Utö and Ålö

The Mill House is a short walk through the woods from the main building.
Back to Utö again. The morning doesn’t start off very well—the weather isn’t the best, the place is too crowded, the usual staff is on vacation, and a million other little things annoy us. However, we get a very cosy room in the Mill House and we go for what seems to have become our favourite activity here: Collapse in bed and wake up in time for dinner. A five-course meal later we feel a lot better.

The next morning we have breakfast outdoors and then make use of the bike tour we won last Christmas. We get a couple of sturdy bikes with balloon tires, buy us lunch in the local shop and then strike out to explore the map with secret bathing places we have been supplied with.

The sea is never far away.
In no time at all we are in a landscape which maskes me feel as if we were in a Swedish 1940s film, perforce the bike even wants to go on the left side of the road. We travel on wheel-track roads past green meadows with cows and sheep, the sun is warm without being hot (though I’ve taken the precaution of slathering myself with the usual SPF 50+) and it feels as if all the road is downhill. (We did start at sea level, but since we are moving southwards this must obviously be due to the curvature of the Earth…)

We move into the firing range at southern Utö, open to the public during the summer. The landscape is as lush as before, but every few metres are placards with dire warnings about not touching unexploded ordnance. We arrive at a military compund with a couple of armoured vehicles on exhibit outside. We crawl around a bit on them and then continue on our way.

Eventually we cross a little bridge to Ålö, separated from Utö by the narrowest of sounds. Here is our first stop, we sit on a rock, looking on the sea and eating our lunch and then we just sit there and enjoy the day.

A Södermanland forest at its most beautiful.
Then to find the next bridge back to Utö. Next to it is a little hut like a ticket window, but its actual purpose is opaque. We end up on what goes for the main road around the south of the island. It brings us to a beach, perfect for amphibious assault exercises, but now occupied by a smattering of families with children. It turns out to be mostly impossible to bike through the loose sand, we have to push the bikes along until we get up on solid ground again. We continue, soon stopping to eat wild strawberries and chat with a baby squirrel sitting by the road.

Soon we find ourselves by the centre piece of the firing range, a long rail track on which I surmise targets are pulled during exercises. A seriously shot-up skip stands by the track.

Faithfully guarding the ramparts.
We aim for our final target, a cave by the shore. We have to leave the bikes by the road and follow a foot path through the forest for a bit. To Honeybuns’ disappointment, the caves are in fact little more than deep crevices, but the cliff landscape is fantastic and I suddenly find a dilapidated bunker hidden in a ravine. We jump around on the cliffs for a while, but now, how should we get back to the bikes? Probably best to just cut straight throught the forest. Of course, since this is a military area, the forest has never been logged and does not take lightly to our efforts to pass. Finally we sight the road and stumble up on it. Time for tick inspection. No nasty critters seem to have attached themselves to us. Honeybuns is relieved. I am even more relieved that we didn’t accidentally step on an old landmine or something, belatedly having realised what a stupid idea it was to go off-road.

Now it is time to return to the harbour and get home. Rather tired by now, we pedal along sedately when I see something brownish moving out of the corner of my eye. Another squirrel, no, a dog, no, AN ELK! The elk jumps up on the road behind me and I, flustered, pedal away as fast as I can, wishing I had a ten-speed. Luckily the elk drops the chase after just a few steps and returns in among the trees without showing much interest in Honeybuns, so she soon rejoins me. We return along the side of the shooting range and while we have seen very few people all day, now returning bikers appear on all tributary roads, heading for the harbour. Soon we are a convoy, heading north.

Luckily the Earth has revolved enough that it’s still mostly downhill, because by now we are really tired. We return the bikes and sit down for a breather. We have dinner in the restaurant on the main street and then get on the boat.

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