Almost like summer.

The weather forecast was right: today it was warm and sunny. Really warm considering that it is mid-October and that it snowed last week. 20 °C we had in Skelleftehamn today! Probably the last opportunity to bicycle in a T-shirt this year.

I followed a way through the forest that I already knew but hardly recognised: The illuminated ski track between Skelleftehamn and Ursviken. (That’s what it looks like in winter.)

After a while I left this path and walked the bike along a trail marked with red crosses. Red crosses mean, that it’s a winter way and following such in summer may send you into swamps, bogs or even lakes. Although the ground was wet I was lucky. Some makeshift bridges, probably made by snowmobile drivers helped me over some boggy passages and soon I was on the other side of the lake with the creative name “Sjön” (The lake).

I continued to the right, already heading home but with some detours.

Detour 1: A short walk up the mountain Örberget. Despite of its incredible height of more than 40 meters – that’s almost 10 meters higher than the gravel road – you have a view of the Baltic Sea. The rocks were quite wet, probably because they were much colder than the air so that the moisture condensed on the surface.

Detour 2: Down to the cabins by the bay Djupviken. The photo may be silly, but it’s a reminiscence of the kayak tour last week where I carried the kayak cross the road at the very same place.

Soon I was home again where the thermometer showed temperatures betwwen 19 °C and 20 °C. Two hours later I was at the local beach, ready for a bath. After the air felt like summer and the beach looked like autumn I expected the water to feel like winter. It was cold but warmer than expected: 9 °C. Refreshing!

A two-day journey to Stora Fjäderägg

There are so many wonderful and special locations to stay overnight in Northern Scandinavia. Many of them are quite far away as e.g. Låktatjåkko (590 km) or Kjølnes Fyr (970 km). Others are quite near.

Two days ago Annika and I started a two-day journey to such a place, unknown to both of us. Already the journey was interesting, since you cannot reach the destination by land. We started in Umeå and drove to Norrfjärden, where we parked the car and waited for the 8 o’clock ferry to the island Holmön. This ferry is operated by the Trafikverket (Swedish Transport Administration) and free of charge.

We had four hours to explore this island, part of the island group Holmöarna, that have 75 year-round inhabitants. The small village Byviken, where we arrived has a boat museum and a small shop, that is open all year. We went for a walk and discovered a nice place: Bergudden. There’s a lighthouse and you can rent rooms, on request even in wintertime.

We arrived back in time to wait for the departure of our next vehicle: Holmöslupen.

Holmöslupen is a chalupa, an old cutter-like sail boat which is a reconstruction of an old boat type as commonly used 100 years ago. It takes up to 12 passengers and you are allowed (and asked) to help with e.g. hoisting the sails. Life vests available, sailing experience not needed. This boat would bring us to our final destination.

The wind was so weak, that we sailed only a part and mostly used the motor. Otherwise the trip (planned to take 40 to 60 minutes) would have taken several hours. We passed the islands Trappskär and Lill-Fjäderägg before we arrived at our travel destination Stora Fjäderägg, an island of 1.8 km × 1.3 km.  Here’s a hostel driven by the STF (Swedish Tourist Association). The story of this hostel is worth to tell:

After people of the boat museum were done with the building the Holmöslupen they asked themselves what to do with such a fine and seaworthy ship. It was them who had the idea to install a hostel on the uninhabited island Stora Fjäderägg just to give the chalupa a purpose. That’s why there is a hostel on a desert island in the Northern Baltic Sea and a wooden boat that transport the guests.

Some images of the island:

There is electricity on the island, there is mobile internet and there is drinking water. The latter comes from a well and especially this year you have to be economical with it due to the long period of dryness. Luckily it rained some days ago and the rain barrels were filled to the brim. The rain water is used for washing oneself and for the dishes. The hostel has a fully equipped kitchen, but you have to bring all food with you.

Annika and I had decided for one of the all-time travel dinners: spaghetti with pesto and parmesan cheese. It was very warm but not too hot to sit outside. We enjoyed our meal and watched the barn swallow feeding its six children that begged for food with open beaks. They seemed to be almost grown-up and hardly fitted into the small nest any more.

