This is the second part of a report on the Canoe Tours in Bergslagen experience in June 2010. Canoe in Bergslagen is one of a range of self-guided canoe tours offered by Nature Travels in Sweden, available in 7-day or 14-day variations. We also offer canoeing holidays suitable for families as well as challenging wilderness expeditions.
You can see additional photos from the trip on the Nature Travels Facebook page.
We awake early as the tents heat up under a blazing morning sun. Craig immediately sets to work with the morning baking, while we pack the things together and load the boats, feeling a little sad to be leaving what must surely be the nicest camp spot we’ll find on the whole tour. Little do we realise that camping nirvana awaits us just a few hours’ paddling hence.
We make our way along the rest of this narrow and beautiful lake. Euan and I are in the same canoe today, and we have both sets of maps (bad idea). Supremely (over)confident in our navigational skills, we strike out for what we’re sure is the correct landing spot, while Andrew and Craig in the other boat eye us suspiciously before paddling off their own way into a different bay. “Hah, poor hapless souls”, we laugh, as Euan and I land and sit down to relax in the sun waiting for the others to arrive. Time passes, vague shouts and expletives are exchanged between us across the water, and finally the other canoe gives in and paddles back to us. We unload and head off, only to discover after a few minutes’ hacking through impenetrable bush that Andrew and Craig were right all along. Oops. Feeling sheepish, we reload the canoes again and paddle around the headland where, sure enough, the correct landing spot is perfectly obvious.
Another day of paddling in bright sunshine and a long land transport brings us to the aptly named “Bredsjön” or “wide lake”. With our muscles aching and our tummies rumbling, it certainly looks an imposing stretch of water to cross, but we steadfastly load the canoes and paddle off, keen to reach the far shore before the wind gets up.
Surprisingly, it turns out to be quite an easy crossing, and just as we’re thinking that we’ve really had enough for today and would like a rest, we round a small headland and our very own “paradise beach” swings into view – a beautiful, small sandy bay with a lovely raised area for the tents and a forest conveniently placed for firewood. We resolve immediately to ring our respective wives and girlfriends and inform them that we’ve decided to stay a while and may not be home for Christmas.
Having shown signs of flagging during the day’s paddling, as soon as Craig’s feet touch dry land he is possessed with a maniacal energy. Spontaneously, he and Andrew decide to make a bread oven and spend the next hour of so heaving huge stones into place and lighting a fire inside. Euan wanders around enthusing about the quality of the light and taking pictures by the dozen, the evening passes cheerfully and a while later the bakers present us with the most delicious bread rolls ever made by man.
This time we really are sorry to be leaving, and sorry especially to be constrained to doing the route in 6 days instead of the standard 7, which would have given us another day’s idyllic loafing about at the camp. As I suggest dismantling the bread over, Craig and Andrew mutter about the heartless destruction of an architectural triumph, but after a little persuasion we all agree that in the interests of “Leave No Trace” it has to go. Wiping away a tear or two, the boys take the oven apart and scatter and bury the stones, and five minutes later it’s as if we were never there.
Every expedition has its “grumpy” day, and this is to be ours. Perhaps it’s the emotional wrench of leaving our beloved beach or perhaps the realisation that we’re over the half way mark it won’t be long before we’re heading home, but today we’re all a little fractious. After a long and tiring land transport we reach “Kanalen”, a 5km stretch of water that under normal conditions can be paddled without problem but today looks ominously shallow. Andrew and Craig once again make the sensible decision and opt immediately to do a land transport along the canal path. Euan and I foolishly elect to give it a go, unload the gear, manhandle the canoe down the bank, load the canoe, then half paddle, half walk through a few hundred metres of canal before it finally gets through to us that there’s not enough water to float the boat. We unload the gear, manhandle the canoe up the bank, load the gear and, hey ho, we’re back where we started, except it’s an hour later and we’re completely exhausted!
Nerves on a knife-edge, major fisticuffs are narrowly averted by Craig’s timely brewing of tea and gallant sacrifice of the last of the cinnamon rolls.
Optimism restored, we trudge on and are delighted to find that after a while the canal deepens and we’re able to take to the water after all. Andrew and Craig go into outdoor-catalogue-male-model-pose mode as Euan finds the possibility to take some photos gives him renewed zest for life. The rest of the day passes without incident. We admire the engineering of an enormous wooden-clad water pipe as we transport past a sluice gate and small hydro station (the pipe looks temptingly like a gigantic elongated beer keg and in our hot and slightly delirious state we fantasise briefly about bottomless supplies of ale).
We make camp on a small headland along the river Uvan, another lovely spot in its own right, though our hearts still yearn for the beach. Once again the cuckoo keeps us company as Craig and Andrew invent a new game – pine cone paddle cricket.
It takes us a while to get going this morning, due in part to Euan becoming fixated on taking the perfect arty-perspective picture of our storage barrels. After indulging him patiently for the first few dozen shots, we drag him protesting into the boat and head off. Soon we’re into a lovely winding section of the river Uvan, watching cranes lift majestically from the bank and enjoying the change of scenery from the wider lakes of the earlier part of the tour.
We’ve decided to make things easy for ourselves for tomorrow to give plenty of time to clean and organise the equipment and also to set up some final shots, so today we’re pushing on through the other side of the small town of Hagfors to give us just a short distance to paddle on the last day.
Approaching Hagfors feels strange – the prospect of beer and ice cream beckons, but the call of the wild tugs us back. We land by a lovely floating restaurant where Euan, consolidating his reputation as group nutter magnet, is immediately and helplessly cornered by an elderly local and grilled on the finer points of canoe packing. Mercilessly, we leave him to fend for himself and make immediately for the bar.
As with all Swedes, the waitress speaks excellent English, but her language skills are not quite up to dealing with Andrew’s Tasmanian humour about and he’s surprised when he actually receives the half a burger he ordered, lovingly bisected.
After a surreal episode transporting our canoes right through the centre of town and parking them outside the supermarket, we tire of the bright lights of Hagfors and are keen to be back on the water. We find a nice camping spot on a headland just outside town. It’s cloudier and also windy and this evening, making it difficult to keep the fire going and hard to settle, and we bustle and fuss about for the evening before tiredness overtakes us.
Our last day. The wind drops and the sun comes out once more to greet us for our final short stretch of paddling. We spend a leisurely couple of hours basking in the sunshine at the end point, brewing up the last of the tea, making a valiant effort to eat all the food and pottering about taking photos of the equipment and cleaning the canoes. Before long it’s time for Anders to collect us with the van for return to the canoe centre and bus back to Karlstad.
Having survived 6 days’ paddling in the wilderness unscathed, Andrew finds the walk from the bus stop to the youth hostel a bit too much of a challenge. We hear a yelp and turn round to find him in a heap on the verge clutching a badly twisted ankle. We drag him hobbling to the Bishop’s Arms for an emergency dose of field anaesthetic (aka single malt whisky) and the rest of the evening gives a fitting symmetry to the trip as we make a determined effort to blow our remaining Kronor.
It’s been a great trip all round – we’ve been ridiculously fortunate with the weather, found that we’re not in bad shape at all really for three 40-somethings and a 20-something, seen that four guys can spend an extended period in each other’s company without major violence and indeed actually enjoy it and discovered that, when it comes to our paradise campsite, heaven really is a place on earth. We’re already planning the next trip for 2011….
Bob from The Nature Travels Team