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In Sweden: October 2006 PDF Printable Version E-mail

 

IN SWEDEN: OCTOBER 2006

The Log of a 1,000 mile Journey

Margaret and Barry Williamson

October 2006

This daily log gives an account of our 1,000-mile motorhome journey south through Sweden, starting from Finnmark and Troms, the northernmost regions of Norway.

After winter and early spring in Greece, we left the UK in mid-May 2006 and travelled 1,650 miles via France, Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary for a 5-week, 1,000-mile stay in Romania. In mid-July we left Romania to travel a further 1,500 miles to Finland via eastern Hungary, Slovakia, Poland Nor3_(48).JPGand the Baltic Republics of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. We entered Finland by ferry from Tallinn (Estonia), arriving in Helsinki on 4 August 2006.

For a further 1,400 miles, we enjoyed some of Finland's 187,888 lakes, its limitless forest (covering 70% of the land area) and glimpses of its 180,000 islands! Our bicycles have given us great exercise in several rides on quiet forest roads and gravel tracks. We visited Russia by canal, cycled to the easternmost point of the mainland EU and got up close to elk and reindeer north of the Arctic CircDSCF0006.JPGle.

We have spent time in the northernmost town in the EU, reached Kirkenes and Grense Jakobselv, in the far north-east of Norway close to the Russian border, visited Vadso and Vardo on their lonely Arctic peninsula and, of course, struggled as far as Nordkapp (North Cape), the northernmost point in the world reachable by motorhome (or bicycle). To get there and back, we had to pasDSCF0019.JPGs through 32 km (20 miles) of tunnels, including the world's deepest submarine tunnel.

As the snows began to settle and the days started to shut down, after more than 6 weeks and 2,400 miles within the Arctic Circle, we travelled south from Norway's fiord and glacier-indented coast, into Sweden and Denmark, perhaps returning to the UK by ferry from a yet unknown port.

To see how we got on and discover what we actually did, read on!

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 0.7 Pounds Sterling. The current exchange rate for each non-Euro country is given in the log. The daily rate quoted for campsites generally includes an electrical hook-up.

A Table of Distances, Fuel and Costs will be included at the end of this journey

To read our illustrated account of travelling north from Helsinki, through southern Finland and Karelia (with a visit to Vyborg in Russia and the easternmost point of the EU), up to Lapland and the Arctic Circle, click: Finland August 2006 and Finland September 2006.

For the journey through Norway and the visit to Nordkapp, click Furthest North.

To read about the journey through Denmark which followed Sweden, click: In Denmark

To view a slide show of our journey through Finland, click: Images of Finland

To view a slide show of our journey through Norway, click: Images of Norway

To read Jane and George Swindail's illustrated account of their 11-week journey the length of Norway, click: Jane & George in Norway

Margaret and Barry Williamson

1/3 October   At KIRUNA, Sweden   Ripan Hotel & Camping SEK 170 (c €18.00)

Snowbound rather than Southbound!

We'd planned on leaving Kiruna on 29 September after a 3-day break, but the Arctic weather comes early up here at 1,700 ft! On the first day of October the freezing rain/sleet/snow drizzled down continuously, a fine mist hanging over our wooded camp behind the Ripan Hotel. The forecast looked better for the next day, so we stayed home, slaving over hot keyboards. More snow settled overnight.

On 2 October, the temperature was at last above freezing, the snow began to turn to slush and the sun made a brave attempt to show its face. We prepared to leave, manoeuvring round the campsite to fill our water tank and dump our waste. It was then that Barry noticed the rear left inside tyre looked flat! In fact, the pressure was zero.

We took comfort in the Ripan Hotel's lunch-of-the-day: a generous platter of pork chops with Italian-style sauce and veg, pasta, potatoes, home-baked bread, fresh fruit, coffee, chocolates and home-made biscuits, at a set price of SEK 80 (c ₤6) each – highly recommended! Then we drove into Kiruna with our new problem, heading south to the large out-of-town shopping area on the E10.

At the Q8 station Barry checked and inflated all 6 tyres (and got a fill of diesel for the equivalent of about ₤0.78 per litre – cheaper than Norway, a little more than in Finland). The Q8 staff directed us to the nearest tyre specialist, who confirmed that they could check the tyre tomorrow if it went down overnight. Pleased with this result, we did some food shopping and returned to the Ripan Hotel/Camping for a 7th night. The receptionist gave us the newly arrived Tourist Office booklet, ominously named 'Kiruna: Winter 2006-2007'. But we hope to be gone tomorrow!

Next morning it was snowing again (outdoor temperature 1 deg C), the tyre had gone down (probably a leaking valve) and the tyre specialist booked us in for 1 pm. After an hour at the Bilcentrum, reading and drinking coffee while the hard-working mechanic replaced the faulty valve, we were ready for the road but too late to set out for Norway! A final afternoon at Kiruna's only campsite saw all our emailing, accounts and diary-writing up to date. We also had photographs from Cindy (Iceland/Faroes) and Maggie (Penistone to Slovenia) to prepare, to go with their texts. All good stuff.

We'd driven a total of 22 miles into and around Kiruna and walked into the town centre a couple of times. We certainly admire the hardy people who survive up here, most working at the world's biggest underground mine, 540 m below the earth. That's 1,780 ft – even deeper than Kiruna is high! Iron Men (and Women) indeed.