We were told, that there are many seals round Stora Fjäderägg and where to find them. Together with Annika I doubtfully followed the tiny path through the heath – I’ve never seen a single seal in the Swedish Baltic Sea since I moved here eight years ago. The ground became rocky and we had a view of the sea. First I saw a black spot on top of a grey spot. A seal on a rock? Then we saw round black spots floating back and forth – definitely seals, I never heard of swimming rocks … . I used a small tree for cover and creeped nearer. The back spot was a seal too and other seals were lying along a headland a bit farther away.

I took the camera, ducked and tried to creep nearer to a large boulder to hide behind. The seal however saw me and *splash* jumped into the water and dived away. I waited behind the rock and I was lucky. After some minutes a seal approached the same rock and crawled onto it. I was so near that I could hear the flippers splashing.

After having taken these photos I returned to Annika and the seal – seeing me – dived again. This rock kept empty for the next time but along the headland more and more seals appeared and seemed to cover the rocks completely. Next time I’ll definitely will take my huge tele photo lens with me.

We both sat there for a while – on a big rock, both listening and watching. The sun had already set, zillions of small insects hummed and buzzed around and we watched the many grey seals, at least 40 of them. Finally we decided to walk back as long it was light. Some of the small paths are not easy to walk on. On our way back I stopped because I saw something moving. It was a young hare. No, it was two of them. No, even more.

Three young hares were hopping around, eating a bit of grass and completely ignoring us. I was able to get close to three meters and still they didn’t seem to be frightened at all. I increased the ISO of my camera to 3200 and took some photos of these cute furry animals. (Don’t ask me what they do in photo 3 and 4, I’m not a hare expert.)

When we arrived at the hostel nightfall had intensified. Frog hopped around everywhere and the blue hour invited for taking more pictures. I however was tired and only took a photo of the old lighthouse before going to bed.

The next day: After a nice outside breakfast Annika and I took another walk over the island. Stora Fjäderägg has a lot of historical places, anything between the not-so-old lighthouse and ancient heaps of stones only readable for archeologists. Here are some of them:

Again it was warm or even hot at midday. Passing the lighthouse we returned to the hostel longing for water to drink.

Apropos lighthouse: We were ten people on the island that had stayed overnight: The host family (3), Annika and I (2), a family from Örnsköldsvik (4) and a man that had bought that old lighthouse. He showed Annika and me around and told us about his plans to renovate the lighthouse and to build a flat into it. A great project that probably will take some years, because it’s just a summer project.

We already had packed our backpacks and cleaned our rooms, now we were ready to go back to the small harbour waiting for the Holmöslupen. This time we were lucky, we could use both mainsail and foresail to sail back to Holmön.

Step by step we came back to civilisation: Holmön – the grocery shop (ice cream!) – the ferry to the mainland – the parked car – driving the E4 to Umeå – a Thai restaurant – home at Annika.

Conclusion: Absolutely worth it! I’m sure it wasn’t the last time, that Annika and I travelled to this very special place.

More info:

 

Heat wave

Today it wasn’t warm, it was hot! While the daily maximum temperatures were between 23 °C and 28 °C the last seven days, the temperature was up to 30 °C today.

It has been hot in my house, too. Round 28 °C today. Since the daily minima have been as high as 18 to 22 °C and the sun rises already round half past two in the night it’s almost impossible to cool down the house.

There is however a place where you can cool down, at least for a while: the Baltic Sea. Today Annika and I took the car to Sillskatan where you can find a sandy beach and – much more important – refreshing cool water. A delight!

There is however something special with the photos above: They show clouds. Today the sky was quite cloudy for the first time in a long time. When we took the car back home it even started to rain but unfortunately only for half a minute.

I’m longing for rain, not only for myself but for Swedish nature and people. Forests have started burning due to the drought and the shortage of hay in Southern Sweden is so severe that farmers were forced to start slaughtering their cattle. The forecast for the next week however doesn’t look too promising. It continues to be hot and dry.

Lazy sightseeing in Visby

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

After four days of cycling and driving Annika and I use the Friday to take it easy and stroll through the old town of Visby, including sightseeing and visiting restaurants. It is our last day on Gotland, tomorrow we’ll fly back.

