Sweden is the first foreign country I’ve visited. Gothenburg is the first city I have lived other than my city of Bangalore. Umeå is the highest latitude I have climbed this far, and I can list tons of firsts that have happened to me in the last one year of my stay in Sverige. The latest addendum to the list of firsts, and a check on my Bucket list was to camp in the wilderness. I have stayed in almost forests in India, but have never camped! I’ve owned essential camping equipment for sometime now, and was growing restless that I had not yet camped, and the pleasantness of summer was slipping away. And then, last weekend, I got to check out two off my Bucket list – I camped with a bunch of mates, and also canoed, despite the fact that I am shaky and trembling anywhere near waters! Ten of us made it to another of the gorgeous natural reserve, just outside of Göteborg. Vättlefjäll, with lakes and random green canopy all around. Although the group was new to me, and was a tad bit out of my desired entourage, the experience of exploring the serenity and solace of being plugged out of the urban chaos, phone and internet was blissful. The hunt to scavenge dry wood to keep the night warm, random songs that rose from the crevices of the brain unknowingly, the abstract and vague conversations, the shy sun, the immodest moon, chillness of the night, sea of stars, shivers of the water, pangs of hunger, blackened sausages – the camping experience was in all ways that I had hoped it would it be.
At this juncture, it is imperative to add how crucial the intervention of Sweden’s policies in these matters are – hundreds of regions are declared and protected as natural reserves and plenty of national parks in Sweden. Although one cannot randomly camp in these places, or put up a store, but then there are certain non-delicate regions that are open for camping and it is encouraged to do so. For instance, in Vättlefjäll the trails are marked with colour indicators all along the 15km trail. There are resting places, which are basically wind shelters with a fire place. There is free firewood provided, at least most of the times. All this is part of the grander policy that anyone in Sweden enjoys – it is called the Right to Public Access! A fascinating policy that guarantees access to nature (under obvious constraints) so that we could all relish that truly belongs to all of us – us as in all life forms, and not just us Homo sapiens. With this experience of camping in moderate weather marked off, I am next looking to be better prepared and do it again in winter! More of that in days to come.