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:
Torup to Smygehuk
Saxtopsdammen to Torup
Rydebäck to Saxtopsdammen
Josefinelust to Rydebäck
Torekov to Josefinelust
Trönninge Beach to Torekov
Vessigebro to Trönninge Beach
Gällarpesjön to Vessigebro
Stora Hornsjön to Gällarpesjön
Hjälm to Stora Hornsjön
Norra Langvattnet to Hjälm
Stora Härsjön to Langvattnet
Abborrsjön to St Härsjön
Borås to Abborrsjön
Raska Minas to Borås
Jogen to Raska Minas
Södra Kroksjön to Jogen
Vitsjön to Södra Kroksjön
Röåsjön to Vitsjön
Stora Djäknasjön to Röåsjön Vindskydd
Kråksjön to Stora Djäknasjön
Södra Holmsjön to Kråksjön
Göljan to Södra Holmsjön
Storsjön to Göljan
Stjernfors to Storsjön
I sleep like a baby. It's windy and the waves from the lake are calming.
Yet, I wake up just past four in the morning for an early start. The way I like it.
E1 in Sweden: every day is a surprise. You never know how the trail is gonna be. Today: wet and overgrown. Slightly annoying to walk. It's a rewarding morning walk though as the views from Mackarsberg are fabulous. I have an early break, soaking up the scenery. There really aren't that many sweeping views anymore. Once I have enjoyed enough, I continue. After following the trail for a wee bit longer, I opt for a shortcut along a gravel road, as the trail is meandering east and west through forest. As much as I want to hike the complete Bergslagsleden, which is a part of E1, it's just too much detour at times. Even though I have enough time for all this meandering , the urge to head south is strong. Extremely strong.
Before noon, I rejoin the trail, which now leads me through farmland. A very welcoming change and, if it wasn't for the red houses, reminds me of home. While stopping for my lunch break, I head, like so often, straight into my midday crisis. Usually 20 to 30km hiked and nearly as much still to go, when your body is already tired. Not too motivating, really.
Anyway, I usually get my act together quickly. No difference today and so I am off again. 18 kilometers to go.
They are relatively easy kilometers. Plenty of blueberries to keep my stomach happy, a dry, well formed track. Initially along ATV and farming tracks then forest and eventually some boardwalk, before I reach Storsjön, my destination.
Another lovely vindskydd. Right by a tarn, just me and even an open shed with firewood.
Before settling in, I cut some not very dry wood, make a fire. Not easy. After a difficult, smokey start (I'm gonna smell like a smoked sausage tomorrow), it's burning surprisingly well.
A fire at the end of a day is something I really enjoy. Somehow rounds up the day nicely. No different today.
Before the now slowly dying but still warming fire, I'm typing these lines. Life is good.
Nothussundet to Stjernfors
Smedjebacken to Nothussundet
Spansfäbodarna to Smedjebacken
Gradbodarna to Spansfäbodarna
Brasjön to Gradbodarna
Södra Garberg to Brasjön
Sundetkojan to Södra Garberg
Sälen (Vindfallen) to Sundetkojan
Sleeping in, relaxing, eating, fixing one of my sandal's sole and a tent pole and buying food for my next 6 days stretch to Mockfjärd. So just the usual stuff I do on a Zero Day.
Östfjällsstugan to Sälen Lindvallen
Tangasdal to Granfjellssätern
Stupsjön to Id-Persätern
Revlingsjoane to Stupsjön
Langtjonnbua to Revlingsjoane
Roros to Langtjonnbua
Stormolinga to Sjobakken (Roros)
Litlvola to Stormolinga
Distance: 30 kilometers
No wind, no river, no birds. The night is eerily quiet, the sleep quite okay.
As mentioned yesterday: I'm in no rush at all. If I cover 30 kilometers today, that's more than enough. So it's a lazy start into my hiking day, following up nice trail towards Kjolihytta. Dispite being overcast, the visibility is good enough to enjoy the view. Ahead and slightly to the left I can spot Storskarven, where I am to pass by in a couple of hours.
Yesterday, while going through the trail notes, I discovered that there will be another unmarked route today! The E1 GPX track, which floats around the internet and which I use as guideline, deviates from the trail note, makes a far, unnecessary detour. So I entered some reference points from the trail note myself, making way finding easier.
Even without my entered markers, I find my way easily. You can't go wrong. Follow a lake, skirt around a mountain and then through a gap between two other mountains. Easy. Especially with the now magnificent views and even some sunshine.
Terrain is a bit rough in the beginning but pretty smooth on the way down, from where I follow a dirt track to a gravel road. 15:00 and 30 kilometers done. I pitch my tent right next to the road, spending the afternoon with reading and planning - dolce far niente.
No use in going any further. Tomorrow's distance will hardly be 20 kilometers. Mostly on roads. Quick thing.
