Day 12, Tuesday July 21st, Vimmerby – Gummarp
Distance: 72.5 km
Weather: sunny, an occasional shower
Vimmerby, Ödestorp, Djurdala, Södra Vi, Skäfshult, Halsebo, Solbacka, Rumskulla, Ingatorp, Hjältevad, Bellö, Förenäs, Gummarp
I leave this morning for the second time. Really this time. I hope.
My first attempt was halted after some twenty metres when I got a flat again. I had just left my spot when ‘pfff’... Flat tyre. My German neighbour offered to go to Vimmerby together to buy a new tube. I wish I had listened to him yesterday ... I buy two, having relinquished the idea of getting ten while I was at it. I had also forgotten that I had wanted to throw away the flat tyre with bike and all.
Anyway, waved off by my very nice and helpful German friends, I get back on the bike. Unsure and very distrustful of my bike.
And I can assure you, it’s no fun cycling like that.
I haven’t done ten kilometres before my fears turn out to be grounded. No, not a flat this time, but the old trouble returns: the mudguard is resting on the tyre so that it feels as though someone is pulling at the bike from behind. I get off the bike and make a drastic decision: I’m going home.
I don’t know how, but I do know that I must turn left, to the west. With all my strength, I try to pull the carrier and, with it, the mudguard up again. I get back on the bike and literally turn left.
After a few kilometres, I have to repeat the process. It helps for a bit but every few kilometres I have to stop for the same procedure. I think it will take some time before I get back to Holland. Not today, that’s for sure.
In Sweden, you are not allowed to take your bike on the train, with one exception. The exception only runs on certain routes and even then, not every day. If I want to get home, I will first have to get to Denmark.
Around three o’clock I call it a day. True, I haven’t had any more flats, but my arms hurt from pulling up the carrier every so often. I find a nice small camp site in Gummarp on the Mucklaflon (lake).
While cooking in the little kitchen, I get talking to two Dutch women of about my age. From one of them, I get a thick paperback she was otherwise going to leave at the site. She is here with her friend and advises me to visit the ‘canyon’. This is some ten kilometres north of Hult. The other woman is here with her husband and five children She lends me a book about Astrid Lindgren. I promise to give it back to her before I leave tomorrow.
Day 13, Wednesday, July 22nd, Gummarp
“Day of rest"
Weather: sun, hot. Rain later in the day
I decide to take another day’s rest. I’m still so tired and don’t feel like climbing any more.
Whether it’s because of the climbing or all the setbacks or both, I don’t know, but I have never felt so tired on a cycling holiday.
However, this a nice spot in which to stay longer. It is a small campsite on a lake (I have only been to one site in Sweden that was not on a lake ...).
If you are travelling on your own, you can profit from your anonymity. You don’t need to pretend to be otherwise, there is nothing to lose. No-one knows you and no-one will blame you (maybe they will, but that doesn’t matter). You are different from what you are at home or at work. Everything is just that bit easier. Maybe you are just yourself. I notice that I am different during a cycling holiday, for instance, much more sociable. I make contacts with strangers much quicker and more easily than in “ordinary” life. And I do things I would never do normally: such as lazing on the beach, like today. Normally, I wouldn’t think of lying in the sand in the heat. Then you get so dopey and apathetic. Reading a book or talking to someone costs too much energy. In short, after five minutes, I have normally had my laze.
But now everything is different. Today I want to be dopey, do nothing, think of nothing. I lie on the beach and go into the water every now and again to cool off and that’s all. I did take a book but it remains closed. In the afternoon, I buy an ice-cream in the canteen ( something I only do on cycling holidays) and talk with the owner of the site about my stay in Sweden and all the problems there have been.
“You can take your bike on the train, you know!”
“Well, when the guard isn’t looking, you just push it in. Once underway, he can hardly stop to put you out, can he? The nearest station is Eksjö. From there you must go to Nässjö. There, many lines from all over the country meet. And from there, there will be a train in which you can take your bike”.
“But eh ... what are the fines in Sweden for things like this? In Holland, if you don’t have a ticket or an invalid one, you have to pay €35. No amount of talking will let you off.”
