Day 2 of the Öland trip offered a great number of sights to see, and roads to ride. Although Öland is flat as a pancake, it is in its own way breathtaking. This day would take us to from the very north to the very south and back again, seeing only a fraction of what Öland has to offer.
The sun was shining from a crystal clear, blue sky. There’s nothing better than to wake up to a sunny morning with a full day of riding in front of you. The plan was to head north towards the “Långe Erik”, or “Tall Erik”. It is a light tower on the northern most part of the island, that is – during the summer – open to the public.
The town of Borgholm is relatively quiet. At least off season. We arrived to the town Saturday night; not much was going on. It could have been because it was off season, and maybe there is more beat during the summer, but I believe the town is for people who are looking for a relaxed and quiet stay.
During the check out, I asked the receptionist if there is any place she would recommend us going. She gave us a brochure – that I seem to have lost now, to my regret – that had tonnes of good information on the island. Among it all, it had a description of a “Stone Coast Road”, that I hadn’t heard of before and that my researched did not come across.
It is supposedly the most scenic route on the entire island, a good 30 kilometers long road along the west coast. Obviously we had to go there. So the lesson that I learned years ago, was yet again confirmed to pay off: always ask the locals. Sometimes they do have good information, and sometimes the don’t – but always ask. Also, showing interest is always a nice and welcomed gesture.
So we got out on the motorcycles, and tried to find the road on the GPS. The brochure itself only had text that described the location of the road, not a map. And the names in the brochures couldn’t be found on the GPS. After some searching and fiddling with the GPS, I found something that looked like it could be the road. Off we went. The sun was shining, it was truly a great day.
The geology of Öland, and the Store Alvar in particular, is extremely interesting. Lot’s of information can be found online, but I need to highlight a few: the limestone formation that makes up most of the island in 500 million years old with a rich record of fossils. Each 1 millimeter of limestone represents 1,000 years. It was only 11 thousand years ago, after the last ice age, that it emerged from the Baltic Sea. There’s much more to read on wikipedia.
On the route north, we passed small, but distinct, patches of limestone, where the layers was very visible.
The more technology that we carry, the more can go wrong. That is true. And it was true for my one of my GoPros that failed to capture the talk we had with a land owner that we met in out search for the Stone Coast Road. We had ridden down a gravel road – from the main road – in the hope that the roads on the GPS actually existed. Often, the unpaved roads on the GPS either doesn’t exist anymore, so even though it’s on the map, it’s not necessarily doable.
So we ended up taking a road that would take us directly through someone’s backyard. Although Swedes do enjoy free roaming, there are limits. So we turned around. As we did, we met the owner, who was curious about us as we rode the road that lead to his house only, like it was his driveway. He assured us that the Stone Coast Road indeed was scenic, and it was possible to get there through his land. So we got his permission, although he did warn us that the so-called road was just an old track, but with our bikes we might be able to do it.
The road was indeed and old track, some of it very muddy, but it wasn’t anything difficult. Not even for our heavy bikes. I later discovered that there is a much more accessible route a bit further south that we had missed.
The Stone Coast Road is a 34-ish kilometer road with a really great surface – a mix of both paved and hard packed gravel. It is easy riding for all sorts of motorcycles. It is rather narrow, but it is a great route – a must-do route if you’re on Öland.
Funny thing is, that now afterwards, knowing what to look for, I find the road described on different sites, but none describes the exact location. It is like they want us to know, but don’t want us to go there. I can imagine it does get crowded during the high season. It is a very narrow road (2-3 meters wide).
Stone stacking is an old phenomenon and is – in Scandinavia – usually used for landmarks. I can’t find any information as to when the ones at the Lofta Kustväg (roughly translated to Lofta Coast Road) started and what it was originally used for – if anything at all.
Although the location of the road wasn’t too obvious, we weren’t the only ones riding it that day. A group of riders from Poland had found it too. We met them a couple of times on that road that day.
