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Two Go Arctic (again)


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As you may have picked up from my post on Scandinavian Tolls, for one of this year's main breaks we have been attracted by the far North again.


Ever since our last visit to Northern Norway a good few years ago, we have been drawn to the idea of trying to get as far as the Lofoten Islands (nearly achieved on a previous visit), though the now lack of ferries direct to Scandinava makes that a slightly daunting prospect (a far as mileage is concerned). We could spare roughly four weeks between family engagements, so a visit commencing in May and extending through much of June was on the cards.


Even then, this was going to involve some seriously long drives if we were to maximise time in the North, and we resolved to head North via Sweden, using its faster and more forgiving road system. This time we would go via the Bothnian coast, which, though by all accounts isn't as exciting overall as the Central (Inlandsvägen) route, is an area we hadn't visited.


Given the lack of Scandinavian ferries, we planned to cross from Hull to Rotterdam, and were considering using the relatively cheap TT-Line ferry from Rostock to Trelleborg in Southern Sweden, to avoid some of the mileage and cost of crossing from Denmark to Sweden via the bridges. The ferry timings were somewhat inconvenient, however, the quality of Stellplätze close to either end indeterminate, and research indicated that some of the cost of the bridge tolls could be defrayed, so the plan reverted to driving and using the bridges.


Some preparation was required for best value from the bridge tolls, and I'm updating the detail on my separate post on the same with the final results.


So, on Wednesday 25th May, we set off for the Hull-Rotterdam ferry, which is inconveniently timed so that you inevitably hit the rush-hour traffic jams in Hull (and we did). As the boat has a full-daytime lay-up, however, arriving reasonably early (having allowed for the traffic) means you still get loaded quickly, and we were positioned exactly as we were on our last crossing, just on the turn between the inward and outward traffic (all vehicles enter and exit via the bow, which makes for some interesting manoeuvring, particularly of the larger vehicles).


It always surprises us how many heavy vehicles they get on these ferries, and we wonder at the intricacies of it all, but someone had miscalculated this time, as one set of double-stacked containers lined up for loading had to be rejected and returned to the holding area.


The crossing cost me less than last year, albeit probably at a slightly less popular time of the season, and this time, the best price I could get was from P&O direct, rather than one of the clubs.


A good crossing, and deposited in Rotterdam on time ready for the dash North (racing the Satan's Slaves motorcycle club who joined us on board ;-) ) As usual, the Dutch motorways were fairly busy, and the journey round Hamburg was dire (but I was glad I wasn't coming in the other direction!), but we made one of our possible stopping points (at Schacht-Audorf) by around 18:00.


This is a good find for an overnight stop; it is only about 3 miles off the E45 motorway heading North, on the banks of the Nord-Ostsee Kanal, and is a Stellplatz with around 40 places. Research indicated it might be popular, and, ignoring the "full" sign at the entrance, we found two of the marked pitches free. We parked up, and headed up to the entrance to pay at the machine (whereon the attendant, who was heading home, congratulated me on getting the last place). "But there is another", I said - he was adamant that there wasn't, but after he'd disappeared, a Hymer came and took the real last place.


Anyhow, €10 for the night, free grey and black dump, water €1 for 100 litres or 10¢ for 10 litres, and there were what appeared to be very well kept toilets and showers for 50¢ and €1 respectively.


We had a walk into town, and as we didn't envisage eating out a lot in Scandinavia (a combination of price and location) we treated ourselves to a meal at the well-patronised local Greek Restaurant. A special platter for two (far too much, but excellent all the same) two beers, and liberal helpings of (free - "you mean you dont want any more?") Ouzo cost us somewhat under €40.


The main attraction of the Stellplatz is its proximity to the Kanal. The adjacent road is quiet, but throughout the night, there was a mild disturbance as preposterously large vessels rolled by only feet away - it is quite impressive!


More to follow when wifi permits - though to cut to the chase, it has been in the mid 20s here, no floods, lots of fuel, and it is currently still sunny at 11pm (though in reality, it should be 2 days before the midnight sun is visible here). Unfortunately, Norway is forecast to be between 6 and 8 degrees during the day for a week from tomorrow - really! Could be interesting.



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...and it came to pass that the forecast wasn't wrong - we hit 3 degrees as we crossed from Sweden into Norway (This is June you know!), but more of that later....


Back at Schacht-Audorf, adroitly avoiding the morning "musical pitches" of those 'vans trying to get the positions overlooking the Kanal as others vacated them (only really of much interest if you are going to sit in your 'van all day and watch the ships - or you enjoy the crew peering down through your rooflights), we headed back to the autobahn for the run further North.


The target this time was to arrive in Sweden before stopping - and again, this would be mainly a transit stop. This involved the long drive up through Denmark, and across the StoreBaelt and Oresunds toll bridges, before arriving in Sweden at Malmö.


As described in my other post, the toll crossings with the electronic "biz" tag went well, and we made reasonably good time - though the perpetual roadworks around the Copenhagen motorways slowed us a little (but not as much as the traffic heading in the other direction, where the tail-back must have been at least ten miles long - something to remember for the way back, as there are alternatives to this stretch).


It was late afternoon as we exited the Oresunds bridge, and the choice for an easy overnight was either the car-park near the Malmö campsite (just off the bridge), which seems regularly to be used for overnighting, or another 20 minutes or so drive South (somewhat in the wrong direction, but a more attractive proposition) to the Stellplatz near the ferry-terminal at Trelleborg, or to the parking "officially" recognised for motorhomes at Smygehamn, just slightly further on.


The latter looked a better prospect for having an explore for the evening, so we set our sights on it. As it happens, the Stellplatz at Trelleborg would have sufficed (though not in quite as pleasant surroundings).We passed it on the way through - it seemed to have been relocated slightly, was quite large, had a few 'vans on it, and would have been adequate for an overnight. It was close to a large supermarket with good parking (and which we used on our way back the next morning).


Smygehamn, however, turned out to be a good choice - at least for a walk on the coast, a wander around the little harbour, and a look at Smygehuk, Sweden's most Southerly point. On the other hand, it was very busy, mainly with Swedish 'vans, though also a few tourists who were obviously using it before/after the ferry from Trelleborg.


My understanding was that a fee was payable in the Tourist Office in the adjacent historic storage building, but this was not open (and showed no signs of having been open, so it was presumably pre-season). We weren't asked to pay, and I suspect the free nature of things accounted somewhat for the busy-ness of the place.


We didn't need any services, but the car-park next door had excellent public toilets, complete (as is the case in quite a lot of Sweden) with an official black waste disposal point. There was a water tap on the buildings near the tourist office, but no sign of whether its use was authorised.


All in all, though busy, we had a good evening and night. Having now seen the potential stopovers at Trelleborg and Smygehamn, I'd be less concerned about ferry timings to and from Germany, as either would do for late arrival or early departure (Trelleborg if simply crashing out, Smygehamn if a bit more spare time to relax were available).





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Incidentally, there were spot-checks on the borders both between Germany and Denmark, and Denmark and Sweden, though they weren't causing undue delays.


The next leg of our journey was planned to take us to our old friend, the Stellplatz at the marina in Vadstena. Last used by us three years ao, the location was so good we vowed we would use it again if passing by. (and, if the weather and mood took us, spend a little more time in the area).


We looked at a cross-country, off-motorway route from Smygehamn, but decided that, though this would cover some of Sweden we hadn't seen, arrival in Vadstena would be late enough to risk not getting a place (it being Saturday night), and wouldn't give us much time for relaxation once we got there. We could have diverted to Ystad, but that would have taken more time, and we didn't want to add to the murder statistics ;-)


So, motorway it was, retracing our steps to Malmö (calling in at the aformentioned supermarket in Trelleborg) before heading North, in temperatures around the mid-20s.