“Oh, then you’re just a silly foreigner who doesn’t know that you can’t take your bike with you”, the woman smiles.
Well ... that sounds attractive. In any case, I’ll go to Eskjö tomorrow, that’s some twenty kilometres to the west from here. I’ll go via the ‘canyon’, a detour of another twenty kilometres. Should be possible.
I have my supper in the recreation room, as it is now raining. Four Dutch children are sitting at the big dining-table, playing a game. Three of them speak in a strong Twente dialect, which I don’t usually like so much. Now it feels quite cosy, it sounds like “home”. I have resigned myself to my decision to go home, and now I want to go as quickly as possible. If I can get a train to Copenhagen in Nässjö tomorrow or the day after, then I can take the night train to Utrecht and am home in three days!
When I have finished my meal, I go to the woman with five children who had lent me the book about Astrid Lindgren. Since I stayed here longer and hadn’t finished it yet, I was allowed to keep it a little longer. It is still raining, so the whole family is in the tent.
“Come on in, would you like some coffee or something?”
“Well .. I’ve still got all my things in the recreation room, including my bag with valuables, so I’d rather go straight back”.
I’m surprised at myself! Now I know that I’m going home, I revert to being the ‘Gea at home’, who prefers to sit alone at home in the evening, instead of the ‘social Gea on a cycling holiday’, who would never resist such an offer. I walk back and regret it. Well, what does it matter? I’ll never see them again and they will have forgotten me by tomorrow or the day after.
Day 14, Thursday July 23rd, Gummarp – Nässjö
Distance: 60 km by bike, 5 km. walk
Weather: hot and sultry in the morning, rain in the afternoon
Gummarp, Östraby, Hult, Ägersgöl, Bötteryd, Eskjö, Nässjö
Het stinks in the front part of the tent, but I can’t see anything strange. When I have taken the outer tent off, I see a mud-heap. How on earth did that get there? I smell it and realise it is shit. But whose? Who or what had been in my tent last night?
“A snake”, says the site owner. “Really??”I ask stupidly. I have seen a few already these holidays. Once, one lay in the middle of the road, about a metre long. I saw it too late, or rather, I saw too late that it was a snake and the creature only just escaped my wheels by wriggling away very fast.
Goodness, so I’ve had a snake in my tent... a good thing I didn’t know that last night.
The Chasm of Skurugata is a canyon of 50 metres deep and 550 metres long and is clearly marked on my map. So is the way to it but when the road changes to a sandy path, I begin to wonder. I have good maps that clearly mark whether it is asphalt or not, but it didn’t show a sand path.
I carry on but it gets more and more difficult, as the path also climbs. I also have to pull my carrier up again. The path gets narrower and has more and more side-paths. I have no idea whether this will come right. When I meet someone, I ask whether this is the way to the canyon. “Straight on and then to the left”. Where to the left? I cycle straight on, hoping that the canyon will be marked. Luckily, it is and a moment later I come to a parking place. Here I must leave the bike and walk the rest of the way.
I think you can walk on and get back to the parking place eventually, but I don’t know for sure. I also have no idea how long it will take.
I decide to walk back, also because I don’t know if my shoes are up to it. I have sandals on (the only shoes I have with me) and up to now they’ve been alright. However, my grip is bad so I have to be careful.
According to my tourist guide, there should be a 337 metre high hill near, with a wonderful view of the canyon. I can’t see it on the map but I don’t honestly feel like climbing a hill, whether or not on the bike.
At the beginning of the afternoon I arrive in Eskjö. Up till now, I haven’t found the Swedish towns and villages very interesting, compared to those in Denmark, at least, but here it is beautiful, probably because of the old centre with wooden houses.
Actually, I’ve had enough for today. I’m tired and it’s beginning to rain. That makes camping less attractive, so I start looking for a Youth Hostel.
The easiest way to find one is via the Tourist Office but they tell me that it is full, because of a national sports event in the town.
There is also a hotel, but €70 a night is too much for me.
So I decide to go onto Nässjö, where there is another Youth Hostel and no sports event. The man at the tourist office offers to ring up and make a reservation, to make sure. I don’t really like pinning things down, but if I want to be sure of a place for the night, it is probably a good idea.
