It’s no coincidence we’re heading to Sweden for the third time. Not because we got no inspiration or don’t like a change, but it’s such a wide country with so many different regions and aspects to it. Also, travelling across Sweden is truly agreeable - when you do it our way, though.
The whole of Scandinavia is on our travel list, by the way. Especially after some reconnaissance last summer, to find out if road tripping and overlanding were manageable with the kids.
After making a couple of organisational and practical adjustments – based on our experiences during our trip through Northern Spain, last Easter – we embarked on this summer’s journey with high expectations! We continued the trend of planning less and less for our vacations, just like the past few years. The general direction and one layover were set. Everything after that would be decided by faith. Last year, we still booked one shack as a back-up plan and stayed at a bunch of camping sites. Something we left out of our plans for this year’s trip. We wanted to use the Almansrätten and go wild camping as much as possible.
Some practical matters:
What we learned from our previous trips, is that a lot of time is wasted on arriving at and departing from a layover. To win back that time, we cooked up a system that allows us to not unload anything from the car. The trunk of my pickup truck opens on both sides and is equipped with a drawer system on the back. That drawer fits six boxes.
The two boxes in the back were filled with practical stuff for emergencies and tools: a first aid kit, a saw, an axe, water purification tablets, a compressor, tools to winch the car when it gets stuck, a battery starter, a tire repair kit, and more. The two boxes in the middle contained mainly photography and drone gear, and some spare clothing I would need quick access to in case of emergency weather. That way I could quickly put everything on if something happened during a storm or sudden rain. Finally, the two boxes in the front were used to store all dry foods and cooking equipment.
We placed the fridge on top of the drawer system. It was fixed, since the second battery on which it runs, is placed in the back of the trunk as well. In front of the fridge we installed another, easy to access drawer system. Next to the fridge stood a ten liter water tank, which we used to cook and drink. On the other side of the fridge we stored some stuff for the dog.
The left side of the drawer system has an in and out for a water tank of fifty liters, on the right side of the dual battery, which powers the fridge. This water tank doesn’t indicate the amount of water left, so we always refilled the ten liter tank. That way, we could keep count of how much water we had left.
Through the right door of the trunk, we gained access to four more boxes. Every member of the family got assigned one box, filled with clothing. And nothing else! This makes it very handy to pack clothes for the trip, and you don’t have to dig through luggage anymore. Everything is perfectly organized right in front of you. This bring us to one of the most important learnings from our previous trips: we always pack too many clothes.
The small space in front of the clothing boxes was used to store dirty laundry.
Open the left door of the trunk, and you would find four boxes on this side as well. One containing all toiletries and towels, and one stuffed with insulated coats and sweaters. The third box contained more supplies for the dog: 5 kilograms of dog food and stuff to bite on, a twenty meter leash in case we had to camp close by a road,… The last box was dedicated to all our camping gear: a clothesline, gas bottles, tinfoil, mosquito repellent, firelighters, toilet paper, grill irons, and more.
Moving on to the roof, we had installed two boxes there as well. One with shoes, slippers and hiking boots, the other one was filled with stuff for the car: motor oil, a pneumatic jack, straps and some more gas bottles.
In between our rooftop tent and those boxes we put our camping seats and the barbecue – which always comes in handy on cold nights and at spots where you can’t build a fire from the ground up.
In the space between the rooftop tent and the roof rails, I stuffed some foldable tubs - to do the dishes - and a couple of MaxxTraxx. These were to be used if the car got stuck in the sand, and there would be no tree to adjust the winch to. Furthermore, there was a little shovel attached to the rails – which we used to burry our number two’s. Used toilet paper would be put in a little trash bag and be brought back.
The roof rails are also equipped with two tables, a third one was installed against the ceiling of the canopy. Why two tables? Because you’ll need one to cook on, the other one to eat from. If you only have one table with you, you’d always need to clean up the table after cooking, before you can eat.
We still had a winch, a 130 liter diesel tank, some extra lights, bottom plates, a different suspension, and other stuff with us – but these things aren’t worth mentioning here.
So… This is the short description of our set up. Everybody does this in his own way. For us, this worked perfectly. This way, we could arrive somewhere and be installed in only ten minutes: open up the rooftop tent, roll out the sleeping bags, pull out the tables, and done! We could leave again in only thirty minutes. Of course it helps to keep things organized and tidy.
