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Saturday September 5th - Pilgrimskapellet


When we left Hamar, Negar quickly put a reel of fishing line and a box with fishing hooks into Zoë's hands. “You will have to buy the fishing rod yourself”. Two weeks later we are at a beautiful lake in the middle of the forest. The last two kilometers to the lake are on an unpaved forest path where it was impossible to skate. Yesterday afternoon we had to walk for half an hour while the raindrops gradually fell from the sky, but we knew that a nice reward awaited us. As always, there is a reward after hard work. A week ago we discovered a website with all the lean-tos shelters and picnic areas throughout Sweden. On it we saw a beautiful shelter by a small lake, our goal for the day. While it started to rain harder and harder, we saw the shelter on the other side of the lake. The last three hundred yards the forest path turned into a footbridge a foot wide, fully grown with blueberry bushes on either side. We left the trailers behind and hurried to the shelter, the Pilgrimskapellet. It is a real chapel, but completely open at the front. Inside is a table with simple benches all around. A statue of Mary hangs against the back wall and there are several candles. "We'll have to move the table if we want to put the tent inside," Zoe immediately said, glancing guiltily at the statue of Mary. "Hopefully they will not have a meeting tomorrow morning."

"How does that work with those leads?" Zoë asks as she tries to make fishing line out of a wooden branch. “You have to use the bobber for that,” says Olivier who used to go fishing with friends. “That's boring. I want to do fly fishing. If I had a canoe, I could fish on the lake with the fishing line behind the canoe”. A year ago, Zoë caught a fish this way while canoeing. There will soon be a car with a canoe, thinks Olivier, but he does not want to give a secret hint. A few weeks ago he received a message from Imke and Heleen, two friends from Breda. “Hey Chef route! Just a question. We got the idea to maybe come your way in September. Yesterday I was thinking, it might be extra fun if we surprise Zoë by suddenly being there”. Since then, Olivier and Imke have further developed the plan and the Pilgrimskapellet is in Imke and Heleen's GPS. They have brought Heleen's parents' canoe with them and they should arrive this afternoon. Around four o'clock in the afternoon a gray car with a large canoe drives over a sandy path that we walked yesterday. “Hey, a car with a canoe. He will probably come and fish ”, says Olivier in a sober voice. Zoë looks up for a moment, but has lost her interest in her fishing line. She is busy with the bow drill with which she has been trying to make a fire since the Netherlands. Moments later, two people walk in our direction on the boardwalk. “Huh??!! What are you doing here??" Zoë shouts when she recognizes Imke. "No! This is not possible! How??" When Zoë turns around, she sees Olivier with a wide grin.


We are almost at our destination for the evening, a waterfall, when Olivier suddenly lies on the ground.

We leave the skates and trailers for a few days in the house of a local Swede who lives a few kilometers from the lake. In a full car we drive to another lake and paddle from island to island for a few days. For us a few wonderful days of vacation where we are pampered by friends who just drove 1,500 kilometers to visit us. After a few days of canoeing Imke and Heleen go their own ways and we get back on the skates. During the past week, the temperature dropped below zero several times at night. Our summer tent was ideal so far, but the last nights we were occasionally cold. “We skate until it gets too cold to stand on the skates” we said three months ago when we left Breda. Now that it is actually getting cold, we are thinking of a concrete place and a date to end the skating adventure. We are looking for a place in Sweden to spend the winter and write our book. As so often in our journey, the answer comes rolling on our path. We tell everyone about our plans and eventually that balloon ends up with the right person.

