Have pen, will travel. Sending letters.
A letter from Sweden. In which is described an excursion along the skerries north of Gothenburg.
Sweden, summer of 2013
after quite some years of only toying with the idea of getting an own kayak (rather than renting one every now and then), we grabbed an opportunity and finally obtained a used but still-in-good-repair folding kayak (a RZ 85-2, even found one of the more durable from 1969). Naturally there was no more question about where to spend this year’s summer vacation. The boat needed its natural habitat and we were more than keen on yet another paddle adventure (after all, the latest Greenland tour lies behind us two years by now!). This time we were going to Sweden – and being the archaeologist I am, you can imagine that the final destination in the Bohusläns area (well-known for its fantastic inventory of Bronze Age rock art) was not exactly found by chance.
We took the ferry to Gothenburg, actually saving quite some time: leaving Kiel and its fjord at early evening and arriving well-rested in Sweden the next morning. The standard cabins might be rather small on first glance, but they’re totally sufficient for a good night’s sleep (heck, you even got an own bathroom!) and if you are looking for more space: you’ll find plenty of it on deck or in the bar and restaurants below.
Once in Gothenburg it was only a stone’s throw further north to finally reach Grebbestad – a beautiful small, and apparently rather popular coastal resort in Västra Götaland County – and after leaving the car at a safe spot, we could right there approach the water, assemble kayak and – finally! – put to sea! Ah, there we were …
The already beclouding sky encouraged our decision to start off with a rather short leg, so one of the first small uninhabited islands down the Grebbestadkilen became our first campsite. Let me tell you that we learned two important things that very first day. Two things which should also prove true the rest of this journey: 1. the Swedish allemansrätten (“the everyman’s right”) is a holy law, which brings a lot of opportunities but also responsibility, and 2. the average Scandinavian leisure skipper does either not know about the effect of his wake or he just does not care about it. Anyway, you bet we learned quickly how to take or even circumnavigate the more rough waters.
The numerous small rocky islands in the skerry garden right there at the coast of southwestern Sweden offer plenty of opportunities to conquer and explore ‘new’ lands. And – I probably don’t need to emphasise this, do I? – so we did. You always find an interesting spot on each and any of these isles. Be it some curious sheep right around the corner (I suddenly imagined a shepherd and his flock in a boat, go figure) or an old abandoned graveyard of German sailors from World War I – among them the tomb of a well-known German author – guess what, we really found the grave of Gorch Fock!) – you’ll find your share of discovery.
Finding fresh water, on the other hand (we carried two water cans in the boat – 5 later each – and that was right enough to go along with for up to 3 days as you probably know), was not an easy task given the geological nature of these small islands. Chances are not that high to stumble upon a river or lake with water you would like to drink without a second thought. But don’t worry, there is – of course – no danger of cruelly dying of thirst. Although surrounded by ‘wilderness’, fresh supply is never farther away than half a day of paddling. We experienced that there’s always some campground’s staff or friendly waitress in a café happy to help stocking up on fresh water. Well, this also offers the opportunity to set foot into one of the picturesque seaports of the neighbourhood. Fjällbacka, for example, is a rather busy than placid summer resort at the foot of the steep rocky Vetteberget (wich offers a great view upon the numerous islands at its doorstep – oh, and the ‘Kungsklyftan’ canyon is worth the short hike for sure, let me tell you!). The town is also known for its most famous holiday guest: Ingrid Bergman spent most of her summers in the region and certainly is still present: “Ingrid Bergmans Torg”, “Ingrid Bergmans Gatan” – and if you always wanted to buy your bread at the same bakery like “Casablanca’s” Ilsa, that’s your chance (and a fantastic bread it is; rather pricey, but fantastic!).
After the first two or three cloudy (and pretty wet, I’m telling you) days, the weather was changing for the better – and it was keeping up this promise (well, despite that really stormy night and day when we thought the wind would either smash our tent or just tear it away): never underestimate the power of the Scandinavian sun – days are pretty long there. Oh, and you have to keep in mind that you are probably not the only one enjoying a nice day out there at the water. When cruising these islands, coves and beaches in summer holidays, don’t be surprised to find some of these lonesome places somehow crowded. Well, you’ve got to grin and bear it … moving on and try your luck around the corner or at the next isle then.
So, if you are looking for a kayak tour where you can find both, solitude and urbanized vivacity, the Bohuslän area, the archipelago at Fjällbacka will not disappoint you. But be aware that, although the tour itself is not very challenging, you are by all means close to the open sea and the islands may not always cover you from wind and swell. Trust me on this one, seriously: We had some few days, where you definitely did not want to be caught out there in rough waters. Thus, come with at least an idea of sea kayaking really doesn’t hurt.
By the way, while you’re already in the area, you really should make a detour to the impressing and unique archaeological sites close-by. The Vitlycke museum at Tanumshede actually would be a good start.
Alright, that should be enough for this letter, my friend; will make sure to send you another note soon.