Kuonjarjoki Hut to Kilpisjarvi
Something I forgot to mention yesterday: I passed the 500 kilometers mark. For me the distances I usually get into the thru-hiking rythm. Hike, eat, sleep, repeat... It's also the time to reflect. 500 kilometers in 12 days. Much faster than I anticipated. Much faster than Te Araroa, where I reached Auckland (which I think is 500 kilometers into the hike, isn't it?) after over 20 days.
I wouldn't call it walking like machine, Klaus ;) Rather a combination of loooooooong, endless days, amazing weather and trails, which made for easy progress. And maybe my age. With thru-hiking it's like with men and wine: the older they are the better they become (until a certain age at least ;)
However, the more mountainous terrain I'm currently in is slowing me down as the last two days have shown. My days will probably be shorter from now on. Distance wise at least.
The rain were just a few droplets and by the time I leave the hut, the soil is already dry. On a side note: I am not the first one up today. At 5 am all but one are all packing their stuff. Early birds these Finns.
The trail, well it is a hiking trail. I don't enjoy it. Very rough and worn out. Lots of rocks, which are getting more annoying with every one I have to balance on.
So I don't mind at all when I arrive in Kilpisjarvi, consisting of a few houses scattered all over the place and a food store - a surprisingly good one with a huge selection. Food and none food wise. There's also a sport store right next to it.
As the camping is another 5 kilometers down the road, I do my whole resupply fore the next 6 to 7 days here, on the far end of the parking lot. With bags to be filled scattered all over the place. Organized chaos I would call it.
Fully loaded, I follow the main road to the campground. Busy road, no shoulder. Not too great of a walk but a bit of sweet, flat tarmac after all these rocks and stones feels like heaven for my feet.
Btw: I just realized that Finland is in a different time zone. This explains, why everyone was up so early. Not so early birds after all, the Finns.
Nahpat to Kuonjarjoki Hut
Bad sleep, my stiff neck is killing me. I fear it only gets worse once I get going again. Therefore, I am somewhat reluctant to get up but eventually do, well have to...
It's a gorgeous morning. Not many mosquitoes, clear blue sky and quite warm. Strangely, or luckily I should say, the pain in my neck stops with the first few steps. I don't complain.
45 minutes into the hike I pass by Somashytte, which would have been a nice place to stay. Another 15 minutes later I cross into Finland. The only thing that changes are the trail markings. Wodden poles instead of cairns. I prefer the former. Easier to spot.
Terrain gets rockier soon and many rock fields make progress somewhat slow at times.
At Pihtsusjärvi I encounter lots of people. Some of them on the way to Halti, Finland's highest mountain, which is in Norwegian territory (worth googling I think), some fishing.
The track gets increasingly rough with more and more of rock hopping. The rocks are not big but need all my attention as a misstep would probably mean the sudden end of my hike. Mentally and physically exhausted I reach Meekonjärvi. Such a picturesque spot. Time for a well deserved, long break.
Would the next section be similarly tiring as the previous one? Luckily not. It's more like an autobahn. Great hiking track, which fast forwards me to Kuonjarjoki, my overnight location.
During these last 10 kilometers, winds are picking up quickly with dark, thick clouds looming over me. Hopefully, space in the hut is available tonight.
Approaching the hut, several tents are scattered around it. Not looking good.
Anxiously, I enter the hut, which is roughly half full. Sweet!
Cozy and warm the hut, which even has a gas stove. Luxury compared to what I have experienced in other countries.
Now the rain can come...
1km short of Sieimahytta to Nahpat (close to Somashytte)
The trail continues the way it finished yesterday. Overgrown, hugging the river most of the time.
Shortly after Sieimahytta the trail becomes very rough and unpleasant to walk. Luckily it improves again quickly. There would have been some lovely campspots there.
My body fills stiff and somewhat out of power. I hope I haven't exaggerated it the last few days. However, I know my body quite well and never felt like I've gone close to its limits.
