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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.
Randalselva to Kvepsendal
First thing I usually do when I wake up: checking if the rain fly of my tent is wet. Usually, it is. Overnight rain or high humidity. But not today! Saves me from cold hands when packing and makes my pack a few 100 grams lighter. It's easy going all the way. A bit of up and down, mostly on grass. Would be perfect for some barefoot walking if it wasn't that cold. There's not always a visible trail but it's marked excellently. Even a blind chicken like me finds the way easily.
I haven't been walking for long l when, it starts to drizzle. Not long enough to really annoy me. Virvatnet, a lake, looks spectacular with its unique islands. A huge cottage somewhat spoils the scenery though.
What else to say? In fact it is so easy going, by 14:00h I reach my planned overnight place. Should I stay or should I continue. Always the same question. I opt for the former. Just too lazy to continue.
Oh, and I found a smart phone today. Lying there right on the trail together with some tissues and lip balsam. Strange combination. All items soaked, the phone dead as a rock and no one around.
Still, I call 'Hello, anyone here?'. No response. Obviously. Maybe fallen out of the backpack?
I don't like finding these things as I never know what to do with them. Leave them and hope for the owner to return and find them or take the items and drop them in a town? The only shoe prints that looks recent are the opposite way I'm going. And they look like the size of a shoe for women. Which would make sense as the phone has a pinkish color.
Anyway, I take the phone with me and will leave it in Umbuktu.
Speaking of Umbuktu. No, it's not a city in West Africa. It's a small settlement on a highway, which I hope to reach tomorrow. Once there, I have to immediately try to hitch into Mo I Rana to buy food for the next 8 days. The shops I plan on going are closing at 21:00h. If I don't make it, it's going to be a challenge to resupply, as will be Sunday the following day and the possibility for resupply rather limited.
You will read it here if my plan works out or not...
Old Stone Cottage to Randalselva
The last few days it feels like my progress is stalling. Like I am standing still. Obviously, that is just a imagination from my side as I am continously hiking 35 kilometer days. Yet, I wonder where this feeling is coming from.
Back to the topic: for the first time since Nordkapp, I use my headlamp. It's dark inside the cottage and I want to make sure I packed everything.
The first few meters are a pleasure to walk on a a dry, well formed trail. A great way to start into a new hiking day.
As always: the pleasure doesn't last long. It gets wet. Very wet. Lots of wetlands as I'm following Bjollaga River. Eventually, I cross the river via a bridge. Speaking of bridges: since Sulitjelma, all of them have been in a superb state. Once across, the trail wastes no time and climbs steeply away from the river above the tree line into my favorite terrain. Or so I thought. To my disappointment, it remains boggy, even as the trail climbs a bit more. Now rocks come into play too. And it happens when I cross one of these rock fields. I stumble, falling towards a thankfully flat rock. Chest and hands simultaneously hit the rock.
Beside some discomfort in my chest and wrists, everything seems alright. However, it shows how quickly something can happens.
Coincidence or not: a few minutes later I walk past a sword, rammed into the rock. In memory of a guy, one year older than me, who passed away (I assume at this place) a couple of years ago.
The outdoors are a dangerous place. But so are cities and roads. In the end we all have to go.
I'm I get carried away again... Back to my hike: I pass Raudfjelldaskoia, a tiny hut and decide to have my late breakfast/early dinner break. It's 10:30h.
Inside the steaming hot hut, I meet Martin, a Norwegian thru-hiker heading the opposite way. He's taking his sweet time to start into his hiking day. We have a wonderful chat about our gear, especially my sandals (he used to hike parts of PCT in Lunas) and exchange what to expect trail wise in the coming days.
An hour later I say goodbye and a few steps further up the valley pass the Arctic Circle. It's a significant milestone for me and maybe makes the feeling of not making progress go away. Trail wise the remaining day is straightforward, with a bit of roadwalk.
My plan in staying at Randalska ends in a disaster. Firstly, I have a hard time finding 'it', even though a sign says it's only 15 meters away. Secondly, when I finally find 'it', I can't believe what I see. Hard to describe. I suggest you look at the photo below. More a place for Hobbits than for me. While I am certainly not picky when it comes to places to sleep, this thing is a big no-no. Especially, as it's filled with rubbish.
A bit disappointed, I continue. The sun is shining brightly though, making the search for a campspot quite enjoyable. It's a short search as there are suitable spots like sand on the beach. Too easy.
Vestreviskisvatnet to an Old Stone Cottage
After a quick descent to Lonsstua, a long climb follows. Initially through lovely alpine pine forest, followed by not so lovely birch forest before climbing above the tree line, which is roughly at 650 meters above sea level, where I currently am. It's usually the landscape and trails I like most. Not muddy anymore and not yet rocky. As the climb is rather steep, I pass through my favorite layer quickly and enter rocky terrain soon. While not painfully slow, walking across never ending Lapptafaggetlahtsa, a pass or even a high flat, is tiring. It's windy and cold at an altitude of 1000 meters. I'm worried about the descent, which I fear is rocky too. Luckily, it's not the case. The landscape changes from rocky to dandy within meters. A lovely trail takes me down into spectacular Bjolladalen, where I walk past an unlocked old stone cottage, with great views down to the river. Not too cozy but since I've been walking for 11 hours, I decide to call it a day. A very unspectacular day. Haven't met a single person, weather was medicore with no rain but lots of clouds and a chill breeze.
