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In Sweden September 2011 PDF Printable Version E-mail


From Arctic Norway into Sweden: September 2011

Barry and Margaret Williamson
September 2011

Continued from: IN NORWAY: AUGUST 2011

Continued at: RETURN TO THE UK 2011

Click: Images of the Journey South through Sweden


Following a IMG_1168.JPG12-week, 4,700-mile (7520 km) journey through coastal Norway from the southern tip of the country at the Lindesnes Lighthouse, we arrived in Narvik. We then headed east and then south through Sweden with the intention of following that country's Inland Road (E45) to its southernmost point. Hopefully, a ferry into Germany will takIMG_2362.JPGe us further south and west, en route to the UK. Well see how it goes!

We usually travel as motorhomers, but on this journey we are trying out a short wheelbase Mercedes Sprinter van pulling a 2-berth Compass caravan. Among much else and ready for anything, the Sprinter carries our Paul Hewitt touring bicycles and a tent.



Haersletta Camping, Traeldal, Mainland Norway – 129 miles

Open 10 May-20 Sept, see www.narvikherslettacamping.no. Price charged (cash only) 200 NK per day including electricity. Showers 10 NK for 5 mins. No internet/WiFi.

We stayed two nights on this campsite which lies at the junction of the E6 and the E10. We revisited Narvik and paid our respects to the soldiers, sailors and airmen burried there following the fighting of May-June 1940 when the Germans invaded.

At this point we decided to head east on the E10, over the mountains to Kiruna. 


Our Initial Route from Narvik to Pajala via Kiruna

Ripan Hotel & Camping, Kiruna, Swedish Lapland – 100 miles

Open all year, see www.ripan.se. Price charged (cards OK) 225 SK per day including electricity and WiFi (in hotel area only). Showers 10 SK.

The Nordkalottvagen road (E10) linking Narvik (Norway) with Kiruna (Sweden) was only completed in 1984, threading its way alongside the earlier railway. It's a spectacular run, climbing through the mountains, over the border and across the Abisko plateau to Lapland's iron-ore capital of Kiruna, up at 1,820 ft/550 m. A road that we cycled in the opposite direction in summer 1990 (part of a long ride from England to Tromso, via the newly united Germany, Poland, Leningrad, Finland and Sweden, and so to Norway at Narvik – but that's another story and over  20 years ago). We've also driven it in a snow storm in late September!

Today we set off in calm sunshine as we climbed rapidly from Haersletta Camping, soon reaching over 1,000 ft/300 m. Siemens were building a wind farm to intrude in the wilderness, then we passed a cafe (closed and for sale, the giant Troll having failed to attract tourists). After 17 miles at 1,630 ft/495 m we crossed the border into Sweden, marked by the conglomeration of new ski chalets, rough campground and original hotel at the Riksgransen. We had regular views of the Kiruna-Narvik railway, still carrying iron ore and passengers, sometimes below avalanche shuttering.

Crossing the plateau at around 1,500 ft/455 m, the road runs between Abisko National Park and the 45-mile/70-km long lake Tornetrask. Up here the lakes can be frozen till mid-June; then autumn comes earlier than down on the coast, the spindly birches already turning golden – and snow poles in place along the verges. There are regular rest areas with superb views and a couple of places to eat or stay: Bjorklidens hotel/restaurant/camping at 35 miles, then the Abisko Tourist Station 5 miles later (camping, food, etc), by a railway halt, bus stop and ski lift. Abisko Mountain Lodge, another mile along, offers B&B, cabins, food and fuel. Then there is nothing but the road across the wilderness for 45 miles until the mine workings, slag heaps and railway sidings mark the gritty entrance to Kiruna.

There is a large ACSI-listed and well signed campsite at the Ripan Hotel, a short walk from the town centre. We remember it mainly for the all-you-can-eat weekday buffet lunch in the modern restaurant and were pleased to arrive in time. The Monday menu was salmon soup, baked ham with mushroom sauce, vegetables, salads, home-made bread, crispbreads, butter, cheese, fresh fruit and cinnamon biscuits, with plentiful mineral water and coffee – all for 99 SK pp, a real bargain after Norwegian prices! (Current exchange rate 10 SK=£1 with easy mental arithmetic.) Tuesday would be goulash soup and reindeer stew but we'd find it a challenge to lunch there on 2 consecutive days!

There is also a laundry room with 2 washers and 2 driers, and a booking system charging 80 SK for 4 hours' exclusive use. During the next slot from 4-8 pm, we managed to wash and dry 4 loads – another bargain on a wet evening.

The sky had turned an appropriate steely grey over this town, which owes its very existence to the iron ore. With an ore body 4 km long, 80 m thick and reaching a depth of 2 km, the Kiruna mine is the world's largest, most modern underground iron ore mine. Since mining began at the site over 100 years ago, over 950 million tons of ore has been extracted, yet this is only one third of the original ore body.

Although the Municipality of Kiruna covers an area half that of Switzerland, the population of the town is only about 24,000 and much of the town is in the process of being moved to the northwest, as it becomes undermined and slowly subsides. The site will become a park, and the road and railway will divert to the new location.

Pajala Camping/Youth Hostel, Pajala, Swedish Lapland – 119 miles

Open all year. Price charged (cards OK) 190 SK per day including electricity, showers and WiFi (and 10% discount for Scandinavian Camping Card). Stay a week and get a night free.