Being organized is a necessity if you travel the way we do. If you stay somewhere for just a single night, and you want to move on directly after, you can’t afford to lose any time on packing. You want to enjoy yourself!
Another practical, and very important factor for this trip was our new lifestyle. Since a couple of months, we’re following the Keto lifestyle. I’m not going to get into the details, but it comes down to this: we try to eat a low amount of carbs and a high amount of fats. The idea is to push our bodies to start burning fats instead of sugars. This means we no longer eat bread, pasta, rice, milk, potatoes, fries, and more. On top of that we stopped buying processed foods as much as we can. In a country where the local eating culture resembles the American one, this was no easy decision. During our trip, we made ninety percent of our food ourselves. Especially since a quick bite alongside the road doesn’t fit our philosophy.
Getting supplies turned out to be very important for us, so we could provide the right nutrition. Kudos to my dearest tiger Liene, who succeeded in producing amazing meals with little ingredients!
Like you already know, we left for our trip without having planned too much. We booked one stay at an Airbnb, close by Öresundbrug, and would arrive at Wildlife Sweden within three days – an extra stop included.
Driving the distance didn’t work well for me, the first day. Luckily, the second day went way better. I drove straight to the starting point of our trip. We drove around 2.000 kilometers in two days, to get to our first stop in Ängra: Wildlife Sweden.
This place has become our yearly starting point to discover the rest of Sweden. But not before we took a rest and enjoyed ourselves for a couple of days. Over the past years, we became close with Marco and Aafke, the owners, and our kids instantly transform into wild forest nymphs at Wildlife Sweden.
Each time we visit this place, we encounter like-minded families. This often results in a bond which lasts well beyond our holiday. Sometimes it doesn’t, but there’s no shame in that.
Also, I honestly believe there’s no place in Sweden where you can have a meal as Burgundian as those prepared by Aafke. Even if you’re dedicated to the Keto lifestyle!
A delightful plunge in the river, free-range chickens being transformed into pet chickens, nice runs in the woods, fine dinners, and extensive conversations all served well to give us an opportunity to catch our breath. But after a couple of days, all this rest made us feel restless. The time had come to embark on our adventure!
Along the way, we decided to drive The Wilderness Road. This 500 kilometer road takes you around the Eastern part of Central Sweden, gets you close to Norway, crosses mountain ranges and brings you all the way back to the Swedish pine forests.
You could drive the entire route in two days, but that’s not why The Wilderness Road is there. For the entire length of the tour, you can leave the main road and drive deeper into the wilderness. Roads change to gravel and sand paths. When you reach the top of a mountain, you realize how vast and desolate this area is. You encounter almost no civilization. Apart from three villages and one city – where you’d better stop for gas and supplies – it’s just you, nature, an elk, and – if you get lucky – a bear.
The further you go North, the denser the woods get, and the bigger the distance between the villages.
Our first layover was one at Alänaset, a little village alongside the road to Gädedde and at the banks of a beautiful big lake, with drinkable water! Something which comes in handy when you’re camping. If you stay put at one place for a longer time, you need to start rationing water. But luckily, staying at Alänaset took away that worry: all the water we had with us stayed inside the tanks, and we used the water from the lake.
This spot actually was a nature camping – like the Swedes would say. A place run by a number of locals or – as was the case right here – an entire village. We found a cabinet containing some homemade jam, eggs, and more. This wasn’t the prettiest spot in all of Sweden, but the beautiful, drinkable lake and the love of the villagers gave it something extra.
The toilets were located a bit further, in the woods, and would’ve been welcomed when we had been wild camping for three weeks – that’s the moment you’re happy you can sit down on a toilet, instead of squatting in a forest.
All things considered, this was a nice place. Not in the least thanks to the fun conversations we had with people arriving or leaving. Those chats are always varied and nice to enjoy. We met a German couple, 82 years of age, who were wandering around with their camper. The man told me he felt jealous of my truck and the way we were organized, but unfortunately his age didn’t allow him to travel like that anymore. However, I would be delighted if I could still wander through the woods when I’m 82. Something we’re working on, by the way. Actively and very consciously.
