A 2020 roundtrip in Sweden. Michael, Kurt, and I went on a clockwise trip from Malmö and back.
It was originally the plan to ride south to the Balkan countries, and then a little later, the British Isles. But you know: Covid-19. Luckily Sweden is a big country with lots of great roads, so it ended up with a Sweden roundtrip.
This is part two, part 1 is here: 2020: Sweden ride report, part 1
Michael had left early in the morning. I only heard him as he started the bike and rode off. He wanted to take the fast-ish route south. He told me later, that he rode all the way to Mora the first day, and home the second. Two very lang days. I believe he did ride some gravel too, as the paved road became to monotonous.
Kurt and I had other plans. We wanted to continue north, and the we had a great day planned: Destination Ritsem.
While Ritsem doesn’t offer much else than scenery, we knew we would have to backtrack 150 kilometers. The first 90 kilometers was quite boring with just forests and relatively flat roads. At least nothing we could see from trees. It was a very easy ride, though, giving me a lot of time to think about life.
Back in 2018 when I started posting videos on the YouTube channel, I had the idea that I might be able to make a little from the videos. Now, two years later, it is clear, that if it will ever happen, it will take a lot more years, and a lot more travel.
Covid-19 hasn’t helped either. But I am one of the lucky ones, I have not financially been hit by Covid-19 with my freelance software development work. But it is definitely not YouTube that pay my bills. Maybe I was naive, thinking I could make enough to just have a decent income. I never expected to reach the same numbers as “Itchy Boots”, or “On Her Bike”, as I simply don’t travel enough and don’t upload enough content.
But it really doesn’t matter that much. I am having a good time travelling, I am super happy with the viewers, and I love that I can recognise some (by their name) in the comment sections.
Back to the ride. As said, the first 90 kilometers was quite uneventful, but the second half was stunning.
One of the bigger attractions in the area, is the Kungsleden hiking trail. I guess “Kungsleden” can be translated roughly into “King’s trail”. It starts at Abisko, and goes all the way to Hemavan, approx 400 km.
But we weren’t interested in hiking, so we would have to backtrack once we got to Ritsem. There is no way we could ride the bikes on the hiking trail, even if it was allowed (which it isn’t).
We continued all the way to Ritsem, where the only thing we could do was turn around. Before we did that, we stopped next to the lake to get a warm cup of coffee. Two young people from Germany came by and it was obvious they had some sort of problem as he was fiddling with a first aid kit.
When approached, it turned out, that she had cut herself in the flesh between her index finger and the one next to it. She had some pain and was a bit challenged by her not being able to use her right hand, and needed help for almost everything. We did not have anything they didn’t have already, so there was not much we could do. They said they would take a bus that was scheduled to arrive a few hours later and they’d go to Gällivare to see a doctor. They were supposed to hike for another two weeks, but would probably rent a car and turn it in to a road trip instead.
She was tough, but she was in pain. I really hope they got to enjoy the rest of the trip despite this mishap.
Backtracking was great as well. Although it was the same greography, it was a different scenery as we got to see it from the opposite direction. It definitely did not feel as if we had been there before.
We headed towards Kiruna, with a short detour in to Gällivare to get some late lunch. We found a pizza place that seemed quite interesting, but their pizzas where mediocre. But they served their purpose.
The E10/E45 to Kiruna was quite boring, to be honest. Lots of traffic, flat scenery, and straight roads. But we finally got to the camp site we had decided when we stopped for lunch.
At Camp Alta, we got a cabin literally 2 meters from the lake. What a fantastic place. When we got there, the sky was clear, and the owner told us that there was a good chance we got to see northern lights. Unfortunately, as the night progressed, clouds covered the sky.
A couple on a GS came to the camp site in the evening, and I went to say hi. They were from Germany. As the passenger was really freezing, we didn’t talk much. She desperately needed a cabin and a warm shower.
We started early in the morning. We were set for another leg of going there and backtracking. We wanted to ride all the way to Abisko and Riksgränsen.
It was really cold, and I ended up turning on my heated vest. After several hours of riding on an easy road in 4-5 °C, it got cold. But the scenery was awesome. It would have been really great to have been able to enter Norway, but that must wait for another time. I did get to ride in Norway in 2019, so I do know how spectacular it is. We turned around – we had to, police was watching us – only 50 kilometres from the entry to the spectacular Lofoten islands.
It was getting colder, or it felt like it, and we were getting hungry. So we stopped at a hotel and had a cup of overpriced coffee in the cozy lobby. It worth (almost) with every Swedish Krone.
