Having completed the sections of the E1 in Denmark, I had now set my sights further north, Sweden, the E1 commences at Varberg and follows an old rail trail before meeting up with the Hallandsleden after which it swings north to join with the Bohusleden as it wends its way towards Nordkapp. As I was travelling on a Sunday the most appropriate arrangement to travel to Kungsbacka and then a bus to Fjärås, from which I could meet up with the Hallandlseden before heading south to the outskirts of Varberg. The previous week it had snowed and with the clear cold weather there about 10 cm of snow lay on the ground.
Leaving Fjärås, I followed a number of footpaths before passing an impressive sports facility adjacent the Hallandsleden. The sun was shining and all was well with the world. But, the popularity of the area and sunshine also meant that the snow was melting and refreezing overnight, thus a lot of ice. Fortunately I had anticipated ice and was soon wearing the micro spikes. It would be a day off and on with the spikes, a process that would be repeated many times, but it was better than going base over apex on the ice. I passed by the magnificent Fjärås church with its outlook to the valley below, before entering the Fjärås Bräcka reserve, soon I was passing by the nature centre with its coffee shop and commanding views of the surrounding area. Their website describes the area of “Fjärås Bräcka as an impressive ice age formation which rises 60 metres above sea level. It boasts fabulous views, walks, swimming and fishing. This is also the site of Li grave field, the largest Iron Age grave field in Halland, with over 100 menhirs and about 40 other monuments.“ As it was Sunday the area was popular with visitors, out walking, visiting the coffee shop and enjoying the sunny weather. I continued on and chose a quieter (or so I thought) spot for lunch high on the ridge. Having settled down to cook lunch I was visited by 6 very friendly and inquisitive ponies, it made eating and then packing up a challenge, as they did not take no for an answer.
I left the ponies to their home as I headed further south to find my home for the night. After passing through a small residential area and chatting with the locals I headed into the forest along a very pleasant trail. As I ventured further into the forest the snow and ice increased. Upon meeting a horse rider we discussed the dangers of ice for both horses and walkers, soon afterwards I was passed by a runner, who seemed to have little concern for the dangers of running on ice covered trails. After descending a steep icy slope I headed towards Äskhult and located a campsite for the night. It had been a leisurely walk and an early camp, as I was determined to enjoy this walking holiday.
I sat cooking dinner with a wonderful sunset as a backdrop. I also recognised that it would be a cold night. I had no sooner retired to the tent for the night when an owl began to serenade me, I have often heard the natugle (Tawny Owl) at night but never this close, this was a special experience. After a comfortable and warm nights sleep I was up and moving before sunrise and watched the changing colours on the snow as I drank my coffee.
Setting off I was soon on an icy bitumen road, but it would not be long and I would return to the forests. However, like every trip, the twists and turns on the road provide their own interesting features. Here, I was taken by the old wooden machinery and the horse tracers, in the shedding at Gunnarssons, the former home of the Swedish politician Aron Christoffer Gunnarsson.
What I had already recognised on this trip was there were many ups and downs on the trail. I later discovered that by the end of the trip I would have climbed more than 4000 metres, with an equal amount of descent. Exiting from the forest into a large open space covered in snow accompanied by blue sky I felt refreshed and energised.
After spending a few minutes in the open space I continued to wander along the forest paths recognising that the hills were alive to the sounds of chainsaws and heavy machinery. In this region it is the time of the year where timber cutters seek out the best possible timber to be used for the manufacturing of Ikea furniture, and other byproducts. And it was within this section that I was confronted by an interesting obstacle, as I descended along a well used road I was suddenly confronted with a wall of freshly cut pine trees. Not only were the trees, with their red trail markers still attached, on the ground but these same trees also sat about a metre or more off the ground. Going around was not an option, so walking on trees was the only option. As I began the challenging walk I also noted that the perpetrator had left their chainsaw behind. I wonder what they would have thought if I had used it to cut a path through the newly fallen trees? After some scrambling, and bouncing on branches, followed by stumbling and generally cursing I reached the other end, and the calmness of the road. No doubt within a couple of days all would be normal again.
Having survived the pine jungle, the next challenge was the powerline, as you maybe aware most high voltage powerlines go in straightlines and this one was no exception. So it was more up, then down, then up, then down, along with the occasional icy patch to add to the excitement. But hey the sun was shining and life could be a lot worse.