A number of things to mention here; Swedish supermarkets are generally open for long hours, every day of the week including Sundays, so provisioning on the move is not a great issue. Food in them is neither expensive nor inexpensive, there is a mix of pricing (different from UK) which makes catering for yourself reasonably economical. Lowish-alcohol beer is available, but anything higher (and wines and spirits) must be bought in the state-run Systembolaget - so an imported supply of wine-boxes and German-bought bottles is a good idea (if you are that way inclined). In addition, credit cards are virtually universally accepted (and even expected) for payment.


Swedish roads (including motorway) are generally quiet, excellently surfaced, and great for long-distance travel. (there has been one, so far, very hairy exception, which I will touch on later). One very noticeable thing is the plethora of fuel stations - not much chance of running out (unless you try really hard). Diesel is slightly cheaper than the UK, and the only hiccup so far was when I chose to "pay at pump", and didn't get a receipt. The kind lady at the counter explained I needed to re-insert my card after finishing, but printed me one anyway.


So - Vadstena. The Stellplatz has been further improved. A number of additional pitches have been installed overlooking the lake (all with electric, but totally gravel and a bit "beastie", being near the water. (I think we arrived with half of Northern Europe's insect population stuck on the front of the 'van, anyway). The original gravel double hardstandings in the grassy area by the "Slott" (castle) were still there, and we eschewed the one available lake-front pitch in favour of one of these (and we needn't have worried, there were a good few spare). Improvements included installation of a credit card pay-station (SeK 130 or SeK 160 with electric), and more formal signing of the availability of the marina service-block, a short walk away on the other side of the harbour, with toilets, showers and (also seemingly-free) laundry facilities, protected by a (well-publicised) door code. Despite looking a bit odd from outside, the facilities were pretty good, and at about £13 with electricity, makes this a bargain. Water is available from the back of an adjacent building, and grey and black waste disposal are at a bus "dump point" on the route into the Stellplatz. (Grey water disposal may be a little messy if a bus has recently used the dump point for black water, however ;-) )


The real plus (apart from the excellent facilities) is the location right next to the harbour and (very attractive) Slott, and the fact that it is only another couple of hundred yards into the attractive town centre. This Stellplatz is a real find.


The local senior students were having their "prom" on the area in front of the Slott in the afternoon (and a dinner inside in the evening). They were arriving in a variety of vehicles to parade and have their portraits taken, so we joined in the fun, before having a good walk around the town for the evening (t-shirt weather even until late). Surprisingly, most of the girls were the epitome of Swedish pulchritude, whilst most of the boys looked like Louis van Gaal (with a face like a smacked a*se ;-) )


Once again the vehicles we saw included a number of 60's American classics; something common throughout Sweden, and many of them appearing to be in very good shape.


We could once again have been tempted to stay another day, but a damp morning was forecast, so we resolved to move further on, and out towards the Bothnian coast. And right on time at 9 O'clock, the historic steamer carrying passengers on a tour of the Gota Canal moored 100 yards away alongside the marina.




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The next part of the journey was to be entirely new ground in Sweden for us. We set out for the coast, in the direction of Gävle, using slightly less main roads, and crossing a lot of green and pleasant Sweden, and some industrial areas, such as Avesta.


As has been touched on, Swedish roads are generally a very pleasant drive, but there is one aspect to be aware of. The speed limits vary; quite a lot; and even on the trunk routes. Sweden also seems to have secured a job-lot deal on speed cameras, which invariably accompany these changes of limit - so be careful!


Early on our journey, we traversed a section of road that has an "infrastructure charge" - a bridge at Motala. There was very little warning (simply one sign showing a list of charges, next to an electronic gantry). I'm not sure what the charge was (it was nominal - I hope ;-) ) and there was no way of avoiding it, given no pre-warning. The charge is levied (the only method) on all vehicles by billing based on registration number, and there are arrangements to bill via a UK agent.


We made Gävle in reasonable time, but it didn't have an outstanding write-up in the guide books, and in T-shirt weather (which it was) we tend to like smaller places where we can simply stroll around the countryside and "take the air".


Thus it was that we ended up at Ljusne, slightly further up the coast from Gävle on a quiet little site next to a couple of major hydro-electric plants and, apparently, one of Sweden's best river-fishing areas. We booked in at SeK250 for the night (with electricity - a recurring cost for the next few sites), selected a pitch by the water's edge, and went for an explore of the town and viewpoint on the opposite side of the river (crossing the hydro dam which had a very impressive outflow). Ljusne was a distinctly odd place, it still had (timber-based) industry, but it looked like half the town had been built to support other reasonably recent industry which, looking at some of the wasteland, had disappeared. The current Mrs H said it was rather like she imagined Chernobyl now to be - hardly flattering, and though the campsite was fine, even after another evening stroll we didn't connect with the place, so we set our sights at a shorter hop the next day.


Härnösand, a shortish drive up the coast gets decent reviews, and has a site that is within walking distance of the centre, so we moved on up the coast. Now, for anyone who hasn't visited Sweden before, all in all, the E4 coastal route (with a little exception) isn't a patch scenically on the inland route (the Inlandsvägen), but we'd done that, and there was a strong possibility of dropping South again that way this time, hence the coastal foray.


Härnösand was pleasant; the site was on the edge of the sea, with good views (at least from our selected pitch, most were a bit further from the water), just a walkable distance outside town, and again was SeK250 with electric. (The office was closed until 18:00, so, arriving just after lunchtime, we pitched and walked into town). Having had a good wander round the attractive centre, we set out for the open-air museum on the hill above the town. A strange (but engaging) Scandinavian trait, these; they gather old buildings together into a "zoo", transporting them from near and far to provide a museum piece - some people have made it their life's work. Apparently, the one at Härnösand is the second biggest in the country - it was strangely engaging.


In the evening and still in T-shirt weather, after booking in, we wandered away from the town along the coast, (until we hit military land, which rather restricted excursions). The coastline was littered with walkways and (public, pre-constructed) barbecue spots - another common sight in Sweden, they really do like their outdoor life (and they were un-vandalised, and some in use that evening).


Having exhausted the immediate area, time to move inexorably North again. This time, our target was Skellefteå, or more correctly Bovikens Havsbad, its recreational area just to the North. Now this section of the E4 defies the epithet "boring". Known as the "Hoga Kust" is takes you over a massive (toll-free ;-) ) suspension bridge into really delightful fjord-like scenery, which lasts almost to Skellefteå.


The campsite at Boviken was very attractively placed, next to the sea, in the vicinity of some quite pleasant residential development. The office hours were, however, rather peculiar (12 to 4), not ideally arranged to catch one-nighters. Luckily, we had arrived at around 15:30, and booked in for one night (we expected we might stay two if the weather remained good), and were allocated a very nice pitch by the water (for SeK250 with electric). We headed out to the end of the road (which is unsurfaced from just after the campsite) for an afternoon/early evening walk, and then returned for dinner and a relax by the sea watching the sun (just) sink away.


The following morning dawned just as brightly, so we decided to stay for another day. We busied ourselves in the morning catching up with our chores until the office opened, amused (or possibly bemused) by the actions of the couple in the caravan next to us, who spent most of the morning very slowly raking up the sand surrounding - not on - their pitch, and removing every fir cone, piece of straw and whatever in a wheelbarrow, and then commenced to cut any remaining tufts of grass - individually; with a pair of electric scissors. 8-) They then locked up their caravan (which looked as though it were seasonal), and didn't return that evening.


