Our route through south-west Sweden
We weren’t originally planning to visit Sweden, having been there for ten days in 2005, camping around the lakes in the central area and visiting Stockholm. However, when trying to book a ferry to Norway from Denmark, we couldn’t find a way to include the dog on the internet booking. Booking the ferry to Göteborg (Gothenburg) for Tuesday, 29th June, was actually very easy, and turned out to be cheaper booking it via a German website, rather than a British one. Charlie was duly booked a place in the dog lounge and we set off, via stops for diesel (cheaper in Denmark than Sweden) and a camping gaz 907 bottle (probably impossible to find in Norway).
Charlie wasn’t the only wildlife on board the ferry
The dog lounge allowed humans in so we spent time there with the other dog owners who asked if we’d been to some dog show (they said it in Danish and we never caught where it was). I think they were probably just being kind to our non-pedigree mutt, though they did seem to want to discuss which aspects of him were springer and which were border collie. Leaving the boat and going through customs was very easy. No-one seemed particularly interested in us importing a dog. His pet passport was glanced at briefly, along with ours, and we were waved through.
Garmintrude got us out of Göteborg and was allowed the rare opportunity to suggest a motorway, the E6, up the coast towards Uddevalla in the region of Bohuiä. The drive seemed long in the heat and we were glad when we reached the coast where we hoped to see a lot more areas for parking up for the night than indicated in the Swedish section of our Nordic Camper Guide. In an effort to find them we drove up and down many minor roads leading to coastal inlets, but they were all either very inhabited or definitely no overnight parking.
Hunnebostrand had lots of lovely places we’d like to have camped
The main problem seems to be that this area is incredibly attractive. There are huge – absolutely massive – outcrops of rounded, pink tinged rocks. These cover the hillsides, create sheltered harbours and form hundreds of tiny islands, and the Swedes have built their second homes here, along with their beach huts and boat sheds. The area attracts sailing vessels from yachts down to dinghies and there is just very little space for anywhere to park a motorhome. The only place for miles – the very only, jam-packed, crowded place – was a dingy car park stellplatz on the more industrial side of Hunnebostrand’s harbour. We looked at it, ummed and arred, moved on, tried a few other car parks, got worried about the no camping signs, chickened out and ended up back at Hunnebostrand some 3 hours later at 10:30 p.m. Rain had settled in for the night, which didn’t improve the look of the place and a certain type of “helpful” motorhomer told us we’d parked too close to the next van (not his) – we should be 4m away, not the 3m we’d managed – well, we’d hardly had much choice of pitch. After a bit of slamming about inside the van and grumping we had a bit of dinner and then went straight to sleep.
Where we chickened out of staying and our eventual camping place
The dingy stellplatz looked a bit better on a breezy, sunlit Wednesday morning and Hunnebostrand turned out to be a very attractive little town centered around a busy marina. We spent a small fortune in a fish shop – fresh Dover sole, fish soup, gravad lax, fish cakes, pickled herring – just how much fish did we really need?
We decided to see a bit more of the coast north of Hunnebostrand, and perhaps find a good picnic and swimming spot, before heading inland later on to see if less inhabited areas would offer more in the way of wild camping. Part of our drive went through nature reserves and conservation areas and the scenery was stunning. The rock formations give the impression of someone having blown giant pink bubbles, which have piled on top of each other to settle down to the water’s edge and create massive, eerie plateaus. People have built their houses and boat sheds on the rocks and have created their gardens and fields around them. Everywhere seems to have a rounded, dome-like quality, which contrasts with the sharp, clean lines of the wooden boarded houses, painted in white or pastel shades, and the deep red boat houses.
At Svenneby we visited the tiny old church, one of the oldest in Bohuslän, which dates from the 12th century. It is well worth a detour to see if you are ever passing that way. The 13th century bell-tower is most unusual, being detached from the church and built high up on the rocky cliff which looms over the building. Inside, there are wooden sculptures which have survived all religious upheavals since the middle ages, and the furnishings are 18th century wooden box pews, with a wooden gallery, all painted with patterns. The part which draws the eye though is the painted barrel ceiling of the nave. The biblical scenes of judgement day created by J. Alstedt in the 18th century with demons and angels didn’t quite fit in a Protestant church.
The coastal villages were set around picturesque inlets, and all were crowded with the masts of leisure boats, such as at Hamburgsund. We stopped later in the afternoon at Veddö, a small place surrounded by a nature reserve, and had a swim in the sea, which was quite mild, the convoluted coastline here keeping the water warmer than in the open sea. We then decided to turn inland, as the coast was clearly too populated to leave quiet places for overnighting motorhomes, and the campsites too crowded and too expensive for our tastes, spoilt as we had been by the low cost of German stellplätze.
Hamburgsund harbour and upside down jellyfish
The route inland took us past more towering domes of rock set amongst farms and forests, then into an area of lakes, where we turned onto a minor road with a gravel surface in order to find quieter places. It paid off, for after several kilometres driving through conifer forests, the road turned to cross a stream as it tumbled over rocks, and there was the ideal overnight spot just off the road beside the bridge, and above a broad pool in the stream that just called out for swimming. The river was the Kynne Älv, and, had we known it, we were only a kilometer so from the hamlet of Flötemarken, just upstream. So we settled here and were counting our blessings when the downside gradually dawned on us – the dreaded midges! In Scandinavia, as in Scotland, these minute creatures can be the bane of outdoors life in the summer, and we were soon eating our meal in the van with all the flyscreens down. It was another clear night, and again proper darkness hardly seemed to come – the sky was still alight at midnight, and by 3am it was virtually daylight.
An idyllic spot by the Kynne Älv near Flötemarken –
It looks like we’re trying to camouflage the van
It looks like we’re trying to camouflage the van
On the Thursday we carried on north and east through a landscape of more lakes and forests, at times taking secondary roads which were intermittently tarmacked. Villages were tiny, often more a collection of widely-spaced farms, and the rural buildings were almost without exception constructed of wooden weatherboarding and painted the same reddy brown colour, as if by decree. This is one of the distinct features we remember about Sweden from our previous visit. We passed from the coastal province of Bohuslän into lake-strewn Dalsland, and stopped for the night at a campsite at the hamlet of Vammerviken, on the Västra Silen lake, a long strip of smooth water running north to south between the trees. We decided on a proper campsite this time so that we could stop happily for a couple of days, and Lesley could get on with some writing. We were also now coming to accept the inevitability of Swedish prices, and at 155 kronor a night, without electricity, it was at least better value than along the coast. It was a lovely spot, not too crowded, and we found a pitch looking over the water.
The next two days were passed quite lazily, with a lot of lake-swimming and enjoying the tranquility. I (Rob) went out on my bike for an afternoon while Lesley worked, and I found it increasingly hard to go to bed, so light were the evenings. Many people on the campsite had their own canoes, and we considered hiring one, but couldn’t see what we would do with the dog.
Södra Kornsjön lake in Dalsland
Our stay at Vammerviken coincided with the peak of a heatwave, and the temperatures of over 30°C on Saturday did not make us feel like doing very much. So we didn’t and stayed Saturday night as well. Rob decided to sleep outside the van, wrapped in a quilt. This was the first time he’d actually done this and wouldn’t you know it, the heavens opened around three in the morning. I would have had a wry smile on my face if I could have been bothered to wake up enough as he clambered back into the bed.
Create a caption – Lesley’s one is “travelling with Rob sends Lesley crackers”, Rob’s one is “Lesley turns into a crack(er) head – what’s your caption?