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Day 54 – Varberg to Gothenburg

Sweden red houses

Swedish bitters

An internet-free day cycling north along the Kattegattleden 1 track towards Gothenburg. The cycle track is well signposted and easy going. This has got to be the most beautiful part of Sweden? Swathes of soft oats and mixed greens blow along the rocky coastline. Shining water dotted with islands, humble harbours and red and yellow wooden summer houses painted in white trim.

Instead of a google map showing up, I had a message from my phone provider to say that I had run out of credit. This released me from a slight dependency on wifi and google, and let me loose on the wild side of the journey. Picture a zoo animal being dropped off in the middle of the serengeti plain.

Not only that, but my credit card maxed out yesterday and has been blocked by the bank. The algorithm might have found my personal data suspiciously full of payments for single rooms in different hotels every night for two months. In fact it blocked my current account as a safety measure so I can’t draw any cash either. My begging calls to the help desk were met with a polite negative every time. That means the breakfast sandwich and water bottle would need to suffice for the day.

No worries at all because Tyrone (youngest son) is coming from Oslo by train (with a bicycle in his luggage) to meet me in Gothenburg. He will be waiting with wifi and money and his beautiful smile. Our roles have swapped and he’s now the sensible responsible one coming to my rescue.

Sunny side

In the meantime the sunny side of the navigational situation is this – the sun should shine on my right side all morning and on my left side all afternoon. If all goes well I should arrive in Gothenburg this evening as planned. The spirits are also on my side because I have already booked a hotel there. Did it this morning using the B&B wifi connection. Normally I never book accommodation a whole day ahead.

The hotel address is a mystery, but from what I remember of the booking map it showed the place to be halfway between two bridges on the northern bank of the Göta river estuary. That should be easy to find.

To tell you the truth I am grateful to be in the grand finale stage of the journey. As beautiful and fantastic and privileged as it may seem, riding alone has been a big challenge. I miss laughing. The road is not that funny when you’re alone. One needs a mammal to laugh with. The only mammal on the bike was myself. As funny as that may seem I feel like a glum reptile.

Sharing a beer with my son will be lovely. I will say a loud CHEERS. It will be fun to enthusiastically discuss the route and have Ty point out the way. You might be thinking ” she could just get on a train and be done with it!” But with so few days left to go and such amazing scenery, taking a train would be a terrible pity.

Philosophy

Like everything in life it is vitally important to finish your mission, regardless of punctures, saddle sores, a broken hand bone, heat stroke, hunger, skin scales, carbonated lungs, pedal bite scabs and loneliness. You pick up some grit along the way, getting fitter while you go. The more ground you cover the stronger you get. There’s a rhythm to it. You develop scales and become one with the bike and the stuff on board. Your wheels become wings.

My cousin asked me “if you have any philosophical thoughts and great wisdom that might spring from being a bicycle hermit?”

The answer is I am too busy watching the details of the road at about six meters in front of me. Any closer and you won’t have time to choreograph your bicycle ballet around loose pavement stones, potholes, ridges, stones, glass, and edges. That’s the distance from which you have time to make the quickest judgement to avoid falling off the bike. Any closer is too close. Six meters is fine for someone my size, and from there your eyes can efficiently glance up to see the scenery and where you’re going in general.

Hearing is a sense which has become honed. Listening intensely for traffic with half-deaf ears has forced me to develop a type of ultrasonic hearing. At home in Marino there is so much loud noise on our street with traffic, carpenter saws, blacksmith hammers, ambulance and fire truck sirens or building works. I wear sound cancelling headphones most days. Now that hearing makes the difference between life and accidental death, it has opened up a whole new world. I am able tell you the distance between bird calls!

Lost

The weather was sweltering south of Kungsbacka. It was there that the sun swapped sides at midday. However, it was at that moment that I ignorantly continued along the coastline thinking how hunky dory this ride is going. Only at a cooldrink stop in Godskar, where I spent my last few krone, did someone point out Gothenburg in the opposite direction. Quite tricky for the brain to reconfigure the inner map. The rest of the day was spent haphazardly navigating in zagzig mode.

