Göta Canal

I followed the Göta Canal for two days from Söderköping to Borenberg, staying overnight at Linköping. 

A very late start (11.30 am) saw me head for the shops for urgently needed groceries. I was pleasantly surprised by how quiet the bike was travelling. I had oiled the chain the previous day so there was no rasping or grinding at all, just the quiet whisper of tyres on bitumen. So good!

Then it was off along the canal tow path. Each of the first five or six locks had a boat or two in it, going up or down. It seemed very busy. For the first 10 km along the canal, the path was flat and of gravel but still acceptable. I figured that the horses which towed the boats in the days before motorised transport would have preferred gravel to bitumen.

After Snöveltorp, the canal turned into a lake, no horses would have been necessary and the path headed into the hills. It became very steep, up, down and around corners but the worst part was the road surfacing, deep unstable blue stones. It was absolutely awful! I had to walk considerable stretches because I couldn’t ride up the hills, the back wheel kept slipping and I couldn’t ride downhill because the front wheel slid around and I couldn’t control the bike.

Eventually, I found myself at the canal again, the route returned to being flat gravel tow-path and all was well. The sun shone beautifully, the scenery was quite bucolic, two couples with a horde of children were enjoying a picnic by the water. There were no boats to be seen but I spotted a heron on the far bank instead.

7 km took me into Norsholm where I was standing at an intersection looking confused when a gentlemen on a bike came over to me. He seemed to want to help but looked a bit unsure whether he should offer assistance so I asked for his help instead.

He was going part way towards Linköping so we cycled along a quiet country road for 6 km together. Then he pointed to a little yellow house, explained it was his and invited me in for a coffee. His wife soon came home, we sat outside in their covered and glassed-in veranda, drank coffee and chatted. They have two children and five grandchildren living nearby. They are both retired, she retired only two months ago from her work as a school cleaner. He worked for 20 years as a farmer and then in various jobs in workshops. They sometimes see moose, had one last year eating apples in their garden. The latest sighting was in a paddock nearby, only a day ago. He said the moose come through at night on their way to have a drink at the lake. They have to leave the forest, cross the highway, the railway line and a few smaller roads to get there – quite an undertaking for a moose.

The coffee revived me so I scooted the remaining 19 km to Linköping in record time. Finding the campsite was quite easy, I just searched for it on Google Maps and followed the little blue line. I’m getting to be quite the expert!

The next morning I cycled to Berg which has seven locks all in a row. One of the locks there has a lifting bridge on it as well. The smaller roads usually have bridges which slide back into themselves like a horizontal sliding door. 

During the day, I watched four sailing boats and a passenger vessel negotiate a number of locks and bridges to slowly move up the canal.

At one stage the canal was high above the surrounding land, there was a lake on our right which was about 10 metres lower than the canal. Now that was a weird sight!

I discovered that I could easily cycle faster than the boats could motor along the canal but I stopped so often to enjoy the scenery that the boats and I kept leapfrogging each other along the route. Three of the four ‘captains’ (each boat only had two to four people on it so the captains were usually Dad/Husband) got so used to seeing me that they started waving and saying hello every time one of us passed the other. It was quite a sight to see three or four boats motoring in procession down this beautiful canal. Even the ducks stopped to watch.

The Göta canal is 190 km long. It was built between 1810 and 1832 by 58,000 soldiers who dug a substantial section, 87 km, by hand! There are 58 locks along the canal and two big lakes as well as some smaller ones. The canal doesn’t go all the way across Sweden but joins up with the Trollhätten canal between Lake Vänern and Gothenburg. I’d love to travel the whole distance from Gothenberg to Stockholm by boat one day.