So. What I’d said about day three and dodging a bad day, all went out the window as day four bit us firmly on already our sore asses.
We’d arrived sodden and eventually dried out in a cabin, eaten another bowl of pasta and slept like the dead before waking again at 6 to head out at 7.30. The start of the day commenced with a bastard of a climb but a couple of hours of good riding before proper muscle fatigue kicked in. We also learned that for the the next 50km there no café’s, patisseries, shops or petrol stations to be seen. God knows what people do around here, except sleep and hunt and eat elk and boar as quite clearly they certainly don’t go out.
They do, however, cut their front lawns, as there were an inordinate amount of pensioners sat on diesel powered lawnmowers with Beatz headphones disguised as ear defenders and clearly blasting out Swedish House Mafia.
Cycling wise, the roads were perfect for riding, undulating, free of cars and the most beautiful silence, only interrupted by the sounds of the wind, wildlife and the occasional intrusion of man - with gunfire and deforestation that is part of the local industry, with all the scars it leaves behind as you can see from the photo above.
Energy wise, we were fading. The day one average speed of 21kmh had dropped progressively and was now 25% slower as we had started to dismount and walk up steeper hills, stop more often and generally talk less. The wind had finally turned to a headwind - with the occassional rain shower and temperatures dropping to around ten degrees. This was finally interrupted at last by lunch at a Swedish version of a roadside café where we gorged on pretty much everything and anything at the all you can eat buffet, which fuelled us through what was to become the lowlight of the day.
Without being a further cycling bore, roads are highly varied, from twee little avenues to big fuckoff arterial routes where juggernauts and double trailer juggernauts (ie one with one on the back of it in tow) fly down single carriageway roads imagining they are driving something the size of a Smart car and F1 car.
I’ve written previously how wild this is on a bicycle but its hard to describe what its like when you’re less than one metre to the right of a 44 ton lorry and nine of the 18 wheels are pretty much the same height as you and travelling at around 100kmh. You are literally sucked towards and then pushed away in their wake, which is even more interesting when you throw a second trailer into the mix. We all had this happen countless times on the day as we had to travel down 20km of road. However, Simon experienced this juggernaut joy to its fullest as one of the tyres blew just a few metres ahead of him, firing heavy pieces of red hot tyre tread in all directions.
Luckily nothing hit him and we all managed to make towards our final destination of Eksjo, a small and somewhat unremarkable town.
We took the rest of the day off and just ate and crashed early with little or no talk of the trip, lost to the beautiful scenery around us – instead opting to eat and sleep in the cabin, sedated further by about half a kilo of pasta each.
Awaking to day five and a plan for 125km – the biggest day yet – was a tipping point and it didn’t take long to bin the idea and opt for a day off to jump a train to the next waypoint. We debated between achieving a self set goal and justifying why not - then having to remind ourlselves that this was meant to be enjoyable.
Karma being as it was, this turned into a planes, trains and automobiles style mission on its own merit.
Problem number one was that to leave the cabin and get to the main station required a re-run of playing chicken with the juggernauts again for 20km. We poodled along to the Eksjo branch line station with the naïve thought that by checking a train website, you could get one to where we wanted (Linkoping). This wasn’t to be as they were running rail replacement buses that didn’t allow bikes. Next move was Uber – pointless. Third was local taxi company, whose operator explained to our joy that they happened to have the perfect solution for three middle-aged men and their bicycles – the local Sunshine Bus.
After eventually arriving at the main train station £45 lighter (if only we could have cycled the same speed as his meter), we were rinsed another £70 for train tickets only to be told we couldn’t get on the high-speed train so had to faff about with three other local trains, eventually arriving in Linkoping for 1pm. The rest of the day was spent not cycling but in and around the town square in various outdoor café’s and restaurants, while each of us had to get involved in various work related calls.
More Lingo: One ping only
Just south of Stockholm, there are a few towns that fit into the SPLINKY SPLINKY OY category of Swedish language. These places are their version of our counties of Leicestershire and Worcestershire or Mississauga.
And what are these three cities?
You’ve probably already said the names in your head. Now try speaking them out loud, ideally in your local IKEA store to see what happens. They have a very unique was of being spoken that is obviously perfectly normal to a Swede, but then so many odd things are.
English (phonetic) Swedish (phonetic)
As a Brit, if you speak them, they make complete sense. But you’re likely to cause locals to giggle or get mildly embarrassed for you (Swedes don’t generally like to cause that to others).
Highlights: DAY OFF!!!! More stunning scenery, a bottle of Chateau Berne from the System Bolaget, sunshine and the Wendesday morning lakeside breakfast.
The climbs were often and in small doses but totalled not much different to what we were doing in the Pyrenees last year. Our average speed had tanked, although still up on last year, but dropping nearly 5kmh compared to a couple of days before.