We left Kiruna on E10, south-east, direction Lulea. At a roundabout after 4 miles there is a large shopping area (2 supermarkets, fuel, electrical store, etc) where we restocked. Continuing, gradually downhill, to Svappavaara, a village with a cafe at 28 miles, E10 met E45, the Inlandsvagen. The width, surface and quietness of all the roads were a joy after the tight narrow highways and byways of Norway.

Leaving E10 (to make its own way to the Gulf of Bothnia), we turned east on E45 for 17 miles to Vittangi. Here there is an Elk Farm, a simple fishing campsite by the river, a shop, cafe, plenty of space to park – but no bank. E45 heads north to the Finnish border at Karesuando, a route we followed in the summer of 2010 but today we turned south-east on the scenic rd 395, which follows the Tornio River (rising from Lake Tornetrask we passed yesterday up at Abisko) to Pajala.

It was warm, despite a light drizzle, as we drove this remarkably empty road through autumnal forest. There was a truckstop in Masugnsbyn at 69 miles, a shop and motel in Junosuando 12 miles later, then the border town of Pajala near the confluence of the Tornio and the Muonio. Finland lies across the broad salmon-rich river. Pajala did have a friendly bank, where we changed remaining Norwegian notes into Swedish money before driving another mile to a tidy campsite under pine trees by the river bank.

With a good WiFi connection, we stayed a couple of days and caught up with writing and emails. Also had a pleasant 4-mile walk, leaving camp through the forest and across a swaying footbridge, then doubling back to the village. A red squirrel avoided our camera by hiding underneath the van and we also saw rabbits.

We watched one of the 3-for-99 SK films we'd bought in the Coop (pronounced 'coop' not 'co-op'!) – 'The Lost City' – which was an excellent evocation of 1950s Cuba and the end of Batista's dictatorship.

Holiday Village & Camping, Overtornea, Swedish Lapland – 72 miles

Open all year, see www.holidayvillage.se. Price charged (cards OK) 190 SK for one night, including electricity, showers and unlimited laundry (washer & drier). Two days=340 SK; three days=490 SK. Stay more than 3 days and it's 155 SK per day from the start. Complicated! WiFi available by paying on-line (eg 20 SK for 1 hr or 50 SK for 24 hrs).


 Our Route South through Sweden

Travelling south from Pajala on the Swedish side of the Tornio River border, the quiet rd 99 sliced smoothly through a forest of green and gold. A reindeer grazed under the trees. Perfect!

After 34 miles we crossed the bridge to Finland, continuing south on E8 for 2 miles to Pello. The campsite here closed at the end of August but there are shops and fuel. A chance to fill up with diesel at €1.35 per litre (less than most countries of western Europe these days and much less than Norway!) Finland, with its Euro currency, is a Scandinavian bargain.

On the Polar Circle at Juoksenki, 17 miles south of Pello, there is a well-stocked souvenir shop and cafe, with generous free parking space on both sides of the highway, complete with water for campers. We parked for lunch, photographed each other under the Polar Circle sign and visited the shop, where Margaret bought a warm fleece jacket.

At 70 miles, Aavasaksa has a bridge across the mighty Tornio River. The campsite, just past the bridge, was open but deserted with a phone number to call. Instead, we drove over the river into Sweden and the border town of Overtornea. The entrance to the 'holiday village' (camping and cabins), about a mile north of the town centre, is between an old Folk Museum and a new outdoor swimming complex (both closed). The large campsite has a small cafe/shop and – what joy – a free laundry! The internet hot spot worked well.

Next afternoon we walked back into Overtornea along a disused railway track by the river bank, then over the bridge (with a large Tourist Info Centre – closed at weekends!) into Finland. Here we enjoyed both the coffee and its low price at a cafe in Aavasaksa before returning (about 5 miles in all).

The following day poured solidly with rain. Leaving the caravan in its soggy field, we drove the van down the Finnish E8 to Tornio, a busy city at the river estuary on the Gulf of Bothnia – with a Lidl supermarket. Lidl is non-existent in Norway, only found in the south of Sweden, but much more common in Finland (home of the world's northernmost Lidl in Sodankyla, above the Arctic Circle!) After Norway, it was great to fill a trolley with all the basics at prices that didn't put a fresh cauliflower in the luxury bracket! Long life milk and cream, German sausages, bacon ...

Crossing over to Swedish Haparanda on the west side of the river mouth, we then returned north to Overtornea on empty rd 99. It was amazing how quickly the bustle of the twin border cities of Tornio-Haparanda was left behind: a 93-mile round trip, with nothing but forest and an occasional farm en route on both sides of the river.

Hamnkroa (Harbour Cafe) & Camping, Tore, Sweden – 70 miles

Open all year, see: http://www.torecamping.se/default.htm  Price charged (cards OK) 170 SK for one night, including electricity and showers. WiFi a one-off 25 SK.

Remaining on the Swedish side of the Tornio River, we drove 13 miles down rd 99 then turned south-west on rd 398 via Lapptrask (just a farm). Meeting the E4 highway at 43 miles, we continued west for 11 miles to Kalix. We turned off at a roundabout in the town centre to Kalix Camping on the waterside and parked for lunch. A sign in the (closed) reception/cafe informed campers that they should check in at the Hotel Valhall in the town centre, but didn't even give a map. All facilities were locked. Deciding they didn't deserve our custom, we drove on towards Lulea.