At a place with a couple of nice rock formations, we met the polish riders again, and we got engaged in talks about this and that. As a motorcycle rider you share a passion, so you immediately have something to talk about. Route planning, motorcycles, gear, experiences, etc, anything that revolves around motorcycles, really. One of the ladies in the group even gave me a hug. Hugging is – for me at least – sort of reserved to those close to me. Family or close friends. But here we were. On the Stone Cost Road, being hugged by a polish lady that I haven’t met before and will never meet again. Just because I am a motorcycle rider. How awesome is that?
We got to Långe Erik, or Tall Erik, a little later. The light tower itself was closed as it was off season, but we could walk around the area, take pictures a rest a little. During the summer, there’s a little shop where you can buy souvenirs and coffee. It is very cozy and quiet and recommended for a relaxing getaway.
A curiosity that we saw, was what looked like a female motorcycle passenger. The individual, wearing tight leather, had a shape that resembled a woman. But we never knew for sure as “she” never took off her helmet. The motorcycle parked 200 meters away, walking across a bridge, but never taking off her helmet. Maybe she had a bad hair day underneath the helmet. Who knows.
As there was no food to get, we continued south. Our next destination – a few hours away, was the Eketorp fort. But first, we had to get something to eat.
We found a really nice fish restaurant that coincidentally opened the minute we arrived. Located at Böda Hamn, we had a great view over the Baltic Sea. Fresh cod, potatoes and salad. It is sometimes easy to not get around to eat as it can be a bit difficult to find a restaurant on the route, so I normally have a snack bar with me. It is important to keep a decent blood sugar level, and to stay hydrated when riding on a warm day. Öland has a lot of restaurants, and even though this was off season, it wasn’t too difficult to find a place.
After a good lunch, we continued south, keeping east. It was a windy day. The east side of Öland has a lot of small villages, farms and also a fair share of old windmills.
The windmills kind of prove that strong winds is something that isn’t unusual on Öland. We definitely had our share of strong winds that day. The mills aren’t used anymore and really just serves as historical sites. It never occurred to me before now, when writing this, that I should have stopped and checked the windmills out a bit more.
Approaching Eketorp Ringfort, the wind got stronger to the point where I doubted I could fly the drone. It is a small drone that can only deal with so much wind. Getting to Eketorp Ringfort, it was emphasized that we were off season, as it was closed. Luckily, although it was closed, the ringfort was still accessible. Only the indoor museum, shops, and exhibition was closed. Oh, and the restroom too. Being at a place, where the landscape is flat as a pancake – the highest place is pretty much the pile of manure the cow next to you has just dropped, and vegetation so low that it all resembles a Japanese miniature garden, finding a private place to do your business isn’t that easy.
The Eketorp Ringfort dates back to the Iron Age and was constructed around year 400. It is believed to have been used for religious ceremonies originally. A few hundred years later, it was abandoned for reasons unknown. In the early year of 1000, it was put into use again and was rebuilt, reusing the original structure.
The ringfort is open for the public, and houses a museum that shows some artifacts found during the excavation in 1974. It is worth a detour if you’re interested in Scandinavian history. There are a couple of other forts on Öland, Ismantorp, and Gråborg (Swedish).
Although it was very windy, I did fly my drone, but the batteries were emptied very quickly. It was difficult to get steady shots and the controller kept warning for crosswinds recommending immediate landing. Besides Thonny and myself, there was only about 4-5 people at the site.
We spent maybe an hour, or so, and we rode on towards to south cape of Öland, Långe Jan (or Tall John in English). I had been there before, in 2013, on a family trip, so I kind of knew what was in store. But we were close, and we had originally planned to visit both capes as well.
To get there, you go through an area with livestock grazing, freely roaming the area. So watch out for animals on the road.
The south cape seems to be a hub for bird watchers. There were bird watchers all over the place, and this being a natural reserve, and with strong crosswinds, I decided not to fly the drone. It’s propellers are razor sharp, so I was imagining the situation if I accidentally decapitated a rare bird they had all been waiting days or even weeks to see.
