Paddling in Mackmyra

Catherine, Graham, our canoe-host Tage, and his dog Cesar. I am clearly distracted from photo taking by trying to pet Cesar. He was an awesome dog!

We were super fortunate this week; our friend Lars-Torsten has generously arranged for us to borrow the ‘Kanadensare’ (Canadian-style) canoe belonging to his friends Eva nd Tage in Mackmyra. Mackmyra is home to a Bruk (iron works estate) and more popularly, the most northern whiskey distillery in the world.  Through all of this winds the GavleÃ¥n (Gävle river), the same one we have been paddling on, albeit on a more downstream section and in a smaller, slower canoe.

Our vintage canoe... a surprisingly nimble 30-year-old fibreglass model. It felt great to be up on top of the water after our low-profile yellow trainer.
Big stretch with the Outrigger blade, ready to rock the kanotleden!

Graham steered and outshone his white shirt.

People told us it would take about 2 hours to get to the dam at Forsbacka bruk from Mackmyra bruk, and then 2 hours back, so we packed food and water accordingly. It was a nice wide river, under the freeway once and powerlines once, with a summer house and beaver lodge along the shore. Not much currents and very few snags, so it was smooth going. I thought we would probably outperform the time estimates, but we were surprised to get to Forsbacka bruk in under 45 min.

This snail may have spent his whole life in this canoe when it was upside down on the grass. His world really expanded today, although I don't think he got much of a view of the river from his perch on my feet.
Some of the old machinery at the Forsbacka bruk, the next iron works up the river.

The bruk was a nice place to get out and stretch, and it would be great paddling to continue up past the dam into Storsjön… our friend Eva lives on the ‘big lake’, so one day we’d like to paddle up past this last dam and visit thre before making the return trip. It would make something to look forward to during all those portages! Graham pointed out that we have paddled almost the whole kanotled (canoe trail) now, albeit on different days.

A big toad hiding in the rocks by the river bank. The point and shoot doesn't have a lot of zoom, so I was right up in his grill here and he didn't seem to care.

One of the best things about getting out to stretch in Forsbacka was the ripe smultron! (wild strawberries) I had heard my uncles talk about these but never discovered a patch myself until coming to Sweden. Most places just have flowers, but here there were lots of ripe ones, so we spent about 30 minutes squatting down combing the ground with our hands to find the berries. We got quite a few, although they are so small that it doesn’t add up to a lot. There were still lots there… I will bring a tupperware next time I go to the forest or along the river. I wonder if they freeze well?

Most smultron have little white flowers still, but this is the only one I saw in Forsbacka.
Small but mighty!
Smultron on a straw. This might start to look like I am a kabob-afile, but this is actually a traditional hiking in the forest gift. I wonder if berries lined up on a straw is how strawberries got their name? or do they grow in straw?

We brought the canoe back to the house about 2 hours 15 minutes after setting out, and I think they were a little surprised to see us so soon, unsure that we had gone the whole way. We sat on the veranda with Eva and Tage (and Cesar!) and ate Swedish strawberries and lemonwater and talked about the difference between Canada and Sweden. What a great afternoon!

The end of the road... the old mill dam at Mackmyra bruk that ran the machinery back in the day.

We have been met with such kindness by the Swedes we have met, from being included in local celebrations (like Valborg and Midsommar), as well as offers to borrow cars and canoes and lots of advice and tips on how to enjoy Sweden like locals. Hasse talks about Swedish ‘thankfulness debt’, where one feels they must express the gratitude they feel in an immediate way to acknowledge the giver.  It  is hard to know how to repay the ‘thankfulness debts’ we have incurred… We brought Tage and Eva some strawberries and homemade brownies, but this did not seem to balance the value we got from the canoe. We also have quite a thankfulness debt to Lars-Torsten also, who has been so great in lending us his canoe and introducing us to Tage and Eva. I think we may try to find something cool in Hong Kong to bring back.


  1. sounds like fun! Wish I could join you! Good luck with your prep for Hong Kong!

  2. this is such a cute post.
    i love it.
    it is so nice that you were able to borrow a boaty and have a nice paddle!
    also wild strawberries! Seriously! that picture of graham eating his strazzles is the cutest ever!

    also footy snail. awww

    love you

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