The first frost

Finally – the first frost in the morning. The dew is frozen and frost covers the car windows. I took a short bath in the Baltic Sea before work and for the first time the water temperature was below 10 °C. Now it’s winter bathing. A bit chilly but refreshing and a good start in the new week. To be repeated soon.

Cycling home

At time I have a project which is located at Solbacken, Skellefteå’s shopping centre outside the city. Normally I take the car because the public transport is quite poor. Yesterday however I took the bicycle. On the way there I chose the straight way. That’s 16.8 km, which took me 54 minutes.

On the way back I chose a longer and slower route. As forecasted the weather was warm and sunny, round 26 °C.

In short:

+++ unlock the bicycle +++ pass the recycling yard (Yuck, it stinks!) +++ follow the forest road +++ gaze at the first autumn colours +++ notice the crossing ski track +++ slow down on b-bum-bumpy passages +++ feel a bit lost +++ look at the map +++ realise that I’ve come longer than thought +++ pass the go-kart ground +++ follow the asphalt road leading away +++ know the sandy shortcut +++  approach the stugområde (area with summer cottages) +++ observe the largeness of some these cottages +++ spot a bathing place +++ take a bath in the Baltic Sea +++ drink +++ continue the gravel road +++ cycle along the small, winding forest path +++ pass Harrbäckssand +++ do not take a bath there (too shallow and too muddy) +++ follow my lengthening shadow +++ push the bike down the bumpy, sandy slope +++ follow the forest path +++ see the barbecue hut +++ realise that I’m in Skelleftehamn and almost home +++ taking a final “spurt” +++ home +++

This way was only 3 km longer, but took more than 30 extra minutes to cycle due to the bumpy roads. Beautiful anyway, but not the route I’ll choose regularly.

 

Another kayaking

On Friday came a lot of rain, but yesterday on Saturday the weather was forecasted to be nice – and so it was. Time for a longer tour with my kayak, that I hardly used this year. A quarter past 9 I was on the water.

Soon after I passed the near-shore island Storgrundet the sea became quite wavy. Still no dangerously large waves but enough to keep me busy instead of photographing. Shortly before the island Medgrundet I came into the lee of the island and the water calmed down. There I could take photos again and it was easy to go ashore.

Do you see the brown stuff covering the stones? It guess it was some kind of algae washed ashore. Phew – the smell was awful! On the island I saw probably the last blooming circumpolar pea for this year. Other plants were already bearing bean pods. It was end of August and you could see autumn approaching.

In opposite to most other islands nearby, there are no summer cottages or other buildings on Medgrundet. I went through the forest to the other side of the island, which is hardly wider than 200 m at its widest point. There are some beautiful trees in the small forest, a nice contrast to the many commercial forests in Northern Sweden. From the other side I could spot my next two paddle destinations for today: Snusan and Kågnäshällan. On my way back I accidentally found a shelter amidst the forest. Maybe it’s new, I’ve never seen it before but probably it’s Medgrundet’s first building.

When I approached Snusan I scared away an eagle. It rose into the air to the big dislike of a seagull that tried to shoo the raptor away. The eagle hardly noticed the seabird but spiralled higher and higher into the air. I observed it only en passant, I had to focus on the waves.

Again I approached the island from the lee side. While Medgrundet is covered with a forest – mostly pines – Snusan is quite bleak and looks more like a huge flat rock. Probably it’s quite young, an old map from 1926 shows that it had been much smaller then.

On the north side of the island I could see the island Kågnäshällan, but also the breaking waves, that I already had heard a while before going ashore.

Parts of the island were very wet with a lot of water puddles, inhabited by small fishes and aquatic insects of the family Corixidae. Other parts of the island were very dry and many of the rowan looked dried up. Probably there’s hardly any soil that can store water for a longer time.

I continued paddling. First I had to cross some quite large waves then the sea was much calmer so that I could take a picture of the next island to visit: Kågnäshällan.

