Change of Plans: ‘Turn West at Umea’
Saturday, July 10th, 2004: Dorotea, Sweden
Kemi to Dorotea: 631 kilometres
The weather is at least with us today as we spend another big day of driving. The sun is out and is a steady beacon as we head south and west. The landscape as we drive south on the Swedish side of the Gulf of Bothnia is just as it was in Finland – flat, green, with the occasional glimpse of the Gulf. The only difference is that we pass through many more villages than we did yesterday in Finland.
We stop for lunch in Skelleftea, one of these little villages, and Olander, the owner of the restaurant we stop in, is clearly a fellow traveler – he makes us stick a pin into the map on the wall to show where we are from – it is the 3rd pin (it is only the 2nd day he has asked his customers to identify where they are from). At a quiet moment, he comes to chat and asks where we are going. We tell him, and he expresses dismay that we are bypassing Trondheim in Norway. He shows us the best way to get there, cutting away from the coast about 100 kilometres further south, and getting some nice vistas in Sweden to boot. We had talked about going to Trondheim, and his seal of approval seals the decision – we are heading that way!
We turn west at Umea, and immediately start rising into gentle mountains, like the Laurentians of Québec. The drive becomes much nicer – beautiful rivers tumbling over rapids, lakes with mountain backdrops. And almost no people – few towns, very few cars on the road. A sign tells us that we are in Lappland – we didn’t realize that it came this far south in Sweden – it seemed farther north in Finland. Almost to prove that it is, though, we start seeing reindeer grazing along the edge of the road, sometimes walking on the road, causing us a bit of anxiety when one steps out right in front of us, but they appear completely relaxed around cars.
The Most Expensive
We stop for the evening thinking it is about 7:30 p.m. – and we have been on the road since about 10:30 this morning. It is actually only 6:30, we forgot about the time change at the Finnish border, but I am tired of driving. The town we stop in looked promising on the map, but turns out to have little in the way of accommodation – 1 hotel (where they tell us that it will be very, very noisy until the bar closes at 2 tomorrow morning, which sounded OK until they told us the price, which was almost as much as a 5 star hotel in Canada) and the campground, where we get a small “bungalow” for 50% more than we paid for the 3 star hotel last night in Kemi. This confirms our impression that Sweden is the most expensive of the 10 European countries we have visited so far this year.
Dinner is pizza and beer in one of the 2 pizza joints – there doesn’t appear to be any alternative. We go back to the cabin and watch TV – the mosquitoes, millions and millions of them, aren’t intimidated by the mosquito repellent we have applied!