A short outlook: Monday morning I will head into Roros, do a little bit of sightseeing (I was told it's a pretty little mining town), shopping, charging batteries, then hike some more, maybe 15 kilometers out of town. My backpack will be heavy as I will carry 8 to 9 days of food - hopefully be enough for the 270 kilometers to Sälen. I won't be carrying y too much extra food this time. Should I run out of food, roads are never too far away, from where I could hitch towards food.
Fiskahogda to Litlvola
Thick fog is engulfing the hut when I head out to take my morning leak, careful not to let the hut get out of sight. That would be a shitty start into the day if I would not find back.
While out there I notice that it's considerably colder than yesterday. A typical autumn morning. After yesterday's long, fast hike I feel a bit rusty and my motivation to leave the hut is not what I would call high. Anyway, eventually I make it out of the hut. As the hut is about 2 kilometers off trail and I want to short cut back to it, I decide to go off trail. Terrain is easy but navigation with basically zero visibility is tricky. Mr GPS saves the day again. After a few hundred meters I join a reindeer fence I follow and which takes me back to the original, mostly boardwalked trail. At the end of that track, I pass a massive hut complex, before hitting the road to Stugudal. It's a miserable walk. Wind, fog, cold. Simply miserable and I can't wait for it to end. I left my gloves deep down in my backpack too. I could punch myself for doing that. I should know better.
12 kilometers later, I finally arrive in Stugudal. I head into the supermarket. Not mainly to buy something but rather to warm up. 20 degrees colder within one day. My body got definitely taken off guard.
The warm up helped and an hour later I am on the road again, which I am happy to leave after 4 kilometers as traffic gets heavier. From there it's a short (but steep) climb to Litlvola. The first time I'm not cold. It took a while. It's already 16:00 and after the previous long day I decide to call it a day. No need to rush anyway. It's only 60 kilometers to Roros. Too much for one day, but easy to hike in two days.
Speaking of Roros, there's hardly any accommodation left when I checked a couple of minutes ago. At least nothing affordable. I know, chances are subzero. However I try anyway: if there is, by any chance, a Roros person reading this blog, would you have 4 square meters of your lawn to spare for my tent? 😂 It would be highly appreciated!
Oian Airport to Fiskahogda
Ferslia to Oian Airfield
I didn't end up meeting my friends yesterday. So I pitched my tent high above a tranquil river.
Bustadtjonna to Ferslia
Skjaekervatnet to Bustadtjonna
The thunderstorm remained well south. So no problem there. It was a hot night though, without much sleep. At 04:00 I start packing, while the red sun is rising behind the mountains. Being so far north, sunrise and sunset take much longer than close to the equator. By the time the sun is fully up, I'm ready to hit the trail. What should I say? It is along marked trails, but still tough going. Not only wet, but also increasingly muddy. Some randomly placed boardwalks drastically improve the overall hiking experience. They vanish as unexpectedly as they appeard out of nowhere.
As the day goes by, temperatures get uncomfortably high. I'd estimate them to be just shy of 30 degrees Celsius. Luckily there are plenty of lakes and more than once I have a quick swim. Such a fantastic way to beat the heat. Also the constantly wet feet help to cool down.
It's been a long day on the trail. My legs are aching from the difficult terrain. Therefore, I am more than relieved when my intended camp spot is no swamp. In fact it's a sweet little spot overlooking the lake. A great treat after a exhausting day hiking.
Hanaa to Skjaekervatnet
Lake South of Vaalta to Heinaa
Honestly, I don't know where to start. Maybe first of all: it's been a fabulous day. The trail magic has arrived.
From the beginning: I fell asleep with my shin still awfully painful. Despite the pain I sleep surprisingly well. Waking up at around 03:00 I notice the pain is gone and I can move my left foot freely. Now that's promising. When the first rays of sun shine one my tent (yes it's going to be a wonderful, sunny, warm day) just after 04:00 I go out to take some photos. Again, I can walk like yesterday never happend. Still, I'm sceptical. Will it be like this even after I start hiking? Should I even start hiking today? After a short debate with myself, I decide to give it a try.
As it is mosquito-rush hour, I'm in my full mosquito gear. The hat and net work like a charm. Thanks Fredy for lending it to me.
The vista with lakes far below and mountains in the early morning sun is breathtaking. Initially along a marked trail for a kilometer or so, I go off trail again. Terrain is okay, navigation in this weather fairly straightforward. Hundreds of cloud Berries are waiting to be eaten by me. All in all I probably eat over a kilo. Probably even two. I truly believe that a fruit, able to grow so plentiful in such harsh conditions, has to be extraordinarily healthy.