Anyway, after calling OCD Anonymous, we set off for a circular bike ride of some 20+ miles taking in Skellefteå. A good part of the first bit was on the unsurfaced road beyond the campsite, but we ended up, after a big circle, taking a main route into the town. Much like a lot of continental Europe, cycle provision in Sweden is pretty good, and we got right into the centre of Skellefteå using marked cycle routes.


It is a clean and tidy, if rather unexceptional town, but the "Church Town" on the edge is (though a tourist attraction) still lived in, with ancient wooden houses at various angles, huddled together - and no electricity allowed! Back in the modern centre, we managed to find a pleasant café in an old building tucked away in a courtyard, and had coffee (free refills, as in much of Sweden), and cake, and a bit of a chat with some of the locals. Then, back to the campsite by the other half of the circle, mainly on marked cycle tracks, and a good day out finished.


We needed to keep moving North, so the next stop was destined to be Jokkmokk or Gällivare, depending on journey time and our whim on the day.





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...with free WiFi, a second instalment tonight:


An early start (09:00 to 09:30 is our norm) saw us on our way North, with a deviation inland from the coast at Piteå being the plan. This would give us a stretch of less-main road, and avoided both Lulea as a potential pinchpoint and Arvidsjaur which we had visited before. It was all a fairly relaxed and pleasant journey as far as Jokkmokk (after crossing the Arctic Circle in a rather underwhelming manner, and where we stopped to shop in the nice but unremarkable main street), but beyond that we hit a nightmare. Somewhere in the region of 15 miles of main road being (slowly) resurfaced (or, to be more correct, prepared for it). It was half-planed, and half surface-filled with large loose hard-core. Worse than that, traffic coming the other way would sweep pay past at the (unadjusted) speed limit (admittedly, most of it was either associated with the road works or was heavy commercial traffic, so they presumably weren't worried about windscreen loss or other damage). I was convinced we were going to lose ours, but we got only one hard bang somewhere back on the bodywork, and I haven't found the damage from that - yet. ;-). It was a most unpleasant (because I did slow down) 40 minutes or so, though.


With time in hand, and Jokkmokk being unremarkable, we headed on again, planning to overnight at Gällivare. Our expectations were relatively low, (this was only ever going to be an overnighter), and they were largely met. The campsite is just off the main road at the entrance to town, and you can choose from the slightly more attractive riverside pitches with the road noise, or the rather more scrubby pitches round the back which are quieter. We chose the latter (and I think wisely). This site was cheaper, however, at SeK220 with electricity, and perfectly acceptable for our overnight.


Despite the best efforts of the (very pleasant) lady in the tourist office, Gällivare has little to commend it, unless you want to tour the major underground iron ore workings, on which the town both depends and is built. (In fact, the workings are under the adjoining area of Malmberget, which is slowly sinking, and thus is being moved, over a number of years, to become part of Gällivare. And when I say moved, I really do mean moved; whole buildings are being put on transporters and re-sited in the neighbouring town - now that would be worth seeing.


We had a wander around the town, and then a more extensive walk in the evening, but there was little to raise much interest, (other than the rather "Western" looking station) so we stuck with the plan to move on the following morning.


It's patently normally cold here, however, as even the statues look perished!


This was to be the session where we dropped across into Norway, and as I've already noted, though we were in temperatures in the low 20s (destined to drop only a couple of degrees in Sweden on the morrow), the forecast for Narvik, roughly where we were to drop into Norway varied between 4 and 6 degrees (in June!).


So, away at our normal time and in temperate weather, we stopped off at Kiruna to shop and get fuel (which is slightly cheaper in Sweden than Norway - which is very close to UK prices). Now Kiruna is also built on iron-ore, but where much of Gällivare's is underground, Kiruna's is not, and it is surounded by a mountainous wasteland. It is bigger and looks more prosperous than Gällivare, but attractive it is not!


Everything in both Kiruna and Gällivare seems to be owned by the (100% state-controlled) LKAB mining company!


So, onwards and upwards on the road towards Norway, getting progressively more of a wilderness, and the weather progressively worse and colder (3 degrees was reached before the border). Only the very highest lake was actually frozen, but it did feel brass monkeys up there. There is a lot of nothingness, but it is, nonetheless, impressive nothingness.


The border was crossed without incident (there may have been people in the border post, but they certainly weren't keen to come out in that weather), and ignoring the wine-boxes we sailed through the "nothing to declare" lane and set off down into Norway (which immediately looked different in character to Sweden - odd isn't it).


We were considering stopping at the first campsite we passed in Norway, but when we got there it had little to commend it (except its nearness ;-) ), and the weather was, shall we say, parky (about 6 degrees at sea level), so we decided to motor on a little. ...and thus, with a short diversion, we found a lovely little Stellplatz....





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A good few years ago, we made it to the Vesterålen Islands (an epic trip with two kids, and when I complemented the guy who booked us in at the very remote campsite on his English, he replied "well, it should be good, I'm from Oldham!" - though having been there for 12 years, he had a distinct Norwegian accent). On that occasion, we also used the campsite at Narvik, but I understand that has been sold and is being redeveloped, so, we decided we would immediately head out towards the Islands. The scenery from here on is quite exciting, but is really only a preparation for that of the Lofoten Islands, which is truly, truly epic - neither my words nor pictures could do it justice, you simply have to see it yourself.


So, we headed in the direction of a small lakeside campsite up a side road (obtained from Archies Camping, and for which I had found only brief details). Unfortunately, when we got there, it was obviously a late campsite (Not a Norwegian Blue, though in a nice location), so the fallback was a Stellplatz at Evenes gleaned from CC-Infos. The brief reviews of this were quite positive, and it turned out to be a very good "find". Surrounding a largely unused waterside property, and dubbing itself a "Camping" it is much more of a Stellplatz, with electricity, fresh water and grey and black waste disposal. It does, however, also have a single small, but well appointed wc/wash/shower-room. There was one Norwegian 'van there (and so it remained for the night), and we got a very nice waterside pitch. The instruction were to pitch-up and someone would call (at an indeterminate point) to collect the fee (which was NoK200 with electric, or NoK170 without - inclusive of the facilities). It was getting on for 17:00, so we hung about for a bit, and then went for a walk to the nearby harbour. As we were returning, a pickup pulled up at the site, so I set off back - catching it on the road just as it left. I paid the NoK200, saying "I hope you really do own the site" and the driver told his lad to give me a receipt - which he didn't have! "I'll bring you one later", he said - whilst I told him not to bother.


After dinner, we set out to the nearby headland, which had a Hobby on it wild camping, and some sort of construction on the end (which turned out to be a sculpture). The Hobby contained two Swedish guys who were fishing, and after we'd chatted for a while we wandered on, only for one of them to come running up to the top shouting that he'd spotted some whales. So we, and his colleague went to look, and what he hadseen was a couple of porpoises, which played for a bit, and then disappeared. Having only seen sporadic reindeer on the run up from Sweden, though, this was still mildly exciting.


On our way back to the 'van, however we diverted slightly to a jetty down the road, and standing there, there was suddenly a pack of much bigger and slower beasts right in the middle of the fjord. From their shape, size and behaviour they may well have been Killer Whales, but we certainly didn't see any white to confirm it, so it remains a mystery. We walked back up to tell the Swedes, and the pack (more than a dozen) turned in our direction and we stood on the headland watching them for quite some time.


Then, back to the 'van; even in cloud it really doesn't get dark here overnight at this time of year, and then, with a knock on the door, my receipt was delivered!




