Thursday, 14 February 2013

Sliding along the road.

Hærvejen: Vejen to Padborg
  Hærvejen and Pilgrims route
For quite a while now I have been aware of 2 long distance routes in Denmark, they are the Drivvejen which is a network of trails and roads used by travellers and drovers for hundreds of year and the Hærvejen, which is also known as the military road, but it is more than that, as in many ways it follows the watershed of Jylland, where the waters flow east and west towards the sea. As the Hærvejen is part of the European Walking route E1, I felt it was time that I took a wander along the Hærvejen at a time of the year when there will be few other wanderers and the ice and snow would provided an alternative landscape from the one often pictured in guide books. I alighted from the train in Vejen early on a Saturday morning, it was evident on the station that there had been many nightclubbers out during the night, there was no encouragement to linger. Soon I was out of the town centre passing the excellent sport centre and through the forest to Askov.


From Askov the pattern for the trip was soon established, following roads through snow and ice covered landscapes whilst ensuring that I maintained a respectable distance from the cars as they sped past, with drivers no doubt wondering why was there a backpacker out in the non walking season. They probably thought that I must be a foreigner as no Dane would be out at this time of the year. I passed by the Skibelund hotel before descending to the Konge River, where I crossed the Frihedsbroen (Freedom bridge) named because of the German occupation of lands to the south from 1864 to 1920. Interestingly the bridge side rails were painted in the national colours of red and white, nearby there was an ideal spot to shelter out of the cold and have lunch.
 Pilgrim Hostel Skodburg

The trail now took me along a minor road through farmland before passing the first of the Pilgrim Hostels I would see. The Hærvejen coincides with a Pilgrims Route from Vejen to Padborg and beyond to Rendsburg in Germany. The hostel appeared to be closed as I passed. I continued along the minor trail before following the river towards Lundsgård, with its water wheel, known as Knagemølle.
 Knagemølle

After passing the water wheel I headed south along a bitumen road towards but never reaching Skodburg, on the outskirts of Skodburg I followed the stream and entered a quiet forested area where I sat and relaxed before heading out into the snow and ice covered landscape , ultimately passing the water works and entering the forest.
 Skudstrup forest

in which I would spend the remainder of the day. I stopped at a small rotunda in the middle of the forest then passed through the Præstskov (Priests forest) ultimately arriving at a Pilgrim shelter, resplendent in information in Danish and German, with a small sign in English.
 Pilgrims Rest Skodberg Skov

I could see the benefits of such shelters in adverse weather or as a predetermined meeting place. Soon afterwards I located a place to camp for the night. For the first time in many trips I went to bed to the sounds of silence, there was not a sound to be heard, no owls, man made noise, wind or … resulting in some condensation in the morning. An owl did make its presence known a little before sunrise but by then I was up and eating breakfast. As I entered Jels I passed by the semi frozen Søndersø.
 Søndersø, Jels

then passing the Jels wind mill which commenced operation in 1859 and operated till 1951 and is now restored for visitors.
 Jels Mølle
After Jels it was more roads where the snow had been packed down to ice by vehicles ensuring that every step taken was a considered one and often the best place to be was not on the road at all. However, I soon entered Stursbøl forest, and was immediately rewarded with soft snow, trees, and a haven away from the roads. It was an enjoyable experience which encouraged me to look around and take in the varying types of trees and under growth. Exiting the forest I was soon passing the second Pilgrim Hostel which is part of Café Ellegård take a moment to click on the link the singing is worth a listen. I popped in here to have my water bottle filled. As I departed I was taken by the ceramic depiction of the time changes.
 Tide Changes, Stursbøl
Created by Ursula Munch-Petersen If you wish to read more on the work scroll down the page to the words "Folder om Hærvejens Tidstavle" and a pdf file will be downloaded, note that it is in Danish. Later I was to realise that the lady that filled my water bottle was the voice behind the songs featured on their webpage.