It's a mix between marked and unmarked sections. All are extremely wet. Probably 75 percent is through swamp. The last unmarked 14 kilometers section takes me along a telephone line. There's an unclear path. Cables, which must have fallen down years ago, lead to an unnecessary tripping hazard. The walk along the line or poles (most of the cables are on the ground) seems neverending. Therefore, I am relieved when I finally spot Gaundalen farm. A lively place. A farmer offers me syrup. I gladly accept the welcome change from water. They offer cabins to stay as well. Even though I have been waking for 10 hours already, I decide to continue a bit further. The weather is great and it is too early in my hike to already sleep in cabins. The tent has to do it for know.
And my shin? Nothing! Nothing at all. Other parts or my feet are aching a bit. As usual after 35 kilometers. But not my shin. I can't completely believe it. Still, I am still not overly optimistic. Who knows how it looks like tomorrow morning.
From the farm I continue along a very smooth track north west bound. A have a brief chat with the first hiker I meet this season. He's going the opposite way. I'm glad I don't have to do this stretch to Borgefjell anymore. My feet would fall apart.
40 kilometers in (didn't I say I will take it slowly today? Mea culpa!) I spot a nice spot on the river. Exactly at 18:00, I put down my backpack.
What a great day it was!
Hykelneselva to a Lake South of Vaalta
The forecast was wrong. Unfortunately. It's raining again when I pack my tent. To be fair, it's more a drizzle, not bothering me too much. Like yesterday, no trail and no markings means I have to plot my own route, using the trail notes as a guidence. While they are extremely helpful, sometimes I have the impression, they don't always guide me along the most plausible way. So for example around Bukvatnet, which I circumnavigate to the west, saving a few kilometers.
The clouds are low this morning, so low in fact, it's actually foggy. I'm honest: whiteout GPS, I would be lost. There simply aren't any references to use. But even without the fog, which eventually clears, navigating remains tricky. Still, I make my progress, not too fast but faster than the day before, thanks to the easier going terrain.
I pass Gressamoen, a private hut as it seems. The only sign of civilization during the whole day.
What follows shortly afterwards, is a beautiful stretch of walking. Firm ground with plenty of flat rocks and amazing views. I thoroughly enjoy myself.
Time is flying when all the navigation needs to be done by myself. It's after 1900 when I finally pitch my tent. This time, as winds are much calmer, I try to find a windy spot to dry try my tent and keep the mosquitoes away. And I'm quite successful.
On a side note, and I hope it remains a side note: on the last couple of kilometers I start feeling my shin again. Those of you, who have been following me since New Zealand, know that my shins are somewhat prone for injury. In fact, my left shin starts aching so much I can barley walk the 10 meters to the lake to source some water. So far away from civilization it is not something I need right now. I put on a bandage, whiteout much hope it will help. Despite I hate doing it, I also take a painkiller. The first one since I started long distance hiking. I hate doing it, but I keep my fingers crossed it might help to fight the inflammation.
Now all I can do is try to get some sleep and see how things develop overnight.
Holmtjonna to Hykelneselva
The forecast was right. Unfortunately. Strong winds and rain. An unlucky combination, which is supposed to last the whole day. During my last summer here in Scandinavia, I think I never had to pitch or pack my tent in rain. This year, it already happens after my first night. Hopefully not a bad sign.
It's raining horizontally by the time I stuff my dripping tent into a plastic bag - glad it's not out in the elements anymore.
The day starts as it ended yesterday. Navigating through wrinkled terrain (I can't find a better way to describe it), backtracking frequently because I stand in front of a small cliff respectively a hidden lake. It becomes frustrating. 2 kilometers on the map takes me 4 kilometers in real life. At least I need to concentrate so hard that I almost forget it's raining and taken off guard when I spot a moose with it's calve ahead of me.
After crossing a bellybutton deep river/lake (I couldn't find another way through) going gets easier on flatter, albeit especially wet swamps. Luckily there's a bit of road walk halfway through the day. Better progress and a break for my tired feet and legs. The first few kilometers have taken their toll. From 0 to 100 in 2 days. Really no time for a warm up.
Soon it's back to off trail. Luckily the terrain is easier going this time and progress good. Even the sun is shining briefly while I climb out of the valley.
Eventually, I cross Alma river. Much further upstream than suggested in the trail notes. I was a bit worried earlier today as it might be tricky to ford because of the rain. However it is no challenge at all.
After 10 hours of walking, I start looking for a place to set up camp. Rain, wind and wet terrain don't make it easy to find a suitable spot. The higher I go, the dryer the ground, however the strong, gusting wind up there is the prohibiting factor. Like a good Swiss man, I make a compromise. Somewhat sheltered in the lee area of a hill yet reasonably dry. In fact I'm quite pleased with my camp spot.
With my tent pitched and dinner cooked, I retreat into the tent quickly. Hopefully the nasty weather will leave me alone tomorrow.
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 hik