Heading north

We’re heading north, as opposed to heading south which I understand can be a bad thing, as in “the stock market is headed south“. In the early 1980″s I had the pleasure of working for a much respected manager called Phil Roberts, who had an admirable combination of wit and wisdom. One of his favourite and completely meaningless phases he would trot out with great regularity and usually with a smile was “We shall see what we shall see“. Which suggested that although he might know how a particular outcome might turn out, he was keeping his thoughts to himself. Lovely man.

Västerås

In 1883 Allmänna SvenskaElektriska Aktiebolaget or ASEA for short was founded in Västerås. Many years later ASEA merged with Brown Boveri to become ABB. I joined the Robotics division in the UK in 1985 and over the 30+ years I spent in the automation industry, I have been to Västerås many times and even now can still feel the deep sense of loyalty to ABB and to the history of the town.

ABB is one of the worlds most respected electrical engineering companies especially in the field of industrial robotics and remains the town’s largest employer. Oh and as an ex-ABB employee it also provides part of my pension.

We left Margo enjoying the acrobatics of the pulled-by-wire wakeboarders expertly executing 180 degree turns, when the drag wire reverses direction. We set off on a bike ride around the shore of Lake Mälaren, past the rows of yachts and motor boats berthed in the marina and following the cycle path out beyond the airport into the countryside.

“At one time Lake Mälaren was a bay of the Baltic, and seagoing vessels using it were able to sail far into the interior of Sweden. Because of movements of the Earth’s crust, however, the rock barrier at the mouth of the bay had become so shallow that by about the year 1200 ships had to unload their cargoes near the entrances and progressively the bay became a lake”.

The wheels have come off

Almost literally, well not quite the wheels… We had stopped for a well deserved ice cream after 12 miles, the half-way point of the ride. Then set off again but only got a mile down the road when the left side crank and pedal on Dave’s bike inexplicably detached itself from the electric motor. We scratched our heads for a bit (but that didn’t help) eventually figuring we needed a large 10mm Allen key to fix it back onto the motor spline.

Luckily this time we were not in a remote forest in the middle of nowhere. By holding up the crank and looking imploringly, it wasn’t long before a passing motorist took pity. This very nice lady who stopped, took me back to her husband who had the right size key, only trouble was I then had to walk back the 16 kms (ok 1.6 kms) to the bikes and the waiting Lesley.

Bike drama over we made it safely back to Västerås for ride around a few memory lanes…

They didn’t have electric bikes back in the day, but this sculpture outside the Stadshotellet depicts a constant stream of ASEA workers on bicycles, pedalling away to start their shift making all manner of electrical stuff!

Fågelsundet

Galtström

We arrived late afternoon with almost all the officially designated spots taken. Undeterred, Margo shuffled herself onto the end of the row and waited for someone to leave. This beautiful little spot is provided and maintained by the Galtström community and is free with voluntary contributions invited. How very Swedish…

Skuleskogen National Park

We’d found Skuleskogen National Park whilst researching Sweden before we left the UK. Leaving the E4 road there was a large stallplatz with 50+ motorhomes parked up. Ignoring this we carried on into the forest along a increasingly rough forest track to a free parking area at the start of the walk. Arriving early afternoon a steady stream of vans arrived after us gradually filling up the spaces.

4:30 in the afternoon felt like an odd time to be heading off for a 3 hour walk but we were certainly not alone. The way-marked route was easy to follow especially as large sections involved walking on parallel wooden planks. The reward at the top of the gradual uphill trek was the spectacular Slåttdalsskrevan crevice and the wonderful views from the rock plateau above.

Tired but very satisfied we slept soundly in the quiet of the forest setting before waking at 7am to travel the forest road before the weekenders came in the next morning. Skuleskogen is definitely a highlight of the trip so far.

Breaking our journey north we stopped for cake at a cafe in Skellefteå. We’ve been set a challenge by Toby, one of our wine crowd friends, to find a Swedish nötgrotta (nut cave) cake. Our first attempt found a rather delicious chocolate cake and the famous green princess cake but alas not the nötgrotto. That means we will need to continue our search…damn..

The famous Swedish green princess cake
A typical image from the Swedish landscape as we drove up the E4

Jävre

Just a stopover point but what a good one. It’s not that far off the E4 but it’s nothing like Hilton Park Services. Think clean, well-maintained, upmarket camp site with attached authentic local fish restaurant in an idyllic waterside setting. It was so nice I said sod the expense let’s eat out (I’ll do anything to get out of drying the dishes…)

Luleå

We think we’ve landed on our feet, again. Ardent followers of our travelling laundry needs will have calculated we need a wash day. Well at the harbour-side stellplatz it’s 250 SEK for 24hrs and the laundry is free (oh and so is the sauna).

Wikipedia say Luleå is a coastal city in Swedish Lapland so we must be up north then? We have come along way but we haven’t yet reached 66°33′47.6″ north of the Equator (more of this later).

The fab Luleå city harbour motorhome parking

It is at this point we have to make a decision whether to enter Norway via Sweden or Finland. IF we are going to the North Cape or Nordkapp, it would make at lot of sense to go the shortest route through Finland. However because we only have 90 days (and were required to spend 10 days in France before we could legally enter Germany) we are running short of time. Actually our shortness of time isn’t just down to Covid border rules, as we are enjoying taking our time meandering through Sweden in 16 days.

Nordkapp is on the bucket list for many travellers. Many will go to enjoy the midnight sun or the sunset, but the summer sun doesn’t set between the middle of May and the end of July. Also we don’t think it’s vital to go to John O’ Groats to see the best of Scotland…. there you have it, we have just made our minds up.

66°33′47.6″ The Artic Circle

Interesting facts

Above the Arctic Circle, the Sun is above the horizon for 24 continuous hours at least once per year (and therefore visible at midnight and below the horizon for 24 continuous hours at least once per year (and therefore not visible at noon).

The Arctic Circle is currently drifting northwards (shrinking) at a speed of about 15 m (49 ft) per year.

A very rare golden Elk and her calve

We have driven around 1,500 miles throughout Sweden with our eyes peeled for Elk. Fortunately most of the major trunk roads are now protected with Elk nets along their length. Sorry I should explain. Swedish Elks are designed to have the body of a large cow and can weigh up to 500kgs, all carried on spindly, easily breakable matchstick legs.

This flawed construction can have disastrous consequences as the Elk’s underbelly is exactly the same height as bottom of the popular Volvo 760’s windscreen. In the past (especially when Elk move ground and cross highways during the mating season) the tragic consequence this combination has had on Swedish road safety is legendary.

You’ll be pleased to know the latest advance for the safety obsessed Swedes, means Volvo’s cars now can spot Elks and hit the brakes for you.

We had to a quick turnaround to get this photo on our way to Gällivare when we crossed the Arctic Circle. That means for us tonight the sun sets 23:36 and rises again at 1:50am.

As Phil Roberts would have also succinctly said “We are where we are”.

ToodlePIp

Dave & Lesley

PS Don’t forget if you want to know where we are – follow this link to PolarSteps

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