How many Tuesday afternoon’s do you spend relaxing on the veranda of a romantic, mountain style wooden lodge on a little island with spectacular views across the lakes to the front and back of your hide-away? Well this is David and I right now, sharing a cider with our friends Catherine and Alexander who have invited us to their family get-away in the hamlet of Ramsdalen, on the archipelago of Stockholm and it really is as romantic as it sounds! Catherine and Alexander have been our hosts in Stockholm for the last few days and have put us up in their lovely apartment in the heart of the city and now they have invited us to the home that Catherine grew up in, here in Ramsdalen. The BBQ is being fired up as I speak, the sun is throwing out the last few hours of heat and the beers are chilling, this truly is a little piece of paradise.
There have been two main themes to our journey across Sweden and that is the infamous moose and wild camping! The journey began in the early hours of Saturday morning when we arrived by ferry from Denmark into the city of Varberg. After checking out the impressive fortress of Varberg, we pedaled 70km to the South of Gothenburg where David had arranged to reunite with a friend he lived with in Australia nearly seven years ago. We turned up utterly bedraggled after an epic down pour of rain and tired from our broken sleep on the lounge floor of the ferry. However, Johann and his girlfriend Diana gave us the warmest welcome any cycling tourist could ever wish for. Dried out and revitalized, our introduction to Sweden began. Over the weekend Diana and Johann had us try the traditional foods of Sweden and showed us around Gothenburg, including a boat trip through the canals with a tour guide telling us about the buildings and history of Gothenburg.
So here is a story about Ramberget, also known as Raven mountain, the highest point in Gothenburg standing at an impressive 86 meters above sea level!
It is believed that during the Swedish colonization of the Mid-Atlantic coast of North America in 1638, one of the immigrants that traveled across the Atlantic was Peter Gunnarsson, who had lived amongst the apple orchards on Ramberget. Peter took with him some of the apple seeds, which were a variety of Rambour apples and introduced them to America. His orchards blossomed and the variety became known as Rambo apples. It was in 1968 that the author David Morrell began his successful novel First Blood and was looking for inspiration to name the protagonist in the story. His wife entered the room and offered him a dish of Rambo apples and this was exactly how the action character John Rambo derived. The part was later played by Sylvester Stallone in the movie Rambo!
There is a well-known expression in Scandinavia called Allemansrätt and this literally means that it is every man’s right to walk freely in nature. This law also allows you to wild camp nearly anywhere that is not privately owned or a nature reserve, great news for us! As much of the land in the South is dense with pine forests and there are enough lakes that you can usually find one all to yourself, the camping possibilities were endless. Pine forests are always a great place to pitch, the ground tends to be quite dry and is cleaner than your average muddy field. You can make yourself fairly stealth as long as you have a sensible colour of tent and a pine forest offers all the necessary fuel for a cracking campfire!
This is our idea of a perfect camp;
Moose are a peculiar looking creature with huge antlers that can spread 6 feet from end to end, they are in fact the largest of the deer species and can reach heights of up to 7 ft! The natural stomping ground for moose (also known as Eurasian Elk) is in the temperate to subarctic conditions of Scandinavia, Canada, Alaska and Russia.
As moose are so tall, they will most likely be seen grazing in the higher grasses and shrubs so not to bend down. Apparently they are also very at home in the water and will even swim between the islands, they can hold their breath for up to 30 seconds under the water! The moose feed on a diet of shrubs, pinecones, mosses, lichens and aquatic plants.
We have been told to be slightly cautious if we happen to cross paths as the mothers will still be with their calves at this time of year and could get protective.
Determined we were going to find a moose in the wild, David and I spent very little time looking at the road and most of the time scanning the edges of the pine forests and lakes. I had one mishap on the bike where I lost my wheel off the edge, but for the best part we held on to it, just travelling a little slower. Disappointed that we had not yet had any sightings, we started to ask the locals about their habits. We were told that the best time to spot them would be in the twilight hours when they sometimes emerge from the forests into the open fields. On one of the dirt trails through the forest, I am convinced I spotted a moose about 75 yards from me up a side track. Piper and David were ahead of me and I desperately wanted them to see it too, so stupidly I tried to get their attention. I looked back and it was gone.
On the last night before we rolled into Stockholm, we grabbed ourselves a last minute pitch on an overgrown track, swarming with mosquitos and particularly favourable for giant ants. At approximately 3am we both awoke to a peculiar animal noise. It does not really get dark at this time of year and by now, it was dawning. Too tired to pull ourselves from our bags, we listened intently. It came closer and closer but there was not much rustling of the grass or snapping of branches so we fell back to sleep assuming it must be a big bird of some description. Later in the day, we met another cyclist in Stockholm and asked if he knew what noise the moose make. The guy did a brilliant impression and it was exactly the noise we had heard that morning, no doubt about it!! So there we go, we had camped next to a moose!!