Almost like winter …

Today we had a wonderful early winter day. The sky was clear this morning and the temperatures were around -10 °C. Some protected parts of the Baltic Sea had started to freeze over, the ground was snow covered and the river Skellefteälven was steaming in the cold.

However, one should not forget that it is still autumn. It is late October and some birch still partly leafy. Although I experienced the first ice day today (temperatures below zero all day) this weather will not last for long.

Just now the Swedish Meteorological Institute issued a snow warning (5 – 10 cm) for tomorrow afternoon, but the next day warmer weather and a lot of rain is expected. I guess the frozen streets and roads will become extremely slippery when the rain starts to fall. Time to put the broddar – the traction devices – under the shoes.

Autumn, meet winter

When I woke up this morning it was still dark outside. It snowed. Big snow flakes fluttered downwards, where most of them melted instantly. They felt however comfortable on my car and started to cover it with a wet layer of snow – the first snow of the season.

It snowed in Skellefteå, too and I took a short stroll along the river before job. Temperatures were slightly above zero, so the falling snow was wet and didn’t last long. Anyhow it managed to cover the leaves, the grass and things made from wood.

I’ve been living in Sweden for more than eight years now. The earliest snowfall in Skellefteå/Skelleftehamn I experienced before was on a 14 October, but normally the first snow comes round the end of October or even later. So this year it’s quite early.

I do not long for the winter yet, because of all the coloured trees and bushes. They are so beautiful. But as soon they will become leafless I’ll be eager for the first cold days and snow that doesn’t melt away instantly.

Foggy Skellefteälven

When I saw the fog moving above the river Skellefteälven this morning I had to interrupt my drive to work to take some pictures. It was the coldest morning that I experienced here since last winter. Air temperatures were still above zero but the first ground frost was visible.

When it comes to seasons I like winter the most, but autumn is so beautiful, too.

Jökulsá á Fjöllum

This article is part of the series “2018-08: Iceland”.

Tuesday, 4 September

Jökulsá á Fjöllum (glacial river in the mountains) is a river in the North of Iceland and offers some interesting places. We chose the road 862 on the western side with destination Dettifoss, Europe’s most powerful waterfall.

After some kilometres the asphalt road suddenly changed into a single-track gravel road, which was in a quite bad shape.

Some kilometres further at the turnoff to the Hljóðaklettar the road to the Dettifoss became an “F” road, meaning that it was open only for off-road vehicles. At least we could turn left to Hljóðaklettar which is known for its basalt columns. Here we parked the car and took a circular walk.

After our walk we had to drive back the whole bumpy road, turn east, cross the river and use the road 864 on the eastern side. It was quite bad, too, but at least we were allowed (and able) to take the road and finally arrive at the Dettifoss. We were lucky, since the eastern shore is more crowded and farther away from the waterfall.

Here some snapshots:

From this place you also have a gorgeous panoramic view of the canyon that leads to the north. If you followed this canyon you would come back to Hljóðaklettar.

Landmannalaugar

This article is part of the series “2018-08: Iceland”.

Sunday, 26 August – Monday, 27 August

There are only a few roads leading across the Highlands of Iceland. Most of them are only open for cars with four-wheel drive because it is necessary to ford rivers. Even though the road to the Landmannalaugar, our destination for Sunday, is not the toughest, we decided not to hire such a car. They are expensive, we don’t have any experience in fording and there are busses making such trips as well.

Sunday morning we entered the bus to the Landmannalaugar. The whole trip takes round about four hours and goes mostly on normal asphalt roads: through Reykjavík, along the Ring Road that runs around the island, then along a minor road. Finally we reached the junction where the gravel road starts and the bus ride became a bit jumpy. We met some other cars, some of them huge jeeps, some of them small SUVs. After a while we approached the first ford, where a small Dacia Duster crossed the water, followed by our bus.

The other two fords are within sight of the Landmannalaugar mountain hut. There were deeper and many of the drivers with smaller cars decided to use the parking place nearby instead of fording. The bus however splashed through the water and brought us to the mountain hut, where we had booked two places to sleep.

After we unpacked our sleeping bags and put them on two of the narrow mattresses we put on our jackets and boots and started a hike through the amazing landscape. Annika has been in Iceland before several times and told me about the almost unbelievable colours and shades of the mountains and she was true. Some of the mountains were orange, some brown or yellow, some green and one of them red. The lava rocks were black, partly covered with white-green moss and the higher mountains had white snow fields on their colourful slopes. Take a look by yourself:

Iceland has a lot of tourists, last year more than 2 millions. To protect the sensitive environment and avoid destroying the flora you mustn’t leave the trail. There’s another reason for sticking to the trails: Iceland has many geothermal areas where you could break through the thin crust into bubbling mud or boiling sulphuric acid. Some of these spots are visible, they smoke and you smell the sulphur compounds.

