bow wow wow yippie -o yippie -ay
It’s theresa on the motorbike and mat are on the way.
We booked it from Digermulen to Alingsas (to be precise, to Östängs Gård Farm, to stay with Ylva and Jonas). We had previously applied to them for some WWOOFing work on their farm, and they told us we could be of use in 2 days or so.
It’s not so far, only about 1700km, but to understand how far this is in Mat and Theresa-land, you should know that we don’t zoom about like swallows, rather we wallow about, like loons. Also, in Norway, 80km/h is the max. So, when faced with a 20hr google maps estimate drive time, we budget about 4 days. In a world-speed-record attempt, I think we did it in 3. We camped two nights in Sweden, and were rained on with colossal force on the third day as we neared Östängs Gård, but eventually, about a day late, we made it.
We had a great time with Ylva and Jonas, helping in the gardens, pollarding the trees, painting the barn and enjoying fika. I’ve heard not all WWOOFing is a great experience but this really was, we learned a lot, and made very good friends with our hosts at Östängs Gård. They’re well prepared for WWOOFers and the end of the world. Really, they have approximately one of everything on their farm, what they don’t have they can make, and when it all goes pear-shaped, Östängs Gård will stand calmly in the centre.
We stayed at Östängs Gård for two weeks, and in the middle we visited a mate of ours. This visit was the reason for going to Sweden, and arguably a pivotal cause of our anti-clockwise Baltic loop that saw us heading distinctly in the opposite direction of our so-called goal (Australia). In fact, our mate, Johannes, was to get married to his (now) wife, Tania. In Mjolby, near a place called Lynkoping. The Swedes don’t say “Lyn-koping”, they say “Lyiyn-sho-a-oping”, so it is quite difficult to talk to anyone about the place unless you’ve been forewarned by a kind Swede. Or Turnip. We were going to ride our bikes, but first, Theresa’s back breaks desperately needed changing (no pads left at all… oops), and her front ones might as well be changed (1mm pads). So I called the local bike shop in Trollhattan and confirmed that they had the parts. They did. Two copies of them. “I’ll be there in an hour” (it’s an hour’s ride from Östängs Gård), “OK” said they guy.
Lovely day for a ride - it rained only a few times, and I arrived at the bike shop, grabbed a few things I needed, fronted up to the desk; “Grab those brake pads for me, would you?”. You can probably guess I am not writing this story as a method of torturing the audience, where I crap on for ages about something as banal (which, incidentally, I recently found out does not rhyme with “anal”) as buying spare parts and everything goes well. After about forty minutes the guy returns to the desk and says “we don’t have them. Must be a computer error, why don’t you come back when we do”.
What can you do? Nothing, there is nothing to do. Ride home, brakeless. I didn’t buy the other things (a chain and sprocket for the Yamaha, brake fluid etc) out of spite, and I rode home.
I tried to order the brakes online from the UK - it seemed cheapest there, but a couple days later, I got an email to the effect that since I was using a card registered to an Australian address, and was shipping to a Swedish address, I would need to furnish the online shop with a copy of a utilities bill at my Australian address to demonstrate I was not scamming them. FFS. or FML, as I hear some people say.
So, no brakes for Theresa’s BMW, and it is 2up on the Yamaha from Östängs Gård to Mjolby. It’s only 3 hours or so, no worries. The wedding was awesome. The cake delicious, the bride lovely, the grrom bearded. All was in order. We got some quality time with the French (and spanish, germano-english) crowd from Moulis where I worked who came to the wedding. Come to think of it, it was one of each (French, Germano-english, and Spanish), so let’s call them “the crowd from Moulis”. Or.. Jeff, Nuria and Aisha (but not Keoni).
We drank and danced and played games and all too soon had to leave Mjolby, and go back to Östängs Gård, so Theresa and I saddled up once again and motored off into the (6-hour-long) sunset. It really was like that - the sun in your eyes the whole time. Beautiful in a so many ways and slightly blinding in others. You constantly wonder and hope there is, and simultaneously hope there is not, a moose on the side of the road.
But there was a noise and it was coming from the bike. From the drive chain somewhere. I couldn’t pin down what it was, but the rattley noise was accompanied by a feeling of being in neutral, and I feared the worse for the gearbox of my trusty Tenere, which has been totally rock solid up until now. We stopped and checked it out. Luckily it wasn’t the gear box. Unluckily, the front drive sprocket had no teeth left on it. Really, no teeth. We weren’t going anywhere, and we were in a place called Gullered. Population John (and his family).