4 October   139 miles   KIRUNA, Sweden to BALLANGEN, Norway   Ballangen Camping NOK 150 (c €18.00)

A Snow-free Drive over the Border to Norway: Narvik and Ballangen

When we DSCF0177.JPGwoke, the temperature was below freezing outside and only just above inside (35 deg F). Thick frost, no snow, a clear sky. We scraped the ice off the windows, checked the tyre, which had stayed up, and prepared for take-off.

Dropping from 1,783 ft at the campsite toDSCF0197.JPG 1,670 ft in the town centre, we joined the E10, passed the massive LKAB iron mine workings and headed north-west across the Swedish wilderness, the road shadowing the railway. Our height fell gradually over 30 miles, to meet the massive Tornetrask Lake, choppy like an inland sea at 1,230 ft. Amazingly, snow lay only on the high hills above us: the road running between lake and railway was clear (and empty). This road 'across the mountainDSCF0186[1].jpgs' was actually lower than Kiruna the whole way! The birch trees had lost their leaves in the week since we last saw them.

After 60 miles, Abisko has a campsite, mountain lodge, expensive fuel, railway station and Abisko National Park information centre. The next stretch had avalanche warningDSCF0168[1].jpg signs but thankfully the lights were not flashing. Bjorkleiden, 6 miles further on, is another ski resort with camping, hotel, etc.

At Tornehamn the road left the lake and turned west for the Norwegian border. In almost 70 miles, we'd been overtaken by just 2 vehicles (and one train) anDSCF0207.JPGd met only half a dozen coming towards us! Climbing now, above 1,400 ft there was still ice and frost – 200 ft make all the difference out here. Along the full length of the road, luminous snow-poles marked the edges in readiness.

The Riksgransen ski-station at 1,540 ft was 84 lonely miles from Kiruna. Two miles on, at 1,637 ft, we crossed into Norway and paused for lunch before the descent to join the E6, 16 miles below. Turning left for Narvik, the narrownessDSCF0218.JPG of the E6 was immediately evident, every oncoming truck feeling like a 'near miss'. Over a bridge, through Narvik town, eDSCF0225.JPGxiting via a tunnel to follow the south shore of Ofotfjord to Ballangen, 25 miles south of Narvik.

The campsite is about 2 miles before Ballangen village, nicely placed on the Ofotfjord. Supposedly open all year, though toilets and luke-warm showers were the only facilities. All taps were turned off to avoid freezing, the kitchen was out of bounds (being rebuilt) and the wi-fi internet cost NOK 40 for the password (which we didn't pay). A helicopter left and returned to the house in the evening, otherwise all was quiet (and freezing).

5 October   134 miles   BALLANGEN to FAUSKE, Norway   Fauske Camping NOK 170 (c €20.00)

E6 South: A Ferry and Countless Tunnels

Thick frost and clear ScandB_(19).JPGblue sky, but no snow at all as we headed south-west. After Ballangen (fuel, a few shops, small library), the E6 ran inland up to 420 ft, then down and through a 685 m long tunnel. Emerging, the landscape was one of amazing bare high rocks, their sharp crests honed to shape like sand-dunes. We crossed a pair of inlets ScandB_(25).JPGon slender bridges, then climbed again to 800 ft and dropped to sea level at Skarberget, 26 miles out.

Here we joined 10 other vehicles waiting for a boat across the Tysfjord to Bognes (a serious gap in road E6!) A small RO-RO ferry, the 'Hamroy' run by the Hurtigruten company, soon arrived for the smooth 25-minute crossing. It had a warm café inside (we resisted the open prawn ScandB_(32).JPGsandwiches with difficulty) and a cool observation deck outside, with a wonderful view of the mountains in our wake.

Lunch stop 13 miles on, at Ulvsvag. We'd only come 40 miles south but already noticed the birch trees still have their autumn leaves, along with a few green pines. The frost had melted in the mid-day sun and there was no snow, even high above. After a climb to 625 ft we dropped to TommernesScandB_(30).JPGet through the first of many short tunnels on the road to Fauske. Tommerneset is reputed to have prehistoric rock carvings and a Viking/Iron Age Museum but we saw no signs of either.

Another climb to 1,220 ft before the descent to Morsviksbotn. Then a 6-km tunnel climbed 400 ft up through the mountainside, very dusty with road works in the middle (cyclists forbidden – but where do they go?) Emerging, we passed a lake with an eerie power station thScandB_(34).JPGat also tunnels into the mountains (visits arranged for the non-claustrophobic).

After this, we began to lose count of the many short tunnels (16 or more) hewn through the rock – all free and well-lit, but narrow with no edges. A cyclist's nightmare, which is probably why we haven't seen any! The building of the E6, linking fishing communities previously only accessible by boat, was a massive project indeed. Between tunnels, the fjord edges are dotted with war memorials from 1940-44, including French and Russian monuments.

At Straumen, 9 miles before Fauske, we passed Stromhaug Camping. We had driven 122 miles but the GPS had only recorded 108, meaning approx 14 miles of tunnel! The town of Fauske claims to be half-way along the E6 (which began at Kirkenes near the Russian border in the far north-east and runs south to Malmo at the bottom of Sweden!) Our campsite lay another 3 miles beyond the small and cluttered fjord-side town of Fauske with its junction west to Bodo (visited in 1993). Ballangen Camping is set on an uneven hillside at the side of the highway. Though cold, it's no longer freezing overnight as we head south for a second autumn!

