Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Yttermalung to Stockholm

By recent standards a leisurely day of non-problematic travel. The bus from Yttermalung to Borlangë was on time, I had a 2 hour wait at the station due to a couple of fully-booked trains, and then a direct train to Stockholm. If you ever find yourself in Sweden around 3pm on a friday don't bother trying to get a train because they're all full - everyone in the country has mistaken mid-afternoon for home time and left for the weekend.
I met my host and tour guide, James, at Stockholm train station shortly after 8pm and unlike my previous visit to the station I actually made it into the city.
After a quick stop-off at James' flat we headed out for some dinner and decided on the nice French-style bar/restaurant just down the road (can't recall the name but definitely worth a visit if you're in Stockholm). The downstairs was a cocktail bar and there was a short wait for a table so the innevitable happened, beware cocktails in Sweden unless you're feeling rich - most cost between £10 - £20.. The meal was terrific, Swedish meatballs with mash and Lingon berries, the food may be expensive but the quality is really high.
Food finished, it was time to see what the city had to offer. Bern's was where, after a slightly vague route, we ended-up - I'm relieved to say that youth of Scandinavia also go out at night clutching soft drink bottles containing various alcoholic concoctions, it's not just Britain.
Bern's is a large nightclub venue with several bars, a large ballroom-like ground floor and a balcony area that played really cheesey music, that was the place for us.
Any potential runners should note that this is the advised preparation the night before a tough race, my justification is that a relaxed mind is as important as a physically prepared body. We had a great night and enjoyed quite a few beers before eventually we had to leave at 3am, when they shut. It was noticable that the drunkeness was all very friendly and I didn't see any trouble at all, also Swedish women are well above average on the hotness scale!
In bed by 4am, bring on the Lidingõloppet.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Sodra Kungsleden

Having previously walked the northern-most part of the Kungsleden, a hiking trail from the arctic circle down into the heart of Sweden,  I was only a couple of hours from the soutern starting point and it would be a shame not to walk at least part of it.
The trail actually started a Hõgfjällhollet, a short distance fron Sälen and a 2 hour bus trip from Yttermalung. There are only a handful of buses each day so I would omly have about 4 hours but that would be enough to experience the trail, very different to the landscape I saw In Abisko a couple of years ago.
The temperature has been dropping slowly over the last few days since leaving Oslo so despite the sunshine it was only 4° or 5° and in the open spaces that was very noticable, lots of layers were essential.
The trail itself followed a well marked path over rolling hills, unlike the more mountainous surroundings far to the north. I walked about 8 miles and with no real sense of urgency took my time to enjoy the views, the sun was shining so there was great visibility for miles in all directions.The cold was very noticable and I was certainly glad to have put those extra layers on.
My bus arrived shortly after 4pm as scheduled and my slow journey back started, happy to have seen the southern part of this amazing trail - I would love to be able to walk the whole length at some point, that is something that will have to wait though.
I spent a very quiet evening, mostly reading and preparing my kit for the journey to Stockholm the following day.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Malung & Gnupen

The main plan for today was to go to Gnupen, a sheer rockface with amazing views across the region. It was a place I had read about before coming to Sweden but wasn't quite how to get there - too far to walk and a long wsy off the bus routes.
I had mention this to Anna and whilst at dinner with her parents, it had been suggested thst we all go. I was instructed to be at Malung for 16:30 and we would go from there. This meant I had most of a day to kill, so I headed to Malung to have a look around. The town of Malung is pretty small so after a quick lap I decided to get out of the place, there was a hill above the town called Bjäsen and a footpath to the top - decision made.
It was a leisurely couple of hours to the top, apart from a really cold wind, pretty pleasant - although I did discover that my walking shoes are not a waterproof as I thought. It was a good view of the town but time was moving on and I had to get back to town.
I was back and ready when 16:30 came, Anna, her parents, a friend called Jens (a bit of a joker and seasoned story-teller) and myself got in the truck and headed for Gnupen. The drive must have taken about 30 mins along so pretty crude roads and when we arrived there was nothing to suggest the place was spactacular at all - I feared a horrible anti-climax.
It was a 2.8km walk (it is highly likely they guessed that number, it certainly seemed a good amount further) and for the most-part steady uphill. Eventually the first signs of our height become apparent and shortly after the full extent was there to be seen. I have no idea how far the rockface drops but it is a bloody long way and the views because of this are stunning. Bathed in late afternoon sunlight the place was just beautiful and the landscspe below us stretched out for miles. 
Dusk was not far away so we had time to crack open the Thermos, have a coffee and start the optistic 2.8km walk back.
I have been to some pretty great places on my travels around Europe, this is definitely one of those!

