In less than half an hour's flying we were over
northern Germany and the Kiel canal was clearly visible. We listened
to the German pilots chat jovially to one another and Ross, who
is fluent in German, asked if we could turn the volume up - he
was enjoying it so much. Worrying.
The fractured landscape of southern Denmark, described
well by Bill Bryson as a 'broken plate', looked stunning in the
morning sunshine. Land and sea jostled for dominance and there
were beautiful islands wherever we looked. The water was so clear
that we could see the beaches shelving away underwater from five
thousand feet up.
As we turned east to route via Copenhagen's airspace
we got two small and unwelcome surprises. There was a bank of
cloud cover over that part of Denmark and the Copenhagen controllers
refused to let us through their airspace at any height despite
our destination, Malmo, being just east of them. This required
diverting half an hour south and over more water than would have
been ideal. It may seem harsh but this experience tainted our
view of Denmark a little, it seemed to be the only place in north
Europe with bad weather and inflexible controllers.
Malmo was a classic medium sized airport with
grand pretensions. It reminded me of Bristol, another airport
that can at times view itself in a slightly more grand light than
the rest of the world does. It was however a very functional place
to refuel ourselves and the plane. We were granted access to airside
after being requested by an intercom voice for me to place my
pilot's licence on a scanning screen for inspection. The voice
then pressed a switch somewhere, a red light turned green and
the door unlocked.
Once airborne we soon got a first glimpse of a
sight that was to become very familiar: pine forests. Sweden is
home to a lot of pine trees and has a booming paper industry as
one consequence. We both couldn't help commenting on what a different
lifestyle the land below us must lead to compared to our London
ones. Endless forests, green open spaces, lakes and dots of pretty
houses. In fact it was so rural that it would have been tempting
to think of Sweden as a developing country, but the opposite is
closer to the truth: they have one of the highest incomes per
capita in the world.
Our route took us between the two huge lakes:
Vanern and Vattern. We made sure that our lifejackets were to
hand, because if we had been forced to route over these vast ponds
we would definitely have gone beyond gliding range of land.
We carried on up and over the forests and lakes
and landed at Orebro late in the afternoon. It was a pretty desolate
place - a classic cargo airport, albeit manned by friendly people,
but we were not hugely keen to stay there. The key factors in
our favour were the length of daylight, we were getting far enough
north for the nights to be very short, and the continuing excellent
weather. We did our best to refresh ourselves and then set off
We tracked north east until hitting the east coast
at Gavle and then followed it north over Soderhamn and Hudiksvall
to Sundsvall. The coastline was stunning in places and although
the sun was low, light was not an issue. The approach to Sundsvall
took us downwind towards the hills and then we turned and our
finals took us low over the estuary. It was 9.30pm when we put
the brakes on. We had been flying for nine hours and spent the
day in or over four countries. We had also brought our goal within
striking distance. I had wrestled with the safety implications
of doing so much flying in one day, it is impossible to be as
fresh at the end of three good length flights as you are at the
start of the day. However the conditions were so perfect that
I decided that a lot of flying in ideal conditions was preferable
to flying less each day in potentially more marginal conditions.
Sundsvall was another fairly charmless cargo airport
unfortunately and clearly not a major part of the town's life.
We waited for nearly an hour for a taxi. The only way of getting
some food was a ten minute walk out of town along a busy road
to a McDonalds. It was a bit of a disappointment, but we were
too tired to worry too much. We spent the night in a Travelodge
style hotel which was all we needed, I think we would have happily
have slept in a barn.