So its Tuesday the 18th of July, day 26 of the trip, we are 40km from the Swedish border and still have 400 Norwegian Crowns to spend!
So we set off in the sunshine hoping to find a petrol station that takes cash just to use up our NOK, no luck. So just before the border at Skotterud we turned off the main road and parked up in the small town. There is a nice complex of a small supermarket, a gift shop and a cafe and just for once in Norway the prices are not sky high. We had our breakfast in the cafe this came to about £11 which would have cost £8-9 in a Salisbury cafe (or £5 in Greggs). We bought a small present for a neighbour, some bread and strawberries, which used up our money save for a 50 note (£5) which we found afterwards.
Then came the border and the shops. At Charlottenberg the first town over the border we went shopping and came to the largest supermarket we have ever seen. The car park was crammed with Norwegian vehicles and the trollies were huge! At one point Doreen needed a comfort break, I didn't see her for about 20 minutes. Whilst she was away my time was fully occupied looking at the sausage counter. In all, the meat counters were about 50m long and were in four rows. The couple in front of us had piled their mega trolley high with staples and it came to over 4000 NOK say £400. Ours was a more modest 400 NOK. It has 2,500 parking slots most capable of accomodating our motorcaravan.
We hadn't confirmed what our route would be in Sweden, but a few days before had booked our ferry from Goteborg (Gothenberg) to Denmark for 4am on the 25th, again the cheapest ferry. We stopped at Arvika and paid a visit to the tourist office, got lots of brochures. Then we left for the lake at Sunne or rather to a nightstop a few km before. It was on the E45, which I hadn't noticed, its a major route Goteborg to the top of Norway and we had already come south on a bit of it 12 days before. Needless to say it was busy through the night, nowhere as busy as the E6 though. The stopover wasn't as depicted but most vans went a few hundred metres further on and parked at the golf club where there were full facilities including electric hookup if you needed it. What we needed to do was plan further than the next day. So the brochures were spread out and plans made, whilst I tried to find campsites or stop overs to fit in with this. We later walked around the golf course.
Day 27 Wednesday 19th July Went through Sunne and aimed to go down the side of the lake but although it looked good on the map we couldn't see the lake until we were about to leave it.The small towns of Deje and Forshaga looked good but also failed to deliver. So we drove to Karlstad, but failed to make the credit card parking meters work. We then drove out of town and tried to find a cafe on or near our route, failed again. One town had no cafes at all, the next had a cafe signposted off the E18 motorway but was closed, so we drove instead to Kristinehamn. Karlstad and Kristinehamn are at the top of Lake Våneern, which is the size of a large English county or two! We were drawn to a Picasso sculpture, the largest, and yes it was there and had a cafe right next door. Picasso never came here but worked at a distance so to speak.
Well after a pleasant afternoon we moved on to a campsite near Gullspång that the last three reviewers had given 10/10 for. Just after being shown to our pitch I realised I had left my manbag at the cafe which resulted in a 70km round trip to pick it up. We luckily remembered having a till receipt and it had a telephone number on it. However we were getting low on fuel and although we should have had enough as we approached Kristinehamn suddendly the trip indicator was predicting 4km to empty. It meant trying a credit card we hadn't used abroad, luckily it worked thanks to the help of a local as this was the first automatic pump without an english option. Anyway back to the campsite and we fully understand how it got those ratings. Each pitch was unique, in nearly every one they had a shelter, a table and chairs or bench, otherwise they shared those items. There was a firepit and axe and the freedom to plunder their log store. Most of the pitches were beside water, one of the many ponds in this area of cleared birch forest.
It seemed when there was nothing else to do the owner built a new shower and toilet block indeed a new one was being constructed. This meant that you didn't have far to go to the facilities. It was truely charming Doreen wanted to stay for a week. The other thing, he was a collector or hoarder of farm machinery and around the main buildings there was plenty of evidence of that. One last thing if you wanted a cycle ride you could just help yourself, if it was broken you could try to fix it but there were plenty of bikes. With all the water, sharp axes and dangerous machinery it was nice to see that you were trusted to be sensible and there were no long lists of rules, all campsite wardens of the regimental kind should be forced to stay here a while.
Day 28 Thursday 20th July The next day we moved on, after first having a short cycle ride then saying goodbye to the 10/10 campsite. The first stop being at Sjötorp which is one end of the Gōta canal. One of the reasons we abandoned the idea of going along the Gōta canal is that it doesn't go to Gothenberg it empties at this end into Lake Våneern. The connection to Gothenberg being by the Trollhatten canal which is a wide commercial canal which we would see tomorrow. Anyway there was a lot going on at the locks so we stayed a while before moving on to Mariestad for lunch.
We then headed to the castle, Läckö Slott. Its a very fine castle and if we hadn't seen Kalmar castle last year we would have voted this the best Swedish castle, as it was it was a runner up. It does house some of the Swedish Treasury so plus points for that and we were given a tour in english by a very competant young lady. It is on a peninsula into the lake and as can be seen has views out over the lake.
Tun is a little village half way between Lidkoping and Trollhattan and it was here that we spent the night. It was by a churchyard on gravel and someone had taken the trouble to rake it like a Japanese garden.
Day 29. So we followed the main road to the Trollhattan tourist office which was by the canal, on our way we came across a SAAB Viggen fighter, not for the first time, like others just mounted by the side of the road, this time we had a camera ready. We were also lucky to be around whilst this little bridge opened for a convoy of small craft heading down to Gothenberg. The tourist information office had nothing much that we hadn't already seen including some ridiculously small and expensive Dala horses of which more later. It is situated at an industrial museum which we had to forgo because of time. This is because we are on our way to Ed.