It is an interesting place, Sweden. Arguably the safest place in the world. The place is full of Swedes who we all know are the nicest, happiest, most well educated, least violent, friendliest people in the world. Everyone loves Sweden, and Swedes. Except the Swedish. Did you know you shouldn’t bother hitchhiking in Sweden? The wont pick you up for fear of rampaging psychos with knives, guns and scams. This is what we were told by John, who lives in Gullered.
We were shit out of luck, and rolling (literally rolling - a bike with no front sprocket is very quickly downgraded from “motorcycle” to “scooter”, and not the type with a motor.. a push scooter, that you scoot with) down the side of the road looking for a place to stop. Theresa noticed John watching us with interest, or scepticism, from his house, sparked up a conversation, and next thing John was helping us to park the bike in his shed and explaining to us that our plan of hitchhiking back to Östängs Gård was a failure before it was hatched, that no Swede would ever pick us up, not even himself. No way would he, too many horror stories. Too many scams: who can you trust these days? And to that end, he put us in his car and drove us to Östängs Gård. It’s about an hours drive to Östängs Gård, so it was no small trip. Anyone reading this in Australia or Canada or Russia might think nothing of it, but the rest of the world is a smaller place. An hour away is a long way. And it was 11pm (so the sun was almost set). And to make sure we got home, John gave us a lift.
It worked well, and in just a few days we had managed to borrow a car from a friend of Jonas and Ylva, and the trailer from Jonas and Ylva, and we drove out and brought the stranded Yamaha back home. We owe John and his family some pretty big favours. I hope his next house doesn’t burn down (his previous one did…), and I hope he comes to visit us in Australia one day, he was a scream and his family were awesome.
Fast forward a trip to the local ducati enthusiast shop with Jonas, a ducati die-hard and professional, some pollarding, wood stacking, bed weeding, and insect hotel opening, and Theresa and I were ready for our next adventure.
What a place to be going! Who knows anything, really, about Russia? A country of strong people, hard people. Spies, Ladas, Borst, Vodka, queues for life’s essentials, beautiful women in fur hats, bear wrestling-vodka slushing cold, serious people. We’re going!
After 5 months of organising my visa to Russia (Theresa got hers in a few weeks by comparison - there were many hiccups in the organisation of mine, which warrant their own story chapter), we were going to Russia.
Step 1: ride to Stockholm
Step 2: collect visa
Step 3: Ferry to Estonia
Step 4: ride to the border
Step 5: cross border
Step 6: ride to St Petersburg
It’s a simple plan, and so we packed our shit. We loaded the bikes. We put on our safety gear. We left Östängs Gård. For Russia, Comrade!
(check out the Sweden Photo Gallery for more pics)
Sometimes you go to Lofoten to ski, sometimes because you want to sail. We were going because Theresa had heard from everyone she ever met that Lofoten was awesome.
And how can you ignore that? So we were going.
I messaged Eivind, a mate of mine who I had met in Australia in 2004. A Norwegian. I had run into him again in 2007 in Norway, and who I thought: why not? We’re on a world tour. Better visit everyone in the world. So I asked him where he was, and he said in Molde, but that he would soon be in Digermulen in Lofoten, arriving by boat, and that 2016 was the perfect year to meet up.
And so to Å, at the end of the alphabet (Norwegian) and the end of the road (Lofotonian), we motored. This is the drive to Lofoten from Tromso: Wow, look at the fjords. (Another corner..) Man, I can’t believe how spectacular these fjords are. (Corner) far out, these fjords. Better stop for a photo, it can’t get better than this. (next corner) Shit, I’ll stop, this must be the best one, I’ll take a photo here. (next) No, this. This is the best - one photo here.
About an seven hours later, you have managed about 19km, and the day is slipping away (not that the sun sets, so I guess it doesn’t matter). But you feel like you need to get some where. Anywhere. Make a few kilometres maybe. Ok, that’s it: this is clearly as good as the landscape could be. This is the money shot. I’ll stop for this one, take this photo.
Lofoten calmly responds with: You’re a rank amateur. The landscapes haven’t even begun.