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So, next day, on to the Lofoten Islands for real, and as I've said, I could wax lyrical about the scenery and experience, but I'll try to keep it short. The whole journey down to the very end of the road at Å (I'm looking for a place called B now so I can drive to it) is a delight, even though the weather was very mixed when we were there. It pays to leave the main road and do some of the loops to either the North or the South in order to see the best of the scenery, but over impressive bridges, and through impossible tunnels, the whole is a scenic delight. Perhaps the only disturbing thing is that, even this early in the season, almost every other vehicle seen was a motorhome.


Our first overnight was at Kabelvåg, a little beyond the main conurbation at Svolvaer. There was a choice of three sites here, two on the sea, and one slightly inland (and this is the one we chose, as it was somewhat nearer to walk into Kabelvåg, and also because the other two didn't look as inviting as they might). It was a relatively expensive site, at NoK290 with electricity (and showers at NoK10) but the facilities were excellent. The owner was very interested in the Brexit poll prospects.


The weather was still very cold, with rain threatening, but we walked into Kabelvåg, which has retained quite a lot of its ancient centre, and whose church is dubbed the "Cathedral of the Lofotens", and were generally taken by the picturesque nature of the place. A not expensive coffee was taken in the waterfront restaurant, and time passed quickly before a return to the 'van for dinner, and then an evening walk by the sea (which didn't change our opinion on the other campsites).


The next day saw us heading onwards again, first of all to visit the village of Henningsvaer, strung out over a series of islands, and quite a spectacular approach over narrow bridges. It was here that we first came up against the Lofoten icon, the stockfish. If you are downwind anywhere within a mile of these, drying on wooden racks, you will know about it!. Split fish and their heads are dried separately after salting, and even the gulls won't touch them. Racks and racks of them all over the islands (much of which is, I understand, eventually exported to Portugal for Bacalhao).


Then, taking a loop south off the main drag we headed to Stamsund - the drive was very good, the village, despite its write-up, was unexceptional. Following the side-road did, however, introduce us to a new concept - the electric cattle grid! This is almost (but not quite) exactly what you would expect (though instead of a grid as you would see at home, it was a series of electrified flat plates laid across the road). Try getting that past UK Elf n' Safety!


The weather was (surprisingly) improving somewhat, and looked better towards the North, so, on arriving at Leknes, we decided to cut back slightly and head to the North coast. There is a well publicised walk from Unnstad to Eggum, and an equally well publicised Stellplatz at Eggum, next to an old Nazi radar installation. Having seen all the motorcaravans that were wild-camping, the latter didn't seem a sensible prospect for the late afternoon, so we headed for Unnstad, where I had POIs for both a campsite and a Stellplatz. The drive was an interesting one , traversing a couple of single-track tunnels, the first just short enough to see if anyone was coming the other way, the second, much longer and winding, and with several passing places inside the tunnel! We exited to a stunning bay entirely surrounded by high cliffs/mountains, and parked up behind the surf centre (it is Lofotens's best surfing beach) waiting to book in. When someone turned up, the cost was NoK210 (sans electricity - but I suspect I could have jumped a point on a cabin if I wanted). The facilities were decently-kept, but oriented to the surfers, with communal showers and surprisingly only one WC for each sex - even though they were renting huts. The WC in the gents got blocked while we were there, and a sign added to use the ladies - I was waiting for a similar one for the showers ;-) . The great advantage of this site, however, was that it allowed us to set out on the walk to Eggum (and back) - late-ish, but the light wasn't going to be a problem!


As we set out, we passed the Unnstad Stellplatz (NoK100, but no apparent facilities) which is next to the community hut at the start of the walk (we couldn't have got on it at the time, as there was obviously some function on, and all parking was occupied). The walk was somewhat more demanding than any of the write-ups (an amount of minor scrambling, and a lot of boulder-hopping was required) but we persevered as far as the radar tower/Stellplatz at Eggum (which was full), and were relieved that the café, which should have shut at 6pm, was still open some 30 minutes afterwards. The Stellplatz is effectively the car-park, with a NoK100 overnight charge for motorcaravans. There is water, but (apparently) no waste disposal, though there are 24hr toilets, and the said cafe. It might make a very good location for an uninterrupted view of the midnight sun, but it wasn't quite my cup of tea Though the coffee at the café was my cup of coffee).


The return journey took us slightly less time than the outward, (less route-finding and less stopping for pictures) but it was still a late dinner when we got back, and we almost got to see the midnight sun, but it disappeared behind the cliff at sometime after 11:30.







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....And just for proof, a picture taken just before midnight at Unnstad. It's not surprising, given the light levels, that life gets lived late up here - no need at any time for a light to read a book!


The next day the weather, as forecast, was somewhat more mixed (and cold again), so we decided we would retrace our steps to Leknes (for supermarket shopping) and then wander down to the end of the road at Å, hoping that at least some of the scenery would be visible. Luckily, whilst not at its best, it was!


As for shopping, Norway was a touch more expensive than Sweden on most things (the SeK and NoK being almost par in exchange rate made it easy to compare). It's the odd things that catch you out, such as most bread being very expensive (but a few varieties being much cheaper).


It also became obvious to us that, though Norwegian drivers are on the whole very courteous (they always stop for pedestrians), most of them learnt to drive in cars without indicators ;-) .


So we wended our way South to the end of the road at the fabled Å, through increasingly impressive tunnels, bridges and scenery. The final bridges were single track, spindly things, with deteriorating surfaces abounding (though some magnificent infrastructure work has been done to support the coast road).


It may simply have been the effect of the mixed weather, or scenery-overload, or whatever; but Å was a bit of an anti-climax. Yes, it is the end of the road; yes, it does cling rather precariously to landscape that looks like the end of the world, but we'd seen more "real" villages in the working harbours on the way. IMO Å has sold-out somewhat to tourism. Don't get me wrong, if you're on the Lofotens, you have to go there, but the main attraction was the cinnamon buns in the traditional bakery attached to the fishing museum - and yes, they were that good!


So, after a protracted wander round, we headed back up the road. We'd passed a campsite (Skagens camping) on the beach at Flakstad on the way down, that looked worth an overnight. We called in on the way back, and for the usual NoK250 with elec (plus NoK10 for showers) we booked in for the night, and grabbed a prime position.


This was a nice site, but the unisex facilities (a couple of showers and likewise WCs) though well kept, were inadequate for the numbers (and the site wasn't full). It looked very much like an additional block was being added.


There was quite a lot of weather around, but we narrowly avoided the worst of it, and managed to get out for a couple of walks on the beach, and to the nearby "Russian" church.

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I'm using an unlocked 4G mifi with a pre-loaded 3 sim for mobile WiFi. It has worked at 3G everywhere it has been used in Scandinavia, except on two occasions when it has dropped to 2G. Now, a few miles South of the Arctic Circle is one of them. Fine for text posts and email but no good for picture upload - they'll have to wait for a better connection!


It's actually warm this morning!

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What an interesting holiday. Looks fantastic, apart from the weather. Haven't been to Sweden, but Norway we found expensive, when we went there on a Cruise

In my working life (a long time ago!) I used to have to deal with the Danes/Dutch and the Norwegians, and was always amazed how when I phoned them , they would reply in their own language, but as soon as i spoke in English , they always replied in English.I don't always find that when phoning some numbers in this country !! Well not that I can understand, anyway. I guess you are not having problems with the language ?


