Altitude : 254m
It was a busy day, full of surprises.
Early in the morning I drive toward Alvsbyn, leaving the rest of the team at the departure point; its 6:55 AM. Leaving Alvsbyn, a small road heads south but nothing indicates whether or not it is a paved road. Swedish maps are not too detailed and the Guide du Routard confirms this. Google Maps shows it as a track and my GPS as a road. So off I go on a reconnaissance. The asphalt road has some holes up to Storsund, then for 7 km before Koler, road works make rough going for vehicles, and then the road is in fine shape. The decision is made; it will be our itinerary to reach Licksele.
On my way back, I stop in the very tiny village of Storsund, to look for a place to sleep. It is 9:00 AM and I stop in front of a house where a bare chested man is taking advantage of the bright sunshine to get a tan. He calls a colleague, and while we wait talks to me about the village. I learn that there are 60 inhabitants and 1 French woman whose name is HĂ©lĂ¨ne. He offers me a cup of coffee and something to eat (hospitality is not an empty word in this country). I decline the invitation and the president of the committee arrives with a bunch of keys. The old school has been converted into the community house and this evening Bingo has been organized. The old school also has a â€śStuga,â€ť a small wood cabin with beds. We have found a place to say and the cherry on the cake is being able to have the evening meal without being attacked by mosquitoes, with HĂ©lĂ¨ne and Billy. HĂ©lĂ¨ne is 22 and bought her house three years ago. The price of real estate seems very low because for 10,000 to 15,000 Euros you can buy a house in Storsund. But you have not to be afraid of distances because the majority of the people who work must drive between 40 and 80 km both ways. If it is easy in the summer, in the winter that is not the case. Children go between 30 and 50 km to get to school, depending on their age. So it is a place which is lost in the forest, between 2 lakes and where the surroundings are exceptional. HĂ©lĂ¨ne explains that in Sweden the government is becoming less involved with services: schools and post offices are closing and nobody takes over small shops when they close in these towns, which are dying out. HĂ©lĂ¨ne is revolted.
Because of the Bingo, we canâ€™t use the kitchen or the dining room after 5:00 PM. Naturally, HĂ©lĂ¨ne suggests that we have dinner at her house. We share our meal with our two hosts. Billy speaks excellent English, which means he is not left out of the conversation, because HĂ©lĂ¨ne is happy to speak French and doesnâ€™t tire of telling us about Swedish life and her life here. We are delighted to be protected from the mosquitoes and to share the beautiful evening in Storsund, which is difficult to find on a map but is definitely a bit of paradise.
For Serge, nothing changes. It is a normal day, with a parade at the end of the school year in Alvsbyn, meeting Gabriel, who ran toward Serge to have his photo taken with him (no doubt because of the article in the newspaper or the TV interview), watching elk at the roadside, the beauty of the scenery of which we never tire, a return of the pain in his knee, refuelings which are always copious and once again reaching the goal: 74 km.
We were glad to see the sunshine but we are careful and donâ€™t take off too much clothing. The natives are in bathing suits. The temperature is 16Â°C so we can understand that after a month of February with temperatures as low as -30Â°C they now feel warm.
Town : Storsund (Norrbotten)
GPS : N 65.32â€™51.6Â° E 020.36â€™07.5Â°