I checked the watch again, it was still not even 4am and I was wide awake, not really suprising as I was asleep by 7pm the night before. I was so cosy in my 2 layers of thermals and my sleeping bag that by the time 6am rolled around and Sylv woke up I didn't want to get out of bed. At about 4.30 I thought I had heard Sylv crying and when I asked her if she was awake she said yes, are you crying? No, and she was asleep again. Later that day she told me that she thought maybe she had been crying in her sleep as she had dreamnt that 3 golden screws had screwed themsleves into her tyre giving her constant punctures. the puncture thing is really getting to her, fingers crossed we don't have anymore.
Sun coming up in the morning
Anyway after breakfast and several cups of tea on the Trangia (we had a lot of fuel left) we set off. Today was going to be a LONG one, we were heading for................................
the suburbs of Stockholm.
When we arrived in Sweden we had worked out that if we pushed hard and didn't have days off at Astrid Lindgrens Värld and if nothing went wrong we may, just may hit Stockholm in time to suprise our mum by meeting her off the plane. This thought kept both of us going when we were feeling tired and today was the day to make it happen.
We left by 8.30, brrrrrr it was cold again and very grey and drizzling but we hammered it and managed to do 20 miles in 1.5 hours. Not bad when our panniers our super heavy.
On and on we pressed. not wanting to stop as we knew we had to reach Tumba before the light faded, then, there it was silhoutted against the dark grey sky, another Elk. Oh yeah. We think this one was a lady Elk as it was smaller than the other one. We watched her scamper accross the road and lithley leap over the electric fences and off into the woods. Utterly wonderful creatures.
We had to cross a big estuary today but it wasn't clear from the map how we were going to do it, so you can imagine my joy when we got there and it was a ferry crossing. Hooray.
It was lovely and the sun had come out. We crossed and had our lunch on the other side looking out over the estuary full of little islands, bliss.
Right, let's get back on it. Time was running out and the light was beggining to fade as we rode down the hill to Tumba. Oh my goodness today has been hilly and our legs were killing us. Then we got very lost for about an hour, we just couldn't find the right road and went up (and back down) several different steep hills trying to find our way out. Eventually we did and found ourselves on the worlds busiest road at rush hour, so this is where all the cars are. We stuck to the edge and luckilly after a few km we found our turning and road up to a mansion.
The hostel was round the back in an out house, but boy was it pure luxury. It even had a free washing machine which we took full advantage of. The receptionist Pia was lovely and was really pleased to see us. She told us that the mansion used to belong to Lars Ericsson (you will know him from the Sony Ericsson phones).
We cooked up and had a celebratory weak beer and although we had planned to stay up late we were tucked up in bed by 8.30. We are so so nearly there........................................
We left Söderkoping (or however you spell it, nevermind pronounce it, 'Sooodeurshurping' I believe) in a bit of a rush so didnt't really have time to take in the full beauty of this medieval town but even just on a passing visit it it definately my favourite town so far - totally Swedish.
The weather, though a bit dam, has definately warmed up and as we are finally beginning to near Stockholm we've talked about camping again. Today's the day! Let's do it, let's free camp! We left town in search of the next of 'Köping' towns, Nyköping. Along they way we've been in touch, mostly by text with lots of family and friends including the wonderful Aunty Marion and Uncle John. They've done so much to help us along, particularly setting us up with Lotte and the gang in Copenhagen. We knew M&J were arriving in Sweden today, for a little holiday to see their friends in the south and then later to join us in Stockholm so we exchanged secret texts with John (so Marion wouldn't realise) in the morning and planned a rough rendezvous....somewhere on a road, near a small town, near Nyköping at some point after lunch. It was all pretty vague.
Following a nice morning ride and a little ferry crossing over a stretch of water who's name escapes me we were whizzing along that road, near that small town, near Nyköping and by my watch, although we hadn't yet stopped for our lunch, it was well, after lunch. HA! There they are!!!!!! Speeding towards us they there were in their hire car, Aunty Marion and Uncle John - yes!!!!!!!!!! John is a keen driver and travels many miles through Europe regularly, I knew he'd find us! Marion's face was a picture - she had no idea!
Saw our FIRST sign for Stockholm today - at last!
