Author Topic: Sweden. Lakes, Trees.  (Read 3001 times)

Sweden. Lakes, Trees.
« on: September 05, 2016, 01:34:36 pm »
I'm taking a bit of a liberty with the board here, but y'see this was a sort of touring camping holiday. It feels like the right place to put this. Boot it into OT Gallery if it offends too much?  :P

Myself and mrs_e met paddling whitewater kayaks at uni, and whilst that is a cold and wet activity that it is quite natural to drift out of, we had sort of fancied a touring canoe trip at some point since. We were hesitant when the kids were younger for fear of drowning them, or more realistically just not being able to relax for a second. But now they were a bit older and more capable in water it seemed more approachable. A bit of pondering turned up a place in Sweden called Dalsland where they have a lot of water and woods, and more importantly we could hire enough kit to make the packing careful rather than insane for a family of five (5, 7 & 9 y.o.) on the journey there. So, off for a week's tour we went...

When faced with the logistics the kids picked a bus and a train to go with their plane ride, rather than boring car hire from the airport, or a ridiculously long direct drive. Here are the girls enjoying their train ride.

Once in Bengtsfors, our start point, we were grabbed by a youth hostel man as soon as we walked past the door, and soon up in the rooms. To make things a bit easier, I'd booked a night in the hostel at the start and end of our canoeing. Out to find the pizza place in town, it seemed weirdly quiet for a Saturday night in a holiday town. Don't know why, it was in a healthier state on the Saturday night at the end of the week but this Saturday was more like some kind of ghost town. The pizza, and the other food while we were out here, were not expensive at all. I think I'd heard too much of expenses in other parts of Scandinavia and expected the worst, but food was actually very reasonable.

Out the door to rent the boats the next morning, things went very smoothly; the guy seemed friendly and knew his stuff, offering a decent set of hire kit and advice on the area. I think he was mostly keen we planned it easy rather than trying to go too hard with the kids on board. Which was already the core of our plan, we just weren't very sure how far that meant in concrete terms. The sleeping bags which we were warned by the instructions beforehand as being only two season seemed to be a Swedish interpretation of two season rather than a British one - large, plump and very cosy.

Once on the water, we were paddling in broad sunshine and zero wind for a bit. Deciding to potter up to every island on view and go for a lunch and swim in the warmer water near to one of them. Here's us going past one of them:

Having covered a pitifully small distance we liked the look of one island with a camping site. These are no-frills spots run by an organisation called DANO to manage use in a pretty popular area. Essentially you get a few small clearings for tents, a 'toilet' hut dropping into a big plastic box, a solid wooden 3/4 shelter and a camp fire spot. No running water or similar luxuries. They're marked on the map so you know where you're aiming for rather than hunting around for a suitable wild camping spot. Here was our spot in the morning:

And the sunset looked like below. Not too bad.

Having taken a short first day, we felt obliged to take up the mileage a bit on the 2nd. The weather then duly crept up on us during the day. We were studiously ignoring the dodgy skies approaching from behind until they looked too threatening and we dragged out all the waterproofs just before it hit. We carried on in a British manner for a little until a couple of decent thunder rolls convinced us it was time to get off the open water, like right now. Bread and cheese in the woods until it looked a smidge better again. Various edam like blocks and a basic but good sloppy brie. We had a good little sack of cheese and went through rather a lot of it this holiday. :-)

Once on the go again we stretched ourselves out to a site on the approach to Gustavsfors. The last km or so of this was a bit of an open crossing, and the wind and waves were beginning to pick up a bit from the front. Not too bad, but enough to ask the big girls to carry on paddling for us rather than idling. We were mostly leaving them to decide if they wanted to paddle or not. Once across it proved a busy place for some reason, and we had to hunt around a bit for our own spot. Pretty decent once we found it though - pleasant lakeside views and a couple of trees back to take the edge off the wind. :-)

Next day through the Guatavsfors canal and a lock. Some of the lakes are at slightly different levels, but with easy canal and lock links, presumably built for logging or similar commercial purpose in the past.  Interesting rather than open views. Also the second, and last, food shop on the route. Piled up with more cheese and assorted pasta etc. Pretty similar strategies to a cycling trip really, but multi-day gap between supplies. Everything goes in big pack barrels and there are no hills, so it's not too much of a hardship. Out the other end of the lock along the canal it opened out a bit but still very sheltered again. We let the girls paddle themselves for a while in sheltered water here, with relatively predictable results as they did: straight bits, curved bits, and blaming one another for anything solid approaching the front of the boat. This is not entirely fair because anyone who's paddled one will know that the stern paddler is essentially steering. Blaming the front paddler is a bit like blaming your stoker.

Slowing down again in the afternoon after not very much further, we took a very sunny skip and visit around the edge of an island, with the kids crossing the middle on assorted search parties to discover the best spot while we coordinated from offshore. Mini3 took mum on a detailed tour of the area afterwards. Finally offloaded, went for a swim and discovered something scarily close to quicksand under part of the bay. It nearly ate my sandals whole, so we shuffled round a bit before going swimming more. Also discovered the kids were right when they told me their wet shoes sink, not float, when they come off. Fortunately in a spot it could still be recovered from. Oops.

Mini1 was pretty sure she saw something like a badger near the shoreline in the morning, before it hurried off. We tried to follow, finding various plausible runs, disturbed ground, and half eaten mushrooms but nothing really convincing.

Another lock was in out sights for Wednesday, this one linking Vastra Silen to Ostra Silen. It was a double, with big raw rock faces. Rather than go to the effort of neatening them up, they had just added big slimy logs to rub up and down against.

A pretty towering effect, with more precise (but still pretty big n solid) stone blocks for the gate structures themselves. The kiosk near the lock turned out to sell nothing much beyond ice creams, but life could be worse than that. So, out into Ostra Silen:

Started to lose the momentum a bit on the way up here, getting later in the day and with no sign of an ideal spot for the night yet. Rafted up and a refuelled with assorted carbs and chocolate spread, which helped a fair bit, and we eventually found our camp a few kilometres north. This wasn't the bestest, and finished with the sound of rain in the morning, and me legging it outside to fetch the half-dried laundry. A few pennies to the mobile phone company at this point bought me a rainfall radar, telling us that we had a few hours clear after this shower finished before it would begin again more persistently. That's the timetable for the day laid out then. Sure enough, waiting to go back down the locks again at about midday it began raining, and carried on for pretty much the rest of the day. Like the rest of the week though, it never actually got particularly cold, just wet. We sang songs, discussed the favoured lake of the ancient dragons (Svardlangen) and the sharks (the bit we were going down for the night), and carried on. What's a bit of rain? It was pretty atmospheric actually, with wisps of dragon breath over the trees all around the place.

Before the rain:

Friday, we headed off down Svardlangen (home of the ancient dragons) properly. This is a narrower windier lake, reckoned to be popular with canoeists. Except we seemed to get the place to ourselves. Maybe something to do with the weather, which changed between sunshine, wind and sometimes rolls of thunder though never very nearby. We hugged the sides of the lake as the wind was largely ahead, alternating between shelter as it narrowed then an awkward headland rounding through the wind. This was mostly just a bit slow, but when I had another go in it on my own once the boat was fully unloaded at the shelter, I was utterly overwhelmed. Couldn't get anywhere near forcing the bow up into the wind and had to settle for a reverse ferryglide to get back anywhere close to where I set off from. Lesson learned there.

Anyway, back as I said to having the place to ourselves. In this site, it was just us. So, it being our last night out also we decided to go for the fresh air option in the shelter. Just wide enough for five cosy sleeping bags. First a circle of stories under the shelter and then a night with a view. In the morning, :

Ok, there was a point during the night when mini1 had to ask me about wolves (a helpful information booklet told us they could live in the wider area, maybe), and whether I could put the tent up now for protection. No, I am not putting the tent up at 2am. There are probably no wolves. Go back to sleep.

Last day, more of the same with the wind so a bit slow, winding our way in and out of the bays again. Taking our time and trying in vain to finish off the cheese sack each time we stopped. Not a problem, loads of spare time before we were picked up at the end. This was meeting up with the boat hire guy again for a short drive to allow us to do a recommended loop around the lakes, even though some locks had just closed for the end of season. A particularly classic paddlers' car, a battered old Volvo estate.

Pretty good trip, not too busy but not too isolated either. The weather was not fantastic, but we were about as far north as the Orkneys. The temperature was actually fairly stable, sun or rain. There were lots of lakes. And trees. The kids want to do it again.


  • Dez's butler
    • Musings of a Gentleman Cyclist
Re: Sweden. Lakes, Trees.
« Reply #1 on: September 05, 2016, 01:49:30 pm »
Lovely report! Lucky kids!
Oh, Bach without any doubt. Bach every time for me.

Re: Sweden. Lakes, Trees.
« Reply #2 on: September 05, 2016, 01:56:41 pm »

Wish I had such opportunities at their age. Well, I remember a wet week in Wales when Mum put us in jeans to go canoeing which was definitely a recipe for drowning!
Duct tape is magic and should be worshipped

Re: Sweden. Lakes, Trees.
« Reply #3 on: September 05, 2016, 04:49:00 pm »
I'm taking a bit of a liberty with the board here, but y'see this was a sort of touring camping holiday.

Adequate description of cheese included. I think it'll be okay.  :thumbsup:

Sounds like an excellent holiday - I'm more than a little bit jealous!

Oscar's dad

  • Cheers!
Re: Sweden. Lakes, Trees.
« Reply #4 on: September 06, 2016, 07:34:58 am »


  • Solar powered, tea fuelled cycle-wol
Re: Sweden. Lakes, Trees.
« Reply #5 on: September 27, 2016, 09:22:41 pm »
This sounds and looks wonderful. Tents, forests, lakes, dragons, sharks, campfires, possibly wolves and... cheese!
A cup of tea is the perfect bridge between real life and cake.

Re: Sweden. Lakes, Trees.
« Reply #6 on: September 27, 2016, 09:37:28 pm »
What an adventure.
Get a bicycle. You will never regret it, if you live- Mark Twain

Re: Sweden. Lakes, Trees.
« Reply #7 on: November 13, 2016, 11:12:52 am »
Made me want to get my canoe out there and also makes me want another volvo estate. I miss my old 740

Re: Sweden. Lakes, Trees.
« Reply #8 on: November 14, 2016, 09:50:26 am »
Made me want to get my canoe out there and also makes me want another volvo estate. I miss my old 740

Was a nice easy area for it.  Popular though at peak season I think - we went the week after the end of Swedish school holiday, just inside English holiday time though.

Aunt Maud

  • Le Flâneur.
Re: Sweden. Lakes, Trees.
« Reply #9 on: November 23, 2016, 05:07:18 pm »
Sweden is totally awesome and they do decent brevets too, if anyone's interested in that kind of thing.

Re: Sweden. Lakes, Trees.
« Reply #10 on: April 11, 2017, 05:06:27 pm »
Fabulous !!  Not sure how I missed this one previously. What lucky children.
Rust never sleeps

Re: Sweden. Lakes, Trees.
« Reply #11 on: April 13, 2017, 01:16:36 pm »
What a fantastic trip. They'll remember that one for sure.
<i>Marmite slave</i>