I really wanted to drive to the Swedish high mountains. They’re located on the map right above the tree line. I figured they would make a nice variation on the vastness of pine trees. Not that I ever felt like this, but I often meet people who feel cramped after spending some time in the woods. I always use my GPS and topological maps, so if I need space to breathe, I make a turn and head straight for a big lake. Enough space to breathe there! On top of that: we always spend the night alongside a lake.
But now it was time for Stekenjokk. This is about the highest point in the region and is infamous for the meters of thick snow that drop here during winter. Consider “winter” in the broad understanding of the word. Swedish summer only lasts a month. It’s never warm here, but the weather gets pleasant – at least when the sun shines and turns the strong wind into something manageable. But it’s these vast, desolate landscapes that make me happy. You don’t see a lot of people, from time to time you can spot campers parked at locations with magnificent views – often grouped together.
It’s moments like these that make me happy I bought a 4x4 pickup. A camper is something for old people. When I turn 70 or 80, I would gladly get into one and drive around the world. But for now I can skip the places everybody’s at, turn onto a small mountain road and park myself somewhere with an even better view.
We were very surprised to notice a sign saying “Welcome to Lapland”. Did we get this far North, already? Lapland… Imagine, right?
After some manoeuvring and searching for a good spot, we found ourselves somewhere phenomenal. We were surrounded by nothing but green hills, covered in moss and little streams, and beyond the hills we could already spot the snowy mountain tops. It never gets really dark here, and the light that shone into the tent at night, in combination with the view, made us feel like we were in paradise. How amazing it was to camp here!
We got water out of the many pools to do the dishes, and as drinking water for the dog. Only the water we were going to drink, came out of the tanks. We bathed in a small pool, only 100 meters away from the car. We truly went back to basics, which energised us. Waiting for the sun to pop out from behind a cloud, long enough so we could get out of our clothes and run into the ice cold water. Ice cold, but oh so refreshing! This is living with and in nature.
We went to bed around 9 p.m. and got up at 5.45 a.m., to take the dog for a walk up the nearest mountain top. The kids were still snoring in the rooftop tent. I always would hang a Network Radio on the tent, so the kids would know we were out when they woke up and could still reach us.
This place reminded me of the Sognefjellet, last year. Not as high, and less edgy mountain ranges, but apart from that, it got close to what we saw there, but couldn’t experience. This felt like home, and I could’ve stayed here.
The kids would wander around the car, in a radius of 500 meters: playing in the pools, looking for stones, making petroglyphs, building villages for mice,... or whatever. They did complain about the cold, but got used to it quickly! And at night, all four of us would snuggle up and sleep close by each other, nicely warm. Although, one night I suffered from the cold. My sleeping bag is a bit lighter and thinner than those of my ladies, something I did notice that night. But nothing an extra sweater, a beanie, and a pair of socks couldn’t solve.
Our third day at this spot was one without any sun. No lack of strong winds, however. Temperatures dropped to five degrees, but the wind made us feel like it was only two degrees. Since pretty much everything you do happens outdoors, this started to weigh in. With our icy hands we made some coffee and hot chocolate, packed everything, and left. That’s when I’m most happy with our tight organization and decent equipment: in twenty minutes we were packed and inside the car. Heading for the “warm” Sweden! A temperature of twelve degrees would already make us happy!
We had no idea where we were going, usually we didn’t decide on this before we were on the road. Our first mission was to get some breakfast, preferably one applying to Keto standards. It was either Keto, or no breakfast at all.
We reached the tree line after a slight decent of about twenty kilometers, and we arrived at the first village, another sixty kilometers further. There we found a Gästhaus where we could have breakfast.
Since we got up every morning at 5.45 a.m., it was 8 a.m. when we got to the Gästhaus, and there wasn’t a living soul around. After searching for half an hour, Liene found a breakfast room and a cabinet with supplies, on one of the top floors. Milk, some bread, eggs, cheese and a bit of yoghurt. And some really good coffee.
There was one other person having breakfast. We asked him how we had to order or pay for the food, and he simply replied: “I don’t know, I just come and eat here”. Not the most enlightening information ever. After some more searching and some more not finding anyone, we decided to eat and leave some money.