The calmness however was only temporary, because I kayaked along the outer coast of Kågnäshällan, where there are a lot of rocks and shallow areas – invitations for the waves to break. I went round the island, just focussing on the waves to come until I reached the sheltered bay on the land-facing side. On the outside I could hear the roar of a water scooter, at the horizon I could spot a white sail of a sailing boat – two very different ways to travel on water. My preference however is still the kayak.

After a yoghurt as a snack and remembering the last time I’ve been here six month ago I continued my kayak tour. To Kågnäshällan I had paddled quite directly over open sea, now I would follow the coast until I would be back again.

I passed Kågnäsudden, a fishing village, and a lot of summer cottages. Some people were working (mostly involving tools or vehicles with a motor), some were just sitting in front of their houses enjoying the warm and sunny weather. And warm it was, although some clouds were gathering. Since I left Kågnäshällan the sea was much calmer and I could take pictures from the kayak.

That made paddling much easier but also a bit more boring. It’s nice to have waves as long as you feel safe. Part of my safety was the drysuit that I put on when starting the tour. And a life vest of course, but that’s common sense and hardly mentionable.

Now I looked for the beach I use to bath sometimes but I just hopped over that very bay. What a pity! Anyway I found a nice replacement, a small and shallow sandy beach.

Lunchtime! The menu: Västerbotten cheese on crisp bread garnished with grapes. One of the ants liked the cheese, too and robbed a large piece. It dragged it over the beach that still was wet from last days rain until it got stuck.

After lunch break I continued paddling, passed the beach Harrbäckssand, the island Björkskär and then I could see on of the summer cottages, where my kayak uses to lie in summertime. One longer final spurt and I was back again, very glad that I could make this extraordinary fine summer kayak tour. Hopefully not the last for this season.

Appendices

I Paddling

More and more I start to enjoy paddling in the waves. I guess I should learn how to use a kayak sometimes. Perhaps next year?

II Tour stats

17.5 km / 3 hours 40 minutes plus a lot of breaks. That’s less than 5 km/h. It’s more leisure than sports.

According to my tracking app the elevation gain (and loss) was 287 meter. The waves?

III Wildlife photography

I saw the eagle, I had a camera, but I didn’t take a photo. Why? Well, there’s a rule set for that, the Eagle’s legals:

(1) When you see me – the eagle – you will not have a camera with you (I had)
(2) But if you have, then you will not have the telephoto lens with you (I had)
(3) But if you have, then you will not have it mounted on the camera (that’s right)
(4) But if you have, then you will be busy with other things until I’m long away (true, I was struggling with the waves)

IV A riddle

I found this shell of a cockle on the island Snusan. It lay on the rock. There are no cockles in the Bothnian Bay, this part of the Baltic Sea. The next place where you can find them is in Norway, 400 km away. How does this shell come to this place? I know that seagulls use to take shells in their beaks and let them fall down on rocks to crack the shell and get to the meat. But would a seagull transport it such a long distance? How? And why? A riddle that probably remains unsolved.

Back home

After almost four weeks of travelling in southern Scandinavia I’m back home in Skelleftehamn again. Yesterday afternoon Annika and I arrived in Umeå, Annika’s residence. Before I drove back to Skelleftehamn today we hiked round the lake Grössjön which is just some kilometres southeast from Umeå. The circular track is very beautiful and leads through pine forests and bogs. A wonderful place, that gives me a stronger “Sweden-feeling” and makes me much more home than many places we travelled the last weeks.

Today the Swedish proverb “borta bra men hemma bäst” feels right. It’s literal translation is: “(being) away good, but (being) home best.”

It’s still summer but some things have changed since I drove away from Skelleftehamn four weeks ago. It gets dark again in the night. Now – at 23:15 – I can go out, look up into the sky and see the star Vega in the constellation of Lyra. And it gets cool again in the night. Just now it’s 5 °C. So that the house can cool down. Good for a person like me who prefers temperatures below -25 °C to those above +25 °C.

Day 15–18 – Meanwhile in Sparsör …

This article is part of the series “2019-07: Southern Sweden”.

