5391 km so far.
Today began beautifully. Rolling fields of wheat, punctuated with rocky islands covered in pine trees.
Winding country roads past farm houses, the sun shining, and a sign for the shortest named town in the world.
Almost immediately Dan Bern’s song Beautiful Ride (from the movie Walk Hard) popped into Jane’s head, and out of her mouth. For the rest of the day we were making a little music, singing the song as one beautiful moment gave way to another.
The Göta Kanal path started out just as we had hoped. Flat, smooth, and for bikes and walkers only.
As we have said before, the only problem with flat riding is there is never a break from pedalling. But with cyclists, and a few dog walkers, the only other traffic, we couldn’t complain. Beautiful. Not long onto the canal, however, it turned out to be less canal route and more lake avoidance route.
The Good Walk And The Hard Walk
The route has seven lakes of varying sizes along it. These are what the canal and lock system connects. The first diversion we took was chaotic.
We had seen several people much older than us merrily riding along the canal, and nothing we read gave us any warning about what was about to befall us. Killer hills, rough dirt track, a 1 km stretch of golf ball sized loose rocks…
…that was the official bike path which was barely walkable, let alone bikeable. It all slowed us down considerably. We are sure most of the other cyclists we had passed would not be able to navigate this route.
Still, it was beautiful. There were moss floored forests that were so majestic they looked as if they were works of art. There were granite boulders poking out between the trees, a few intrepid hikers, and where the road was paved, adorable Swedish cottages.
Travelling Not Just For Business
At the start of the canal we met Canadians! These are the first of our fellow country folk we have met on this trip. They are on an adventure of their own, having bought a sailboat in Europe and sailed it across Scandinavia. They were going slowly, planning to traverse the canal over two weeks. The couple live in Victoria, where Jane went to university, and near to where her parents live, so we had some things in common.
Also, Jane’s brother Scot and his family are about to set off on a sailing adventure of their own.
We stopped for lunch in Norsholm where we met Marcus (Australian) and Alex (French), two fully loaded cycle tourists. We talked gear, as I am wont to do, and about routing. Alex is headed to Ventspils in Latvia where we spent some time on the beach a while ago, and Marcus is flying from Berlin to Hungary for some cycling along the EuroVelo 6, which we also spent quite some time on. Hopefully they will find some useful information in our previous posts on these regions.
All afternoon we had another lake to bypass. There is a paper map for the canal route, and Jane is using this, happy to have a map in her possession again. I switched off PocketEarth since she was glad to be navigating for a change. However, just after lunch we missed a turn. A few kilometers later she slowed down, and said, “I’m not sure we are where we should be”.
As quaint as the town of Kimstad was, it wasn’t where we wanted to be. Good thing we aren’t on a deadline, and most of the time we are travelling just for fun. We used PocketEarth and Bad Elf, got back to the road we should have been on, and began again.
Jane’s note: Navigating is a lot harder when you’re just using a bad tourist map, with no GPS, and there is no left turn sign where a left turn sign should be. Sigh. Still, I wasn’t happy with myself.
Accepting Your Mortality
I haven’t been feeling well since we left Stockholm. My intestines are painfully making their presence known. I can’t figure out what caused it, or why it hasn’t gone away yet. This afternoon it was causing me to be slow, and the extra distance was not really what either of us needed with me feeling this way.
Despite plenty of opportunity to stop and make camp early, I didn’t want to delay us in distance as I was in time, so we kept going. When you are two travelling by bike, and one is being slow for whatever reason, it tends to drive the other crazy. This was the case today. Jane pedalled on ahead, desperate to enjoy some of the downhills the way they should be enjoyed as I lingered behind.
My Perspective Is Enormous
The route this afternoon was around Lake Roxen. We chose to take the north side of the lake and it was definitely the right decision. There is a southern route as well, but the south side is developed, and home to Linköping, a large city on the shore of the lake. The north side was undeveloped apart from farms and a few cottages. It was quite wild in parts, and as we climbed hills and looked down into the many valleys we saw an incredible variety of wildlife. We saw a fox, countless deer (definitely more than we have seen total on the rest of the journey), snakes, big fat caterpillars, hawks… quite an impressive array.
We eventually got around the lake and to the town of Berg, where the canal starts again, with a series of six locks.
We set up camp on the shore of Lake Roxen where the locks begin, right next to the town beach. It is, once again, an incredible spot to be camping. It even has clean public toilets nearby.
With the immortal words of Dewey Cox floating in my head, I dozed off…
Make a little music every day ’til you die. It’s a beautiful ride.