Look forward to more


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The next day wasn't forecast to be good - it started so-so, and slowly got worse. We set off back northwards, taking what was supposed to be a scenic diversion round the coast via Kvalnes, but the cloud was so low scenery didn't really come into it. It was interesting that even this minor road was in excellent condition, and we did get a view of what it was like to be "out in the sticks" Lofoten style. Some of the property was in a state of disrepair, whilst some was being smartly renovated - and some questionably imaginatively!


The weather deteriorated enough for us to decide to go as far as Svolvaer (the Islands' main town and administrative centre. It isn't described as a place to hang about in, and so it proved. To be fair, we had been rather sated by views, and the weather didn't do it any favours (I'm sure it's spectacular setting would, in better circumstances, put a lot of other places to shame).


In driving down the islands, and then back, we had passed the "Lofoten Bobil Camp" at Lyngvaer a couple of times, and its setting seemed OK on the side of the water, albeit close to the road. This was a dozen or so miles back from Svolvaer, and we fancied a break to the driving so resolved to book in for the night. With prices at NoK125 per night with electric, plus NoK25 per person, we weren't expecting anything much more than a pitch, water and disposal, but instead, it had two service blocks, one with a kitchen and unisex toilets/showers, and the other with a kitchen and separate toilets/showers, and these were well maintained. Showers were NoK10 for a very good six minute shower. This was a good find, and a grand overnighting place for the money.


Unfortunately, the forecast full gale blew up overnight, and though we weren't on the most exposed pitch, it didn't make for a settled sleep!


The conditions were forecast to improve the next day so we decided to head south for a second look at the scenery in somewhat better conditions. Whilst the winds were forecast to abate somewhat during the day, they were still very strong, so it was with some trepidation that we crossed the first exposed inter-island bridge with indicated wind speeds between 50 and 60 mph!


So, a slow drive down to Å for more photo-opportunities, and some more cinnamon buns ;-) , and then a slow drive back. The conditions, whilst not perfect, were a great deal better than our previous visit, and many pictures were taken.


There is a ferry from Moskenes, next to Å, to Bodo. We discounted this as a route off the island as it deprived one of the different perspectives of a return journey up the spine, was a long crossing, expensive for over 6m, had limited sailings at inconvenient times (it serves interim islands), and was bookable, so there was a strong chance of not being able to board.


The Svolvaer to Skutvik feryy has the same issues but to a lesser extent, whilst the Lodingen to Bognes ferry (actually off the Vesterålen nearer to Narvik) is a shorter, relatively frequent crossing, and not-bookable. It also has an advantage over the return by road to Narvik, as to head south from there the road uses a ferry on the mainland also to Bognes, so you can cut the corner at roughly the same cost.


The only option for this ferry is to turn up and wait for a slot. Accordingly, we headed back to a campsite near to the ferry at Lodingen (Gullesfjordbotn, where the usual charges of NoK250 with elec but excluding showers applied - a reasonable, if unremarkable overnight stop) with a view to queuing for the 09:15 ferry the following morning, and hoping we would be on at the 10:30 at the latest.






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So, up and early in the morning, and we were at Lodingen for the ferry sometime before 08:45 - and third in the queue! To be fair, by the time the ferry arrived, there were a good few others behind us. That includes the ginormous full-length tank transporter, carrying a single army MB G-Wagen - if he was paying by the metre, I'm glad I wasn't picking up the bill (though no doubt the Norwegian taxpayer was).


Interesting design of ferry, these - as I understand it powered by compressed natural gas rather than fuel oil (which would account for the giant gas tank right next to the terminal), and the cleanliness would put any cross-channel ferry to shame. A very flat crossing, and the sighting of a couple of porpoises, and we were at Bognes within the hour (for a grand total of NoK595 - the 7m price, much cheaper at the 6m cut-off point).


The weather was still mixed, so we looked at the options from here, and, despite discounting the ferry to there, decided to visit Bodø, another place that gets mixed reviews; but it was there, the right distance, and we hadn't been there before.


So, Bodø - the city of tolls (not trolls, they're also Norwegian, but something entirely different). There are a number of automated toll stretches around here - turning right at Fauske we hit one for a new stretch of road and a bridge (and I'm still not sure that's arrived on my toll account). Bodø, however, in common with a number of Norwegian towns/cities has an entry toll, enforced on a "ring". Annoyingly, the route my satnav took to the campsite which is just outside the far end of the "ring" took me in through a toll-point, and then within a few hundred yards, out through one again :-( . (It is the natural route, but how annoying is that!)


In reality, these tolls are but nominal (maybe £1 to £1.50) so not that much of an issue, and research indicated that in any one 24 hour period, for Bodø only one reading is enforced, so even less of an issue. For anyone who is wound-up by it though, there is a toll-free route to the campsite at Bodø; it may take a bit of finding, but it does exist!


As for the campsite, describing the facilities as tired would be doing them a favour, though to be fair, the showers were free, and had lots of hot water. We walked into the town, and I think the description "tired" also fitted that. It is an industrial and transport centre, and is undergoing a bit of tarting up (which has left the waterfront in a half- developed, half-derelict state). The whole is not helped by most of the main shopping having moved to a rather odd, well-out-of-town indoor centre fairly near to the campsite.


We didn't hang around in the town centre for long (everything was firmly shut at 17:00) but we called in at the shopping centre, which was still well-open, on the way back for a coffee. The evening was completed by visiting the open-air museum (another one) next to the campsite, and admiring the imaginative approaches to the (surprisingly busy) adjacent airport by all manner of planes. The views beyond the open-air museum are good, and extensive.


With nothing to detain us in Bodø, we determined to brave the tolls, and set off South again in the morning. Years ago, we had used a campsite just below the Arctic Circle which we remembered with some affection. We needed a place to take a break and catch up with the laundry, so Camping Krokstrand became the target. We left Bodø by the back road towards the E6, across the Saltstraumen maelstrom (unfortunately not in its majesty) via another toll-section, and a delightful back road run to join the main road South a good few miles further on.


Then over the desolate tops towards the Arctic Circle, and the twee visitor centre at that point, and a few miles further on to Camping Krokstrand. This was largely as we remembered it, and we managed to get a pitch alongside the river right at the extent of the electric cable for the princely sum of NoK250 with elec and showers included. The facilities here are pretty reasonable, but time your showers well - the boiler can't be large! There isn't a lot to do in the vicinity, but it's a good transit stop (which is why it had a good few units on for the night) and if you walk up the adjoining unsurfaced road, you will find a bus-stop at the end, complete with a 1959 timetable for the local bus route! Luckily, the sun came out and a few hours had all our washing dried.


The next morning the main question was whether to cross back into Sweden from Mo-I-Rana, or to continue down through Norway for a considerably greater distance before making the border crossing. In the end, the quick cross into Sweden won out, though neither of us is quite sure why (though our memories of South of Mo aren't of anything much, so maybe that's why).


So, heading towards Mo we ignored the satnav short-cut to the road towards Sweden, and headed further into the town to find a fuel stop at which to spend our last Norwegian cash (of which there was still a sizeable chunk left, despite only ever having had around £200 of it - the ubiquity of credit-card use should be apparent). Not taking the short cut had two effects; first, we "pinged" yet another low-cost automated toll; and second, a more sobering experience if you will excuse the pun. As we headed south, we could see a police presence, and a policeman stood in the middle of the road with a red bucket. All the North-bound traffic was stopped and queuing. It being Saturday, we genuinely though they might be doing a collection for "police charities" but as we got closer, it became obvious that every driver was being breath-tested, and the used blow-tubes were going in the red bucket. Now, I like to think that even with a virtually zero limit, I would have been OK, but I readily admit that after two glasses of wine the previous evening, I might have been sweating a bit if the process had been carried out on Southbound traffic.


