After our extreme first day of our week-long attempt to ride through Sweden on mostly unpaved, adventurous roads, we weren’t even back in Jokkmokkk, the point where we got on our bikes.
I don’t know why we even vaguely expected to be able to do the whole 571 km stretch after the guestbook. Oden had recommended us to do this big extra loop back to his hometown of Jokkmokk. During the day it became clear we were going to have to improvise as stop halfway through.
We did come across, as Oden mentioned, a very interesting hand-operated ferry. When we got there, we just stood around trying to figure out if we needed to get in the cabin and start the engine, until a local showed up and pointed us to the wooden sticks. You use these to push the boat along the cable to the other shore.
As we all got a bit grumpy from the lack of progress and the hunger, trying out our first freeze- dried camping meals while covered by our mosquito face-nets was a welcome distraction. I have to say, it definitely is better than the average instant-pasta bags I used to take camping, but they are very expensive for what it is.
The next day we were not so lucky anymore with the weather. The morning started with rain, and it didn’t let up until we reached Jokkmokk. You can tell from Timmy’s face how much we were enjoying it. By the time we got to lunch we were all absolutely soaked. I tend to get very tired from riding in the rain and was falling asleep at lunch. When the guys started talking about riding another 200km to Arvidsjaur, I had to jump in and bluntly say I just wasn’t up for that. After 2 nights of camping we opted for a hotel to dry all our soaked gear. The room was pretty much covered in wet equipment after only one hour. We borrowed some hairdryers and had them running on our boots and socks, while doing laundry and drying tents in the hotel laundry room. It was welcome to say the least!
The next day, well rested, we set out towards Arvidsjaur. The road, running next to the railroad started out pretty good, nice loose gravel, sweeping corners. We set up the camera and tried to do some drive-by powerslides. Some worked out better than others, but it looks much better on photo than on video.
When we came across our first real obstacle for the day, we all realized it was good we didn’t press on the day before. Even though going around the fallen tree in the forest besides it was not that hard, we wouldn’t have been up for the sweating and falling over we experienced right there.
Trails after that blurred together, was almost always quality, save for one detour around a prohibited military area.
Christian had put some small optional tracks in there, often hiking trails. Our first attempt to try one of these turned out impossible: a small bridge that wouldn’t fit a bike and right after a steep narrow hill meant we just turned around. But not before checking out the little shelter and the reindeer antlers that were by the side of the trail. If they were more offroad-proof, I’d keep them on!
When we got to Arvdisjaur, Christian noticed my licence plate was gone. He turned back for a small bit to look for it, but when he got back upon inspecting GoPro video-footage, it became clear I lost it over an hour ago. I then spent 5 minutes with a bucket lid, scissors and a permanent marked to create a replacement that was good enough for going through the forest for a few more days!
Temperatures got slightly warmer as we moved south, and our choices of roads got broader as well. With these areas being slightly more populated than Sweden’s Arctic north, there are just more roads out here.
Every now and then we’d get to a nice vista and I would bust out the tripod and set the camera up taking some pictures of us on the bikes. Jussi from The Rolling Hobo explained to me how he does it, and it works fairly well for me too. I might just have to get in the habit of going for even wider, better vista’s though, it’s often a bit static and artificial, feeling posed.
Despite being hours away from civilization most of the time, save for our lunch and evening fuel- and food stops, we never ran into any major problems. After recovering a bit from our mammoth first day with some slower days, we started knocking out 300km days again, which is pretty massive by our standards.
Small stops, like this partially abandoned gravel pit that Timmy was exploring all excitedly, were often quite welcome. We considered camping here, but it looked like it was still used.
Instead we ended up at a spot marked by Peter; the top of a skislope. There was a fire pit and some benches, but before we got settled down Timmy and Christian had some fun rolling up and down the skislope. I didn’t really feel like getting into that silliness, so I just resorted to documenting their antics on camera. Somebody has to do it!
The next day we encountered another piece of road Peter had warned us about; an under-construction section, very bumpy, that ended in a dead end all of a sudden. It just meant another detour.