Wednesday, 25 September 2013


I'm not travelling now until friday so a chance to have a bit of leisurely exploring of this sparcely populated area. Malung is the closest town to here, 20mins on bus, and the nearest train station is Borlangë, 90 mins on bus. Lots of hills and forest to walk, armed with a map and my hiking I headed towards the trees.
It is easy to forgrt what a luxuary an Ordnance Survey map is, the questionable accuracy of the map and disappearing markers ultimately meant I was not able to follow my intended route but I had 6 hours of wandering so I wasn't paticularly bothered.
Anna, my most gracious host, and I had been invited round to her parents for dinner in the evening, before going there was just enough time to pop the the local church for choir practice. To be clear, I did not take part in choir practice, they just did a bit of a show - only able to stay for a few songs but they were very good. No idea what they were singing but really nice harmonies and then out of the blue, 'Ebony and Ivory' - just two blokes and a piano (both white, not sure if that ruins the significance of the song or not!).
Anyway off to dinner, traditional salted pork in white sauce with potatoes - absolutely marvellous!
Then, out of the blue, a cup of tea and "would you like honey in that?". Fear not I am an Englishman and in foreign cultures acted as such, "is that normal?" - apparently more so than in England. This is where I will probably find out that I am the only person on earth who doesn't know about honey and tea.
I am lucky to be in the situation where I can enjoy the real aspects of this country as opposed to those diluted experiences offered by hotels, don't get me wrong those are great but being in someone's  home is just very different.
Anyway, dinner was done and back to the house for an early night, can do the hours like I used to.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Oslo t Yttermalung

After my recent transport issues I had another long day of travelling ahead of me - nearly 11 hours, 2 trains and a bus. This meant an early start again and I was not going to miss this one. Alarms set for 6am and I actually woke up before they went off, my bag was packed from the night before so I showered, checked-out and took the short walk to the train station.
I actualy arrived 30mins before departure so I checked, double-checked and triple-checked that it was the right train on the right platform before boarding. It was 7:30am and the sun was starting creep above the horizon as we left Oslo.
Thr journey from Oslo to Halldberg eas just over 4 hours and a spectacular landscape to observe throughout. As we approached Hallsberg station I was poisef with my bags near the doors - I was not about to miss my stop.
At this point the lady stood next started getting a bit weird, my non-medic background thought anxiety (looked a bit shakey, mumbling to herself). I offered some comforting words, she then fell through me, both of us over her vast suitcase and she slumped to the floor. I'm not familiar with seizures or attacks of this nature but I thought she was on her way out, the convulsing was one thing but to see someones eyes roll that far back in the socket was truly un-nerving (something out of a horror movie).
Although people were attending to her I wonder if it looked really bad leaving the train promptly when we arrived, it didn't matter as the train went nowhere for about half an hour whilst paramedics helped the lady.
Good news all round, the woman was helped off the train and was walking, the rest of my journey went smoothly and I arrived in Yttermalung at 18:20.
I've included a photo of the Oslo sunrise, it doesn't do it justice!

Sunday, 22 September 2013


I've been feeling yesterday's run quite a bit today, I was in no rush to leave the hotel. Eventually I dragged myself outside and the sun was once again shining brightly.
I spent the entire afternoon pottering around the city, both the historic industrial areas and then the ultra-modern harbour.
Having to leave early tomorrow as I attempt to avoid another transport comedy, heading into Darlarna. Hopefully my alarm will do it's work!

Oslo half-marathon

The weather couldn't have been any better for saturday's race, warm and sunny - not what the forcasts had predicted last week.
It was an afternoon start so I took a stroll down to the race expo in the morning to collect my race pack and then relaxed for a few hours.
The course was a bit harder than It looked on paper but my lack of training hurt hard on the second half of the the course, the weakness in my hamstring still making even the slightness incline an arduous prospect. I shall not be complaining though, 1:45:45, my quickest time this year.
It does still amaze me that the level of running etiquette is so terrible, it would seem some people have the use of neither their eyes nor the brains. A problem the world over it would seem.