into the woods

And now, as promised, we step back in time – to a few weeks ago, when Rich and I spent a few nights in the forest and had no electricity and certainly no wifi!

While in Goteburg, Rich and I had the fortune to stay at a hotel that was built right on top of the main train station AND bus depot. It was very convenient and meant that there was no excessive amounts of stress/train fever and that we didn’t hafta grapple with any maps. You know how I am with maps!

So at midday on Monday, we checked out of our train station hotel, got on the bus to Odeshog (yes – Ur-des-herg) and away we went. Knowing that there would be no pit stops along the way, and no vending machine in the woods, we stocked up on Copacabana Sugarless Fruit Drops, a salty-licorice chocolate bar called Plopp (how could ANYONE resist!!) and a chocolate-y wafer-y type of bar called Kex. I think. Along with our sugary treats, I also got us my favourite new drink: rhubarb flavoured mineral water!! On his first sip, Rich screwed up his entire face and declared “That doesn’t taste like anything!! ESPECIALLY rhubarb!!!” but I love the quirkiness of MFND and refused to partake in his criticism. All the more for meeeee!

After bussing past trees and red houses and supermarkets that seemed to have a silhouette of my dog Gus holding a picnic basket in his mouth as their logo, we arrived at our destination. Odeshog. Population: very few.

It was cold. And raining. Quite a lot actually. Fortunately, our host Ulrike was waiting for us and we were soon on our way to her property, Urnatur.

It really is a sight to behold. Urnatur is a large property on a lake, with rocky paddocks, and forest, and fruit trees and sheep and a dog and chooks. And a fox. And trolls. Yes! Trolls!

She drove us up to our hut, deep in the woods, about a kilometre away from the farm house on a rocky track. Our hut, built by Hakan, Ulrike’s husband, was surrounded by about six other huts (all empty for the time being) and lots and lots of trees. And trolls. And a huge bathroom/sauna. And trolls. And all the trees. And no electricity. And… trolls.When we got to the hut, we had a quick lesson in lighting gas lanterns and heating up the sauna, and before we knew it, Ulrike was gone and it was just the two of us, alone in the woods, just us and our thoughts. And our gas lanterns. And the trolls.

The rain started to ease and we decided to head into town to get some things to make for dinner. Donned in our raincoats, we grabbed some bikes from the barn and off we went, down winding country roads for the most part, and along highway for a bit, and through tiny villages with perfectly cut grass and apple trees in their front gardens.

Did I mention that my bike didn’t have brakes? It didn’t. It was touch and go there for a while, careening down steep hills, along streets ridden with pot holes, but after 6kms of furious pedalling and agility and squeezed shut eyes, we made it to Dinners, Odeshog’s answer to… well…. Sizzler, I guess.

I ate a fried egg sandwich and had a Coke. I felt like I was Jack Kerouac in ‘On the Road’ only in Sweden, and me, and not a beat poet. Rich is my Sal Mineo. Having a pastrami and cheese roll.

Realising that there were no fresh vegetables at Dinners, and that we were quickly losing the vibe to cook in an outdoor kitchen over a fire, we settled on some roasted vegies and salads and some traditional Swedish cakes. Which weren’t, of course, traditional in any sense of the word, because we had bought them from a roadhouse (yes, a ROADHOUSE!! On a highway!! I’m sorry I wasn’t honest right from the start…) and not a quaint bakery on a cobble-stoned lane…

Back on our bikes, laden with take-away containers and cheap Swedish servo beer, we rode back to Urnatur and again, I managed to avoid being thrown from my bike and into the bear-filled woods.

Home again, we toasted with our large cans of beer and ate salad by the lake as the sun set above the trees. How’s the serenity?

The next morning we were up bright and early – 6.30am – to trawl in the nets and the cray traps in the lake with Hakan. We met him on the jetty at 7am and clambered into the tin boat, which, by the way, was leaky, and which, by the way, Hakan made no secret of. My job was to scoop water out of the boat when it got too full and we were at risk of drowning.

Polystyrene markers bobbed at intermittent intervals atop the lake; under each homemade buoy, a trap was awaiting us, filled with crayfish.

Swedish crays are a little different to Australian crays – they are much smaller, mebbe a little bigger than a prawn. But no less pinchy; these guys still have huge pincers, ready to nip you if you make a wrong move.

Fortunately, we upended all our crays (and wayward fish) into a large bucket on the boat without mishap. By the time we were back at the jetty, the bucket was filled with about 40 snapping crustaceans.

Hakan pulled out two of the biggest fish from the catch, cleaned them and filleted them, and put them in the gas-fueled fridge for our dinner (which, when we fried them up later over the fire, was possibly the greatest meal I’ve cooked in a LONG while!).

Ulrike was waiting for us by the jetty, to let us know that breakfast was ready. Fresh bread, cheese, jam, eggs, juice, coffee and weird fish spreads were laid out on the bench. 

We loaded up our plates and filled our cups and ate and talked and listened to stories of racist Swedes, and a survival course Hakan did in the early 80s in the Australian outback, and the time they found a dead body while travelling in New Zealand. Twas definitely an interesting breakfast conversation.

Full and satisfied, Rich and I made our way back to the clearing by our hut and spent the rest of the day lazing on the grass, reading our books, avoiding the trolls, and feeling a long way from anywhere.

** I’ve mentioned trolls quite a bit in this post. We fortunately didn’t encounter any Hoggle-like dwarves during our time in Sweden, but I have no doubt that they’re there. On our second night in our log cabin, I could have sworn I heard one tap-tap-tapping on the outside wall of our hut…

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crabs of bintan (aka popeye-armed fighting machines)

Crabs, eh? On our first afternoon in Bintan, the tide out and the lovely wet, boggy, seaweed-smelling sand filling my nostrils, I espy crabs – hundreds of them – frolicking in the sand. I’ve never seen crabs like these guys before, because they have great big POPEYE ARMS!!! Although I think they may actually be called pincers. But I will call them POPEYE ARMS, because that’s what they were. But just one popeye arm per crab – a big orange pincer, to fend off wild beasts and other crabs – while their other crab arm was much smaller, and seemed to be used to shovel food into their tiny crabby mouths.

I saw a few of these popeye arm crabs JOUSTING WITH EACH OTHER – no, not really. But they were having funny little crab fights with each other and pushing smaller crabs into holes in the sand.

Who needs a TV or wifi when there are POPEYE ARMED CRABS to behold??!