4-day music and dance festival (of the disco kind), culminating on Saturday 31 July. How pleased we are to be camped a few miles away! We cycled on, crossing the Fryken River at the head of the lake, to Sunne Church, then returned through the town centre and alongside E45.

The total ride was only 20 km or 12.5 miles, though somewhat more hilly than Holland or Denmark, the campsite being at 423 ft (128 m). We had become used to living at or below sea level!   

At Rottneros, nr Sunne, Varmland, Sweden     Sunne Hotel & Camping

The warm sunny weather turned cool and wet next day, as the barometer suddenly dropped. A good time for laptop-based activity, processing some words, photographs and music. We can't get any local channels on our TV screen but do have plenty of DVDs – currently enjoying a Bob Dylan phase, with Bob's own 'No Direction Home' and 'Masked & Anonymous', as well as theSwede_(31).JPG recent film 'I'm Not There', in Swede_(30).JPGwhich a range of other actors (from a small black boy to Cate Blanchett to Richard Gere) play the enigmatic genius and his music. Very absorbing.

On a short cycle ride between showers we followed the west bank of Lake Rottnen to the village of Grasmark (campsite and youth hostel), 15 miles along at its head. The quiet rolling road passed a small ski station on the hillside (www.skisunne.se), then scattered farmhouses and lakeside cabins along the Rottnen Valley on the old road to Norway.

AUGUST 2010

Rottneros to Mora, Dalarna, Sweden     Mora Parken Hotel & Camping     225 SK     124 miles

Travelling ever-north on the Inlandsvagen (E45), we drove through Sunne and the length of Lake Fryken to Torsby. After 23 miles we passed Torsby Camping by the lake, which looked full (both camping and lake, that is!) Three miles later we stopped at a large and busy ICA supermarket, open 9 am to 9 pm today (Sunday). For the best deals, ask for a customer card and fill in a form.

Continuing north, weSwede_(32).JPG climbed to over 1,000 ft/300 m before dropping back to 500 ft to cross the Klaralven River in Stollet at 50 miles. Here was a crossroads with another long-distance route - road 62 - from Karlstad to Norway. There are many Norwegian tourists on the roads and campsites here in Sweden, perhaps coming to enjoy cheaper prices as well as gentler scenery. At 60 miles, having climbed gradually above 1,500 ft/455 m, we left Varmland and entered Dalarna, the Province that is Sweden's heartland: open meadowland, lush vegetation and tiny lakeside villages. It's also a very popular summer holiday area, especially around Lake Siljan where we were headed, though by mid-August the peak season will be over.

The hills are not steep but we'd left the lowlands behind, reaching 1,686 ft/510 m before descending to cross yet another fast-flowing river into Malung at 78 miles. We checked a small campsite by a lakeside restaurant on the right at Johannisholm but the only space looked too soft and muddy for our 6 tons, so on we drove to the tourist town of Mora. Poised between Lake Siljan to the south and the smaller Lake Orsa to the north, Mora is at the junction of our favourite E45 and the E70 (Stockholm to Norway). It's also an important railway town: the start of the Inlandsbanan, the single-track summer-only railway which parallels the Inlandsvagen, beyond the Arctic Circle to Swedish Lapland.

Inevitably, Mora was busy. Driving through the centre on E45, there was free car parking on the right, overlooking the lake, with a 12-hour limit: suitable for smaller vans but no room for us. Following a sign for caravans off to the left, we found a large empty school car park that forbade parking between 2200 hrs and 0600 hrs. Unsure of the rule's enforcement – and even more unsure of the lone gipsy caravan in a corner – we opted for a night on Mora's official campsite, just north of the town centre (signed from E45 and Caravan Club-listed).

This huge all-year site is behind the Mora Parken hotel/conference/sports centre, where you check in to get a barrier card, electricity box key, code number for the kitchen etc and 2 pages of instructions in English to use the free WiFi. Most of the pitches (and all the many cabins) were taken but we were allocated a square of grass for the night. The facilities were admittedly good, if stretched, with free showers and clothes drying room, though we didn't queue for the dishwasher!

The same site had been much quieter during our previous visit (mid-October 2006), when we'd strolled into the town, famous for its knives and taps, and learnt more of its history. The walk led past the church and through Zorn Gardens, outside the Zorn Museum – the turn of the century (1900) home of Anders Zorn (see www.zorn.se for info on the artist). The centre of Mora has an extensive pedestrian shopping centre, with the usual supermarkets (ICA and Co-op) and Intersport (for all your winter sports kit). The bookshop had some English books but prices were double their sterling value.

Lake Siljan and the surrounding area lie in the ring created by the impact of Europe's biggest meteorite, estimated to have been 2.5 km (over 1.5 miles) wide. The depression is 75 km in diameter (that's 47 miles). The depth from the hilltops of the surrounding crater rim to the lake bottom is over 400 m (1,320 ft). The meteorite struck the earth at a speed of 15 km (nearly 10 miles) per second, some 360 million years ago, with a force equal to 500 million atomic bombs. Yes, we read the Lake Siljan information leaflet and were impressed! Visit www.siljan.se for more.

In winter there is downhill ski-ing here on the crater slopes, and the world's biggest cross-country ski race is held over the first weekend in March (the 50-mile route passing through the campsite!) See www.vasaloppet.se for details. There is also 3 months of safe outdoor skating on Lake Orsa! Being shallow, the lakes are fast to freeze and yet they warm up enough for swimming in summer.

The Lake Siljan area is also famous for its wooden Dala horses, carved and hand-painted in bright colours in a variety of sizes. They originated as children's toys, whittled in forest huts on long winter evenings since the 17thC. After their success at the 1939 World Fair in New York, they became a symbol of Sweden and an expensive collector's item, priced beyond the reach of children (or pensioners)! There were none on sale in the toy shop in Mora. Nowadays, they are made at just 2 workshops in the village of Nusnas on the east side of Lake Siljan and sold at high-class gift shops.