The 700m climb towards Somashytte starts steep. Through beautiful pine forest on a great track. The similarity of the area with the one of the Engadin is astonishing. There's literally no difference! And I say this as someone, who knows the Engadin like the back of my hand.
Soon after beginning the climb I pass an impressive waterfall (well that certainly is a difference to the Engadin, even though there are some nice waterfalls too, just a bit smaller ;)
Way too soon, I leave my beloved pine forest and enter birch forest. Also nice but not the same. Then it happens. I cross a swamp. Exiting? Well not exactly the crossing but what I found in there: ripe cloud berries! Still not exciting? Well, since I hitched to Nordkapp, each and everyone was telling me to try cloud berries - the wildest berries on earth. During the last couple of days I walked past so many of them, but all of them still red, meaning not ripe yet. But not today! They are scattered all over the place and evereating Sandro doesn't hesitate. I fill my stomach with these delicious berries, well needed energy for the further climb.
It's so stinking hot that I have to remove my rain jacket. A ton of insect repellent keeps the mozzies at a good distance. Even if only for a few minutes.
Above the tree line, the vistas are spectacular. Together with the mostly nice hiking trails and the water cooler fainted sky with some cumulus clouds it makes for some exquisite hiking.
Only my body isn't up to speed today. Everything is aching. From my feet to my neck. The latter, which is hurting badly at times. Maybe from constantly looking down yesterday hiking on these overgrown trails.
During the breaks I am doing some exercises that help a bit. While my mind's plan was to go to Somashytte, my body has other plans and screams stop a few kilometers short of the hüt. No need to force anything especially since I'm not in a hurry. Overall, my progress is way better than initially thought. So much better in fact that I still have food brought from Switzerland...
With my tent pitched on a ridge with great views all around I'm all excited for tomorrow. Finland calling!
Aitevarri to 1km short of Sieimahytta
I did not know what to expect of the gorge. Would it be touristy? How are the trails? Well, a few minutes after arriving down there, three hikers without much gear cross my path on a technically challenging part of the trail. No backpack, no nothing. So far away from everything. Strange.
A few meters further down three fishermen set up camp. When they see me passing by, they invite me for coffee. Sweet! I kind of get stuck there talking to these guys. It's also where I learn that there are boats taking tourists up the river. Explains the other hikers without much gear.
Eventually, I continue through pine forest, which unfortunately soon gives way to birch forest shortly after crossing a scary wobbly bridge. The views of mighty waterfalls along the way are impressive.
The track gets increasingly overgrown. In fact, it's a Te Araroa flashback when I plow my way through dense fern, only centimeters from the eroded river bank. Still, below the fern or grass, the hiking track is in great shape, making progress not as bad as I initially feared. Something, I'm really glad about as it takes me a long while until I finally find a good campspot, nicely overlooking the river.
Disappointment of the day: my Luna sandals. I'm trying out there new sandal and after just 400km, a strap gets ripped out while crossing a screw field. I was taken completely off guard. Could have ended ugly. After a temporary fix I continue. Unfortunately, I don't come far as another strap brakes loose.
Something I expect from a sandal bought for 5 dollars at the night marked in Luang Prabang but not from a 100 dollar hiking sandal.
Kautekeino to Aitevarri
I feel a bit, hmmm how should I say, melancholic. I don't know if it's the right word or if it even exists in English. Anyway, again, leaving the comfort of a home, leaving great people shortly after meeting them, makes me feel a wee bit sad. As much I would love to enjoy some more time there, I have to move on. I just have to, like something is pushing or pulling me. I wouldn't feel comfortable staying.
For me it lies in the nature of a thru-hike. All the things that happen to me while on the trail and even though they never last for long and might not sound spectacular to you, cause intense emotions. And maybe that is the reason why I want to be on the trail so badly.
Anyway, back to topic. I don't want to bother you with my feelings to much. Probably don't make much sense to you ;)
Instead of following the trail, which meanders northwest through swamps, I decide to follow a backroad. 33 kilometers - unlike the typical thru-hiker I actually like road walking every now and then. Cruising along with some good music, letting the landscape sink in, without too much concentrating on my steps.