Entering Oksenvad Hede (forest) and with a little bit of sunshine my energy levels were quickly restored as the trail wound its way thorough the forest. Much to my surprise I suddenly descended to the Nørre river and with the sun shining and a seat beckoning, I sat down for lunch admittedly the wind was a little cool. The trail then followed the banks of the river and I could picture being there on a warm summers day and being reluctant to move from the grassy banks, but being ice covered it was less inviting now. All good things must come to an end and after a delightful stroll through the forest including along the trail named Strandvej (Beach Rd) I returned to the road.

Whilst the foot trail tends to keep to minor roads they are mostly either bitumen or frozen earth so it always easy walking but potentially very slippery on the hard surface. By now I was beginning to think that Roclite 288's were not quite the right footwear for so much road walking, my feet agreed.

I passed through the small township of Jegerup and like most other towns, there was no local shops, and several houses looked empty and in general the township was very quiet for a pleasant Sunday afternoon. It was here that I passed under the main railway line heading north south and continued onto Vojens passing yet another large sports centre where the Olympic Ice Hockey qualifiers were being held. I felt a little out of place in the crowds outside, but it did make me recall a time when an Alaskan said to me that Aussie rules football is a violent sport, my comment was "Ice Hockey isn't?" we agreed to disagree at that point.

Leaving Vojens I headed south on forestry trails, being passed by a mother and son out jogging on the snow and ice. Following the Tønning River as it wends its way towards the similarly named mill and industrial complex for the late 1800's but that would be for tomorrow it was getting late so a campsite was needed.
 Camp in the forest
After a quick dinner, it was into bed and to listen to the next installment of the Outdoors Station The Future of Ultralight Gear .  Soon after I went to sleep to the sound of trucks and cars as they hurtled up and down the major freeway connecting Denmark and Germany.  I did determine that at 1 am there was less traffic, but I also wondered how anyone could live in the area, given the amount of road noise. The sounds of traffic along the freeway was to stay with me for the remainder of the trip. It was a cool start in the morning as I put on frozen socks and boots I set off, firstly descending to the Tønning River.
 Tønning Å
I admired the ducks who quickly noticed me on the bridge and headed in my direction.
 Ducks on Tønning Å
I then entered the former industrial precinct of Tørning Mølle, which houses two turbines generating electricity from the flow of water from the two dams.
 Tørning Mølle
I climbed away from the complex and then headed across Tørning Mark, admiring the early morning sun.
 Early morning on Tønning Mark
By the time I reached Vedsted I was out of water and popped into a saddlery and grain store, having being involved with horses for a number of years prior to my relocation I was impressed by the range and quality of the gear in the store, a quick chat and water bottle replenished I continued along the roads and by ways, attempting to avoid the hard packed ice and admiring the variety of landscapes. As I wandered I traveled through snow covered cropping land,  swamps, passing grave mounds, ultimately arriving at Immervand bridge which built in 1786 and is constructed of horizontal stone beams, the stone beams are more than 4 m long, it is suggested that the beams are all from one large granite rock. Imagine the bullock and horse power that went into shifting these slabs.
 Immervand Bro
I stopped here out of the wind and in the sunshine and noticed the ice flow glistening in the sun under the bridge.
 Ice flow Immervand Bro
The skies were darkening as I headed off and with an increasing wind I was glad to be wearing my Paramo Vista, along with a synthetic vest and two more layers to keep the wind out. With occasional snow showers it was pretty bleak as I passed by the Hærulf Stone, a runic stone dating to 900 AD, with the inscription Hairulf, no one knows who Hærulf was. The stone had spent nearly 90 years in Germany where it was one of the spoils of the war in 1864, finally returning in 1951.
 Hærulfstenen
The runic inscriptions are barely evident on the left hand side and in time they will undoubtedly be gone. Continuing south, the weather became bleaker and with the increasing wind across the open plains it was cold. Ultimately I entered Rødekro a township on the railway line with a couple of supermarkets, hotels and other shops. I entered one of the supermarkets to collect some essentials (biscuits and chocolate) and immediately felt over dressed, I did not stay long and then continued through the town to a small campsite behind the Rise Church.
 Camp above Rise Kirke
The campsite was like a breath of fresh air and being sheltered from the wind, I immediately gained some energy that had been lost on the roads. Looking around the campsite I realised that there was a solar heated shower (sadly not working at this time of the year) as well as a tap, tables and chairs and a toilet for folk shorter than 180 cm.
 Solar Hot water
As I setup the tent I noticed the sun was setting and whilst not in the most ideal photographic location I spent a while taking a lot of photos.
 Sunset, Rise campsite
and experimenting with the 40 - 150 mm lens.
 Sunset, Rise campsite
In the morning I awoke to some snow on the ground and what felt like cooler temperatures it was then I decided that this would be my last day on the trail, necessitating an early start and a long walk. Admiring the church in the pre dawn light I rejoined the road and headed south, fortunately as in all the other days the wind was at my back.