Mora to Sveg, Jamtland, Sweden     Sveg Camping     190 SK     89 miles

Just 1.5 miles back to E45 Inlandsvagen and the journey north. After crossing the river we stopped at a shopping centre by a roundabout, having driven all of 5 miles. Mostly non-food (the ICA supermarket lies on E45 to the south of town) and fuel, though the Dollar Store was worth a look, with some edible items at bargain prices (biscuits, pasta and Bassett's liquorice allsorts now fill our remaining locker space!) We also bought a rechargeable 2-million-candle-power torch (a replacement for one which had just died) and more DVD films for those long winter nights. An early McLunch saw us on our way, reflecting that we cycle further than this before needing food!

The 2-lane Inlandsvagen, which never did have a shoulder, is even narrower north of Mora –Swede_(41).JPG a thin ribbon of tar stretching to infinity through the dense forest, occasionally crossing the track of the Inlandsbanan railway. We followed the east side of Lake Orsa for 7 miles, past a sign for the giant all-year all-singing all-dancing Orsa Camping. The Orsa Bear Park, high in the forest at Gronklitt, 10 miles west, now includes Siberian tigers and polar bears at 'Polar World'. Visit www.orsagronklitt.se and use Camping Card Scandinavia for a 10% discount if you must.  We didn't make the detour, sufficiently disillusioned on our previous visit in the simpler days of August 1999:

“The bear park turned out to be 10 miles off the beaten track (literally), high in the forest at Grönklitt, a makeshift, wooden ski-ing and hiking centre with restaurant, youth hostel, chalets and car parks bulldozed through the trees. We parked for lunch and walked to the Bear Park entrance but left without paying £5 each to watch wolves and bears begging for their food when they should be roaming in the wild. A free glimpse through the binoculars of 2 bears at the feeding station, below a viewing platform crowded with visitors, was enough.”

The hills to the Swede_(34).JPGwest became more serious, clad in forest where Brown Bears (and hunters) still roam. We reached 1,800 ft/545 m before dropping to Noppikospi at 1,143 ft/350 m, 40 miles from Mora. It has a lovely 'Rastplats' (but No Camping) on the left by a restaurant and youth hostel. Taking a tea break, we had a short walk to the broad waterfall that caused log-jams when the Ore River was used for floating timber. Driving on, we crossed the Ore (boundary between Dalarna and Gavleborg Provinces), welcomed by a Bear warning sign as we climbed ever north.

At 57 miles we passed a small quiet campsite by the lake at Tandsjoborg. Remaining well above 1,000 ft, the next landmark was entering the large Province of Jamtland at 71 miles. The sense of space, distance and light enticed us along the ever quieter road to the lovely little town of Sveg. Its Caravan Club-listed campsite lies on the river bank, next to a restaurant and ICA supermarket in the town centre (turn left at the traffic lights).

The only inteSwede_(53).JPGrnet provision (but not WiFi) is at the modern public library oppoSwede_(43).JPGsite, freely open weekdays from noon till 7 pm (or 4 pm in winter), with a fierce stuffed bear in the foyer, as well as an art gallery.

A rain shower was reflected in a double rainbow over the lake in the early evening sunshine. Taking a walk round the town, there are wide streets, substantial wooden merchants' houses and a bronze statue of the Unknown Woodcutter by the 19thC church. Strangely, this is now overlooked by a huge new 'Trojan Horse' of a Brown Bear (Ursus Arctos), the regional emblem, solidly built from blocks of timber sponsored by local firms. A ladder ascends into its belly but the trap-door was padlocked. Apparently it's the biggest wooden bear in the world!  

Sveg to Lit, Jamtland, Sweden     Lits Camping & Little Lake Hill Canoe Center     190 SK     135 miles

The E45 Inlandsvagen turns east from Sveg for 20 miles to Aspan village, then runs north once more. In Ytterhogdal, 8 miles on, there waSwede_(54).JPGs ample space to park on both sides of the road, with a nice little café on the right advertising 'Free Parking 24 hrs'. Leaving the village we remembered pausing once before to photograph the beauty of the church and cemetery on the left reflected in the mirror of the lake.

We continued through the eternally beautiful forest of pine and silver birch, with an occasional glimpse of the railway line through a clearing where lumberjacks had been at work. Bypassing Ratan, at the foot of the next lake 25 miles later, we stopped for lunch in Asarna at 68 miles, parking on the right by a Ski Centre/restaurant with small campsite.

After passing a timberSwede_(57).JPG yard and laminate factory, the forest gradually relented, giving way to a farming belt with grazing cattle, making the most of the short time outdoors. Their winter fodder was already garnered in white shrink-wrapped bales piled in the freshly cut meadows. At 78 miles (alt 1,200 ft/365 m) at Svenstavik we reached the foot of the south-west arm of Storsjon (Great Lake) – home to Sweden's own 'Loch Ness Monster' legend. 30 miles later at Brunflo E45 joined the busier E14 (from Sundsvall on the east coast of Sweden) to form a new dual carriageway that bypasses Ostersund (cycles banned and diverted into the town on the old road). After 11 miles, our E45 veered northwards, leaving E14 on its way west to Norway.

First, we did turn off into Ostersund itself, a large town on the east bank of the Storsjon, and circled the centre without finding Sweden's northernmost Lidl store, though we did spot the last McDonalds by a roundabout on E45. (We remembered, too late, that Lidl is on the old main road, about a mile south of the town, near the huge all-year ever-busy Ostersunds Camping.)

Escaping the crowds, we drove another 13 miles to the peaceful riverside campsite at Lits, signed on the right of E45 just before the village. Here, as Ove & Romy say on their delightful hand-drawn map: 'Enjoy yourself and feel good'. Or as the Caravan Club guide put it: 'Good alternative to Ostersund in high season'.   

