Friday, October 23, 2009

23rd of October 2009, Malaysia

As most of you probably know I and Veronica flew down to Malaysia to spend two weeks in the country before continuing to Bali and then Australia for a while and going to New Zealand to stay for a year after that.
It’s the first time for the both of us in South East Asia so we started out pretty cautiously being herded around like most other tourists, but it didn’t take many days before the both of us got sick of it and started catching local trains and buses instead until we ended up in the town of Gua Musang which from there were no buses going west to Cameron Highlands where we wanted to go. So we decided that we should try to hitch instead, being the first time I hitched in a country that I did not understand the local language (not counting Finland) it was an all new experience.
It took us some time to get the first ride, but as previous experience has shown you have to get out of the city on a road with no major intersections so people know what way you are heading, and once we walked out of town sweating like pigs in the 30+ humid heat with big backpacks we got picked up by a truck. The guy spoke very good English and dropped us of some 20 kilometres later at a turn off and it didn’t take long at all to get another ride with another truck packed to the brim with big logs. This time the driver spoke no English at all but was none the less a very happy guy playing the same cd over and over while tormently slow going up and down and round the corners into the highlands doing about 15-20 kilometres an hour, so it took us about 3 hours to get to where the plantations of the highlands were starting, and another minute later we were sitting in a new car getting a ride to the town of Brinchang where we wanted to go.
So it seems hitching is extremely easy in this country being a backpacker (looking like a westerner and having a big backpack does the trick I guess).
The following day we trekked up the highest mountain in the area (Gundum Brinchang, 2063m) and then walked down a road getting fantastic views of the tea plantations and trying some excellent tea directly from the tea factory. After that we hitched back into town which proved to be really easy once again.
So that’s it, a new country and a new continent hitched :)
Keep checking here for more entries in the future (maybe at the page as a RSS feed or subscribe to it)

Edit: And oh, as I mentioned before I am really bad at giving people my number or telling them about my blog, so just before I left Sweden I had a “business” card printed, just saying “Sibbe The Hitcher”, and I tell people to just Google it. So I guess having a business card makes me a professional Hitchhiker? =P

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Final Entry Hitch Around Sweden

And so once again I am home, quite a relief because it has been an exhausting journey but I already do start to miss the road and meeting all the new exciting people, after being home for only 3 days.
Let me first show you the statistics of this trip:

Days hitched: 50
Distance hitched: 7700 kilometres
Number of cars: 208
Money spent: 685,50 SEK (400,50 SEK)
Average spent a day: 13,17 SEK (8,01 SEK)
Weight lost: 8 kilograms

50 is a great number of days to see a country the size of Sweden, sure I haven’t seen all the places I wanted, quite far from it but you can’t see everything now can you?
Sweden is also a quite large country in EU standards so it became quite a few kilometres to go around.
208 cars may seem a lot and quite hard to imagine when you know about the famous Swedish attitude. Sure I have had good days and bad days, but all the people that have picked me up have all been very friendly. People often asked me if it really is possible to hitch in Sweden because how closed in the Swedish mentality is and has become, but the people that lock themselves in and are afraid of strangers never pick me up, so I don’t get to meet these people. The people that do pick me almost always are very friendly and social and do want me in their car and like to help other people out, also very often they have stood there once themselves on the side of the road and know how frustrating it can be.

