Every epic cycle trip requires at least one epic day of cycling and yesterday was, probably, that day. 169 km. Not quite the 270 km that I cycled from Tarragona to Valencia back in the summer of 2013 but that would be hard to beat. In Spain the terrain was dead flat, there was no wind to speak of and I was cycling along predominantly long, straight roads. Yesterday in Sweden was somewhat different; I was following the twists and turns of the Kattegattleden for most of the day, the wind was chronic and from the north west and although not particularly challenging on a vertical level, there were regular ups that kept the speed down. So 169 km in those conditions is not bad! It is difficult to see how I could possibly repeat such a feat between Gothenburg and Nordkapp as the mountains begin to kick in but you never know. An epic ride from Ugglarp (another character that never made it into the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy I feel) to Gothenburg seemed appropriate for the longest day of the year but, as long as I keep moving north, my days will only continue to lengthen until the point – not sure where that will be – where the sun never sets. It will be interesting to see how that affects the length of my riding day.
But back to cycling day 63 and Ugglarp. An early start – I was out of the campsite by just after 8am – and immediately cycling along the Kattegattleden as it passed in front of the gates (well, the opening; security seems less of an issue the further north I travel when it comes to campsites). Although still very much a summer playground for the Swedes, the coastline to the north of Ugglarp was increasingly rural with some very nice houses that you’d happily live in all year round never mind just the summer.
My stomach was on my mind for much of the time however and I was desperate for food when I arrived in my first destination, Falkenberg. It was Sunday of course so the town wasn’t open for buisness in any meaningful way but I did find a small newsagent in what appeared to be the main square to buy some pastries and a coffee. The Rough Guide had bigged the place up somewhat (the town rather than the newsagent’s) but I was left equally non-plused. It was OK, but the medieval old town remained elusive despite a bit of cycling around in vain to find it. North of Falkenberg was quite industrial; the port area had the odour of freshly cut wood which was actually not unpleasant. It was no doubt awaiting despatch to braches of IKEA worldwide (via a factory in China).
My initial intention was to do as I had done on the previous day; cycle 75 km and then find a campsite, but I had soon knocked off 50 km. Was Gothenburg a possibility? Physically I knew it was; more of an issue was the weather which had started rather grim and although had brightened up significantly by the time I paused for a snack in a very pretty seaside village called Träslövsläge (bloody umlauts!), I was fully aware that it could once again turn for the worse.
I bumped into a German cyclist several times in the early afternoon. I had seen him from a distance the day before but we hadn’t spoken. He was travelling with a trailer, appeared to be collecting empty cans and bottles along the way (to redeem for money?), was wild camping and, err… had a bullet on a piece of string around his neck. (Is that normal? Am I so out of touch with fashion?) Apart from that he did come across as perfectly normal although, just like that English cyclist on the recumbent back in Spain, he asked no questions. I knew where he was from and where he was going. I even discovered that he had seen an elk on the beach. He found out nothing of me… I am being excessively nosey with these people? I am genuinely interested in their stories but a bit of reciprocation wouldn’t go amiss. Moving on…
The wind continued to blow of course. This tree made me sigh as it confirmed what I knew already…
…that the wind blew predominantly from the north. The forces of nature had given it a permanent southward lean. Perhaps when I return from NordKapp I too will have a southward lean. That would give me some perculuar looks at future job interviews (“Don’t worry, I’ve just been cycling up the west coast of Scandinavia; I can still write on the board no problem, just with a bit more of a slant than most teachers…”).
I can’t praise the Kattegattleden enough, even when it does this:
It is a remarkably well signposted route. On the two or three occasions since I started following the route in Båstad when I thought they had let me down, they hadn’t. I simply hadn’t noticed them. It’s why, when you realise that you have been sent on a little detour like the one above that you don’t mind in the least. Great route, great landscape, great signs! Cycle route planners from across the continent need to come and cycle the route as an exemplar of what they should be doing in their own countries. Wonderful!
I was in two minds shortly before arriving in Kungsbacka as to whether Gothenburg was a realistic option for what remained of the day. It was approaching 6pm and the sky was dark with rain clouds. Were they moving towards me or away? Not sure… I’m learning to not trust the ground wind direction as a reliable indicator of clouds at a much higher altitude. If I had passed a nice little campsite near Kungsbacka I would have probably called an end to the cycling day but the ones I did pass were enormous and packed with white tin cans. Not very enticing. In the centre of Kungsbacka one of the Kattegattleden signs (for the first time) announced that Gothenburg was 61 km away. Mmm… I wasn’t up for that. But it seemed reasonable to assume that the distance being quoted was a round-the-holiday-homes distance. Google? 1,400 km via Harwich?!! Try again… Same response. Reverse direction (Gothenburg to Kungsbacka)… Bingo! (Not sure what was going on there.) 28 km of cycling to Gothenburg. No problem!
Food continued to be an issue all day; the early afternoon had seen me consume my emergency can of ravioli at a point where I had given up hope of finding any shops open. Within 2 minutes of finding a bin for the empty can I cycled past… a large, open supermarket. I went in and bought two ciabatta rolls, chocolate and Digestives (McVities on offer for just 13 SK – £1.04 – that’s probably cheaper than Asda!) for future emergencies. The first emergency was immediate – the ciabatta rolls were demolished before I was out of the supermarket car park – and the chocolate emergency came later in the afternoon. That final 28 km section to Gothenburg was fuelled by McVities Digestives however. Better than four star petrol (and actually, with a nicer taste…).
I arrived in Gothenburg at around 8.30 and proceeded to find accommodation. First impressions were very positive. Modern, clean, good cycling infrastructure. I went for the IBIS boat option. It’s not the first time I’ve stayed on a ‘botel’ but I’m never convinced they have every been proper boats. Perhaps barges which have been built upon to look like boats but if the funnels on top of the IBIS botel in Gothenburg have even had any smoke funnelled through them then I’m Captain Pugwash!