At the small town of Tore a campsite was signed, half a mile off E4 by the harbour. Not in any of our guides or lists, it was open and friendly.

A short walk to the small marina revealed that Tore, being at the very top of the Gulf of Bothnia, is therefore also the northernmost harbour in the Baltic Sea. Another '-ernmost' for our list! Heavy rain deterred further exploration.

A flock of beautiful Waxwings landed in the Rowan tree outside the caravan window, almost stripping the branches of red berries. Checking the RSPB site, we learnt that these birds migrate from Scandinavia in winter, arriving on the east coast of Britain in October. Rather like we aim to, though we won't be staying until March! It was lovely to watch them – a change from the ubiquitous White Wagtails (the national bird of Latvia, also common throughout the Far North of Scandinavia).

At the campsite we met 3 gentlemen from India, busy filling the kitchen with a wonderful aroma. They turned out to be social workers, volunteers in Sweden on some kind of work experience and due to return to the Sub-continent shortly. What a contrast they had found! 

Gielas Camping, Arvidsjaur, Sweden – 128 miles (altitude 1,300 ft)

Open all year, see www.gielas.se. Low Season price (cards OK) 195 SK per day, including electricity, showers, WiFi - and even satellite TV, if you have a connecting lead. This applies during May, Sept, Oct & Nov. Rest of year is High Season at 225 SK. Book for a week to get 10% discount. Free coffee & biscuits on arrival!

From Tore Camping it was just a mile to the E4/E10 junction, where we headed west on E4 (not wishing to turn north to Kiruna). E4 is a good 3-lane highway and there are no road tolls in Sweden.

Shortly before Lulea we turned off at 28 miles (signed Gammelstad) to visit Sweden's largest Church Village 2 miles later. Such villages were built in the far north and west of the country in the 17th century, after Sweden had broken with Rome and adopted the Lutheran faith. Attendance at church services became compulsory and those with long journeys needed accommodation.

Entering Gammelstad (meaning Old Town) a large free car park, next to Hagnan Open Air Museum (open June to mid-Aug), is a short walk from the World Heritage Parish Village. Picturesque wooden houses are clustered round the weighty 15thC stone-built church, though both church and Tourist Information Centre were closed (despite a notice to the contrary in the TI window!) Rain drizzled as we returned to the car park (a good place for overnight parking, as we have previously). 

Driving on through Gammelstad we crossed the long railway that runs from the port of Lulea, on the Gulf of Bothnia, to Narvik in Norway, via Sweden's iron ore capital at Kiruna. Our rd 97 rejoined the E4 after 4 miles and we continued south, bypassing Lulea. At 35 miles we passed Ornvik Hotel/Camping, conveniently next to the highway and open all year.

After another 7 miles we turned off onto the quieter rd 94 to drive inland. At 68 miles, crossing the broad Pite River, which reaches the Gulf of Bothnia at Pitea south of Lulea, we arrived at the small town of Alvsbyn (= river town). It has shops, fuel and a campsite that closed at the end of August. A large flock of Swans and Canada Geese grazed a riverside field, doubtless on their way south.

Continuing west through the infinite forest and lakeland, the road climbed gently to 1,450 ft/440 m. At 126 miles we turned right on rd 95 into Arvidsjaur, an important staging post on Sweden's Inland Railway (Inlandsbanan) and Inland Road E45. Half a mile later, the left turn for the campsite is signed.

We shopped at the Dollar Store, a mile before the campsite. They don't sell much food, except confectionery, but are excellent for stocking up on biscuits, chocolate, sweets (liquorice allsorts made in Blackpool!), as well as detergent, toiletries etc. Also found a couple of good DVDs – including a boxed set of the original BBC series of 'I Claudius' – all at bargain prices.

On to the large and highly organised ACSI-listed campsite, which doubles as the town's sports centre with indoor and outdoor courts, gym, etc. It has excellent facilities and we did appreciate the coffee and biscuits offered on arrival! Surrounded by mossy forest, studded with brightly coloured toadstools, we expected to see gnomes. After all, this is silver-mining country.

Margaret chatted with a couple of students from Bristol University's walking club – and what a walk they were taking! The stoical group of 9 were following the Kungsleden (King's Trail), Sweden's most popular long-distance hike, that runs for almost 500 km from Abisko, up near the Norwegian border, and crosses the Arctic Circle on its way south to Hemavan near the ski resort of Tarnaby. Carrying all their own tents and equipment, the only complaint was about the rain on the Fells, which had caused their diversion to Arvidsjaur for a break. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kungsleden if tempted - we weren't!

Storumans Camping, Storuman, Sweden – 98 miles (altitude 1,170 ft)

Open 1 April-30 Sept. Price 150 SK for one night, including electricity and showers. WiFi Hotspot (not working).

It was 2 miles through Arvidsjaur to rejoin the Inland Road E45, where we continued westwards. It was rainy again and we thought of the Bristol Uni hikers, whose boots had just dried out! At Slagnas, the next settlement at 35 miles, we turned off through the village, consisting of a campsite, an Ostrich Farm, a tiny shop and ample parking space next to the railway sidings.