Heading west down the road towards Stora Horsnjön, I met one of those typical Swedish women, she was in her 70’s striding up hill with her walking poles under her arm whilst chatting on the phone, we both said hello and then continued on our ways. As I wandered met some unexpected well wishers on the trail, or were they saying you are not camping here?
For me, I was on the home straight to a camp site for the night, Stättared on the banks of Horsnjön. It was another early finish and I was beginning to appreciate the opportunity to explore and relax.
I spent time watching the changing colours of the sunset silhouetted on the hills across the lake. The following morning I watched the dawn light grow in strength as the sun approached the top of the same hills. I also noted that the lake was now frozen and the stillness provided its own sense of calm as I packed up.
Having left camp before sunrise I headed to a viewpoint hoping for some sunrise entertainment, I was not disappointed.
After which much of the day was spent walking along roads, though there was one highlight, the waterfall above Järlov, where I happily had lunch before descending to the main road then climbing again around the quarry only to descend again on the other side. At this point I felt that the route seemed a little non sensical and walkers were being asked to climb for the sake of climbing in the hope that they may see something exciting happening within the quarry.
Afterwards I continued on my way, quickly arriving at Dranstugan shelter, my advice is do not bother to take the side track to it, just keep on walking. I knew that the next section would provide a camping challenge, and after passing by some interesting waterfalls near Nävrakarr I located a campsite for the night.
I appreciated the red sunset as I cooked dinner, it was only the next morning that I recognised the meaning of the red sunset.
I awoke to a damp tent and a quick look outside told me why, it was misty and with moisture dripping from the trees it had me thinking about how to keep everything dry. Separating the inner from the outer would ensure that I had a dry camp the next night. Soon I was packed and off along the road as those with regular jobs propelled themselves at high speed along the road past me as I walked cautiously on the embankment on the road side. Turning off the main road, a driver stopped and we chatted, after the usual question of where are you from, he indicated that Sweden had almost as many prisons as did Australia, his question had me wondering what type of job, this athletic middle aged gentleman had. Interestingly he lived next door to the Fjärås Church.
I climbed into the misty mountains and continued along the trails and byways and as I entered a snow covered field I noticed a grassy patch under a tree and I was immediately drawn to it. I sat down and relaxed it was at this point I felt “yes” this is where I belong. The sense of relaxation in the middle of forest surrounded by a field had me happily taking my time, I could have stayed all day. It took me a while before I left and returned to the roads which would take me through the quaint (ski village like) Jutatorp. After which it was a descent along snow covered trails before arriving at an ice covered lake which provided a peaceful backdrop for lunch.
After lunch is what more of the same, wandering along the roads and trails in a popular area as I approached Gällarpesjön. However, as I headed along the trail I was suddenly stopped in my tracks, and immediately burst out laughing.
What was I to do was my first thought. It was too cold to get my feet wet, however, there was an obvious way around. Then I was climbing through narrow gorge, It was evident that this was the rock fall that had blocked the water outlet thousands(?) of years ago and it provided a stimulating climb before the descent to the Gällarpesjön on the other side. Apart from the traffic speeding along Nösslingevägen it was quiet, as I sat in the shelter. The lake was frozen, and the outlook from the shelter pleasant, though I could imagine this site with it easy access from the parking lot being much busier in summer. Leaving Gällarpesjön, I set off firstly on the main road before turning on to a minor road where I was confronted by one of the largest tree blow downs I have ever come across not only was it wide and deep but also high. After some clambering, zig zagging and general pine tree avoidance I reached the other side. From here it was a pleasant walk along the Stora Neten before a climb into the forest had me wandering along some very pleasant trails before reaching the northern banks of Långasjö it was here that I began to look for a campsite but as I continued the journey southwards it seemed that a campsite that appealed to me was non existent.
At the southern end of the lake I was somewhat surprised to find that the trail markers had disappeared and I spent some time looking for the trail before taking a closer look at the map and the gps and locating an old trail I descended to the road. By now it was definitely time to camp and having found a suitable spot I set up the Notch and was soon cooking dinner and planning for the final day.
I awoke to grey skies and the threat of rain and soon set off along the trail passing by a number of houses which indicated to me that I was approaching more populous areas. A little more wandering in the forests as the snow fell had on the banks of Yasjön north of Akulla, an area I had visited whilst on the Coast2Caost in Sweden in May 2014.
Soon I met up with the old railway line that would take me to Rolfstorp and a bus. I marvelled at the difference that a few months makes, now the trail was ice covered and was somewhat treacherous, whereas in May it provided a relaxing conclusion to a 400 km walk across Sweden.