Country: Sweden, Norway
Weather: Sunny with hail
Last night I decided we had better start using the blackout blinds while we were sleeping since I am waking up regularly from about 4am once it is bright outside. Not conducive to a good nights’ sleep. As a result neither of us woke until after 8.30am and neither felt like getting up till after 9am. We had better watch that or we will become nocturnal. Leaving the rastplats at about 11am, we headed into Vilhelmina with the aim of refueling.
None of the advertised prices were appealing so we decided to press on to Storuman, a largish town with several petrol stations according to our GPS. We calculated we would have just enough diesel to make it. And there had been the odd petrol station in small towns previously so if things got desperate….
They did. We hadn’t realised the head wind we were driving into would have so much of an effect on our fuel economy. We paused at an intersection (sorry settlement) known as Skarvsjöby where I attempted to ask a nice old lady where the closest fuel was. Unfortunately I think I stumbled upon the only person on Sweden who hadn’t had English lessons. The signs said another 15km to Storuman. We pushed on about another 5km before the engine coughed once and stopped. Luckily we were on a hill and managed to roll to a small area off the road.
A conference ensued on the pro’ s and con’s of bicycles vs hitch hiking. I felt after my successful 14km ride in the Netherlands, that I would be able to manage this. It was only a little bit further. So we unpacked the bike, I kitted myself up with what little I might need, and set off. Not 2km from where Mark sat with the van, I found a logging yard. In full view was a diesel pump which upon investigation would even take credit card. Cautiously I asked at the staff room nearby, do they sell fuel? No? Bugger.
I rode on, into the head wind. The outer jacket came off. The gloves stayed on, the wind chill was making my eyes water. I stuck to the edge of the road, leaving as much room as possible for the logging trucks, semi-trailers and motorhomes to pass. They all tended to swerve into the other lane to avoid me. It was the passenger cars which seemed to think it was a tight squeeze and needed to pass as close to me as possible.
Things were starting to look rather industrial, like the edge of a town, when I came to a killer hill. The lowest gear on my bike was not enough. I wobbled up the hill chanting “I rode up the Westgate bridge, I can do this”. From there it was another easy rise up to the first petrol station. Which didn’t sell jerrycans. Right, next? More hills? Can’t people find a flat spot in this country? At what seemed like the farther edge of town another servo loomed. As I rolled into the carpark, I could see a lady filling two large green army style jerry cans on the forecourt and hoped they sold smaller. Carrying one of those on the bike would have been fun.
I staggered into the shop, wonderful, a selection of small plastic fuel carriers. I get the feeling we’re not the first to run out of fuel around here. Not even counting the larger types, I could have chosen from two different types of ten litre canisters or two versions of the five litre. Luckily I was limited by the need to fit it into my backpack, so the decision was easy and now we were the proud owners of a handsome green five litre jerrycan. It wasn’t long before I had squeezed the full canister into the backpack and was on my way.
The killer bridge had an easy approach when heading south but I swear the wind had changed direction and somehow was still a headwind. After a while I started fantasizing about those silly padded Lycra bike shorts, maybe not so silly after all. With only the adventure of derailing the chain with three kilometers to go, I came up over a rise and could see the van glinting in the distance. A final Herculean effort and I rolled, nay flew, down the last long grade and staggered to a stop at the van. A total of 24km in two hours!
Mark leapt into action, packing my bike away and decanting the fuel while I sat and groaned and we were soon on the road again. Arriving at the same petrol station I had made my purchase from, we filled up with diesel, and took the opportunity to fill our fresh water tank and check the air in the tires. From there, out on the highway again to a nice little rest stop for lunch.
There was about three hundred Swedish kroner left in our coffers so we stopped briefly at another supermarket, coming out with a few luxury items, some salmon, some huge crackers, måltidsknäcke, fully thirty centimeters across, and a packet of mystery meat we are hoping is reindeer. We will have to check next time we have internet access.
With no more rastplats on our route, we eventually ended up back in Norway in the carpark of the Austerdalsisen tongue of the Svartisen Glacier, hoping for a clear day tomorrow. This is the first time we’ve paid for an evening spot in two weeks but at 50kr probably won’t break the bank. I trialled another way to disguise Swedish meatballs, this time with a jar of sweet and sour sauce we had been carrying around since England and we extravagantly put the van heating on for a while. We are very close to the Arctic Circle now and the temperature is starting to reflect it.