22–25 July – Sparsör, Öresjö and Borås

It’s already Friday, Annika and I have been in Sparsör near Borås since Sunday afternoon and I have been extraordinary lazy. Today it’s going to be the hottest day yet with temperatures round 30 °C or above, so my laziness will definitely continue and the most exhausting action will be going to the bath place nearby.

23 July – hiking round the Öresjö

The weather is still cloudy and not so warm. Perfect hiking weather. When we have to climb the hill Örekullen we sweet anyway. The way is steep. We meet sheep in a forest by the lake and a sow with her two piglets. When we are at the south tip, we have some lunch and take a bath in the bay of Almenäs.

Later this day we drive to the city Borås and eat extremely delicious tapas and dessert in the fantastic restaurant La Copita.

25 July – a very warm day

-40 ° C I seek, +40 °C i flee. Luckily it’s not as hot as in Germany¹, but even temperatures round 30 °C are too warm for me to feel comfortable. Fortunately there are many bathing places around, one of them in walking distance. I am bathing and snorkelling. I see schools of fish and hundreds of river mussels underwater, but also a half meter long pike. Anyway the pike is much too fast to be photographed.

Later the evening we drive to Borås another time. A vivid town, especially when there’s a live concert on the town square and a dance band (far away from playing live …) playing in the city park. The air is cooler, but still round 25 °C and even the statues seem to seek refreshment in the water of the river Viskan.

¹ 42.6 °C were measured in Lingen yesterday, the hottest temperature in Germany ever measured. Even though a single hot day is no proof for the ongoing climate shift it is one of the many, many signs.

Day 13 – sailing

This article is part of the series “2019-07: Southern Sweden”.

20 July – Figeholm and Baltic Sea

Saturday, the last day in Figaholm. Hein and Astrid take Annika and me for sailing. First we motor out of the skerries then they the sails are raised and we sail – first between the larger wooded islands, then between the smaller islets and rocky skerries. We anchor in front of an island and have lunch – several kilos of shrimps. Then we continue our cruise, this time farther away from land where the wind is stronger and the waves higher. We can see the island Öland in the distance. After several turns we reach the skärgård (archipelago) again and Hein and Astrid manage to sail back the whole way, even though the wind is very calm and constantly changes direction.

Ten hours later we are back on land – me with cold, wet feet (I wore sandals) and sunburnt, but richer in experience. Thank you, Astrid and Hein for the sailing trip.

Day 3 – a day in Turku

This article is part of the series “2019-07: Southern Sweden”.

10 July, Turku

Our second (and last) Finnish stay is Turku, about 300 km south of Majors, our last stay. Here we meet Karen and Family. Karen is an active blog author and it’s the first time that we meet her in real life.

Annika and I arrive in the afternoon and have a nice and relaxed evening. The only thing we have to do is to put up our tent in the garden. The garden is small but our tent fits.

Karen and the children have summer holidays, but the daughter is away. Her husband has to work, so it’s Karen and her two sons with whom we spend the next day.

After breakfast we take the vesibussi – the water bus, part of the public transport system. We take the normal bus into town and walk along the river Aura until we reach the pier for the small boat.

I love to explore a new town by boat or ship. The weather is warm and sunny and Turku looks beautiful which its combination of new houses and old castle – old sailing ship, restaurant raft and modern racing yachts.

We take the boat to the island Runsala were we take a long walk. We cannot access the whole island because of a music festival a week ago. The area is still fenced, but there are many other ways and paths leading back to the boat stop. I really admire the tall leaf trees with their huge barky trunks, especially the oak trees. We do not have such home in Västerbotten.

We take the boat back to town and the bus to the china restaurant Yangtze. Great, delicious food and some dishes I never tasted before. Recommendation!

Later that day we take the car to Vähä-Joumo, a nice bathing place with a sandy beach, a bathing raft and – most important of all – a Finnish sauna. Countless times we jump into the water, swim to the platform and back or warm up in the sauna.

It is quite late when we finally return to our host’s home, where we eat dinner – fresh bread with a huuuge bowl of salad – and talk until Annika and I crawl into the tent again were we quickly fall asleep.

Thank you Karen, Vidal and children for a nice stay! It was great meeting you and you’re warmly welcome in Västerbotten on the other side of the Baltic Sea.

