currently living in Kleinwalsertal, Austria.
Landfjärden Kayaking, Stockholm Archipelago
Day 1: Landfjärden - Olångsund - St Skramsö - LackaWe had arrived to Sweden only yesterday evening. As morning came with warming sunshine, we spent its precious first hours packing, or rather leaning over our kayaks with frustration creeping in. The question that inevitably pops up every year; "How will we fit it all in?" seemed more justified than ever. Could we just leave something behind? Not the 25 litres of water, we'd definitely need all of that for five days out. And the camping equpment, spare clothes and food is equally indispensable, not to mention my bananas and tomatoes... And the two soft cakes that Markus had brought along - and don't forget they cannot be squeezed! When every cargo hatch was at last filled to the brim and closed, and the small cargo ships ready to be lifted into the water, it was already lunchtime. And so goes the first of the pastries…
We managed to touch water at last. Now, as it turns out, a summer full of climbing won't necessarily make a good kayaker. Our last two alpine tours in particular had been more arduous than the rest of our summer taken together, which is why we were not only physically tired, but longed for a complete shift from the "doing" to the "being" - a rest for body, mind and soul, if you will.
So starting with a crossing of open water with a headwind left us with screaming weariness in every grain of our beings. And then, after the crossing one travels right through the restricted area of Muskö, so no stopping for a break just yet. We finally came to a halt on the island Lacka and thankfully called it a day. Our tent was pitched on a fragrant bed of springing heather. Silent night, holy night.
Day 2: Lacka - Utö - Bodskär
Still tired, and admittedly not yet versed in the rituals of camping life this year, it took a long time to pack ourselves together. I try not to be discomforted by the fact that we have to relearn the special skills of kayak packing every year. That I found a glade full of juicy big blueberries just before take-off didn't help with the morning momentum either…
After another crossing over open water to Utö, the day was mainly spent following the shore of this large island from south west to its north eastern tip. We passed by Utö guest harbour, a nice place to stay overnight or to replenish for those of us who come by boat. Our own journey continued north, and then east beyond the tip of Utö.
Note to self: Find a good spot for camping before getting all grumpy by hunger.
We had started out a little late after lunch at Utö. As afternoon quickly turned into evening we hastily chose spot at Bodskär that seemed reasonably protected, and managed to get out of the kayaks. But remember the loads packed into our cargo ships? The rocks were so slippery, backs over-burdoned, my ability for curses unusually dexterous and Crap Such Yucky Water! Algal bloom season is here. No, we didn't slip into the sludge, I'm sorry to disappoint you.
Arrived at the shore things were already looking up. A bed of dried sea weed directly at the shore provided a flat bed, just wide enough to give room for our tent. There was even a doormat for the entrance! And next to us was a little peninsula, from where one could actually take a dip in reasonably clean water. Refreshed, we stayed on the warm rock and followed the sun as it set into the coastline of Utö. That night was a brilliant one, with the Milky Way appearing clear in the sky.
Day 3: Bodskär - HuvudskärThere were fantastic blueberry glades on this island as well, inescapably resulting in my hands being dyed to a posh purple, and our departure being delayed. Too late to set out in the calm waters of early morning, but then again, we weren't in a hurry. It was a little windy today, or was it our tiredness speaking? We didn't seem to do well with the "being". My great efforts were not at all proportional to the additional tiny ripples on the water from the breeze... Luckily, we only wanted to go the short distance out to the Huvudskär nature reserve, and needed only half a day to get there even in snail's pace.
We soon found a nice little bay at Bredskär, a small island very close to Huvudskär, the main island of this group. Here we were alone, and the surroundings quiet. We spent the rest of the day reading, photographing innocuous rocks and bathing. Listening to silence, or more often to the seagulls as they chattered and chuckled at one another.
