PADDLING IN DALSLAND – SWEDEN
I love being in that twilight zone between sleep and wakefulness. The zone of fuzziness where you can either decide to snuggle back down in your sleeping bag and drop off to sleep again or start the process of waking up. I was in this zone and I could tell it was raining from the sound of the drips falling from the front overhang of the hut. Ever optimistic I thought that if we waited a little longer the rain would stop and we would get a glorious day like the last two. Margaret was not stirring so I snuggled back down in my pit and dozed.
Yesterday we had had to wrestle a headwind to get to the hut on our island. The wind had whipped the once placid lake into a choppy, malevolent mass. With the water full of white tops we had to claw our way from the lee of one island to another to fight for any forward motion. The hire boats were superb; never faltering and never giving the impression that they had any idea that a capsize would be an option. Paddling was just a game of attrition and we finally won. For Margaret the first time in a sea kayak was a baptism by fire but she had paddled bravely and we had been rewarded by accommodation at our island retreat.
An hour later it was still raining but this time it was time to make an effort and start the day. Last night I had prepared the Trangia so all I had to do was reach over and strike a match to begin the process of tea production. Ahh another few minutes in the cocoon of my bag. The smell of the meths from the stove mingled with the damp smell from the woods and the distinctive sent of pine that only the north woods can give. We were sleeping in one of the many wooden camping huts that abound in this part of Sweden and although I had had a good nights sleep I was stiff from lying on too thin a mat on a wooden floor; mental note to self; bring thermarest next time!
The huts are great; they are provided and maintained by the local park/tourist service and situated in interesting locations such as islands, peninsulas and rock outcrops. The huts are also provided with free firewood, a fire pit and tools such as an axe and saw to work the wood into more manageable pieces to burn. This is intended to prevent paddlers from chopping down their own wood and so denuding the environment and having visited a number of these sites it seems to work well. Our hut was on an island and after breakfast it was time to explore.
We knew that there was another camping hut on the south of the island so it seemed a good idea to go and see if we had chosen wisely yesterday evening. Although the island was not that large, 15 minutes after setting off we had not reached the other hut, we were trapped by an impenetrable forest and had to reset our bearings; we bushwhacked back to camp to set off again. People used to the well manicured paths and tracks of the UK, beware, out in true wilderness and especially in natural primary forest it is so so easy to become disoriented and lost. Lucky we were on an island! This time we chose a different route along the coast and after passing through a mix of Scots Pine, Birch, Juniper and Spruce we reached the other hut without further difficulty. This, the southern hut got the early morning sun but would not have had the glorious view of the sunset we had had the previous evening. Also we had more dry wood at our hut and our beach was easier for landing on. All in all a lucky choice which was made by the wind direction rather than any thought by us. On the way back we heard a rather loud woodpecker and from the noise it was making it must have been the Great Black woodpecker beating out a territorial drumming. Our path back was crossed by a number of wood ant tracks so we had to be careful when stopping to look at plants that we had not inadvertently stopped on an ant trail. These ants are rather large and can give a nasty nip but where there are ants there are no snakes as the ants will see them off too. Just as we were getting back into camp we spotted some Morel fungi which unlike the gill fungi shoot their spores from the brown honeycomb surface. They are good eating when young but we had had breakfast so they were left for someone else to find. Back at camp we packed up and left some dry split wood for the next person who would use the hut. Travelling at the beginning of May we had the advantage of no biting insects, no other tourists and the freshness of spring growth. It was cool at night but warm during the day. That day we paddled north, drinking water from the lake to sake our thirst, sitting out on sun warmed rocks to stretch our legs, finally to find another camping hut that we could call our own for a night and to watch another sunset over Dalsland, the Swedish Lake District.
OUTFITTERS www.canodal.com www.vastsverige.com English is spoken by most people. The cost of living is similar to that of the UK. They have warmer dryer summers and colder dryer winters than the UK. Dalsland, the Swedish Lake District, is located just 1.30 to 2 hours north of Gothenburg.