Meanwhile, it is raining harder and I don’t feel like cycling twenty kilometres on the ‘33’, (yes, the same one as that between Vimmerby and Mariannelund). There is no other route, unless I make a large detour.
I shall go by train! I’ll take the campsite owner’s advice and get on the train with my bike like a naive tourist. I get to the station and look round for the ticket office. There isn’t one: you have to buy a ticket in the train. I quickly find the right platform and the train is waiting. That’s lucky. It’s only one carriage with two doors, both shut. However hard I try, the door won’t open. Odd.
Then someone comes out of the other door who looks like the driver. “I’m not running today, they’re working on the track”. (What on earth was he doing in the train then???).
“How can I get to Nässjö then?” I ask. The man points to a bus. “With that bus, but you’ll have to be quick”.
Apparently he hasn’t noticed my bike. The bus leaves as I start walking towards it.
“The next one is in two hour’s time”, the driver tells me.
“But can I take the bike with me?” I ask to make sure.
He now looks at the bike as if it hadn’t been there before. “No, you can’t take a bike in the bus. You’d have to leave it here”.
Alright, I know enough. That means cycling to Nässjö.
I eventually arrive in Nässjö, dead tired and sopping wet. The Youth Hostel is on a campsite and I go and look for Reception. I am expected and when he sees my heavily laden bike, the nice man behind the counter asks where I have been and where I’m going. When I tell him about the hassle with the bike and that I want to go home by train, he immediately looks up train times and prices for me. When he can’t find anything on Internet about taking the bike on the train, he gets his cell phone and dials the number of the Swedish Railways. Then he gives me his telephone. “You’d better speak to them yourself”.
I realise I’m being taken through an entire menu of choices, but as my Swedish hasn’t got that much better these last two weeks, I can’t make head or tail of it.
“Sorry ...”, I say to the man and give him the telephone back. “I can’t understand a thing”.
Then he tries, but quickly gives up. “They’re already closed. You’d better ride to the station tomorrow and enquire there”.
A night here costs the same as a spot on the camp site and I’m glad, as I’ve already spent far more in Sweden than I bargained for.
Halfway through the evening, reading a book in bed, the fire alarm goes off. It doesn’t have the effect on me that it should: I think that I don’t want to be seen in my nightclothes and calmly get dressed. I could have stayed in bed, but I was curious to see what was going on. According to me, you ought to panic and run outside, but that doesn’t occur to me. There is an awful lot of noise in the passage. To escape it, I want to go back to my room, but realise that that is not what a fire alarm is for. I walk to the central hall and go outside. Meanwhile, all the guests are already there, but nobody knows what it’s all about.
Then the fire engine comes and the alarm is quickly turned off. It seems that someone lit a cigarette in a bedroom. I want to go back indoors but am stopped. They haven’t yet got everything under control and we have to wait for the ‘all clear’.
I get back to bed after an hour. This is probably my last night in Sweden ...
Days 15 and 16, Friday July 24th and Saturday July 25th, Nässjö
“Days of rest”
Distance: 32 km
The Youth Hostel lies just outside the town and I already cycle to Nässjö early in the morning. There are some steep climbs and descents, but luckily it isn’t far.
I explain my situation to the man behind the window, who looks at me doubtfully.
“I can’t re-issue your ticket. It can’t be done anyway, as it was bought abroad.”
Abroad? Oh, yes, of course, the Netherlands is abroad to him.
“You can try in Denmark but I don’t give you much of a chance.”
“Well then, give me a ticket to Copenhagen and I’ll see when I get there.” If it turns out that I can’t change my ticket in Copenhagen after all, I’ll just stay in Denmark.
The man types away at his computer and looks more and more doubtful.
“With the bike?” he asks again.
I almost want to ask him to buy it from me but restrain myself.
“Then Sunday afternoon is the first possibility”.
“Only Sunday??” It is now Friday morning.
“There are no earlier trains on which you can take your bike”.
I think for a moment but decide to buy a ticket anyway. I almost choke at the price and even that is excluding a ticket for the bike.
“You have to buy that in the train, but it’s not expensive”.
