I had seen an article online about timber rafting Sweden in 10 trips you must do and one of these trips was right up my street and also my eldest had recently become fascinated with the 80’s series of Hucklebury Finn. The article was about Timber rafting down a river in Sweden and the more I researched this the more I wanted to do it. It was basically putting together a 2 tonne log raft and letting the rivers current take you down stream over 4 days. The company that organises these trips is called Vildmark I Varmland located near to Torsby on the Klarälven river that slowly meanders through Värmland from its start in the Norwegian mountains. “The journey on the raft allows time for discussion and socializing that you often do not have time for in everyday life. But in addition to just enjoying the beautiful surroundings, be prepared for both calm and intense periods on board. Below the water´s surface there is plenty of sand and occasionally stones that you may not see until you are stuck …”
So I had convinced the wife to do this trip so we started planning how to get there. There was a ferry to Esjberg in Denmark from Harwich that would get us into Scandinavia where we could drive to Varmland but when planning this we discovered that this line was to cease before we where going to do this trip. So it was either fly and hire or drive. What we decided to do was combine this trip with a stop at LEGOLAND Denmark, Timber Rafting and then ferry from Sweden to Poland to visit the wife’s family in at the house near Wyszkow. So the plan was made and we started getting ready for this trip thinking what would we need. I kept packing, re-packing and packing again and finally got the camping equipment down to food box, trangia, tents x 2, sleeping mats and sleeping bags and few other bits.
Driving to Harwich which is only an hour from us for the overnight ferry to the Hook of Holland. We arrived in the Netherlands at 06:45 and where on the road for a 7 hour journey to our hotel near to LEGOLAND Denmark. It was a fairly straight forward drive and spent 2 days with the boys in LEGOLAND before taking the ferry from Hirtshals to Larvik. The plan was to drive around Oslo into Sweden but en-route I noticed a ferry that crossed below Oslo from Horten to Moss which was cheap enough and only took 40 mins and from then with 1 hour we had reached the Swedish border and we started to look for a campsite. In Sweden there is The Right of Public Access (‘Allemansrätt’), or Outdoor Access Rights gives you the right to roam the countryside in Sweden in perfect peace and quiet.
When you are in Sweden you have the right to walk, cycle, ride, ski and camp on any land with the exception of private gardens, near a dwelling house or land under cultivation.
So we came across a large lake and notice a perfect spot at Glaskogen nature reserve and it was here that I realised I had left the key for the roof box at home and had to improvise with an axe and a hammer to get to our sleeping bags.
Camp was setup the boys went exploring and we got a fire lit and made our first meal and offered ourselves as a meal to the local mosquitoes.
We where all quiet tired after along day travelling so I ended up sleeping in the single tent and the boys and the wife in the other tent. We had purchased a 3 man pop up tent for the ease of pitching during this trip which worked really well.
I awoke around 05:00 it was still not quiet light I got up made a fire and went for a swim and in the distance I could hear Wolves calling it was magical.
I had about 2 hours by myself before the troops started to awake so we had breakfast and made our way to Torsby where we would spend the first night with Vildmark I Varmland at Gunnerud.
As we drove in we where greeted by the staff and shown where to camp and told there would be a briefing later on in the evening. We went to the briefing to learn the knots, learn about backwaters, sandbanks and lots of other helpful stuff.
We where given to wooden boxes to put our equipment in so we packed what we didn’t need for the night and stored it in the shelter as a group of how can I say young NOISY Germans finished there rafting trip and camped right next to us.
But we slept ok and early in the morning we packed our equipment and got on the bus that would to take us to the building site and start at the Klaralvens Camping site in Stöllet.
Here we spent most of the day rolling huge logs and tying them together. It was difficult for the boys to help as they where too small and logs where big and could hurt them easily so a lot of time was spent trying to keep them in check as they where getting bored just standing around.
We finally had made 2 rafts that where lashed together and installed the frame and the tarp, attached the canoe and put all of our kit on board and of we went with the river in control of our destiny. We where timber rafting in Sweden!