So, with a brief stop for diesel (and I was having to revise my research, as it appeared that it was possible to get fuel in Norway cheaper than in Sweden), we headed out on the Blå Vågen over the snowy tops to Storuman in Sweden. There is a strange beauty in crossing the tops here, with snow-covered mountains reflected in isolated lakes, and very little in the way of habitation, other than clusters of weekend huts. We were considering stopping at Storuman (and looking for a couple of nights somewhere) but we weren't taken with the place (the campsite looked reasonable enough) as I think had been our impression before. So, despite not particularly wanting to repeat previous visits, we headed off to Camping Saiva at Vilhelmina, some 40 miles further on, and a place and campsite we know we like.


This last leg, however, turned into the journey from hell. A stretch of some 7km of trunk road (the E45) before Vilhelmina was being reconstructed. The word reconstructed isn't an understatement - it was, from the bottom up, all 7km and both carriageways! If we thought we'd had it bad on the way up, then this was ten times worse. The 7km consisted entirely of the base footing layer of 2in and above granite hard-core, unrolled and rough-laid; 7 bl**dy km of it. It was filling-threatening at only 10 mph, god knows what would have been thrown up if anyone had been able to go faster. Luckily, it being Saturday there were no active works going on, traffic was light, and of necessity no-one was doing any speed (except for one guy in a battered 4x4 who caught me quite quickly, so I pulled into (the remains of) a layby and let him disappear off down the road, intimidating everyone coming the other way).


It was with great relief that we reached Vilhelmina and Camping Saiva, where the main topic of conversation amongst those who had come South was shared commiserations on the nature of the road, and warnings to those going North - who I'm sure took it as exaggeration. (In fact, there is a long side-route that would have met the E45 at Vilhelmina and bypassed the roadworks. If I'd known, we would gladly have taken it, despite it being much longer in time).





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As reported in a previous trip log, we like Camping Saiva. It's not that it is absolutely outstanding, but the facilities are good, the pitches (those by the lake) excellently laid out, and Vilhelmina centre is a short walk away. It's just a good place to spend a couple of days and catch-up.


Regardless of the posted prices, I was charged less (SeK230) for a lakeside pitch (for which electricity is a mandatory inclusion). Other pitches can be had for SeK190, with an additional SeK30 for electricity if required. Showers are free, and there are excellent kitchen and lounge facilities, both with a TV (so I was able to catch the England vs Russia match :-) ).


The remainder of the first day was spent wandering around Vilhelmina (and catching up with the world on the free WiFi at the community centre). In fact, WiFi at the campsite is also a very reasonable SeK10 per day. The following day, we pulled in a 30 mile bike ride - routes are somewhat restricted, being largely either main roads or unsurfaced, but we managed to get a good run to a few vantage points, and across to the far shore of the main lake, with decent views of the other side.


We then had a discussion as to our next destination. Previously running South from Vilhelmina we had stayed at Sveg, and singularly failed to connect with the place. The weather forecast showed a further decent couple of days coming up, and we wanted to try for another two-night stop. The obvious target then was Östersund, the biggest place we would have visited for some time, and one we knew little detail about. It has a by-pass that reveals very little of the town when used (as had been the case on our previous passing). This as a hop would give us a half-day to explore, and the option of another day if the weather was as promised.


On the way down we got a better view of a few pairs of birds such as we had seen the previous day. This confirmed our diagnosis that they were cranes. The co-pilot also spotted an elk in the shade at the side of the road, but I missed that.


Östersund is on a little arm of Storsjön, Sweden's fourth largest lake, which apparently has a monster to rival Nessie. There are three campsites within walkable distance of the town. In order of declining distance they are; one on Frösön, the adjacent island; one at Sandviken, across from Frösön; and one at the Southern edge of town. The latter gets very mixed reviews, so we decided to look at the other two first. The one on Frösön was a good way uphill, and appeared to be a featureless, exposed (albeit grassy) field. It also looked like the walk into town would be extended by using a rather meandering cycle/pedestrian track, so we headed off to Sandviken. This was closer to town, had a flattish waterside walk in, but the first mile of it was over a bridge! The site itself was oddly split into two across the road, with facilities and reception being (apparently) on the upper side, and motorhome/caravan pitches on the lower lakeside. A couple of motorhomes were pitched close to, and parallel to the (not very busy) road. It looked passable, but we decided to go the whole hog and check the third one out. This happened to be in a very busy and noisy part of town, and we simply turned round and headed back to Sandviken.


As it happened, it was a good choice. When we investigated for the second time it was obvious that there was a mainly gravel (with some grass) area tucked in a corner by the lake well away from the road, and that the little "house" adjacent to this was used for rooms, and additional facilities for the site. We thus got ourselves in the corner and were shortly afterwards joined by an ageing (early 80's) German Hobby, on its way back from Nordkapp. After booking in to a warm welcome (and an element of surprise at a rare visitation by Brits) we wandered into town (over the mile-long bridge, and along the waterfront).


Östersund is a pleasant if largely unremarkable town; the waterside location, combined with blue skies certainly made it feel attractive, though. It had some old buildings lining the pedestrianised streets, an impressive Town Hall, and a pleasant waterfront, where we stopped at a café for coffee and cakes. Once again, though a main meal out in Sweden may be quite expensive, stopping for coffee (self-served from a thermos jug, usually strong and hot) for SeK20, and a cake, is not a drain on the wallet.


So, back to the 'van for a late dinner, and to sit watching the sky change colour in the sunset.


The area is riddled with smaller roads and cycle tracks, and we'd picked up some cycling itineraries in the Tourist Information office the previous day, so when the next morning dawned bright and sunny, one of those was on the cards. The campsite office was closed until 13:00, so we would pay on our return, and off for a very enjoyable 40 mile circuit, taking in such sights as Sweden's most popular marriage church (a bit overrated, but views to die for!), another little open-air museum, though this time with a very nice café, and an observation tower, the local airport (complete with the wreckage of a helicopter - which we subsequently found had crashed the previous evening!), various little towns and villages, and then returning via Jamtli. This is Östersund's main attraction, a large open-air museum with themed areas through the ages (up to relatively modern times). In season (for about two months) it functions as a major theme-park with people role-playing historical life, animals, railways rides, you name it, it has it, and during this time, a not insignificant charge is levied. We were in the week before opening, it was free to wander round, and it also had a very nice little café!.


So, back to the 'van for dinner again, and once this was settled, as if 40 miles was not enough, we did another 20 miles heading out to a set of islands housing a nature reserve, a car ferry out to some further islands, and a major German motorhome manufacturer's test facility for its new "F" class Wohnmobil (note it was in camouflage paint ;-) )


Then, back to the 'van, and relaxing on the waterfront watching the sun go down again.






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...and so, having slowed down a bit on our journey - almost back to posting in real time. (though I forgot to post that Sandviken was quite an expensive site at SeK320 per night with elec - though the showers were free).


With a ferry to meet, we do need to keep moving on - still miles to do, but with a bit of time to take a longer stopover at the odd place. We're now juggling time with the weather forecast, and have a few different scenarios depending on the weather ahead.


We stayed at the campsite in Orsa years ago, when it was the zenith of our journey up Sweden, and it was somewhat less "corporate" than it now is. On our last visit to the area, however, we found a little site on the edge of Lake Orsasjon near Orsa which we liked quite a lot. We had arrived that time in good weather, but the next day brought rain, moving us on and killing any idea of cycling the defined route round the lake. This time, the weather looked better (though the forecast was moving about a bit) so we decided to give it another try, in hopes of getting a better chance this time.


