Surely good willed yet somewhat thoughtlessly, Arctic Alaska’s employee recommends me to take an alternative route to Umea, very pretty, via Vihelmina, since there are construction works along the Bla Vagen. According to my maps, though, that’s a dirt road; but the guy claims it’s mostly paved except for some short stretches. Thus, relying on his knowledge and good criteria, I head that way. Certainly for the first few kilometres it’s paved, but shortly afterwards the asphalt ends and, though I keep going for a little while, I can’t see where the pavement begins again as far as my sight can reach from atop the hills. Now, I don’t know what he meant by short stretch, but it’s starting to rain and I don’t want to end up covered in mud, so I turn back and retake the Bla Vagen, hoping for the best.
Upon inquiring at the first petrol station, they tell me the works begin much farther, past the fork to Sorsele, which means I can head that town then take highway 363 to Umea, thus dodging the trouble. Good information, unlike the guy’s at Arctic Alaska. Too often, I’m afraid, we give advice oblivious to the fact that what works for us doesn’t necessarily work for others, and that often–or even most of the time–people don’t like what we like.
In effect, taking the Sorsele way I have managed to dodge the constructions, but not the boredom: if yesterday’s route was unappealing, today’s is long and utterly boring: miles and miles of bendless road and a monotonous forest landscape, barely going past a couple of villages without the smallest interest. Perhaps the only thing worth mentioning is the–not really surprising–fact that, on this part of Sweden, the fresh waters are turf tinged same as in Finland, probably because both lands belong to the same continental shelf, and share geological substratum.
By the time I start to find accommodation, and since my gadgets can’t find any lodging along road 363, I opt for catching back the Bla Vagen in Lycksele. Almost 230 km today. How far behind now seem those short stages at the beginning of this Journey to Nowhere! I must be getting tired of wandering around, since little by little I’ve increased the daily mileage from eighty along Spain and France to one hundred in Central Europe, then fifty more around the Baltic Estates and Finland, and lately I’m driving over two hundred kilometres.
Lycksele is a regular sized town, considering its latitude, and likely this region’s shopping capital. Not too different from many Finnish towns I’ve seen as to urban architecture, street layout and housing style (maybe because, for decades, Finland has been under the Swedish rule?) After some search, on a by-street in the centre I find a hotel that suits me for the night: Park hotel, 650 Crowns a single room. The man at reception, a Pakistani looking dude, checks me in quite listlessly.
Same as in Norway, I’m surprised by the amount of immigrants I see everywhere, mostly muslim I guess. Some 20% or so of the people I come across are dark skinned; most of them quite young, by the way. For instance, as I’m taking these notes, a van full of slum-looking blacks, six or seven of them, stops by me. Later on, along my walk, I come across two tuned cars both driven by blacks. Quite a counter-colonization. Is Occident purging its guilt complex?
Geographically, though, I’m still in Lapland, as some places’ names evidence: Pizzeria Laponia, Lapland Hotel, etc. By the way, for a change I can’t see any restaurant serving Swedish food (supposing such a thing exists). Almost everything comes down to pizza-kebab bistros, plus some Chinese and Japanese. Most of the food businesses are Asian, since even pasta or pizza can’t be considered Italian any more, having been monopolized by the Turks.
Finally I find a place that, from the outside, looks like something local; but upon entering I’m welcomed by three brown smiles: cashier, cook and waiter, they’re all from Middle East. Fine, but I’d like something Swedish. I’ll be extremely pleased to try Asian food when I go to Asia. So I keep trying, but in the end I give up and surrender to the stubborn reality: no Swedish cuisine whatsoever. At last I pick a random restaurant, run by four moors the most genuine Marrakech way: they drag me in with plenty of flattery and one dozen questions about my country. Beforehand defeated, I let them do and ask for the menu. Fortunately, among the boring international dishes, I spot, and order, a fish dish. I must admit it comes well cooked and served, including garnish and a side salad.
And that’s all for today. Only a last, curious note about this town: about one out of every four shops is a hairdresser’s, which I’ve counted in number of five. Once more, vanity proves to be the staunchest buyer and provides for the best possible businesses, ever.