Riding into busy Gothenburg, a big city! Got myself on the wrong side of the train tracks and roadworks. Eventually found a way over to the opposite side of the river but needed to make an expensive phone call to ask Tyrone if I should go east or west. He can navigate from anywhere. Actually he has had a complicated journey himself but is finally on the train with an unexpectedly brand new bicycle and will be arriving at our hotel midnight.

The nice hotel Villan was waiting for me when I found it. The restaurant was already closed for the night. I had no money anyway so ordered a room service sandwich hoping that Tyrone would be willing to pay the bill in the morning.

He did arrive safely at midnight. More of that story tomorrow.

125 kms today (some of it in the opposite direction).

See the route map here

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Day 52 and 53 – Ängelholm – Halmstad – Varberg

Sweden west coast watercolour painting by Leanne Talbot Nowell

To my beloved readers. Tomorrow Simon is taking me to Tuscany for a week. So this blog will be on hold until we get back. Apologies for the interruption but be sure there was no such interruption on the actual bike ride. Hope to see you back here soon. In the meantime, I will be painting plein-air in Tuscany. Not so bad! Wishing you all a safe and happy week..

Leanne

Day 52 – Going to Halmstad…

These days in Sweden the citizens are either fighting forest fires or playing on the beach. The drought and heat has followed me all the way up to the far north.

The cycle route is clearly marked – Kattegattleden 1, and highly recommended for any cycling holiday you might be considering for the future. Rust red signs point cyclists in the right direction. Sweden is much brighter than anticipated, I was expecting a sort of Viking-gone-Goth vibe, but the landscape has a comfortable beauty which scoops you along into dreamland.

Until rain splatters down on my luminous jacket, under which are two layers of warm garments. The locals happily continue gardening and carrying ladders, fixing picket fences and chopping wood in short sleeves.

In Båstad, my bike met the new red Tesla model S. Two eco-friendly vehicles parked together for a photograph. The bike is more beautiful. Ok – the model S has prettier handles…maybe.

3500 Kms at Skummestōvsstrand

Halmstad

Halmstad had a nice little centre on the mouth of the Nissan river, where I searched for the most healthy of all the burger menus. There are only burger menus. Made for the thousands of university students who study here. How I wish for one of those Rhine river salads!  The waitress kindly suggests I do away with the bun, and take extra salad instead. When the little brown patty arrives it had two stalks of garnish instead of one.

Pity a poor cyclist who didn’t get to eat the lobster and oysters this coast is famous for.

My big single room at the hostel has one bed and two desks. There were a lot of bikes standing in the yard, but no bike lock-up, so I rolled mine through the foyer, into the lift, up to the second floor, along a passage, through two spring-loaded doors, passed the kitchen, and into the bedroom. No funny looks.

See the route map here


Day 53

The Swedes are having a wonderful summer, mostly half-naked at their summer huts, fixing things and potting around getting everything in Hygge order. Their cottages have mostly been in the family for generations. If you want one you might be lucky to find one, and it’ll cost you a million. The sky breaks into a smile. Children laughing and birds singing type of atmosphere. Magical. Voluptuous pink granite boulders shoulder the west coast, forming about eight thousand islands. Low green bushes line yellow fields and red cottages dot the curvy bays.

There are only three different types of cars in Sweden, all of them Volvo – black, grey and white. Beware of black car drivers, they whip passed at a hair’s width, grey car drivers give you a respectful 2 meters, and white car drivers go over into the oncoming lane, dangerously close to having head-on collisions. That’s just the observation of the day from the saddle of my bike.

Varberg

Whizzed over to the only room available in Varberg. The bed&makeyourownbreakfast man enthusiastically but vaguely points me to the beach, which is actually in another direction entirely. I should have checked the map. 

Embarrassed to expose myself in a swimsuit, a chilly wind nips about my two-tone legs, but nevertheless I picked up the courage to wade into the sea, and wade, and wade. How far out do you need to go before one can actually swim? If Simon was here he would drag me in. Instead I creep into a little wind shelter nest behind a log and snuggle down to relax in the late night sun.

Lodging in this area is fully booked for summer, so you would be forgiven for thinking there must surely be a local restaurant. Apparently not. And you must forgive the other B&B guests for using up all the hot water. When one is sea-salt-sticky and weary after pedalling 124 kms, a cold shower and no supper on a chilly evening is not a lifter-upper. Good thing I paid that extra 100 Krona for breakfast.


There was no soothing whiff of coffee in the morning, just silence. I wait, fully packed and ready, and nothing happens. Grimly reach for the fridge, chop some tomatoes, cucumbers, cheese and pile them up on a slice of bread. Make coffee, eat sandwich. Made an extra big sandwich for a possible further famine and wash up. Leave without further adooo.

Will need to make some value versus cost adjustments now in prep for Scandinavia.

See the approximate route map here

See you soon…keep well and safe.

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Day 51 – Copenhagen to Ängelholm

View from Zealand to Sweden

Morning came blessed in heavenly cloud. A respite from the heat.

I said an early goodbye to my lovely niece Kealena in Copenhagen. My little brother, who is almost 2 m tall, escorted me out of town and north along the flat sandy shores towards Helsingør to catch the ferry over to Sweden. The eastern horizon, a flat streak of dark blue across the greenish sea.

Cycling along the east coast of Zealand into a bright atmospheric mist must be one of the best rides on this planet. Gorgeous Danish homes look out over sand and sea surrounded by the prettiest gardens and trees. One is transported into a fairy-tale world where the roofs are thatched and walls are painted pumpkin yellow, red or black with small pane windows in painted wooden frames. Certainly this stretch of civilization has grown from a long history of respect to the environment and neighbours. Untold wealth without arrogance.

On the way we stopped to see the fascinating home/museum and garden of the multi-talented Danish author, Karen (Dinesen) Blixen, who wrote her memoirs here –  “Out of Africa”  (  Isak Dinesen ). You have probably seen the romantic film starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford. Theme song by John Barry.

Mist turned to rain as we arrived in Helsingør for the ferry. But first dashed over the moat to get a closer look at the incredible Kronborg castle where Shakespeare had Hamlet play out his drama. Eric of Pomerania built it in the 1420’s.

Bruce made the 20 minute trip on the ferry with me and remained on board for the return journey. He waved down to me from the high deck as I reluctantly disembarked.

Sweden

It felt a bit like being dropped off at boarding school after the holidays. I have never been to Sweden, the 7th country on this journey, and a flood of trepidation put me in a spin. Sweden had not been part of my plan…

This time I was first off the ferry with my bike and had to find the way out of the docks while holding up a string of large pantechnicons grating their gears behind me.

Google girl knew better, and I followed her instructions through town and a modest but neat residential area and onto a new cycle track which was all mine for the next 20 kms or so. After that it was back to noisy road riding all afternoon.

So far Sweden seems normal and not at all scary. Different to be on the west coast now looking over towards sunset skies.

Ängelholm looks like a good place for a peaceful night, however there is no available accommodation, absolutely nothing anywhere up or down the coast. The ladies at the info office call around, and eventually find an expensive room in Valhall Park Hotell. I gulp and turn it down, then check my booking dot come app once again, and up pops the same room for almost half the price. So I quickly book it and set off in the rain. My phone instantly runs out of battery, so there is no help from google to find the place, but I had picked up a little city map at the info desk. Arrive by way of a forest and a highway. Feeling soggy and too tired for dinner…. unfortunately. The room is nice, quite posh for a stinky cyclist. They have a secure cage for bikes too. Gnawing on half an energy bar while writing this.

101 kms.

See the approximate route map here