The E45, that amazing ribbon of tarmac that slices a narrow and rolling course through the heart of Sweden's forest, remained well above 1,000 ft (maximum 1,745 ft/530 m) as we drove the next 18 miles to Sorsele. Here the Inlandsbanan station is also a Railway Museum, with plenty of parking space, opposite the right turn for the all-year Sorsele Camping. We bought diesel, shopped at the Coop (next to the campsite), had lunch and decided to continue.

E45 turned south from Sorsele, still criss-crossing the railway which it parallels. We passed another small campsite at Blattnicksele, 15 miles further on, as the rain stopped. There was even some warmth in the sun as it glinted on some of Sweden's 98,000 lakes.

At Storuman we turned off, following the campsite signs for a mile to the lakeside camp, next to the town's ice hockey stadium. A sign in the closed Reception had a number for campers to phone on arrival, in order to summon the warden. The facilities, accessed by a key-card, were excellent, though there was no internet. (We used the town library on a previous visit.)

Kolgarden Camping, Lovliden, Vilhelmina, Sweden – 41 miles

Open May-Oct, see www.kolgarden.se. Price charged (cards OK) 180 SK per day, including electricity, showers and WiFi.

Returning 2 miles to the E45, we crossed the broad Ume River and continued south. At 28 miles, next to a rest area with a 2-hr limit, Vojma Camping is popular with salmon-fishers (180 SK, no internet).

After another12 miles, about 3 miles before Vilhelmina, we turned right onto the 'Saga Road' (also known as the 'Wilderness Road') to the well-signed ACSI-listed camping a mile along. Here Robert & Carina run a delightful campsite – a favourite of ours - on the shores of Lake Volgsjo, with hotel-standard bathrooms and cosy kitchen, dining room and sitting room. We were sorry that the restaurant is only open in summer (except for special events, like today's wedding party). Asking when the campsite closes, Robert said 'when the snow comes and the campers don't' – a good answer! The well appointed cabins remain open year-round.

Cycle Ride 1 (16 miles) - After lunch (our last tin of cream of reindeer soup!) the clear blue sky and sunshine lured us out for a ride, half of it on unsealed tracks. We followed the 'Strandleden' (Shore Path) - a gravel foot/cyle path down the eastern side of the lake - for 5 miles, bypassing Vilhelmina town centre. This eventually met E45, where we turned off east on rd 360 for 2 miles, climbing into the forest near a ski run. A dirt road then turned left for 3 miles or so, past an 'Adventure Centre' where kids on scrambler motorbikes briefly shattered the peace, until we met E45 north of Vilhelmina and returned to our campsite turning. What a great ride – and we saw several Capercaillie (large black Nordic grouse) crashing about in the tops of the Spruce trees (which make up almost half of Sweden's forest).

Next morning the vast lake by which we had settled had disappeared under an eerie shroud of mist, with no sight of the nearby islets, let alone the far shores! The curtain gradually lifted while we spent the morning working on-line (2 new articles on Eastern Europe and Turkey, from Brenda Wilson and Phil Letts) and also caught up with laundry. By the afternoon, all was clear and sunny again and we saddled up for another ride.

Cycle Ride 2 (25 miles) – This circular ride began on a minor road north towards Nastansjo for about 5 miles. It was so quiet that we met a small group of Reindeer, led by a magnificent stag, who stood and stared in surprise! Turning east along a dirt road through the forest for another 5 miles, we saw more Capercaillie and a large (Arctic?) hare. Meeting E45  near Volgsele station, we had a break in the bus shelter before riding south to our campsite turning. This being Sunday, the Inlandsvagen highway was only slightly busier than the side roads!

Lits Camping & Little Lake Hill Canoe Centre, Lit, Sweden – 41 miles

Open 1 June-30 Sept, see www.litscamping.com. Price charged (cards OK) 185 SK per day, including electricity, showers and WiFi.

Back on E45 we drove past Vilhelmina's church village and the Tourist Office in the splendid wooden town hall (all visited previously), stopping after 3 miles at ICA supermarket's generous car park to shop. Continuing south for 16 miles, the next place, Meselefors, just has a small campsite and a rest area after crossing the Angerman River.

Then nothing broke the forest until Dorotea, at 37 miles – one of 3 parishes named after Frederica Dorotea Vilhelmina, Queen Consort at the turn of the 18/19th century. She was actually German by birth and her marriage to Sweden's King was politically important, as her sister was married to the Russian Tsar. Dorotea is a traveller-friendly town, with a Caravan Museum (closed) opposite a caravan factory, Doro Camping (open), and signed free parking for caravans near the shops, etc. It is also the entry (or exit) point to Lapland.

At Hoting, 14 miles further south, the Hotel Raivi was advertising a 'Stor (= Big) Lunch Buffet' (served 11 am-2 pm, Mon-Fri). We found a splendid self-service spread for 98 SK (less than £10) each. The cold table groaned with delights such as a whole fresh salmon, smoked salmon, roll-mop herrings, hard boiled eggs garnished with prawn mayonnaise, a variety of salads (including Greek with feta cheese), dressings, rolls, crispbreads and butter. The hot dishes ranged from chicken quarters, meatballs and sausages to Thai chicken curry, along with vegetables. The price included all you could eat of everything, a soft drink, dessert (chocolate mousse, cream and fruit salad), coffee and mints!! Who could resist that offer? Well satisfied, we passed Hoting's all-year campsite (opposite the Motor Museum) as we left town.