Today this saves my nerves as well as I really don't feel like plowing through swamps again.
The walk along the quiet road is unspectacular, the views getting better the higher (altitude wise;) I get. 26 kilometers non-stop before I take a first break. My legs are feeling full of energy.
At one point it is time to leave the road and head west along ATV tracks (if you are intending to do same, make sure you walk left of the fenced area. Otherwise, you will have the same pleasure as me to climb over a 3 meter fence...).
The ATV tracks are surprisingly smooth and easy to walk on and soon after a river crossing I walk up a hill. Beautifully windy and being already half past six I don't think twice and pitch my tent, especially since my feet start feeling the long roadwalk. Thanks to the wind blowing away the insects, I can enjoy the lovely view just by myself.
Mierojavri to Kautokeino
A 'nero day' - near zero day. After covering a lot of ground the last week, my body feels exhausted. Luckily it's only a short hike into Kautokeino, where I will overnight for resupply and charging batteries - which I drained by writing 7 days worth of blog. But being stuck in my tent for hours (thank you mosquitoes) made me decide to start a blog.
Not much to write about the track today. Mostly along dirt and tar sealed roads. I decide to follow a side road east of the highway, whereas the official track would take me west of it along some ATV track and past the airport.
Once in town, way before lunchtime, I stock up on food for 8 days and call a number, which Rea, the hiker I met told me. She loved the homestay and highly recommend to call the number once I hit town.
Luckily they have a bed available - something I really need after spending 10 nights in the tent, half of them terrorized by mosquitoes.
Only task left before getting picked up by the hosts - getting a mosquito net for my head. Easy, right? No! After checking out every store in the widespread town, covering another 5km, I have to realize, every single mosquitoes hat I town is sold out. Nada! Nothing! Luckily I meet a lovely employee at a supermarket, who immediately calls her hubby to bring some nets. And in fact, a few minutes later he arrives. What an amazing service. While no hat, having a net is worth a lot as I should be able to piece together something.
Now today's highlight: my stay at Nils and his wife's wonderful place. They go out of their way to make my stay as great as it can get. Waffles, a delicious dinner, great talks and interesting information about the Sami culture will make this stay stick in my memory for a long time.
Especially, because they assisted me greatly in my do-it-yourself-mosquitoes-face-net. I can't wait to try it out tomorrow. Pictures will follow - promised.
Now I am looking forward to a good night's sleep in my comfy looking bed to fully recharge myself for tomorrow.
Should anyone of you readers planning on hiking E1 and looking for a place to stay, hit me up and I am more than happy to forward their contact.
North of Masi to Mierojavri
Ruhkkojavri to a few kilometers north of Masi
Ruhkkojavri to Heastabuolza
Olderfjord to Skaiddejavri
As promised: I hit the road early this morning, feeling surprisingly fit despite yesterday's long walk. Today starts with a bit of roadwalk, before I head into the Norwegian backcountry again. Through a forest the trail leads me past a lake. Muddy, slow going, hard to stay on track. Luckily, I eventually leave this mess behind and follow a ridge past some tarn before descending into another valley. Different from the other one. Not much vegetation beside grass and some bushes. And it is way larger. More a huge flat rather than a valley. Still boggy though. The rest of the day is mainly following this flat, sometimes climbing a hill for a change. A big part of this afternoon is following a fence, strong headwind making it hard work. At times. Easy to navigate, not so easy to walk with soft, wet underground.
Very monotonous with very similar vistas. Approaching the end of the day, there's a massive bog to cross. Probably around 5km in total. Luckily there are poles to follow. Otherwise it would make the crossing difficult or possibly even dangerous. Once across, I start looking for a suitable place to camp, which I find after a kilometer. I pitch it quickly to retreat even quicker as the mosquitoes are, with the dying wind, suddenly getting interested in me. A sluggish ending of a somewhat sluggish day.
