Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Kayaking in Bohuslan

I’d heard about Bohuslan because of its climbing, and had been there a few years ago for a few days of climbing from Oslo. It is, however, also famous for its coastline, with many fjords and thousands of islands scattered along the coast. My mum and I were looking for a nice place to go on a paddling adventure, somewhere with a wild feel, but with not too wild waters because - although I know how to paddle - I haven’t spent much time on the sea. Bohusland sounded ideal; no bears or sharks as far as I know, not too cold, relatively sheltered water, and not too many armed militants – a problem in some places I’ve thought about going climbing. 

We rented kayaks from Christina, at Kayaks i Grundsund, for an eight day trip. Grundsund is a small town in southern Bohuslan, south of the larger town of Lysekil. We got there pretty easily by flying to Goteborg and then getting a couple of buses north to Grundsund in about 3-4 hours. We wandered down to the harbour and quickly found Christina’s place at the far end. Christina was busy sorting out a bunch of paddlers getting on and off the water, but she showed us to her rental apartment and said she would help us get sorted later. We found a great small supermarket that only sold delicious things, had a tasty lunch and spent the afternoon chilling.

Later on we were able to look at some maps and a brilliant booklet full of information on camping spots on many of the islands within a few days paddle. This included information on the landings, the amount of shelter and the quality of the ground, which began with phrases like...

“A mysterious yet inviting island...”

“What an island, it has it all!”

“An exotic gem!”

Some sounded less good, one that I can remember said that “there is enough ground for one tent peg and you will be sleeping on a bed of muscles” We did visit this island but couldn’t find either a place for a peg or a bed of muscles, it was very barren.

We made a general plan to paddle around Orust which is a large island, maybe comparable to Anglesey, that Christina said would be nice to do over about 5 days and is usually quite sheltered. We could then use any leftover days to quest north via Lysekil to explore the many islands farther out to sea.

The next day we chose our boats and received our spray decks and buoyancy aids that we were borrowing. Kay and Helen liked the boats and I was happy to agree with them as they seemed fine to my untrained eye. After packing we were under way about 1pm. After about an hour of paddling, we stopped for lunch on a beach somewhere to the south. This would more or less be the pace over the next week, it was great!

Vallero was our first island, it’s about a km across, has good camping, nice beaches and cows. It wasn’t such a nice stay because the weather was bad this day and it started raining in the evening, forcing us to retreat into our tents. The weather the next day was better and then after this we were blessed with perfect weather for the rest of our trip, it was continuously sunny with exceptionally calm seas.

Our next stop was Halso, an island apparently famous for being the home of a murderer called Halso-Johannes who was executed around 1860, I think, the last person to have been executed in Sweden.

We developed a good routine, getting up – coffee or maybe two – packing up camp, getting on the water between 10 and 11am, finding a nice spot for lunch – coffee – browsing the island brochure for a nice island for the evening, paddling there in the afternoon, exploring, coffee, dinner and another coffee before retiring. I didn’t think I could be easily beaten in terms of coffee drinking, but this routine pushed me to my caffeine processing limits.

Every three or four days we’d need to find some habitation big enough to have a shop so that we could resupply with food and water. I tried trailing a fishing line, but after hours and several attempts, I caught no fish and had tired shoulders from having to compensate for the drag on one side. I tried to fish one evening by tying the hooks to a log, digging up some worms and putting them on the hooks and throwing the whole thing into the sea. Unsurprisingly, this didn’t yield many fish and left me depressed about my fishing abilities. This was even more trying since during the evening, the fish would come into shore and jump up and down to taunt us.

After five days, we had circumnavigated Orust, and headed north to Lysekil to visit the town and get fresh supplies. This gave us a nice break in which to change out of our paddling gear, take a walk around town and visit some cafes to top up on caffeine. Afterwards we headed further north to St. Korna Brevik, described as “What an island, it has it all!”. Initially, after landing and stepping out of our boats into ankle deep sea sludge that stank, we were not thrilled by this island. However, it did get better, the camp ground was good, there were some great swimming spots and an amazing sunset.

From here we only two and a bit more days before we needed to be back in Grundsund. We decided to go back south, past Grundsund, and explore some small islands and the town of Gullholmen that we’d missed on the first time around. We found some beautiful small rocky islands and Gullholmen was a great place to spent half a day; drinking coffee and eating ice cream. Our penultimate night was the worst of all, the camp site we chose turned out to be totally sheltered and a hotbed of mosquitoes. After getting chewed up cooking dinner, it was straight into a hot tent until we could escape the next day.

The trip was a lot more relaxing than I think we all had expected, mainly due to the perfect weather. But the area is also perfect for paddling, being blessed with so many islands where it is possible to camp and the Swedes not really subscribing to the concept of private land. I hope to get the chance to paddle there again someday and explore the islands further north, this would mean two more booklets full of amusingly described islands, but I would have to learn to read Swedish before I could understand them!

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