The little campsite at Lovberga 19 miles on, which we'd used when we drove the Wilderness Road circuit back in mid-July, was now closed. Continuing 12 miles to busy Stromsund, it began to pour down. Over the bridge we paused at the Dollar Store - but not at the adjacent Stromsund Camping, which is far too big and impersonal.

By Hammerdal at 103 miles (and still over 1,000 ft asl) the sky was dark with heavy rain. We pulled into the next camp at Lit, an ACSI-listed site that is a good alternative to the large busy all-year one at Ostersund, a few miles further south. Lits Camping was empty and looked closed, though a free phone at Reception linked to English-speaking staff who called round for payment. The water was hot, the WiFi worked well and we had the place to ourselves.

Next morning all was dry and sunny so, leaving the caravan on-site, we drove into Ostersund – the largest city for many a week, with the northernmost McDonalds on the E45! After shopping at Lidl, we crossed the bridge to the tiny island of Froson for a picnic lunch. The island lies in Storsjon Lake (Sweden's 5th largest, claiming its own Loch Ness type monster) but, disappointingly, Froson is now no more than a leafy suburb of  Ostersund - and the site of its airport. Hill-top Froso Church, described as a 'beautiful 11th C church with detached wooden bell tower', looked remarkably modern and was in any case locked, though there was a nice view over the lake.

Sveg Camping, Sveg, Sweden – 126 miles (altitude 1,180 ft)

Open all year. Price charged (cards OK) 185 SK per day, including electricity, showers and WiFi.

From Lit we drove 11 miles south on E45, then took the E14 'motorway', which bypasses the centre of Ostersund, rejoining E45 at Brunflo roundabout 12 miles later. The E14 (linking Trondheim in Norway with Swedish Sundsvall, on the Gulf of Bothnia) was busy and had fuel, fast food and a turning for Ostersunds Camping along this stretch.

Continuing south on our constant Inlandsvagen route, we had a coffee break at 51 miles in Svenstavik, with a large car park by the combined train/bus station. The village of Asarna, 8 miles later, had a small all-year campsite behind a ski shop/cafe, just after the Big Moose Hotel. We're still in high country.

In Overhogdal, at 88 miles, there was a small grass-roofed cafe (open) and bakery museum (closed), with parking space. The village is known for the well preserved tapestries found here in 1909 and dating from the Viking era. They can be seen in Ostersund's Jamtli Museum or look at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Φverhogdal_tapestries.

Ytterhogdal, 11 miles further south, has a cafe and riverside space signed 'Free Parking 24 hours' for motorhomes/caravans. Then E45 swung westwards through Alvros at 117 miles, a village with a pair of photogenic churches, one of which has a fine wooden bell tower.

Reaching the town of Sveg at the busy junction of E45 and rd 84, there is a large ACSI-listed campsite before the bridge. It's a workaday site, used by itinerant workers (signs in Polish, as well as Swedish and English), but convenient for the town (whose emblem is a giant wooden bear). The camping lies behind a building that houses the Tourist Office and a simple restaurant with daily specials. Since last year, free WiFi has been added to the site's attractions. Now, if only they could fix some private shower cubicles ... 

Varnas Camping, Stollet, Sweden – 159 miles (altitude 500 ft)

Open all year. Price charged (cash only) 170 SK per day, including electricity. Showers 5 SK per 3 mins. WiFi available by paying on-line (eg 20 SK for 1 hr or 50 SK for 24 hrs).

Driving down the sunny forested E45 Inlandsvagen, gravel side roads were signed to different Nature Reserves (which can't look much different, with nature all around!) The road remained high at around 1,300 ft, very quiet and gently rolling, with a light back wind - ideal conditions for the lone cycle tourist we regularly pass, after first seeing him at Arvidsjaur. Like the tortoise and the hare, he keeps going while we have rest days.

The village of Tandsjoborg at 31 miles had a nice riverside campsite (closed) and little else; then came a good rest area/cafe 8 miles later by Sandsjon Lake. The road climbed to 1,650 ft/500 m before dropping to 1,100 ft/333 m to cross the Ore River at Noppikoski at 47 miles. Here we paused at a rest area (unusually signed 'No Camping') by the Youth Hostel, tucked behind a cafe. It's a very short stroll to the Noppikoski Falls, looking and sounding quite dramatic after recent rain. We could well imagine the log jams here when the Ore was used for log floating.

E45 climbed away from the river as we continued south into Dalarna Province, reaching 1,880 ft/570 m before descending over 1,000 ft to Orsa (with an all-year campsite on Lake Orsa) at 77 miles. The forests around this town are Brown Bear territory but they are easier to see in North Europe's largest Bear Park at Gronklitt, 10 miles west of Orsa (visited before). See http://www.orsabjornpark.se/

Another 9 miles south we reached Mora, the popular town at the head of large Lake Siljan, and took a break at the shopping centre off the roundabout for a McLunch. Passing crowded lakeside car parks and the southern terminus of the Inlandsbanan railway, we were glad to leave the busy town centre behind (and definitely not tempted to stay on its extensive campsite after our previous visit).