We have fallen in love with Gotland a bit, both with the varying landscape and with the beautiful old town. We were incredible lucky with the weather: Sun from morning to night and day temperatures between 20 and 24 °C.

I won’t tell much more about Visby, I just show some photos, all made on Friday:

Sunday afternoon, 13 May: I’m back in Skelleftehamn. No snow is left in my garden and the Baltic Sea before Skelleftehamn is completely free of ice. And finally the birch trees have got fresh green leaves. That’s more spring than one year ago!

Three bicycle tours on Gotland – Wednesday

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

A bicycle tour in seven scenes

1. To Ihre by bus

It’s Wednesday. As yesterday we’ve planned a bicycle tour, this time north from Visby again. Today we want to try to take the bus and cycle back. We have to get up early, the bus leaves at 7:55. As we hoped, the bus driver will transport our bikes. The way however is a bit unexpected: Two bus drivers lift the heavy bikes on a transport rack attached to the back of the bus. It doesn’t look very stable. The bus driver however observes the back camera to check the bikes and it works, we arrive in Ihre without any problems.

2. The beach at Irevik

This stone beach is one of the beaches, where you can find fossils, e.g. Rugosa. There are so many fossils that I find them though hardly looking. (I found fossils however on almost every beach in Gotland.) As a child I collected fossils and it would have been almost impossible to remove my from these beaches. Now I love to look at the white swans as well, but I have many stones in my pockets.

3. Lickershamn

Probably the highlight of the day: Lickershamn, a cute old fishing town where you can buy both smoked fish and ice cream (a good combination if not eaten simultaneously!). We sit outside, it is warm as if it were summer and we enjoy the smoked salmon pieces and the shrimp salad.

4. Raukar near Lickershamn

We saw them already on the way to the sea: The raukar near Lickershamn. A rauk or sea stack is a steep rock formation formed by wave erosion. Due to the post-glacial rebound these rauks are quite far away from the Baltic Sea that formed them.

5. Lickershamn fornborg

Quite near there lies a fornborg, an ancient refuge castle. If you are not into archeology it’s hard to find the leftovers from the iron age in the forest. So I decided to take a picture of the blue flowers that bloomed everywhere in the light pine forest.

6. Ungemiss gård

We pass a farm, now café and art atelier, too. A chicken comes closer curiously. We however want to reach the Krusmyntagården before the kitchen closes and do not take a longer break.

7. Krusmyntagården

We’ve been there two days ago; Krusmyntagården is a wonderful place with great food, even though Annika and I do not fall in love with the saffron pancakes, a speciality from Gotland. It’s really nice to sit outside, have an ice cream, a lemonade and relaxing.

Extra: Brissund bathing place

Next stop: the near sandy beach in Brissund. The water feels much colder than the day before and is hardly more than knee deep. Refreshing however since the air is so warm.

After the bath we head home, first along the main road, then along the beach promenade, then through the old town. The dinner (taken on the roof terrace of our apartment): green asparagus with ham and potatoes.

Summer experience – a bicycle tour in 7+1 chapters

The advantage of a short workday

How much should I work for a German customer today? It’s Corpus Christi, a holiday in Germany but not in Sweden. Well, what about a half day? I finished work at 11:30 and shortly after I started a bicycle tour. The first one this year. Today’s destination: Budsba, a Thai restaurant at Skellefteå Solbacken.

Soon I was in the forest where I expected to be alone. But after some hundred metres there was a huge herd of children, who were too busy with themselves to let me though. Anyway I managed to squeeze through and soon I left the group behind – no children were harmed.

I took the forest path along the lake with the most boring name. It’s called Sjön – “The Lake”.

Some weeks ago parts of the way were quite wet, but now it’s much drier. After some bends I saw a car. Then two people with a table. Camping? Picknick? I came nearer and saw the table packed with plastic cups filled with water and juice. The people invited me to drink and I accepted thankfully. They were teachers and told me that it’s skolavslutning tomorrow – the last school day before nine weeks of summer holidays. Today the pupils of the Örjansskolan had a hiking day.

Thanks for the drink, teachers.

The ways are for the cottages

I continued the small way, which got sandy – not so nice for cycling – but soon I came to a larger way. I turned right and left again and cycled along a gravel road to Södra Skatan, one of the many cottage colonies by the sea.