And they haven’t. As a result, a 200km drive along a string of islands out into the Norwegian sea, at 68 degrees Latitude, can take weeks. So it was that we were tootling along at about 7pm, when we passed a sign for Digermulen. I remembered this was where Eivind would be. We stopped and discussed. We decided to head out to Digermulen. As the reader I feel like you might disparage me, feeling all proud that I remembered the name of a place on an island. Woop-di-do. But, I ask you, consider that I saw a lot of place names. That most were confusing. In fact, all were Norwegian and unpronounceable and ultimately all were confusing. It was a feat of mental prowess of the highest order to remember the name Digermulen. About 20km down the side road is Digermulen, and we were keen for some Alle Manns Ratten. Some beach. Some view of distant peaks and reflections of islands in the ocean. And we weren’t disappointed. The beach, a fire, some pasta, some Gin, and the next day we went to find Eivind.
Digermulen has a cafe. It is part of the general store, and you can get coffee there, but not wifi. This meant that while we were caffeinating satisfactorily, we weren’t able to contact Eivind. We went into the store and asked the checkout chick if she knew someway we might contact Eivind. Maybe she knew him. He’s tall. Stands out. Digermulen is small. She knew him. He lives up the road, has a white house and blue car. We would finish our coffees and go there. While we were finishing our coffee, the girl (I never learned her name in an attack of rudeness) came and told us that Eivind was in fact most likely on his boat in the marina. The marina is about a 30m walk from the shop so she took me there, pointed out the boat (there were only two to choose from. “Marina” is a stretch, let’s say pontoon), and went back to work.
“I’m looking for Eivind” I said to the giant blonde man coming towards me after I knocked on his boat and interrupted a conversation he was having. “I’m Eivind” he said. I guessed he’d change, the last time I saw Eivind, he was lean and brown-red haired. This guy was robust and blonde. Possibly a viking. We had a chat for about an hour about what the hell I was doing. About his boat, and about who I was looking for. Eivind, obviously. Wait. Which Eivind? Nordebrg? Hang one one second, said Eivind: Eivind is coming to Digermulen next week!
Could it be true? Does Eivind know Eivind? Eivind grabbed his phone and phoned Eivind, and pretty soon I was talking with my Eivind, and organising that Eivind would look after us, tell us how things were, and generally entertain us for a week until Eivind arrived.
We spent some days with Eivind, Liza, Ragne, Mikel and Tove. Climbed the hill and slept in a (nearly completed) sauna on the beach.
We toured Lofoten and made good use of Allemansratten, a scandinavian concept that all people have a right to the land. This means that you can camp basically anywhere, provided you’re not a dick. Not smashing crops or bunging your tent in the front yard of someone's house, but in general, if you’re out of sight, don’t trash the place, take your rubbish away, and generally are there to enjoy the place, you can stay for a night in one place (provided there isn’t a big “no camping” sign). So we did, swimming in fjords and lakes, visiting the largest viking longhouse discovered, and meeting more people.
One of our campsites was behind a burned out house, next to a lake. We had roamed around looking to make it to Reine so we could take a hike we’d heard of. There was precious little flat ground available for a tent and the locals in this place had the shits with tourists trashing the joint (very popular tourist area, and no one likes a tourist). We were having some trouble finding a place to sleep. Finally we rode past this spot. It had a slightly difficult access, so we parked the bike up the street and walked down for a look. It was flat, next to a lake, shielded from the road by the old burnt out house, had plenty of firewood, and no one else camping there. Perfect. We wandered back to bring up the bikes, and Theresa jumped on hers, and zoomed off, securing the place while I was still messing around getting my helmet ready.
At the risk of going on too long, let me explain something at this point. Theresa likes to take her time. Sort things out. Helmet, sena cam, jacket, one glove, other glove, on the bike, give it a shake, make sure things are together. In short, it can take 5 minutes (and typically does) for her to transition from “about to leave” to “moving”. This time it took less than about 3 seconds. She’s convinced the reason we got the prime camp spot was her snappy movement.
So we camped and hiked. We took photos, and organised a Russian visa (or did we? Hint: not yet), toured, and camped (check out the Norway photos, they speak for themselves). Eventually, we made it back to Digermulen and found the right Eivind.
And that’s not as quirky as finding the wrong one, so I’ll leave it there.
Next: How Digermulen became the next hot concert location.