There is a cafe, and souvenir shops, and is a nice place to sit and relax. Prices are a bit high, coffee not above average, so if you have your own gear, primus, jetboiler, or similar stove, and the weather is nice, it is a great place to relax for a couple of hours.
The name Långe Jan is from a burnt down chapel, named Skt. Johannes (St John)
The name Långe Jan (or Tall John) origins from the medieval chapel, “Capella Beati Johannis”, or “Sct Johannes (Jan)”, that sat at the old fishing village, “Kyrkhamn”. Kyrkhamn was burned to the ground by Danes in 1563. The stones and material from the burned down chapel was used to build the light tower.
There is no parallel story to the name Långe Erik (Tall Erik), but it is assumed that it got its name to align with Långe Jan (Tall John). Both Långe Erik and Långe Jan are nicknames. Their official names are “Ölands Norra Udde” (Öland’s North End) and “Ölands Söddra Udde” (Öland’s South End), respectively.
The south cape was the last destination before heading back to the mainland. We had planned to cross the “Store Alvar”, the large limestone terrace, with its distinct vegetation. Due to the high pH value of limestone, species otherwise only found at East European steppes, grows on the alvar.
I had seen on OpenStreetMap that a road went diagonally across the Store Alvar, and we had planned to ride that. When we got to the road, it turned out to be a bicycle path only. It had steel gates, and clear signs so we decided not to take that road.
But there a more was across the Stora Alvar. To my knowledge, this one though is the only gravel. We went a bit further north, ended up backtracking quite a bit.
Crossing the Store Alvaret was in a way a disappointment. I didn’t find any place that really showed the distinct features of the limestone terrace. Normally, you don’t see the bedrock exposed unless you’re in a mountainous area, so I wanted to somehow get a picture of that. But every time I passed a place, I was way past it before I could stop. Could I turn around? I guess, but then again, I couldn’t find the right light for a photo. Admitted, it was getting late, and I was getting tired. We had had a long day of riding and were getting tired to the point were we really just wanted to have a shower, a beer and some food. I think that is why I didn’t see the opportunities which I’m sure was there to be found, had I made a little effort.
We kept on riding, crossing the bridge back to the mainland, and back to Kalmar, where we wanted to stay for the night and ride the last leg tomorrow. Passing the bridge is as easy as riding a normal road. It has two lanes in each direction, no toll gates or anything. Just ride. It’s a flat bridge with a single higher raised section that allow smaller boats to pass underneath.
But it was a nice ride allowing one to contemplate the last couple of days. Lot’s of great experiences, nothing unexpected, nothing out of the ordinary, except that one time riding off road across the landowner’s backyard in the search for the Stone Coast Road. All of the sudden, riding in first gear, the engine stopped. As if it was cut off. It never happened again, and I have had no problems starting it, ever. I don’t know if it is possible for the side stand to bump down when hitting a deep rut, but it kind of had the sensation as if have your motorcycle in gear and you push down the side stand, making the engine cut off.
We found a very nice hotel, affordable, very close to the castle we had visited the day before. The rooms were nice, and I am almost certain that the room I had, had been occupied by a female wedding guest the night before due to the noticeable smell of perfume in the room. It was a nice smell though, so complaints from me.
The parking was extra, which surprised me a little as there was plenty of room to park the bikes in the hotel yard. But we only had to pay for one booth as both bikes could fit into one.
The same routine as always: checking in, getting the gear off the bikes, into the room, into the shower, a beer at the restaurant, food, update friends and family – and social media.
Earlier, I had promised myself just one beer, but I ended up having two. I nice cold wheat beer, a manly man-burger, and just one more beer. A perfect end of a perfect day.
At the end, I did end up having an accident that day. A true first-world problem: my toothbrush broke.
I can’t complain.