Having breakfast Keto-style means: having some slices of cheese, some eggs and a piece of bacon. Accompanied by coffee with our own almond milk. The kids were allowed a piece of apple cake – as an exception. How cheap it may sound, we really enjoyed our time in the cozy wooden space, warming ourselves and drinking a “cup of Joe” and tea.
All warmed up and with our renewed strength, we headed out again. The morning sun shone its delightful light over the pine woods and gravel roads we wandered. We took the longest road, travelling gravel and forest roads, as usual, to see as much of the country as possible, and to increase our chances of spotting wildlife. On these roads you would be hours away from civilization, but you could still spot some living quarters – not just holiday housing, but full on local residences as well. How do these people live here? Where do they work?
Later, a local Swedish woman would tell us that most people here – and all over Scandinavia as well – work in the major cities. They fly to Stockholm or Goteborg on Monday morning, work long days until Thursday, and fly back in on Thursday night. So the Scandinavian myth of a four-day work week checks out, but people do work the same amount of hours as anywhere else. That’s a little fact that’s usually left out during conversations on working less…
We drove in the direction of Vilhelmina, a – to Swedish standards – large city with a lot of services. However, compared to Belgian standards, this was a village. But a bustling one, since people from all over the region flock together to do their groceries here. This was our golden chance to restock on supplies: fill the tanks with fresh water, fill the 130 liter diesel tank to the brim as well, and stocking up on meat, eggs, cheese and vegetables. And almond milk, to add to the coffee so we would start our coming days right!
I also like to visit local hunt and outdoor stores. Since Keto made me lose fourteen kilograms in ten weeks’ time, I had to buy a lot of new clothes. And where can you buy better outdoor clothes than in the outdoor paradise itself?! These stores always have a wide array of brands that we don’t know, and turn out to be high quality products!
Vilhelmina is the highest point of The Wilderness Road. According to our initial plan – if you ever could’ve called it a plan – we weren’t going to travel further up North, this year. Just to keep the trip manageable when it came to distance, and to discover Sweden part by part. But we arrived at Vilhelmina sooner than expected, so the initial plan got discarded pretty soon. We decided to drive further up North, bit by bit, and see where we’d get. We also stayed in touch through WhatsApp with a fun family we met at Camp Ängra. They were heading for Jokkmokk, the capital of Lapland. We were thinking about meeting up again for a good meal and to let our kids hang out together. We’d see about that!
In the meantime, we drove further up North and the landscape got even more desolate, rougher. I often got a sense of melancholy: the vastness, the quiet, the deep, wide woods, and then suddenly appearing, lonely houses at the edge of a lake, only to drive back into the woods,... All this made my happy heart beat faster!
What also increased exponentially by travelling further up North, was the number of mosquitos. Normally, Swedish summer brings along a fair bit of mosquitos around nightfall. But the numbers felt extreme this year, even to Swedish standards. You would get out of the car, thinking you found a mosquito-free spot, and after five minutes the darn little things had found you and there was no escaping them. Every open spot was on their radar. In the end, it all depends on your mindset. First, you clothe yourself in such a fashion that there’s a minimum of bare skin showing. Wear shoes made out of a thick fabric, socks, trousers you can close at the bottom, a firm t-shirt with long sleeves, a hat or a beanie with a hoodie pulled over, and I usually topped all that off with a kerchief I would pull up until right under my eyes. Fun, right? 😊 But that was just the way it was. This would often get to our kids, or they would wake up at night, with the mosquito bites they caught during the day itching, and they’d turn mad. Luckily, we found a little tablet that took away the itching at the pharmacy, and this gave us back our quiet nights.
These mosquitos turned out to be one of the most determining aspects of our journey. It was because of them that we often changed locations, and got in our tent early to read or have a chat, or just went straight to sleep. There were spots that were doable, though. We even found one where there were almost no mosquitos. But usually the little bloodsuckers were everywhere, and there was no escaping them. We had to learn to live with them. And since we spent all of our time in the outdoors, this really impacted our daily life. There were a couple of things you had to take care of, time and time again. Like making sure the tent’s mosquito net wasn’t opened longer than needed. This made getting in and out the rooftop tent a fine example of teamwork: one person would quickly open and close the zipper, while the other dived in. Having a mosquito-free night’s rest was essential. Just like good hygiene: we made sure we bathed a lot, since sweat is a true mosquito magnet. And getting dressed properly, from head to toe!
