Canoeing in Sweden. Getting there....

On a multi-day journey, whether it's on foot, by bicycle or boat, the days soon merge and life becomes noticeably uncomplicated.  All that matters is food, water and shelter.  Everything else is there to be absorbed, learnt from and appreciated. Each Island or shore we camped on had it's own ambience.  In a couple of cases the feelgood encouraged us to stay for a second night.  You notice things, the wildlife and your surroundings become familiar surprisingly quickly.

The Lillalven led us into this small lake and we camped there.  It was a very calm evening, I was really hopeful that we would finally see some moose, it seemed to be an ideal habitat for them but we didn't see a moose!  Good reason to go back, I suppose.  There were osprey and, oddly, a pair of whooper swans in the reedbed acroos the lake.  I had a wonderful hour paddling around this lake as darkness set in.  Those sounds I mentioned earlier come back to me as i write this: great northern and red throated diver (loons, to my American readers) were calling way after the light had gone.  The evening chill set in and the fire was welcome.
For those who are interested to know a little about the image above, it was taken on a Hasselblad XPan2 with 45mm lens on RVP 50, aperture was f11.  The transparency was scanned on an Imacon 646.

As in most forest areas, ants are never far away!  This was a very a large nest and the ants were also large.  They soon find you if you stay too close for very long.

This was another pleasant section of the Lillalven river, the reeds were alive with warblers and we saw a few woodpeckers.  The real surprise was the roe deer with her fawn that we saw in the reeds.  The adult disappeared in an instant, but the youngster stood his ground and watched us for a few minutes before he went off to find his mum.  I savour rivers like this for the light and the wildlife.

We passed the scene of a violent incident.  Grey down on the water and broken reeds revealed  A canada goose's nest had been attacked by a predator.  The eggs had all been broken open and eaten apart from this one which was floating in the water.  Mink? Fox? Wolf? Who knows.  Just another day in the wilds!

Dave (with ubiquitous cigarette!) and Julie preparing dinner.  The evening sun was welcome.

After over a week living in the outdoors and despite being fastidiously clean with the help of innumerable baby wipes and washing in a folding bowl, the prospect of a real bath was a luxury I couldn't ignore!  We stayed for two nights on this island, it was sheltered and warm.  Unfortunately, the water was far from warm, in fact I have never known such cold water.  It was bone-chillingly cold but wonderfully refreshing!

Nature put an amazing show on for us on this morning.  At 11 o'clock (I remember looking at my watch!).  Seemingly, every tree in Varmland simultaneously released it's pollen.  There were clouds of yellow-green dust drifting on the gentle breeze, it coated everything and formed a creamy slick along the windward shore of the lake.  The release lasted about 45 minutes and was a sight I will never forget.  I wonder what the trigger was that caused this spectacular event?

We had several portages on the trip.  This one was the most problematic, the ground was too soft to take the weight of the boats on portage trolleys and the portage was a couple of kilometres to the next lake. We used logs and branches to carry the boats over the worst parts.  Fortunately, the steep gradient (the images don't give the right perspective of the slope) was with us, but care was needed to control the boats.  We just managed to get them both over this makeshift bridge as it collapsed under the weight of the second boat.

Such obstacles require a fair bit of physical effort and teamwork but add something to the adventure.

Ange & Dave are both very experienced paddlers, having completed a number of epic crossings of Scotland and pioneering at least one new route. Well, that's what happens when you try to guess which way Ray Goodwin went!  It's important to have people with you who are competent and self-reliant on a journey like this.  Open water paddling is no place for novices.  The weather can turn very quickly, as it did the following day.  We were caught in a heavy thunderstorm and the temperature plummeted as the wind increased to around f5-6+.  When you are 2 or 3 kilometres from shore in such conditions, you need to concentrate on your own paddling and not have to worry about your companions.  That doesn't mean that you abandon your friends, you keep an eye on each other without the concern that inexperienced paddlers would cause.

We were approaching the end of our journey here with only two days of paddling left to bring us back to Arvika.  Just as it is when backpacking on a long distance trail, your fitness has reached a point where all you want to do is walk, you reach a stage on a canoe journey where you feel that you can paddle forever.  You feel invincible. You don't want to stop, ever.

One more instalment should cover the trip, we're getting close to human habitation here.....

A note on the images:  with the exception of the Hasselblad Xpan and those images kindly supplied by Angela (even though she uses a C*n*n, boo!), all of my record shots were taken on my Ricoh GRD2 with wide angle converter.  This is my preferred 'notebook' camera equipment.

There is a rationale behind this:  without the w/a converter, the GRD2 has a fov and aspect ratio equivalent to my Fuji GSW690111.  With the w/a converter attached, the GRD2 has a similar fov to my Mamiya 7(11) with 43mm lens.

I have no need of zoom lenses and the GRD2 is the only digi compact I have found that ticks the right boxes for me, not least because of the genuine wide angle capability and reasonably fast and good quality lens.  The noise issues concerning the GRD sensor are very overblown, in my opinion.  Given the ability of the canera to capture .dng files and a bit of workflow understanding, noise is not an issue!  No doubt the GRD3 will offer even more advantages.


Dave Hanlon said…
Great stuff. The title photo is breathtaking, a real slice of Varmland. The pics of the boats and the camp take me back. I remember The Arvika Kanot Centre supplying madly long paddles, like the ones I think I see in your photos.
Steve Walton said…
Those paddles would certainly make good 'nettle choppers', Dave! We did discuss taking our own but from past experience it was just easier to hire them from the centre.
Martin Rye said…
Now I know what camera you used. amazing photo at the start. Thanks for sharing that.
Steve Walton said…
The Hasselblad XPan2 is probably the best landscape and travel photographer's camera ever made, Martin. It takes both 36x24 (35mm) format and 65x24 (panoramic) format and the two formats are switchable on the same roll of film (remember film?).