When the said it would be a ‘unforgettable’ experience it was, it WAS hardwork. You would see a great camping area and we just couldn’t move the 2 tonnes of raft across the river to get to them so we literally had to camp where we could but this was ok.
How you moor 2 tonnes of raft?
Basically you would see an area you wanted to camp and you would paddle out from the raft on the canoe and tie off onto a tree the right length of line so the raft would come ashore just where you wanted it to (easier then you think) but we got the hang of it.
So on shore it was time to rest it was hardwork as I said as much as the boys tried to help to paddle they just didn’t have the power and my wife and I struggled to control the raft you really where at the mercy of the river and anything else you got snarled up on the bank.
The whole experience was hard but it was ‘unforgetable’ I loved it the wife wasn’t so keen but glad that she had done it, we said it would have been better when the boys where older.
The second day we started of after breakfast and this time we got caught in our first backwater which literally kept pushing us around in a circle but we got out only to nearly end up down an of-shoot of the river.
I was holding on to a root trying to stop us being dragged down the dyke, the wife was trying to push on the river bed with a punting stick it wasn’t working, we where shouting at each other the boys couldn’t help, I jumped out with the rope and pulled us out!
Then we got snarled up in a over hanging branch that I had to cut to get us out.
Camp that night was a lovely spot everyone knackered and early to bed after a spam and baked bean supper.
In the morning I woke up and the wife was already awake with her camera as I got out of the tent she said “quiet there’s a Beaver i’ve just fed it my Apple core”.
I said “where?”, “over there” she pointed. I laughed and said that’s a log!!!. “NO, NO, I just fed it” she replied. Anyway later as we passed the log that was jammed in some rocks I said ” it didn’t look hungry”.
Todays task was getting of a sandbank, out of backwater and out of another tree. We where getting good at this now but still we couldn’t move the raft from one side of the river to the other.
We had been warned that when we see a sign Vildmark I Varmland 1000m Keep Left! to KEEP left easier said than done we couldn’t move the thing across the river the issue was that if you missed the finish you would go right passed and end up towards the hydro-electric power station.
So we tried to paddle to the far bank but in the end I tied a rope around myself and paddled the canoe as hard as I could which was moving the 2 ton raft, I just managed to get into the right place to tie the line off so the raft would gently be pushed onto the bank at exactly the finish area.
I DIDNT FANCY MISSING AND GOING PASSED THE FINISH I COULD JUST IMAGINE THE DOMESTIC!
We had finished a day early so we had to get all the equipment of and disassemble the raft log by log where they would float down river and be caught in a log trap and be moved back up river for other people to use.
We camped at the finish that night and shared stories with some Swedish lads that had finished early also.
They also mentioned the issues they had, they hadn’t managed to catch any fish either so it wasn’t just us.
The next day we loaded the car up strapped the now broken roof box as I had had to cut the locks and started heading South looking for a place to camp for the night as our ferry was booked for the next evening to Gdansk.
We headed to Mariestad and onto a island called Fågelo where we found a great campsite and still no fish caught. We had a really relaxing day here, chilled out, slept went fishing and ate after restocking on route.
The next day we packed up and headed south to Karlskrona and hung out by the sea waiting to board the ferry. We got on the ferry to be highly amused by the amount of extremely drunk Poles that take the ferry to Sweden, stay on the ferry and return just for a drinking excursion.
Arriving in Gdansk the next morning we then drove to our relatives in Torun, spent the night there and drove down to the house for another 2 weeks R&R.
So looking back timber rafting a once in a lifetime trip it was hardwork but a unforgettable experience.
I wouldn’t recommend it if you have small children 4 x adults would be perfect for this trip. Sweden is an amazing place and I would recommend driving and camping around the country to anyone.
Perhaps a better excursion with small children would be following the course of the river by canoe, Vildmark I Varmland organise this also, riverbanks are more accessible and you have more control over a canoe than 2 tonnes of wood that you cant steer. I still talk about this trip as it was fun but also hardwork.