Day 8: Køge to Halmstad

Previous Day

  • Distance: 176km ☹️ — This was a long day
  • Climbing: 941m ☹️ — I found the only hill between Copenhagen and Gothenburg
  • Undercarriage: 🙂 — Most feeling seems to have gone which is not really ideal.
  • Route: 🙂 — Apart from the hill, a lot of nice stuff today.
  • Body: 😔 — The ankle continues to play up and I appear to have pulled a muscle in my tricep.  WTF?
  • Bike: 😔😔 — A few operator errors today

The advantage of the Centralhotellet in Køge is embedded in the name.  It’s central and therefore close to the one restaurant which was open.  The disadvantage is that the refuse lorries grind and groan round the central square at 5.30am in the morning right outside one’s window. Therefore, whether or not I had wanted an early start, that’s what I’d got.

There was a coffee machine downstairs and when I went down at 6am I saw the only other human I had seen in the Centralhotellet.  I’m not entirely sure whether or not he was a guest or a homeless person who had broken in during the night but we gamely nodded at each other, drank coffee and I retrieved my bike from the kitchen.  The photograph below is absolutely everywhere in the Centralhotellet and, trust me, as I left, four women didn’t come out to wave me good bye.  The homeless person didn’t even wave me off.

These women do not exist.  Maybe nobody exists at the Centralhotellet.

Unwaved off, I started out on the 40km from Køge to Copenhagen.  It was pan flat but due to a rainstorm overnight, everything was damp and slippy.  Soon after I left, I passed through a major milestone (or kilometre stone).  1000km since I left Cambridge.  Hurrah for me!

Some guy better dressed for the weather than me.

It pretty much looked like that picture all the way.  A great but wet cycle path running alongside a dual carriageway.  As I reached the outskirts of Køge, I saw some adverts for the “Flying Superkids”.  Not just some adverts, adverts on every single lamp post.

They’re kids.  They’re super.  And they FLY!

30km later as hit the outskirts of Copenhagen, the adverts were still there.

They’re still kids, they’re still super and they still FLY

I realise that this is an odd thing to go off on in the middle of a cycling blog but…WTF?  I must have cycled past more than 1000 of these billboards attached to lamp posts.  Do Danes have some fascination with flying children who are super?  Is it a massive market which can support wall to wall advertising?  Do they fly?  Why kids?  Why not grownups too?  What makes them super?  As you can tell, it was a long and boring road and so the Flying Superkids definitely turned into a bit of a brain worm.

All of a sudden, Copenhagen started and I had to banish my musings on Flying Superkids from my brain because big cities require Maximum Effort.  There’s a lot of cars, there are confusing junctions, there are a lot of other cyclists coming zooming past you or that you’re zooming past.  Between towns you can zone out and just turn your legs.  In cities, zoning out will get you killed.

The only photo I took in Copenhagen

My route skirted the centre of Copenhagen and looped through the suburbs which were an endless parade of pretty soulless “stack-a-Scandi” apartment blocks interspersed with complex car and bicycle junctions.  This wasn’t the most picturesque part of the trip.  However, I did get complimented by some chap on my by now ripped and cut calves and thighs.  Which was nice I guess.  I did spend some time wondering if there was any way to cycle a bike for 1000km with your stomach…

There hadn’t been any breakfast in the Centralhotellet — or maybe the homeless guy had scarfed it all before I arrived.  Anyway, I was now 50k into the day and I hadn’t had anything to eat.  On the way out of Copenhagen I had a sudden desire for something familiar, well known, something that wasn’t just complex and difficult to order.  I focused on McDonalds.  I really really really wanted McDonalds.  This is a tactical error because you cycle past places which would be able to serve you carbohydrates and coffee but you’re focused on McDonalds.  You’d think that a major European capital city would have McDonalds everywhere.  Nope.  I did see one in the middle of a vast big box shopping park but unfortunately it was on the other side of an 8 lane motorway and my Garmin told me that it would be a 5km detour to get there.  I can live without McDonalds to save my legs an extra 5km.

I got something in a chic little cafe in some nameless town where some bloke hit me on the back and shouted at me for crossing the road on the zebra crossing rather than the bike path.  Quite surprisingly, he shouted at me in English.  Do I look English?  Are all cyclists in no-name-town English? I dunno but the advantage of him obviously speaking English was that he definitely understood my richly inventive invective about him and his mother.  There’s nothing quite like swearing in your native language.

Then it was more bike paths, more traffic lights and then, without warning, I was at the sea.

I’m at the sea.

Sweden and Denmark are connected across the Øresund by the famous Øresund Bridge which opened in 2000.  However, before that, all the freight and people travelled by ferry across the narrow 4km straight between Helsingør in Denmark and Helsingborg in Sweden.  Because bikes aren’t allowed on the Øresund Bridge, I was going to take the ferry.

Ooo another ferry.  Exciting.

This ferry is very similar to the one I took from Germany to Denmark.  Double bowed, roll on roll off, just a moving bridge really.

That’s Sweden over there.

I felt great on the ferry.  Fuelled up with some full fat Coke and ready to tackle my fifth and final country.  I sat at the front of the ship watching Sweden getting closer.  It felt like a good moment.

The ferry is so efficient that the open the front door while the boat is still moving.  Here’s a video of this surprisingly balsy move from the captain.

Why doesn’t it sink?

And this was basically the last enjoyable moment for the next four hours.