A further 10 miles down E45 we paused in a lovely rest area at Siljafors, complete with cafe, youth hostel and iron-mining/wood museum (the museum closed, of course!) A family enjoyed a picnic, while others fished from the banks. At Oje, at 118 miles, another riverside cafe and small campsite looked inviting.

The town of Malung 10 miles later had a Lidl store (among other shops) and a sign announcing the Autumn Market over the coming weekend. The campsite by the lake was open but had no internet and was already filling up for the market. Continuing south, we passed another good rest area with cafe at 145 miles.

Crossing the border into Varmland Province (Sweden's sunniest), we actually felt warmer! The first settlement, Stollet, had a choice of 2 all-year campsites on the Klaralven River. Klaralvens Camping on the E45 was deserted, with check-in at the nearby Hotel Varmlandsporten (and no internet). It was a mile along rd 62 (north-west, towards Norway) to the friendlier ACSI-listed Varnas Camping. We shared the site with a group of men in the cabins, out for a weekend's elk hunting (the season ends after the first week of October).

It was a peaceful spot by the river, with a short woodland walk (though we wouldn't trust the log rafts moored along the bank!) and the Telia Homerun Internet Hot Spot worked well for most of the time.

Stenrosets Camping, Trollhattan, Sweden – 182 miles (altitude 225 ft)

Open all year. Price charged (cards OK) 180 SK per day, including electricity, showers and WiFi.

Ever south on the trusty E45 Inlandsvagen, through the forest of green (spruce) and gold (birch) growing noticeably taller as we gradually descended towards the coast. The sun shone from a clear blue sky; a veil of mist rose from the Klaralven River.
At 27 miles the next town, Torsby, offered a large supermarket (ICA, pronounced 'ikker') and a campsite (closed since mid-Sept). Continuing down the western shore of long narrow Lake Fryken for 21 miles to Sunne, we passed the large all-year campsite next to a 'water fun park', then the golf club and Rottneros Park, before the small Sunne Hotel & Camping we'd used in July 2010, also open.

Continuing south, we had a lunch break at 83 miles on a large service area (with fuel and Burger King) near Grums. The next stretch of E45 joins the busier E18 (a 3-lane highway) for 10 miles. After that the 45 is much more urbanised, edged with regular businesses and eating places. We drove through Saffle at 104 miles (shops, McDonalds, fuel etc) and the smaller town of Amal 12 miles later (with all-year campsite). Sadly, the magnificent Swedish wilderness now lay behind us.

Driving on through the canal region of Dalsland, we passed the Haverud Aqueduct carrying boats, similar to the Llangollen Canal in North Wales. The next all-year campsite was in Mellerud at 143 miles but we chose to look at the smaller camp in Bralanda, 11 miles later. A mistake – though 'open', it was boggy, deserted and with poor facilities. We decided to press on to Trollhattan, where we knew a good site.

Approaching Vanersborg at the foot of vast Lake Vanern, the E45 became seriously busy. It combined with rd 44, crossed a high bridge over the broad Gota River at 175 miles, then proceeded via extensive road works through congested Trollhattan. It was a relief to see the exit for Stenroset Camping, right by the E45, 4 miles south of the town. This grassy site is a haven on the way to the port of Goteborg, another 40 miles or so away.

Enjoying a rest day here, we spent a morning on-line: checking the ferry options for our onward journey (Sweden-Germany, Sweden-Denmark, Denmark-England, cross-Channel options including the Tunnel, and so on); updating this travel-log; processing photographs; etc. All with a background of BBC Radio 4. The planned dhobi could not be done, however, as the camp laundry had been struck by lightning in a recent storm!  

In the afternoon we cycled a dirt road through the woods to the Gota River, then on to the Gota Canal Locks about 2.5 miles from the campsite. In the 19th century a flight of 7 hand-operated locks allowed ships to sail between Goteborg and LakeVanern. They are still to be seen, alongside the 3 machine-operated locks that replaced them in the early 20th century.

We watched a succession of pleasure craft go through the extremely deep locks, then crossed the lock gate bridge to ride the canal path for another 2.5 miles into Trollhattan. The Canal Museum and Cafe were both closed, on a beautiful Sunday afternoon – the last weekend of September.

Returning through the mixed woodland we noticed oak, hazel, sycamore and other deciduous trees – a rich mixture after seeing nothing but evergreens, birch and rowan to the north. There was consequently more variety of small birds - notably tits, sparrows and greenfinches.

Apelviken Camping, Varberg, Sweden – 95 miles (Sea level!)

Open all year. Price charged (cards OK) 120 SK per day, including electricity, showers and WiFi. (This is the off-season discount price of 13 Euros for ACSI Card holders. The offer also gives the 7th night free!)

Still following the E45 for Goteborg (Gothenburg), we passed a service area 10 miles along at Lilla Edet, with fuel, ample parking, toilets and a Latrin for chemical toilet emptying – the kind of place that's OK for motorhomes overnight. We are finding free-camping less easy in the caravan, which feels less secure and really needs an electric hook-up.

At 29 miles at Nodinge we exited the (now 4-lane dual carriageway) E45 to access a large shopping centre, visiting Lidl and McDonalds. In Sweden, show a Scandinavian Camping Card for a McDiscount or free coffees - depending on the whim of the Manager!