After some hours hiking (including an ascent of a mountain) we returned to Landmannalaugar. There’s not only the mountain hut providing 75 beds and a camp ground with place for at least hundred tents, there’s also the Mountain Mall, an old bus where you can buy food.

We enjoyed a rest with two cokes before we headed to the next attraction: A warm bath in the river. Because of the geothermal activity the ground is partly hot and heats up the water to temperatures between round 30 °C and 42 °C. We were not the only ones bathing, but there was enough place for all. You could even decide how warm you wanted your bath by just moving another metre. Great!

After a saturating dinner with spaghetti and pasta I took another walk and some more photos. Then I went to our room and got to bed.

Amazing! Although more than 15 people had slept in the room and the mattresses were so narrow that we could hardly turn around Annika and I slept very well. It was very quiet, hardly any snoring, no talking, no rustling with plastic bags. I experienced much worse when I had spent nights  in alpine mountain huts in Germany or Austria.

After breakfast we took another bath and then another hiking tour. I hardly made any photos due to the drizzle and the strong winds. At least I could take some pictures of the sheep grassing on the plain.

Drizzle became stronger and turned into rain. We went to the ford and looked at the cars crossing. This time I had my waterproof camera with me. Look at the snorkel of the white jeep, I guess this car could almost dive!

The rain got stronger and stronger and when we entered the bus our rain clothes were soaking wet. I looked through the rain-wept window for a while, tried to make same photos, but the autofocus couldn’t handle the situation. After a while I fell asleep.

Conclusion: A great experience! Yes, Landmannalaugar is touristic and crowed, but for good reasons. It’s absolutely worth a visit. Here you can even start a four-day hiking trip but you have to reserve the mountain huts years before. I’m quite eager to do this trail, perhaps in 2020 …?

Mårdseleforsen

Two days ago Annika and I made a trip to Mårdseleforsen (Mårdsele rapids). It’s a two hour trip by car from Skelleftehamn and it’s absolutely worth it.

At Mårdsele the river Vindelälven branches into several parts. Several chain bridges allow to cross them.

Behind the second chain bridge there is a planked footpath that leads to a third bridge, this time a wooden one. Here starts a short circular track through the Nature Reserve of Mårdseleforsen round many inviting looking freshwater pools. Many other families were there too,  taking a walk, bathing or sunbathing on the flat rocks. Unfortunately we had left our bathing things in the car.

After the short walkabout we returned to the parking place. Actually, we wanted to eat something but the restaurant Wild River was fully booked. Fortunately we could buy some burgers that we consumed sitting outside in the sun.

After the lunch we were so eager for a bath, that we got the bathing things out of the car and returned to the freshwater pools. Chain bridge one – across the island again – chain bridge two – to the left – along the planked footpath – to the right – over the long wooden bridge and again we reached the river islands. There were some people left when we arrived but after a while we were completely alone. The weather was perfect: Some sun, some clouds, warm but not too hot.

Soon we found a nice place to stay and took the first swimming tour. Right into a rocky pool, swimming into the current of a small stream that transported us under the bridge where the current broadened and the current weakened. Almost like using a water slide! It was not easy to come ashore again because the algae made the flat rocks very slippery. But with mutual help we finally managed it.

You realise that strange mask I was wearing? It’s a snorkel-google combination, perhaps more a toy than professional diving equipment but it works extremely well and is much more comfortable to wear than the usual snorkel. In addition to that it works quite well with my underwater camera. I snorkelled several times and observed the underwater life: Water insects, freshwater snails, small fishes and river mussels lived in them.

The “making of” (Photos: Annika Kramer):

Even after more than eight years living here I’m still amazed that there are so many incredibly beautiful and interesting places to discover and explore that I’ve never been to before. Mårdseleforsen is one of them.

 

 

 

 

 

Opening the bicycle saison in Skellefteå

Today it was the first day where I used the bicycle from home to Skellefteå. That’s about 19 km per direction and I want to use the bicycle at least twice a week on my way to the job. Let’s see if I can do it. At least a first beginning is made.

Skelleftehamn – Skellefteå:

Skellefteå – Skelleftehamn:

Tour rules: Use a complete different way back to Skelleftehamn.