When riding with 3 together in a group, permanently connected to each other over intercom, for 8+ hours a day, I sometimes felt the need a bit to have my helmet and ears to myself. So when the intercom would disconnect from falling behind or getting ahead to much, I started turning on my music for short stretches. It was great to just be able to ride truly by myself for a while. The picture above is right after I rode up a fun little hill by myself, a welcome little break. Do also take note of my very legitimate looking licence plate.
A shortcut I improvised, to attempt to reduce distance a little bit, resulted in one of the more memorable moments of the trip. We’re fans of quaint little ferries, but this one surely took the prize; a home-built, hand-powered only ferry that took us straight into the forest. While the side we left from had a small pier, the one on the other side had rusted and rotted away, leaving us no choice but to disembark with the alumnium ramps. Things got interesting when the ferry didn’t come close enough to the bank and the anchor we tried to use broke off its chain!
Eventually we got to a cheap camping place with not too many mosquitos. The next morning I celebrated my 29th birthday there, just the way I prefer it, low-key, out in nature, without making a big fuss. I just got a cupcake for my birthday from Timmy and Christian, how sweet!
Another obstacle and detour, fallen trees which we managed to get past without too much trouble, only to have to turn back after 15 minutes since the barely used road ended in the middle of the forest (despite the GPS insisting it continued).
Even though we were getting closer and closer to Stockholm, there was some really great riding to be had still. One of my favorite parts was in a pine forest, with dry, grippy tracks covered in fallen needles, and the view through the thin trees providing enough confidence to do some decent speeds.
Another memorable highlight we came across was some kind of public motocross track in the forest. Timmy and Christian braved the heat once again to ride all over it, while I documented things dutifully. Christian dropped his bike 2 or 3 time, exclaiming “Take a picture first!!” as we rushed to save him from being pinned under his bike in the sand.
By then, we hadn’t heard from Peter for a day or two, unusual from the daily updates we had. Timmy finally received word from him again. He’d crashed and was in the hospital. Later it turned out he’d looked at his GPS for too long, missed a corner and went down on his shoulder. He had to hike back for an hour with a broken collarbone, to get reception and call an ambulance. Quite a shock to hear for us, and affirming the idea that riding roads of this calibre alone is never a good idea.
As we reached the end of Peter’s planned tracks near Bollnas, we decided to go a different way, and started following tracks that Christian had gotten from another rider, tracks of unknown nature that he might not even have tried. The track it turned into quickly dissolved and had obviously not been used by any kind of vehicle for many years.
With me blazing the trail ahead, I halted when faced with a muddy ditch, tree branches and nothing that even resembled a track or trail anymore. This was just too much, we were all sweating profusely and the going was extremely rough.
We then spent an hour extracting our bikes out from the forest, it took us ages to just cover these 500 metres from hell. I managed to break my bashplate mounts here even; my bikes is resting on a big rock, without the sidestand on this picture, where we all sat down for a few minutes, catching our breath from dragging mainly my motorcycle around.
After some more navigational mistakes, I ended up pulling out my laptop and creating a new route on the spot, while Timmy took a nap in the shade. After another long day we ended up at the unfortunately inaccessible Forsmark Nuclear power plant area. Timmy called his girlfriend up who was staying at their summer house only an hours drive away and arranged for us to stay there instead of camping again.
There, we had our last freeze-dried meal together, saying goodbye to Timmy who was staying there with his family. Me and Christian still had a day of riding left to get back to Stockholm.
Christian promised me an easy day back, but you can tell from the look in my eyes I wasn’t appreciating all situations he got us into. It was nowhere near as bad as what we got into the day before though, thankfully.
We made it back to Christian’s garage in the afternoon, with 2700 kilometres added to the counter. Time wise we spent 90% of our time on unpaved roads, distance wise it’s well up to 80% I think. Safe to say we’ve truly conquered Sweden with this trip!
Now my bike is in need of some attention again with a broken bashplate, unreliable auxiliary electronics, engine maintenance and more. It’ll have to wait a bit as there’s some Edelweiss trips coming up, and there’s big plans for my van…