Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Discover Søhøjlandet: Canoe trip from Ry to Himmelbjerget

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Søhøjlandet has become one of our favorite city escapes due to its wealth in nature and activities combined, being it biking on the hilly roads, hiking through large forests or spending time by the peaceful lakes. Growing up in this part of Denmark, it is only natural that this place holds a lot of fond memories collected since our childhood. During late Summer this year, we added yet another memory to the bank as we did some jolly old self-engined sailing from Ry to Himmelbjerget and back again on a two-day canoe trip.

It may have looked like a gloomy day out there on the water, yet the spirit was high and cheerful as we crossed the lakes from Ry to Himmelbjerget on our two-day canoe trip together with our friend and freetime kayaker Nina and her naughty dog, Panda. The day started out slightly cold and cloudy but it did not bother the four of us. You know what they say, there is no bad weather for an adventure - only bad attitude and poor clothing! We had picked up a canoe and a kayak at Ry Havnefart located next to the local harbour Ry Rutebådshavn, tossed all our camping stuff into the water vehicles and went off towards our final destination close to Himmelbjerget, a shelter ground roughly 7 km and 3 hours away. It had been years since we last went canoeing, and as far as we could remember, paddling for hours is far harder than it looks. Nonetheless, we had faith in our spaghetti arms to pull us through - literally speaking.

The Lakes of Himmelbjergssøerne
The lake system Himmelbjergssøerne consists of the lakes Birksø, Julsø, Borresø and Brassø, and they are allocated like pearls on a string when seen from above. Breathtaking highland areas with winding softwood forests, scrubland and dry grassland are cascading down to these lakes, which are interconnected by the flowing water of Gudenåen, Denmark's longest river (158 km). Setting off from Ry, our trip took us through parts of this lake system - namely Birksø and Julsø - allowing us to witness the drawing nature of this area from the lakeside. We started off on Lake Birksø and aimed for its north-west corner, where the lake narrowed in and eventually became the creek Alling Å. Passing through this stretch had an intimate and somewhat amazon like feel to it (with a little help from our friend imagination) as vegetation became slightly more packed around us compared to out on the exposed water of the lakes.
View-point from the top of Bryggebjerg
Half way through our trip we stopped at the primitive campsite Alling Vest Teltplads along Alling Å. A lunch break at the nearby hill Bryggebjerg (79 m) had been recommended as the view from there was said to be worth the short walk. Not passing up such an opportunity, we followed the path from the campsite going north along the creek until we reached the top of the hill. Or so we thought we did. We never actually made it to the top. Instead we made it to another view point with a bench; only 200 meters short from Bryggebjerg. Despite this mistake, the view didn't disappoint as we still had a great overview of Lake Rosvig and Lake Julsø. In the distance we could even eye the Himmelbjerg Tower, an iconic landmark in the Lake Lands. In no rush to leave, we had our lunch break at the bench and enjoyed the homemade paninis, which we had grabbed earlier on at the Lakeside restaurant by Ry Rutebådshavn. Next time we go here, we will definitely make sure to find the real Bryggebjerg!
Reaching shelter ground
Back on the water once again, everything still felt quiet. The silence was only interrupted by the paddles breaching through the water surface and the occasional buzzing sound of a motorboat passing by. We continued on with the last leg of the day - heading firstly into Lake Rosvig and lastly Lake Julsø. Following the mainland on our left as we paddled on Lake Julsø, we eventually reached the shelter ground close to Hotel Julsø and Himmelbjerget. A small family was sitting at one of the benches by the shore but otherwise we had the entire place to ourselves. Behind the trees, our shelter for the night was hiding in its own solitude. Our immediate impression of this primitive accommodation did not pair up with our previous excited experiences with shelter-life. This shelter seemed dark and a dense odor of bonfire was encapsulating it, revealing its recent occupancy. Reluctantly, we started unpacking our things, however, as soon as we got settled in and got acquainted with the shelter ground, we all had a change of heart. This was our home for the day.
Visit to Hotel Julsø and Himmelbjerget
During the afternoon, the sky cleared up and we started feeling the warmth of the sun on our skin. With a slice of summer still lingering in the air, it was only fitting to reward ourselves with a cold treat for all our hard work on the lakes. We headed over to Hotel Julsø for a few scoops of ice cream before 'climbing' the 1.2 km to the top of Himmelbjerget - one of Denmark's highest natural points with its 147 m (482 ft) above sea level. The gorgeous late-summer weather really did make the landscape shine in all its glory as we stood there at the top overlooking the forest and Lake Julsø. This was our fourth time visiting Himmelbjerget this year but the scenery never gets old. Even though the height is nothing to brag about, we still keep getting drawn back to this place again and again. It's the trees, the lakes and the hilly landscapes. Together it all creates this oasis athmosphere, which calls for you to get lost in the wilderness of Søhøjlandet.
Happy campers back at the shelter
With the sun setting early in the evening, we turned up for the camp vibes as soon as we returned to the shelter. Armfuls of dry wood collected from the forest ground fueled the fire for the rest of the day. A simple stew of whatever vegetables we had found in the fridge, sausages and rice in a tomato sauce was left to cook over the open fire, while we prepared a dinner table by the shore. Everything was perfectly timed. Dinner got served just as the sun hit the horizon and we watched how the sunset temporarily painted the sky and lake with its orange light, before the sun disappeared completely. Soon darkness was all around us and all that was left to see was the warming flames from the bonfire dancing in front of the shelter. That night we snuck to bed early, happy and tired after a long day filled with fresh air.
A few hours of paddling really did leave a mark on our exhausted bodies, yet every stroke and tired arm muscle were well worth the trip. We really do live for these moments. Moments where we are out there, emerging ourselves into nature. It's one thing to go somewhere and be captivated by something only through your eyes, but to actively experiencing nature through all your senses and feel both its beauty and rawness - now that's what makes a true outdoor adventure. One day we hope to go on a longer journey on Gudenåen, perhaps kayaking over multiple days and camping on shelter grounds along the way. For now a two-day canoe trip in Søhøjlandet served as a the perfect appetiser.
Collaboration information
This post is part of the Discover Søhøjlandet series, an ambassador project made in collaboration with VisitSkanderborg, the official tourist office for Søhøjlandet (The Danish Lakelands), to highlighten the area and its various offers on activities and culture.