Packing the kayaks in Ljungskile

Covid was still lurking around and prevented us from going to Scotland again this summer. So, where are we going this summer of 2021???

Last year we went to France without the kayaks but bikes and hot, hot, hot weather with huge big biting insects. Conclusion?……not to be repeated during the summer months. We want somewhere cooler, less hostile beasties…. Denmark or the north of Germany, or euh….? SWEDEN

Yes, we decided to go to Sweden with the kayaks and had no idea about the weather. Although we were worn about vicious biting mosquitoes that sting right through your clothes. Hmmm, we will see about them when we meet them. But since it’s roughly on the same latitude as Scotland, what can go wrong?

As a girl of 6 years old I had one ambition; learning to speak Swedish.

postcard from a friend
My friend gave me this postcard. She thought I looked a bit like Pippi. (I publish this picture under fair use*)

I watched The Swedish children’s show “Pippi Longstocking” religiously. I wanted my hair braided exactly the same as Pippi, found proof of superhuman strength by lifting chairs and my bike. But the dog did not make a good substitute for a horse, a doll-monkey just wasn’t the same as a live one. My mum did not agree with me wearing a short dress and 2 different coloured stockings to school and my dad was unwilling to make a career change to piracy and grow a big beard. Adults, that was the problem why all my Pippi-ambitions failed. Typical….

After keeping my childhood ambition in the back of my mind for 46 years, I finally got the opportunity to go to Sweden to see if Sweden looked anything like the Pippi Longstocking films and practice the language of course.

Because we cancelled our Scotland ferry just two weeks before the departure date, we didn’t have much preparation time. So, we got into the car with the same kayak stuff we would take to Scotland. And no idea on what kind of tide, sea state, camping opportunities there would be. We had a vague idea of where we wanted to kayak. Alex had printed out some maps of different areas. Oh boy, this ‘no preparation’ attitude is quite out of our comfort zone. Pippi Longstocking would have found this an excellent adventure!! Me on the other hand….well, was there another option?

Driving to Sweden was definitely a lot longer than travelling to Scotland. But driving in Denmark and Sweden is a lot more relaxed, people drive slower and stick to the driving rules and laws. In three days we ended up in Ljungskile on the westside of Sweden just above Goteborg. There is a nice archipelago of islands to explore by kayak. It looks a bit Scottish so we should feel right at home!!!

It was a beautiful day, temperatures above 20 degrees Celsius. Blue skies, no biting insects.  We packed our kayaks in the same way as in Scotland and put on our wetsuits. We got into the kayaks and one kilometre out we were wondering why we were wearing our wetsuits. The seawater was much warmer than the 13 degrees Celcius that we are used to! We were sweating out of our suits!! And it got warmer during the day and did not cool down much in the evening. We saw people jumping in the sea and swimming! And there were diving platforms and pool stairs everywhere! Even in the middle of nowhere, we would find pool stairs. Must be something cultural!! When in Sweden, act like the Swedish. So we ditched the wetsuit and started swimming in the sea. 

One thing the Swedish people have in common with the Scottish is changing clothes underneath a towel. They are quite proficient in doing that. I just never get the hang of that and fail miserably when I try. So, I never bother….More on this topic read this blog post!!

The landscape we paddled through is similar to Scotland but there are a lot more people on the islands. It is littered with holiday homes and 6 weeks per year the islands are crazy busy with holidaymakers. Outside these weeks it is nice and quiet. Everybody, from young to old, has got a boat. From small to big and from slow to way too fast. Also, the skill level varies from captain to captain. 

The holidaymakers go out in the morning at 10, find a rock, stay on the rock for a day to grill their white skins to dangerous red, and travel back at 16.00 hours sharp. 

The houses on the island are very Ikea styled. Big dark red, yellow or white wooden houses in towns of which names I also find in the IKEA catalogue. Was IKEA first with these names or were the names of the towns first? I don’t know.

With all that crowdedness we found it difficult to find suitable lonely camping spots and on some of the northern islands, it was hard to find some grass or sand to put the tent up. 

Shopping and water is no problem at all, there are towns everywhere. But finding someone to talk to is a bit more of a challenge. The Swedish keep to themselves, they don’t even greet you while on the water. That was a bit odd. But they were friendly enough when we asked about the way to the supermarket. And their English is wonderful. I really tried to listen on rare occasions to the Swedish language. Eavesdropping on conversations to listen if I could make sense of it. I switched on my inner Pippi of 6 years old….Alas, I could not make heads nor tails out of it. I think my ambition of speaking Swedish will have to be stored for a few more years…. 

I will publish some more stories from Sweden coming on the blog soon.

Charlotte Gannet

who thinks Sweden has an excellent coastline and weather for more kayak trips in the future.

*Fair use: This postcard of Pippi Longstocking was part of the inspiration of this story, depicting its titular character, Pippi Longstocking, as portrayed by Inger Nilsson. Copywrite owner is AB Swedish Film Industry / Astrid Lindgren Company.

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