Our layovers were always located at a lake or running rivers. The further up North we went, the more fast flowing rivers we encountered. This gave us the opportunity to get up every morning and have an early bath. Those morning plunges, at the dawning of the day, really gave us a next level energy boost. After you got through the first, harshly cold minutes, washing yourself in the river is a pure delight. And it made your skin feel as soft as a peach. Thus far the beauty tips of the alpha male! 😊
After a few detours, we did set way for Jokkmokk. On the one hand because we were curious for the capital of Lapland, on the other hand because we wanted to meet up again with the other family.
On the way to Jokkmokk we passed another milestone on our journey. We entered the Arctic Circle! This was something that, especially for me, appealed to our imagination. Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve been fascinated by world maps in big encyclopedias and atlases. The North Pole, the Arctic Circle, Lapland,… all these places fed my enthusiasm. I wondered what they looked like, how life went by there, how extreme the winters are,… And now here I was, driving through these landscapes myself, about 3.200 kilometers away from home. This wasn’t just a milestone on our journey, this was a milestone in my life!
We would stay in Jokkmokk for a single night an then decide on what to do next. Jokkmokk actually wasn’t all that much, it felt more like a settlement, much alike Vilhelmina.
Fun fact, though: there’s an Antwerpian (or Flemish) expression saying “That’s in Jakkamakka” or “He lives in Jakkamakka”. Jakkamakka refers to a place far, far away from home, or somewhere in the middle of nowhere.
But as it turns out, Jakkamakka is real, and actually refers to Jokkmokk. Locals pronounce their city’s name as “Jakkamakkah”. Back in the day, a lot of European merchants came to Jakkamakka to stock up on skins and fur. Their journey to Jokkmokk was a long and dangerous one, thus the use of Jakkamakka as a reference to some far away, hard to reach place.
As was to be expected, Jokkmokk was the service point for the entire region when it came to provisions and materials. We acted local and stocked up on supplies as well. In the meantime, we had a great time with our friends from Deurne – the family we stayed in touch with through WhatsApp. The kids had a wonderful time playing together and us parents, we just hung out or did each our own thing. Both Liene and I travel to Sweden to find quiet, nature and adventure, not to walk around museums. So we spent the day relaxing, enjoying the view on the lake. And this really helped us catch a breath. Wild camping with kids is double the hard work. So this day was a well-welcomed break.
After just the day, we parted ways again with the family from Deurne. They headed for Norway, we made an impulsive decision to set foot in Finland. Since we were this close, I didn’t want to let slide that opportunity.
There’s not much to see between Jokkmokk and the Finish border. However, this was one of the most beautiful and desolate drives of our trip. The landscape slowly transformed from dense pine woods into a wide tundra with low birch and pine trees, growing wide apart from each other. The rocky surface changed into red and brown sand… Best to compare it to the Kalmthout Heath in Belgium, times a hundred. Looking back, I regret not having set up camp here for a night or two. But no worries, we’ll do so the next time we’re here.
Driving through the region, you’ll notice the rhythm of life changes as well. A gas station actually functions as an entire shopping mall, only compactly sized and in an authentic fashion. You’ll find everything here: food, clothing, weapons, tools for both your house and car, medicines,… I’m very curious as to how life goes down here during winter. We met a Finn on the road who told us it gets really extreme: the winters in Mid Sweden are cold but manageable, but everything passed Vilhelmina gets extreme during winter. Things are no longer pleasant! I honestly can’t wait to experience this myself.
Crossing the Northern border to Finland was another amazing moment for me. To be this far North, in such an abandoned landscape, wandering around, completely self-sufficient, makes me really happy.
We found ourselves at about 200 kilometers from the North Cape. The Three-Country Cairn, where Sweden, Norway, and Finland meet, wasn’t too far away either. An area I want to explore during one of our next trips. We were also close by the Russian border, a region that’s going on next year’s list.