At Lit, Jamtland, Sweden     Lits Camping & Little Lake Hill Canoe Center

It was easy to pass a couple of showery days at Lit. The laundry has automatic washing machines for 10 SK (about €1 or less than one pound), while the tumble drier and drying cabinet are free. There is canoeing, lake swimming, tennis … and a footpath leading under the E45 and over the railway into the village, with basic shops. Free WiFi reached our motorhome, enabling us to listen to Radio 4 (what a treat), and the local TV signal brought us evening entertainment in the form of yet more 'Midsomer Murders'! Another world.

A 25-mile cycle ride took us east along the Indalsalven Lake to Handog, from where the quietest of roads climbed steadily through forest and meadows up the Harkum River to Nyby, rising almost 700 ft to 1,430 ft. Both settlements consisted of a scatter of houses, a bus stop and a community hall. The wooden bus shelters are substantial, with windows and seat – ideal for cyclists. Sadly, the sign offering hot dogs and drinks inside the shelter at Nyby was faded and the community hall closed today – but at least it was downhill all the way back, with a tail wind. Interestingly, a milestone gave a distance of 2 Mil from Nyby to Lit, recalling that the old Swedish mile is about 10 km. Perhaps the distance a reindeer can pull a sleigh in a day?

Lit to Vilhelmina, Vasterbotten (W Bothnia), Sweden     Kolgardens Camping     175 SK     132 miles

From Lit (at 740 ft) the E45 climbed northwards, reaching 1,600 ft in the high forest before descending to Hammerdal (1,160 ft) after 27 miles. This village is home to a concrete factory, fire station, supermarket, fuel and campsite, all before the road bridges a shallow lake clothed in water lilies.

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The road now remained at around 1,000 ft for 22 miles to Stromsund, a favourite town. It has a large campsite on the left (with outdoor heated pools) before the bridge crosses the meeting of two lakes. Over the bridge, turn immediate right towards the railway station for a large free parking area on the lakeside by the Hembygdsgarden (Homestead Museum). Delighted to find the Museum open (and free of charge) we wandered round its collection of furnished cabins and houses, contrasting the simple lives of woodcutters and milkmaids with those of the Victorian worthies. In the garden the 6m-high talking giant, Jorm, was built here for the local 1970's filming of a children's book 'Dunderklumpen' (meaning 'Thunder Fatty'!) There is also a café and a shop selling local handicrafts, all lovingly run by the good folk of Stromsund.

Driving on into the town, a P-Caravan sign on the right led to an area next to the Sport Hall/Library/Baths, with no time limits. We had lunch and shopped at the nearby Co-op before continuing up E45 to Hoting, at 79 miles. This smaller town had plenty of parking space at the Bil (Car) Museum, with a No Camping sign (there's a small campsite opposite). Swedes seem fond of veteran cars, or anything from the States - we've seen many modern Chevvie and Dodge vans and well-preserved American cars from the immediate post-war era. The Statoil fuel station here had just one automatic pump with petrol or diesel (LPG is very rare). It did accept our credit card, cutting off at 495 SK, but allowed a second fill. Petrol cost the equivalent of 1.17 pounds/litre, the price gradually rising as we go north, but still less than in the UK right now.

At 90 miles we left Jamtland for the Province of Vasterbotten (West Bothnia), also signed 'Lappland'. The E45 turned briefly east through Dorotea – southern portal of Lapland on Bergvattensjon Lake - where Doro Camping, a caravan dealer, tourist office, hunting & fishing museum, the Polar caravan factory and caravan museum, were clustered alonSweden_(93).JPGg the highway! It also had shops, fuel and a railway station – quite a list for such a small town. Turning north again at 97 miles (and exactly 1,000 ft high), there is another campsite (and a large rest area) 17 miles on at the village of Meselfors.

At 129 miles we reached Vilhelmina, another lovely little lakeside town, home to 4,000 residents. Camping Saiva is signed on the right as you enter but we drove on 2 miles, to turn left on the Sagavagen (part of the Wilderness Road). A mile along at Lovliden is a real gem of a campsite on the north shore of Lake Volgsjon. With free WiFi and facilities worthy of a good hotel, we quickly settled in and cooked some delicious local salmon and new potatoes.

At Vilhelmina, Vasterbotten (W Bothnia), Sweden     Kolgardens Camping     1,104 ft    

The weather turned showery, though calm and warm. If only we'd come in mid-February, we could have joined in the Vilhelmina Winter Weekend, whose cultural events include the (unofficial) world championships in icepole sitting. Yes - the winner is the one who can sit the longest on top of a 3-metre pole of ice. We do wonder where the official contest is held?

We cycled into the town (3 miles by road, or on the gravel Strandvagen path round the laSweden_(90).JPGke), with its busy modern centre (altitude 1,100 ft). The 18thC church village has a few well-preserved wooden buildings, some of the cabins now SaSweden_(91).JPGmi handicraft shops. A larger one houses the Tourist Bureau, where we were welcomed with coffee and free maps, while the local heritage museum is in the old parish hall. Outside, logs were being shaped and wedged together to make a cabin, attracting a small crowd. At the railway station a 1913 steam engine (top speed 70 km/hr) was left to rust, however, next to the modern diesel 'Grand Nordic'.