Austerbootnen to Olderfjord
Nordkapp to Austerbootnen
Distance: appr. 50km (I don't measure distances this time)
While doing so and about to leave for the monument one last time, the fog suddenly gives way to the low lying sun. The sea is not visible though. Still, I take it as a sign.
After a few mandatory shots, I take off into my E1 adventure. Following the road initially as the fog is back as quickly as it disappeared, making it impossible to find markers for a path that should run close to the road. I don't care as I am not in the mood for a navigating challenge so early in the day (it is 2:30 in the morning) and hike.
Soon enough I dip out of the fog just to dip into it again a few hundred meters further. My mood: a bit mixed. On the one hand relieved I am really hiking E1, which wasn't a sure thing until last minute), on the other hand overwhelmed. Such a massive project. Is there even a chance to achieve it? Walking home and maybe even further to Italy?
I know, maybe not the best timing für such thoughts, however, the beginning of a hike brings up emotions.
Soon enough I leave the road to experience Norway's hiking tracks for the first time. Hiking track? There's none! Just some red 'T's showing me the way. Not exactly well marked. Room for improvement for sure ;)
The terrain is easy to read and soon I'm back on a road after a steep descent and shortly afterwards entering the Nordkapp tunnel, connecting Margeroya with the mainland. 7km long, roughly 200 meters below sea level and open for pedestrians.
Well, it's an experience. Not a great one though. Noisy, cold, windy. Relieved when I see light at the end of the tunnel 1.5 hours after entering it.
Leaving the road again, I follow markers up a valley. Not easy to follow at times. After crossing a river and a very steep climb to navigate around an even steeper gorge, markings improve significantly and also a faint walking track is becoming visible, eventually turing into an all terrain vehicle (ATV) track. Views are spectacular as I climb over a pass and descend down to the sea. Terrain gets flatter and progress is quick, despite being a bit wet underfoot. Time is flying and by six o'clock I decide it is high time to pitch my tent. Been walking for nearly 15 hours.
Plenty of great places to choose from. I opt for an unobstructed view towards the north to be in pole position for the midnight sun. Who knows, maybe it works out for me today!
An early start is required to make my plan work: hitching a ride to Olderfjord with a worker leaving Alta into that direction. Being 6 in the morning, traffic is light. 45 minutes later, a woman working as a vet on different salmon farms offers me a lift to Olderfjord. On the way I learn a lot about salmon farming a topic a landlocked Swiss cheese has no idea about. Once in Olderfjord, I drop a food pack, which I will pick up on the way south in a few days.
Standing on the road again it is only a 5 minute wait until I get a ride all the way to Nordkapp. Again, the friendly RV driver shares a lot about the history of Finnmark. Too much to write here as it is nearly 2 hour drive up there. As we climb, we enter a low cloud layer. The closer we get to Nordkapp the thicker the fog making driving challenging.
Since we hardly are able to find the car park, we decide not to head out of the vehicle just jet. I get invited to a cuppa coffee in his RV. I savour it as much as I know it possibly will be my last one for a while.
Despite the fog, we head out to the cape on foot, trying hard not to get lost. Eventually, we find it, the monument marking the kind-of-northernmost point in Europe. Not much to see. Here I say goodbye to my driver and hang around the place a bit longer, hoping for the fog to clear. Sometimes it seems like the sun is going to win just to realize the fog is creaping in again.
As I really want to have at least a bit of sun and decide to pitch my tent on the flat near the platform and try my luck at midnight for the midnight sun.
I wake up tired after a restless night. Like always before heading into a new adventure - leaving the comfort of home, exchanging it for the unexpected.
A ride in Fredy's new (old) red Volvo (thanks;) and three flights take me to Alta. While Zurich and Copenhagen look like ghost airports, Oslo is super busy and the flight to Alta packed.
Rain awaits me in Alta and my rain gear already has its first practical test on the way to the supermarket, where I stock up on food for the coming days. I'm not in a rush and by the time I leave the supermarket, the rain has stopped and I walk a bit out of town to pitch my tent at a nearby beach.