In our mailbox is an email from Walter "You write on facebook that you are looking for a house sit for October-November. Actually, our house should not be looked after, because our neighbor does, but our house is empty now." It is unbelievably beautiful that someone offers their house from 1,500 kilometers away. A great gift for us at the perfect time. Question one has been answered and the answer to question two Olivier suggest when we are sitting on the side of the road during a break. 'Wouldn't it be nice to arrive at the house exactly on September 30, exactly four after our departure in Amsterdam?' A circle can't be more perfect. We have one problem. It's only September 30 in three weeks and we are 200 kilometers from the house. Our average daily distance in recent weeks has been 50 kilometers a day, so we would arrive in four days, way too early. 'We can spend some days in nature' suggests Zoë. ‘A day of rest in nature every now and then is fine, but not two weeks’ is Olivier's answer, who after four years still has to learn to enjoy doing 'nothing'. Zoë, on the other hand, does not like pointless detours. The answer lies in the middle. Olivier comes up with a detour that doesn't feel pointless, we adjust our average daily distance to 35 kilometers and plan four rest days along the way. It will be the last seventeen days on human power.

As always, a choice proves itself. Whichever route we would have chosen, there are surprises on every road and they tell us that we have made the right choice. We've been skating in Scandinavia for a month and a half and still haven't seen a moose. We see hundreds of signs along the road and when we camp there is moose dung everywhere, but we don't see the moose. Last year, in the canoe, we had to wait 45 days for our first moose, and now it takes just as long. We skate on a deserted road, straight through a large nature reserve. It's foggy and feels like it's very early in the morning. A perfect time to see a moose, thinks Olivier as we start a long climb. Coincidence does not exist because halfway on the climb two moose, a mother with a calf, cross the road. “It is already worth the detour” Zoë smiles.

Before we arrived in Borlänge and made up our detour, we slept in the tent nineteen nights in a row, a new record. After four years of traveling, we only slept 350 nights in the tent, less than a quarter of all overnight stays. We once bought our tent with the idea that we would sleep in it at least half the time, but we are received so hospitably everywhere.

The Swedes and Norwegians are no less hospitable, but nature and the right to camp anywhere means that we sleep in the tent much more often. Thanks to the map we discovered, we sometimes find a beautiful shelter on the way where we can sleep inside, or the Swedes offers a special alternative. On a windy afternoon we knocked on the door of Anita and Ragnar to fill our water bottles. 'Maybe you know a place where we can pitch our tent, preferably a little sheltered from the wind' Zoë asks with many gestures because the old couple does not speak English. They think for a moment, but cannot think of anything until they look at their own caravan in the driveway. She points to the caravan and tries to explain that there is no mattress, but that we are welcome to sleep in it. Ragnar supplies the caravan with electricity, an electric stove and soft cushions to sit on. 'What time are you leaving tomorrow?' Anita asks. 'We try to leave around half past eight'. At half past eight the next morning they are both outside with their cameras in hand. Anita gives us a packed lunch, cinnamon rolls and homemade jams, while she takes pictures of everything we do. 'Too bad our Swedish is so bad' says Zoë when we are skating. 'Well, in a year's time we will live in the area and we will come back to visit them'.

 

The last three days we only have 80 kilometers to do, a breeze after more than three months of training. At the Lidl in Hagfors, we stuff our trailers full of kilos of extra food for the first week in our temporary home. The meters uphill are therefore a lot heavier. We are almost at our destination for the evening, a waterfall, when Olivier suddenly lies on the ground. He hardly realizes how it is possible and looks at his skates in amazement. The tires still seem hard, no screws are missing, the binding is still intact. Then he sees that the frame is cracked in the middle. 'This is impossible' he says surprised to Zoë. 'What is it?' Zoë asks, shocked. Olivier loosens his binding and holds up the skate. 'Not! How is that possible?'. A lot of things broke along the way and we took into account parts that would wear out, but we never expected that the frame would die. 'We have become too strong' Olivier jokes. 'That will be a 45 kilometer walk. Still two tough days'. Actually, we like that it end like this. To suffer is our motivation, we enjoy it. Then it is nice if the home stretch is extra tough. "Maybe it's a sign that it's time to stop our journey," says Zoë when we hike to the waterfall. The journey always tells us the truth, maybe this time too.

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