Project E1: Section hiking Europe


Like numerous other trails I hiked, E1 has been on my radar for quite a while. Actually, since I learned it more or less passes through the region I grew up - Zürich Oblerland. And this revelation happened just three years ago, in 2017, shortly after returning from New Zealand. During summer 2019, my intentions of hiking E1 are getting more and more specific and later that summer I decide to hike E1 - a European long distance trail leading from the North Cape all the way down to Italy. The trail in Italy isn't completely marked yet but I hope by the time I arrive down there, the Italians will have finished their siesta and have marked the trail.

Unlike Te Araroa, I will hike E1 in sections instead of finishing it in one go, keeping my current job rather than quitting it. Several reasons led me to this decision. One is its whopping distance of 8000km, which makes it hard to thru-hike. Not impossible as hikers have achieved it but chances are high I'd hit snow at one point (most probably in the Swiss and Italian Alps), not to speak of unpleasant wet winter weather in Germany. Not exactly, what I am looking for ;)

Another reason: After hiking Te Araroa in one go, I had a hard time finding my way back into normal life. Hiking in sections will make the temporary return into normal life easier (hopefully), especially because with the next section already awaiting me, I will have something to looking forward to. 

 

I can stay away from work for a maximum of 90 days in a row in order to stay current in my job as AFISO. Thanks to my flexible employer, I was able to work out an 80 percent contract, which allows me to take 3 months off during summer, while working 100 percent the remaining year. This gives me the opportunity to hike roughly two to three months every summer for the coming years.

 

My plan is hiking the first half of Scandinavia during summer 2020 and the second half the following year before resuming my hike in Denmark in 2022. You see, it's a long time project and plans can and possibly will change. Even if I cannot cross Scandinavia by the end of next summer, it will not be an issue. I'm not in a hurry.

 

Like during my last hikes, my Spot tracker will record me progress here. Feel free to have look and virtually join my hike!

 

Planning

Section 1: Far North

Blog / Follow me!



Blog

Map

The Days After

55 days, a bit more than 2000 kilometers. All in sandals once more. That is section two of my E1 adventure in a nutshell. Distance wise more, time wise less than I was expecting. 


How come? Well, while the first three weeks are basically a continuation from last year, with plenty of pathless sections in rather mountainous terrain. At times navigation is challenging, especially during adverse weather conditions. Progress is good but 40 to 50 kilometer days are not really possible. The terrain soon gets flatter, completely different. The skiing town of Sälen, in fact, marks that very clear border, where I dive from mountains into the forest. Gone are the sweeping views, the river crossings, the exposure to the elements. The change is sudden. It takes me a while to get I used to the different environment. 


More road walk follows, my pace as a result getting higher, I don't need to take anymore rest days. Walking in the forest becomes like a blur. I can't recall each single day. They all are simply too similar. The vindskydds, a wonderful discovery, are becoming the highlight and motivation of my days. Usually located near a lake, I spend many night in them. Sheltered from the elements. I love them, have them mostly for myself. 


Without really noticing it, I am approaching Halmstad with big steps. It's only after Göteborg, still hiking in the forest, when I realize that I am actually really close to the finishing line. I don't feel like finishing though. It just doesn't feel right. If I finish now, all I remember is forest. And the location of Halmstad is bugging me a bit too. Somewhere along the coast. Nothing special about it.


But what can I do? Continuing south? I've got the time, I've got the energy. However, I just have to leave the forest, the ticks as soon as possible. So heading down south in the middle of Sweden is not sounding appealing at all as it's mostly through forest. It's only when I meet Julia, who draws my attention to Skåneleden, a coastal trail starting just south of Halmstad and following the coast for roughly 300 kilometers all the way to the south.


The discovery of the trail makes the decision to continue easy. It would add an additional element to my hike: the coast, something that I, as a landlocked Swiss, love. And it does not disappoint: Open views, plenty of beaches and seaside towns in warm late summer weather on nice trails are accompanying on my last week along the coast. It were these things I was missing and so, as getting closer to Smygehuk, I start feeling ready to finish this summer's hike at Sweden's southernmost point, where I arrive at exactly 100 trail days after starting in Nordkapp in 2020. 

Having crossed the Scandinavian peninsula all the way from top to bottom feels great, better or how should I say, a bit more epic than crossing it from Nordkapp to Halmstad as I initially planned. 


Yes, there was a lot of forest. Yes, there was a lot of road. While plenty of stretches might not have been as spectacular (or, let's be honest, as boring) as part one up there in the far north, it has still been a wonderful journey. Mostly great, warm weather, plenty of lakes to swim in, the fishing villages and beaches. And the vindskydds too, my personal highlights. And of course the locals, which were always friendly and helpful and sometimes went out of their way to assist me. It's the people that give my hike that special extra. In Norway as well as Sweden. 