6 October   195 miles   FAUSKE, Norway to TARNABY, Sweden   Tarna Fjallby Caravan Park SEK 150 (c €16.50)

Crossing the High Fells, Over the Arctic Circle and Back into Sweden

We hadn't gone 4 miles down E6 south before entering the first tunnel (2 km long), climbing from 100 ft to 280 ft, then a shorter one down again. The road ran above the side of the Saltdalsfjord, with the railway line (to Fauske and Bodo) clinging to its rocky shore below us. Then we took to the shore (via 3 more tunnels), while the tracks climbed above through their own tunnels.

After 18 miles, at the bottom of the fjord, Rognan lay a mile to the west of theScandB_(40).JPG E6 on the old highway. We turned off to refuel and shop. A good buy was a 500W mini oil-filled electric radiator, ideal to leave on safely overnight and to back up the fan heater in the daytime in these Polar Regions!

The E6 leaScandB_(42).JPGves the coast at Rognan, running inland up the Saltdale (Salt River Valley) and across the high Saltfjellet (Salt Fell). Once over this watershed, it follows the Rana River down to Mo i Rana on the Ranfjord. It was an amazing drive, watching the golden birch trees lose their leaves, then vanish, then reappear as we descended – like travelling through the seasons, beneath an ever-changing sky.

At Rokland, 12 miles after Rognan, Nordnes Camping was open ScandB_(45).JPG(most close in August or September). Climbing gently at first up the sheltered Salt Valley, tall green pines lined the road up to about 370 ft (unseen since Finland!) 15 miles from Rokland, at 400 ft, we lunched by the Saltfjellet/Svartisen National Park Tourist Centre. Their campsite was also open, for 240 NOK (or ₤20)! (The Svartisen is a large glacier covering the map to our west.)

Onwards and upwards, we passed a narrow turning into Sweden (no 95, the Silver Road). Climbing high over Salt Fell, the pines had disappeared, the birches were stunted and bare, giving way to open ScandB_(52).JPGscrub and moor land. The railway was still with us (protected by avalanche shuttering for a stretch) and it was strange to see a freight train heading north. The highest point was at 692 m/2,283 ft, just a mile before the Arctic Circle (or Polar Circle).

We crossed the Circle 66 miles from ScandB_(56).JPGbreakfast, 50 miles before Mo i Rana, at latitude 66 deg 33'07, height 2,200 ft. It was marked by a strange visitor centre (closed), a pair of iron globes and a Russian war memorial dated 1942-45 (dedicated to Yugoslavian POW's and Partisans – probably there was a slave labour camp up here). We re-entered the Temperate Zone (with a cold back wind) after 43 days and 2,400 miles in the Arctic!

Down at 2,000 ft a barrier stood ready to close the road. Below 1,600 ft we saw birch trees again. At 875 ft, 12 miles below the Circle, we reached the first village, Krokstrand (campsite closed, despite what the National Park Mis-Information Centre said)! It was now raining.

Through StorforScandB_(57).JPGshei 25 miles later, past Storli Camping (closed) and through a tunnel, we followed the wide Rana River down. Sheep and cows still grazed by farms with grass-roofed outbuildings. Finally we crossed the river, passed the junction with E12 (the Blue Road) leading to Sweden and headed for the centre of the industrial town of Mo i Rana – an unappealing disappointment of parking meters, traffic and crowded buildings, like all large Norwegian towns we know! Following a sign with an encouraging motorhome symbol to 'Gruben', we found a big campsite on the edge of town, its café busy with customers, to be told it was closed! On hearing that we were taking the E12, the helpful owner assured us there was camping open at Umbukta, just before the Swedish border.

Returning to the Blue Road (ScandB_(59).JPGBla Vag – with a little circle over the first vowel and an umlaut over the next!), we turned east for the border 25 miles away. The road climbed up to a lake at 1,600 ft, edged with cabins and small fishing boats, then turned south along it. About 4 miles before Umbukta, at nearly 2,000 ft, a new 6-km tunnel was not quite ready to open. We continued on the E12, which immediately became pot-holed and rough, ready for the cyclists and walkers who will continue to use it to cross the high treeless wilderness. The other end of the tunnel (due to open in 2006!) is just before Umbukta. We spotted the campsite behind a café in a quaint old house but once again the café was open, the camping was not!

Round the corner to the low-key Riksgrens at 1,732 ft. Having driveScandB_(60).JPGn 140 miles, we had a tea break parked next to the Matbus (Food Bus) – a big old wreck of a bus which appeared to have been abandoned here. But why do Norwegian car-drivers keep stopping to enter the back door and exit the front? Margaret followed them and found herself inside a clean well-stocked mini-market, with frozen and chilled food (bacon, cheese, reindeer meat, salami etc) one side of the centre aisle and shelves of chocolate, beer-cans, cigarettes and snuff on the other. A friendly woman sat in the driving seat at a check-out, taking Swedish or Norwegian crowns or Euros, speaking several languages! Goods are significantly cheaper in Sweden and some stuff was tax-free or out-of-date. M returned – and not empty-handed (nothing wrong with sell-by-1-October chocolate, surely?)

The E12 now turned south-east along more lakes. At Kataviken a scScandB_(61).JPGruffy campsite (recommended by the café at Umbukta) had a sign Oppet (supposed to mean 'Open' but we were told they had 'no electricity'). Continuing across the fells of Norra Storfjallet at about 1,700 ft, the colours were of blue sky, golden birch, red-berried rowan and occasional black clouds scowling from the hill tops. The ski centre at Storfjallet had fuel, shops, restaurants and camping (closed).

Entering the village of Tarnaby, site of the border Customs post below a ski-ing run on Tarn Fell, we saw another campsite. This one is open, with free hot showers, a washing machine, a friendly old guardian and no-one else. Just when we'd resigned ourselves to a night in a lay-by!

7 October  At TARNABY, Sweden   Tarna Fjallby Caravan Park

A Rainy Rest Day

Rain rather than snow is falling, but with an icy wind. A day for dhobi, writing, photograph management, general maintenance and TV (3 channels). As in most Scandinavian camp laundries, there are coin-in-slot automatic washing machines and a free heated drying room.

8 October   86 miles   TARNABY to STORUMAN, Sweden   Storumans Camping SEK 150 (c €16.50)

From Winter to Autumn, and our first Ice Hockey Match

Leaving Tarnaby south-east on theSwed_(18).JPG Blue Road E12, we found it was a nice little town on a lake, with picturesque church as well as fuel, shops and assorted accommodation. 2 miles out of town, off to the left on the bank of a river, was another empty campsite, ideal for fishing, with no indication whether it was open. Why is there never a simple Open or Closed sign at campsite entrances? It should be a rule! Most shops seem to manage it, but campsites are uniquely lacking in respect for their paying customers.

The Blue Road follows a continuous ribbon of lakes linked by rivers,Swed_(15).JPG rolling gently down from 1,500 ft. Yesterday's rain had stopped and the sun shone on the quiet wet road and golden trees. It was good to feel its warmth, with no frost, ice or snow. Just one village along the way: Forsmark after about 30 miles.

Storuman, at 1,150 ft, is at the end of the large Lake Storuman, with a well-equipped empty campsite on a small side-lake, a few minutes' walk from the town centre. Excellent – except that it was locked and barred. We parked by the entrance to have our lunch and Margaret phoned the number displayed in Reception, but the recordedSwed_(19).JPG message in Swedish didn't help!

M ventured into the large building opposite, Wildmanns Café, and found herself among the crowd as an ice hockey match began! The café was upstairs with a viewing gallery and the waitress knew exactly where to find the campsite manager, who had slipped out to watch the game! Swed_(20).JPG

Once settled on a pitch, we took up the invitation to go in and watch the Blues v the Reds. The action was fast and furious, the skilful skating far more exciting than football. One team won, 6-2, and we got some good photos. We finished the afternoon with a walk around the campsite lake, just over a mile, marvelling at the russet colours, the big red white-spotted toadstools, the ducks swimming, the men fishing – an autumn scene after our taste of early winter in the Arctic.

8/9 October   At STORUMAN, Sweden   Storumans Camping

Here Comes the Snow

On a bright crisp morning, we walked into Storuman, a sizeable town with a railway station, in search of a bank, a telephone card and a supermarket (there were 2). The library/cafe opened at 11 am (till 4 pm) and the kind librarian gave Barry a free half hour on the '10 minutes only' internet terminal, as the other computers were all taken. Margaret rang Mum, to hear about her new bathroom and Uncle Harold's 90th party, and all's well! Back at camp, an afternoon's lap-topping and planning – and popcorn popping in the microwave, great fun!

Next day the first of the winter snow fell gently, having overtaken us in the night. We walked into town to book an hour's library internet session and enjoyed the Lunch of the Day while waiting our turn. Today's menu was all-you-can-eat Meatballs (about 12 each, in fact!) in a delicious sauce, with a buffet of jacket spuds, vegetables, salads, breads and fruit juice, followed by fruit, coffee and choc-mints. Price 65 SEK (under ₤5) each. Scandinavian restaurants serve expensive a la carte menus in the evening, but breakfast and lunch buffets are a very good deal.

10 October   81 miles   STORUMAN to ASELE, Sweden   Asele Camping SEK ? (c €?)

South on the misty Inland Road

A final morning Swed_(24).JPGin Storuman, a little town we've come to like. We posted cards, shopped and had another library internet session (and another library café lunch – today's special was chicken curry, plus all the extras listed yesterday). A trio of Waxwings – distinctive birds with a crest and lovely colouring – were searching out berries around the railway station car park.

Leaving the Blue Road (E12), we turSwed_(26).JPGned south on road 45, the Inland Road or Inlandsvagen. After 23 miles we crossed the Vojman River and stopped for tea by the entrance to a campsite on its banks. It didn't look open. The road was climbing gradually, from 1,200 ft to a max of 1,526 ft, then down to 1,350 ft at the town of Vilhelmina 15 miles on. Camping Saiva, just south of the town centre, was supposedly open, but we didn't check.

It was very misty by now, the haze back-lit by the sun, and we continued down the Inland Road, parallel with the Inland Railway, through a ghostly forest. 15 miles after Vilhelmina, we turned south-east onSwed_(28).JPG road 90, the Saga Road or Sagavagen. This followed the Angerman River (so broad that we couldn't see the far bank in the mist), all the way to Asele.

Just before the town, a campsite on the right, between road and river, was open. We drove in, hooked up and rang the number displayed at Reception. Another recorded message in Swedish, and no-one around at all!

11 October 90 miles STORUMAN to ASELE, Sweden Asele Camping South on the misty Inland Road

A final morning in Storuman, a little town we've come to like. We posted cards, shopped and had another library internet session (and another library café lunch – today's special was chicken curry and rice, plus all the extras listed yesterday). A trio of Waxwings – distinctive birds with a crest and lovely colouring – were searching out berries for their lunch around the railway station car park.

Leaving the Blue Road (E12), we turned south on road 45, the Inland Road or Inlandsvagen, which runs the length of Sweden from Gothenburg in the south to the Finnish border, above the Arctic Circle. After 23 miles we crossed the Vojman River and stopped for tea by the entrance to a campsite on its banks. It didn't look open. The road was climbing gradually, from 1,200 ft to a max of 1,526 ft, then down to 1,350 ft at the town of Vilhelmina 15 miles on. Camping Saiva, just south of the town centre, was supposedly open but we didn't check.

It was very misty by now, the haze back-lit by the sun making for interesting photography, and we continued down the Inland Road, parallel with the Inland Railway, through a ghostly forest. 15 miles after Vilhelmina, we turned south-east on road 90, the Saga Road or Sagavagen. This followed the Angerman River (so broad that we couldn't see the far bank in the mist), all the way to Asele.

Just before the town, a campsite on the right, between road and river, was open. We drove in, hooked up and rang the number displayed at Reception. Another recorded message in Swedish and no-one around at all! The amenities building was locked but power and outside water and lights were on. No-one came.

12 October  143 miles  ASELE to OSTERSUND, Sweden   Ostersunds Camping SEK 150 (c €16.50)

Back onto the Inland Road for Stromsund and Ostersund

West on road 92 (the Rivers Road) on a frosty misty morning, in a realm of rivers, lakes and forests resembling Finland. After 28 miles we rejoined the Inland Road, Route 45, to turn south again down the spine of Sweden, running at about 1,000ft. In Dorotea, 2 miles on, we passed a caravan dealer with a Caravan Museum, then a Hunting & Fishing Museum, a few shops, a campsite and another caravan dealer, encroaching on our wilderness. The outside temperature being minus 1 deg C, we didn't linger.

After 14 miles the next village, Hoting, had camping by a lake, a museum with the world's oldest wooden ski (!) and yet another Motor Museum. (Scandinavians generally seem fond of veteran cars or any vehicle from the States - we've seen many modern Chevvy and Dodge vans and well-preserved American cars from the immediate post-war era). Content to stay in the present moment, we passed the museums by and continued down the Inland Road, which criss-crosses the Inland Railway, so each settlement has a station as well as a long-distance bus service (yes, the Inlands Bus!) Through the patchy mist, the golden-leaved birch and green pines loomed ever taller and we imagined beavers at work on the lakes.

Stromsund, Swed_(32).JPG45 miles south of Dorotea and still at 1,000 ft, is a sizeable town, where we managed to buy headlight bulbs (the 24-hr headlight rule throughout Scandinavia is taking its toll on our stock of spares!) Then we had lunch Swed_(37).JPGon the Folk Museum car park by the lake. The Inland Road bridge, crossing the junction of Stromsund's 2 lakes, loomed ahead in the mist. The old wooden buildings of the Folk Museum were locked, guarded by an unattractive giant stone troll, 6 m high, who apparently figured in a film of the children's book 'Dunderklumpen' some 30 years ago. The summer trip boat was firmly moored. Over the bridge we passed Stromsund Camping on the right. It looked empty and closed, whatever the guidebook says, but maybe there was a phone number in Reception again. Still bitterly cold, we continued south.

In the clearing round Hammerdal, 23 miles later, we began to see cows and horses grazing the frosty grass, a concrete factory and a logging yard. The red wooden farms and houses all have white window frames, like neat doll's houses – triple-glazed.

After another 45 miles of forest, rising to over 1,400 ft for a brief glimpse of the sun above the mist, we approached the city of Ostersund with mixed feelings. It has grand buildings and plenty of shops, even the northernmost McDonalds on the Inland Road, out by the E14 junction, but it marks our return to 'civilisation'. Suburbia begins where the wilderness ends.

Even the campsite, about 2 miles south of the centre and next to a large indoor swimming complex, was busy and highly organised. We were pointed to plot 27, issued with a pass number for the facilities, and instructed to leave by noon. Cable TV was included (giving 4 channels and better reception) but showers were extra and wi-fi an absurd 30 SEK per hour. A few American RV's were gathered in one corner, home to resident workers and guarded by large dogs - one brute chewed through its plastic chain and ran off while we watched (from inside!) We decided one night here would be enough!

13 October  126 miles  OSTERSUND to SVEG, Sweden    Svegs Camping SEK 165 (c €18.00)

South again to Sveg

Next morning was above freezing: the cold blanket of mist had lifted. We refuelled and checked tyre pressures at Statoil by the campsite, then drove back into Ostersund for supplies, stocking up at the first Lidl we'd seen since Finland - the world's northernmost at Sodankyla! Returning south along the lakeside, the Inland Road was very busy for 10 miles to Brunflo, as the E14 bypass was closed. Driving through the leafy suburbs, we passed a Japanese restaurant, smart shops, a golf club …

Autumn lingered as we crossed an agricultural area of ploughed furrows, potato fields and mown meadows with stacks of white-plastic-baled fodder. At Svenstavik, 50 miles from Ostersund at the south-west tip of its big lake, we parked for lunch. Still high (1,200 ft) but the sun shone and the water was glassy calm. Asarna, on the next small lake, had a campsite (again, no indication if it was open).

Leaving Swed_(43).JPGthe farming belt, we were back in the green and gold of theSwed_(45).JPG forest, wondering when we might see a tree other than birch, pine or rowan – that would be a sign of the south! In Ytterhogdal, 35 miles after lunch, we had to stop to photograph the beauty of the church and cemetery reflected in the mirror of the lake.

At Aspan village the Inland Road turned west for the last 20 miles to the little town of Sveg. The lovely campsite on the river bank, 5 minutes' walk from town, has lush grass, hedged privacy and a friendly custodian, who turned up before we had time to ring the number in Reception. There is a laundry, a heated kitchen/TV room, free hot showers, and internet at the Library opposite the entrance.

14/16 October   At SVEG, Sweden   Svegs Camping

Lingering in Sveg

In no hurry to leave Sweden, it's time for another break! Though frosty at night, the days were sunny enough to hang laundry outside and give the motorhome a wash.

We walked round the towSwed_(11)[1].jpgn with its wide streets, substantial wooden meSwed_(13)[1].jpgrchants' houses and a statue of the Unknown Woodcutter by the 19thC church. Strangely, the cross-roads is overlooked by a huge new 'Trojan Horse' of a Brown Bear (Ursus Arctos), solidly built from blocks of timber, sponsored by local firms. A ladder ascends into its belly but the trap-door was padlocked. The Tourist Office explained that the bear is the regional emblem and it's the biggest wooden bear in the world (but who is competing?)

The librarian allowed us an hour each per day on the computers in the big warm library, where there was also an excellent photo exhibition in a gallery – all free. The 'Swedish Economic Model' is the envy of many countries (including Greece, though they wouldn't pay the taxes required) and it's impressive. Facilities for young children, the disabled and the elderly are apparent everywhere.

We rang Stena Line for details of ferries to Denmark (Gothenburg-Fredrikshaven) and found there is a saving of 50 SEK for booking on-line, but the website is only in Swedish! As there are several crossings a day and plenty of availability, we didn't make a reservation yet, still considering our options for onward travel.

17 October   101 miles   SVEG to MORA, Sweden   Mora Parken Hotel/ Camping SEK 155 (c €17.00)

South to the Dalarna Region: Orsa and Mora

A very frosty morning. Another hour in Sveg library before lunch, then over the river and south on route 45, the Inlandsvagen, again.

Keeping ahead of the snow, criss-crossing the Inland Railway, we climbed from 1,100 ft through the forest, the golden birch leaves starting to flutter to the ground in the wind. The first village, Tandsjoborg, came after 30 miles, its lakeside camping closed. At Noppikoski, 18 miles later, we crossed a river boundary by a small waterfall to enter the region of Dalarna. The road continued to climb through quiet forest to a maximum of 1,800 ft before descending to the town of Orsa, down on Lake Orsa at 550 ft.

The large campsite on the lake, a mile west of the town centre, was supposedly open but we found it deserted, its barrier closed. A sign suggested we check in at the Statoil filling station, with no indication of how to find it, so we returned to the highway. When does open mean closed and closed mean open – only in the world of campsites!

Continuing down the east side of Lake Orsa on road 45 for 12 miles, we came to the bigger town of Mora, situated between the foot of Lake Orsa and the head of the larger Lake Siljan. At the out-of-town shopping centre by a major roundabout, a mile or two before Mora, we treated ourselves to a McMenu – our first fries in a very long time. An outdoor stall, surrounded by candles, turned out to be the local school-children selling cakes they had made for a project, so there was our dessert!

Through the town to the widespread campsite, on a peninsula in the Osterdal River, half a mile west of the centre. The tea-time rush hour traffic (complete with many roundabouts and traffic lights) came as a shock. We even passed a Best Western Hotel. At least this campsite is genuinely open, part of a sports and hotel complex, with staff in Reception handing out barrier passes, electricity box keys and secret numbers to access the services building. Mora (pop 20,000) is an industrial town, famous for the manufacture of knives and taps, and there are caravans and cabins occupied by workers, as there were in Ostersund.

18/19 October   At MORA, Sweden   Mora Parken Camping

Lingering in Mora

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.

A short walk into town leSwed_(15)[1].jpgd past the church and through the 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 town centre has an extensive pedestrian shopping centre, with the usual supermarkets (ICA and the Co-op) and Intersport (for all your winter sports kit). The bookshop had some English books but prices were double their sterling value. Even the library here was charging for internet time and all the terminals were taken. However, we made use of a free machine for guests in our campsite/hotel Reception.

For the first time in Scandinavia, we could get no TV reception at all, Swed_(17).JPGon the edge of a large town? Investigation revealed that the area has gone digital (and we haven't). It was good to spend the evenings reading instead – Margaret has just started Kate Atkinson's 'Behind the Scenes at the Museum' (a wonderful fictional account of a 1950's girlhood, which won a Whitbread Book of the Year award), while Barry is enjoying 'Such a Long Journey' by the Indian writer Rohinton Mistry (set in Bombay and short-listed for the Booker Prize some years ago). Amazingly, both were their author's first novel. Beautiful writing.

The Lake Siljan area is famous for its wooden Dala horses, carved Swed_(16).JPGand 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.

Rain has overtaken us, so best not linger for the snow! 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 our 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.

20 October   89 miles   MORA to VAGSJOFORS, Sweden   Abbas Cabins & Camping SEK 135 (c €14.00)

South to Varmland – Warm and Wet

As we exited the campsite at Mora we were honoured to be the first to use the new toilet dump and water point, helped by the friendly English-speaking workman who had just finished cementing it!

