Recently I had the great pleasure of enjoying a rare break with a old buddy from my days in the military. We have enjoyed various bushcraft and hiking adventures here in the UK and finally I managed to persuade him that he should join me on a 9 day expedition in Sweden.
The trip out from UK was with Ryan air from Stanstead to Oslo, unfortunately our flight was delayed for 4 hours and with no information forth coming on the reason for the delay it was quiet annoying - in the end I text a friend to see if they could find info on-line and was told traffic control issues we're stated on Ryan Air website however a fellow passenger telephoned a friend who works in Oslo Rygge and was told bird strike was the issue and a new engine part had needed to be sent from UK - I'm not sure what was worse Ryan Airs lack of information showing the complete disregard for its passengers or the fact they felt the need to Lie on their website??
Anyway we eventually got there and were happy to do so.
First night was spent in base camp sorting out our gear and rations etc with a view to the next day Hiking from Vastra Silen to a lake called JarnsJorn.
Morning found the sky grey and the air humid but we had slept well and we're both saddled up and ready to go. Paul, a dedicated light weight hiker had all his lightweight gear in a old Karrimor Hotrock - myself more traditional kit in a sabre 45.
The hike was pleasant, we kept the pace steady and the humidity ensured we sweated. The lack of a decent winter seemed to of allowed the Mosi population to thrive and we were constantly bothered by buzzing little friends.
Arriving at the Dano (this is the name given to a series of wooden lend too type cabins dotted around the area) we quickly established camp - Paul in a tent myself in the shelter provided. We got our fire on the go and settled down for a brew.
Night doesn't fall completely in the summer months and Paul decided to try his hand at a spot of fishing - alas the fish weren't biting.
Fortunately we both had rations with us - I had the Norwegian Army Field rations mentioned in the previous article.
Morning was even greyer and ominous clouds slowly crowded the horizon. Shortly after breakfast the heavens opened and the rain fell - we decided to try and sit it out. Inside the shelter of the Dano we listened to the radio and relaxed, I even read Paul the opening chapter of a book I have written about King Arthur which he seemed to enjoy even stating that if I got it published he'd buy it - high praise indeed!!
Evening in early afternoon the rain ceased and we were able to hike back to base camp here we quickly repacked and collected our canoe. Having never canoed together before things looked like being interesting - Paul having recently completed his 2 star course took up the position of driver ie in the rear and I became the engine room.
The trip out went smoothly enough and we soon arrived at our next camp site - were we planned to spend two night and a whole day fishing and gill netting. The fishing proved fruitless again even when I was sat in the above a Pike - but not as disappointing as the gill net. Trawling the net didn't work so I decided to try it as a night line, however the rocky shore and sunken trees soon put an end to the net and I ended up salvaging it as best I could and binning it. Lesson learned.
Cracking one after the second night we paddled down the lake and soon arrived at another location - our progress much faster than we expected this gave us time to set up camp, have a good wash in the lake and explore the surrounding area. Here we hiked inland to find a small lake at the top of a high feature. We found the lake itself although the ground around it was incredibly boggy but more interesting was the amount of Moose (Alg) sign we found was more encouraging, especially around a salt lick.
Paul, soon became a fan of the traditional rock fried bacon and Polar bread breakfast adding his own twist of a small squirt of BBQ sauce! We enjoyed this treat most morning and even began terming our canoe speed and bacon powered!!
Also at this site I decided to complete the tests I had previously run on my no name knife. Spoon carving requires us to use the knife for almost every type of grasp and as such is a good test of a knifes usability - the smaller the spoon the harder it is to carve - fortunately the knife performed well. As a side note here even though I tried to use my knife as often as possible I still ended up using my pocket knife much, much more. This harks back to previous article I have written and still begs the question do we really need a sheath knife for general utility work or would the traveller be better served with a pocket knife, a saw and a axe?? The debate I am sure will continue there!
Moving on we eventually reached the mid-point of our trip and paddling into a large inlet came across two other canoes - notable for two reasons, firstly these were the first other people we'd seen for 4 days and secondly because as we came around the bend into the bay both canoes turned tail and paddled for home! Odd behaviour indeed - although quite amusing too as we felt like we had entered a scene from Last of the Mohican's or some such!!
The waters of this inlet were mill pond and we, having found our stroke in unison, powered up and charged into the placid waters travelling the length of the inlet and back before locating the second Dano. The second Dano being one of two in this location. Here we also discovered who our neighbours were. 4 young German guys occupied the adjacent Dano which was located on a windy but beautifully sited head land and we concluded their mad rush back to this when we arrived was the canoeing equivalent of putting their beach towel on the sun beds!
Here Paul's fishing patience were finally rewarded and he caught us a smashing Pike for tea - filtered and cleaned I cooked it by our favourite method - yep hot rock and roll. Cooked through on both sides I sprinkled it was chilli flakes and served on a wooden platter our Hot rock chilli pike was a tasty treat and as good as anything served in a 5 star restaurant!!
Sadly, next morning was the turning point of the trip as we now had to start heading back but the trip wasn't over yet and we still had one last night on the lake. This was actually the best location of all and we both agreed the best was saved until last. The shallow water of the inlet was clear and quiet warm allowing us both the have a wash and a splash around. Our last evening on the lake and we both sat up until around 2245 just to watch the sun set.
A sun set which burnt its way behind the hills to our west in a firey sky of golden yellows and orange - a memorable end to a great trip.
Finally our last day arrived - heavy hearts reflected the strong winds we noted blowing white caps off the lakes less than placid surface!!
Our paddle home was hard work against the wind and bow of our canoe was rising and falling to crash through the waves like a dreadnought charging through the north Atlantic swell! Sadly this also meant mugging's in the front ended up drenched ............... but much relieved we finally turned into the quiet calm of Risviken and beached our canoe - the trip was over.
Canoeing the waters of south centre Sweden was once compared to a religious experience by Ray Mears and I think I would agree with him. This trip was a great experience enjoyed in the company of one of my oldest friends!
If you'd like to enjoy the quiet beauty of Sweden please visit www.nordmarkencanoeuk.co.uk if UK based or www.nordkanot.se/ for the rest of the world.