Early morning Rise Kirke
The dirt roads were well used by vehicles so the ice and snow was well compacted presenting some excellent skating opportunities and with the cold wind, one could say that it was not very pleasant.

However, there are always bright spots, the scenery was varied, just when I needed a rest there was a Pilgrim Shelter, then as the snow fell and the wind blew I arrived at Urnehoved Ting, whilst there was no man made shelter the birch trees provided shelter. Urnehoved Ting, was a landsting, and can perhaps be described as the seat of the "Kingdom of Southern Jutland". It was a meeting place for free men (and women?) who were allowed to bear arms and make judgements and pass laws. But for me it was respite from the wind driven snow. The long and winding road continued southwards, passing a snow covered golf course, and a very pleasant looking Povl's Hotel before arriving at the Povls Bridge which was built in 1844.

Pavl's Bro
Again it was lunchtime so a sheltered spot was found, the mat extracted and lunch eaten before relaxing, I found that siestas don't come easily when it is snowing. The following section consisted of roads as well as crossing farm paddocks before entering Bommerlund Plantation, which included crossing yet another stone bridge, the Geljå Bridge.

Gejlå Bro
I sat and watched the water flow through the dark cavens underneath the bridge, which was relaxing to say the least. Now there was only a few kilometres to go, and the trail passed through the forest with its mixture of Birch and Pine, finally exiting on a main road with the panorama of Padborg and the freeway in front of me, it certainly took me aback as I realised that I was back into civilisation, something I am not quite sure I was ready for. Walking on the cycle path along a busy road I crossed the freeway with vehicles speeding north and south towards to their respective destinations, maybe one driver saw me and wondered, but probably not. The final part of the trail takes you through the quaint village of Bov before descending to the end of the trail at the Gendarmstein. A place I had passed by in late 2010.  I stopped to take a couple of photos.

End of the Hærvejen
and contemplate the differences to the surrounds on my last visit.

 Cobblestone pathway 2013:

Cobble stone road across the border
Find the Cobblestones 2010


Border pathway 2010
I wandered along the cobblestone pathway and found the answer to a question that has puzzled me since a trip in 2010 and for those readers who in 2010 were equally intrigued. In an earlier post I was perplexed about the following object, the puzzle is now solved, it was a Jordtelefon (land phone) which enabled cross border communication, even when whispered.

Jordtelefonen

Having solved the problem I followed the Gendarmstien into Padborg and awaited the train home, there was the inevitable car pull up and ask me for directions to a supermarket (I always wonder why you would ask a guy with a backpack on, and  all protected against the cold, with a buff covering half the face, for directions), somehow they assume you are a local. The answer was a local came past and he knew the answer

In summary the almost 120 km trip provided a range of experiences, interesting historical aspects, enjoyable campsites, scenic rivers and forests as well as hard and icy roads, it was an enjoyable challenge and it helped me gain a better understanding of my adopted country.

Gear Reflections.
Multimat and Nemo Zor (short), with a combined R value of approximately 3.5,  this was just enough for this trip for me, others may want a little more padding, but I was pleased with the result and never "bottomed out" on the combination of mats.

Jetboil Sol Ti, yes I am back to using it, having replaced the burner. In temperatures that were never much above or below zero, the performance of the stove continues to impress with a usage of 12 gms per litre of water boiled. The heat exchanger still looks okay with only a little oxidation, but I always monitor it and would never use it in the tent.

HMG Porter, continues to impress.

Feel free to ask gear questions.