Saturday, 22 October 2011

Blokhus to Hantsholm, along the Nordsøstien

In what is becoming an annual event I set off for the West Coast of Denmark, the planned route started in Blokhus a popular tourist area in northern Jutland and concluded in Hantsholm a large fishing and ferry port further south.

The weather outlook for the trip was for cold clear days at the beginning turning to rain and strong winds by the end of the trip, in this case the forecasters got it right.

After a long train and then bus trip Niels (from Backpackinglight Dk) and I arrived at Blokhus, after a quick visit to Aldi for a Jolly Cola  we headed off along the trail firstly passing many summer houses before entering a landscape of farmland and forest. Along the way we passed a golf course where the continual "ping" of golf balls could be heard along with the sight of golfers searching in the rough for a ball. The trail wanders along small roads passing through farmland for much of the time and with the sun out and a slight breeze it remained cool. We passed by the Briket factory where turf was turned into brikets for heating, it was in the mid sixties with the increasing availability of oil and gas that these factories were no longer able to survive.

After passing the factory we soon entered Koldmose, a forested area, with plenty of water, fortunately the trail was elevated and as we wandered through the swamp the dampness and cold was evident, soon afterwards we found ourselves in Sandmosen, which was more like a sandy forest with trails of soft sand and rolling sand dunes. The trail took us to what appeared to be the highest point in the area, a quick look at the GPS indicated that the height of this point was 18 metres above sea level.

The sun was sinking in the western sky and the shadows lengthening so we took our photos enjoyed the views in the cool afternoon sun and moved on.

After leaving the highest point we entered Tranum Klitplantage (forest) and located a campsite for the night. However, in doing so we were surprised by both the number of deer in the forest and the size of the deer, especially one stag, possibly a Kronhjort which was the biggest I have seen in Denmark.

After dinner we soon retired to our tents and listened to the calls of the deer as they wandered around the forest some of whom passed nearby our tents.

We were up early the next morning and quickly packed before heading towards Overklitten Sø, the forest was quiet but the nearby roads were busy with the commuters heading to their places of employment.  Overklitten Sø was calm and in the misty morning light there were wonderful views of heath and the water.

As we sat on the top of the viewing platform we could hear the ducks, and other birds, calling out and whilst it was cold it was easy to just hang around and enjoy the amenity of the area.

So it was time to move on and with a little drizzle falling we donned our wet weather gear and set off along the trail running parallel to the main road. Ultimately we turned towards Bratbjergsøene and after a slight navigational error resulting in a circumnavigation of the Sø we headed towards Tranum.  We made a brief stop in the local supermarket in Tranum and then headed into Langdal Plantage with its early autumnal colours. 

Langdal plantage was the site for lunch, and it was here that Niels discovered the largest tick he had ever seen, which was fortunately attached to the outside of his trousers. I knew then it was only a matter of time before I too would have an encounter with one or more of the little b's. It was a pleasant wander through the forest and we finally reached the beautiful Lerup Kirke sitting above Fosdalen, we stopped for a few minutes before descending through this magical valley complete with its old (and now dry) Frue Kilde coupled with this wonderful tree complete with a circular hole in the trunk. 

Leaving the forest we descended once again to the heath land which led us to Slettestrand, a small village complete with holiday centre we followed the trail past the closed kiosk to the beach. A new boat landing facility was established here in 2000, when the fishing boats are to be beached (or launched) they are connected to cables and winched up onto the beach, or out to sea. 

I believe there is only a few of these landings to be found along the west coast.

This was a small fishing village with only a handful of boats on the beach.

Leaving Slettestrand we headed towards Svinkløv strand with its majestic Badehotel with its commanding views of the sea, and it certainly was a tempting overnight stay, but we had other plans. We climbed away from the hotel into Svinkløv forest, here the trail skirts the edge of the heath below and with relatively clear skies, the views of beaches stretching to the horizon made for an enjoyable sight.

Equally however, we noted, (in the centre of the photo below) deer grazing in the heath.

Ultimately we reached Stenbjerg which provided spectacular views along the coast to the west to Bulbjerg, it was near here we decided to camp.

Overnight the wind had picked and it had rained so by morning we had wet tents. From our campsite we could hear the sound of waves crashing onto the shoreline, however, the wind had died down as we descended towards Thorup Strand.  Instead of following the Nordsøstien inland to Kollerup and passing through Klim Klitplantage we decided to follow a trail through the heath adjacent to the beach, which had two advantages we would save some distance as well we would have less road walking.

Thorup Strand is a much larger fishing village with many more boats pulled up on the sand, when we asked one of the locals was there any boats out fishing he replied, no because it is going to get windier tonight, well at least we were prepared.

The old life boat route, Redningsvej (marked with a lifeboat symbol) which I had followed further south on a previous trip took us to the top of Bulbjerg. By now the wind was blowing hard it was difficult to stand and take a photo, a storm was fast approaching from the south so we dashed to the world war two bunker which includes a museum to escape the hail and wind and eat lunch. The bunker was a fire control post for a 38 cm gun located at Lild Strand.

However, all the local mosquitos had the same idea, so we found a drafty spot and ate a quick meal and with the weather improving we headed towards Lild Strand, seen in the distance below.

As we continued along Redningsvej towards Lild Strand we could look back to see Bulbjerg bathed in sunshine, but we also knew that looks can be deceiving as even at our level the wind was increasing strength and the air temperature was cool.

We continued through the heath along the trail, and at one point I noted that there was a lot of grass ahead (10 km actually), the skies were darkening and the wind increasing and with the wind in our face it made for less than pleasant conditions, though we did watch a Tårnfalk (or Common Kestrel) continually flying ahead for 100m or so as we approached it, until finally it decided to head away from the trail and thereby avoiding us.   Ultimately we reached Hjardemal Plantage only to find that the camp site that we had intended to use was less than ideal and with more than hours daylight left we pushed on, into the wind, ultimately finding a better campsite in Esdal plantage we erected are Shangri La 1´s to the sound of thunder from an approaching storm, after a short hail storm the sky cleared for what would be a cold, windy and occasionally wet night.

We awoke in the morning to the sound of the wind howling through the trees we were soon packed and headed off into the gloom and the wind, firstly along the trail and then onto the beach. We now were heading directly into the wind and with the waves breaking close to the shore we spent what seemed like an eternity walking along the beach, after a while we found a road which whilst still exposed to the wind made for easier walking than the soft sand. A short cross country section led us to Vigsø shelter where we had a quick breakfast in the somewhat blustery conditions. 

We continued along the trail on the gravel road which would take us to the next parking area where there was a couple of campervans being buffeted by the strong winds from the south west. To the north we could see some of the rain showers that had already passed, and the dark skies were an indicator of what was to come.

We continued along the well used redningsvej and while we were not on the beach the going was still hard into the head wind, after a while we turned inland and climbed the cliffs to gain a better view of the surroundings, this resulted in more buffeting from the wind and as the rain began to fall we found ourselves on some very exposed sections of trail with rain stinging our faces as we walked. 

It was also about this time that Niels noticed something in the sea about 100 m offshore after a awhile we determined it was a large kite used by windsurfers and once we had determined that there was no one attached to it we watched as the kite rolled and tumbled in the waves while it was being blown parallel to the shore. Later we saw a person jogging with surfboard under arm intending to get the kite, given the wind strength we were not sure that they would succeed. We descended from the cliffs for the final section into Hantsholm, the wind was still blowing and the rain still falling, it was a miserable walk only made better by the thought of a warm ride home at the end of the day.

As we approached the township we noted that there were many vehicles parked in the vicinity of Roshage and we could see both wind surfers and kites there were many dressed in wet suits contemplating the winds and the stormy sea whilst others were out in the water windsurfing, another kite escaped while we were there. It was cold and wet here and Niels commented he thought the surfers  were crazy, I suspect they thought we were too. 

We continued past the large fishing factories the Hantsholm Wave Star wave energy plant, which was not operating because of the wind and high seas. Before climbing up to the township proper just in time to catch a bus to Thisted, the beginning of the long warm and dry trip home.

As always this trip along the west coast had demonstrated once again the diversity of the scenery the challenges faced by early pioneers in adverse weather conditions, it is a beautiful area and one that I will happily to return to many times over.

Some gear observations.

Jetboil Sol Ti, performed faultlessly even in windy conditions, with cooler and windier weather fuel consumption was 12 gms of gas per litre of water boiled.

GoLite Shangri La 1, ideal for these conditions with its small footprint, low profile and ample space for 1 plus gear, it was in conjunction with a Tyvek groundsheet.

MLD Spirit 30 quilt, this was my first trip with the quilt and I was very impressed, I look forward to using it more in the coming months.

Haglöfs Ozo Pullover, a stand out performer on this trip, even when walking into a strong head wind with wind driven rain there was no leakage through the zip or the fabric, furthermore the excellent hood design ensured that there was no ingress of water around the open face area.

Aarn Featherlite Freedom, as comfortable as ever.

Ibex Indie Hoodie coupled with a Merino Buff (thanks Hendrik) was ideal for these conditions.

Olympus E-Pen 2 coupled with the M.Zuiko  45 mm 1:1.8 and M Zuiko 9-18mm 1:4.0-5.6 lenses, I continue to be very happy with the quality of the photos produced using this set up and with a total weight of 800 gms I believe it provides the level of compactness and quality that suits my needs at this time.