Apparently the town was named in honour of a Swedish Queen, Fredrika Dorotea Wilhelmina (1781-1826), as were two smaller pioneer settlements in Southern Lapland (still called Fredrika and Dorotea), during her reign. Her life makes interesting reading in Wikipedia! (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederica_of_Baden )

It seems that all Sweden_(83).JPGroads lead to Lapland! As well as being on the E45 Inlandsvagen and the Inlandsbanan railway, Vilhelmina lies on the 420 mile/670 km long Sagavagen (Saga Highway), which follows an old trading route across the country, from the Atlantic Coast of Norway to Ornskoldsvik on the High Coast of Sweden's Gulf of Bothnia. Vilhelmina is also the terminus of the 231 mile/370 km long Vildmarksvagen (Wilderness Highway), running from Stromsund to Gaddede, almost on the Norwegian border, then looping back across the tundra over the Stekenjokk plateau (at almost 3,000 ft/900 m high), through frontier wilderness and Sami lands, to join the Sagavagen into Vilhemina. Both roads were recentlSweden_(94).JPGy fully asphalted and are now promoted for tourism.

They can't compete with the length of E45 (old road 45, reclassified as a European highway in 2006), which stretches almost 3,125 miles/5000 km from Sicily in the south to Karesuando in the far north at the Swedish-Finnish border, passing through both Dorotea and Vilhelmina.

On a short cycle ride (26 miles) we followed a stretch of the Sagavagen/ Vildmarksvagen as far as Skansholm. The quiet road rolled gently through a forested delta landscape, with an occasional sign for a cabin selling smoked fish. The local waters are renowned for salmon – and beavers. The village of Malgovik along our route has a store and a school, with a sign claiming Sweden's lowest recorded temperature of minus 53ºC in December 1943!! Unimaginable while it's a pleasant 16 to 20 right now.

Vilhelmina to Sorsele, Vasterbotten (W Bothnia), Sweden     Sorsele Camping     185 SK     88 miles     1,137 ft

After a mile back to the E45, we were northbound once again. Poised above the Vojman RSweden_(100).JPGiver, 13 miles later, a giant fishing rod and salmon attracted our attention! The adjacent rest area has a 2-hour limit for caravans, being right next to Vojmans Camping: a small but well equipped site popular with anglers.

The Inlandsvagen climbed gradually through the lowering forest to 1,473 ft/450 m, criss-crossing the Inlandsbanan railway which it shadows. Our carriageway seemed to get narrower – at least when meeting a logging truck – and the verges are already marked with snow poles ready for October. We even overtook an athletic young man propelling himself up the road on roller blades, practising for cross-country ski-ing.

At 39 miles there is a good rest area, 2 miles before meeting highway E12 (from Umea on Sweden's east coast to Mo i Rana in Norway). You could turn right here for Stensele, the village with Sweden's largest wooden church, displaying the world's smallest bible. We kept left to Storuman and left again a mile later into the centre of this pleasant little settler-era town.

There is plenty of free parking space opposite the wSweden_(102).JPGooden railway buildings, where log-transporter trains stand in the sidings. The library (with internet and café) is also in a historic wooden house, the former station hotel, though the nearby Co-op and ICA supermarkets are modern. StorSweden_(101)[1].jpguman even has a lakeside campsite, a short walk from the centre, near the indoor rink where we once watched an exciting ice hockey match. We had lunch at the station's oddly named Restaurant 3:AN, next to a local crafts shop, then visited the ICA and talked to our genial neighbouring motorhomer, Norwegian musician Terje Olsen. Terje teaches music, plays at summer weddings and travels with wife and mother-in-law.

Our Inlandsvagen E45 (now dubbed 'Via Lappia') continued north-east from Storuman for 30 miles to Blattnicksele, a village with small campsite and shop. Driving on through a brief rain shower, keeping well above 1,000 ft, we reached the railway town of Sorsele at 87 miles. Its freight shed houses the Inlandsbanemuseum (the history of the 1,289 km long railway), while the tourist office is in the railway station.  

The campsite is signposted left, over a short bridge onto an island in the lake. It has the full range of facilities expected in Sweden, though the WiFi signal doesn't quite reach the motorhome - and the mosquitoes did, the first time we've noticed them this summer.

Sorsele to Arvidsjaur, Norrbotten (N Bothnia), Sweden     Gielas Camping     225 SK     54 miles     1,244 ft

After some lap-topping with WiFi in the comfortable TV room at Sorsele IMG_9726.JPGCamping, we left at noon and drove a mile back IMG_9725.JPGto the Inlandsvagen (E45). There was a choice of two garages to top up our tank before settling on the car park opposite to eat lunch and photograph Sorsele's historic wooden station, recalling the era of daily rail services for passengers and luggage. Nowadays, one train per day runs each way, from June to August only, aimed at tourists making the 2-day journey – with prices to match. The line also carries freight, such as logs, but we have yet to see a train moving.

Continuing along E45, which turns east from Sorsele, the road was quiet – too quiet! After 10 miles we found out why: road works (or today lack of road works) had left the surface strippIMG_9730.JPGed bare and scattered with rough stones. We bumped slowly along for 1.5 miles, regained tarmac briefly, then crawled for another 7-miles of rough stuff, taking an hour! Local traffic avoided this stretch, though we met a few long-distance trucks and buses throwing up dust clouds, overtaking us in vehicles they didn't actually own!

At 20 miles we crossed the border from Vasterbotten to Norrbotten (W to N Bothnia), reaching Sweden's northernmost Province (aka North Lapland). Here we entered the village of Slagnas, with a sign for camping on the left – and an ostrich farm!

Beyond this, the Inlandsvagen road works were finished (though still narrow, with no shoulder) and we climbed smoothly eastwards, reaching a maximum height of 1,760 ft/530 m. At 47 miles our E45 met rd 95, another highway linking Sweden's east coast with Norway. Turning right we followed the joint road for 3 miles to a roundabout, then took rd 95 into Arvidsjaur.

The town (the largest since Ostersund) was congested and busy, with traffic lights and no space to park – very different from the small friendly settlements we'd become used to. We drove through the centre, past many shops and businesses, turning right at the sign for the Caravan-Club listed campsite by Tvattjarn, one of the town's many small lakes (and mosquito hatcheries).

