5450 km so far.
This morning I woke up more tired than when we went to bed.
Around 12:30am, a car had driven up the bike path near our tent and several men got out. They walked up and down, talking and shouting to each other. There was a lot of banging. One guy had a long conversation on his cell phone while pacing the lawn just outside our tent. The car drove off. The men stuck around.
Who were they? What were they doing at the beach in the middle of the night? Fishermen getting a really early start? Maintenance men cleaning the park at midnight? Russian gangsters?
I lay awake listening as Stephen snored lightly beside me. Eventually the men’s voices drifted away and I tried to drift back to sleep. Sadly, as much as I wanted to ignore it, I really needed to pee. It was cold out there, and I didn’t relish the idea of climbing out of my warm cocoon to brave the night area. Still, once the idea takes hold, you just have to get up and go, otherwise you lie there awake thinking about it for half the night.
I crawled out of the tent and was greeted by a clear sky filled with stars. Marvellous.
But still, this morning I woke up more tired than when we went to bed.
We had camped beside a set of six or seven locks that lead from Lake Roxen up to a higher section of the canal. While we were eating breakfast a small sailboat started to make its descent. Along with several other tourists, we sat and watched as the sailors navigated this complicated system of locks.
It reminded me of all the times I’ve been on a boat while we try some difficult manoeuvre or other. The only thing worse than smashing up your boat is smashing up your boat with a bunch of people watching. These sailors were obviously pros with locks. They didn’t break a sweat.
After watching the slow progress of the boat through the locks, we decide we were quite happy to be on bikes, not having to wait for anyone to open the waterways for us.
We rolled slowly along the canal, enjoying the tree-lined path and the silence all around.
We met a few herds of sheep, so of course we had to stop and thank them for providing such excellent cycling clothes for us.
They are very cute and soft up close, even if they managed to leave a lot of shit on the bike trail. It also got all over our tires and one large blob stuck to my leg. Gross.
As we were peacefully riding along contemplating the nature of the universe and such things, suddenly Stephen ran his bike right into mine, running me entirely off the path. I struggled, but managed to stay upright and steer my bike back to firm ground. When I stopped and looked behind, I realised Stephen hadn’t fared so well. He had dumped himself headfirst into the only patch of nettles to be seen.
It seems he had been trying to get behind me and I slowed down (yeah, right) just at wrong moment.
Oh well, at least he only ran into a pile of nettles. If he’d been going the other way we would both have ended up in the canal.
I Want My Mommy
We had a short snack break at the town of Borensberg, and then headed off again. There are large sections of the canal bike path that neither go along the canal nor are they bike paths. This was one such section, which consisted of riding through hilly farmlands across which a cold wind blew. The tough road combined with the lack of sleep was hitting me hard.
It was one of those times when I didn’t want to be here at all. What I wanted was to be snuggled in a blanket in my parents’ house, with my mom bringing me cups of tea. I wanted to be warm and clean and safe, with no question of where I would sleep tonight or where my next meal was coming from.
Stephen has no idea what to do with me when I feel this way. He is used to me being strong and independent, not small and frail. So at times like this, he is no comfort at all. Instead, I want the comfort of my mother (and my dad) close by to take care of me.
I had to settle for the comfort of a cup of tea and a piece of cake in a cafe in Motala, which is located at the end of this section of canal. Between us and the next section lies the very tall Lake Vattern. There used to be a ferry across the middle, but no longer. Our planned route would detour us for a full day around the north end of the lake, getting us back to the canal which then heads further north. All of this just seemed like too much distance in the wrong direction, so we made a quick rerouting decision.
We will head south around the lake, and then turn west towards Göteborg, skipping the final part of the canal and putting us about two days ahead of our current schedule. This will leave us time to visit with our friends in Malmö properly, and to see Copenhagen in less of a hurry.
It looked like rain was about to come again, so we took an extended work break in the cafe. The rain never did start, so at about 5pm, we rode off towards our intended campsite in Vadstena, 16 km to the south. We arrived in a large park in the centre of Vadstena around 6:30pm (why did it take so long? stupid wind) and Stephen set up our cooking things.
Back And Forth And Back
While he did that, I went off on my bike to look for a camping spot. The area is covered in park land and bike trails, and soon I was wending my way out the length of a curved spit between marshy patches of pasture. In the distance I could see the perfect secluded beach for our tent, looking out onto the lake. I was so happy to have found a spot out of town and away from prying eyes (and noisy midnight guests). It could be the best campsite of our entire trip.
But, as I got closer, I realised there was a big no camping sign. Argh! Why? There is no one around here! So unfair. We could probably have gotten away with camping here anyway, but I didn’t want to risk it.
In the end, I managed to find a far less secluded spot near the marina which would also do. Just as I was coming back to the picnic area, it started to rain.
Cooking in the rain sucks. Plain and simple. It is not something either of us wanted to do. We were exhausted, hungry, and tired. And now we were getting wet. We argued about what to do next. My brain wouldn’t function, and as I said, Stephen has no idea what to do when this happens. We snapped at each other as we inefficiently washed and packed up the stove, dinner half-cooked.
As soon as we got everything put away, the rain stopped.
Stephen unpacked everything again and started to cook, even though I would rather have not bothered. I moved all our gear under a large tree in case the rain started again. We ate our dinner (which ended up being pretty tasty) in exhausted silence.
After dinner we avoided each other, me putting up the tent while Stephen went to look for a toilet, Stephen blowing up the sleeping mats while I did yoga outside.
Sometimes a little distance is the best medicine, and tonight it was just what we needed. The frustration had subsided by the time we got into our sleeping bags and fell asleep.
Soundtrack: Zach Braff’s Wish I Was Here Playlist 2 on Spotify | Willoughby, Album 2 (unreleased) | Chris T-T and The Hoodrats, The Bear ♥