Then there is the budget limit, the primary issue/challenge of this trip.
Before I started this trip I did a quick calculation to see how much a person could live on food wise, and came to the conclusion that 20 SEK would be enough. I added 5 SEK for unexpected expenses like toothpaste, kitchen fuel and etc. Then I set out on the road with a goal not to spend more then this amount on average a day.
How has it gone? Well as you can see it has gone very well! In total I spent 658,50 SEK which makes it an incredible 13,17 a day. But 3 people on this trip have also insisted on giving me money, 258 SEK in total. So this means that this trip in total cost me personally 400,50 SEK, 8 SEK a day!
None of this of course would have been possible without the great and helpful people that picked me up and helped me by giving me a ride and much more, and of course my friends that let me leech on them for a night or two.
But to really live on a tight budget like this you have to have to be very disciplined, never spend money on anything else then food (of the 658,5 SEK 30 was spent on a entry in Orrefors, the rest has been on food in supermarkets) that you prepare yourself. So I have lived on mashed potatoes/rice/pasta in the evenings and mixed it with beans or tuna. And in the mornings I’ve eaten the cheapest muesli and dry milk, sure it might have been better to make some oat porridge but then I would have had to spend expensive fuel.
I also have picked and eaten wild cherries, blueberries, lingonberries, cloudberries, chantarelles, raspberries, apples, wild strawberries, crowberries and more so I have been getting some much needed vitamins in me.
But as I finally arrived back home I wouldn’t have made it another day without buying new toothpaste, fuel for my kitchen, tape for the feet and I was also completely out of all food.
As you can understand this trip has been really exhausting both mentally and physically, standing hour after hour on the side of the road, one day it’s pissing down and the next the sun is burning your skin. You never know how far you will get that day, where you will sleep that night or in how many days you will have your next shower. Sleeping badly every night, living on the cheapest food you can find and hiking 10-20 kilometres some days. Always forced to have a positive attitude and being really friendly and social to everyone that picks you up.
I do love the challenge, but it is exhausting and these 50 days I have lost 8 kilograms (was down to 74 kilograms when I got home, being 193cm long that is really low especially considering I weighed 92 kilos the first time I went to Oz.)

It is always interesting to go see your own country, and more people should do it. There is really a lot to see in Sweden, tons of old castles, churches, ancient monuments and similar, but also a lot of nature being one of the bigger but least populated places in Europe.
One sad thing I noticed travelling the north, and which has been talked a lot about is all the small towns. Its only elderly people living there, the schools have all shut down and so has the petrol stations, so it’s quite impossible for a young couple with children to move there which means in another 15-20 years all this small old towns will completely die out. It’s also very noticeable in the bigger populated towns that don’t have big industry like a mine to support them like Jokkmokk which have lost more then half of it’s population since the 60s.

So now I am home again, getting back lost sleep and doing my best to regain my weight for my next trip. On the 12th of October me and Veronica are leaving for Malaysia, Bali, Australia and eventually New Zealand. Not planning to hitch in Malaysia and Bali but might do in Oz and NZ. If I do I will let you know and write about it here.

And last but far from least, HUGE thanks to everyone that picked me up and helped me on this trip and my girlfriend and friends Veronica, Christoffer, Nils, Isabelle and Anders. It would never been possible without you!

Thanks to everyone reading this, hope you have enjoyed it. Comments and critique is very welcome so I know if you like it and if there are things that can be improved :)

edit: Also for anyone interested, I have added on the map where I hitched in Australia.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

