First bike touring trip, 82km on Sydostleden

When we lived in Blekinge, and our son was small enough to sit in a bicycle cart we used to go on day trips with our bikes more or less every week. When we moved to Växjö, and he got too big for the bike cart we got out less. Because of his handicap it’s hard for him to learn how to ride a bike by himself. But last year we got a tricycle for him. At the start he just rode it back and forth on the street a couple of times before loosing interest, but this spring we got him to go on a 5km ride without any major problems.

We have biked the 42km Växjö Runt and parts of Sydostleden a couple of times without him, but we both have classic bikes that are heavy, slow and not really meant for touring. But with both our younger kids now being able to bike we got back the interest in doing bike touring trips. For my wife, who’s not too fond of camping, bike touring is sort of a perfect middle ground, where you can alternate between tents, hotels and B&Bs. We have wanted better bikes for touring for a couple of years and started to look around for some that would suite our needs. I ended up buying a Nishiki Rush, and my wife bought a Crescent Femto. Biking with a backpack isn’t very comfortable, and after this trip we decided that we will get both side panniers and water bottle holders to our bikes. So after next trip we might be able to review some panniers.

Info

Sydostleden is part of the three national bicycle trails that together forms a 929 km long route. It starts in our hometown Växjö, goes down to the Baltic sea in Karlshamn where it more or less follows the coast to Simrishamn. Here Sydkustleden starts, and follows the coastline in Skåne all the way to Helsingborg. From Helsingborg you can follow Kattegattleden all the way to Gothenburg. It was named the European cycle route of the year in 2018.

There is a map with a route planner, where each section is estimated to be a suitable day trip. You can download the routes to your GPS as GPX-files. The route goes through the dark spruce forests and lakes in Småland, over the longest bicycle bridge in Europe in Blekinge and along the endless beaches of the coast of Skåne.

Trip report

My oldest daughter and her friend was going to celebrate a friends birthday, and for that they wanted our house for a sleepover. We had promised that they could use our house but as usual we didn’t really plan ahead on what to do. But the youngest kids would stay at my parents house so we could decide on something just for us.

On Thursday we decided that we would drive to Åhus in Skåne and bike south on Sydostleden. The first plan was to drive down on Friday afternoon, sleep in a tent, bike on Saturday and then stay at a B&B on Saturday. It ended up being too late to drive down on Friday afternoon so we drove down on Saturday morning instead. We had booked a B&B in Åhus that had great reviews. The owner wasn’t there when we arrived, but we parked the car, got our backpacks on and started to bike south. Our goal was to bike as far south as we felt like, and then turn back to Åhus and sleep there. We had to get back home right away on Sunday morning, which was the reason for us to have to stay at the same place as we parked the car.

The forecast had changed during the week, from showing strong wind and grey skies, to showing moderate wind and some sun. But once we got out the weather couldn’t be better. Hardly a cloud in the sky and not much of a wind to speak of. And the bikes felt great and really easy to ride.

We did a lot of stops in the beginning, to find geocaches. The whole route is littered with them, and we just choose different ones here and there. If we where to stop at everyone we would get nowhere.

While some of the biking is done on smaller roads, much of the route consists of bicycle lanes. This part of Skåne is really beautiful, and we biked through pine forest with the beaches close to us. The beaches here seems endless, and have the finest whitest sand you can imagine.

After passing Furuboda we left the route and biked down to the beach, made coffee and had some snacks. It was surprisingly warm and really nice to lay in the sand and watch the beach streach as far as you could see. Far in the distance we could see Stens huvud national park.

Instead of biking back to the designated route we biked a while along a trail on the sand dunes. But it didn’t take long for the sand to get too lose for the bikes. So we ended up walking for quite a bit before we got back on solid ground and could bike back to Sydostleden.

We biked for about an hour before we stopped for lunch when the trail turned back to the ocean.

We put the blanket up against a fallen log, and layed in t-shirt and rolled up pants and just enjoyed the surprisingly warm March sun. We had regular Real Turmat freeze dried meal, but I added a lot of parmesan to mine.

We almost didn’t want to leave, but Mia wanted to bike all the way to Kivik to have a solid goal to aim for.

