It’s a pretty rare thing to find yourself totally surrounded by nature, without another person in sight, and completely off-the-grid. We are often engulfed by masses of people, rushing from one-place-to-the-next and sticking to a tight schedule.
Cities are a fun place to live (at least in our opinion), but we feel it’s important to occasionally strip things back, turn off the iPhone and close down the emails. In July this year, we did just that, spending a week in the Stockholm Archipelago.
We left London with no real plan or itinerary, we simply knew we needed to head to the south-coast, and find ourselves two kayaks. Our goal was to spend a week paddling through the Swedish Archipelago, a collection of 30,000 islands dotted around the Baltic coast. Some are the size of a football pitch, whilst others have towns and communities. We were armed with a tent, 2 kayaks, some cooking equipment, snacks and supplies. Nothing else.
Once the kayaks had been acquired, it soon became evident neither of us really knew how to handle one, and as the nice lady we rented them off had to dash, she forgot to tell us what to do if one of us flipped (which was slightly worrying). With some boyish enthusiasm, we headed into an unusually choppy Archipelago, heading North East to keep the strong wind on our backs.
The 7 days that ensued were simply incredible, each day we would paddle for around 6 hours, exploring different islands, swimming in the ice-cold water, and trying to find ledges to jump off. We had brought a mixture of freeze-dried food left from the row, alongside long-life ingredients from the supermarket such as Chorizo, Cheese, Baguettes and tinned fruit. Our home was a humble two-man tent, and due to Sweden’s amazing laws, we could pitch it wherever we wished for up to 24 hours. We were often the only people on the islands we slept on, which was an amazing feeling.
The map below shows the area we frequented, and we have added some markers on the various islands we can remember visiting. Dalaro was our starting point:
We have listed below some memorable moments of the trip:
Skies filled with fire: The scenery on its own was some of the most beautiful either of us had ever witnessed. Towering shards of rock rising from the ocean, with pine trees and crystal clear waters, there isn’t too many places like it. However, when you add a fire-like sunset into the equation, with bursting purples and mandarin orange, it’s hard to take your eyes off the horizon. Every night we were treated to this display, and luckily due to the time of the year, the sunset remained until morning (it never really gets too dark, dusk remains throughout the night until the sun rises again).
An unknown visitor: Due to the remote nature of the islands, we didn’t expect to see a great amount of wildlife on the trip. The occasional sea eagle and seal would make an appearance, but apart from that, there was not a lot else to see. One evening however, we had setup camp in a clearing amongst a wooded area. We had taken our trangia (cooking stove) up to a high point to eat, watch the sunset, and have a beer. As we made our way back to the tent, through the now dark forest, we jumped a mile as something big moved through the bushes to our left. It sounded big, heavy, and the movement was higher than our eye level. We both froze to the spot, half-expecting to be mauled by a bear (there are no bears). We bravely strolled (quickly ran) back to camp, and got into our sleeping bags for the night. As we lead down, the trees around us started creaking, bending and smashing together. Needless to say, when you are in a tent and cannot see outside, on an island totally alone, with no phone signal, we were shi**ing ourselves! The next 10 minutes passed with our knives held to our chest, and finally the culprit revealed itself. Sniffing around the edge of our tent was a fully-grown moose (elk to some of you). We later discovered these huge animals swim from island to island to find food, and often smash against trees to mark territory and remove ‘velvet’ from their antlers.
The heavens opened: On a particularly long day in the kayaks, as we pushed from the North of the Archipelago, down to the South. We were caught in a huge thunderstorm. We were in the middle of a large expanse of water (the hire lady told us to avoid open water, and skirt the shores of the islands for safety. This seemed longer, so we respectfully ignored her) when an enormous black cloud approached, and unloaded a torrential downpour on us. What started as an annoyance, soon became a moment to remember. Lightning forked through the skies (which was slightly worrying at points) and we were the only people as far as the eye-could-see. We paddled through the rain for a good 40 minutes, until it passed and peace was restored again with bright sunshine.
Isolation: As mentioned at the start of this blog, the idea of isolation is both appealing, and strange. We were amazed at how few people we saw during the week. We would pass sailing boats regularly, and see large mansions on some of the bigger islands, but the vast majority we camped on, we were the only people there. Although we could have been in civilisation in under an hour, it didn’t takeaway from the feeling of solidarity. We slept surrounded by noise, but nothing manmade. The buzz of mosquitos (and the infamous moose) was the soundtrack to our evenings.
As a cheap, accessible, and wholly rewarding escape, this takes some beating. Whether you tackle it as a couple, a group of friends, or a solo mission to find peace! Each would work in their own way. We spent way less than a weekend city break would cost, and returned home with a camera full of memories, lungs full of fresh air, and significantly fitter than when we had left London.
We have listed some details, hints and tips, which we learnt along the way, which hopefully will help you if you like the idea. But if you have any specific questions, feel free to drop us a note.
Thanks for reading,
Tom & James
We flew to Stockholm Skavsta airport (this is NOT in Stockholm!). We then had to get a bus into central Stockholm, followed by a train and another bus to Dalaro, the coastal town. This took around 4 hours in total.
Kayak rental place - http://www.dalarokajak.se/default.asp?lang=eng
We wished we had: