So I've been making this trip that didn't work out at all the way I intended..
I set about from Tbilisi where I live, flying to Vienna, where I used to live. This is where my motorcycle currently lives, and it was going to take me back home to Sweden, where I'm from, to spend my vacation days getting a driver's license for cars.. which is about 18 years late in the making for me.. I decided I'd try to go to a driver's school (tests are rigorous to say the least, so without professional instructions you're going to fail) up in the middle of Sweden - or north to someone like me who is from the southern parts - where the fishing and camping opportunities are abundant. So I decided to bring my fishing and hammocking gear (actually it was the other way around - I decided to bring my fishing and camping gear, so where is a school that is located where I can put it to the fullest of use?).
All packed up and ready to go
No fuss getting there, in fact the bike rode very well on the German Autobahn with its non-speed limitations with the mods I'd done to it last year but had yet to try. Well, a slight wrong-turn aside when my gps died on me and I wound up taking an extra 200 kms through Denmark as a result.. But hey, this was my first bike trip since my disc hernia last year, so I ain't complaining! Man, it felt good to be back in the saddle! My first hammock airing came the next day about 30 kms from my hometown (which I rode through, but didn't stop) because I'd started early that morning from the south of Sweden and felt the need for a nap:
I pressed on northwards where the fishing is great and so is the nature. Pushing through the all-to-populated south, I soon found myself on lonely highways and a setting sun. I had about 300 kms to go. I'd been on the road since 7 a.m. for two days in a row, covered about 2,200 kms, and felt like I was going to fall asleep at the handle bars any second. Good then that I brought my home with me! I drove up a couple of gravel roads to try and locate a spot where I could hang, but either there were RVs, Polish berry pickers (a whole side story there about an ever dirtier business in Sweden), or variations of signs about "neighbourhood watch" (oftentimes due to the former).. So I pressed on, until I came upon this parking spot right on the highway next to a lake. It was obviously used frequently, but I decided that given the circumstances it's my best bet. And after a very good nights sleep, I woke up to brew a morning coffee that I sipped on sitting in the hammock looking at this:
I arrived at the camping (in Sweden we call them 'wanderer's home' - I kinda like the ring of that) just outside the town Ånge at about 10, got my room with an extremely comfy bed, but after this things started to go south.. Turns out, when moving to Tbilisi I de-registered from living in Sweden, which is something you have to be doing even on a temporary basis if you want to get a driver's license. You can be a foreign student having lived here for 6 months and you can get a license, but you can't be a citizen living abroad and get one. Who'd've thunk.. So, I'm stuck up here, without any reason to be here or to use my precious leave days, except.. wait a minute! I brought all my fishing and camping gear! And I'm in fishing and camping heaven!
So outwards and onwards. Now the problem is of course that there are so many places within say a 100 km radius, that you have no idea what to pick. So I went down to the local fishing store to get a license for something and some advice. He sent me up to a place that's a nature reserve wich I'm sure has great fishing, except for two things in my case: the weather had just turned (yeah, I know you've heard that one before), and I had no wader stick, which makes the stony stream life threatening to wade and since it's a nature reserve the shores are full of wild growth making it impossible to cast without wading. So I tried to wade anyway, and within 30 minutes of "fishing" the inevitable result came: I dumped myself in the stream, getting a good soaking into my waders... Since the weather just turned, I decided I'm not going to continue in wet clothes, because I'd wind up chilled to the bone. And of course I didn't bring spare clothes, because it was just going to be an over-nighter.
I still set up the hammock in the middle of that troll forest, apologising profuesly to all the little people of the woods whose houses under the rocks I just stepped on..
NO PICTURE HERE, AS THE CAMERA WENT IN THE STREAM WITH ME
I went back to the camping slightly demotivated. And mosquito bitten. I was not about to give up though. Some research on the laptop I brough gave another lead: a creek about 100 kms from here, the license for which you bought online through a VERY simple system (which I hope every area for licensing in Sweden will join eventually). I geared up and went, and found the creek. The only question was where the fishing would be ok. I tried to locate a spot through looking at the gps, but the gravel road that took me to near that spot was one that could be closed off with a boom if I stayed too late.. Good thing my V-strom can do off-road if it has to! The rain had been going for some hours already, and the creek looked great but was entirely dead. Or, at least nothing was biting on what I was offering.
Doesn't this look ok for trout? (yeah, I brought my blackberry)
I gave up, and went back down the gravel road, wondering whether the boom would be closed or not, and found to my great joy that it was open still (I worried a bit when I saw fresh wheel tracks seemingly going back towards it). I drove to a place further upstream which also looked ok on a map, and irl too - it was just downstream an old mill, and after the rapids a calm stretch took over. This is where I got a bite! After fishing my way through the whole stretch, I caught a trout about 10 cm long! Ah well, it's a trout no matter how large. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.