They pulled in to the layby and Marion in her truely generous style pulled from her bag a bottle o' Bells and a huge Toblerone! We all enjoyed a warming swig and basically just giggle for about 5 minutes before having a proper catch up. We hung out in the layby for about 10mins in the chilly wind begore M&J got back on the road al the way down to Kivik to stay with their friends. They would be drving about the distance we have cycled in Sweden in about 5 hours - hmmmmmmm. So, thank you wonderful M&J - you totally made our day!
So excited by this brilliant pick-us-up we sauntered through Nyköping in search of a spot to free camp on the other side, somewhere nice by the sea. The clocks went back last night so the light would be fading by about 3.30pm today. better stop sauntering and get on with it. Good job we were sauntering I say because who should we see next on the other side of the road....
An ELK!!!!!! Yes, finally we've seen! Ever since we got to Sweden we've been looking out for one and so far have only seen one beware of Elk road sign never mind the real thing. The lovely big thing was just mooching around in some reeds down by the sea, his big horns silouhetted by the half light - wow. Just we were frantically rumaging for the camera some stupid cars whizzed by and trotted off quick as a flash in to the trees. Yay - so glad we saw one though.
Oh, I'm not sure if i want to free camp now, what if an elk tries to eat our tent! We travelled on to our preferred spot on the map, a little place called Horn and when we approached we saw a campsite sign! A-ha! So, we didn't quite free camp but we did get the old tent again (much to the campsite owners horror) and we were in a very lovely sucluded spot, just by the sea. It was totally and utterly dark by 4.30pm so we enjoyed our dindins in the dark and were tucked up in our sleeping bags by 6pm. Ridiculous!
Making dinner in the DARK at 4.30pm
We cycled 55 miles today.
For those of you that have been following us on the map you will see that since Karlskrona we have been pretty much been going up, up, up. Today we turned right.......................we were finally heading east again and east on our route leads only one way now. Stockholm, allllllllright!
This was a big deal for me and lifted me immensley. We had an incredible tail wind and knocked out the first part of our journey (still going up) super quickly, it was pretty cold and we had some miles to cover that day so I was glad to be on the move. We hit the out skirts of Linsköpping and hung a right, que virtual screeching of breaks, whoa whoa whoa, we were hit with an instant head wind which practically stopped us in our tracks. We turned off the main road and crawled along, hmmmmm I thought the speed this morning had been too good to last. At snails pace we wound past brown muddy fields and huge milking farms then the road ran out. There are lots of minor roads in Sweden that lead to little villages, they are normally signposted in yellow and the roads are made of mud of clay, our fairly big road had just turned in to one of these. Hmmmm had we gone wrong somewhere? I was map reading today and suddenly panicked that I had difted off into one of my daydreams and missed the turning but nope, Sylv hadn't seen one either. So we thought we may as well carry on, which we did and 6 or so km later we popped out on a road again. Volia.
We were hungry again and decided to stop for lunch, the landscape looked just like Dartmoor with lots of big grantie rocks jutting out of the ground. I thought we could recreate a childhood moment by picnic-ing atop one so pedalled on until we found a suitable spot. We had a little feast and as we prepared to leave a man came out of his house to give us a wave off. Sorry we're English and we can't speak Swedish we chorused for the 100th time. Oh he said my neighbour is English, go and say hello to Raymond. So we did.
Hello, yoo-hoo we called to Raymond who was outside in his blue boiler suit. Hello, I say, we hear your English, we are too.........Hello he said looking like he'd like to run a million miles. Ah well we'll just be on our way I thought, then his wife came rushing out of the house, are you English she said smiling. Yes, yes we are. She was called Wyn and after a short chat in the drive (by which time the next door neighbour we had originally met had joined us with his wife and her sister) we were invited in for tea and biscuits. Yippp deee dooooo. One of my favourite daydreams was that at any given moment a lovely Swedish person was going to rush out of their house and invite us in for tea and cinnamon buns (when I told Sylv this she said she too thought about it constantly), this was pretty darn close. We were going into a Swedish house, a lovely yellow one and there were going to be some Swedish people there. The chocolate digestives more than made up for the lack of cinnamon buns. Job done.
We spent a lovely hour or so talking with everyone. Wyn and Raymond were so lovely and it was great to meet them, their neighbours told us all sorts of great Swedish history and facts. We learnt that Norsköpping (the big town to the North of us) was called the Manchester of Scandinavia due to it's textile connections. Fantastic we thought.
Bidding them all a fond farewell and after lots of photos, we set off to Södersköpping to find our hostel. And what a beauty it was, real warm and cosy and we were met by one of the wardens Ola who regaled us with almost all of Sweden's history and told us a troll story.
