Swedish cities and archipelagos (Hamstad to Fjällbacka)

The sun continued to shelter behind the thick bed of clouds above us. We sat in our seats and waited for our wet tents outer skin to dry. It was not until 11am that we began to pack it up. Having walked 37kms the day before and having found our couchsurfing host had fallen sick, we were forced to find a spot to set up our tent. We chose a spot only meters from a freeway as we decided it was the best location  from which we could easily emerge in the morning to begin our day.  We had a quick shop in a supermarket, stocked up on food for the day then stuck our thumbs out. Holding a sign saying ‘Gothenburg’ we stood in front of a bus stop which allowed cars to pull into. As per usual, we had our doubts on the location as Hamstad is a small town however it was not long until a young Swedish guy pulled over. He was super easy to talk to as he had a huge passion for travel, having lived in Bangkok for 2 years teaching english. Chat flowed effortlessly and he taught us a great deal about Sweden and suggested places for us to visit. He was heading further north then Gothenburg and dropped us at a McDonalds only 4kms from the city’s centre. That was easier than we thought..

We connected to the wifi and found our bearings. That night we were hoping for better luck with our couchsurfers so we searched for his address, received a message that it was all good to go ahead and that we could meet at his house after 6pm. That left us 3 hours to explore our first Swedish city. We left McDonalds and ventured through a park across the road in pursuit of somewhere nice to eat lunch. Walking up a hill, we discovered a huge skatepark and sat down to watch. We ate tomato on fruit buns as we watched the Swedish teenagers shred the skatepark’s massive bowl configurations and thought to ourselves how amazing it feels to be free. We are carrying all that is necessary to live, leaving more space in our life for appreciation. Our taste buds were not satisfied as they once had been, but our hearts sure were.IMG_0219

We left the skatepark and continued on towards the city centre. Along the way we found a countless number of tents pitched throughout the park. We later found out that there is a law in Scandinavian countries that it is legal to set up a tent anywhere so long as it doesn’t exceed one night. So cool! It was only half an hour walk into the centre. Gothenburg is a vibrant, lively city (the second largest in Sweden) and has a fun, energetic feel to it. Locals and tourists rush around in such large numbers we found it difficult to walk down some shopping strips. Once on the outskirts however, the quieter streets were lined with tall, centuries-old Swedish apartments and dotted with lush green trees. It was a really beautiful 10km walk (and tram) to our first couch surfer’s apartment.

We were walking down the line of apartments looking for the number 29 as a car drove past and stopped a couple of metres in front of us. Two guys jumped out and disappeared around a corner, only to then pop their heads out and wave. We shook the hand of our first couchsurfer host, Timmy, while his friend Patrik, helped unload some new shelving from the car and walk it up to his 3rd storey apartment. We were then introduced to two others and introduced to our (much comfier) bed for the night. We then sat down and chatted. Everyone was super friendly and we got along very easily. We told stories, compared cultures, discussed beliefs and shared interests. Timmy had a great philosophy towards life, having spent a couple of years abroad. He wanted to maintain the motivated, creative attitude generally associated with travelling (hence why he was hosting couch surfers). He also had a passion for reading and writing, suggesting and even giving me a book! His friend Patrik was equally kind, cooking us tea and introducing us to another house mate, a cool Brazilian guy and his friend. Two Swedes, two Brazilians and two Australians sat down and ate one of the tastiest spaghetti bolognese ever. It was an epic experience and something we had hoped to find along this journey. Thank you Timmy, Patrik and Ronaldo for setting our couch surfing benchmark so high! We talked until midnight before sleep grabbed us.IMG_0238

We woke the next morning, having had a much better sleep than the night before. We offered Timmy the opportunity to experience the salty satisfaction of Vegemite, ate our breakfast and packed up. Saying goodbye we had a strong inclination we would see one another again. We left thinking about what an unbelievable experience couchsurfing can be. We highly recommend it! Walking to the tram stop, we found ourselves have to wait until the next tram arrived as the current tram had ticket inspectors on board. Patrick had been kind enough to send us a map with directions to a huge tower (literally there was a huge tower on a mountain!) looked out over Gothenburg. We jumped off our hitched tram at the base of the mountain and began walking. From the top we had a spectacular view. It was getting late in the afternoon and we still had a 150km hitch to make it to the small town of Fjällbacka. We walked back through the city to a location from which we could a bus to the far outskirts of the city. From there, we were right on an entry ramp to the freeway heading north and had 2 petrol stations and a McDonalds from which to try and find lifts. It was 4pm.

