Geojazzin (Bike Touring Part 1)
Have you ever heard of geocaching? My bet is you have and it is as stupid as you might imagine, you’re really just searching for plastic boxes in inconvenient locations. I happened to enjoy traversing the city at night, skipping sleep with my friend Johan Andersson in 2009. The first reason was the joy of finding these plastic boxes but the second was the feeling of freedom that came with travelling outside your zone of comfort at 3AM in winter of Borås. I lived for these nightly journeys, to the point where missing school was a recurring consequence of chasing the plastic boxes.
When one is 19 years old, becoming a “pro geocacher” sounds like a terrific idea (less so now) and any way me and Johan could do more of it was worth the time and excuses it took to get there. Many times we just drove out to a random place and started searching for caches on my rather fresh iPhone (yeah, the first useless one) using what by today’s standards would be unuseable network speeds and find caches. I miss the excitement around this, simple tasks that really gave us the joy of exploring.
The First Trip
Towards the summer of 2009, we had the brilliant idea of “why not combine a longer bike trip with tons of geocaching” as we at that point had found most of the fun caches available around Borås. Johan and a person named John Kumlin had done a shorter trip in 2008 so they had some prior experience on doing trips like these. The goal was to bike over 1000 km and find over a 100 geocaches. The route would pass over Gothenburg, up to Strömstad over the archipelago, quickly peek into Norway, pass through Karlstad and Kristinehamn, pop down to Hjo and Skövde and take us over Läckö Slott back to Borås. I couldn’t find the GPX file but this is the map as I remember it.
We left the town on the 10th of July, setting our destination towards Gothenburg. With our true luck, the first day started with rain, as did basically every other day except 1. In true Swedish summer fashion, we had rain the majority of the time on this trip which turned out to be a challenge when trying to find over a 100 geocaches in 10 days. At one point I assumed that there couldn’t be more water in my shoes, which led me to step into a river to find a cache. I quickly realized that there can in fact always be more water in your shoes.
The miserable first day ended in that we put up our tents next to the sea, just outside of Stenungsund. After enduring a long night of rain in a deep sleep from the exhaustion of the first day, I awoke to a strange sensation of feeling like I slept in a pool. I was floating. It turns out that my tent did a great job at letting water in, but not letting water out, creating a pool where all of my belongings were underwater. I shouted to Johan and Joakim who had come to the same conclusion, both scared of moving as that meant actually making the sleeping bag wet. Eventually Joakim proclaims that the ship is sinking and leaves the tent.
A miserable morning that never seemed to end eventually had us rolling for one of the longest days of biking. We throw away our tents, they are obviously useless, banking on the fact that we have a bed for the night at our destination. I sadly don’t have many pictures from this day but believe me when I say that it was truly miserable. We eventually arrived at the coastal town of Grebbestad which is a small vacation town in which we finally meet John, joining us a bit later on the trip due to another commitment.
With the full gang together the spirits are lifted and it the dread of biking throughout the night in rain are lifted with some sun. John insists that we take a picture of his signature move “the freeze” before leaving Grebbestad. From here the really stupid geocaching starts.
The night goes on and we find a variety of different geocaches along the coast all the way up to Strömstad. One particularly memorable one was a “MEGA” that ended up being a small house full of stuff, acting as a weird geocache that the owner had created. As the sun starts setting we realize that we forgot to actually purchase any tents in Grebbestad, having thrown away our previous tents we are not left with many options rather than to come up with creative solutions. Sweden has this nifty law called Allemansrätten which essentially allows anyone to spend the night at one’s land if you are not disturbing the owner of the land. After reminding yourself of this, we come across a cottage just meters before the Norweigan border in the middle of nowhere. I think it’s first after waking up that we realized the absolute state that this cottage was in.
After discussing this over breakfast by the road we challenge ourselves to keep this spirit of sleeping up. Why buy a tent where these locations conveniently appear out of nowhere? This trip and the subsequent one ended up being mostly about this concept, trying to find what we titled a “Pundarskjul” due to the thrill that came with exploring these abandoned houses. We also started abusing the fact that Sweden has “industrisemester”, basically a block where most people take vacation in July, leaving a lot of the industrial buildings empty and serving as perfect spots to camp under.
We ended up becoming so accustomed to this that by the end of the trip we just slept in anything that had a roof. This particular place is Värsås IP, a small soccer field between Hjo and Skövde which served as a great location to camp. We woke up to the sound of a lawnmower, with the person cutting the grass just ignoring the fact that we existed which even further bolded our intent on continuing this practice.
Cachingwise? We took tons of innovative caches this trip. It’s hard to remember them all but one in particular stood out, the cache named “Fångarna på fortet”. An old military fort in Sweden built before WW2 that was about to get shut down had a multi-cache which required you to break into the fort and solve physical puzzles inside the fort in order to get the hint for the next part of the cache. It was truly a joy and the person who worked on this had taken extra care to make the puzzles a homage to the game show “Fort Boyard”.
Apart from that you had the usual micro’s (a small cache people hide in boring places), railroad caches, bridge caches, road sign caches etc. Just about the variety of caches you can find in a country that has a lot of snow for 1/3rd of the year. We even met a maintainer of a cache in Skövde who was about as weird you can expect from someone that had over 300 active caches.
The parts that really stick with you 10 years later are the small things that you didn’t realize back then, random strangers offering free drinks out of the trunk of a Volvo 740 or preparing to bike the last 60km just as the sun was setting. It was these moments that made the trip worth it, even if the cold rain and sleep deprivation often plagued us.
Sadly this trip came to an abrupt ending. During the last day of biking I crashed into a road sign just by lack of attention. There were tons of reasons that attributed to this but it cut my trip short as my bike sadly broke from the experience. I was luckily not hurt (I had even lost my helmet at this point so in hindsight I’m glad nothing happened) and had to cut the trip short. The good part about this is that it left me hungry for more.
We did another major one the year after this and I kept doing trips like these for many years afterwards with Sara. I’ll talk more about the next one in Part 2.