So, off from Sandviken quite early, and another Elk spotted on the way down (and I got a brief glimpse of this one in the mirror :-) ). We arrived at the site (Våmåbadets at Våmhus) mid afternoon, and found it a bit (but not a lot) busier than our last visit (when the office was shut and we had to ring for access to the electricity). The fees are SeK230 per night with electricity, and the showers are Sek5 tokens (enough time for a cleaning shower, but not to luxuriate!). I can apparently pay by Credit Card until Monday, at which point the machine magically disappears 8-).


On our travels we have seen only about four or five British 'vans, despite at times it seeming that every other vehicle on the road is a motorcaravan (and that statement is not an exaggeration). This being a rather out-of-the-way site, it was quite a surprise to find another Brit here - who's ended up here from Spain as it was getting a bit hot for his dog! He's enjoying his first time in Sweden.


We went for a walk up to the village and church for the evening, the evening having clouded over.


This morning dawned bright, so we set out on the bikes on a 30 mile circumnavigation of Lake Orsasjon. The marked route is on combination of roads, tracks and lanes through the little settlements, and taking in the towns of Mora and Orsa. Mora is a pleasant little place on the junction of two lakes, and we stopped for coffee and cakes in the pedestrianised centre. Then, back up the other side of the lake to Orsa (using a track on which, all those years ago with the children, we had "spooked" a herd of elk in the dusk). Orsa had slightly less of the "frontier town" look about it than when we originally visited, but not much less! As the wine stocks were dangerously low to cover the interim before arriving back in Germany, I visited the Systembolaget in Orsa just to do a minor top-up. Whilst hardly the French/German price range, it was far from prohibitive - a reasonable Chilean Cab Sauvignon could be had for less than SeK60 (around the £5.50 mark).


Then, back to the 'van for a quiet evening (and a quick check of the football on the web ;-) ). I really do like this site - exactly what we prefer - quiet, unpretentious and with decent views.


...and tomorrow, we need to be moving South again. The plan is to transit via the Stellplatz at Vadstena again, it is just the correct distance away. Then, we may have a second night there, or head south for the Ystad area for a couple of nights before returning via the bridges. It's all dependent on whim and weather (and tomorrow has rain forecast).




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Guest pelmetman

Congratulations on a terrific thread and earning your "Blue Nose" certificate Robin.......I'm assuming you passed through the Arctic circle? ;-) ........


I got mine in the winter, and the weather and views were nothing to write home about :D .......


Perhaps thats why I have an aversion to heading North from the tunnel ;-) ...........



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The evening was rather disturbed by the two German lads who had taken the pitch next to us. They were talking loudly about a foot from the side of the 'van, but to be fair, they did shut up when I asked them (not so) politely to do so at 11:30. It sometimes pays to be able to swear reasonably fluently in German :-). It had started to rain fairly hard somewhat earlier, so I can only assume (since they were out in the open) that the copious number of cans consumed to anaesthetise the effects of not beating Poland also had some magical rain-repelling properties. With the alcohol limits being as previously discussed, I certainly hope they weren't moving on the next day!


Though a 230 mile journey, Vadstena was easily reached after a good start by mid-afternoon (just set the cruise control to 50, look out for the changes in speed limits (and accompanying cameras) and enjoy the well-surfaced, lightly-trafficked roads).


We had a bit of a scare, however - passing through Motala (around 10 miles North of Vadstena, and that same SeK5 infrastructure charge we incurred on the way up), a week's cycling festival was publicised, along with a 2-day, 300km race round Lake Vättern, taking place today (Friday) and tomorrow. There were huge temporary caravan and motorhome parks visible as we passed through, and the campsite at Vadstena (which we passed on the way in, and had been sparsely populated on the way North) was very busy. We feared for the Stellplatz (or more correctly our ability to get on it), but surprisingly, on arrival at some time after 3pm, it was less than half full (though there are very few places left as a write).


As is our wont, we went for a leisurely stroll round the town - bought some cheese in the local deli (we did the same three years ago - Sweden has lots of cheese, but the supermarkets only sell great chunks of stuff that is pretty unpalatable, or smaller packages of cheese slices). As on our previous visit, we were offered tasters of 'real' cheese, and came away with a nice portion of something to our taste.


We also had a long chat with a couple parked next to the Tourist information Centre who were touring the various countries of Europe in an Adria with their two children whilst doing elements of journalism abd maintaining a blog. Challenging but enjoyable, and they all seemed to be pretty happy. They'd looked at the Stellplatz as they visited the adjacent "Slott" and had been impressed, but it wouldn't do for their overnight, as they had promised the kids a zoo, some distance away.


The weather here was fine as we arrived, and I'm watching a golden sunset now, but it is due to break here overnight. The forecast for the very South, where we have to be two nights on anyway, is still set fair, so it will be South again tomorrow. If all goes to plan, we'll head to the East of Ystad, and go and look at the "Ales Stenar" standing stones in the shape of a Viking ship. Then, the next day, possibly a mooch around Ystad, before another overnight at Smygehamn as we did on the way into Sweden (in preparation for departure by the bridges).


Through a Swedish poster on the Gobecar forum, I was aware of a Stellplatz at Kåseberga, the village right next to Ales Stenar. As we had traversed the "quick" route to and from Vadstena to the South enough times to be bored with it, I let the satnav have its head with a non-motorway route and (almost) blindly followed it. Again, very good cross-country driving on a variety of roads, all lightly trafficked (and thus much done on cruise control).


We diverted in the last few miles to Ystad, to put a bit of fuel in, and on departure were somewhat bemused to note that the Ystad campsite (which is huge) was packed. So, fingers-crossed, we set off for Kåseberga, where we arrived at around 4pm, and needn't have worried. The Stellplatz comprises the rear half of the grass, overflow car-park. It has marked pitches (for motorhome parking) and is free in the day, but charged by the adjacent sports club for overnight use. They provide water, and access to a shower and WC. There is no dump facility, however, either black or grey. The charge is SeK100 per night, and as yet I'm not sure how we pay - we are expecting a collection!


It's well away from the road, and a pretty pleasant spot to pitch up. The Ales Stenar are about a half-mile easy walk to the cliff top. Anyone who has watched Wallander might recognise them, as they featured in at least one story. We wandered up and took some picture; it is almost wall-to-wall sun now, and beautifully warm out of the very fresh wind. The stones are close enough for us to have a further walk up when the sun has dropped somewhat, to get a different perspective on the photography.


So, later in the evening, interesting times. After dinner (and paying the man who came round to collect fees), we returned to the stones, wandered on the cliff tops, and took a few more pictures. There seemed to be strange rituals going on amongst the people now gathered there, involving water, twigs, soil, and bending down on all-fours with them on your back! We thought we had walked into some (near-)midsummer practice, and had enraged the Norse gods by not performing! In the end, we asked someone heading up, and it appeared that a round-the-Baltic car rally had swept in (we'd noticed a few vehicles), and had been set "challenges" along the way. returning to the Stellplatz, the (non-grassed area of) the car-park was heaving with rally vehicles (this is not a rally in the RAC sense of things, a huge variety of vehicles both old and new). A number had invaded the non-motorhome area of the grassed car-park and pitched tents, to be gleefully fallen upon by the fee-collector. So, it doesn't look like it will be as serene an evening as anticipated, but it is pretty quiet at the moment (though the "real" car park is still chocka).