Holding the sign ‘Oslo’, countless cars flew by and it seemed as if we were not being noticed. Normally people would apologetically raise their hands, signalling they weren’t going that way, or point to the ground, indicating that they were staying on the road, however an hour went by and nobody gave us a single sign. I walked around the stations looking for Norwegian number plates while Kayla, looking innocent, held the sign.Upon returning from a round, a wagon pulled over and inside a friendly Serbian (who now lived in Sweden for the past 10 years) pulled over and offered us a lift to Oslo. He dropped us at the exit to the small fishing village we were planning on heading to. Once we exited the car it began raining and we found ourselves standing under a bridge with a new sign made from cardboard we had collected from beside the freeway exit. Perhaps out of pity, a local carpenter in a van dropped us 10kms up the road to the next town and within another 5 minutes a local man from Fjällbacka dropped us at our next couchsurfer’s. We stood outside a 200 year old seaside house, only meters from the water in a town that can only be as simply beautiful.

Our host greeted us at the door. He was a kind, middle aged man who was generous beyond words. He showed us into our private room, told us to make ourselves at home and make use of any utilities in his house. He introduced us to his African friend Lloyd who had been staying with him for the past couple of years and then went out for the night. We sat down to watch the football with Lloyd and began chatting. He was very easy to talk to, he always had a positive outlook on life and had a remarkable past. He explained how he is now fluent in Swedish and studying engineering at university. That night he cooked us dinner (his style) and then we ventured off to bed.IMG_0255

I woke at 3am in the morning to see light still flooding in through the thin curtains. Was there a street light right beside the window? When I opened the window I found the night sky only slightly darker than dusk. We are so close to the mid summer light! I quickly went back to sleep and woke again at 8am. Today was going to be a huge day! The sky was clear blue as far as the eye could see and we wanted to explore the amazing beauty this small village offered. Lloyd was already up preparing breakfast.
“You didn’t need to!” we both told him however he only reassured us that breakfast is the most important meal and we needed a large one to prepare us for the day ahead. Thanks man! We left the house and explored the town, bathed in sunshine. It was not overly warm, a cool 16 degrees, however the light reflecting off the brightly coloured houses and water warmed our hearts. We ventured up to a church perched above the village and looked down over the array of seasonal boats in the harbour. From there we headed towards a walk called ‘The King’s Passage’ which consisted of numerous sets of stairs through a huge rock gorge before continuing further up towards the top of a rock formation a couple hundred meters above the village. This provided us with views of the hundreds of rock archipelago islands in the distance. We were blown away. The rest of our day consisted of returning to the house. Peter was at work, however Lloyd, having done some study, offered to take us by bus to a nearby town. He showed us around, purchased some beers and then helped us buy ingredients to cook dinner for everybody. It was another really beautiful town and the weather was still managing to treat us. We caught the bus back and changed into some swim wear. Lloyd had told us about a jumping platform so we headed there. Because it was a little more exposed, the wind from the open sea was quite strong. We climbed to the top platform and jumped. The North Sea was (surprisingly!) not so cold. Instead, it was the wind that forced us to retreat quickly back to the house. Once there, we grabbed some beers and headed down to the jetty only 10 meters from the house. It was a communal area that all of the surrounding houses used to moor their boats. Lloyd brought his laptop and in the warm sun we enjoyed beers and Swedish hip hop. This day had been an experience we surely will never forget.
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Beers emptied and boats drove by. Peter pulled up in one of the boats and threw us some life jackets and told us to jump in! We were gobsmacked. He drove us out around the islands and shared with us his vast knowledge of the history of the area. We pulled up at a white sand beach and walked until we had a view of a far away island in the distance. This was apparently the last island before the open sea and was called the Weather Island due to the severity of storms it endures. From here we climbed back into the boat and he drove us to another distant island where his son lived. It was a tiny harbour of little red houses dotting the shore line. There were two white houses on the island and after we docked the boat, we walked into one of the backyards. His family, a collection of 15 people were having their daily catch for dinner in the beautiful night light. It was 9:30pm however it felt like the afternoon. We quickly drove home as Kayla and I still had to cook dinner for everybody.

Tomatoes were diced, onions and garlic chopped and the mince was frying away. We were cooking Nachos for Peter and Lloyd as they had been so generous to us. Peter played old Swedish music, poured us shots of gammel dansk (a traditional Swedish herbal spirit) and told us a few more old stories about the town. We ate, Peter shared his views on the couchsurfing system, stating that he loved to help people in the community as they are such open minded and good people. Peter offers his bedroom, his house and so many things to these people and we cannot describe how appreciative we are for the experiences he offered us on our trip. We went to bed feeling satisfied and slightly intoxicated.

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Thank you to Timmy, Patrik, Peter and Lloyd for truely making our experiences in Sweden so memorable!
(266km hitchhiked, 55kms walked)

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