Tuesday 22nd June 2005

We woke refreshed and keen to explore. The weather had other plans for us. The front had passed over in the night and Kiruna was cloaked in a thick layer of nimbostratus: it was pissing down. It had only just passed over though and there was excellent weather on the east coast that was forecast to last until the afternoon. We felt we had little choice and headed to the airport to get away while we definitely still could. Warm front conditions were fine for taking off into: the stable wet conditions were not a concern. If the cold front caught up with us the associated cumulonimbus and other nasties could weather us in too far north. The cloud was down to a thousand feet and so I had to depart on instruments, another way of saying that the windows were not much use. We emerged from the cloud after about half an hour and cruised on south with a thick white carpet below us. We had spent less than twenty-four hours in the arctic, but we had little choice.

As forecast the clouds broke up and then disappeared before our return to Sundsvall. It was a really quick stop as we had no intention of sampling the curious delights of this humdrum town again. We took off again in sunshine and were only airborne ten minutes when the controller warned approaching traffic of lightning near to the east of the field. This was completely unforecast and unexpected and focussed our minds considerably. Dark clouds were approaching from the north and east, but it looked clear for miles south and we made our destination, Gavle, an hour later without more than a light shower.

Gavle was billed by our guidebook as the most attractive of the northern towns and we were more than a little worried that this might transpire to be a backhanded compliment - in the short time that we had been up north we had witnessed some ugly places.
It was a false alarm however as Gavle was a genuinely pleasant place to walk around. It had an open square and a trendy bar where everyone sat outside in the sunshine until the rains that had been chasing us arrived and forced them inside. The book also recommended a place called the Church Street Saloon, a Swedish version of a British interpretation, the Texas Lone Star restaurant. Fortune smiled on us here for it was shut and we were forced to go elsewhere and elsewhere turned out to be a really very good local restaurant with an encouragingly difficult name to pronounce or remember. We got talking to the barman there and he, like almost everyone else we had met so far in Sweden, was very friendly, very knowledgeable, had worked in a bar in London and was worried about the Euro. He insisted that we visit Stockholm, we replied that it was an excellent plan secure in the knowledge that we would go nowhere near the place for no good reason.

Running through the checks



Emerging from the thick band of cloud to more sunshine



A rueful smile from Ross as we leave the Arctic behind us

Natural Navigation Book