15th of September 2009

Leaving Vårgårda I had to backtrack some, found out that I forgot about Halleberg which I was planning to check out also. But quickly got a few rides and a lady buying me a hamburger meal because she felt sorry for me being hungry.
Halleberg and Hunneberg is supposed to be one of northern Europes elk richest areas, it’s also the King of Sweden’s hunting ground. Walked around there for about 3 hours but as usual I didn’t see a single animal, did get a nice view of Vänern, Swedens biggest lake, from the hill though. From there I hitched back some again and further east. Spent the night by a petrol station in Götene, talked to some police officers that thought I was up to no good and then went into the petrol station just before they closed and got myself two free hot dogs!
Next day I hitched to Kinnekulle, a hill/mountain covered in a bunch of nature reserves. Don’t know why I really wanted to go here but if one is into the Arn books (which I haven’t read myself) it is probably a good area to visit. Did some hiking and checked out the lookout tower, the view was quite foggy but on a good day you are supposed to be able to see 63 different churches from up there despite almost half the view consists of Vänern.
I hitched down from Kinnekulle and continued further east, had a guy give me a wine bottle out the blue when getting dropped in Skövde, and got picked up by 4 Somalis after him. Sadly I didn’t get a picture of these either, seems to be hard to get photos of Somalis! Next I arrived in Karlsborg which is home of the Karlsborg fortress, one of the biggest buildings in Europe. They started to build it in 1819 to protect against the Russians but didn’t finished it until 90 years later and by then it was obsolete and there was no longer a threat from the Russians. As with most other places the tours and museum had closed for the season, so couldn’t see much and its hard to get a picture of a building that has a circumference of about 5 kilometers.
After walking around some in Karlsborg I hitched to the town to Hjo and set up my tent for the night next to another petrol station and pizza place (not the smartest of ideas on a Saturday night) and once again I got hot dogs for free! I make such a great bum.
After that I wasn’t really planning to see anything else, and I figured I could time it quite perfectly and get home on day 50. So I hitched south.
The last few days haven’t seen any to exciting things, but on the other hand I met some really great people while hitching. Sadly it would fill way too many pages to write about them all in this blog.
On the way south I did a quick side trip to get a picture of the greatest thing to ever come out of Sweden, the worlds first IKEA!
Then I kept on going south into Skåne and set up the tent for the night just north of Degeberga.
The next morning I got up real early just to get home fast just to have to wait 4 hours before the first car picked me up! I keep on preaching to people that you can never be on a hurry when hitching or have to be somewhere by a certain time, and of course I broke my own rule on the very last day. But eventually I did get a few a more rides until I got to Skurup where I got interviewed by the local newspaper. Then I hitched last 10 kilometers home. And the very last ride to pick me up on this trip when having about 3 km left was my own dad on his way home from work :D
So I came home yesterday, have been unpacking my stuff and eating a lot, but the hunger doesn’t cease and I think I will grab myself another sandwich right now.
Give it another 2-3 days and I will make a final entry for this journey with statistics and my thoughts, future plans and etc.

Friday, September 11, 2009

11th of September 2009

This trip is really starting to get the best of me, yesterday I was walking around hungry and just tired in the whole body despite I had eaten properly and slept. I have run out of tape for my feet, my kitchen fuel is almost out and so is my toothpaste, but I wont be buying anything new. Same goes for the food, scrounging up all the leftovers I have in my bag and only buying the cheapest there is. Peasoup yesterday (7 SEK) and a can of beans in tomato sauce with the pasta leftovers later today (5 SEK). I know I will be home in a couple of days and I’m trying to break some kind of record in how little money I’ve spent, its really low this far.
Left Orsa after finishing my last entry. Had a pretty good day of hitching and good a long ride with a dude that was teaching kite surfing on both water and snow, really renewed my interest to learn to kite surf. Eventually I ended up Håverud in Dalsland, Håverud has this aqueduct for boats, that’s built because the river was too harsh there, and then on top of the aqueduct is a railroad, and then a road bridge and also a walking bridge, so its kind of layer on layer. Walked around and had a look and then set up my tent by a parking lot.
The following day it was raining a little in the morning and was very windy, but it soon cleared up and I had another great day of hitching with the sun shining on me, hitched west until I got to Tanumshede. On the way there a lady showed me where I could find plenty of chanterelles on her land so went in the and picked a big bag, sadly they got pretty roughly handled hanging on the back of my backpack (it fell on them twice, stupid bag!).
Tanum is another UNESCO World Heritage site. It is so because it has tons of rock carvings from the Bronze Age, over 500 different carved panels in a area of 45 square kilometres.
I walked around the heritage area a few hours and also had my computer and phone recharged some at the free museum. After that I hitched southwest towards the coast of Bohuslän, had a look in Hamburgsund and then got a ride with a young guy that I told was looking for a place to put up my tent for the night, so he drove me to this beautiful lake close to his home. So that evening I could go for a swim and clean myself up, first time in over a week. Then I had bacon, fried chanterelles and mashed potatoes for dinner, oh what a feast!
That night I had frost degrees, you can feel the autumn is approaching this far south to. I hitched back to the coast and by it down to Smögen which is one of the more famous places on the west coast. The Bohuslän coast is really rocky and consists of over 3000 islands; it is quite a beautiful place with a different look then the rest of Sweden. I walked around a nature reserve next to Smögen then through town and through the town of Kungshamn, seems like a really high class area to me. The west coast is also littered with these cosy little fishing villages that just get packed with tourists during the summer; luckily the summer season is over for the year. Next I hitched to Lysekil which is another town by the coast, a little bit bigger though and had a walk there. My feet are starting to hurt to so switched back to wearing flip-fops again, the weather was just awesome so was nice walking around in those and just a t-shirt.
From Lysekil I went east with a car ferry and into the countryside again, got dropped up on the middle of a freeway by a women that thought it was a good idea to hitchhike from there, it wasn’t! First of all it is against the law to stand there and then cars aren’t allowed to stop on the road and they all are driving really fast. But after about an hour the most unexpected vehicle stopped, a 19m long Norwegian truck. (Didn’t even bother try to hitchhike with trucks there because there is just no way they can stop on the side of a freeway, or that’s what I thought!).
Rode with him a bit southeast and then helped him some with his computer and he rewarded me with a beer and some chips, yummy! Then I set up my tent behind a bush next to McDonalds in Vårgårda. That’s where I am right now, preparing to leave for the day.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

