“Are you still there Chris?” I heard at about 4am. My tent was flapping in the now blustery wind and if I’m honest I was waiting for the whole thing to take off and end up in the lake! “Yes, just about” was my reply to Paul, who was also praying that his tent remained on the ground. The rain had stopped only to be replaced by gales, so instead of drowning in our tents we were going to take off and end up in OZ! The next hour or so consisted of frequent mutterings and shouting between tents, the language was a little colourful once again! About 6am I’d had enough and I was packing up the sleeping mat and sleeping bag. I could hear Paul muttering under his breath as I headed off to the toilet block.
I had already decided to pack up the tent and get ready to hit the road even though the others were still snoozing in their nice warm hut! I was cold, damp and what little hair I have on my head was looking rather windswept. I returned to the tent and could hear Paul zipping things in his tent, another brief discussion lead to an agreement that we were packing up before the tents flew away (Pauls would take 2 bikes with it as he’d tied his tent to them!) The front of Paul’s tent had already given up and was flapping around in the wind. Amazingly, about 15 minutes later we’d managed to get the tents packed even battling the wind that was trying it’s hardest to make rolling up the tent an impossible task.
We crept up to the hut, opened the door and made sure the rest of the guys were awake! About an hour later and everyone was packed up and ready to leave, first port of call was to find a petrol station and get a hot coffee!
Soon we were back on the now familiar Swedish motorways bound on each side by the endless sea of trees that seems to cover the entire country. The terrain had changed though, there were the first real signs of large hills and small mountains (are they the same thing?) Rocks were now becoming more common amongst the trees and the air temperature was decreasing.
After a few hours of riding we turned a corner only to be met with a parked car in the fast lane and another on it’s roof in between the east and west roads. Clearly this had just happened and we instinctively pulled over to see if there was anything we could do to help. Paul and Gregg approached a girl who looked rather dazed and had been the driver of the overturned SAAB car. She was in shock but seemed coherent and was able to talk OK. She had a few cuts and scrapes on her face but apart from that it wasn’t clear if she’d any other injuries. Paul wrapped his jacket around the girl and sat talking to her, a passer by who was Swedish called the emergency services and me and Roy tried to kick the stones and debris that the car had thrown up off the carriageway back into the verge. Maybe 5 minutes later the emergency services arrived and we left them to do their jobs. When I knew she was OK and not hurt I took a couple of snaps to record the incident.
On our way we passed by Lulea, which I hadn’t realised the significance of at the time. Lulea is home to one of Facebooks newest data centres! Right on the edge of the Arctic Circle! So all your posts, likes and pictures of cakes may well be stored there. You can find out more here!
A few hours more and a few more fuel stops later and we reached the town where we planned to the rest for the night. The view as we approached was fantastic, a huge river that lead into a lake, in the background a massive hill covered in trees and all this viewed from the campsite! We passed a surreal looking place, hundreds of tractors were all lined up, like a huge tractor graveyard! I wanted to stop and take some photo’s but there wasn’t time. I figured I would go back once we had set up camp. The only problem was the campsite wasn’t open yet! The season hadn’t started, we were a couple of weeks too early! Frustrated and tired we looked back at a hotel directly behind the campsite and all decided that it was worth a look. Low and behold the “Grand Arctic Hotel” was also closed, this time due to it being used by the local elections, I guess for counting the votes.
Now all feeling a bit jaded we were about to leave when a guy walked out from a restaurant next to the hotel, he knew the hotel owner and said he’d call him for us. 10 minutes later and the chance of getting a room was nil but a young lad and his girlfriend told us about a place about 15 minutes away that has huts to rent so we jumped at the chance and followed them there.
We rented a couple of huts, me and Paul in one, Vladimir, Roy and Gregg in the other. We had power, a bed and even a cooker (Yes I finally got to brew some tea!)
Me and Gregg went for a wander and to try and get some pictures of the river and area. We ended up on a large bridge on the road leading back to the town where we saw the tractors, both of us were keen to go back and take a look.
There was a restaurant and shop next to the huts so we grabbed some dinner before heading back to the huts for a good night sleep. I stayed awake until gone midnight chatting to my partner on my phone and it never really got dark there, even though the sun set from just after midnight until it rose again around 3am.
We were now not far from the Arctic Circle and at the edge of Lapland!!