Back on E45 it was a further 12 miles, with intrusive road works and lamentable lack of signs, to the junction with the southbound E6/E20. Joining this much busier 4-lane motorway, the next services were at 55 miles.

At 89 miles we took exit 54 for the coastal resort of Varberg. Following signs for 'Centrum', then 'Apelviken', we lost count of the number of roundabouts crossed! On the way in we were stopped at a routine Police Checkpoint, where Barry had to show his licence and take his first ever breathalyser test (negative, naturally, since he doesn't drink at any time!) We thoroughly approve of random checking, and saw it in action later in a different part of town.

Varberg has several campsites, though only one is still open at the end of September, situated about 2 miles south of the town centre near Apelviken Sanatorium, which is a splendid set of buildings on the site of the original hospital for children suffering with TB and Scrofula.

Apelviken's vast grassy campsite, stretching to the sea shore where cool dudes surf, is highly managed with card-key entry to its excellent facilities. In summer, with children's entertainment programmes, a circus big top and evening karaoke, we would find it a nightmare. Now, almost empty and at ACSI discount rate, it's a dream! Taking advantage of the ACSI '7 night free' deal, we had a week's break, making good use of  laundry and internet.

Varberg, a bathing resort and sanatorium since 1811, is easy to explore on foot or by bicycle. It's a level 2-mile walk or cycle ride from the campsite along the Promenade, past the bathing 'beaches' (rock rather than sand), to the imposing 13thC moated Fortress/Museum and on into the town centre. The main square, Torget, was quite lively with buskers and market stalls and the airy 18thC church was freely open.

Shopping at the central ICA supermarket (with a 5% discount voucher from campsite Reception), there were so many free tastings to sample that we needed no lunch! However, nearby on-street parking (2-hr limit) is difficult and requires a cardboard clock disc, available from the Tourist Office just off Torget for a one-off 15 SK (with no expiry date). If driving (especially a motorhome), it would be easier to shop at the huge Coop Forum with free parking, south of the town centre, where again bananas, coffee and cake were handed out. What a lovely custom! Both stores are about 2.5 miles from the campsite.

We explored beyond the town centre on 2 bicycle rides:

Ride 1 (24 km/15 miles) was along the Promenade from the campsite, past the Fortress, the Victorian pavilion/short pier and marina. Continuing north we passed the Stena Line terminal (twice daily ferries to Grena in Denmark), the mainline railway station, port and wood yards. Wood is now the main export, though once the local quarries shipped stone as far away as Calcutta. Turning west along a short peninsula, there was a bird reserve pond, complete with hides and identification boards (sea birds like Skua, Sooty Shearwater and Auks migrate down this coast), before Varberg's air field and Getterons Camping (closed). At the end of the road, by a youth hostel/cafe, there was ample free parking with several motorhomes in residence (despite a sign for No Parking between 2am and 6 am!) We returned via the town centre, then back along the Promenade, with dedicated cycle paths for almost all the ride – civilised!

Ride 2 (35 km/22 miles) began by driving 11 miles inland on rd 153 to the village of Rolfstorp. We left the van parked behind a supermarket, then cycled a clockwise loop on wonderfully quiet country lanes. The last day of September, it was a surprisingly warm and still afternoon, after the morning mist lifted. The first few miles (south-east) were very hilly, past an 'Iron Age' Viking graveyard with grave mound and stone circles. At Akulla we turned south through an area of small lakes and magnificent beech woods, filtering the sunbeams down to the mossy forest floor. From Dagsas we rode west, almost to the E6/E20 motorway at Himle, passing sheep and cattle farms and riding stables. Then north-east via Grimeton village to close the circle. This was how riding in England used to be – so little traffic and such courtesy to cyclists.

A new activity, and one likely to be continued, was downloading podcasts from the BBC website. An excellent free WiFi system on the campsite enabled over 40 hours of excellent broadcasting to be stored in the computer for a rainy day. 'Coast and Country' (walks in the UK); History, Culture and other programmes from Melvyn Bragg's 'In Our Time' series; the complete 13-programme 8-hour dramatisation of Vasily Grossman's 'Life and Fate'; 10 programmes from Woman Hour's 'Cook the Perfect . . .' series; 10 programmes from Andrew Marr's themed 'Start the Week' series; and a number of documentaries from the BBC World Service. What a treasure trove!

Over the final weekend of 30 September/1 October, our empty campsite suddenly turned busy. The attraction – a Bavarian-style 'Oktoberfest' in the circus marquee that stands between the site and the seashore. With 2 live bands, the entry fee (350 SK each) included food and one drink. Luckily, in our remote corner of the site, we could hear very little of what sounded decidedly like a rock concert!

Malmo (formerly Sibbarp) Camping, Malmo, Sweden – 136 miles

Open all year, see www.firstcamp.se/malmo.  Price charged (cards OK) 290 SK per day, including electricity and showers. Campsite WiFi 39 SK for 8 hrs or 99 SK for 24 hrs. WiFi also available by paying Telia Homerun on-line (20 SK for 1 hr or 50 SK for 24 hrs) – but Camp Reception do not tell you this!

Joining the southbound E6/E20 at junction 53, 7 miles from our Varberg campsite, we headed down the quiet 4-lane motorway (no tolls in Sweden except for the Oresunds Link bridge/tunnel to Denmark – of which more later).