8th of September 2009

The other night my computer didn’t shut down properly so the battery got drained, but now I have been able to charge it again so I can make a new entry,
As I mentioned in my first entry and up in the right corner I am trying to do this trip on a extreme budget, haven’t mentioned before how much I’ve spent yet and I still wont, I will be done with this trip in about 7-10 days so will write it all then, can just say that its going very well this far, way over even my own expectations!
Also want to clarify one thing here:
I never ask anyone for anything! I do not ask them to people to give me a ride, I just stand on the side of the road with my thumb in the air, always. I also never ask anyone for food or a place to stay or anything similar, I just tell them about myself and what I am doing (usually don’t mention what other people has done for me unless they ask) and if they decide to do anything for me it is their own idea and their own free will, just got to love seeing that there is people in the world that actually want to help out other people.
The next day leaving Anders I decided that I would take a short trip to the west to see Tännforsen, one of Sweden’s biggest waterfalls, before I kept on going south. It was pretty easy getting there and I did my first ride with a campervan on this trip when leaving the waterfalls. The waterfalls were as always beautiful, but as with all other waterfalls the flow is almost at its lowest at this time of year. I would love to see them all during the spring flood.
That day the hitching went pretty well and got 8 different rides before I set up my tent just next to a golf course, a nice old lady took quite a detour to get me there.
After quite a cold night the rain came, so took a while to drag myself out of the sleeping bag but I eventually did and got a ride with a lady that bought some lunch for me at Statoil, then I hitched into Sånfjället National Park with a Jaguar. Sånfjället is one of nine national parks that got founded in 1909, Europe’s oldest national parks.
Had a chat with a very enthusiastic ranger then started hiking with high hopes to maybe see a bear, but 5 minutes after leaving it started raining on me and was really foggy, it kept doing this for the next 2,5 hours I hiked. Set up my tent in a valley between two mountain tops inside a badly built wind shelter. It was so cold in the air, windy and raining with a sight of about 15-20 meters. Tried to dry my stuff (my feet and legs were soaking wet, so boots, socks, pants and shirt were also very wet) but nothing could dry because I was up in the low flying clouds, so the humidity was very high.
This was the first time on this trip I actually feared for my own health, had some warm soup and crawled into my sleeping back and had a very cold night.
The next morning the weather was the same but I stayed in my tent until lunch and it eventually cleared up, so put on my wet boots and pants and hiked out some 10km to the other side of the national park. And of course I didn’t see a single animal, but would like to go back some day when the weather is better and give it a second try.
I hitched until I got to the town of Tännäs which has Sweden’s highest located church and some other stuff, and there this German couple Sigi and Carmen picked me up. It is unusual Germans pick me up and especially when they drive campervans, but it didn’t stop this couple which was driving a really cool old campervan. They were heading into Rogens Nature Reserve which I had read about before, but was planning to skip because it’s hard to get to while hitching. But I went with them in there and set up my tent next to their car, and they fed me a nice two course meal by the open fire. It was frost degrees that night so it was a very cold night.
The next morning we started with a 21 km hike, not my favourite thing to do in the mornings but at least I left my backpack in their car and it felt really good once we were finished.
Rogen nature reserve is this huge maze of lakes and boulder ridges. We did see quite a lot of reindeer during the walk (Sigi and Carmen also had two dogs with them which often smelled the reindeer before they detected us).
After the hike we drove further south, it so happened to be they were heading to the same national park that I was so I kept going with them. Was a very slow car but I half slept in the back most of the time.
Alas I got to see more Elks! Just as we passed the border into Dalarna there were 3 of them grazing some 100 meters away from the road, sadly the zoom on my new camera is no good, so couldn’t get a good picture.
We set up camp that night a couple of kilometres from the national park and once again I got free dinner. Had another freezing frost night and the next day we drove into Fulufjället National Park. Fulufjället is one of the newest national parks in Sweden and it Sweden’s southernmost mountain chain. It contains Swedens highest waterfall (Njupeskär, 93 metres high) and also the world oldest trees (cloned themselves) being almost 10 000 years old. It is also given the status of a PAN park.
We did a shorter hike here to the top of the falls and around, and one thing that hit me while walking here is how other tourists are dressed, I’ve noticed the same in other places. They all carry really big expensive cameras and the most modern and expensive in hiking gear, then the majority just go back and stay in their campervans or hotels without spending a night in the parks. Obviously people do have way too much money.
After the hike I rode with Carmen and Sigi the rest of the day until we got to Orsa, we did see another Elk also during the ride. In Orsa they went into a caravan park and I said my goodbyes and walked some until I found a good spot to set up my tent by the Orsa Lake in town.
So that’s where I am sitting now, just going to finish this entry then Ill try to cover a longer distance going south today.

