Up a Creek (in Sweden!) Without A Paddle

Up a Creek (in Sweden!) Without A Paddle

A canoe trip to #Sweden was one of the very best wedding gifts we got. We're an #active couple and this was right up our alley. The #canoeing was the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life. However, when the time came to eat, we realized we forgot one main ingredient: food!


There is one thing you need to know about me. Well, actually there are a lot of things but one of the most important things is, I absolutely love Sweden. So you can imagine how ecstatic I was when my husband and I received a trip for two canoeing in Sweden for our wedding. There we would be, in the land of ABBA, Ikea, and Köttbullar. After a year of planning and working out the kinks we arrived in Arvika, Sweden with only our backpacks and a half eaten pretzel.

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When we travel it’s safe to say there is a lot of planning that goes into reaching our final destination. Passports – Check, Money – Check, backpacks or suitcases – Check, and the list goes on until finally we have made it on vacation and the fun begins. No matter how much we plan and pack and re-pack and double-check though, we always seem to be leaving something out. Sometimes we forget something small like a watch or that one pair of shoes we really wanted to break in. Other times we find ourselves telling the cab driver to turn around and floor it back home for that passport sitting on the counter next to a cup of stale coffee and a pile of clothes we decided last-minute not to bring. But what if we forget something so incredibly huge that in the moment one thinks, how could I have been so incredibly stupid, while months later we find ourselves looking back and just smiling?

The canoes waiting for us to begin our journey
The canoes waiting for us to begin our journey

Arvika is quite a small town located in the middle of Sweden surrounded by thousands of tiny lakes connected by rivers and streams. The ancient leftover from a glacier that once covered most of Scandinavia. The perfect location for a nice relaxing canoe adventure. It was dusk by the time we reached the campground located ten miles outside of town on the shores of one of the bigger lakes in the area. We caught a nice bit of shut-eye before we headed out on our short 3 day long, 40 km long excursion into the wild unknown. We woke up, had a cup of coffee, an apple each and split a tiny cinnamon roll before heading to the canoe center just up the road from where we stayed. After checking in our packs, receiving a map, and loading all of our belongings into waterproof barrels, we were then driven what seemed like 45 minutes north to where our canoes were awaiting us. The scenery was absolutely breathtaking, the air was as fresh as could possible be, and we had a comfortable 80 degrees with not a cloud in sight.

We had a comfortable 80 degrees with not a cloud in sight

Now my husband and I have both been canoeing before this. We kind of had an idea of how this all would play out. I guess we both forgot to mention to one another that the last times we had both been in canoes was for quite some time. I for instance took my last canoe trip in the sixth grade. But how hard could it be? After struggling for what seemed to be 2 hours and the usual “you’re doing it wrong” banter we had worked out the kinks and established a rhythm for smooth paddling. We were on fire. Left right, left right, steer, paddle, paddle, stop, take a picture. Canoeing is hard work and I really had no recollection of it being this strenuous. We planned on taking a small break once we reached the first tiny stream, one of a dozen, that would connect us to a series of lakes along our journey. But wait, what’s that? No lunch? You have got to be kidding me! We forgot to buy food? Who would think we would need food while being in the wilderness for three days? Thankfully our map showed all the small town that had options for buying provisions. We only had 5 kilometers (3 miles) until we could stop for lunch.

Where can we get some food?!
Where can we get some food?!

Yet another 2 hours go by and we come up on the small town. Canoeing is slower than one thinks. I can jog 5 kilometers in less than 25 minutes. Really the current should have gotten us there in under an hour without us even having to paddle. My husband gets out and heads into town while I wait in the boat. I was pretty excited for some grub. It had already been seven hours since my apple and cinnamon roll which in general isn’t really that nutritious especially since we were planning on getting some exercise during that day. A good bit of time passed before I see the shoulders of my husband bouncing along the path. Too far away for words, I see him sign a thumbs-down. The store closed their doors a few years ago. That meant no lunch. That meant going hungry for at least another fifteen kilometers. Fifteen kilometers meant yet another five to six hours of paddling before we could eat.

Too far away for words, I see him sign a thumbs-down

Setting back on our way there were little words to be had. No time! We were in the zone and had to keep up a quick pace. I had a fishing pole with me and kept a line trolling in the back but for it to work we had to go, and fast! Left right, left right, paddle, paddle, steer, no time for a picture. Surprisingly we were still in good spirits. It was actually comical that we, experienced travelers would ever forget something so important like packing along food when we very well knew the options for buying food would be scarce.

While we look like experienced travelers, we came unprepared...
While we look like experienced travelers, we came unprepared...

Hours pass, lakes turned into rivers which turned into streams, that turned into lakes, and rivers, and lakes and water and what about my fishing pole? Nothing, not one nibble. Finally we come up on our next town. At this point we had already paddled a good 25 or 30 kilometers and hadn’t eaten for a good 13 hours. I’ve certainly gone longer than that without eating. I’ve had times where I haven’t eaten for a few days. The contrast is, I was never working out or exuding that much energy in those cases. Plus, I am on vacation. I shouldn’t have to be worrying about something like this. I should be worrying about what filter I want to put on this picture or a bird sitting on a log.

Yet again my husband walks into town. I always sent him into town because he can actually speak Swedish even though practically all Swedes can speak English very well, if not better than the average native speaker. This time I have no time to waste. What if the store is closed again? It’s starting to get dark now and we should be finding a place to camp. I however am focused on one thing and one thing only, fishing. No matter how hard I try I just can’t seem to stop getting snagged on all these rocks. It was the perfect fishing location. It was located at the mouth of a river that fed into a sizable lake. If I were a professional fisherman, that is exactly where I would go. Maybe that’s why I’m not a professional fisherman. A long while goes by and suddenly, carrying two boxes in his hands, my hero arrived! There was, yet again, no store, but there was pizza, delicious, melted cheese heaven. We ate it as fast as we possibly could before finding a camping place for the night. It was well past sundown but at least we had food.

Getting a fire started was imperative to our camping
Getting a fire started was imperative to our camping

We awoke the next morning not being able to move, but at least we weren’t completely exhausted. We still needed food for the days to come, but thankfully my husband asked where the next grocery store was located and it happened to be only an hour out of our way in the wrong direction. So we packed up camp and headed out. We bought enough food to last us a week and ate a giant breakfast. We finally had the opportunity to take in our surroundings and enjoy everything this beautiful area has to offer. The plus side was, we had taken care of a majority of the trip in just one day and could take our time the next few days. Ironically, after eating breakfast I caught a fish. Luckily for him I was full and ended up releasing him back to swim another day.

Of course, right after breakfast, I caught a big fish
Of course, right after breakfast, I caught a big fish

I would definitely encourage anyone to take this trip. Arvika Canoe has a huge selection of tours ranging from easy to difficult and lasting for however long you want. There are no guides or other people in your group. It’s just you, a canoe and a map. We had rarely ever seen another human and the lakes are just intermittently dotted with vacation homes. There are no motor boats allowed on many of the lakes we passed through and even then we were still all alone. Just don’t forget to pack some food, at least for two days.

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