For the third consecutive year I’m cycling northwards again. I plan to spend the first three weeks cycling through Sweden and then another week in Denmark. So this time, the emphasis is on Sweden, the land of Astrid Lindgren and Selma Lagerlöf. The land of lakes and reefs, elk and wolves. I’m unlikely to come across the latter two, as I shall stay south of Stockholm. I haven’t actually got a fixed plan but I have a guide of the Sverigeleden. This entire cycle route runs criss-cross through the whole of Sweden and is described in three parts. Although the description is in Swedish, it is easy to follow, even if you don’t know Swedish, as the route is signposted and clearly marked on the maps. The nice thing about these guides is that the maps cover the whole of Sweden. This makes it easy to leave the route and even concoct your own without needing separate cycle maps. I have the third part of the guide: South Sweden.
There are a few places I want to go to: the reef-coast of Bohuslân, between (or round) the two great lakes, Vänern and Vättern, Vimmerby (Astrid Lindgren’s birthplace), Stockholm, Mälaren, and the islands of Gotland and Öland. I don’t yet know how I will manage all that in three weeks and I admit it is very ambitious. However, once I’m in Sweden, I’ll let myself be led by wind and weather and see how far I get.
I’ve bought a train ticket from the Treinreiswinkel – a return to Denmark for € 80, including the bike. On the way there, I’m going by night train from Utrecht to Copenhagen and on the return journey from Odense to Utrecht. The good thing this time is that Manou and Philine will see me onto the train. Remembering my experiences last year, I’m very glad they are. (See: Off the Rails)
Friday evening, July 10th, I leave for Copenhagen.
Days 1 and 2, Friday July 10th and Saturday July 11th, Zeist – Råå
Distance cycled: 56 km
Weather: Sunny, cloudy, warm
Train: Driebergen/Zeist – Copenhagen
Bike: Copenhagen, Rungsted, Humlebæk, Helsingør, Helsingborg, Råå
I stick my head out of the train window and smell the fresh Danish air. It is Saturday morning, a quarter to seven, and the sun is shining. I’m back in Denmark!
I’m somewhat exhausted. I’m sharing my carriage with five scouts from North-Holland. They behave themselves nicely, but still ...
‘My’ carriage. My fellow travellers spend most of the night in the restaurant car which means I can spread myself most of the night over three seats and even get some sleep now and again.
Getting to the train took a bit of doing. I left home yesterday evening and immediately noticed that my back tyre was rubbing up against something. I couldn’t see why and, since the bicycle shop was still open and I had left myself an hour to spare, I decided to go there. The man, who knows me and my bike by now ( I bought it there half a year ago and had had all sorts of problems with it during my holiday in the spring), was willing to give up his break and hung my bike up. He turned the back wheel but nothing rubbed. “But when I’m cycling, I feel something on the tyre, maybe the mudguard”, I suggested. The mudguard didn’t actually touch the wheel but, in my lay view, was far too close to it. And when I sit on the bike and push it even further down, it seems to me that that causes the problem. But the man took a different view. He thought I had set the brake-blocks too tightly to the wheel. Uh ... well, I suppose that’s possible and who am I to contradict him.
He’s a very nice man, actually – he gave me an extra set of brake-blocks and a spare brake cable to take with me. Swedish mountains aren’t so high but having a cable break in the middle of nowhere.
Relieved, I started off again. But I was hardly out of the street when again I felt something rub against the tyre. Shit! Shit! Shit! Stupid bike. After all the trouble in the spring, here we go again.
I decided to carry on, as missing the train in Utrecht would cost a lot of money and in Copenhagen, where I would arrive on Saturday morning, there are also bicycle shops. Instead of cycling to Utrecht, I decided to get on the train at Driebergen/Zeist, which was near.
On arrival in Utrecht, I still had half an hour before the night train would leave. Manou and Philine saw me off, which was both pleasant and useful. It remains a stressful situation: a train that doesn’t stop where it’s supposed to, so that you have to run hard to the end of the platform to get to the right carriage, then put everything in quickly before the doors close and the train moves out.
But now I’m hanging out of the window. It is lovely weather and I am enjoying the Danish landscape. Personally, I think South –Jutland is the least beautiful part of Denmark, but the sun makes a big difference.
Last night I had another look at my bike and tried to bend the mudguard. No idea whether it will help. Another couple of hours and then we’ll be in Copenhagen. Time to enjoy the rising sun and the increasingly pleasant Danish landscape.
The journey goes by without a hitch and I get off the train around 11 o’clock. In trepidation, I load my bike up and set off. Immediately, I feel it’s no good. Big sigh ... O.K., then first to a cycle shop. There is one near the station.