Karen’s blog: Suomalainen Päiväkirja | Live aus Turku (German)

A kayak trip shorter than expected

About neoprene suits, the post-glacial rebound and changed lunch plans.

Today I wanted to paddle to Själagrundet, an island 1.6 km from mainland. The air may be warm but the water is still cold and that’s the element you should be prepared for in case of capsizing. Today I decided against the bulky drysuit and chose a thin neoprene suit for the first time.

The suit is very tight (especially if you each too much chocolate …) and hard to put on. After I managed to squeeze myself into the suit and to close the back zipper it felt quite comfortable. Until I started paddling. It was much harder to move the paddle than usual because of the tight neoprene sleeves. Every paddle stroke felt like training with a rubber band. I got used to it after a while, but neoprene will probably not become my favourite choice of kayak clothing.

I passed the island Storgrundet and headed northeast. The waves came exactly from the side which is the worst direction regarding stability. So I zigzagged a bit to avoid the waves rocking the kayak too much. Nevertheless the island came closer and closer and soon I got out of the kayak and dragged it ashore. The seagulls didn’t like my arrival. Screeching loudly they rose in the air, sailed in the wind and didn’t dare to land as long as I occupied their private property.

There are many islands whose name ends with -grundet. From Skelleftehamn for example you can paddle to Storgrundet, Norrskärsgrundet or Nygrundet. The Swedish word grund means (among others) shallow, so the translations of the islands mentioned above are: the Large-Shallow, the North-Skerry-Shallow, the New-Shallow.

Who is to blame? The post-glacial rebound! After the last glacial period the glaciers started to melt. Slowly the land, that had been compressed by the huge weight of the ice sheet started to expand. It is still expanding and rising – round 8–9 mm a year. Therefore some islands are quite new. Själagrundet for example is hardly older than 100 years. They got their names from the old times when they weren’t islands yet but shallow underwater-banks that the fishermen had to take care of.

Today Själagrundet still is mainly a large gravel bank. Only on the higher eastern side plants had started to grow. Mostly it’s flowers, but two small bushes and a small willow tree have settled there as well.

I walked around and had a look at the 260 meter long island until I got hungry and wanted to eat my lunch – salad and a chocolate bar. When I looked at the dark grey clouds that seemed to approach the island I changed my plans. Did I hear the rumble of thunder? When I would be hit by a thunderstorm on this flat island without any shelter I could get into serious trouble. I checked the speed of the clouds and decided that the best option was to paddle back to mainland, now and quickly.

I had a fast start and paddled quicker than usual until half of the distance lay behind me. It was quite exhausting –remember the neoprene suit? When I realised that there was no immediate danger of thunderstorm and lightning I slowed down. I took my dinner on the island Storgrundet. A save place with summer houses and hardly 100 metres from mainland. Then I paddled back to the small beach at the mainland, took off the neoprene suit and had a refreshing bath in the Baltic Sea in the sun.

 

Two ways of paddling

Between these two photos lie 4 weeks and 620 km. I made the first one on a kayak tour in Skelleftehamn late April. The second one I took in Stockholm last week. (And no, I didn’t paddle the whole way.)

It’s no coincidence that I have called my blog way-up-north. I’m more often in Kirkenes than in Stockholm. There was however an important reason for travelling south to the capital of Sweden. I need a new passport and the only possibility to apply for it is in the Embassy of Germany in Stockholm. I was a bit nervous that I would have forgotten one of the needed documents as e.g. my birth certificate, but the documents were complete and anything went well. In a few weeks I will receive a letter with my new passport.

After the passport application I had some spare hours before taking the train back to Umeå and then the car to Skelleftehamn. It was warm and sunny and I decided to hire a kayak. A booked it for just an hour but it was fun to be on the water and see Stockholm from this perspective. On the tour before I used a dry suit for protection, this time I paddled barefoot and in a t-shirt. Nice!

I like Stockholm – it is a beautiful town – but I don’t want to live there. Beside of the ridiculously high prices for housing it’s too big for me. And of course way too south!