Speaking of these countries: which one do I prefer (I'm don't put Finland into this evaluation as I only spent 3 days hiking there)? 


It's clearly Norway. It set the expectations for Sweden so high, leaving Sweden with basically no chance. On the one hand it's the open, more breathtaking landscape. The midnight sun. The clear, blue lakes, whos water you can drink with no need to worry. Towns and road are few and far between, which lead to that wonderful feeling of remoteness - solitude (out of 3500km I walked 3490 by myself as there wasn't anyone to hike with). A feeling that I somehow lost in the Swedish forests. I had to be careful that it didn't turn into loneliness. There were more people but at times I found it hard to connect with them. Something I never encountered in Norway, where I consider the people as more open. Many times I was told that people in the north are open, friendlier. And I can definitely agree. 


So what now? Good question! It's been roughly a week since I arrived in Smygehuk. I teamed up with Julia and continued on Skåneleden for 80 kilometers. It felt good to walk with some company. Now I'm on my way north again. The Koster Islands to be precise. I spotted it on the map during one of these long, bright nights up north and I thought I have to visit them. It's the only thing I planned on doing after my hike. Everything else, I will simply let it happen. I will see where my travels take me until I have to return to Switzerland in early October. 


Last but not least some stats for the first 100 days to be taken with a grain of salt:


Days: 100

Kilometers: 3500+ (I did not always count them exactly)
Average: 35km/day
Zero days: 5 (section 1: 4, section 2: 1)
Longest day: 65km
Shortest day: 8km
Hiking trail: 75%
Road (gravel, tar-sealed, forestry,...): 25%

Most challenging things: remoteness of the trail, ticks and mosquitoes

Rainy days: 10
Sunny days: 50
Cloudy days: 40

Nights in tent: 50
Nights in hut: 10
Nights in vindskydd: 30
Nights in hostel/airbnb: 8
Other nights (bivy, tower): 2

Mosquitoes killed: 3578
Ticks removed: 73

Bears seen: 0
Reindeer seen: 1255
Trees seen: 788'546'644

Hardest days: Day 24 (a wet one) Day 60 (a rocky one) 
Favorite days: Day 1 and 2 (walking in the midnight sun), Day 27 (Padjelanta), Day 95 (the beach)                             
Julia leading the way on Skåneleden
Julia leading the way on Skåneleden
65kg. The same. Always. Every day.
65kg. The same. Always. Every day.
Nötholmen Vindskydd
Nötholmen Vindskydd
Koster the way to Koster!
Koster the way to Koster!
Nord Koster
Nord Koster
One for Fredy
One for Fredy
Jelly fish to complete this seasons blog. Ha det bra!
Jelly fish to complete this seasons blog. Ha det bra!
4 Comments

Day 100: A Good Number To Finish With

Torup to Smygehuk

Distance: 40km

Two hikers who, with their headlamps, flooded the vindskydd with light just before midnight as well as a cat that gave me a scare when it jumped into the vindskydd made for a not very relaxing night.

The day starts with a bit of lovely beech forest, followed by open farmland and the beach again. It's windy. Mostly sunny with a short downpour, which is leaving me completely soaked. I get it all today.

It's during my last 7 kilometers along the Baltic Sea, when I start feeling emotional. I take a trip down the memory lane, thinking of my first steps at the Nordkapp, with the midnight sun in my back. At that time I had no idea what would expect me on my journey. Now, 100 trail days later I think I can nearly consider myself as a Scandinavian hiking expert. At this point, I don't want to go too far into all the experiences I was lucky enough to gain. It's too late, I'm too tired. But I will write a little summary within the next few days.

Smygehuk. Until very recently I never heard of the place. Now I am here. There's no possibility to go further. Unless I was a fish. I arrive at around 16:00 with all the shops about to close. A déjà vu of my finish last year in Skorovas, where I arrived a tad late as well. At least this time it's sunny and if it wasn't for the wind pleasantly mild. I savor the moment, take some photos, explore the place, which is not as busy as expected. I'm not too emotional anymore. While exploring I also check for suitable camping spots. Plenty of good ones but I don't think it's exactly legal to camp. So I wait for the night to come, spend my time planning, trying to fill the emptiness, which instantly opened up once I arrived. It's always the same. Being on the trail, I have had a goal at all times. Now it's different. What am I going to do tomorrow? Day after tomorrow? So many questions. So difficult to find answers. I haven't really finished but am already missing the simplicity of the trail life. But of course, I am also looking to exploring Sweden in a different way than by thru hiking it. 