The North Cape doesn’t really appeal to me, since it’s an artificial point everybody heads out for. Just to have been there. Lots of tourism, little quality. We’ll definitely head that direction in the future, but will make sure we stay away from that specific point. Two kilometers East or West from the North Cape will be at least as special, but with way less people hanging around.
So… Finland. We crossed the border in Kaaresuvantoo. The entire Northern border between Sweden and Finland is formed by a river. Crossing the bridge, means crossing the border.
Where we found Sweden to be desolate, Finland is home to even less civilization. That Finland was less of a tourist destination, became very clear, very soon. In Sweden we always stayed alert to spot elk and reindeer. In Finland we had to stay alert to not hit any animals with the car. A completely different vibe. There were animals everywhere: on the road, jumping out of the woods, running straight at the car,…
It also took us a while to find decent layovers. We headed up many forest roads, often went off road, bouncing through the woods, hitting tree roots,… We drove to spots in the middle of the woods, got out of the car, and immediately noticed hundreds of animal tracks: elk, reindeer, foxes and many other prints we couldn’t identify. And time and time again, we found ourselves looking at bear prints as well. We preferred to stay away from those, even more so at times when we were looking for a spot to stay the night. The same with wolves. Especially since we had our dog with us, and he would make an easy prey for them.
But one thing I had learned was that where there are a lot of reindeer, there are virtually no wolves. So when we found a spot with a lot of reindeer tracks, this would make an okay layover.
After driving a challenging forest road we ended up at a stunning beach, looking over a magical lake. Three steps out of the car, and we were ambushed by 6.7 billion mosquitos. We were tired and hungry, and this was such a unique spot, that we decided not to be bothered by them.
All alongside the edge of the lake, we discovered tons of animal tracks: reindeer, elk, some smaller animals, and prints that belonged to either a wolverine or a lynx – something we still haven’t figured out.
It was amazing to see the reindeer walk by us, while we were still setting up the tent. We had dinner, enjoyed the environment for a while, and went to bed. At night, I could hear the animals at the shore of the lake, wading through the water or drinking. When I carefully put my head outside the tent, I could see the reindeer standing together at the waterfront. Man… What a unique place we had discovered. It was a pure delight to spend the night here.
When we go wild camping, I always sleep lightly. I think because I’m staying alert in case a bear or people with bad intentions pass by. This might be a bit undue, maybe even unnecessary, but I’m still sleeping with two sweet little girls and the most beautiful wife beside me. So I also sleep with a big knife next to me, in the rooftop tent.
I woke up early, and went straight into the lake, the next morning. I was immediately awake and as fresh as can be. In the meantime, Liene had woken up as well. And so did the mosquitos. They were with even more of them than last night. It was unbearable. We quickly made some coffee and hot chocolate for the kids, and started to pack everything while they were still asleep. We got them out of bed, and put them in the car – away from the mosquitos. While they got dressed in the car, I folded down the tent, and ten minutes later we were on the road again.
We had reached the furthest point of this journey. I noticed we had driven 4.200 kilometers. Every kilometer we would drive from now on, would be back South. The plan was to head for the top of the Bothnian Sea and follow the coastline further down, all at ease. We’d see.
The long way home had started, over gravel and dirt roads to catch as much of the Finnish landscape and life as possible. You could state that the difference between Sweden and Finland is like the difference between Belgium and the Netherlands: not very noticeable at first, but after a while you notice everything’s organized differently. It’s hard to point out the main difference, it just feels that way. Or it’s because I’m comparing a little part of Northern Finland with the experiences I lived crossing all of Sweden. But we’ll soon come back and explore Finland as well.
It also made me happy we entered Finland in the most Northern part, instead of passing Helsinki in the South.
After a short layover at the Finnish coast, we re-entered Sweden. We slept at the shore of a beautiful lake, with an amazing view. But we weren’t alone.
As the evening went by, we got accompanied by a French man and his son. They were heading for the North Cape in an old 4x4 beetle van. Another French man was cycling the same direction. A German was wandering around in his camper, and a Finn exploring Sweden with his three kids showed up as well. We had short, polite conversations with all of them. Fun, and educational. All the same, but still different. All different, but still the same!
Heading down, following the coastal line, that was the plan! I’m not overly fond of the coast. Well, I do like the coast, but I don’t like everything that’s been created around it: ice cream stands, ports, big apartment buildings, shops,… It’s all artificial entertainment.