It was getting dark, so time to find a place to camp. I thought I'd just string the hammock up along the creek, but there were cottages all around. In Sweden, we have what is called the "every-man's-right" or what I believe the Scottish call the "right to roam", meaning you are allowed to camp pretty much anywhere in the woods, as long as it's not within sight of a house. A landowner cannot legally force you away from setting up camp for a night with the argument that "this is private property", as long as it's not too close to his house. You do have obligations to make sure that the place is left the way you found it too, which some people tend to forget.. the motto is "don't disturb, don't destroy" - which rhymes nicely in Swedish.
But everywhere I looked, it was too close for comfort, mine and theirs. So I had a look at the gps, and saw that a couple of kms up the road was a hiking trail, and just where it was crossing the creek was a shelter. So I went there. And set up. And looked forward to some grilled meat and a beer. And then I saw the wasps nest...
Doesn't that look inviting?
With the collecting of firewood and whatnot, I decided that it'd gotten too dark and too late to relocate, and besides my WBBB does have a bugnet.. but I have to say I did not feel at ease the rest of that evening. Especially not when one of the wasps came out and started picking a fight with me. I've only been stung once in my life (in the St. Petersburg metro of all places!), but I've read that the second sting is when you find out whether you developed an intolerance or not. Either way, if I could avoid it, I would.. We had a bit of an altercation, I guess settled our differences (as I ran from the shelter when it attacked, but when I came back I didn't see it again that night), and I went about going to bed with one eye looking around me and listening for that characteristic sound..
At least I got some meat before the altercation
And the shelter was ok in the end, albeit slightly on the small side
In the morning, I tried half-heartedly a couple of casts in the creek, but I'd lost all confidence in finding a live fish there. I looked at the map of the fishing license area, and saw a larger water run between two lakes, and decided to head there to see what I could find. There were other fishermen there, which I took to be a good sign, as everywhere else I'd been the only lost soul around.. The sun was even breaking out, and finally I had a number of hours of some fun fishing! The brownies were hot on streamers, and when I switched to nymphs, the graylings woke up. I must have caught 15 fish that morning. But it was evident that it was the kindergarten. None of them were larger than 20 cm.. But at the very least, I'd finally felt the tug on the line!
The biggest (ok, least small) in a series of trout
After catching a few trout, you need coffee - Scandinavian style!
So today I decided was going to be the last day here. I've got things to do unfortunately, and since the things I was going to do here didn't work out I should get back and save my leave days for later. I decided to go up in the woods near the camping and have some coffee in the nature. I walked up to a shelter I'd found the other day when I went running (yes, since I'd planned to spend a couple of weeks going to school, I brought running gear...), where I saw a couple of signs of what passed for a hiking trail. But rain hit again, and was persistant. Small, drizzling rain that seems like nothing at first, but once you spend half an hour in it, you're soaked to the bone. Good thing I was wearing merino! A few hundred metres up that trail, and it was evident it wasn't much frequented.. my lower pant legs were soaked by the first 100 metres. Then the tall grass came, with its capacity to hold droplets until someone passes by.. so my upper pant legs and jacket were soaked shortly.. and then, after about a km, came what passed for a tractor trail on the gps, but in reality was a marsh. So the gore-tex in my shoes gave up, and it felt like walking barefoot on a beach just where the water reaches your ankles.. I came upon a hunting tower (not sure what they're called in English - a wooden structure where a hunter sits and waits for the game to come through the woods), where I decided it was coffee time! I climbed up and it took all of ten seconds before the mosquito gang was on me. I'd brough a bugnet, so they didn't bother me much, but I'm sure I had a couple of protein additives with that coffee.. The silence of nature was deafening. Not a soul around. And this had been the case for much of the time I'd spent here. Beautiful.
I got a big grin on my face when I thought of the state of mind of a person who enjoys walkinng through rain, then through tall wet grass, only to enter a marsh with the result of carrying half of a bog in your shoes, climb up a hunting tower to be attacked by mosquitoes, just to have a cup of coffee! And enjoy every minute of it too!
So now I'm sitting in the room at the wanderer's home waiting for my stuff to dry up so that I can pack it and get going on my bike tomorrow morning. All 2500 kms back to Vienna.. There might be an added line or two, but generally that's it. A weird trip, where nothing worked out the way it was supposed to, but at least I got three good nights in my hammock out of it! There'll likely be one more, as I plan to sleep somewhere near the bridge to Denmark before starting early the day after tomorrow going through Germany (they don't allow stray camping there..).