Day 196 Umea to Sundsvall, Sweden.

We returned from our evening shower last night to find a game of rounders going on right next to Oscar – at eleven pm. The champagne / Super Shooter families (we think there were three Swedish families – six adults and eleven children), having finished their supper, decided on some late night sport. The adults, rather tipsy from their champagne, and the children – most of whom were still soaking wet from their water fight antics, had set up a rounders pitch in the small empty pitch next door to ours. They appeared to be using Oscar as fourth base.

Howard chose to sit in the chair outside the van, to observe no damage was done, and to mark his territory. I had to laugh when one of the Dads came running up to him, after the ball had inevitably rolled under our van, and asked (in rather good English), ‘Could we have our ball back, please?” Howard bit his tongue, and politely let the guy clamber underneath Oscar to find it. Oh! How I love communal living!

Today was another hot day. In the end, we passed on the museum, and decided to make the most of the good weather, and head further south down the coast. We made a brief stop for coffee at a town called Ornskoldsvik. When we arrived, we couldn’t believe how many cyclists and Big Whites were in town. They seemed to have made every available piece of car park or parkland into a temporary camping ground. The campsites were given alphabetical letters – Central Camp A, B, C etc. We counted up to campsite O. Over coffee, we asked what on earth was going on in this otherwise unremarkable town. Turns out it is the World-Wide Orienteering Competition. Who would have known that orienteering was such a big thing?

Our onward destination was the Skuleskogen National Park, on the Hoga Kusten (or High Coast), which since 1970 has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site. What makes this landscape unique on the Swedish coastline is the dramatic scenery, with rocky cliffs plunging straight down into the sea. What is all there more unusual is that this rugged landscape is slowly emerging from the Baltic Sea. It was once covered by ice, and then underwater when the ice melted, and over the last 10,000 years has slowly risen, the highest point being 286 metres above sea level. This effect is known as ‘post-glacial rebound’, and is continuing at a rate of 0.8cm per year, or almost one metre every hundred years. It is the fastest rising uplift of coast on earth, and in 2,500 years time will have created a land bridge between here and Finland! In geological time scales that is really pretty small, and something which we found fascinating.

The National Park itself was really beautiful. We ventured into the tranquil dense pine forest on boardwalks, and although we had spotted a couple of cars in the car park, didn’t see a soul the whole time we were walking. The sun was casting dappled light into the glades, which were carpeted with a huge variety of ferns and mosses. Apparently Pine Martens abound here, but we didn’t spot one, nor any moose, despite the warning signs everywhere along this route. We passed by a huge glass art installation, with colours of the rainbow. Apparently you were meant to observe the landscape through the glass, to see it in another perspective.

After our walk in the woods, we then headed down to the rocky coastline. As yesterday, this stretch of coast is littered with little red huts, I guess equivalent to Bothies in Scotland. In the warm weather, there were plenty of families out enjoying a dip in the sea and splashing around on the shore-line. It is certainly the most picturesque piece of Swedish coast we have found so far in our travels, a pleasant change from the rather tedious drive of yesterday.

Despite all the miles we have covered, we are still only on a similar latitude to Trondheim in Norway, which we seemed to take weeks to reach, so reluctantly, we headed southwards.

Tonight we are staying in a campsite in Sundvall. We were lucky to get almost the last remaining pitch. I’m suspecting no-one else wanted it because it’s on a slope. I fear it will be another night of rolling down the bed. On a positive note though, as well as tipping downwards, it also has a sideways lilt towards Howard’s side – so at least I will have all the space tonight. Our neighbours are very quiet, so none of the excitement of last night. We do, however, have a magnificent view of the ‘latrintoming’ – latrine disposal for the Big Whites. I have just watched a very pot-bellied sunburnt Swedish man in a vest top wheel his little toilet container inside – it really has to be seen to be described! One of Howard’s favourite phrases has just come to mind – ‘Don’t say I don’t take you to exciting places’!!

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