We set off on The Wilderness Road and pretty soon wondered why we’d bothered…. There were hardly any people to watch, no tea rooms with naff souvenirs, no lakeside bistro’s full of noise….. Seriously, it was sublime for the opposite reason.
The Wilderness Road is an aptly named 370km loop with numerous places to see along it’s route. We started at Stromsund where we stocked up, no shops for some time, and headed into the woodland and a parking spot at Lake Flasjon among the trees and shrubs, Jigsaw was in her element, catching three mice. Maybe Swedish mice are blind? We also took to the element also known as lake water for a refreshing swim. It genuinely is a wonderful way to ‘chill’ when you swim out into waters surrounded by tree’s and mountains. Continuing clockwise we hiked up to Hallingsfallet Waterfall, in an 800m long ravine, one of the largest in Sweden. Driving this section of road was superb, birch and pine tree tunnels with the interspersed glimpses of mirrored lakes through them and small birds flitting across and along. Regular clusters of bright pink Fire Weed amongst the green shrubs/weeds roadside made for a pretty dazzling curb side. Wherever we walked in this whole area we kept spotting what we thought were ‘love huts’ as they had hearts on them, only to discover they were the forest pit loos 🙂
Morning swims have become a bit of a habit although an odd thunder storm meant a hasty exit and a move onto Brakkafallet Waterfall, a very picturesque amphitheatre being it’s home. This area starts to become Sami country with opportunities to visit villages. Reportedly there are 20k Sami living in Sweden. The population stretches across all northern Nordics and Russia, estimated around 80k people. The Sami being indigenous people and in the minority have their culture, traditions and language protected by law in Sweden. They also have special rights and their own Parliament and constitutionally are able to promote and preserve their ways of life.
The Sami “church village” of Ankarede is a lovely example. A tiny cafe for the few visitors sits opposite a beautiful example of Sami church architecture nestled within kåta, the original houses. The area has a burial site dating back to mid C17th and is still a gathering place, especially at mid-summer. Sami have always been Reindeer herders although less so in recent times so we were not surprised to see numerous groups as we passed over the high grounds and very open plains where they roam during the summer months. For those camping there, several will have been woken to one at their door. We just had to avoid them crossing the road!
The higher areas of the wilderness road were a distinct change, very open and atmospheric in the early hours, as we drove within the mist (we were up very early to move away from the rain awoken mozzies!). It was bleak and barren but cheery as we headed into Lapland, hoping to see some elves chopping down tree’s from which to make toys. Sadly, they were too small to spot or perhaps they were on their summer break? Another Sami village at Fatmomakke, you can imagine trying to pronounce that without laughing, a very unique prayer room, and remnants from their mid summer festival. After another waterfall (seriously there are a lot but all beautiful as are the walks to get there!) we were then back into the tree lined roads and the very popular cascades at Trappstegsforsen. Possibly popular because of the one and only cafe and it being roadside!
Having spent the night at the end of a runway (true, though disused, with 360deg views) we started to head back inland towards the main town on the loop, Vilhelmina. This section was akin to those you see on car adverts although there are more motorhomes and caravans than cars it has to be said. We stopped at a campsite to service ourselves and Frankia Fred and had a day out on the bikes for a change. Exploring around the lake and forest areas then Vilhelmina, which is pretty much a frontier town kind of place. A super church and a few original houses, the rest being a stock up spot for travellers. We did come across Lapp Lisa, a famous Sami folk singer, obviously where I got my singing voice from! Then back for a swim, the issue being that the further north, the colder the water so one of us didn’t make it past the sauna…
Saying goodbye the the amazingly calm, peaceful, unique and enchanting Wilderness Road we set forth towards the Arctic Circle. Having chased The Patagonia Express in Argentina, a 1 miles long goods train in Arizona, why not pass the travel time by chasing ‘The Wilderness Tram’ across Sweden? Yes the photographer wanted his picture so trundling along the not so smooth, E45, we finally met it and it so reminded us of the ghost train, there was no one on it. It runs daily the half the length of the country, taking 14 hours (with the odd stop for coffee and cake for the tourists!). The symbolic ‘Wildman’ probably had an opinion, standing there with his club, a proud symbol of Swedish Lapland in Storuman… I know I did!
Just some random fungi we spotted in the forests!