Sweden by canoe. The story continues....

The planned journey followed the course of the Lillalven River, which connects a series of lakes.  It made for a varied and interesting journey with numerous portages.  This year, we were blessed by good weather for most of the trip.  We encountered only one storm on the penultimate day, we had to run for an island as the approaching storm hit us and get a tarp rigged up for shelter.  How welcome that tarp was!  Dave has become something of an expert in quickly rigging a tarp without using pegs in several different ways. The tarps have proven themselves to be potential lifesavers to us over the past few trips.  When the weather turns bad in Sweden in May, it can be bitterly cold and it's imperative to stay dry and keep out of the wind to avoid hypothermia.  A tip for anyone planning a canoe trip is to take the biggest tarp that is practical.  You need plenty of space to sort out kit, cook, relax and shelter from the wind, rain, sleet and snow.  A long distance canoe trip in Sweden without a tarp would not be a pleasant or safe prospect!

The get-in was on a remote lake, miles from any habitation and the paddling was good.  We had warm spring sunshine and ran with a gentle breeze.  Those first few paddle strokes were memorable, a long journey lay ahead with all the anticipation of what may come.  We knew there would be some hardship, there always is on a self-supported trip, whether it be on foot, on water or by bicycle.  There will be moments of concern for safety, health, equipment and weather, but there will be moments of sheer exhilaration for surviving unsupported in a beautiful environment.  Anyone who has backpacked a long-distance trail or taken a wilderness voyage will know what I mean.

The first portage came at the end of that first lake.  The first 400 metres were very difficult over uneven rocky and boggy ground.  It was only then that we realised that the canoes were the heaviest we had ever handled.  With two weeks' food and camping gear, they must have weighed several hundred kilos each.  They had to be coaxed along through the forest on their trolleys one at a time, carefully.  We found the forest track that we would be hauling the canoes along for the next few kilometres until we found a suitable get-in on the Lillalven.  We found a suitable get-in, only to be confronted by a beaver lodge and river-wide dam!  There was no chance of hauling the boats over the beaver dam, so we had to back-paddle upstream to where we had launched, get out, put the boats back on the trolleys, portage around the beaver's teethwork and get in again downstream of the obstruction.  Beaver!  I love 'em!  

 Beaver lodge on the Lillalven.

We took most of our own gear, but decided to hire the Helsport twin-hooped tunnel tents.  That was our only regret, it would have been far better to take our own.  Those Helsport tents are just downright nasty, being heavy, saggy, badly vented and thus very wet with condensation.  Next time, I'll take my old Vango Mk4 ST out of mothballs.  A tip for anyone takine a lightweight tent to Sweden is to make sure you also take a groundsheet protector or footprint.  The forest floor is not kind to lightweight technical fabrics!

WE took plenty of food including fresh vegetables.  Poached salmon fillet with cabbage fried in oil with garlic and onion creates a most wonderful tasty meal!

The following morning was another glorious day in this beautiful land.  Steady paddling for a good 10 hours through a landscape of lakes, forest, hills and abundant wildlife to the next camp.  The canoe is a Linder Inka 525.  The design was originally created by Grumman, the American WW2 aircraft manufacturer who were looking for a good alternative use for surplus Hellcat fuselages after the end of the war!  These boats are not the most graceful of canoes and the handling and construction is somewhat agricultural, but they are ideal for a wilderness trip.  I know from experience of being caught in a violent storm on a 7km crossing of Stora Gla in 2008 just how seaworthy these boats are.  Tough as old boots, but they are dependable.

The temperature always dropped considerably when the sun went down.  A roaring wood fire is a wonderful luxury!  We were always careful to make sure our campsite was clean with no sign of our passing before we left in the morning.

The story will be continued........