Glötdalsvallen

As my eye was looking even worse for wear following the mozzie bites, we decided against parking at Rombovallen and walking along the Pilgrim’s Way to Stradalsvallen. Whilst the track looks interesting, it runs mainly through marshland and boggy woodland, and I couldn’t risk getting any more bites that affected my ability to see properly, if I was to continue sharing the driving.

Instead we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast of frankfurters and fried onions – very Swedish I’m sure, met the lovely Camilla (owner of the cottage) when she arrived from Falun (in Dalarna) and introduced herself, and then headed back up to park at the Lofsdalen Panorama resort and follow the trail to Glötdalsvallen.

Fortunately the drizzle and a slight breeze kept most of the mozzies away, allowing us to enjoy the views behind Hovarken and Digervalen. We got as far as Digerbakkolen and the stream before Rich had had enough of trying to balance on the planks across the marsh – quite a difficult feat when you have no cochlears, and rely on keeping sight of the horizon to stay upright.

On the return trip we found some very bear looking fur attached to a tree so decided not to linger. Unfortunately this meant that I didn’t look around properly before taking a loo stop, only to discover a couple sitting on the hill watching us whilst eating their lunch. They gave us a big wave as we set off, so I’m assuming that they found my embarassment amusing, and that the sight of my bum hadn’t put them off their snack!

Back to the cabin for a late lunch, before a final trip to the ICA supermarket to stock up before we left Lofsdalen. Whilst I drooled over the pastry section, Rich nipped into the gift shop next door to buy me a birthday pressie, which I then wasn’t supposed to know he’d hidden next to the spare wheel in the boot. What intrigued us most however was the free gift he was given at the till:

Yep, it’s a condom. In the words of the cardboard insert – “Lofsdalen cares about you!” We reckon that the phone number provided would lead to a free chlamydia test, or as Rich lip read it, a ‘camilla’ test. I’m guessing that Lofsdalen turns into quite the party town during peak season!

Swedish mozzies

I woke to find that I couldn’t open my right eye properly, and that it looked like this:

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Despite my best efforts at tracking down and squishing any mosquitoes that made it in to the cottage, I’d obviously failed, and one of the little fockers had bitten me on the eyelid in the night. We adore Sweden, and definitely want to go back, but it’ll be during the Spring, Autumn or Winter next time – when all the mozzies are dead!

After applying liberal amounts of anti-histamine cream we decided to climb some more of the local hills, in the hope that the breeze would keep the mozzies away from me. They seem to prefer my blood to Rich’s, possibly because he’s having chemo at present.

We headed east to the next village – Glote, and then up to try and find the windpark nature reserve – Glotesvalen, which we’d found a pamphlet for back at the cottage. When we got there however the barrier was closed, and there were lots of warning signs in Swedish, so we followed the example of the car in front and turned around. Our best bet is that you can visit the sight but on organised tours only, where they take you up in a 4X4 that can cope with the very steep slopes. On this occassion we weren’t sure that Scarlett (our hire car), would have made it up.

Instead we drove back down to Glote and turned off halfway between the village and Rostvallen, from where we walked up the track to Sorvallen, and east to the foot of Glotesasen. We saw bear tracks all the way, but what with the volume of Rich’s sneezes, and my bright purple top, they could see and hear us coming from miles away, so stayed hidden.

We had wonderful 360 degree views of Harjedalen and out towards the Sonfjallet national parl from the top of Glotesasen. At 870m it’s shorter than the two peaks we walked up earlier in the week, but feels more peaceful and isolated.

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Fifi – the baby Musk Ox

After a breakfast of hot rolls heated in the cottage’s small but very effective oven, we headed off to Tannas and the Musk Ox Centre. We bought tickets and met our guide at the Fishing Centre, before being escorted to the Musk Ox enclosure in a car chain. Understandably it’s not signposted from the road so as to prevent ill informed visitors from trying to get into the enclosure, and ending up a bit worse for wear.

Musk Ox were hunted to extinction in Northern Europe 40 thousand years ago, but re-introduced to Dovrefjell in Norway from Greenland in 1869. In 1971, five Musk Ox emigrated voluntarily to Sweden and have stayed in this border region of Harjedalen ever since. In the Winter they move to high mountain areas where their short legs find it easier to move about in snow that isn’t as deep as it is in the valleys. Mental note – I need to move to the mountains.