Also, a lot of love went into pitching our tent. We'd chosen a spot on rock just by the water. The problem was not only that of falling into the sea. The whole surface was uneven and leaned diagonally - nothing that can't be fixed with some blocking up, I thought, hopping around to carefully place stones, pieces of equipment, life vests… It probably took me an hour, but the result was all the more satisfying. We didn't fall in even once.
Day 4: Huvudskär - Marbäling - Utö
The group of islands in the Huvudskär reserve is among those furthest out to the sea in this particular area of the archipelago. One could easily expect stronger currents and brisker winds out here. Yet on this newborn bright day, all was completely still, the water mirroring the sky. We drifted slowly eastwards, towards Huvudskär where we would have a water canister refilled. The picturesque little island stood in stark contrast to the serenity of nearby islets. Everywhere it bustled with activity. Sailing boats crowding by small piers, people strolling between little red cottages, two men tiling a tiny roof, a dog barking happily... And us, looking to find a place suitable to exit a kayak. There turned out to be a pump that we could use, for free, as long as we didn't mind some particles in the water.
Much of the morning had already passed as we were leaving this beautiful island group. But astonishingly, the water remained tranquil throughout the day. It all fell into place now. The lazy afternoon yesterday had worked wonders on stiff muscles. And although the distances today were greater, it took almost no effort at all to cleave through the smooth surface of the sea.
As we approached the small islet Trelimpan we could spot two figures sitting atop the flat rock. They seemed too large to be seagulls or other common sea birds. Soon one flew away, but the other stayed until we were right by the rock. It was a magnificent eagle that took to the air, with a freshly caught prey secured tightly within its claws.
We now turned west, passing the comely island group Hanstenskobbarna among others, paused for lunch at Marbäling and then traced our way back along Utö where we made camp for the night. The forest above our camp turned out to be blessed with a treasury of both blueberry and lingonberry. Unfortunately it's also a preferred hideout for ticks and a few mosquitoes (creatures we had otherwise largely managed to avoid). I could only hope that a breakfast with fresh berries would be worth the itch.
Another memorable episode was the passing of this afternoon into evening. Near the shore stood a single birch tree, separated from the pine forest behind, and generously lent the little bay its autumn colors. As the sun sank on the horizon it turned the leaves of the birch tree into golden lights, while the sky and mirroring sea glowed in apricot. It was the last sunset of our journey, and it was a glorious one.
Day 5: Utö - Lacka - St Skramsö - Olångsund - LandfjärdenGetting up in the dew at 6 a.m. and finally getting the hang of the camping rituals meant that for the first time on this trip, we could allow ourselves a coffee or tea before setting off. But first, a breakfast with fresh berries would help motivation.
Our only slight inconvenience was that I had forgotten a fleece jacket by our first camp, and would rather want it back (or at least the contents of its pockets). There was little to do but trace our journey back the same way we came, even if it meant taking a detour. We were thus now heading for Lacka.
Again, the water was astonishingly still. In such conditions we could easily dare to travel a more direct path over open water. But then, this was a beautiful Sunday - surely there would be a lot of boat traffic - wouldn't we be very exposed out there? Amazingly, during all of our time spent in the open, we never once came close to any boat today. What a treat to be alone on calm sea! The light wind came mostly from behind, contributing to our speedy progress. Instead of supposed monotony, today's paddling got just as joyful as all the rest.
At Lacka I picked up the jacket which an unknown friendly person had hung up on a tree branch. Thank you! We continued our way back along Skramsö, Muskö and lastly through the channel between Häringe and Hammersta towards Landfjärden. There's a ship wreck by the shore of Hammersta that can be comfortably viewed from the water; a nice little detour for those interested in wrecks.
And so finally we arrived at the pier in Landfjärden. Hopefully the sunshine of these brilliant days will last us long into the shortening days of Autumn. And and surely, there will be no more 'doing' this year. For the sake of our sanity we will, I hereby declare, only remember the serenity of mirror blank water. All else is already forgotten.