Then south-west on Inland Road 45 (as ever), through forest which was slowly being thinned out and taken away on logging trucks. We passed a Wood Museum but trust that trees still have a great future, here in the land of matches! The heavy rain should be falling as snow by now but we're told that a late spring, extra-warm summer and late autumn are delaying its arrival.

Climbing slowly out of the meteorite crater from 374 ft at Mora, we reached 1,000 ft after 25 miles. At Malung, 20 miles later, we stopped for diesel and tried a Preem station (credit card operated, with no staff). There is a small saving in price (now 10.40 SK per litre, compared with 10.80 at fully staffed filling stations like Statoil or Shell) – but the pump is programmed to cut off after 400 SK has been delivered and it won't allow a repeat fill.

The road kept climbing, through rain and mist, to a maximum of 1,690 ft. At 62 miles from Mora we crossed the regional boundary into Varmland, described in 'Camping in Sweden' as "a landscape of high hills, deep valleys and hundreds of lakes, full of friendly warmth". Perhaps that last word makes it different? We dropped to 470 ft to cross the Klar River, then up to 1,000 ft again and down to another river crossing at Vagsjofors (which consists of a cosy bus shelter by the bridge).

We followed the sign for ASwed_(18)[1].jpgbbas Camping, 3 miles west of Route 45 through the forest. Our ACSI Camping Card discount book lists it (one of only two in Sweden): "In the middle of the nature, views of the lake, Dutch owners, open all year." All true, a beautiful site on a lake, run by the Abbas family – except that they live 6 miles away at their other campsite on the opposite side of the lake! But an Abbas brother (not a monk!) was summoned by phone and drove straight over. We had a most peaceful night, the run of the brand new heated facilities, and a reduced off-season price. This is the quiet season, between summer visitors and winter sports. And yes, it's warmer – if only it would stop raining! There were 3 TV channels again, even in the forest miles from any settlement.

21 October   138 miles   VAGSJOFORS to MELLERUD, Sweden   Swecamp Vita Sandar

South to Dalsland and Lake Vanern - Sweden's largest

It was still raining as we renegotiated the forest to Route 45 and turned sSwed_(21)[1].jpgouth. Soon we passed a large campsite set on the right of the highway, actually signed as 'Open' – and not in any of our 3 guidebooks (Caravan Club, ACSI or Camping in Sweden)!

We turned off after 13 miles into the first town, Torsby, but it was busy with Saturday morning shoppers, its car parks full. Torsby Camping, a few miles south on the edge of the long Lake Fryken, was closed. Continuing down the west side of this lake, the beautiful golden-leaved birch and shiny green pine trees were now tall enough to interfere with our GPS signal!

At Sunne, 27 miles oSwed_(26)[1].jpgn, we lunched in a splendid rest area by the lake next to a golf course, overshadowed by a tall stone monumSwed_(24)[1].jpgent crowned by an eagle. It was in memory of the Finnish settlers who came to Varmland in the 17thC and then went on to the USA. No further details! It is indeed getting warmer as we progress south, with an outdoor temperature of 10 deg C (50 deg F) at 2 pm, though still wet and misty. The grass is lush, with sheep, horses and cattle grazing in the farmed clearings. There was even a flock of Lapwings in one field, also migrating south.

Another 35 miles to Grums, where we turned off the highway and Swed_(25)[1].jpgthrough the town. We saw our first street market in Sweden but sadly it was very busy, with nowhere to park and rain still poured from a leaden sky. On the edge of town we passed a huge saw-mill with stacks of logs and mountains of sawdust. Then the highway crossed a bridge next to the sparse ruins of a stone castle – we had reached the north-west corner of Lake Vanern, the largest in the country (and the second largest freshwater lake in Europe, after Hungary's Lake Balaton).

Curiously, a 5-mile stretch of 4-lane motorway followed, as far as the junction with E18, which runs west to Norway and Oslo. We stayed true to the Inlandsvagen route 45, continuing south to Saffle at 97 miles: a large town (complete with McDonalds and Lidl), which we drove straight through.

We had left the misty hills behind, now down at 150 ft passing red wooden farms among meadows. We crossed the border from Varmland into Dalsland shortly before Amal. Here the campsite, a couple of miles east of the town on Lake Vanern, was supposedly open but the rain had stopped and we continued south. Dalsland and its neighbouring region, Vastergotland, are known as Sweden's Lake District, with its largest two lakes (Vanern and Vattern) as well as hundreds of smaller lakes and 2 major canals – a land of water, though there is no shortage in the rest of the country!

During the next 30 miles to Mellerud, we passed the road leading west to the Haverud Aqueduct, which carries the Dalsland Canal over a river, like the one we know in North Wales at Llangollen. By now it was pouring again and we turned east in Mellerud, following the signs to a vast holiday-park of a campsite on the shores of Lake Vanern. After about 6 miles of ever-narrower roads through the forest, finishing as single track with passing places, we reached our goal: open all year and totally deserted!

We followed the instructions in Reception to park on an area before the barrier, plug in to the power and pay tomorrow morning (after 9 am). A single toilet, a kitchen and a coin-op shower were left unlocked. During a brief respite from the heavy rain, we walked round to the lakeshore. It is more of an inland sea (at 125 ft asl), stretching to the horizon, vast and calm.

There was a good TV signal, which was wasted on 2 films – one in Chinese with Swedish subtitles, the other 'Crocodile Dundee' in New York! Luckily, we couldn't hear the sound for the noise of the rain drumming on our roof, so we retired with good books and cocoa! The evening news showed deep fresh snow on the hills further north, while we had a balmy overnight temperature of 60 deg F outside!