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...well, apart from a rather continuous noise of vehicle doors until about 1am, it was fairly quiet - and the same this morning, even though there were a large numbers of a strange mix of "ralliers" around. (some of them were having to perform the "ritual" in the morning, which strangely looked even more sad than the night before :-( )


We took the opportunity to walk up and look at the stones again, but as we did so, the beautifully sunny sky clouded over, and the picture opportunities were limited. So, we had a leisurely drive over to Ystad, parked up, and had a couple of hours or so walk round. This was Sunday, and though it isn't observed by closures, it would appear that 12:00 is the time when everything opens - we had difficulty even finding a café that was open.


Ystad is a fairly unremarkable port town, with a few very pretty sights. The port is largely separated from the town by the railway, and it doesn't make the best of its waterfront! The reality is that for many people, the Wallander connection is the draw, but the star of this (any of the various series) is generally the Skåne countryside (which benefits from some extraordinary light conditions) rather than Ystad itself, and we recognised only a few of the specific locations. It was a pleasant enough place to spend a Sunday morning wandering, though.


After making the second café stop of the day (such Swedish extravagance!) we headed on to the Stellplatz at Smygehamn we used on our way out. This was very quiet, no doubt because the charging was now in place! We selected an isolated flat position in the vast field overlooking the sea, only to be progressively joined by a succession of German motorhomes who seemed to be accepting the challenge of who could park closest to the next 'van. To be fair, the first arrival left what we (and I assume he) thought was the minimum acceptable gap between us and him. The next guy squeezed between us! and now there is a row of German 'vans with about three feet between them, all lined up. Meanwhile, the majority of the rest of the 5 acres or so is completely empty (and just as attractive!). Maybe its just me...


As we are likely to be in the 'van travelling for most of the next tow days - it's still a good distance to Rotterdam - we maximised our exercise and fresh air by cycling to Trelleborg and back, almost exactly a 20 mile trip (on cycle tracks). Trelleborg is almost a carbon copy of Ystad, but without the pretty bits (and without Wallander, of course). To be fair, we only cycled through and back, so I may be doing it an injustice - but maybe not.


It did have an interesting and amusing fountain in the centre, though......


And in the evening, after the Sek150 fee (a bit expensive given the alternatives, but the location suited us for the night) was collected by two young ladies, a quick walk around the coast, and back to the 'van. Very quiet here tonight.


And this is likely to be my last post until a "wrap-up" when we get home. Travelling and the lack of WiFi prevails (neither Germany nor the Netherlands support my 3 Sim which has proven both reliable and a bargain in Scandinavia. (I've used just over 1GB of the 12GB I bought for £30, so a bit of a result, I think)). The target for tomorrow is to get as far into Germany as we reasonably can with a long day's drive. So, an early start for the bridges, and an effort to get South of Hamburg (which was horrific for traffic coming up) if we can.




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Though it won't be posted until later, I'm writing this on the Stellplatz at Lüneberg, just to the South East of Hamburg. Whilst researching the possibilities of using the ferry from Rostock, rather than the bridges, I checked out a few Stellplätze for an overnight stop, and this was one that came up.


We made an early (8am) start from Smygehamn, and stopped on the way up to the bridges to replenish food and fuel (and use up or remaining Swedish currency) and then set off back for Denmark and Germany. There were warnings of bad weather conditions (high winds) and though the Oresunds bridge was relatively OK, the Storebaelt was a bit dicey, and the very strong winds continued all the way to the German border and beyond.


Road works had made the Western traverse of Hamburg pretty unpleasant on the way up (and the delays at that time looked worse Southbound), so we decide to cut across country to the Autobahn on the Eastern side, and as the timing looked right, chance our arm at a place on the Lüneberg Stellplatz. This was reputed to be only a few minutes walk from the town centre, and would give us a chance to have a look round, and a meal out for our last full night.


The decision to go East certainly wasn't a bad one, as we bypassed Hamburg with no delays at all, and ended up at (a very congested) Lüneberg at 4pm - the Stellplatz was busy, but there were still places (and there are a few, even now, at 9pm). It is a large, dedicated section of the main central car park, costs €10 for a 24 hour stay, and has electric available by coins at €1 for (I think) 8 hours. If you had a long enough cable, there were plenty of outlets free, but having plenty of gas and batteries all fully charged, I've not bothered (one less thing to sort before leaving tomorrow). There are dump and (chargeable) fresh-water facilities at another dedicated (roundabout) part of the car park.


It is indeed a very short walk into the centre (not much over 5 minutes) and Lüneberg has a good atmosphere, and some very interesting architecture. Wandering the little streets was a delight. However, it being warm, and me having driven over 300 miles, I really fancied a beer. I seriously doubted we had actually arrived in Germany when, try as we might, including the three main squares, we couldn't find a proper beer outlet anywhere! ...In Germany!!


To my (eventual) relief, we found a cluster of outlets (Kneipe) down some forgotten back-street, overlooking what remained of the "port", and quite scenic it was (though I was more interested in the beer). We then had a quick return to the 'van (which rather demonstrated the short distance) to drop cameras and pick up my 'phone (as we had found free WiFi), and returned to the same place to eat (and naturally for another beer). Having delivered our beer, the waitress started removing all the cushions etc. from the surrounding tables, and explained - "in 20 minutes, it is going to rain - if you move inside, remember your table number". The German rain radar must have been having an off-day, as it didn't start for at least 25 minutes, just enough for us to finish our meal.


In very light rain, we returned to the 'van via the picturesque back streets, passing, on the way, what looked remarkably like an English street-corner pub, and we also managed to discover Lüneberg's red-light district in an unexpected, smart side-street; very much a la Amsterdam, with "ladies" sat in lighted windows. I was only looking in to see if anyone had the England match on the TV - Honest! This is only a stone's throw away from the Stellplatz, for anyone who wants to know :-)


So, an undisturbed night on the Stellplatz (possibly because my awning light isn't red :-) )


An early start on Tuesday morning, with over 300 miles to do to Europoort. Lüneberg was considerably less congested than the previous evening, and we were rapidly on our way. The last reporting time for the Hull ferry is 19:30, but you can board much earlier than this, and given our experience of Dutch motorways, we were aiming for 17:30 onwards, with an expectation that some (possibly a lot) of the two hours in hand would get used up. Stops for fuel/food and wine, and an extended lunch stop saw us well on time, given reasonably light traffic. That was until we hit Utrecht. This was quite early, but the "ring" was entirely stationery, and it took us a long time to traverse. From there, all the way to Rotterdam (some 40 miles) it was start-stop all the way. The only consolation was that in the opposite direction, there was little sign of any start, only stop (for the self-same 40 miles). The area is notorious for it, and the motorway is regaled with signs stating ("in case of queues, service buses use the hard shoulder" - though in Dutch, of course). This was quite early, but my theory is that all the Dutch leave work early to avoid the traffic jams ;-) .


I also think the Dutch must be some of Europe's worst drivers. They manoeuvre in the crowded motorways without signalling, and with all the self-confidence of the Germans (but none of the capability or spatial awareness).


Anyway, we arrived at Europoort just after 6pm, and were loaded almost immediately onto an already busy boat (though the loading crew seemed to be having an amateur night). We cat off at 20:30, (early, but that was our previous experience), then, with the precarious turning manoeuvre complete (Dutch "driver" but one of the few competent ones) we had to wait for some 40 minute whilst a large tanker was berthed up ahead (a 4-tug job), and a slightly smaller one alongside. This seemed like remarkably bad timing. A smooth journey back to Hull, and we were home at 09:30.


So, 28 nights, 4770 miles, and 35.5mpg indicated. Probably more of a road-trip than our Finnish adventure, but much enjoyed by both of us.




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