Skorovatn to Holmtjonna
I wish, the train ride would last forever - enjoying the comfort of civilization. But no, the diesel engine is pulling me mercilessly towards the north.
So here I stand on the platform, looking a little lost even though there's no need to: My plan is straightforward: walking 2 kilometer to the road leading to Skorovatn and hitch a ride. I settle in for a long wait. Not much traffic going to this sleepy village. Luckily I guessed wrong and only 15 minutes after arriving at the road, I'm riding shotgun in a battered Saab.
Nothing has changed in Skorovatn. The weather is still cold and windy, the bear still there. After taking the mandatory photo and eating the mandatory ice cream, I hit the trail. It's amazing how quickly I'm back in hiking mood. It seems like the 9 month break never happened.
Initially along a marked trail, I eventually veer to the east, finding my own way. While the terrain is not especially steep or otherwise difficult to hike, it's not always easy as many lakes and little cliffs (or drops), which, even though they are just 2 meters high, force me to take a lot of small detours, making navigation tricky and progress a bit slow. I pass the odd cloud berry. Gosh, how I missed them.
It's mostly wet under feet. Nothing different than last year. It's windy, no rain though, so I keep walking until my legs say it's enough. At 2200 I'm all set. Dinner eaten and tent pitched. And me ready to sleep.
Who would have thought... I'm writing these lines on board Lufthansa 2456 from Munich to Oslo, trying to kill the 2 hours flight time. It's still over an hour until touchdown and I can't wait to get rid of my face mask, which apparently is not mandatory in Norway! Yay!
The flight is delayed due to some baggage loading difficulties. Estimated time of arrival 1925. It took ages to load the bags. On a positive note: I spotted my backpack and it still looked in a fairly intact shape (I never like checking in my bag as I know how it gets treated from the ground staff 🙄).
Throwback to this morning: My sleep is light and I wake up early this morning. As my flight won't depart until 1300 and my backpack is completely packed, I decide to go for one last, short 45 minutes run. On the one hand it will calm my nerves (which are tense as, I'm telling you!), on the other hand I want to enjoy the feeling of not carrying a ridiculously heavy backpack (thanks to 10 days worth of food) one last time.
Like last time, Fredy gives me a ride in his crappy (no offense ;) Volvo. But... It takes us safely to the airport. Checkin and security are straight forward. Faster than I was expecting. The first flight to Munich on the other hand is rather underwhelming. Stuck in a narrow regional jet, a family of around 10 from a country surrounded by Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt (I'll let you figure that one out), think they own the jet. Booked in economy class, they try to sneak their way into business class, ignoring the repeated request from the flight attendant to wear the mask properly and fasten their seat belt. With some satisfaction I see three armed police officers awaiting our arrival in Munich.
Anyway, back to the future: once in Oslo, I'll have to do another Corona test and wait for the result until I will be allowed into the country. Don't ask me what I have to do if I test positive. I really have no idea and don't want to now to be honest.
However, after testing negative yesterday evening it would be some pretty bad luck if I return a positive test.
It will get a bit stressful afterwards as I need to take a bus to Jessheim, where I have to get a gas canister. With most shops closing at 2100, the lengthy immigration process and the flight delay I won't have any time to waste.
With a gas canister in my backpack (hopefully) I will take the bus back to the airport, where I catch the north bound night train. Then finally I will have some time to let the fact sink in that I made it to Norway - it ain't all shit after all 😆
New year - same shit. Not exactly the words I was hoping to continue my blog with. However, the once more extremely uncertain Corona situation makes planning challenging. Not knowing if I can fly to Norway or not has an adverse effect on my motivation. Obviously, you might say I should stand above something like this. It’s easier said than done.
Anyway, eventually I have to start planning. In fact, it’s high time when I finally find the motivation to book my flights (which get cancelled and rebooked several times), go through the trail notes (which are not many because they stop once I cross into Sweden) and get my gear ready. All this despite not knowing if Norway will open its borders by mid-July.
If everything works out as planned, I’m flying to Oslo on the 20th of July, where I have to get, time permitting, a gas canister (which I can’t carry in the plane) and then board a night train to Lassemoen (because of my late booking flights to Trondheim, which would be considerably closer, are prohibitively expensive). After completing the 12-hour train ride, it’s a short hitch to Skorovatn, where I finished my hike last year.
The first 250 kilometres will, as it currently looks like, be the most challenging ones. Basically no visible path and no markings. Similar to Børgefjell National Park last year. From there it will be easier hiking. Flatter, marked trails and open areas will eventually give way to forest. Less views but more sheltered. Which I don’t mind, especially since I plan to hike well into October.
Besides the remoteness, river crossings and challenging navigation of the first part of the trail (Norway), the second part I have to keep an eye out for wolves and bears. However, after talking to many locals last year, it seems like these animals are rather shy and I would be more than lucky to actually spot them. Still, I will take the usual precautions like not leaving food lying around my tent etc.
My goal is the southern terminus of E1, which is either Varlberg or Halmstad (depending, which website you take as reference) or around 2000km.
If I don’t make it there, it’s no big deal at all as it’s an ongoing project anyway. Now, all I can do is playing the waiting game and keeping my fingers crossed for open borders.
46 days - nearly 7 weeks on E1. From Nordkapp to Skorovatn. Halfway across Scandinavia. 1500 kilometers, 3 countries and lots and lots of experiences. Mostly great ones, but obviously some not so great ones as well.
While the first two days, with the combination of sea and mountains, are scenery wise a spectacle par excellence (especially with the midnight sun) the following week gets pretty flat and monotonous, not to say boring. Together with the mosquitoes, I'm not enjoying the stretch from Olderfjord to Kautekeino that much. In fact, I get somewhat dubious about the sense of my hike. Why am I going through all this trouble? As a result, I do long, hard days to get over with it quickly. Luckily the beautiful weather is somewhat keeping my hiking spirit up.
Once past Kautokeino, together with the change of landscape, my attitude changes as well. I start to enjoy the hike and appreciate the scenery.
With rockier, more undulating terrain going gets harder, or maybe I should say more interesting. Every day is different from the other. The landscape, the country, the people. The cool, funny but taciturn Finns, the welcoming, relaxed Swedes the polite but slightly distant Norwegians. However, many days are passing by without seeing any soul at all.
After crossing the challenging, rocky Caihnavaggi Pass, I get slightly overwhelmed by the feeling of remoteness. 300 kilometers without much civilization and possibilities to bail out of the trail in between should anything happen. A feeling that flares up when I cross sketchy bridges and am close to hypothermia while walking through an early autumn storm. Just me and my backpack.
These experiences make me enjoy the pleasant moments of the trail even more. Be it the lovely stroll through Padjelanta National Park in beautiful weather or my two off trail days in Naurstad.
These two days make me realize how much I miss the coastline, the sea, which I haven't seen for weeks.
The trail continues Inland though . While going gets generally easier, I feel like idling, like being stuck. Not a nice feeling that luckily vanishes once south of the polar circle. Before I realize it, I pass Umbukta and approach Bjorgefell National Park. The last big challenge - or so I thought.
It's also during these last few days, when I have the privilege to enjoy Norwegian hospitality, which boosts my trail experience even more - actually it is these experiences that are making trail life so special - adding a lot it to my addiction to this lifestyle.
I never set a point I aim for or a distance I want to walk for this section. Yet, I have to admit, the region between Royrvik and Skorovatn struck me as a good place to finish section one already during my planning. I've had it in my mind for quite a while during the last few days.
The next 250 kilometer stretch from Skorovatn to Meraker, again unmarked, will be interesting not to say challenging again. In combination with the unfavorable weather forecast I decide that Skorovatn is a good place to finish indeed. And a good place to start next again next summer - with a clear goal: reaching the terminal of the ferry taking me from Sweden to Denmark. Wherever exactly that might be. My planning isn't that advanced just yet.
Hopefully, the corona panic will have eased until then, making traveling a bit easier. Even though I think I haven't broken any rules regarding quarantine restrictions, the uncertainty about border opening and closing was another unnecessary thing to deal with and it's not something I feel like discussing here too much.
So better let me focus on the "now". I walked quicker than I thought. Much quicker.
This leaves me another 3 weeks to explore spectacular Norway. Unlike after Te Araroa, I am not feeling an emptiness. In fact I can't wait start exploring. Especially, when hearing that you need wear face masks in public transport and in shops, I'm in no hurry at all to return home (at the moment I have no plan on how to get home anyway. Plane, train, bus? I will see.)
As a landlocked Swiss mountain boy, I want to explore the sea. To be more specific: the coast between Bodo and Trondheim. An area that was recommended to me by several people I met on the way.
Being away from civilization most of the time, I never really had the possibility to plan my remaining days in Scandinavia.
That's why, after doing my first laundry in three weeks and having my first shower in two weeks, I decide to have a planning retreat.
And more or less by chance, I find this spectacular place, where I am currently writing these lines, called Granneset. A restored farmhouse from around 1850. Not too far away from E1 in fact. Maintained by Statskog, available to use for free by everyone. Absolutely amazing. Exactly the place was looking for. How long I am going to stay? I don't know. 2 nights, maybe more. Doesn't matter. It's perfect for planning, relaxing and just being sheltered from the rain and wind. Things that were scarce on E1.
Hovden to Skorovatn
A wet, rainy night, a lazy start into the day. With the weather forecast not too promising, I decide to take the easy way and follow the road instead of navigating on unmarked trails again.
With this decision made, it's clear I would reach Skorovatn tonight and with the terrible weather for the coming days, it's also clear that Skorovatn will be the endpoint of section one of E1. Roughly half way through Scandinavia and roughly where I was hoping to finish this year.
However, I am not there just yet. A road marathon is still waiting for me.
After getting completely soaked after two hours, I am thankful for the sun warming me up during mid day.
I feel good as I am thinking of the past great 7 weeks I had on the trail.
It's along backroads. Very quiet. Very pleasant to walk. As I approach Skorovatn, I'm feeling a bit sentimental. Sad it's over but also slightly relieved. Especially, because I know I will be here in 9 months time, continue my hike. Fit and motivated to tackle the next challenging section. Of course with Corona, work and my health permitting.
Weather is deteriorating quickly. With the store in Skorovatn closed (I'm 45 minutes too late...) there's no ice cream, no trumpet to celebrate. So, after taking some mandatory end-of-section-photos, I find a sheltered spot behind the church to pitch my tent. Right after attaching the rain fly to the last peg, rain starts.
So I celebrate my last evening with some crumbled cookies and a sip of Norwegian river water with a big smile on my face.
Storelva to Hovden
Yesterday evening has been another one to remember with great, interesting food (fermented fish, moose heart and a sausage with something in it they wouldn't tell) and nice talks.
While in the begging of my hike, back in Finnmark, it seemed like this long-distance hike would be mostly about scenery, rather than cultur and social interaction (which made Te Araroa so special to me). Nothing bad, just pure hiking.
This has changed, especially since Umbukta, when the Norwegians caused me all these great trails moments. Be it the lake side cabin in Umbukta, the coffee and biscuits on a farm or now this wonderful experience.
It's raining when I pack my tent. Second day in a row. Still, I can't complain about the weather. While initially along a trail, I soon go off trail, using my map to navigate around Namsvatnet and later Storgollomsvatnet. Like for the previous section to Storelva, the official trail notes are a big help. Without them I'd be somewhat screwed. I read them carefully and plotted a rough route. A route, which takes me through the swamps, even though I have to backtrack a few times as I get stuck in the forest or rocky terrain. You can find the route I walked in my 'follow me' map. Most probably there are better routes but it took me to the other side of the lake in 7 hours.
7 mentally challenging hours, requiring a lot of capacity for navigation. I am relieved once I can follow a road all the way to Royrvik, where I camp on an island right before entering the town.
A tough but rewarding day. Happy I made it through Bjorgefell, which was not as challenging as expected. After hiking all the way from Nordkapp, there wasn't anything completely new. Terrain is neither steep nor rocky. All river crossings fairly straight forward. Instead of poorly marked trails further in the north, there are no markings at all in Borgefjell. Maybe that's even an advantage as you are not constantly looking for markers.
That said, it's no section for beginners at all. Navigational skills as well as the ability to deal with bush bashing and constantly wet feet are essential.
I've pitched my tent for quite some time, when the first two members of the fishing group arrived. Wonderful people. Working colleagues on a fishing trip into the wild. Pretty much the first thing they did: frying a fish for me! They than took me for a ride on the lake. My first ever fishing experience. Dispite not catching any fish, I thoroughly enjoyed the spectacular scenery.
During a great evening around a warming fire, they were spoiling me with slow cooked lamb, more fish and potatoes - in firm of liquor. Strong stuff! In fact so strong, I hardly made it back into my tent, which is 15 meters away from the fireplace.
Already then I knew: I won't make it far tomorrow.
And that's exactly what happens today: Zero walking. I'm in no hurry so why not enjoy such a beautiful place and atmosphere for another day? Especially after checking the not very promising weather forecast.
I fall asleep in and once I wake up and make it out of my tent I soon get offered fresh fish, potatoes and bacon for breakfast.
Wow, Norwegian hospitality at its finest!
The remaining day I spend mostly around the fire. Not doing a lot. Just enjoying the scenery and not walking through wetlands.
With my lazy day and all the good food, I should be fit enough for the 20 kilometers bash through wetlands and scrubs. Let's just hope the weather is not as harsh to me as predicted.
Raentserenmejkie to Storelva
Not much wind but rain overnight. Persistent rain. Also by the time I'm ready to leave. For the first time since Nordkapp, I have to leave my camp in rain. Incredible, how lucky I have been weather wise.
Everything takes a wee bit longer, as I pack my backpack inside my tent. A bit cramped but doable.
My walking day, another one without any trail nor markings, starts with following a reindeer fence. These fences, while making it easy to navigate, really spoil the scenery. Eventually, I leave the fence and cross a snowfield while climbing over a pass followed by long descent to Namsvatnet. Terrain is never steep and once over the pass easy to navigate, as I am following the true right of Virmaelva. Sometimes closer to the river, sometimes a bit further away. Continously trying to find the easiest way, which is, once the vegetation gets denser and denser, through wetlands. Rain is easing as I approach Namsvatnet. Finally.
After fixing my sandals twice within 15 minutes (they start annoying me...) I approach Viermahytta. A tiny hut. It looks full, even though no one is inside. I enter the hut anyway. If it's just to escape from the cold weather for a few moments. It's 14:00 and as I am in the hut. Rain starts again. That's the sign to call it a day. I will spend the night in the tent outside. Not as comfy but still beats a cramped, probably reserved hut.
For tomorrow: I'm not sure yet, if I should walk out to the road (20 kilometers through wetlands) or take a boat, which I'd have to order. Weather is crap again tomorrow, however the boat is, if I am able to reach the ferry man.
400m above Grannes to Raentserenmejkie
Yannick, the German hiker didn't make it out of the valley. But I had the wind knocking on my tent. First gently then uncomfortably firm. The result: a terrible night sleeping. The brisk southerly breeze is bothering me nearly all the way to Harvasstua, ruining an otherwise sunny morning. In fact, the gusts are so strong, it feels like walking into a wall. Yet, there is a highlight as well this morning. My fanciest river/lake crossing ever. You have to check out the photos below.
Once in Harvasstua, I have two options: turn right into Borgefjell and follow the official route or turn left and take the easy option via Sweden. You might think, of course turn right but until the very last second I was planning with the easy Sweden option. I can't say what made me change my mind so spontaneously.
With this decision made, I head into Borgefjell. No trail, no markings. Nothing. Nada. I feel slightly uneasy in the beginning, finding my way through scrubs and wetlands. Luckily, the sun makes navigation easy. All I have to do is walking right into it. The 'official' trail notes suggest a much more northerly route, leading past a hut. I opt for a direct route, saving me roughly 12 kilometers.
Eventually I am above the tree line, where going gets easier. The wind is back though. With full force. 17:00h: No way to pitch my tent. It would get torn up instantly. So I continue. 18:00h: Wind is easing but still too strong. I've been walking for over 12 hours and my legs are screaming for rest. It's flat up here, at 1000 meters, no sheltered place. I pass a collapsed rock bivy. No use. For a thru-hiker, it's not uncommon situation. There's no other way to continue if there isn't a possibility to pitch the tent. So it's wise to have some reserves. 19:00h: I get uneasy for the second time today. My body, after 13 hours intense hiking, starts quitting.
The first best place I see needs to be good enough. 30 minutes later my tent is somewhat errected - on uneven terrain it's not easy. Especially, if you are tired and all you want is to eat your pasta and crawl into your sleeping bag.
Luckily, the wind is continuing to ease. Still, as I am writing this, the odd gust is still rocking my shelter. Fingers crossed for not much wind and rain.
Krutvasshytta to 400m above Grannes
With the stove still warm from yesterday, getting up and ready goes reasonably comfortably.
After taking it easy the other day, I hit the trail early and a over boardwalks I head towards a burning morning sky.
Perfect weather and perfect trails make for a perfect day, which becomes even better when I get invited for coffee and sweet treats by a local woman and her hubby. On the veranda we have some great talks. A German hiker, who I met earlier and who just started his first thru-hike from Umbukta to Bremen, passes by. He gets invited as well but declines the offer as he seems to be in a hurry. More sweeties for me :)
With my tummy and mobile phone battery full, I say goodbye to the lovely couple.
I fly along the great trails and soon catch up with the German, who is having a break. He feels stupid for declining the offer for coffee.
I know exactly how he feels. I used to be the same in the very beginning of my thru-hike career: so focused on the hike that I forgot everything else around me. Like with everything you do for the first time.
Now, as a well seasoned thru-hiker, I have become different. I can savor these moments on the trail, enjoy the trail magic.
I leave the young German behind and continue my pace. We have roughly the same goal for today. Seeing him there, looking exhausted, I somehow doubt I will see him again.
A last steep descent followed by a last even steeper climb (which, after hiking for nearly 40 kilometers is tough work, requiring a last big effort) bring me to my camping spot, high above Grannes. What a lovely day it has been. Thru-hiking at its best!
Aksla to Krutvasshytta
Weather: great. Trail: good. This basically sums up my day.
But there are some things to add. After yesterday's long day, I'm suffering somewhat today. Everything feels stiff and I never get into the hiking mood. I rather pick Cloud Berries, which are everywhere.
It's only 15:00h, when I decide to call it a day, spending the remaining afternoon in a lovely seaside hut. My first Norwegian hut, where it's completely legal to sleep. No need to worry getting kicked out in the middle of the night.
I have a quick, well needed wash in the lake. It's warm. No mosquitoes. I'm enjoying the view while I get dry.
Even though it's wonderful outside, I head back inside. I guess if you spend most of my time outside hiking, you appreciate my time under a roof as well.
With a fire going, it's getting comfy quickly.
Oh yeah, the title... About half way into my (short) day I meet three cool guys from South Norway on their way to Nordkapp. We have a nice talk, exchanging experiences. Also the phone I found comes up. The three hikers are following "Team Ida" on Instagram. Two girls, both named Ida, hiking to Nordkapp, too. Apparently they posted that one of them needs a new phone as it got lost. It's the same girl that, according to the guy in Umbukta, needed new shoes. Bingo! Happy I found the phone and hopefully they get it working again. Anyway: this example shows, the "trail world" is small. It's like a small family of similarly crazy people. And it's something I love about long distance hiking.
Grasfellkoia to Aksla
With the first sun rays I start into my hiking day. It's six o'clock - in the morning...
This time definitely suits me better. Even though I have to admit: walking into sunset has been spectacular.
Despite the early morning sun rays, it's a cloudy morning as I am on my way to Gresvatnet. Still, the views of the glacier covered mountains ahead of me are impressive. Less impressive is the trail along Gresvatnet. For roughly 2 kilometers it's tough going along a muddy, steep and partly washed out trail. Feels like Te Araroa all over again, when I have to hold on grass and branches. At least there are Cloud Berries again that keep my hiking spirit up.
Going gets more pleasant again. It is still very wet underfeet as I cross never ending wetlands. However, it's not as annoying as it might seem. A bit like beach walking (at least I'm imaging it this way): needs a bit more effort but it's actually quite straightforward hiking.
After yesterday's long waiting times, I feel like I have to catch up. My body is feeling fit today, allowing me to push it a bit, making use of the weather (which is improving during the day). If the forecast is accurate, I've got three more days (not including today) before a bad weather period settles in.
After walking across some farm land, the first one I encounter on E1, a last steep climb takes me to small flat. Looking at the map, it seems like a good place to camp as I soon will head into wetlands once more.
Umbukta to Grasfellkoia
My hiking day starts shortly past five. Not morning but late afternoon...
While the trail is quite nice to walk, it's a continuous up and down. Quite steep at times. As a result, despite the short day, I feel rather exhausted when I reach the hut 15 minutes after sunset. However, it's not only the hike that was tiring. The whole day was somewhat exhausting.
It starts at 08:00h. After a filling breakfast in the restaurant's kitchen a say goodbye to my lovely trail angel and head to the road, trying my luck to hitch a ride to Mo I Rana. Well, after a 4 hour wait I get lucky and get a ride to a shop in the outskirts of Mo. As it's Sunday, most parts of the shop are off limits, yet I get everything I need.
On the parking lot, I rearrange all the stuff, getting rid of all the packaging. People passing by usually watching me closely what I am doing.
30 minutes later, I try my luck again. This time the opposite way. Many cars are passing by, none stops for the first three hours. The cars are all shiny and new. The sort of cars that usually never stop. It's usually the older cars that stop. The older the higher the chances of getting a ride.
And one of these old cars finally gives me a ride. Not far but at least out of town. Surrounded by pine trees, I start waiting again. Slowly but surely I get restless. My hope of making it back to Umbukta are vanishing.
Then an old, battered car pulls over. A couple asks me where I am headed. Even though they go the other way, they drive me 20 kilometers to Umbukta. What a great experience. They saved my day.
Once I get off the car, I turn on my tracker and start hiking immediately. No time to waste the remainder daylight.
Kvepsendal to Umbukta
With hiking to Umbukta and resupply in Mo I Rana I have an ambitious goal today. So I start with first light, which is currently at 05:00h. Initially, the trail continues the way it was yesterday. A pleasure to walk on. Unfortunately, it becomes muddier, rockier and overgrown once it passes north of Melkfjellet. At one point it is more of stumbling than walking. Anyway, I eventually make it up to an unnamed pass, at 1050 meters the highest point of today. A steep climb over mossy rocks and snow.
On the other side, going gets surprisingly easy again and the Umbukta Express is speeding towards its destination, which it's reaching at 15:30 - well ahead of schedule.
Once there, I try to find the owner of the Umbukta fjellstue, to hand him over the phone. Not easy but eventually I spot him. A cool guy, hiked the length of Norway three times. Twice by foot, once with skis.
The phone has a shopping list attached, which, among other items, says 'new shoes'. He remembers having hosted a guest, who mentioned buying new shoes. If it's really this guest's phone it would be super cool.
Anyway, the owner asks me what my plan is for today and adds, I could stay for free in his lake side cabin and join a group of horse riders for dinner tonight. Sounds extremely tempting and I tell him that if I can make it back to Umbukta today, after shopping, I would take up the offer.
So I quickly go to the highway to start hitching. Problem: basically no car is passing by as the Swedish/Norwegian border has closed again last night. I wait and wait and wait. The few cars passing by don't stop.
By 17:00h I decide: screw it. Would be a shame if I got stuck in Mo I Rana, while a nice cabin is waiting here for me. I will have to figure out tomorrow, how to resupply. But for now, I'm in my warm cabin, waiting for dinner to be ready.