22 October   45 miles   MELLERUD to TROLLHATTAN, Sweden    Stenrosets Camping SEK 150 (c €16.50)

South to Vanersborg and over the Gota River

No-one came to open the campsite on this Sunday morning, so we eventually left to find our way back through the forest to Route 45 at Mellerud. The rain had stopped at last, with a patch of blue sky between the clouds, the sun breaking through at 10 am.

After 13 miles we came to Bralanda, the next small town on the Inland Road and Inland Railway, which have been our travelling companions since Storuman (over 600 miles or 1,000 km ago, in the remote snowy north). Settlements and fuel stations now line the route at much more regular intervals. 22 miles later, a short stretch of motorway bypassed Vanersborg, the city at the south-west corner of Lake Vanern. We crossed the River Gota on a large bridge, the port and Volvo factory spread out below us, along with a few incongruous swans. At exactly that moment, the sky darkened again and rain fell, with not enough light for a photo!

Route 45 turned back intoDenmarkA_(12).JPG a busy 2-lane road to continue south through Trollhattan, past the SAAB Motor Museum. The Gota River/Canal, which links Lake Vanern with the North Sea at the port of Goteborg, flows through 6 locks, parallelling our road to the west. Trollhattan Camping is only open June-Aug but about 4 miles south of the town is another very neat little campsite, right on the highway and open all year, less than 40 miles from Goteborg.

We settled in, had lunch and made full use of the laundry. A local couple, spending the weekend at their static caravan and gathering mushrooms in the forest, gave us a bag of fungi to sample. This 'Forest Gold' variety is apparently a favourite of the local elk population! Barry says he is definitely not a moose.

Trollhattan is an industrial port, with a Canal Museum (open April to August), summer boat trips through the locks, library with free internet and all the usual shops. Visit: www.visittrollhattan.se/english for more.

23/24 October   At TROLLHATTAN, Sweden   Stenrosets Camping

Rainy Days in the Forest

We are right under the blue band of rain shown on last night's weather forecast. A time for watching the red squirrels and birds in the forest outside our window. Now we are far enough south for a bigger variety of deciduous trees, which means more birds. A pair of Great Tits, very pretty, are used to being fed at the motorhome opposite, perching on its wing mirrors like budgies! There's also a Blackbird and the ubiquitous Magpies.

We took a damp 3-mile walk through the woods, past farms and houses, to look at the Gota River/Canal, which carries both cargo and pleasure boats, but there was no riverside path. Mostly, we worked on a list of motorhome insurance companies for our website and circulated it to other motorhomers for additions. Mike, the MMM Editor, replied that he'd like it developing into an article for the magazine, so there's another task!

The forecast for 25 Oct was fine weather, so we rang Stena Line and booked the ferry from Goteborg to Frederikshavn (Denmark), anticipating bacon, pastries and blue cheese!

25 October   72 miles   TROLLHATTAN, Sweden to FREDERIKSHAVN, Denmark   Transport Center on E45

Across the Kattegat to Denmark on Stena Line's 'Jutlandica'

Sadly, our last morniDenmarkA_(11).JPGng in Sweden (and in the real Scandinavia). The rain had indeed stopped and there was no wind, a light mist shrouding the treetops. Back on the road, our old friend route 45 Inlandsvagen, took us all the way to the ferry terminal in Goteborg. After 8 miles at Lilla Edet (where we saw a motorhome dealer), we had a good view of the Gota River/Canal which we are shadowing to the North Sea, separated from it by the Inland Railway.

The road DenmarkA_(14).JPGbecame increasingly busy as it made its way down to sea level. We stopped after 30 miles at Alvangen's shopping centre, to spend our remaining Swedish Crowns at Lidl and McDonald's (careful arithmetic, there!) In another 11 miles, we disappeared through a 1.6 km tunnel (free of charge) under the river and the city centre, following signs for 'Denmark' and 'Germany' to emerge very near the port.

After collecting the tickets (and a handful of Werther's OriginalsDenmarkA_(15).JPG) from the Stena Line terminal building, we waited in line to check-in for the 4 pm sailing. (There are several crossings a day by conventional ferry or a faster express boat. We avoid the latter, more expensive and often with a height limit – and we're never in a hurry). There was only one other motorhome (a Swedish McLouis – which is Italian!) and a few cars, the decks being filled with lorries and freDenmarkA_(21).JPGight containers. Barry appreciated the easy level access ramp and we had a smooth crossing, arriving in Frederikshavn in North Jutland on time at 7.15 pm. Reading, enjoying coffee and buns, buying Anton Berg (by appointment to the Danish CourDenmarkA_(27).JPGt) chocolate liqueurs in the duty-free shop – it's a hard life at sea! We had crossed the Kattegat, the entrance to the Baltic, which (like the Mediterranean) was once land-locked.

Disembarking in the dark, we turned north on road 40 for a couple of miles and checked Nordstrand Camping, which had just closed (open 1 April-22 Oct). Returning past the harbour, we drove south – back on road 45, which continues through Denmark to Germany, now labelled E45! After about 5 miles, by exit 12 for Saeby, we saw a huge 'Transport Center' (fuel, food, large lorry park, motorhome dump, etc). A good place for the night, which saved us going along road 180 in search of Svalereden Camping (open all year?)

Neither Goteborg nor Frederikshavn had any space for overnighting by the ferry terminals. French Channel Ports are much more generous!

To continue this journey, click: South through Denmark