I get two tickets from him. I have to go by a regional train from Nässjö to Alvesta and change there for the international train to Copenhagen. In the regional train, the bike ticket only costs three euro, which is not bad. The man doesn’t know how much it will be on the international train.
Complete with tickets, I walk out of the station. What am I to do all weekend in Nässjö? Suddenly I think of something and go back.
“How much is a ticket to Stockholm?”.
The same man looks at me in astonishment. “Stockholm?”, he asks.
“Yes, if I have to stay here till Sunday, I could perhaps go to Stockholm tomorrow for the day.”
“That would take two and a half hours by train. You could only stay in Stockholm for a few hours. I would advise against it, Stockholm is a beautiful city and you shouldn’t visit it just for a few hours. You should take a few days at least. And the weather forecast isn’t too good for tomorrow either ...”
And when he mentions the price, I’m convinced. So that will be a weekend in Nässjö.
I ride back to the campsite and ask the same boy I spoke to yesterday whether I can stay in the Youth Hostel till Sunday. It appears to be no problem.
The first thing to do is to see if I can do anything about my bike. Hoisting the carrier up every five kilometres is no fun and besides, my new tyre would soon be ruined.
I unscrew the entire rear mudguard which is screwed under the carrier. The big villain. To explain: some four centimetres under my carrier, there are two bars, from one side of the wheel to the other, and the carrier is screwed underneath them. If I were to fasten the mud guard on top of the carrier, the wheel would have room enough to turn freely, without rubbing. Now the screws are much too short but with some string and tape I should be able to manage. I’m just about to go to my room to fetch the string I always take a roll of string with me ... ) when an old man, who is also staying here with his wife, comes to see what I am doing.
"I’ve got some string”, he says.
“Oh, thank you, but I’ve got some myself. And tape ...”
But the man has already gone and comes back a few minutes later with the string. There are people who must help, whether it’s necessary or not. He is one of them. He tells me exactly how best to fasten it and if he had his way, he would have taken it out of my hands and done it himself.
A little later, everything is secured. Really, all the problems are now solved: the mud guard no longer rubs against the wheel and the tyre, which wore out and caused flats, has been replaced.
Theoretically, I could now carry on with my journey, no problems, bike O.K. But I no longer trust it and don’t dare to make more long trips with it. No, my decision to go home is the right one. I’ll make something of this weekend and then, in Copenhagen, see how quickly I can get home.
In the afternoon, I cycle back to Nässjö, to look for the Tourist Office and see if there is anything going on in the town this weekend. I also want to go to the library to write an email home.
There isn’t much this weekend, only a fair on Saturday. I’m given a folder about the town, with a map in it. That is always useful and helps me find the library quickly.
And then I read an email which suddenly changes my plans. It is from Jørgen Bjerring from Magtebølle (Fyn Denmark). Last year I ‘camped’ in the hayloft of his and his wife’s house and planned to visit them again this year, a day or two before my (original) departure for home.
Jørgen writes that he has sent a sort of press release to the tourist offices in Fyn telling them that, in the beginning of August, a Dutch cycle-tourist would arrive in Fyn , who had probably seen more of Denmark than most Danes. If anyone was interested, they should contact him.
Jørgen himself is the chairman of the Fyn branch of the Danish cyclists’ organisation (Dansk Cyklist Forbund, Højfynsafdeling) and well-known in the tourist branch. He immediately apologises to me for perhaps being too forward, but if I don’t want to, it’s no problem either. He expects that a contact would give me free access to museums and ferries, in exchange for the publicity and mention on my website.
Of course I want to! I’m afraid Jørgen has exaggerated my knowledge, but I’m always ready for a new adventure.
I mail back, telling him about the last two weeks and that I had really intended to go home. But as I can probably not change my ticket anyway, I am ‘doomed’ to stay in Denmark for the next two weeks, but that is no punishment. Depending on how my bike behaves, I could cycle leisurely through Sjælland to Fyn and, should there be problems again, I can get straight there by train and camp at Jørgen’s ‘campsite’. There are about 8oo addresses in Denmark where you can camp for free or for very little. Jørgen’s garden is one of them (see: Overnatning i det fri).
At the end of the afternoon, I cycle cheerfully back to the Youth Hostel. Now for Denmark!