My first mistake was unfastening the back of the Bean of Joy  to get my waterproof out but I forgot to do it back up again.  As I cycled (first) off the boat, the strap from the Bean of Joy got caught in the rear wheel of the bike, it stopped, skidded on the metal deck and I ended up on my arse.  In front of two cyclists, four motorcyclists, 30 lorry drivers and about 200 car drivers.  It was not one of my best moments.  Of course, it goes without saying the the two cyclists were pretty Danish women…if you’re going to humiliate yourself, go all in.

The rear strap of the Bean of Happiness was now covered in chain lube which had been on the bike for the past 8 days and sorting out the strap got a fair amount of that filthy chain lube all over my hands and subsequently all over the handlebars and brake hoods.  I finally got everything sorted out and headed into Helsinborg and immediately hit an 8% hill out of town.  It was sunny and hot and the hill was brutal.  The ankle was really sore on the hill and I started trying to only cycle with one leg.  I’ll look like a fiddler crab by the time I get to Stockholm.  Also, there’s something weird going on with my triceps.  It’s like I’ve pulled a muscle.  This bit was no fun.

As soon as I’d hit the plateau, it got really dark and then the heavens opened.  I stopped to take out my raincoat and once again forgot to do up the Bean of Love’s back strap properly so the whole bean fell out in the middle of a junction as I was crossing it. Which meant I had to run out in front of the huge articulated lorries trying to retrieve the bean. To be clear, this was not the bean’s fault.  It was purely operator error.

The rain was pouring down, I was soaked and everything was grim.

Welcome to bloody Sweden

Oh yes, this was really very unpleasant.  Here is a selfie of me thinking “this is really very unpleasant”.
Even my hat is squint.  That’s how bad this was.

The route snaked through puddles, cycle paths which were effectively rivers, and horrible out-of-town big box store parks with the usual mix of Ikea, Lidl and random power-tool stores.  I’m not sure what I had in mind for Sweden but this certainly wasn’t it.  

Eventually, I just gave up in the rain and stopped at a Burger King for a coffee.  A Burger King with a floor which was exceptionally slippy in the wet.  I went over on my arse again.  This time in front of scores of mothers with their impossibly blonde kids.  It took an extraordinary amount of time to produce a single black coffee but I wasn’t complaining since it was dry and I could cope with the mothers and their kids snickering behind my back about the dirty wet man with the funny clothes on.

Eventually the storm abated and I got gingerly back on the bike — falling on your arse twice in one day tends to make one’s arse a bit tender.  It was 75k to Halmstad and I was just going to have to grind it out. Although the sun eventually came out, it took me a long time to dry out.  I was soaked although the single benefit of the rainstorm was that it cleaned my hands and bike of all the filthy chain lube.

A lot of Sweden looks like this

And sometimes you get prototypically Swedish stuff like this.

I had noticed a bit of a spike in the elevation profile around about 150km into the route and, yes, it was the only hill in Southern Sweden.  Not a huge hill but 6km at 4% really saps your strength.  As I ground up the hill, I remembered that I had a work call I had to do at 3pm and so I stopped near the top at a nice picnic area and set up for a call.

Welcome to my office

After the call, it was a buttock clenching 50km/h descent down the other side of the only hill in Sweden and then 30km on the Kattegattleden which is a beautiful 390km route from Helsingborg to Gothenburg which runs along the coast of Sweden.  I hadn’t done the southern part today because it was a lot longer than my more direct route but it really is a nice bike route.  Well signed, good infrastructure and, because it is so popular, lots of cyclists and lots of places to stop for the traditional “30km to go” coffee stop.

A combo bar, cafe and estate agent.

The place I stopped was rammed with middle aged men and women who had cycled up from their seaside holiday homes and were enthusiastically ripping into the beers.  The bar also had a handy sideline in advertising holiday homes to drunk people.  Very strange.

The Kattegattleden wound its way through the coastal forests which was both pretty and also a bit of a relief after all the coffee I’d been drinking.  I never thought I would look back fondly at the endless forested roads of Germany.

Hurrah! Trees!

The last few km were tough.  Halmstad was hard to navigate, I was tired and the sky was looking ominous.  However, eventually I got to the hotel.  Tonight I have chosen the Best Western Plus Grand Hotel on the basis that it can’t be terrible.  After a little bit of  a stand-off about taking my bike to the room (“is it clean?” “I have ridden it through a rainstorm…it’s clean”) I got into my minuscule room which has a minuscule bathroom without a heated towel rail…<sigh>.

However, unlike the Centralhotellet it has humans working here and I’ve been served a couple of beers and a bit of food by some smiling actual humans who don’t appear to be homeless so it’s maybe not all bad.  To be fair, there isn’t much of a choice in Halmstad and I don’t really need much apart from beer, food and somewhere to sleep.  A heated towel rail would be nice though.  I forecast a moist morning tomorrow.

Tomorrow I will follow the Kattegattleden all the way to Gothenburg.  It’s 150k and I think I can make that if (a) the weather is good and (b) I have the prize of a rest day to look forward to.  I’ve been planning ahead.  If I have a rest day on Saturday, I have Sunday to Thursday inclusive to make it from Gothenburg to Stockholm.  The route across Sweden isn’t very well served for towns.  It is only about 600km but I’m going to have to plan the five days carefully.  To (mis)quote Mark Watney “I’m going to have to geography the shit out of this”.

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