Ferries are my least favourite mode of transport. The nine hour crossing to Sweden was as mind numbing as any with the only entertainment on offer being bingo to distract us from the fake wifi. This is the type of WiFi’s that fools you into believing it will work with its full strength signal and then fails to load even a news update. The only way it could be improved was to leave the cabin door open and sit next to it or in the corridor, repeatedly refreshing pages until something popped up. I know the fact you can get WiFi on a moving ship in the middle of the ocean is an impressive feat but I think I’d rather no WiFi than the false hope of WiFi that works.
We did have the luxury of a cabin however, with comfy beds and a well needed shower. Originally the crossing we had booked onto was an overnight cruise departing at midnight so that we could save ourselves from vegetating in the corridor but it didn’t fit our plans and we had to move it forward a couple of days and ended up sailing through the day. As we were not yet old enough to collect our pensions and enjoy the calling out of numbers we failed to indulge in the thrilling on-deck-entertainment and spent the majority of the day lying in bed counting down the hours. We did briefly escape the monotony for lunch where we were ripped off for a schnitzel but other than that there is very little to say about the whole affair.
Seeing the van back below deck as the ferry drew into Karlskrona at the bottom of Sweden was a huge relief as it signalled the end of the tedium and banished any worries of it rolling away on a trail of destruction during the bumpy crossing. I have a recurring nightmare on each ferry that somehow Fanny will escape the safety of the wheel chocks preventing her from moving, slip out of gear and set off down the transport deck on a journey of destruction, but as of yet my grossly irrational fear has not materialised. My other fear of a mid-sea breakdown also never comes true and as the deck doors creaked open Fanny burst into life to end any nerves and carried us out onto the Swedish coastline.
Escaping the entrapment of the boat was a joyous affair as we quickly moved from the industrialised port into the flat, forested east coast of Sweden. Resuming the road trip and being back on solid ground was enjoyable but the reason behind my insane grinning behind the wheel was that somehow, without fault, I had driven my forty year old bus to Scandinavia! It wasn’t even my achievement, all I had done is sat there steering for 2000 miles, but somehow Fanny had got to Sweden and the prospect of cruising around the peninsula, from its mountains in the arctic circle to its fjords overlooking the sea, was just so enthralling. The wanderlust to see one of the most beautiful corners of the world was overwhelming but at the same time there was a melancholy underlying feeling. The start of my new adventure in the north sadly signalled the end of my trip with Bani. After another month of seeing Europe’s big cities, enjoying its incredible scenery and sleeping terribly head to toe he would fly home from Stockholm. In the 10,000 miles I’d spent on the road, all had been beside Bani and we had developed our own systems for living comfortably on the road whilst cementing our friendship and it would be strange not having someone to blame when anything went wrong.
The final few days echoed this sentiment as we unwinded in the never ending forests. Sweden has a staggering landscape of wooded inland, occasionally broken by water and perhaps a small town. 10% of Sweden’s land mass is water and this doesn’t include the scattering or archipelagos dotted off the coast. The boundless wilderness combined with Scandinavian Allemansratt makes Sweden and Norway perfectly suited to camping and vanlife and finding a place to stay was never hard. Allemansratt is the right to roam and gives everyone the right to walk, cycle, ski and camp on any land with the exception of private gardens. This means we could park up pretty much anywhere without trouble, we could even pick berries and mushrooms to eat. Not that we did. The ease of travelling around added to the tranquil vibe for the last few days as Bani prepared to go home.
On one especially laid back morning after yet another long frisbee session a car pulled up on the lake-side private road we had camped on and the window crept down. Having already annoyed some locals who had told us to move from the their pleasant corner we awaited another disgruntled complaint and request to keep moving. Instead, a strong Mancunian accent asked if we were okay and if we needed a shower or a cup of tee. After overcoming the shock of hearing a helpful English voice willing to briefly look after us we packed up the van and followed him up the road.
Occupying one of the traditional wooden houses on the lake, Mark was more than happy to offer us a chance to clean up before continued our journey north and we both happily obliged in taking advantage of the hospitality with a long shower and a cup of tea. Having lived in Sweden for seventeen years after marrying a local, Mark was able to offer some insight into Sweden’s culture and history as well as offering some good tips on getting about in the van. He had found himself in a pickle whilst inter-railing in France some years back and when his train crawled to a stop a hundred miles from his destination a kind local drove him the rest of the way. After receiving such an act of good will he now tries to help out any traveler he can, including idiots camping at the end of his road who spent the morning trying to hook a frisbee out a lake.