Operation: Soaring Eagle

Operation: Soaring Eagle – 3 Highlights of our Swedish Adventure!

Hello one and all! Me and Megan are briefly in between trips, recently back from Sweden and about to set off on our final sabbatical adventure to Iceland, where we’ll be leading trail maintenance teams in the mountains to support the Iceland Forest Service! We are currently being held at Manchester Airport as our scheduled plane to Reykjavik is undergoing maintenance, so I figured I’d use this time to give a quick rundown of our Swedish adventure and in particular 3 things that have made it such a joyous trip!

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Green spaces in cities

I’m not really a city person but I very much enjoyed my stay in both Gothenburg, where we flew in to, and Karlstad, up in Värmland. In both places we ended up staying in campsites out of the city, which allowed us to save money on accommodation, but also allowed us to stay out in beautiful places whilst having access to some homely comforts, such as showers, corner shop and a small kitchen. But even the cities themselves were flushed with beautiful natural spaces, which we didn’t have to pay a single Krona to access!

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(Photograph taken a short walk from Karlstad City Centre!)

In Gothenburg, we checked out the Rose Garden near the Central Station and then the Slottsskogen Park. The latter was so extensive, at 137 hectares, that we kept forgetting we were in a city, seeing nothing but unspoilt greenery in all directions! As well as that, the park merges with a zoo complex meaning that we got to see moose and deer in their enclosures, goats and other farm animals just wandering around, and, our personal favourite, the utterly joyful seal enclosure!

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(We could have stayed here with them all day!)

With its position on the north coast of Sweden’s massive Lake Vänern, and with many tributaries running through it, Karlstad felt more like a collection of interconnected islands than a city. Its green spaces ranged from small peninsulas, where we got our first glimpse of the River Klarälven we’ll be paddling later in our trip, to much larger ones that are less than a half hour walk from the city centre. We particularly enjoyed visiting Mariebergsskogen, in the south of the city, which felt like a massive nature reserve mixed with a theme park! We had an afternoon there, but we felt we just scratched the surface on all it had to offer!

(The city of Karlstad everyone!)

Unspoilt nature

When the cities are this lush and green, you’d expect the countryside to be a whole other level and you would not be wrong! The main reason behind planning this trip in the first place was so that we could canoe paddle the River Klarälven through Vildmark i Värmland, a wilderness outfitter based out of Gunnerud. Our paddletrip took us from Branäs, near the Norwegian border down 100km of river back to their main base in Gunnerud and it was breath taking how much wilderness there was!

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(Megan looking ahead on our river journey!)

Other than ourselves, there was next to no sign of humanity as we made our way down the river, and every now and again we had to remind ourselves to stop and just take it all in; the crystal clear water, the green horizons, the profound silence. The area we paddled was home to a great host of wildlife, but us being the big clunky humans that we are, we scared most of them away. We did see lots of stunning birds and dragonflies along the way as well as big chunky fish jumping out of the water – cue Megan wishing she’d brought her fishing equipment!

We were blessed with the occasional fleeting glance at lesser seen animals though – for instance, a great splash was heard towards the end of our trip as a startled beaver dived into the water, slapping its massive tail on the water’s surface to warn us off! We also spotted the fuzzy hind quarters of a giant mystery creature bounding into the undergrowth on day 1, and still the mystery remains unsolved!

Sweden is a brilliant place for wilderness experiences, partly because of the amount of wilderness it has, but also because of its access laws. Allemansrätten, allows members of the public the right to access land throughout the country, as long as it is not someone’s private property and they follow rules to make sure they aren’t negatively impacting the areas you’re visiting. Because of this, we were able to wild camp during our week long river trip, so long as we were away from houses and property. We made camp at some fantastic, out of the way places; places that had no names so we felt empowered to give them our own names such as Sandy Overlook (left below) and Woodpecker Woods (right below).

The only thing that marred our experience was the prevalence of mosquitos and midges. Whilst none of them carried diseases, they can be quite an annoyance and a discomfort. So do take lots of bug spray with you, have clothes to cover yourself up with. For more information, check out this short blog from Nature Travels.

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(Bugs, be warned!)

Friendly people

Now, wherever you go in the world, there are going to be people that you get on with and people you don’t, so do take this with a pinch of salt, but our experience interacting with people in the places we visited was very positive! English is a very predominant language in Sweden, so we had no trouble communicating with people, but it was also nice to see our attempts at speaking Swedish were appreciated, even though we really struggled with our ä‘s, our ö’s and our å’s. We even got to learn some other quirky Swedish phrases, that I won’t even attempt to spell here, but trying them out with friendly locals proved very entertaining for all parties involved.

Possibly the place we most benefitted from good kindly Swedes was Munkebol, a small village along the River Klarälven. Having wild-camped the night before, we happened upon an inviting looking camping ground, which we ended up stopping at partly to refill on drinking water, but mostly out of curiosity for the place. After mooring up, we found a sign saying that this space was maintained by the village of Munkebol for people to rest in their travels without any cost to them! It was equipped with indoor resting spaces, fire pits (which we used to keep the bugs at bay!) and overflow water from the village well. It proved a very welcome stop and we were just so touched by the kindness of the community. We got to thank one of the villagers and his dog who came over for a walk in the morning. We also left a tip to help with the upkeep as well as recording our thanks in the guestbook and set off feeling well rested and our faith in humanity at an all time high!

That’s all for now! I shall try and provide updates and articles while I’m in Iceland, but soon we’ll be pretty busy working on the trails so it’s hard to say when I’ll next have the time and energy. For mini updates, you can check out my Instagram (@tallhobbitadventures) for little snapshots of our travels.

Until next time friends!

 

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