Driving away from the Höga Kusten makes me somehow sad. Maybe it is the weather that slowly changes, the last cold night in a humid stuga or the kilometres of broken asphalt that makes me a bit melancholic.
Looking for a bit of comfort between our hikes on the High Coast and our exploration of the remote high plateaus of Sweden at 63° North to discover their surreal landscapes, we are on the lookout for a homey brunch spot and hopefully, a smörgåsbord or decadent breakfast buffet with Swedish specialties. Our first try is in Ullånger, right by the High Coast trail. The gas station is closed, as well as everything else… We drive for one more hour towards Sollefteå. There, nothing is open but a Statoil gas station. We fuel up our car and as importantly, our empty stomachs with warm coffee and a kanelbullar (cinnamon roll). Studying the map, we decide to drive to Östersund, a lively city I remember well from my summer trips to Sweden. But Östersund in the mid-season and in the rain appears to be a different story: the only lively sign is a queue of about a dozen of people in front of the mall which opens at noontime. And just like the mall, the rest of the city seems to be closed. The smörgåsbord won’t be for this time!
Along another 200 kilometres of dirt roads and asphalt, pine forests pass by. By hitting the break hard, I just manage to save a squirrel that decided to cross the road on that one and only wrong time of the day. Hours pass by. My heart jumps when two moose cross the road and run clumsily into the woods. Unfortunately too far to capture them with my camera, but luckily far enough to avoid a collision! On the left side of the road I see three reindeers, chewing on some moss, announcing the high plateau.
The leafless trees get smaller. Small pines make place for funnily shaped birches which struggle to survive as the altitude rises and the temperature drops. We find ourselves surrounded by melting snow and views on the Helags glacier. Northern Sweden is a hostile territory, even in the middle of spring: this road linking the remote villages of Mittådalen and Ljungdalen has just been re-opened in mid-may, after winter. This plateau, at almost 1,000 metres above sea level is favoured spot for the Sami people with theirs herds of reindeers. Today, they are hiding in the forest, just leaving their tracks in the snow. The wind blows and for a few hours it feels like we are the only people on the planet.
On our way south, we now and then pass clusters of red wooden houses which clearly suffer from the harsh winter conditions. As kilometres pass by, they slowly turn into small villages that seem deserted. We find the first traces civilisation around in Särna, Dalarna.
Our Northern loop terminates in Arvika, a small city close to the Glaskogen nature reserve. While getting closer, we pass a bridge in Sysslebäck crossing a wide river. Vague memories pop up when I think back of building a raft here. A self-built raft on which during my first time in Sweden, in 2003, I floated down on the Klarälven River for three days, occasionally landing on shore to have some food and build a small camp. Unthinkable now in the rain and cold, but back then a fantastic experience.
The trees are now much bigger. Tall birches sway proudly in the wind with their new light green fresh leaves. The land is more cultivated and we soon arrive at our B&B in Arvika.
The road trip to Sweden has now come to an end as we are heading towards the capital of Norway for our last few days. From the window in the train the landscape passes by, the sun is high up in the blue sky, deep blue lakes are wrinkled by the wind. Bit by bit, the kilometres of forest and lakes merge with villages, human activity picks up with people mowing their lawn, walking their dogs, fishing from their small boats as we are approaching Oslo.
Marcella van Alphen
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