Sunday, 8 June 2014
Coast to Coast Sweden: Smålandstenar to Varberg
I first became aware of Jörgen and his lightweight hiking website in 2009 and met him in 2010 on the Scandinavian bloggers meet up in Vålådalen. Jörgen is an experienced and well travelled UL hiker having hiked in the Swedish Mountains, as well as Montana with Ryan Jordan and in Alaska and Canada and will soon set of on a 4 week walk in the Brooks Range in Alaska. As a consequence Jörgen is one of those persons who I am happy to go out of my way to meet up with. Jörgen is also one of the co founders of the Coast to Coast in Sweden, a 400 km walk from Kalmar to Varberg (Castle to Castle). I have been a willing participant (albeit section hiker) of the walk for the past 2 years, partly due to my desire to spend time with fellow lightweight, long distance hikers. The Coast to Coast is an annual event which coincides somewhat with the TGO Challenge in May and ultimately may provide an alternative hike for those who cannot participate in the TGO walk across Scotland. The benefits of such a trip include the variety of terrain, the historical perspective on the areas that are passed through, walking with a group of like minded hikers of different nationalities, as well it is just plain fun.
Now for the trip, having walked from Växjö to Burseryd last year I intended to meet up with the group at or near Burseryd and then walk with them to Varberg. Växjö, itself, has an interesting history which is worth reading and can be found at Växjö history.
I started the walk from Smålandstenar which has a railway station providing links to Copenhagen via Malmo as well as to the east and north. Arriving at Smålandstenar, I firstly stopped at the bakery for an ice cream, the cakes were appealing but maybe next time. Passing the steakhouse restaurant and the picture theatre I was soon out of town and into the forest. I swung north past a farm and entered a small stand of forest, where I was able to take a break and begin the winding down process after travelling. Before long I was passing Ingemars US cars with some very nice looking convertibles out front. From here I descended to Borlången where I would meet up with the group for the night of festivities and Sauna. Gradually the hikers arrived till there were tents dotted all over the lawn.
As the evening progressed, some hikers swam, some sat in the Sauna and then swam, some lazed around and ultimately everyone went to bed. I like several others were awake early and set about the task of breakfast and packing, with several groups leaving around 7:30 am. I set off heading on a route that I expected to take me through Burseryd and then onto the Gislavedsleden on to the beautiful church at Sandvik, before ultimately depositing me at Fegen. The Gislavedsleden also forms part of the E6 a trail that is of interest to me.
Well sometimes plans don’t work out the way they are intended, and today was to be an example of that. I had loaded the gpx trail that I intended to follow. However, I soon realised that I was actually on the old trail from last year. Yep, I had forgotten to activate the new trail. Oh well it just meant a bit of extra walking as well as seeing some sights I would not have otherwise seen, the first being the following sign, loosely translated it says “drive safely, wild children, tame animals” which bought a smile to my face.
Further along the trail I came across what I believed to be a Crane feeding, it quickly flew away, but as I passed I noted the feed tray with a small camera located nearby. I quickly moved on soon reaching Skivebo Kvarn a place I visited last year on my walk. By now it was getting warm and I was following the asphalt through Burseryd, past the wonderful church before returning to the forest along the trail. Crossing a beautiful stream I stopped for a break.
After sitting for a while I planned out a route which would take me to the Gislavedsleden near Hökabo, there was of course the usual misadventures. The log bridge that collapsed dumping me into a muddy creek, the bushwhacking through the forest before finally reaching the trail. However, the route had its advantages including the waters of Lången glistening in the sun.
Once on the trail, which at this point was a gravel road, I headed south, with the sun in my face and the heat reflected off the road. I was glad when the trail quickly returned to the forest towards the lake. Soon I was chatting with a German hiker, who was section hiking the E6, having commenced a number of years ago near is home in Hamburg. We chatted for a while, with me commenting on his use of plastic wine bottles as water bottles, his observation was that he had to empty the bottle before using them for water.