Edit: for anyone who hasn’t noticed it, on the Google map page down in the left corner you can switch pages. Apparently Google doesn’t allow more then 25 markers on each page. Also if it doesn’t show the numbers 1-4 down there, try pressing F5.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

3rd of September 2009

I’m starting to wonder if I’m carrying some anti-animal deodorant or something, because it just seems impossible to see any of the ones I want to see! Seen one Elk for about 2 seconds this far, and I mean it’s because of them so many Germans come here. I’ve been all around Sweden and lived my whole life here and still only passed one, oh well. It’s not over yet.
So the next day we got up early and drove about 130km to the north following just a dirt road, stopped by a small stream and hiked up a couple of kilometres until we got to this idyllic lake and set up base camp there.
It was me, Anders and five of his friends and we all slept in a big tent with an open fire, so now just about everything smells of smoke.
We did some fishing in the lake and went looking for more lakes to try our luck in during the days, turned out to be a really good first day catching 9 fish (Trouts and Arctic Chars) that we cooked for lunch the next day and we threw back several fishes that was a bit too small to keep. The other 2 days wasn’t as good though with not a single fish worth keeping!
We also walked across and picked lots of chanterelles, some porcini and as always tons of blueberries and a few cloudberries too.
I had 3 very enjoyable days up there exploring and fishing, my boots has started breaking a little bit more and smells so much of smoke now which isn’t too good. We were also very lucky with the weather, was supposed to rain most of the time but only rained during Tuesday evening and night.
I slept another night and Anders place so I could wash my clothes and today I’m off to Sånfjället.
Sånfjället is supposedly the most important bear habitat in Scandinavia, so if I’m lucky I'll see one or maybe some Elk because there is supposed to be a large population there also.
I am really hoping to get to see at least one of the four big predators we have here in Sweden, Bear, Wolf, Lynx and Wolverine, although they are quite rare and very hard to spot.