Ugh, here we go again. As Hana said, it really has started to feel a bit of a struggle of late. The limbs are starting to feel a bit stiff and are we actually getting anywhere? Why is Stockholm still maybe 5 days away? 5 more days = 5 more days cycling = 250 miles - waaaaaaaaaaaah!
The scenery on today's cycling made up for my lack of enthusiasm. I was map reading and roads we were following were nice back roads that followed lake after lake. Or was it just the same big lake? This landscape was like nothing we've seen so far and was quite breathtaking at times. We also passed some of the most amazing churches - mighty things in a the middle of a field or atop a little hill somewhere with only a few houses closeby for company.
Like me, my chain was beginning to give up and was making the most annoying creaking all day as we rolled up and down the hills. Obviously we havent packed anything as sensible as chain lube but we did have some olive oil (extra virgin of course), the same thing surely? We stopped for a snack by another beautiful lake and before a slathered my chain in Italy's finest I thought better just text Matti Mountford bike guru and check. Olive oil would do the job - excellent! We slapped a bit on and just as I got on my bike to ride around and distribute the grease I noticed it - another rotten puncture. Crumbs. How do I do it? Luckily for Hana she won't have to write to Schwalbe just yet, it was the front wheel this time.
It may sound like not that big a deal, a puncture. But it's such a faff, a hassel. And it's just REALLY annoying, what more can I say. Needless to say, we fixed it and carried on but I was now in even moer of a grump and could barely enjoy the sights before my eyes. Stupid stupid bike! when can I wake up and not have to get on it again? Please soon!
We stayed in a little summer house belonging to a lovely lady called Hildegrun, near the small town of Rimforsa. Hildegrun thought we were marvelous and her superb English meant we were able to chat to her for ages (she also let us use her internet for an hour or so so caught up a little on the blog - phew, it's a bit like homework this blog - if you get behind it's very hard to imagin how you will ever catch up!). She told us loads about Stockholm and the wonderful Swedish artist Karl Larsson. Nice talkin' to ya lady! http://www.granny.se/ !!!!!!!!
What with it being Friday we decided to have a night in by the telly and we watched Swedish 'Idol' aka XFactor! It was 90's night so we caught renditions of Bryan Adams, Haddaway and Britney Spears - excellent!
Now I mentioned earlier in the blog that Sweden was a bit of a wonderland for me and today all my dreams came true.......................
Due to our inland detour today's destination was Vimmerby, the hometown of Astrid Lindgrens and now home to Astrid Lindgrens Värld, oh my goodnesss, I could barely contain my excitement. I was trying to persuede Sylvie to let us take a day off to hang out at this incredible sounding theme park but we settled on an early start and due to that lovely tail wind and a very quiet main road we reached Vimmerby by 12!!!!!
We loacted our hostel for the night then hotfooted it to Astrid Lindgrens Värld, I was going to be meeting Pippi and the gang before I knew it. Oh boy oh boy.
It was closed.
After cicrling the perimeter for 20 mins or so looking for a place to break in, I gave up and we decided to head for some lunch. Then we spotted a cafe right next to the park and decided to drown my sorrows over a hot chocolate. What luck, they were serving the most delicious buffet lunch for only 80k, we were sold. From the cafe we could see into the park and I saw a sign for Vilakulla Cottage, where Pippi lives with her monkey Mr Nelson and her horse on the porch. There was also a sign for Bullerby where Lars, Anna, Britta, Pip, Olaf and someone else who's name I can't remeber live. The stories about them make me feel so happy. In fact for christmas last year, age 30, my mum gave me a beautiful old Pippi Longstocking book and a book about the children of Bullerby, that's how much I love them!
More snow in Vimmerby
After our super lunch we headed back into town past the house where Astrid Lindgrens grew up, it is a museum now (closed) and looked just how I imagined the houses in her books to look like.
So there we are I was one happy lady.
We tootled off to the hostel via our favourite supermarket ( I have become addicted to going to the supermarket as it breaks up the day!) and settled in for the night.
Lovely view from hostel over the lake
Despite the excitement of the day (for me anyway) we were feeling slightly dejected, it was taking FOREVER to get anywhere in Sweden and we just didn't feel like we were making any headway. We spent the night poring over the maps and trying to work out if we could make our route any shorter, Stockholm seems so so far away....................