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The Swedish Link – Part I

My job of working with Edelweiss is pretty fun generally, but over the years I’ve come to really like riding my motorcycle in a bit more of an adventurous way, something that is not that common among Edelweiss’ tour program. That’s why I wanted to do this trip: a crazy plan of trying to drive down from as far north as you can drive in Sweden, to Stockholm, on as much unpaved road surface as possible. On the first day up we even had a very special goal in mind that captured our imagination and was fueling our adventure spirit…

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In Lulea, we spent some more time preparing the bikes, I finally got rid of some persistent fueling issues by hooking my motorcycle up to the computer over USB.

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Me and Christian did a little test ride in the evening around the forests of Lulea, I tried a new technique of capturing photos of us driving by with my new camera, which worked out great.

We dropped the borrowed van back off at its owner, Oden. He’s a very experienced offroad rider who done almost all the routes we plan on riding; he used to have a bike just like mine, but upgraded to the ultimate version of that motorcycle these days; a real KTM 690 Rally Replica. He offered us some sage advice and assured us nothing we were planning to do was truly difficult…

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Setting off we were full of optimism, glad to finally be blazing trails and ripping through the forest after months of anticipation, the fact we left around lunch for one of our longest days didn’t bother us yet. After an hour we hit our first obstacle; a storm had blown over what seemed like half the forest in one section. I let the boys scout a bit, but after 15 minutes we couldn’t see a clear way through, most trees were too big or could not be moved, and we did not bring a saw. We decided to backtrack around.

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The extent of our delay dawned on us quickly, and we realized we had to cut short to make it to our goal for the day. Taking the major roads to Vittangi we stopped for dinner, to make sure we were ready for the true challenge up ahead.

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After a short ride, we reached the end of the paved road. An ominous sign warned us that this is a rocket-stage impact-zone for the Esrange launch center. It’s an area so desolate and sparsely inhabited that it’s deemed OK to regularly have flaming space debris fall from the skies. We were just a few days early for the fireworks however.

DSC07449We barreled down fast, wide gravel roads for another 50km, anxiously awaiting the turnoff onto an even smaller road.

At that turnoff, it became clear this was mostly going to be a walking track, that is sometimes used by ATV’s or very serious 4×4 cars. The first obstacle was a small stream that had us all excited from the start. After scouting it a bit it turned out to be very easy to pass with a little bit of momentum.

We soon came upon some much larger obstacles, ones which Oden had warned us for. “walk the the stream, the guy I was with dropped his bike when trying to ride it” he said, so we did. He also said something about not just flying up the hill right after it, since there’s a corner right at the top. I promptly ignored that, flew up, and dropped my bike in the corner. Christian and Timmy helped me pick it up and then both drove up, not falling, showing me how it’s done.

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After the creek and hills we had a few kilometres of bumpy, sandy tracks that were great fun and an absolute breeze compared to the previous obstacle. I hadn’t done much offroad for a year, since my big trip with Timmy to Poland, but it all came back on this section. I was ducking and weaving, ripping and gripping through all bumps and sandpits without much effort.

I realized here that since we set off at 8pm, we were now nearing 10 at night and yet I was feeling as energized as ever. The thought of our mythical goal at the end of this godforsaken road in the middle of nowhere was just keeping me going like never before!

With the GPS indicating less than 150 meters to go, we came across a small swamp, which seemed to have up to half a meter deep worth of mud in the middle. We agreed walking the last bit was not an option at all, and eventually I found out we could drive on the plant roots by the side.

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It was there, under the midnight sun, on the arctic tundra, by a rock with a reindeer skull sitting on top, guarded by swarms of mosquitoes, many hours away from any civilization, we reached our goal. A guy named Daniel had left an artifact here, over 7 years ago. In his words:

“I’m leaving the weatherproof guestbook under a rock on a hill. The pages are solid copper plate. It will take you a while to chisel in something legible. The guestbook is located at N68.54217 E21.05398 (WGS84, decimal degrees) or 1714167,7614865 in RT90″.”

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In our minds, it had become the ultimate goal; the mythical adventurers’ tome, a book in which only the toughest riders of Sweden have managed to put their names down. We didn’t count, but it looked like only 20 or so people had ever signed the book since it was left there by Daniel. Our sage, Oden, was one of them.

Also note how you can see the mosquitoes swarming around us on this photo. Not a single patch of exposed skin was safe.

I brought a small screwdriver that we used as our writing tool, together with a rock we picked up on the spot. Mosquitoes were relentless with their attacks on us, we had one guy hammering, one taking pictures and the other waving and flapping mosquitoes away. I’d never experienced anything as bad as this in my whole life.

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When we finally got all of our names and the date down, we couldn’t wait to get out of there. Never mind I’d flipped the “7” in the date around, or that you really had to look pretty hard to be able to read our names!

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We decided, wisely, not to camp near the guestbook and its swarms of winged guardians, but to find somewhere high up, windy, free of bloodsucking pests. By then Timmy was actually already running around in near-panic, being chased by a cloud of mosquitoes. So we drove back hastily onto a windy hilltop, some 2km back.

It was up there I noticed a major screw-up on my part. In my rush to escape the mosquitoes, I’d forgotten to close my tool-pack after taking our writing tool from it. We’d then gone 15 minutes over the bumpiest track of the whole trip. Result was that I’d lost nearly everything from the tool pack I spent 3 years painstakingly compiling and refining…

Christian offered to go back, as I felt too tired and wasn’t confident in my eyesight enough. He was gone for a while while we set up camp, but when he came back he announced he’d found nearly everything! To say I was happy is an understatement!

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That evening, we reminisced about what we just achieved, feeling pretty chuffed with ourselves for having done what few have, on our first day even. We all agreed it was a good idea to backtrack over the swamp again and find this spot high up. A more epic camp spot was hard to imagine; not many people can say they have ridden their motorcycles past the arctic circle, on tundra with almost no vegetation.

The next morning I spent some time waiting for the others to wake up, taking pictures and assessing damage to my water flask from the drop on the hill climb the day before.

We drove back the whole way with much higher speed than the day before. Improved skills, less photo-stops and a knowledge of how to tackle tougher parts made a difference!

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In Karesuando, on the Finnish border we stopped for a well-deserved lunch. There we met Peter, another rider who’s been on the road for a few days and has kind of been part of the trip without actually riding with us. He’s provided us with a lot of tracks that he will be riding as well, though with slightly different timing. Timmy kept in touch with him, and he would be providing us with knowledge about the upcoming road conditions.

He was about to set off for the guestbook himself when we met him. Alone. We told him we had a lot of respect for that; his bike was heavier than ours, he’s not as tall as me or Timmy and he wouldn’t have anybody to help pull him out if he got stuck. When he took off we all silently hoped he’d be OK…

As for us; we still had a week worth of riding ahead with over 2000 km of distance to cover. It would be hard to top that first day though!

Read part 2 here.

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