Last trail ice cream!
Last trail ice cream!
Open farmland
Open farmland
The Baltic Sea
The Baltic Sea
Destination Smygehuk
Destination Smygehuk
Getting closer
Getting closer
That seems about right
That seems about right
Southernmost point of Sweden
Southernmost point of Sweden
Camping right there
Camping right there
It was a pleasure, Sweden!
It was a pleasure, Sweden!
4 Comments

Day 99: Bye Bye Motivation

Saxtopsdammen to Torup

Distance: 45km

A question has been occupying my mind for a while now: on a cycle track, do you walk right, with the traffic, or left, against the traffic? On a road with cars is clear that you walk on the opposite side and I think it's worldwide the same.

On cycle tracks however, I am never so sure. I try to observe the locals but they don't seem to have a clear rule either. Which is the same as in Switzerland. So I walk sometimes left, sometimes right but never entirely sure if I so it the right way.
Today as well. With a particularly high percentage of cycle tracks.

The morning is warm but grey. High humidity and poor visibility. My skin feels sticky soon after leaving the vindskydd. A bit of rain later fills the air with even more moisture.

The hike is completely unspectacular. With the exception of the Lomma, which, with its busy harbor, is quite interesting.
It's also where I leave the west coast for good. At least on this hike. 
I'm heading inland. A lot of industry until I finally reach open farmland and soon afterwards Torup, a super busy recreational area. 
The vindskydd is free though so I make myself comfortable.

Today, I was suffering. Especially in the afternoon. As always on my second to last day on a long hike. It's purely a mental thing. Probably, my brain is already seeing me in Smygehuk. It's so close. 
Close yes, but I am not there yet. Tomorrow I will be there. Hopefully. Another 40 kilometers. Should be manageable. And the last day usually goes much more smoothly again. Then the sign post (or whatever is expecting me in Smygehuk), which I will touch later that day is motivation enough to keep me going. 


About to leave the Kattegat Sea
About to leave the Kattegat Sea
A last look back
A last look back
Lomma Harbour
Lomma Harbour
Cycle trail to Torup
Cycle trail to Torup
Torup vindskydd
Torup vindskydd
0 Comments

Day 98: I'm Ready

Rydebäck to Saxtopsdammen

Distance: 30km

I get waken up by a service vehicle cleaning the beach from washed up algae and other dirt. After the two long days, I take it easy today and stay in my sleeping bag until sunrise. Another beautifully warm, sunny day lies ahead of me. It's so warm, I can change straight into shorts and shirt without feeling cold. A small luxury. The first half of today is along the cost. Exquisite hiking once more. At around nine I take a stroll out a pier for a morning swim in the 18.7 degrees warm, clear water. I feel like being somewhere in the Caribbean. At one of the harbours, I refill my water bottle at a tap. A couple of minutes after drinking the water, my knees start feeling wobbly and my head dizzy. Must have been the water. Luckily, the unpleasant feeling goes back to normal as I am  approaching Landskrona. 

After Landskrona, the hike is quickly getting dull. No more coastal walk. I feel sorry for the people in the small villages I pass. Very close to the sea, yet they are separated from it by a noisy motorway with no direct access to the coast at all. And they got the aircraft noise from Copenhagen Airport... 
So I am not expecting to much of today's shelter as I am getting close. But... I'm positively surprised. Great location by a artificial, clear lake. I chat with a local, who tells me that the area once was used to get sand for cement, which then was used to build the bridge between Sweden and Denmark. Now it's all back to nature with only the hole remaining, which is now filled with water. Perfect for a swim after a hot day on the trail. 

The last 10 or so kilometers have been hard. Nearly 30 degrees, initially along a busy road followed by forest, my legs not in their best shape. Also my back seems to feel stiffer with every step. It's also then, when I realize I am ready. Ready to finish section two. And the timing is perfect. Two more days, if everything goes according to plan. Then I will arrive at Smygehuk. I have no idea what will be expecting me there. Tons of tourists like at Nordkapp or Cape Reinga? Or just a small note saying it's Sweden's southernmost point? I don't really care. 
All I do now is looking forward to be there. 


Alabodarna
Alabodarna
Pier with an Aida cruise ship in the background. Haven't seen these ships for a while now.
Pier with an Aida cruise ship in the background. Haven't seen these ships for a while now.
Inviting...
Inviting...
... for a swim
... for a swim
Landskrona
Landskrona
Saxtopsdammen
Saxtopsdammen
Fire going. A must when there's wood.
Fire going. A must when there's wood.
0 Comments

Continue here

© SANDRO KOSTER 

2010 - 2021