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  • brian.johnson

    Canoeing in Sweden 2003

    I caught the evening ferry from Harwich to Esbjerg in Denmark on Sunday 15th June arriving at lunchtime. In Denmark it is both legal and accepted practise to swim and sunbathe naked on all the beaches. There wasn’t much sun so I drove up to NW Jutland, where it is possible to drive your car along the long sandy beaches. After swimming and dinner on the beach I found I quiet spot in the woods for the night. In the morning it was warm enough to strip off for a walk

    along the beach and have a final swim before setting off for the ferry from Frederikshavn to Gothenburg.

    Sweden is a land of lakes and rivers. Most of these lakes have small sandy public beaches, often with swimming jetties and some with diving platforms. In addition to these official “Bad”, when canoeing there were many places where you could swim. The laws in Sweden allow you to camp, for one night, almost anywhere away from houses, as long as you do not damage crops or cause disturbance.

    The weather during my stay in Sweden was not as good as I have become accustomed to in Sweden, but the lakes were still warm enough for swimming and as it warmed up towards the end of my stay the water temperature was approaching 25ºC. Despite swimming several times most days, I didn’t need to use a swimming costume at any time. The beaches were usually deserted in the mornings and in the changeable weather only became busy during the

    afternoons. When there were only a few people around, I always asked if they minded me swimming naked, and I as only refused 3 times in 6 weeks. In the early morning or in the evenings it was common to see others swimming without costumes.

    My first canoe tour was in the area of lakes near Linkoping to the SW of Stockholm. This was a 200 km round trip. I set off up a stormy Lake Sommen and had a hard struggle as I paddled into wind and waves. I was pleased to reach the Svartan, a small river, which I was to follow to Linkoping. I now faced a 6 km portage as the river dropped down impassable rapids. Portages along roads are easy as I can pull the canoe on a trolley. For the next few days I followed the Svartan down towards Linkoping. The paddling was easy, but there were a number of portages past dams, which were difficult as the paths were overgrown and often muddy and appeared not to have been this early in the summer. Despite the changeable weather with frequent storms, there were enough sunny periods for me to do plenty of swimming. In better weather these bathing places might have be too busy to use naked in the afternoons, but

    in this weather it was always possible.

    At Linkoping I entered the Kinda Kanal. I had expected easy paddling in this deep wide canal, but I found I had to paddle against quite a strong current. I had a number of sets of locks to portage, but this is made easy for canoeists who were provided with low jetties to lift their canoes and relaunch. At one lock I was allowed through free with a motor yacht. Unlike in England, I would

    have been able to use all the locks on payment of the lockkeeper’s fee. At one time this canal would have been busy with commercial traffic, but now it was only used by pleasure craft. The canal joined up a series of small lakes, again with numerous bathing places, all of which I managed to use.

    After the canal I entered a series of big lakes. One of these, Asunden, had an island with an official naturist beach. I took a rest day there, but spent most of it in my tent in thundery weather with very few visitors. In the evening a motorboat appeared being paddled onto the beach. The boat had broken down and I had to give the owner a lift to the mainland in the canoe. Not as easy as it sounds in a one man canoe!

    From here I had a number of long portages between small lakes to get back to Sommen. The poor weather deteriorated further and I had an enforced rest day because of heavy rain and gale-force winds. A long day’s paddle across Sommen got me back to my starting point at Blavik. I later learnt that this area, normally one of the driest and warmest parts of Sweden, had received one third of the annual rainfall in 4 days!

    I took a couple of days off, by which time the weather had started to improve and then set off on an even longer canoe tour on the rivers and lakes to the north of the industrial town of Karlskoga. Karlskoga is well known as the home of Alfred Nobel who made his fortune manufacturing explosives, munitions and armaments, but is now better known for the prestigious Nobel Prizes for Peace, Science and literature.

    I started up the Svartalven, about 100km to the north of Karlskoga in hot sunny weather. The water warmed up rapidly and the main beaches on the route started becoming crowded in the afternoons. Fortunately there were plenty of smaller beaches, often only accessible by boat, which were suitable for the naturist and most of the time I was able to paddle naked. In this weather naked bodies were a common sight away from the main beaches. After I left the

    Svartalven I linked up a number of medium size lakes with long portages, before following a big lake system south towards Karlskoga. This was an area popular with motorboats and the wilderness was rather spoilt by the number of holiday homes bordering some of the lakes. It took me about 9 long days to reach Karskoga. I was caught in the big (Lake) Mokeln by a torrential thunderstorm, not surprising after a week of hot sunny weather. I now had to paddle up the Svartalven back to my van. I was surprised how strong the current was in the first few kilometres and I found that in places I had to get out of the canoe and pull it upstream against the current. There were then three difficult portages along rough forest paths until I reached the point where the normal canoe-tours along the Svartalven start.

    Several canoe hire firms operate on this river so it was popular with canoeists. The river was now controlled by small dams, which meant paddling was easy. Fortunately, there were very few holiday homes to spoil the wilderness. The river was broken up with a number of small lakes. The weather continued hot

    and sunny with the occasional thunderstorm and I got back to my starting point after 16 days of hard paddling.

    I then had a few days on another short tour, before heading for a couple of days on the Danish beaches and then the ferry back to England.

    Please feel free to contact the author at ancientbritbrian@btinternet.com

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