Sweden’s Musk Ox Centre is the largest Musk Ox enclosure in the world and provides a natural, albeit slightly restricted habitat for them. In the 1980’s their numbers started to dwindle from a peak of 34, because they were frightened into not reproducing by the sheer number of people in noisy helicopters and snow-mobiles whizzing back and forth to see them. Today their habitat is protected, although the Swedish government refuses to recognise them as a Swedish animal, and so won’t provide any funding. The centre relies on tourism and local sponsors.

After being taken up a two storey observation tower to survey the musk ox territory, we were instructed not to make any loud noises or sudden movements, and led on to a viewing platform in the enclosure. We were priveleged to see a two month old female calf, and she in turn seemed to relish having an audience – playing with the adults, or just rolling around in the pen looking adorable. Rich nicknamed her Fifi.

They really do look primeval, and their bellow sounds like something out of Jurassic Park – you could feel it in your bones! Fortunately they didn’t seem to mind being watched, probably because tourist group sizes are always small, and quiet. Everyone just gazed in awe at these wonderful creatures. As the oxen wandered back towards Funasfjallen we were led into a small exhibition, before going on our way just after 1pm.

Being so close to the Norwegian border it seemed daft not to then visit the Rogen Nature Reserve. The park covers 500 square kilometres, and the entrance road is sited just a few hundred metres from Tannas. The guidebook said that it wold then be 10 miles down a gravel track, but it turned out to be closer to 15. Swedish miles are obviously longer.

With Rich feeling a bit weary after yesterday’s exertions, and the reserve being very swampy, we followed the Summer track to Rogenstugen for an hour and a half before seeking refuge from the mozzies. It turns out that natural mosquito repellents just don’t cut it when walking through swampland. Fortunately we’d also packed anti-histamine cream. The reserve is undoubtedly a stunning landscape though and we’d definitely come back early in the Spring or later in the Autumn to see it at its best, without getting bled dry.

Wild reindeer

Sunshine! After several days of unseasonably cold Summer weather, even by Swedish standards, it made a pleasant change to wake to sunlight streaming through the windows. Wanting to make the most of this good weather we ate a speedy breakfast – the compulsory porridge and lingonberry jam, and drove to the ski village. We parked near the exclusive cabin resort called ‘Lofsdalen Panorama’. The cabins are all designed to look old, and have private saunas, but we had the real thing – a genuinely old cottage right on the Lake, at a fraction of the price.

We saw no one else whilst walking up to Hovarken (1125m), until just shy of the peak we were startled by two wild reindeer. We stood out of the way so as not to frighten them as they passed, only to reach the peak and find the rest of the herd sheltering from the sun in the shadows of the chairlift station! The hike was worth it for this sight alone, but we were also treated to magnificent views westwards of the Norwegian mountains, as well as views south of Lofsdalen and the lake – Lofssjon.

On our way down we met a lovely couple who owned one of the Lofsdalen Panorama cottages, and they thanked us for visiting the village. It very much relies on tourism, and even in Winter has to compete with much larger ski resorts further north. We’d definitely go back for the snow though. There are many many miles of skidoo, cross-country skiing and snow-shoeing tracks, and the supermarket is very well stocked. Admittedly there may not be the apres-ski atmosphere that large resorts have, but Lofsdalen has an appeal all of its own.

Back to the car for a spot of lunch away from the mozzies, before spending the afternoon walking up to Solgropen, and then Dingervalen – the second highest peak overlooking the village. This was a much wetter walk underfoot, but with a gentler ascent it was popular with families. Apparently bears have been seen in the area, but we only saw a lone reindeer and an arctic grouse on the top. My guess is that the bears were too busy sunbathing.

Back down into the village centre to stock up on Kopparberg pear cider to celebrate Rich having trekked up two peaks in one day. We’ve not managed this as a couple since Romania and the pre-chemo days, so he did himself, and me, proud.

Lingonberry jam

We have a new breakfast favourite – Lingonberry jam, either dolloped on toast or porridge. Every time we eat it, we feel Swedish. Strangely, strawberry jam back home doesn’t have the effect of making us feel British.

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I felt less Swedish for not realising that the bathroom would flood unless the shower head was pointed directly over the drain. Still, lesson learned and my clothes soon dried out, although it took a while to mop an inch of water off the floor.

We began our first full day in Lofsdalen by browsing its few shops, and interrogating the very friendly staff in the tourist information office, before buying supplies from the well stocked ICA supermarket. The village is currently geared up more for Winter rather than Summer tourism, although they’re taking steps to change this by creating mountain bike routes and publicising the walking trails. We came for the peace and quiet though, and so are very happy that it’s off the beaten track for the time being.