Monday, August 31, 2009

30th of August 2009

Getting out of Svolvaer was pretty easy and the first car to pick me up had once picked up Isabelle also. Another two rides and I got picked up by this awesome Norwegian couple Tommy and Nadine, almost immediately after I got into the car they asked me if I could drive (doesn’t happen very often). We drove to their home and had some sandwiches and after chilling for a while they decided that they should go to Abisko where I was heading because Tommy knew the owner of one of the hostels. So once again I drove, crossing the border into Sweden and arriving at the hostel where a bunch of guys and one of the owners was having a few beers in one of the best Saunas I’ve been in (ok, being from Skåne that doesn’t say too much, but still) so we joined them there for the rest of the evening. The next day Tommy and Nadine went home again and I asked the owner Thomas if I could stay at the hostel another night which was ok (thanks Thomas, Tommy and Nadine!). I was originally planning to hike 110 kilometres down Kungsleden which is supposed to be one of the best hiking trails in the world, but being a bit exhausted from being on the road for a month I decided to just hike up onto a mountain in the Abisko National Park that day to enjoy the amazing view. The hostel also offers dog sledding tours during the winter and they have 55 Siberian huskies that I the following day got to help out feeding, would like to come back here one day during the winter to try dog sledding. I hitched a ride to Kiruna next.

Kiruna once used to be the world’s largest city by area before the definition of a city got redefined. It also has the world largest underground mine digging over 1000 meters deep and exporting tons and tons of iron pellets every day. They are even planning to move half the city of Kiruna just because the mine is expanding. This was also the first time that I really felt that not having any money to spend hurt me, because I really wanted to go on a tour into the mine. Oh well, some other time I hope. It was starting to get dark so I got the great idea to walk up the ski hill just outside the city so I would get a great view of the mine in the morning, only to wake up with a view range of about 10 meters because of the fog. I gave up after waiting a couple of hours and started hitching south.

In Kiruna all the mountain birches and trees had already turned orange but as I was heading southwards the trees started getting more yellow and eventually turning almost fully green. If you look at a map you notice being this far north is about the same level as Greenland, northern Siberia and the most northern Canada. But because of the Gulf Stream we do have a much milder climate here. I hitched through Gällivare which is another city that exists just because of the huge mines and further south to the National Park of Muddus which is within the UNESCO world herigate area of Laponia, the last European wilderness. Muddus also lies within the Jokkmokk municipality which is about half the size of the Netherlands and has a population of about 5000 people, the Netherlands has about 16 500 000.

Muddus National Park is a pretty large area covered in primeval forests, large bogs and plenty of ravines. It’s supposed to have a large population of animals but of course I didn’t see a single one first hiking in 7 kilometres to a cabin and another 20 km the next day. But at least I found me some cloudberries which I never seen in the wild before, and also saw two big waterfalls. From the parking lot I got picked up by the same guy that drove me in there the day before (10km of the main road on a small dirt road leading nowhere else but the National Park).

I hitched south through Arvidsjaur where I had a look at the Saami church village. Then another 30km and the rain started pissing down on me while standing by the side of the road, but I saw a sign about a bird watching tower which turned out to be quite big so it saved me from the rain that night. The next day it still rained but I pretty fast got picked up and got my longest ride this far, all the way to Östersund and there the driver bought me a McDonalds meal for lunch :D After that I hitched west to the ski resort of Åre where my childhood friend Anders lives. Today we have just been chilling and tomorrow I will head out into the mountains with Anders and a few friends of his and stay there until Wednesday, sadly the weather forecast isn’t very promising.

Edit: *sigh* another stressed out entry, always wait until the last second to write them (just finished it and we are leaving in 10 minutes) so I don't have the time to edit and re-read it properly before posting it.