This week in a nutshell: empty hostels, short cycling days, great roads and nice weather. It was another fairly good week in Sweden. I cycled six out of seven days and moved 502km north.
Day 30 (April 30): Sundsvall – Ramvik, Sweden
21.10h. This was a good day. There was some tough climbing and a hail storm, but the last twenty kilometres were so fantastic, a really fun unpaved road through the wilderness. I didn’t see anyone else for an hour and a half. There were some epic descents at the end as well. Flying downhill is such a joy after climbing. My legs are sore tonight.
I’ve got the entire first floor of this hostel to myself tonight. Usually you would have to pay a lot of money for all the space and facilities I’ve got here now. Went to get pizza for dinner again. I had lunch under a big pine tree on the roadside when sheltering for a short rain shower.
Watching Champions League football (soccer), eating soup and drinking coffee right now. I cleaned and serviced the bike properly tonight. It really needed some cleaning after those muddy roads and rain.
My chain fell off this afternoon, but that was so easily fixed. First time I’ve had to fix anything!
Day 31 (May 1): Ramvik – Överhörnas, Sweden
18.35h. I’m one month on the road! Can’t believe it’s been that long. Had a really great day to celebrate that! The views were truly phenomenal at times, the weather was as perfect as it can get and the scenery was amazing. Today made the previous tougher days so incredibly worth it. Seriously. At one point I came flying downhill out of the woods and saw the most beautiful valley opening up in front of me, a little lake in the middle and rolling fields dotted with those pretty red wooden houses. I could see for miles and it was spectacular.
After practically every turn there was another great view.
I decided to have a break next to a nice little frozen lake this afternoon and I just sat there for about twenty minutes, just enjoying the moment. Right there I had one of those moments of genuine happiness, of realizing how lucky and happy I actually am. I got goose bumps and my eyes even welled up for a second. Anyone who has experienced that feeling definitely knows what I’m talking about. Could actually have been one of the happiest moments of my life so far.
It was a joy to be on a bicycle today. The climbing was challenging at times, but the long and winding descents were glorious.
I was the only guest last night and it looks like that’s the case again tonight. I’m cooking rice right now. I forgot today was a public holiday and all stores are closed. I bought bread and cookies at a gas station this morning. Got some canned sardines too, but they were so disgusting it should be illegal to sell them. Threw them away immediately. Ate two packs of cookies this afternoon…
My knees and legs hurt, probably from all the climbing. I’m definitely in need of a rest. Two more days until my day off in Umeå! I’ve got some pretty bad saddle sores as well.
21.55h. I found fries and frozen vegetables in the freezer. There’s no one else here, so that makes for an awesome second dinner! Just relaxing on the couch now, eating, drinking tea, watching TV and doing some writing.
Day 32 (May 2): Överhörnas – Nordmaling, Sweden
18.43h. Another good day with lots of climbing and a few rain showers. I always found shelter just in time though!
The roads were terribly bad sometimes, unpaved with lots of rocks and stones. And one particular hill was so steep I even had to push my bike up. That wasn’t easy either, it’s quite a heavy one!
It was cold this afternoon. Took a nice, long and hot shower after I finished pitching my tent. Just ordered a traditional Swedish meal. Couldn’t read the menu, so just asked for something typically Swedish.
There’s more and more snow in the woods every day. The trees are getting smaller too as I’m making my way north. Lots of birches. Soon there won’t be any trees at all anymore.
Had some spectacular views again. That’s the bright sight of climbing: there’s almost always a rewarding view.
Saw two deer and an eagle.
Day 33 (May 3): Nordmaling – Umeå, Sweden
17.32h. Very fast day due to a fantastic tailwind. I didn’t pay for my spot on the camp ground last night. The reception was closed when I arrived yesterday afternoon and still closed when I left this morning. I’m not going to call them or wait around to give them my money. Too bad for them I guess.
It was a day like the previous ones. Nothing special to say about it really. Same old trees, villages, valleys and fields.
I’m staying at a really nice hostel here in Umeå. Free breakfast, free Internet, free coffee and free laundry facilities. It’s big too, lots of places to hang out.
Finally doing laundry now. Last time I washed my clothes properly was in Stockholm nine days ago.
I will be staying here two nights. My legs really need a day off. Going out for dinner and some beers later tonight, a little treat to myself for making it this far! Over 2,500km now!
Day 34 (May 4): Umeå, Sweden
21.35h. So I went out last night and I slept until noon. Pretty expensive night, but it actually was the first time I went out. Got to blow off some steam sometimes, right!
Lazy afternoon, I didn’t do anything except walk into town and buy groceries. The Internet connection at the hostel kept failing, so I went to the train station where they had free wi-fi. That pretty much sums up my entire day. And of course I ate a lot. I’m always hungry.
Umeå will be the European Capital of Culture in 2014, but I’m here to relax and get some needed rest.
Also the first day I didn’t take any pictures.
Day 35 (May 5): Umeå – Åkullsjön, Sweden
21.36h. Super-awesome day! Perfect weather (again) and no real climbs. It was going to be a short day and I had some fun with my camera on the way.
That lasted until the moment I wanted to take a picture of my bike on the road. I was always tricky to balance my heavy bicycle on that little kickstand and this time it just broke. So my bike fell on the ground. Luckily no damage, that would have been the stupidest thing…
I love my bike! I’m really pleased with it.
Staying with a Swedish family tonight and just had dinner with them. The most welcoming people I’ve ever met. It was incredible and a fantastic experience for me. I had birch sap to drink with dinner! Amazing place to stay as well. They’ve got a hostel a short distance from their house and, once again, I’m the only guest. It’s huge!
I have noticed an interesting habit the Swedes have: they drink milk with their dinner.
Day 36 (May 6): Åkullsjön – Skellefteå, Sweden
18.57h. Possibly the best day so far, in terms of cycling. 18°C, the warmest it has been this year for me, and a great tailwind. An almost impossible 22.9km/h average today! The weather has been really nice the previous days. Hopefully it stays that way.
Such friendly people where I was staying, the lady even baked a cake for me last night. She showed it to me at breakfast this morning. It had a sugary bicycle on top! It was delicious. Again, what an amazing experience.
While the scenery and nature still is gorgeous, it’s always the same now. I’ve been seeing trees and fields for four weeks now and I’m kind of looking forward to a change of environment. And that will be Finland.
This afternoon I spent about half an hour laying on the forest floor and staring at the trees and the sky. The moss is so soft, it’s way softer than the mat I’m sleeping on in my tent. I almost fell asleep…
I could have cycled on further today – the conditions were absolutely perfect – but I found a really nice place to camp tonight.