After lunch in a rest area at 51 miles, we continued for 80 miles to Malmo, exit 12, where we joined the inner ring road signed for Limhamn. This was the SatNav's best suggestion for a route to Malmo Camping, 5 miles of urban traffic south-west of the city centre! With hindsight, it's better to use exit 11 (the last one before the Oresund Bridge), though that is still a busy 4 miles from the camp. With even more hindsight, Malmo Camping is best avoided, albeit ACSI-listed and a member of Sweden's Blix First Camp chain – but it's the only one anywhere near the city!

This vast camp proved to be the most expensive - and least welcoming - site we've stayed on in this year's 5-month tour of all 4 Scandinavian countries (including high-price Norway). What a contrast with the site we'd just left at Varberg! The price (almost £30), which did not even include internet, remains the same year-round, though cafe and shop are now closed and everything looks rough round the edges. The Receptionist could not have been more off-hand, allocating a pitch that was sloping and some way from the facilities – though there was plenty of space. 'No you can't look round and choose you place – if you don't like it, come back and I'll give you another'.

Declining to pay an extra 99 SK for WiFi, we settled reluctantly for a short stay, after shopping at the nearest Lidl (with in-store baked rolls, buns and croissants!) Then, turning the lap-top on, we found we were in a Telia Homerun Hot Spot at half the camp's price for 24 hrs – Reception made no mention of that! As on a couple of previous Swedish campsites, Homerun worked well.

The next day we braved the blustery wind to cycle into and around Malmo's Old Town. Our campsite is virtually on the sea-front, with a good view of the Oresund Bridge spanning the Kattegat towards Copenhagen. Photographing the bridge, we stood by a memorial to the (mainly Jewish) refugees of 1940-45 who had fled to neutral Sweden across these waters from German-occupied Denmark. Our own last visit to Malmo, in the summer of 1989, was also by boat from Denmark - part of a 6-week cycle ride from England to Istanbul. We wondered if we'd recognise the city, where we'd bought tickets for the next ferry of that ride: Ystad to Poland?

Paths led us from Limhamn (the old limestone quarrying area), along the sandy shore, past bathing beaches and a yacht marina, then through the extensive Ribersborg Park. We shared the splendid open space with joggers, dog-walkers, pram-pushers, skate boarders, in-line skaters, Nordic walking enthusiasts, and cyclists of all shapes and sizes - with room for all. Dedicated cycle paths and crossings continued, past the moated castle/museum, into the town centre. There were specific cycle-parking areas (even a public tyre-pump) and hundreds of bikes parked by the station, apparently secure, as in Holland. If only English towns ... dream on!

In the Old Town we dutifully admired the medieval buildings round Stortorget, the central square, dominated by the Town Hall of 1546. The smaller Lilla Torg square was all cobbles, half-timbered houses, flower pots, restaurants and high class cafes. Knowing our place, we enjoyed excellent coffees from a nearby Burger King, sitting outside in the sunshine. For more about the history of what was Denmark's second city, until King Karl X took it for Sweden in 1658, see http://www.malmotown.com/en.

Before riding back, we changed surplus Norwegian and Swedish currency into Danish Krone at Forex, just off Stortorget. (As a rule of thumb, it's currently 8 DK, 9 NK or 10 SK to the pound sterling.) We returned via the Western Harbour, where the shipyards are gone. It's landmark is Scandinavia's tallest building (at 190 m/627 ft), known as the Turning Torso – a weird residential skyscraper that twists through 90 degrees from base to top. Can't say we liked it!

Total ride (back wind out, head wind home) was 27 km/17 miles.

Or you can take a bus from the campsite – details and free map from Ms Offhand in Reception.


Heinos Camping, Tappernoje, Zealand, Denmark – 69 miles

Open all year, see http://heinoscamping.dk-camp.dk/.  Price charged (cash only) 130 DK per day including electricity. Token needed for Showers. No internet.

Leaving Malmo's overpriced campsite, it was 4 miles and several roundabouts to junction 11 of E20 westbound: the motorway that crosses to Copenhagen via the 10-mile Oresunds Link: http://uk.oresundsbron.com/page/34. The tollbooths are 2 miles later at the entrance to the bridge, accepting Swedish, Danish or Euro currency, or credit cards. A car + caravan (or a motorhome over 6m long) cost 720 SK or 590 DK. Vehicles below 6m pay just over half that amount.

The massive suspension bridge, a double-decker with trains beneath, is sometimes closed to high-sided vehicles in strong winds. This morning was certainly windy - but fortunately a head-wind rather than gusting from the side - and our combination of small caravan and heavy tow-car (Mercedes Sprinter van) is very stable. The 4-lane dual carriageway bridge is 5 miles long, arching 60m/200 ft above the shipping lane before descending onto the man-made island of Peberholm, where the highway apparently disappears into the sea – a strange feeling as you drive towards infinity! After 2.5 miles across the tiny artificial island, there is a well-lit 2.5-mile submarine tunnel, which surfaces near Copenhagen's Kastrup airport on Dragor island! The whole breathtaking feat – Sweden's only road link with mainland Europe, except via Russia and St Petersburg – was completed in 1999. It was opened with a symbolic embrace, halfway across the new bridge, of Sweden's Crown Princess and Denmark's Crown Prince (ahh!)

Continued at: RETURN TO THE UK 2011