Some of the cottages are huge and sometimes they surpass their owner’s regular houses. Most roads near the shore are only made for one reason: reaching those cottages. That’s why most ways come from the inland, lead to some summer cottages and end at the last house. They are hardly connected to each other beside of some narrow paths through the forest, if at all. The way after this last cottage was quite broad but stony and muddy so I had to walk the bike for some metres.

In remembrance of winter

Since there are many cottages along Västerbottens Baltic Sea most of these connection paths are short and soon I was on another road, this time an asphalt street. Beside the street there were many log piles. Almost all Swedish forests are planted for getting timber and piles of logs are a common view in Sweden.

Do you see the white thingy on the left side of the log pile? I stopped the bicycle and looked. I looked again and my first consumption was right: It’s old snow which had transformed to ice. I never saw such nearby so late in the year!

Intermezzo: Best food at the ugliest place

I continued the street until I left it to take the gravel road to Solbacken. It ran through forests and sometimes it was quite stony and hard to bike. Clouds approached, but it was still warm with temperatures between 20 °C and 25 °C. Anyway I passed by another winter souvenir: A snowmobile trail. Some more kilometres and I met civilisation again. On the other side of the European Route E4 I arrived at today’s destination: Budsba.

What do you choose – beauty or truth?

I took it easy after the lunch, because I ate too much. That’s the problem with huge lunch buffets of tasty food. And spicy – phew, one of the chilly peppers was quite hot. After lunch I crossed the E4 again looking for the short cut to Fällbacken. I found it and after a short rocky passage the gravel path was quite beautiful and not as steep as expected. Here’s a photo of the way:

It wasn’t so steep, because it was the wrong way! It ended after a hundred metres. I returned and found the right way. This way was quite stony. Then it was quite stony and quite steep. Then it was quite stony, quite steep and quite wet.Here’s a photo of the right way:

First I tried to ride my bicycle but soon my hands started to hurt due to the permanent breaking. Therefore I descended and walked my bicycle until I reached the road that would lead me to Boviksbadet, a sandy beach. There I would clean my muddy feet.

Beach time

An asphalt road again – it was nice and relaxing to just pedal along without looking for stones or glueing my fingers to the handbrakes. I arrived at the beach of Boviksbadet,  the bathing beach of Boviken.

I took a rest but I didn’t bath. It was warm and I would have loved to swim. The sea at Buviksbadet however is extremely shallow. You could walk for ages and still would remain in only knee deep water. I waded in a bit, so at least my feet were clean again.

Come on, it’s just a quick shortcut

After the rest I continued the road and turned left into the Bergviksvägen. This way leads along the Storberget (100 m) and ascends to 90 metres within a kilometre. First I tried to climb the ascend on my bike, using the lowest available gear, but soon I had to rest while my heart beat like a colibri heart. While resting it started to buzz. Some hundred mosquitoes tried to suck my blood. They had a buffet by their own: Hands, neck, eyes, ankles, arms, legs …

Since I ate too much at the Thai restaurant I didn’t want the litte fellows to make the same mistake and so I decided to move on and walk my bike uphills. Walking is less exhausting and so I was on the “top” quite soon. After cycling one kilometre downhills I had to make up my mind.

  • Should I follow all small paths along the coast, which would give me more bathing opportunities but would make the tour longer? Well, no – the sun was almost gone and I was a bit tired, too.
  • Should I continue the way, meat the asphalt road I took on the way there and return the same way? Well, no – I don’t like taking the same way twice the same day.

But there seemed to be another possibility: I could follow the road for three other kilometres and take the small shortcut southwards, where I would meet a road to Ursviken, which is quite near Skelleftehamn.

And so I did. You should know however that it can be quite uncomfortable following me on shortcuts  …

The gravel road descended and was quite broad, but since it was so much gravel on it and potholes in it I didn’t dare to let the bike go and braked from time to time. I approached the shortcut, which didn’t look very promising, but I gave it a try.

I cycled fifty metres away from the main road and looked down to that something that was marked on my map with a black dotted line:

I could return to the main road and just return home the same way, but I still didn’t like the idea. The shortcut would be just some hundred metres and only the first twenty of them seemed to be muddy.