The campsite is large, highly organised and popular with families. The facilities are good, including a free gymnasium and sports hall, and – of more interest to us – free WiFi and satellite TV at every pitch. You can buy a satellite lead at Reception if necessary (though they are MUCH cheaper from the Dollar Store, with a branch less than a mile away). We did appreciate the complimentary welcome drink and biscuits.

Arvidsjaur to Forsranning, Nr Moskosel, Norrbotten (N Bothnia), Sweden     Bank of Pite River     36 miles     770 ft

With check-out time at Arvidsjaur's campsite a generous 3 pm, we stayed for lunch (after filling/emptying fresh water/waste tanks and giving the motorhome a wash).

On our way Sweden_(120).JPGthrough the town centre (3 miles) we paused at Lappstaden, the Sami Church Village, signed off the main street near the church. The region's Forest Sami, who traditionally gathered in this area for markets and festivals, were converted by Protestant missionaries, the first church here being established in 1606 (with another in Jokkmokk the following year). This was the result of Karl IX's wish to create a Swedish kingdom (and Sweden_(123).JPGcollect taxes) in the far north, securing the land by building churches.

The Sami built their own parish village of simple wooden pyramid-shaped cabins and store rooms at the end of the 18th C, about 80 of which survive at Lappstaden. We were free to wander among the locked cabins, only used during the great Sami festivals (the next being the last weekend in August, then in February), when you can apparently pay for a guided tour.

A mile later at the roundabout we regained E45 Inlandsvagen, which soon turned north to climb through the forest, reaching 1,755 ft. Dropping down to 999 ft at the tiny settlement of Moskosel (at 30 miles), we saw a small campsite and café a mile later, on the lakeside on the left. It was a simple place for anglers (cost just 130 SK with electricity, showers extra) but we didn't stay as the only space was very exposed to a cold wind gusting today, and the ground looked soft.

Continuing, Sweden_(125).JPGwe stopped 4 miles later in a large rest area (complete with water, toilets and latrine) just before the bridge over the broad Pitealven. This clear shallow river flows south-east to reach the Gulf of Bothnia at Pitea, a town we remember fondly from last summer's journey up Sweden's east coast, as it's where we found a fill of LPG - very rare in these parts!

Walking across the foot bridge on the old rd 45, to photograph the river, we noticed a couple of campers tucked away Sweden_(128).JPGin the trees on the northern bank and went to investigate. Beyond a White Water Rafting place (closed), there are several individual clearings in the woods for camping and fishing, accessed by crossing the new bridge, then left down a short dirt road.

We soon settled in, our neighbours being a quiet Dutch campervan, a friendly couple in a Swedish caravan and a German motorhome. Guess who had 2 large fierce dogs? It was a lovely spot by the fast-flowing river, the only sound, lulling us to sleep under a clear sky. We keep looking for the Northern Lights, though the northern light is magic enough.

Forsranning, Nr Moskosel to Jokkmokk, Norrbotten (N Bothnia), Sweden     Jokkmokk Camping Center     230 SK     68 miles     719 ft

The cold clear night (the first tiSweden_(129).JPGme we've needed heating this summer) gave way to a bright blue sky as we headed north on E45, the Arctic Circle now in our sights. After 25 miles, in Kabdalis up at 1,250 ft, we met the Inlandsbanan railway again. This tiny village has a café (closed), a Netto store and some simple cabins for the ski-run cleared on the hillside. Three miles later we passed a Sami stall selling reindeer antlers and pelts (the softest of furs), shortly before a large café. The tiny settlements now have a pair of names on the signs: Swedish and Sami (the latter appearing more like Finnish).

The road climbed gradually, levelling out on a wooded plateau above 1,500 ft. An exciting moment at 39 miles when our first lone-ranging reindeer of the year crossed our path, paused, then bound into the forest. The first of many, we hope. There was a good rest area at 45 miles, 13 miles before the Polar Circle.

When we arrived at the Circle, the Café/Souvenirs and Camping (altitude 989 ft/300 m) Sweden_(132).JPGwere quite disappointing: the café only sold drinks and cold snacks; the souvenirs did not include any Polar Circle stickers or post cards; the camping was a small overnight parking area charging 100 SK (+ 40 SK for hook-up). At least there is a freeSweden_(139).JPG car park with toilets, water and latrine for daytime use, where we stopped for lunch. On our last visit, 11 years ago, overnight parking was also free (no electricity then).

If you want to visit Lapland's most famous resident, he is not to be found here – try the wonderful Santa's Village on the Arctic Circle at Rovaniemi in Finland, the country which makes the most of Father ChrSweden_(134).JPGistmas. Here, though, the magic lies in the location: at approximately 66º 33' North, the Polar or Arctic Circle marks the southernmost latitude at which the midnight sun is visible at the summer solstice, and the limit of noon-darkness and northern light in the winter. Due to the fluctuating inclination of earth's axis, the line does move both north and south. It's currently creeping north, so that we crossed the actual (unmarked) point about 1 km later, but it will be back in Sweden_(142).JPGthe year 22,000!

At Jokkmokk, Sweden's Sami capital just 5 miles north of the Circle, we turned left at the junction of E45 and rd 97 in order to check the campsite at Skabram, a mile or so west. As it looked small and scruffy, guarded by a loose Alsatian, we promptly returned and drove through the town and on to the large commercial Camping Center (sic), a couple of miles east along rd 97. It's our most expensive Swedish site yet, the price including outdoor pools, sauna and the usual facilities – though not WiFi, which costs a one-off 100 SK for the password!    

At Jokkmokk, Norrbotten (N Bothnia), Sweden     Jokkmokk Camping Center    

The WiFi being more reliable than most, we took a break here to work on our website, catch up with emails and make Voipwise calls. The campsite is quiet, the main Scandinavian holidays now over as the short nights grow cooler.

A cycle path leads into the small town centre, where we shopped at its two supermarkets (Co-op and ICA as usual) and collected some mail from the helpful Tourist Office, which doubles as a post office. The packet (a card for the Garmin SatNav, with a new improved map of Europe) took a week to arrive from England – we feared it had got lost!

Riding on, we cycled south on the Inlandsvagen to return to the Polar Circle Sweden_(141).JPG(making a 15-mile round trip). We'd promised to take our old friend and hero, Jeff Mason, along with us to some interesting places (see Margaret with Jeff above and Barry with Jeff on the right) and we look forward to more of his company!

The Jokkmokk Region (its name comes from the Sami words for 'River Bend'), just a small part of Lapland, has about the same area as Wales - but with only 6,000 inhabitants, 3,000 of whom live in the town itself. The Sami people are the indigenous inhabitants, who still herd reindeer, following them north and south with the seasons. In fact, Jokkmokk has the only FE College teaching handicrafts and reindeer husbandry in Sami – a language that has 8 words for the different seasons, linked to the yearly cycle of reindeer keeping. The Jokkmokk Winter Market (first week of February) is the major gathering, with reindeer racing on the frozen lake, but as it's the coldest time of year we'll just imagine it!

The originalSweden_(143).JPG church built here by Protestant missionaries in 1607 burnt down more than once and today's 'Gamla Kyrka' (Old Church) on its site dates from 1972. We preferred the dainty wooden church on the main street, opposite the Ajtte Museum, consecrated in 1889.

We visited Ajtte, the splendid 'Swedish Mountain & Sami Museum', on the morning we left Jokkmokk, enjoying Lunch of the Day in its little restaurant. Eating out in Scandinavia is generally expensive in the evening but many places offer a more reasonable 'Dages Lunch' on weekdays. There will be one or two hot dishes, plus a self-service buffet of salads, breads, sauces and relishes. A cold drink (choice of milk, juice or water) and coffee are always included, though dessert (if any) costs extra. At Ajtte the main course was either salmon fish- cakes or schnitzel: total price 75 SK each (€7.50).

It was good – and so was the museum (entry 60 SK), an excellent guide to the IMG_9727.JPGland, people and animals of this far northern region, from nomadic Sami to pioneering Swedish settlers and on to the present day. 'Ajtte' is the Sami word for storehouse and this museum has become the principal storehouse of Sami culture in Sweden. The first merchants and traders came to the Jokkmokk Region by river, up the Lule Valley from Lulea on the Bothnian coast, to barter for leather and furs, followed by pioneers and river valley settlers in the l7th C. Visit http://www.ajtte.com/ for R_(11).JPGdetails.

The Sami (who don't like the name Lapps) have inhabited Sápmi (Lapland – northern Russia, Finland, Norway and Sweden) since ancient times, today totalling about 60,000, with 17,000 in Sweden. They have their own colourful flag and language (related to Finnish), though many now lead settled lives and in Sweden only about 3,000 are dependent on their 30,000 reindeer. These animals provide not only milk, meat, fur, leather, antler, bone and sinew for handicrafts, but also transport, the stags working as light pack animals or pulling sleds (though snowmobiles, helicopters and mobile phones have all arrived to help in rounding up the herds).

Jokkmokk to Gallivare, Norrbotten (N Bothnia), Sweden     Gallivare Camping     200 SK (€20)     65 miles     1,155 ft

After a visit and lunch at Ajtte (see above) in the centre of Jokkmokk, we were back Sweden_(145).JPGon E45 heading ever-north on the ever-quieter Inlandsvagen. Forests were giving way to distant glimpses of bare tundra, the rivers tamed by hydro-electric dams, as we climbed to over 1,000 ft (over 300 m) in exhilaratingly clear air. Half Sweden's electricity is now nuclear, the rest being from hydro-power, of which a quarter comes from the Lule River.

At 24 miles,Sweden_(152).JPG soon after crossing the Stora Lulealven (Big Lule River), we pulled into a car park on the left, shortly before the massive Harsprangets Kraftwerk (power station). A wooden path with 124 steps led us on a surprise walk, down past a memorial to the 10 workmen who lost their lives building the dam in 1947-49, and on to a splendid viewpoint over the Harspranget canyon. The river bed is now dry, its power harnessed at the Kraftwerk, and the rocky canyon walls were revealed in all their photogenic beauty.

Back on the E45, we passed a sign to the site of Harspranget village a mile later, pointing along a gravel track to the right. The settlement no longer exists, having housed the workmen from 1945 to 1979.

At 30 miles we reached the small town of Porjus at 1,300 ft (3394 m) with anotherSweden_(154).JPG mighty dam. Here the largest of the 15 hydro-electric power stations along the Lule River opened in 1915, to supply the area's mines and the Lulea-Narvik railroad. Now a museum, it's been replaced by a giant new power station, which can also be visited (both open mid-June to mid-August only). Curiously, a leaflet also described the 'Kraftbyggarland' as “a hands-on mini power station, encouraging children to get their hands wet and learn how waterpower is transformed into electricity”. Not something we'd recommend!

We parked in theSweden_(159).JPG large rest area and descended 86 wooden steps for a closer look at the Rallarstigen (Navvies Path). The original 44-km (28 mile) track from Porjus to Gallivare dates from 1910, when it was used by navvies carrying material and equipment from Gallivare to build the power station. Unimaginably hard labour in this harsh climate. The Inlandsbanan railway had not reached this far north, extending from Jokkmokk to Porjus in 1916-27, and later to Gallivare. The Rallarstigen was re-opened as a footpath for hikers in 1994, complete with new footbridges. Porjus also has a 9-hole golf course with plastic greens, 'open June-October depending on snow conditions'.

Continuing north-east, our highway skirted the Muddus National Park to the right:Sweden_(164).JPG a flat area of virgin green pine forest and golden yellow bogs. This is listed as Sweden's largest (500 sq km) area of uninterrupted primeval marsh forest, part of the Laponia region, a World Heritage site for natural and cultural values.

The plateau rose very gradually to a maximum of 1,650 ft (500 m) before descending 500 ft (150 m) to the iron and copper mining town of Gallivare. Its large campsite, including a good range of cabins and a youth hostel, is on the right of the E45, just after crossing the Vassara River. It's an easy walk from the town centre and the price includes free WiFi and (unusually) use of the laundry's washing and drying machine – very welcome!

At Gallivare, Norrbotten (N Bothnia), Sweden     Gallivare Camping

We walked into Gallivare along the Kulturstigen (Culture Path) by the Vassara River, overlooked by 2,716 ft (823 m) high Dundret mountain. The fanciful 'wooden castle' on the far bank, built by a mine-owning Colonel in 1889, is now an exclusive hotel. We did visit the little wooden Lapp Church completed in 1754 on our side of the river (open June-Aug) before crossing the tracks on a high footbridge to the railway station.

Gallivare is an important railway hub, with lines heading north-west to Kiruna (and on to Narvik in Norway) or south-east to Lulea on Sweden's Bothnian coast. It also marks the end of the historic 690-mile (1100 km) Inlandsbanan from Mora, one of Europe's great railway journeys, now running daily from June to the end of August. It was built to link the settlements of central Sweden, a route now served by our E45 Inlandsvagen. Gallivare railway station was certainly busy today: backpackers and hikers mix with students returning to their colleges, while freight trains carry iron ore and timber.

In the town we also found a good Tourist Information office, in the central square near the New Church (this one built in 1879 when mining began). Tickets were on sale for bus tours to both Aitik open-cast copper mine (Europe's largest) and Malmberget underground iron ore mine, though we didn't feel the need to plumb either of these depths.

We might have taken a hike up Dundret for the view, or cycled a couple of miles south on E45 to ride the northern end of the Rallarstigen (Navvies Path to Porjus), but as the weather turned abruptly cold and wet we did neither of these, saving them for another visit to this captivating region. Instead, we wrote post cards and took advantage of the campsite's WiFi and laundry (both free of charge) to get up to date on all fronts.

Gallivare to Vittangi, Norrbotten (N Bothnia), Sweden     Trollsparvens Camping     160 SK     66 miles     722 ft

Gallivare may be the northern terminus of the Inlandsbanan railway but the Inlandsvagen road continues to the Finnish border at Karesuando: a section we haven't travelled until now. After 4 miles we had a (long) lunch break at the Co-op Forum/Dollar Store shopping centre, the stores busy on a Sunday morning. From here E45 turned east, past a sign for Lapland Airport 4 miles later, then at 12 miles we joined the E10 and turned north again.

After the tiny settlement of Skaulo, we crossed the Kalix River at 39 miles and paused at a rest area on the left with toilets, latrine and plenty of space signed for caravans. At 50 miles (up at 1,200 ft/364 m) our E45 turned right (east), leaving the E10 to make its way to Kiruna - another gritty iron mining town isolated in the wilderness.

Rain was now falling from a leaden sky as we dropped to 800 ft (240 m) over the next 16 miles to Vittangi. In this village (with shop, fuel and a sign for a Moose Farm/Elk Park) the E45 meets rd 395 from Pajala and turns north again, over the broad Torne River. Immediately after the bridge, the first left (signed) soon led to a quiet little campsite on a fishing lake, with the charming address of 'Via Lappia 1'. This was a welcome site/sight for a cold evening and we settled in, paying the warden when he called at 5 pm. Our only neighbour was a Danish caravan, until a motorhome hired in Milan brought a family of Italians for a quick stop on their way home from NordKapp.

With no WiFi or TV signal here, we watched a DVD film - 'Home of the Brave' with Samuel L Jackson (and others) returning from military service in Iraq to face the problems of readjusting to family life. Morocco stood in for Iraq, with filming in Ouarzazate (another place we remember for its good campsite!)

Vittangi to Karesuando, Norrbotten (N Bothnia), Sweden     Sandlovs Camping     140 SK     70 miles     1,105 ft

Cool (14ºC on waking) but the rain had stopped. We returned to Vittangi village (1 mile) for a fill Sweden_(181).JPGof OK/Q8 petrol at the single pump, then drove north for the last section of the E45 Inlandsvagen, climbing through sparse forest to over 1,300 ft (395 m) to cross a high Sweden_(163).JPGplateau dotted with lakes. Interestingly, they are now named 'Jarvi' (Finnish for 'lake') rather than the Swedish word 'Sjon'. We also noticed that the settlements have a sign with 3 variations on their name – Swedish, Samic and Finnish.

After 30 miles, Neddre Soppero comprised a tiny campsite on the right by a broad river. Ovre Soppero, 4 miles later and half-way to Karesuando, boasted a petrol pump, then an area on the left with a cluster of wooden buildings: a tiny shop/post office with a turf roof, a youth hostel/restaurant (offering a set lunch for 80 SK) and parking for caravans with hook-ups, all within the fold of the Church of the Good Shepherd. We felt sorry that it was too early for either lunch or overnight parking.

Continuing north, the landscape changed markedly, with a hint of autumn colour. Short spindly birch Sweden_(189).JPGtrees replaced the forest of evergreens and silver birch, while bare fells loomed large beyond the exposed marshes. At 51 miles the Inlandsvagen delayed us with a 7-mile stretch of serious roadworks, from Idivuoma to Mertajarvi. The place names are taken from the 'Vagkartan 2010 Norrbotten' – a marvelloSweden_(194).JPGus free road map of N Bothnia, showing rest areas, speed cameras and roadworks, acquired in Gallivare's Tourist Office. We crawled along, past workmen, tar rollers and even traffic lights on a single-track section. A German (it would be, wouldn't it) campervan travelling south jumped the lights to meet us head-on, then just squeezed past. He wouldn't have made it on the old road: just a sled-width, judging by the 3 restored stone bridges we passed.