After lunch we drove to the western end of the lake, parked up and walked along the southerly shore. Fortunately the wet and windy weather kept most of the mozzies at bay but we still got bitten a few times. That’ll teach us not to apply the insect repellent regularly.

Back to the cabin for ‘fika’ – coffee and cake Swedish style, after which Rich napped and I admired the many shades of green from the window. Things appear even more green out here, although maybe that’s just because I’m more tuned in to nature when away from urbanity. The view was very special though.

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Welcome to Lofsdalen

After another delicious breakfast at The Cheerful Pea, and a quick hello from the chickens, it was time to bid farewell to Ulrika and Christer. We promised to spread the word about their gorgeous little cabin – so if you want to stay somewhere unique in central Sweden, summer or winter, give them a call.

Dervla took us off the E4 motorway after just one junction, and we headed west. We stopped to refuel but after trying and failing to use the credit card pumps properly we had to admit ignorance and ask the cashier for help. She showed us how to display the instructions in English, and we had a chat about how the weather was apparently unseasonably poor for this time of year. We’d not come to Sweden expecting sunshine so it didn’t really matter to us that we’d gone from summer temperatures of 20 degrees C by the coast, to less than 10 degrees inland.

Within minutes we were the only car on the road for long stretches – definitely one of the joys of driving in Sweden. After three hours we reached Sveg. Unfortunately the guidebook wasn’t wrong when it said that there’s very little here other than a supermarket, and a giant wooden bear. Apparently this is to remind you that you’re entering bear territory. Just in case you’re likely to forget.

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We had high hopes for lunch at the Thai restaurant but sadly it was closed. Wet and windy weather seems to have caused many touristy places to shut down, but the ICA supermarket had a plentiful supply of gluten free produce so we had a picnic in the car and stocked up for the rest of the trip.

After another hour of driving  west towards the border with Norway, we eventually reached Lofsdalen in the district of Harjedalen, and our base for the next 6 nights – an old cabin by the lake, built in 1938. With an open plan living, sleeping and cooking area, and a bathroom and hallway with underfloor heating, it served us perfectly.

Lofsdalen is largely a ski resort and so is very quiet in the summer, but they’ve built a series of mountain bike runs and are trying to encourage walkers to visit the area as the trails are fantastic. We even had access to our own rowing boat, but sadly weren’t strong enough to turn and lift it, so it stayed put. Instead we just enjoyed the views from the small little pebble beach, although not for long as the one negative of visiting Sweden’s lakes in the summer, is the mozzies. And there are lots of the little critters.

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Hölick

As you can see from the picture below, Swedes take their breakfast VERY seriously. At 8.30am Ulrika and Christer presented two trays full of food at the cabin door. After porridge, a boiled egg, and fruit we could take no more however and admitted defeat. They certainly know how to treat their guests here at the Cheerful Pea.

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Breakfast at The Cheerful Pea

After gently picking up and putting one of the five resident farm cats outside – he wouldn’t leave of his own accord, we packed our waterproofs and headed off for Hölick, a little village on the Hornslandet Peninsula. Dervla initially estimated that it would take 1.5 hours to get there, and kept telling us to turn off onto forest tracks rather than stay on the road, but by ignoring her we arrived within 50 minutes.

We parked up, made use of the slightly smelly pit toilet, before following the yellow nature reserve trail to the Hornslandsudden promontory, and back via the green trail which runs just above the magnificent and yet totally empty beaches. Despite the drizzle, we thoroughly enjoyed the walk and could appreciate the beauty of this place even in the rain. The landscape is unusual – boulder field covered with lichen and woodland, and feels almost other worldly. The coastline is dotted with wonderfully scenic beaches – perfect for wild swimming, as well as spotlessly clean barbecue areas. No rubbish, human waste, or graffiti in sight, unlike designated picnic spots in the UK.

Back in the village we stopped for lunch at Cafe Sjoboa. We couldn’t face another fish buffet so soon after yesterday’s magnificent feast at Trollharens Fisk, so instead both chose fried place served with boiled potatoes, tartar sauce and salad. They certainly know how to make the most of fish on the Bothnian coast.

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After a quick amble around the harbour, we headed back to the cabin to dry off and drink tea, before packing up ready for another onward trip tomorrow.

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