I took my first steps and – splash! – I sank into the mud up to my knees. I freed one foot but unfortunately not the sandal that was still submerged deeply into the mud. It took some time until I could locate it and managed to dig it out. I clamped the sandals on the pannier rack and continued the way barefooted. It was short indeed, hardly 30 metres but my bike was muddy up to the axes and I – well, have a look:

So much to shortcuts …

The “way” became better with some other but less deep mud holes, then it became a grassy path that probably didn’t have been used for a long time (I guess, I know why!)

Now I longed for a bath. My bicycle as well. Anywhere …

Cooling down

… and I was lucky.

The path broadened and soon was covered with gravel again. Marvellous! I knew, that there would be some ponds along the way and I directly stopped at the first one. First I dunked my clothes, then my bike, then myself. After the bath I almost looked civilisation-compatible again. Well, almost!

I continued cycling. The gravel path became a gravel road, became an asphalt street and soon I was on the Skelleftehamnsleden, the road leading to Skelleftehamn, where I arrived round about five hours after my departure.

The daily stage: 42 km biking · ± 800 m walking the bike · ± 100 m bog walking. Not much in distance but in experience.

It’s summer

When you look out of your window and see long green grass in the urgent need of being cut, where 4 weeks ago a snow shower covered the whole garden with white

When you go along the river Skellefteälven and finally other flowers started to bloom than only tussilago

When nights are no dark nights any longer and it will take many weeks until you can see the first stars again …

When you paddle on the river Skellefteälven, barefoot, just with t-shirt and shorts, not with a drysuit as three weeks ago and you even enjoy becoming wet by some breaking waves, because it’s so refreshing …

… then it’s summer in Northern Sweden.

And summer is more than welcome after the long winter. By the way, summer solstice is just 10 days away.

From winter to summer in seven days.

I hardly can remember the intense snow fall a week ago, when I look at a day as today.

Today in a nutshell: sun, shorts, temperatures between 15° and 22° C, sandals, blue sky, t-shirt only, ice cream.

It looked like early spring with only some of the birches starting to come into leaf but it felt more like high summer with today’s temperatures.

Annika and I have been in the “Arboretum Norr” today, just five days later as last year. Last year we could see many different species of flowers, this year only some, mostly Tussilago and Alpine Penny-cress, the two flowers that use to bloom first in the season. No wonder, April and May has been colder than last year. But today warmth attracted many butterflies, such as this European peacock.

And Tussilago is a beautiful flower anyway.

Slippery When Wet

We got roller coaster weather again. Yesterday morning we had -15 °C and in the evening about +3 °C.

Today Annika, two friends and I made an excursion to Kågnäsudden onto the ice. It was even warmer than yesterday (+7°C) and quite windy. The surface of the thick ice was very wet with many puddles of clear ice water and the structure looked like the rippled sand of the tidal flats in Northern Germany. The wind gusts blew tiny ripples over the large meltwater pools and it looked like the ice shield would reach as far as Finland.

But no – it didn’t. The wind and the waves had started to break the ice. We crossed the ice and went to the near island Kågnäshällan. We all were equipped with either spikes or snowshoes to be able to go on the slippery, wet ice.

Right behind the seaside shore of Kågnäshällan we could see the waves lifting and lowering the ice and finally breaking it apart. The rocks round the light tower were bare of ice – too warm was this season’s winter weather.

Along the rocky shore lay large blocks of ice. They glittered in the sun because they were wet and free of snow.

These ice floes were found everywhere. Along the coast but even between the small alder trees further on land. I guess that one of the high water levels this winter had flushed these ice floes ashore where they razored the bark from the thin tree trunks.

And the winter on land? Less and less snow – much too warm – I’m longing for colder weather and snow. Probably it will come in the beginning of May …

Thaw

When it’s more than 10 °C in mars for two days a lot of snow thaws and transforms normal streets into a proving ground for jeeps. Soft slush, sheer ice, deep tracks and huge puddles cover the streets and crossings and I wait for the day where I’ll get stuck twenty metres from home.

On the other side the scenery can look almost nice, at least when you lower your camera as much as possible: