It was a chilly night on Stekenjokk – down to -3°C, the coldest night of our trip so far. I was right – we were grateful for our topped up gas and new blankets. We had a quick walk in the morning to check out the frozen pools and then got back on the road.
This bleak little hut would be a life-saver for hikers or skiers, complete with camp beds, first aid kit, emergency food supplies.
The next part of the road took us through mountain villages, clinging to the edge of glassy lakes. There were pockets of agriculture – tiny fields dropping steeply down the mountainside and the occasional cow.
We met a German couple travelling in their motorhome – we kept passing each other at various viewpoints and finally caught up at lunchtime. They had been to Nordkapp (north of Norway) and were heading home again – they will have done 6000km in 3 weeks. We couldn’t understand how they did it – they were travelling even slower than we were on the terrible bumpy road which is pretty typical of northern Sweden. In fact, it was handy having them in front of us – it was easier to spot the bumps and potholes when we could see them lurching over them!
We were heading for Hällingsåfallet waterfalls, which fall into an 800m long canyon. It is one of the few falls in Sweden where the water flow hasn’t been disrupted by hydroelectric works – 44% of Sweden’s power comes from hydroelectricity which has an inevitable effect on the rivers and waterfalls.
We knew the falls were off the main road – what we didn’t know was that they were 30km along a single-track forest road. We reached the turnoff late in the afternoon and weren’t sure that we wanted to tackle the track – the paved roads here are bad enough and Hans has taken quite a bit of abuse recently. Just a couple of weeks ago, on the E45, one of the major routes in the north of Sweden, we hit a bump which was the final straw for the strap which holds our bed against the ceiling above the cab while we are driving. The metal bracket for the strap snapped, the bed came down (on my head!) and we had to pull over rather quickly as driving whilst crouched down peering under the bed isn’t ideal. Fortunately, D was able to come up with an alternative, but we are loathe to have the same thing happen again!
Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes, the 30km single-track, unpaved forest road. We were pretty sure we didn’t want to do the track, but decided to sleep on it and see how we felt in the morning. What a difference a night’s sleep makes – of course we wanted to do the track, who cares if we meet a logging truck coming the other way, who cares if it is bumpy and full of potholes? It will be fine.
Actually, it was fine. The road was in better condition than some of the paved roads we’ve been on and we didn’t see a single other vehicle. And aren’t we pleased we did it? The falls are spectacular, although standing on the bridge over the head of the falls and looking over the edge is pretty stomach churning.
See the bridge?
And the view from the bridge – you can just see the fence where the photo above was taken from at the very top;
The usual picnic area offered fireplaces and timber and there was also a hut for hikers to rest in, with benches, table and chairs and embroidered table cloth.
A couple of kilometres back down the track was another picnic area, next to the river at the bottom of the canyon. We stopped there for lunch and D decided to light a fire for the coffee. It was lovely sitting by the fire, surrounded by forest and watching the river go by, so we stayed a bit longer and cooked plum crumble on the fire. And by that time, it was really too late to go anywhere else, so we stayed the night.
The A1 to Antropolis;
Our guide said that the river and lake water was all drinkable, so we took them at their word and filled the van while the puppy supervised.
From Hällingsåfallet, the road headed through forests and past lakes back to Strömsund. You may have noticed that trees and water feature quite heavily in our Room with a view photos – they also feature quite heavily in Sweden!
The Vildmarksvägen was wonderful and we both want to do it all again, particularly Stekenjokk. We didn’t see any bears, despite being in an area with the highest concentration of bears in Sweden, but the real wilderness means getting off the road and doing some serious hiking, snowmobiling or cross-country skiing – next time maybe.