Day 21 - to Stockholm (again)

Trip Start Jul 13, 2010
Trip End Sep 09, 2010

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Where I stayed
Somewhere in Sweden on a train

Flag of Sweden  , Lapland,
Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Awoke early to sounds of what appeared to be crushing ore above us (turned out to be track maintenance), packed up tent and walked up to reception before the midges woke up and ate us alive (we put midge nets on just in case they were awake). Val decided to try to walk to the train station (which we had seen, we thought, the night before). After an initial uphill stretch the rest of the way was downhill, which we managed OK - we must be getting used to backpacking! We arrived at the station ready to make our booking for the trip to Stockholm, which would be overnight. We had discussed for several days whether it was worth doing the Inslandsbanen through the middle of Sweden and had eventually decided that given what we had seen so far it would not be worth the cost and time. We had already seen some Swedish countryside and would see more on the last stretch to Stockholm and the exit from Sweden back to Denmark - so this would probably be enough. Thus we had decided to miss this part of the schedule and proceed directly from Narvik to Stockholm. We had planned to take the mid afternoon train overnight to Stockholm which required a booking. However we could find no sign of life at the station. The SJ ticket machine could only sell tickets not make reservations. Note that although Narvik is in Norway the only rail connection is to towns in Sweden thus the trains are run by the Swedish railway system - SJ. Eventually we discovered from an information bureau next to the train station that the ticket office was unmanned and that we would have to make the reservation by phone and they gave us the number. Unfortunately we could not get through to this number on our australian mobile for some reason. We were beginning to dispair at this point when a Hong Kong resident fellow eurail traveller arrived and said that he was travelling on the 10:25 train which did not require a reservation. This would take us to Boden where we should be able to book the night train to Stockholm. Grateful for this information and keen to escape Narvik as rapidly as possible we decided to take this train. Syd went to the nearby supermarket to get provisions for the journey and we boarded the train when it arrived. When the conductor arrived to inspect our tickets we explained our situation and he said that we would be able to book the sleeper at Boden. The early part of the trip was quite spectacular up and over the Norwegian/Swedish "moors" - quite desolate like the North Yorkshire moors or Peak District in England but with quite a few huts and lodges - obviously a very popular area for people to get a "wilderness" experience on holiday. Thereafter the train moved down into typical Swedish landscape of pine forests and lakes. Arriving at Boden at 16:15 it was warm and sunny - a refreshing change from the past week or so. Syd went to make the booking only to discover that the office was only an information office and could not make bookings, they could only tell us that there were "plenty of" seats available on the train. We had already decided that we would take the seat option on this night train as we had already tried couchettes and sleepers with mixed results. Thus we decided that if SJ could not provide us with any way of making a booking then we would just turn up on the train and request a sleeper seat. When the train arrived we spoke to the lady conductor who was very sympathetic and gave us a set of four seats together so that we would be more confortable. The train left at 18:20 and proceeded as usual through forests and past lakes and rivers. We settled down to sleep (or rather doze) using our norwegian provided sleeper equipment (SJ provided nothing). The night was not too bad despite a group of 4 Lady Gaga fans who came into the 4 seats on the other side of the corridor and spend most of the night chatting (in Swedish). We are sure that chatting in a foreign language is much more disturbing than in English as the brain seems to be continually trying to make sense of the noise and not succeeding!
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