In Northern Sweden this trend doesn’t get pushed that far, and things happen in a more civilized manner, but finding wild camping sites isn’t that easy. Especially if your standards are as high as ours. Picnic spots with a stunning view over the sea or one of the many fjords are to be found everywhere. But all really beautiful spots are being used by locals. You can’t blame them.
We had a great time cruising around, and made some pancakes at a beautiful spot. But after looking for a layover for a couple of hours at the coast, we decided to head back into the country. We went looking for a rougher spot in the nature, rather than spending time in the civilized world…
As it turned out, we made the right decision. After an hour or two heading Northeast, we arrived at the Storforsen nature reserve. Right through the middle of the reserve runs a wide river, featuring an amazingly long-stretched waterfall. Not the highest waterfall ever, but the length was impressive. As was to be expected, about a hundred campers and caravans flocked together on the ugly parking lot. We drove a couple of kilometers up the river, looking for a quiet spot.
After a few muddy dirt roads, and some turnarounds, we hit the jackpot: an open space next to the river, in the middle of the forest. We placed our rooftop tent alongside the river, so we would wake up the next morning with a view over the wild river and the woods across. The river also flowed some six meters below us, which made for a pretty overview. This truly was one of my favorite layovers. A wild river, endless forests, and completely on our own.
We found enough dead wood to build a fire. With the axe and a saw, I swiftly turned a fallen pine tree into the perfect campfire. Smoke keeps the mosquitos away as well. A trick I would use a lot, for the days to come. But tonight, it were our sausages that were going to get roasted in the first place.
The fact you’re allowed to build a fire everywhere in this place, as long as you use your common sense, is amazing.
The kids had an amazing time as well. They had enough space to play around, and the river’s water was ice cold, but drying up on a rock in the sun after diving in the water, was one of the preferred activities here. My god, I loved this place!
In the meantime, this journey was becoming an intense one. Highlights followed each other rapidly. We often arrived somewhere at night, only to wonder where we had slept the night before. Even if we stayed at an equally stunning spot, that previous night.
The fact we had been wild camping for fifteen days straight, added to the intensity. This is something that demands a fair amount of energy, but also gives you back that energy. When you go wild camping, the camping itself is your occupancy: cooking, washing, doing the dishes, eating,… Everything you do takes time. This brings along peace of mind, though. Especially for me. But due to the constant attendance of the mosquitos, that daily routine sometimes felt as torture, though.
On top of all that, I believe our kids needed a break too. So after a couple more of beautiful wild camping stops, we headed back to the basecamp: Wildlife Sweden. Here we would have a rest, before heading back home!
One of the interesting things to these journeys, apart from the adventures, are the people you meet. We met them in all shapes and sizes. The soon you see a person, you start building up presumptions about them – often unvalidated. We had very pleasant encounters with people of who we first assumed their world couldn’t be any more different than ours. And yet, we found ourselves talking and laughing with them for nights. Sometimes there is a huge contrast between yourself and other people. And yet, we always found some common ground, things in life everyone struggles with or has to overcome. So different, yet the same, like I wrote before.
These encounters are often short and intense, they leave you wanting more. Or they are equally intense, but you manage to meet up again. They are always very enriching and interesting.
I happen to be very social, and I always directly interact with people when there’s something about them that strikes me.
Some of these encounters will echo through time, and contact will be picked up, once we get home. Others won’t. And that’s fine too.
This second summer trip to Sweden surpassed my expectations. We were still figuring things out, heading to camping sites and staying in shacks, last year. This year, we went all the way: 80 percent of the time we spent wild camping, and we slept in the rooftop tent for 100 percent of the time!
Northern Sweden turned out to be my kind of environment, more than ever before. It’s rougher, more desolate and prettier than I imagined. My urge to head up North keeps getting stronger. For our next trip, we’ll head to the Northeast of Scandinavia. That little area where four countries, and two continents meet. Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia. I feel my interests shifting towards the Northeast. And I’m not nearly finished with Finland.
Next year will be more adventurous, more minimalistic, and probably a bit longer and slower. 😉
Nordics, We’ll be back!!