Sadly the foot trail returned to the gravel road which I followed before finding a side trail enabling me to sit by the lake and have lunch. Whilst sitting and eating lunch, the sound of movement in the water attracted my attention and I was soon watching what I believe to be a female Red-breasted Merganser and her 7 youngsters feeding and swimming in the water nearby. I think she spotted me, as she was soon gathering her youngsters and shepherding them further away. I felt privileged to have witnessed such a spectacle.
Back on the trail, the next surprise that waited me was Sandvik, the spectacle of walking around a bend in the road and then being confronted by the church spire with boats in the foreground ensured that I made for the lawns, were I met up with several of the group including Jörgen.
After relaxing, obtaining water I set of with the 2 other Danes, Paul and Peter, we would walk together most of the way to Fegen along what could be best described as a dry, warm gravel road. It was a pleasure to arrive in Fegen and the ice cream shop was doing a roaring trade in ice cream and drinks. Many of the group were staying in the Fegens Vandrarhem, whilst a few of us camped nearby.
There was a beautiful view from my tent across the lake and I happily spent the evening relaxing, watching young children fishing,
and later the last rays of sunshine on the opposite shore.
The following morning was another early start, with the highlight of the day, for some, being a visit to the shopping capital of Sweden (aka Ullared) however for me I was happy to just wander firstly along the old railway line to Ätran the location of my starting point for the Hallandsleden walk south to Knäred. Pär, who had camped next me the night before, and I decided to continue along the rail trail even though the map suggested we head to the main road, for a while we thought we were doing well, but then the rail trail became the swamp trail, so we were soon scrub bashing to the road. From then on we followed the main road into Ätran, before turning west along the old railway line firstly crossing the old railway bridge across the Ätran.
After crossing the bridge we followed the old railway line for all the way to Ullared, I was impressed by the cuttings and the ferns growing out of the rock faces, as well as the “faces" in the rocks.
However, it was during this time that I realised that my GPS had died for the second time, it seems I had packed some old batteries, not smart. So for the remainder of the walk to Ullared I was following a trail which I hoped was correct.
It was lunchtime by the time I arrived in Ullared and after a quick dash to Gekås (a huge department store) with many checkouts and equally many in the queues to get some batteries for my GPS, I then sat down at the nearby Rasta for a Prawn sandwich. It was a change from the lunch of the previous day, both in the meal and the number of people enjoying this busy shopping precinct. It was quite warm as I headed off towards our camp for the night at the popular tourist destination of Akulla, with its lake, restaurant and forested surrounds. For some reason, perhaps tiredness, I did not take the camera out and soon the midges were out, so a quick retreat to the tent which was where I stayed.
In the morning the midges remained so after packing up, I along with most other retreated in doors for breakfast. We soon set off and soon the midges were just a memory, and with about 20 km of the walk remaining you could sense the desire of many to finish.
The trail itself, part of the E1, took us past the world heritage area of Grimeton Long Wave Radio station built after the first world war and still in operational condition almost 100 years later. It was not long before we were on the outskirts of Varberg having left the old railway line. Quickly the group assembled and headed into town with Pär and I bringing up the rear.
Ultimately we reached the end of what for me had been an enjoyable walk through the western half of Småland to the coast. For the group as a whole you could sense the exhilaration, the satisfaction of reaching the end of a 400 km walk across Sweden. Each and every one of them having overcome their own challenges whilst being supported by the camaraderie within the group. I had now completed approximately three quarters of the journey and hope to be able to return to complete the first, and for me the final section. Time will tell.
For those contemplating the trip, I encourage you to "have a go” you do not have to be super fit or a UL hiker all you need is a belief that you can walk the distance in company of like minded walkers, who are always willing to advise and help you. For those, like me, who struggle with time away there are many shorter options within the C2C and with the excellent public transport system it is easy to meet up with the group, whilst hiking your own hike.