Regaining black-topped comfort once more, we made faster progress to the Swedish frontier at Karesuando (Sweden's northernmost church village), where E45 Inlandsvagen ends abruptly at the Muonio River. Across the bridge lies Finland, in another time zone! Turning right on rd 99 (towards Pajala) we drove a mile, past a small hotel and youth hostel, to Karesuando Camping. Though the site was small, empty and fairly basic, Sweden_(200).JPGthe owner asked an above-average 220 SK, explaining that this did include water!

As we'd passed another camp, opposite the Muonio bridge and church, we returned to compare and found a charmingly simple site, with a friendlier owner and price, that also included water (hot or cold) and was nearer to the village. The village shop/post office had free coffee and cake and proved handy for spending our remaining Swedish coins on travel essentials (such as chocolate).

Neither campsiteSweden_(199).JPG had internet but the Tourist Office by the bridge offered free email and fascinating information. Here we learnt that the wooden church (dating from 1816, restored 1954 and always open) is the northernmost in Sweden. The bridge to Finland was only built in 1980, to replace a ferry. The school, opened in 1994, has Sweden's largest fireplace, which tells something about the winter up here! The local people of Karesuando actually speak the 4 different languages of Nordkalloten - Swedish, Finnish, Samic and Norwegian - sometimes all at the same time! And finally, we should have been here for the last weekend in July, when there is a great Fair. We'll be back!

To quote from a leaflet about Karesuando:

“DURING THE VINTERDAYS DARKNESS – The sun never rises over the horizon,Sweden_(246).JPG dawn gives way to the dusk and day merges with night. But when the pure white snow gleams beneath the stars and the moon, the dark is no longer dark.”

“People and nature are also influenced by THE SUMMERNIGHTS LIGHT – This short but intensive time seems never-ending. We starts many projects and almost forget to sleep. At midsummer – a bittersweet emotion – the light begins to take its leave of us.”

Sweden - Conclusion

After a total of 1,136Sweden_(247).JPG miles in Sweden (but not Swedish miles: they equal 10 km each), we shall certainly miss this unspoiled country of civilised wilderness. Yes, it is a long way to drive but motorhoming here is not expensive. At the present exchange rate of over 11 SK to the pound sterling (or approx 10 to the Euro), fuel and campsites have cost less than in most of Western Europe in July-August. Credit cards were accepted (indeed preferred) at virtually every store, campsite or fuel station we used. Campsites are the best in Europe, always with a free well-equipped kitchen and immaculate facilities, and usually with WiFi internet. There is also plenty of opportunity for overnighting away from campsites, with fresh water and toilet disposal available in rest areas. The very few motorways are toll-free (but do not have service stations – turn off for fuel). And it's not too cold in summer – perfect for walking and cycling, in fact.

Karesuando, Sweden to Kautokeino, Finnmark, Norway (via Finland)     Arctic Motel & Camping     €15     100 miles     1,020 ft

Crossing the bridge over the Muonio – the wide river that forms the Swedish-Finnish border fromSweden_(201).JPG the Gulf of Bothnia in the south to the Norwegian frontier in the far north-west – we passed a deserted Customs post from pre-EU days and left Sweden. Entering Finland at the village of Kaaresuvanto, we turned right (south-east) on E8, immediately smoother and wider than the Swedish E45 which had brought us so far.

On a bright sunny morning we soon passed a small campsite, then a Poro-Farm, followed by warning signs for reindeer (Poro). There was also a warning sign for cyclists but they are an extremely rare animal up here! Following the river, lined with birch trees turning gold, we reached 1,375 ft (420 ft) before turning left at 24 miles in Palojoensu. The quieter rd 93 led north-east, away from the river, for 16 miles to the town of Enontekio. On the way we met 3 magnificent reindeer: a pure white stag proudly leading a doe and calf along the road, quite untroubled by a motorhome with 2 eager photographers.

Enontekio is a good place to shop before Norway, where both food and fuel are more expensive. Road 93 turns sharp left to head north, while the town itself lies a mile east along rd 956. By the junction is a seasonal campsite, where we once spent a chilly night in a tent whilst cycling this area. In the town centre there is a bank ('Panki') for changing money, though it closes from 1 – 5 pm (and remember Finland is an hour ahead of the rest of Scandinavia). Parking alongside a large KKK supermarket, we soon refilled our larder, then crossed the road for an excellent lunch buffet at the Jussan Tupa Hotelli. Finland uses Euro currency and the meal was good value at €9 each for a self-serve selection of hot meat and fish dishes, vegetables, salads, breads, soft drinks, fruit & cream and tea or coffee.

Replete, we returned tNorway_(100).JPGo rd 93 (at 42 miles) and turned north for Norway. 16 miles on, in Palojarvi, there is camping by the lake, as well as the last fuel and store in Finland. At 65 miles, still up at 1,300 ft, we entered Norway, past a disinterested Customs post. Norway is not an EU member and uses Norwegian Krone (approx 8 to the Euro or 9.5 to Norway_(102).JPGthe pound sterling), though Euros and credit cards are both widely accepted.

This is Finnmark, the northernmost of Norway's 3 counties and clearly not a priority for the highways department, rd 93 turning suddenly narrower as it rolled across a high plain with large lakes and small birch trees. A souvenir stall advertised 'Cheap Reindeer Skin'. Most of the traffic consisted of motorhomes and caravans returning from the far north on one of the favourite routes to NordKapp.

(Continued at: In Norway 2010)