Photo rules: Take only photos from the bike, cycling or standing. Do not crop any photo. Use only basic corrections.

Three bicycle tours on Gotland – Monday

This article is part of the series “2018-05: Gotland”.

It is Monday. Yesterday Annika and I arrived in Visby,  Gotland and planned to explore the island mostly by bicycle. It is warm and sunny already in the morning and we have breakfast on the roof terrace of our fantastic apartment, that we’ll have for a almost a week.

After that we pack our backpacks and walk through the old town of Visby to a bike rental outside the city walls.

It is almost 9 o’clock and the bike rental should open soon. There is however a small paper attached to the door, that the rental is closed today. Fortunately it’s not the only one in Visby. We walk again through the beautiful old town to another bike rental at the harbour.

This bike rental is open. Annika and I want to try out e-bikes, partly for curiosity, partly because of “holiday laziness”. Just this day all e-bikes have been rented to passengers of the large cruise ship that we saw on our way there. We decide to rent normal bikes and to reserve e-bikes for the next day. And off we go.

We ride along the sea. We pass the jetty were people use to bath even though the water is shallow.

Then we follow a bicycle path that leads to the beach promenade. It’s the first time in the year that I sit on a bike after the long winter and I enjoy the warmth of the sun. Just t-shirts, zip-off pants and sandals, that’s enough. We want to be as near to the coast as possible. And it is possible even though the path becomes smaller and smaller. We are cycling round stones and over tree roots crossing the narrow path. I have to stop for a photo of the marsh marigold flowers at the beach – one of my favourite flowers.

Sometime there are so many stones that we have to walk our bicycles. And suddenly the way goes up. Many stone steps lead up along a steep slope and we have to carry our bikes. Now we’re quite glad that we don’t have e-bikes which are certainly much heavier than ours.

A bit later: We have found better and larger ways, mostly minor roads and arrived in Själö hamn where we make a rest. We don’t have anything to eat with us, we trust in the open cafés along the roads. Själö hamn however has neither café nor kiosk. No problem, we just started the tour.

We continue northwards, partly on roads, partly along the beaches (walking the bikes) till we arrive at Krusmyntagården (spearmint farm). Here’s a restaurant and a shop where you can buy herbs and other products. We sit outside and eat the first ice cream of the day.

Annika rings Ingrid, a facebook friend. We make an appointment at the parking place of the Lummelundagrottan – a limestone cave – in an hour. This time we follow “real” roads and soon we arrive at the parking place where we wait for Ingrid . A bit later she arrives and we get to know each other in “real life”.

Ingrid shows us around Lummelunds bruk. In older times there was a water mill and the creek and pond are still left. The ground under the tree is covered with wood anemones and wild garlic.

A bit later we arrive at the huge main building of Lummelunds bruk. Beside of it there’s a tourist shop that among others sells local fossils. I already found two fossils at the beach and learned that it is solitary corals, called tomteluva (gnome hood) because of the form.

We return to the parking place and decide to drive to Krusmyntagården again, Ingrid by car, Annika and I by bike. There we sit outside, eat the delicious food of the restaurant and talk and talk and talk. What a fantastic afternoon: great food, great weather, and great company.

It is already in the evening when Annika and I say farewell to Ingrid and start cycling home. We follow the main road 149 that has a bicycle path. It’s still warm and sunny.

The next day we want to cycle again, this time south.

Spring birds and spring flowers

Two days ago I took the car to Umeå, 130 km south from Skellefteå. Last time I was there in January and it was winter. This time it was springtime. Nevertheless, more than half of the ground was still snow covered in Skelleftehamn and Bureå. But while I was driving southwards the scenery slowly changed. More and more snow free meadows and grasslands showed up. The grass is still brown and huge water puddles cover the lower parts.

In Lövånger I saw a lot of birds on the meadows and made a short stop to photo some of them. No great shots but it shows some of the most common migratory birds that already had arrived here.

(click on the images to see the bird’s names in English, Swedish, and German.)

South from Lövånger there was hardly any snow left, it remained only in ditches, in the shadow of forests and on some northern slopes – everywhere where there’s less sun. Still the landscape looked a bit dull, for nor the birches neither the other plants had got leaves.

Some hours later. Annika has ended her working day and we walk along the river Umeälven, which is free of ice. Only some small ice floes drift on the surface that mirrors the blue sky.

On the other side of the way along the river there’s a southwards slope. And here many spring flowers, not only tussilago are blooming. I counted six different flower types on the walk into the center of Umeå. Here they come:

(again, click on the images to see the flower names. Hopefully there are correct)