I also got myself the most expensive face mask that I will every buy. But I forgot to bring face masks, so now I had one, should I need it.
We headed back towards Kiruna, and took a little detour to Esrange Space Center, situated northeast from Kiruna. It is not open to the public, but there is a small visitors’ center with some interesting stuff on display, and a good deal of information. Also, there are coffee and cookies as you please.
The plan was to continue east, towards the border with Finland. As with the Norwegian border, we could not cross in to Finland. We rode to a little village, called Karesuando, which sits just next to the river Muonio, forming the border with Finland.
Just a few kilometers outside the village, we came across a sign saying “The northernmost public road in Sweden”. Obviously, we had to ride that. It was clear that we had to backtrack, but we could not leave the northernmost road in Sweden un-ridden.
It was a 12 kilometer ride on wide, easy gravel before we got to Maunu, where we had to turn around. I had hoped we would find a camp site there, but there was none to found.
We headed back to Karesuando to find a camp site. But they were closed, even a small hotel was closed. We were travelling end of August, and there we no tourists. End of the season, and next to no visitors due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
After a little riding back and forth, we found Dagny’s Cabins. We checked in to a comfortable cabin, and hoped for the last chance to see northern lights.
Dagny, who is also working as a postman – judging by her Postnord car – was such a lovely person. As we were sitting the cabin later that evening, she knocked on the door and offered some home made cookies. What a nice surprise. I will definitely recommend this place. There’s not a lot to see in the area; at least not on the Swedish side. Who knows what was going on over on the Finnish side.
Clouds builded on the sky as it got darker, so we missed our last chance to see northern lights. Tomorrow, we would be riding south of the Arctic Circle.
But first, we had to do some gravel. I looked forward to that, as the last couple of days had been paved roads. They are fine, but they get boring quite fast.
Although it rained, it wasn’t very bad. It was actually the first real rain we had on the trip. Actually, we did not have much rain on the entire trip.
Although the gravel road was a bit more muddy and slippery (bumpy at some places), it was quite easy. It was clear that the road was not as used as the faster gravel we’ve been riding.
The weather cleared, and the gravel roads south of Karesuando turned out to be one of the best routes of them all.
We rode a good deal of gravel, a lot of it on the TET, which for this part was easy on the heavy bikes.
On the way south, towards Haparanda, we rode through quite a lot of road works. Some of it, actually technical gravel. Well, not technical per se, but these roads were normally paved, so if you were riding a touring bike, fully loaded, with a passenger, you might have found it annoying.
One section, in particular was quite fun with child-fist sized rocks and dirt used as the lower layer of the road before the road roller has compacted the surface. It was fun, but again, on a fully loaded touring bike, or a cruiser – I dunno.
As we crossed the Arctic Circle going North, we would eventually cross it when going south. And we did. Nothing fancy, just a sign like any other road sign.
Shirtly after the Arctic Circle sign, we took a right turn, onto some gravel. The 841 had been a bit fun with all the road construction and pretty long sections on unpaved surface.
We rode to Haparanda, where I had originally expected us to stay for the night, but we got there rather early. There wasn’t a lot going on, particular with the border with Finland closed (there’s a town just across the border, Tornio, that seems to have a little more to offer). So after having a late lunch, we to pushed on.
With Haparanda at the very top of the Gulf of Bothnia, we headed west before going south. We decided to take the E4 to get more in-land (without having to head north again). It is a quite boring road, a 2-1 road with alternating 2 lanes in one direction, and 1 in the other.
Not far south from Luleå (de didn’t actually enter the town), we left the E4 and headed towards Älvsbyn, where we found a small camp site with cabins.
As they had ended the season a little early, there were no-one at the site, but they had left a phone number. A lady came after 15 minutes, and we were given two separate cabins for the price of one. I don’t mind sharing cabin, but having a room for myself is better. It is nice after days with shared cabin, to get a little privacy.
One of the other cabins at the campsite was occupied by what appeared like east European workers. They spoke a slavic language. I don’t understand any slavic languages, but I can recognise it when I hear it. What surprised me was there was a boy, I’d say he was 12 years old or so. This was September 1st and school had definitely started. That was a bit odd.
It was a rather nice campsite and the morning mist and sun was awesome.
Riding motorcycles around Europe, filming, photographing, blogging and vlogging. My passion is riding and seeing new places, sharing the awesome sights and seeings with the world.