“I think the brake cable is too tight, madam”. Brake cable? Again?? I tell him what happens but he turns the back wheel. “No, that’s alright”. “Yes, but now there’s no luggage on it, nor me. The mudguard is pushed onto the wheel by the weight”. I hadn’t contradicted the first man but do my best now. I’m sure that’s where the problem lies. “Yes, but madam, if that’s the problem, there’s nothing we can do about it. The mudguard is attached to the carrier”. Yes, so what? You’ve got muscles, haven’t you? Just bend it. I don’t say this aloud and meanwhile, the man has readjusted the brake cable. My face must have betrayed my thoughts and he comforts me with the words, “It really is alright now, you could cycle to the North Cape”, he jokes. In any case, I don’t have to pay anything.
As soon as I get on the bike, my suspicions are confirmed. What now? In any case, first have lunch and think about it. I put my bike against a kiosk and try to pull the carrier up – difficult with all the luggage on it. After lunch, I cycle on. At first, it seems to have helped but very shortly I feel resistance again. It really feels as if someone is pulling at the bike from behind. That isn’t the biggest problem, though. It’s the damage to the tyre, with all its consequences.
And so I cycle northwards, pulling at the carrier again every hour. It helps a little. I’m really lucky with the weather, though. The forecast for today was bad. After a period of good weather, it would get worse during the next few days: colder and lots of rain. But although it is cloudy, the rain stays away and the sun shines regularly. It is windy, but I’m used to that in Denmark and I have a following wind!
After a bad start, the rest of the day is fine. The route is fairly flat, with slight slopes, although I have a feeling I’m descending more than climbing. Contrary to all my expectations, I arrive in Helsingør already at the end of the afternoon. I buy a ticket for the boot to Helsingborg in Sweden and ask when it goes. “Now”, says the man. I manage to catch the boot and get to the tourist office in Helsingborg just before closing time. I ask where the nearest cash point is where I can get Swedish crowns, and where the nearest camp site is. I’m in a bit of a hurry because an enormous black cloud is hovering above me.
To be or not to be: Kronborg Castle in Helsingborg is where Shakespeare set his Hamlet / Arrival in Helsingborg
I had seen on the map that there was a camping site north of Helsingborg, but that was another twenty kilometres away. The one in Råå is only a short distance away. If I want to stay dry, that gives me the best chance. Tomorrow I’ll see whether I go north along the coast or take an entirely different route.
The camp site is large and terribly expensive. There are also cameras at the entrance, obviously necessary, which give me the feeling that I must take special care of my things. But I have a nice spot and am only a few steps away from the beach. There is also a place for cooking and eating. Handy!
The dark cloud blows over and luckily it remains dry. I unscrew my carrier , pull it as far up as possible and screw it on again. The mudguard is now further away from the tyre. I hope it will stay like that when the luggage is on it.
Day 3, Sunday 12th July, Råå – Vinlöv
Distance cycled: 123 km
Weather: sunny, cloudy
Råå, Ekeby, Stanstorp, Hörby, Vinslöv
Yesterday I was given a pass for the sanitary building. The disadvantage of this is that next day you have to return it to Reception , which only opens at eight. So you can’t leave earlier if you want to (and I do ...).
Anyway, at eight o’clock I return the pass and ask the girl at the desk if she knows what the weather will be like. She looks it up on the computer and shows me. Hm ... rain, lots of rain today. And a strong wind. This is coming from Denmark so if I want to have a following wind, I must go east. So, on the spur of the moment, I decide not to go north along the coast, but inland. The Sverigeleden goes that way too.
The first bit is rather boring and to my surprise I have a head wind. Now and again, a dark cloud blows over but it stays dry. And the sun shines regularly. Is the Swedish forecast so wrong? Or has the wind veered?
Strange houses in Sweden...
During the course of the day, the landscape becomes more and more attractive. And the further I get from the coast, the less traffic there is. I cycle along quiet, peaceful roads and meet hardly anyone. It feels a bit unreal, compared to the busy Netherlands. It is the same feeling I had in Denmark two years ago, cycling in South-Jutland. I feel very at home here.
Still no rain and the further inland I go, the less wind there is. It is getting hillier but that makes for lovely views.
Handy for the postman...
There are far fewer camp sites here in Sweden . When I finally find one, in Vinlöv, I am 123 km further on. My day record! There is no caretaker but on the door I read that I can ring him. A helpful camper offers to do this for me, as he speaks no English. I may choose a spot and pay tomorrow morning. The site is small and quiet and also has a place for cooking. Actually, most Scandinavian sites have a place for cooking and eating. Handy for cyclists and hikers with a small tent.
It stayed dry all day but now looks very threatening. When I crawl into my sleeping-bag around nine, it starts to rain after all.