At an earlier tourist office two things had caught our eye, one was an Elk or Moose Ranch the other the Dalsland canal with boat trips and they were both near Ed, where there was also a campsite and as it was Friday, we proposed to stay there two nights. Well the site was huge and rambling and expensive, even more so when they wouldn't take our International Camping Card but were insisting us on buying theirs. So we left, parked up outside and sought the ranch using sat nav. Only to find we were there! We went in and it was nearly feeding time. These Elk live like wild ones, except that three times a day they get fed and once they are in a very large pen, the gate is shut until the last feed. I don't know what we were expecting but not to be up so close to them. We thought the smaller enclosure in front of us was where they came to, or where the staff fed them I wasn't really expecting to be let in there, given birch branches to feed them. Right down to the smallest child who wanted to. Doreen was in heaven.
and there were babies
Elk are lovely gentle creatures quite ungainly on their thin legs with the huge antlers, look at the back to front rear legs on the baby and the one scratching with his rear leg. After we had resisted most of the Elk souvenirs, we looked in the Camper Contact app and found that there were two stop overs at Bengtsfors which is where the canal trip departed from, the staff were just leaving but we managed a booking for tomorrow. You could stay down there, there were paid facilities and electric but there was a free stopover high above at an open air museum. So we went there and had a nice walk around the old buildings as a bonus. We could see down to the jetty where tomorrow's boat was tied up.
Day 30 Saturday 22nd July. We went down to the harbour early to get a spot in the main car park. Knowing that the ship would turn before making her way downstream we sat in a quiet spot out of the sun, a couple joined us and we were soon chatting away and found they came from Brussels so a few compliments from us on the frites and the beer and we were well away. The trip was excellent plenty of locks and swing and lifting bridges for interest with lakes in between coffee and good conversation.
Most of the technical interest was at the end, Håverud, where the boat goes over an aquaduct before decending under road and rail bridges in three locks to the lake there. whereupon you find your way to the light railway station and catch a train back to Bengtsfors.
Our Belgian fellow travellers had told us where they stayed the previous night and we had told them our one. So we swapped pitches and we went to a lovely spot by a lake where we paid 150SEK for full facilities, the light railway passed right by and after the last train at about 19.30 there wasn't to be another one until after midday on Sunday.
Day 31 Sunday We now went to back to Trollhattan and down the side of the canal until we crossed over at just before Lilla Edet. We found the overnight stop without a problem just by one of the locks. This site gets marked 1/10 by some people, that is because it has a truely disgusting toilet nearby. If you ignore the toilet then its fine. I had a walk down to the lock and watched the amateur antics of some in this commercial sized lock, to be fair some managed quite well, others ...
In the early evening I looked down towards the lock but filling my view was a large ship that was slowly rising, so Doreen and I went down to see the latter stages of its lock passage. It fitted the lock in both length and width more or less exactly, a gap of perhaps 100mm either side as near as I could judge.
That night around 2am we were disturbed by a drunk who rattled our bicycles that were locked onto the carrier, then she(!) went away singing. In the morning I asked our neighbours who were Dutch if they had heard anything, no they hadn't, and their bikes were more accessible than ours. They did take the trouble to warn me about Gothenburg. I had already read the warnings in reviews on Camper Contact apparently gangs of robbers frequent the campsites especially the one where you pitch up and pay into a machine there being no wardens. I take these with a pinch of salt but we didn't intend to camp there.
Day 32 Monday 24th July. We drove into Gothenberg with the Stena terminal location in our satnav. We were able to judge how far it was from the centre in terms of a bike ride and parked up just a little way further on at the entrance to the fish market in a paid car park, four hours costing around £2. We carefully selected it mindful that Gothenberg obviously contained a nest of bandits. We then cycled into town, which was a revelation in itself, proper bike lanes separated for the main part from the rest of the traffic with its own traffic lights and it seemed to us that we often had priority. Parked our bikes in a pedestrian street and went walking in Gothenberg. What a nice place, we had some lunch bought some presents and visited the tourist information where Doreen nearly had a meltdown when after queuing for a while to make a small purchase was informed there was a ticket system. They had quite a display of Dala horses of all sizes which I should explain as its the souvenir that everyone wants, but that is before they see the price! The largest one in the display case was £300 the bigger one on the shelf £500. Each one cut out using a bandsaw from a single piece of waste pine timber then hand carved with sharp knives, hand dipped, normally in Falun red paint then hand painted, no two are exactly alike, the smaller ones in the cabinet were still around £30. In a shop nearby we saw some cheaper examples, not authentic ones, and also some wooden blanks for around £5, I purchased a rough blank for the grandkids to help me with. it has now been trimmed, sanded and had its base coat (a spray can of 'tool box' red from Halfords).
Work in Progress
Gothenberg has trams, both older ones and new ones more bendy than those in Amsterdam. There are canals here too.
So now we had 12 hours before the ferry left for Denmark, we judged that we won't be back to Sweden any time soon so look to spend our last SEK tonight. After returning to the van and finding it intact we drive to the outer suburbs next to the coast to find a restaurant and after a couple of false starts find an excellent one where I have mussel soup and both of us have halibut and then delightfully light desserts. Getting to Stena line as the previous ferry leaves we are invited to head up the new queue and we settle down for a doze when we wake up its tomorrow and we start by going through border control.
Link to the conclusions, Denmark, Germany, and Holland