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Red barn, cloud and antlers.

I have been wondering what percentage of Swedish children are blonde. I can not find the figure on the WWW. so I will have a wild guess at 90%. It could be more, and there are times when it looks close to 100%. My pal Fraser stood out at college as being the only Scandinavian blonde to come from Falkirk in Scotland. I asked him if he ever felt compelled to raise a hand and wave at other blondes in the way that drivers of Beetles do. He did not – which is a shame.

Delivery bike and white boards.

We had a late start in Kisa, with a morning of blog writing before we turned a pedal. It had been clear over night and quite cold. It had done this before and then clouded over as soon as porridge was eaten. But today, oh wonders of wonders, it is sunny and with what will be a helpful tailwind as well. Oh joy of perfect joys. We head back on to the 134 and into the town of Kisa for a coffee. Within 15k a Raven black cloud is upon us and we are making a dash for cover.

Ride after the rain.

Dry weather makes everything about cycle touring so much easier. This is cruel, and plays havoc with your motivation. On we go again. It is warmer though and perhaps the first day when many of the red houses do not have wood smoke curling from their chimneys. The smell of wood smoke is so wonderful as it hangs in chilly Autumn air, but a bit of a let down in July.

Roadside church yard.

Not once do we stray from black top today, and with a warm wind pushing us along, we make good and easy progress. We end the day, by a lake in the town of Atvidaberg and I bet you could have guessed the bit about the lake. It is a community campground where you have to phone for the key holder. As so often on our trip when we come across things like this I wonder if it would last a weekend back home before it was trashed by vandals.

Old town.

Yew avenue and church yard.

Painted ceiling of the old church.

We ride in to the old part of town as Esther wants to see some churches. We have been in more churches than the Pope already this year but she shows no sign of becoming bored with them. It is interesting to see how they slowly change as we ride and to see local styles. The older church was derelict and restored early last century and now it is the massive modern church that is surrounded by security fencing after it fell into disuse.

Barn and bike.

Out onto the 35, and then a right towards Bersba. With all the riding in the rain, my leather Brooks saddle is making groaning noises. I give it a turn of the ‘ Care Spanner ‘ and life onboard the Yates’ is peaceful again. We have a navigational moment. The spelling on the sign at the side of the road differs to the one on the map. This could be a mistake, a typo, or there could be two places with almost identical names. Sweden keeps you on your toes when it comes to navigation. Roads that we expected to be gravel further south are the same on the map, but here are increasingly surfaced.

On to the gravel road.

More wonderful barns.

An old mill.

As soon as I say that, we take a right towards Ostraryd, and we are back on gravel. I have to say that this is not a moan, just an observation. Most of what we have enjoyed in Sweden has been found down these tracks. The gravel does not last long. Things are getting bit more intensive agriculturally. We are riding along at just 3m above sea level and perhaps this brings a gentler climate. Fields are certainly getting bigger. Here there is more wheat and even oil seed rather than the Oats of the smaller farms we had been riding through.

Lake with cows grazing.

Open riding with bigger fields.

We see our first Lapwing, its flight more paper bag in a stiff breeze, than bird. This is our Autumn and Spring bird back home, and a sign of harvest and ploughed fields. We pass a wonderful red barn. This one is held high on stone pillars and I wonder if it is a more Eastern design. Hut on hen’s legs is one of the paintings in ‘ Pictures at an exhibition ‘, by Mussorgsky. Perhaps this sort of barn is the inspiration and not just artistic madness.

Shed on hens legs?

We turn right towards Nybble and at the side of the road is our second dead snake. This one is quite a size and would make me scream like a girl if it moved. We have ridden through the town with the longest name in the world when we peddled in New Zealand. Now a sign for the town of A, which must be equal first for shortest. The landscape is changing. Flat and much more fertile as we ride closer to Stockholm. We turn towards Mauritsberg and the gps shows us below sea level. Who would have thought that. I had checked  there was no mountain ranges ahead, but not much more than that.

The town of A.

Still in bloom – oil seed.

We know that it will be wild camping this evening and we are exploring possible pitching sites, following the gps to a dead-end track. As we get to the side of the lake at Farjestaden the views open. Storm clouds and it is sheeting with rain further East. We have been lucky and we get even luckier. Someone comes out of the house and very soon we are introduced to the family. Christian, Graziela and their daughter Clara live in Norway. This is the farm where Christian grew up and they still own the land and have this, the old ferry terminal as a summer house. Pitch your tent here by the Baltic and eat with us. How nice is that and I had been calling it a lake.

The old ferry terminal – now a summer house.

Our hosts for the evening.

We put up the tent just as a Sea Eagle goes by. Terns are flying, squabbling and shrieking. Beautiful to look at, but they would get on your nerves. Give me a Blackbird every time. After a wonderful evening of company, we ride the track to the new ferry terminal to catch our boat across the Baltic from Skenas. It counts as part of the road system and so is free as many are here. That was a wonderful night.

Across the Baltic from our camp.

On the ferry.

We ride parallel to the coast and typical of coast riding, it is lumpy. Esther stops to pick wild Strawberries. The food of Princesses, they are everywhere. On we go to Koppartarp and on the way pick up another area map from a tourist office. These are always free and are a way of saving a fortune on maps. Thunder clouds are building off to our left and they fill the horizon as our road bends towards them.We can see lightning forks and hear the bass rumble, but today someone else is getting wet. Hurrah indeed.

Orchids by the roadside.

Coastal road.

We camp near Arno after a short day. Both of us are knackered, worn out for some reason and have legs that feel heavy. No idea why, ad thank goodness this is not Olympic finals day. We sleep well, but you can look out of the tent after midnight and it is still light and dawn is with us at just after 3.00. There is a heavy dew by morning, but it is warm and the tent is dry and ready to pack as soon as porridge is done.

Church in Arno.

It is getting more like everywhere else.

A side track to look at another church.

Busy roads to avoid.

Clouds are building early and we are on the 223. Things are getting to feel just like any other European country. McDonald’s litter in the verge, like everywhere else in the world. There are fast and busy roads to try to avoid. The riding is easy and we have a tailwind which I think we deserve. Late in the day we stop at a cafe. The entertainment is a bee keeper removing a swarm. He works slowly and with great care. Eventually he gets most of the bees into a big paper bag. It is a grocery bag rather than anything technical. He rolls over the top, once and then twice, and seals it with tape. It is the angriest paper bag you will ever come across. He puts it in the back of his SAAB and drives away. I write a short poem in the style of John Hegley:-

As angry as a bag of Bees – But not as smelly as a bag of cheese – And if there is someone you would like to tease – Ask, could you check that bag for my keys – then run.

I will not be doing Edinburgh Festival this year. We end a long day in Södertälje at a municipal campground, totally worn out.

Wheat and oil seed field.