It was a lot of gravel, and tough to bike through. We where starting to get tired so it was nice to get closer to Kivik.

We biked the last stretch down to the harbor in Kivik and discussed on our options. We were pretty tired and hungry, but didn’t look forward to another freeze dried meal. We ended up sharing a pizza at the harbour pizzeria. We had discussions on wheather we should take the bus to Brösarp and bike back to Kivik from there, to skip the worst uphills, but in the end we decided to just push through and bike the 40 km back to Åhus.

There are a lot of hills between Kivik and Brösarp, but in a way I guess it was a good thing to start the return trip with the hardest part. We pushed through the uphills and even had rednecks yelling something at us when they passed us with their shabby EPA-tractors.

In Brösarp we put on the lights on the bikes, as the sun was setting. We saw a lot of rabbits when we passed Brösarps backar. It was getting darker and darker, and I was glad that Mia had bought a front light that felt bright enough to cut through steel. Near Furuboda we saw a bus, and almost wanted to hop on, but we only had a little more than 10 km left.

When we got back to Åhus we looked for the B&B but eventuellt we came to the conclusion that we had missed it. We looked it up on Google Maps, and as it turned out we had to turn back. We laughed about how tired and zombiefied we were to have just biked passed it, since it’s just next to the bike lane. It was wonderful to take a shower and get into a real bed instead of a tent after 82 km of biking.

We had read the reviews of the wonderful breakfast on this B&B, and they sure wasn’t lying. By 9am the hostess knocked on the door and came in with a large tray filled with freshly baked bread, coffee, fresh pressed orange juice, yoghurt, berries, fruits, cheeses, ham, salami and proscuito.

It was a great way to end a really nice trip. It really felt like spring, and when I write this with sleet pouring down outside the window it doesn’t feel like it was just a couple of weeks ago.

Making my own “freezer-bag” food

In the beginning of 2015 I bought the book Fjällmat, by Eric Tornblad. I couldn’t find freeze-dried food that tasted good. Real Turmat was supposed to be the best, but I thought they tasted the same as every other brand. That, and the fact that the bags are very expensive made me buy the book from Eric and I really haven’t regretted it.

There are different chapters. Food that you only add boiling water (and fat) to, food that takes 5 min, 15 min, 30 min, desserts, breakfasts etc. I basically only use the first chapter, the one where you add boiling water. My favorites are West-African stew and Mint-couscous. The West-African stew is also the favorite food of both my wife and my daughter. I e-mailed Eric and asked if he by any chance planned to write a book with only freezer-bag recipes since those recipes are the ones I mainly use.

I’ve had a vacuum-sealer for a long time, but up until now I’ve always used my oven to dry the food. However, a few days ago I found a really cheep food-dehydrator for only 200SEK (about 20€). Of course the cheep price comes with less functions. You only have an on-off switch, and you can’t set the temperature manually. It’s on a steady 70ºC. A little to warm to dry meat, but I do it anyway. I switch positions on the trays quite often. The dehydrator comes with five trays and the heater and fan is in the bottom.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
My food-dehydrator. Four trays are loaded with “feta”-cheese (the 10%-fat version) for Mint-couscous

The dehydrator has been going for the last few days. I’ve dehydrated feta-cheese, smoked gammon and tuna. I’ve prepared 16 bags of food this week for upcoming hikes. I had 14 bags left from earlier, but I needed to refill my stock. With these recipes you only add boiling water and fat (oil or ghee) to the bag and let it sit for 5 minutes. Basically like you would with store-bought freeze-dried food.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The meals I’ve prepared this week

The negative side of making your own food like this is that it is a time-consuming process. But I like it. I think that the preparations and planning before a trip is part of the fun. You also get a better control of what you put in your food, it’s cheaper and you can adapt the size of the portions to how much you eat. It also tastes better.

If you can read Swedish I recommend the book Fjällmat. If you don’t speak Swedish I can’t really recommend any specific book, but I do recommend everybody to try and make your own hiking-food instead of buying the freeze-dried food-bags. In the beginning you don’t need a food-dehydrator, just a regular oven, and you don’t need a vacuum-sealer, just a ziplock-bag that can take boiling water. Buy the other stuff later if you find out that you like making your own hiking-food.