Edit: it's not exactly fair that I called the cottage not cozy. Once I kept the fire going, the cottage, which reminds me of these Ticino/Italian stone buildings scattered all over the alps, becomes very comfy. Just, the backfiring chimney is a bit unlucky. I'll smell like smoked reindeer the next couple of days. Maybe it will keep the mosquitoes away, which, basically out of nowhere, started annoying me again yesterday.
Laggejahka to Vestreviskisvatnet
What a gorgeous morning! Yesterday's dramatic sky gave way to mostly clear sky.
After a surprisingly good sleep (I didn't wake up a single time, which is highly unusual) I leave before sunrise, which is later every day. Yes, the days are getting shorter incredibly quickly!
A clear night means a cold morning. Frost makes my feet freezing. At least until the sun pops up behind the mountains.
The trail continues the way it finished yesterday. Rather hard going. Two hours into the hike, I leave Balvatnet and follow Skaitielva river for quite some time before climbing out of the valley along a gravel road. Weather up here can change quickly. Like today. By noon, I'm just walking this gravel road, rain starts hammering on me. While I should actually descend to Graddis, this stupid road keeps climbing and climbing. My mood drops to sub-zero. Eventually, I make it down to Graddis. Plenty of berries along the way. There are some red ones, which I haven't tasted before. Risking getting some discomfort in my tummy, I eat a few of them. They are delicious. Scandinavia: berries everywhere.
After Graddis, it's up again. Before I start my climb, I pass a couple from Bodo. The first two people I meet today. They offer me coffee and pack of biscuits. So we stand there, in the forest, in the rain, chitchatting about my hike. I really start to like these Norwegians!
Well fed I tackle the last climb. A lovely one in fact. Over huge flat rocks, the scenery spectacular. Once more. Eventually, even the rain stops. I'm a happy camper.
Speaking of camping: time to find a camp spot as I have been hiking for 12 hours. It doesn't take long and I pitch my tent above some small lakes with a clear view towards the west, where I am about to head tomorrow.
Sulitjelma to Laggejahka
After a heartily breakfast, my lovely room neighbor Jurek gives me a ride to Fauske, where he is collecting old clothes destined for Eastern European countries. Rain accompanies us for most of the 40 kilometers rides. Also, when he drops me on the intersection to Sulitjelma. 15 minutes later I sit in a car together with two girls, who are about to hike to Padjelanta - the opposite way I hiked a few days ago. Before they drop me off at the supermarket, where I finished my hike on Friday, I let them know about the broken bridge. The least I can do.
With an ice cream in my left hand I start my hiking day. It's 9:30h. A late start but still earlier than I thought I would begin.
As E1 seems to avoid roads and towns like the pest, it doesn't come as a surprise it actually doesn't pass through Sulitjelma but rather stays high above the valley. Therefore, I initially follow a road, which is climbing parallel to E1 towards Balvatnet. Despite or exactly because of my rest days I feel like a flat tire. A typical Monday morning mood (literally). I'd rather be somewhere sheltered and warm. Going is tough. Rain doesn't make it easier. My thoughts are everywhere just not with the hike. Music helps me to keep going.
At 15:00h I approach the road end and I don't feel like leaving it. Especially, as a hiker I met earlier today has warned me that the trail is wet, muddy and a constant up and down.
The trail is undulating indeed. Not as bad as I was expecting. And yes, it's wet and muddy. These parts are far and few in between an otherwise beautiful trail with even better views. Especially, with the weather, which improves dramatically. The landscape is similar to Padjelanta. But in a smaller scale. In fact, the trail is so easy to walk, I can take my away from the ground and enjoy the scenery. Just the Cloud Berries are slowing me down. After four days without eating a single berry, it's high time to catch up.
Only the few last meters, it's already 19:00h and time to pitch my tent somewhere, are muddy and slow going through scrubs and across several rivers. With some swearing I make it across and find
a beautiful spot overlooking Balvatnet. I enjoy the scenery until the next rain shower sweeps over my camp spot.
Second zero day. Dolce far niente.
Well, not completely. I did go to Saltstraumen, which was spectacular. At least for a landlocked Swiss cheese like me. Never before have I seen such a strong tidal current.
Many thanks to Jurek, who stays at the same airbnb and gave me a tour around the area.
The remaining day will consist of eating and packing to be fully ready tomorrow morning. Hitting the trail again!
Just need to get back to it somehow...
Doing a lot of nothing today. It's rainy, very rainy actually. Still, I go down to the sea for a wee bit to get some fresh air and to reflect the last month.
30 days, 1000 kilometers. A bit faster than I expected. A combination of the long days and mostly favorable weather conditions. I was expecting much more unsettled weather and not the sunny, warm weather that I was fortunate enough to enjoy. I have to be honest: the few rainy, cold days showed me how harsh the weather can be north of the arctic circle. Showed my and my gear's limits. Sleeping bag, tent and clothes - it's all on the marginal side. But that's thru-hiking: a tradeoff between comfort and weight.
The trails: while technically easy (never exposed or extremely steep), walking kilometers through wetlands, constantly looking for a faint trail or markers as well as very uneven ground (be it vegetation or rocks) made going challenging at times. Especially, when being chased by mosquitoes, which, by the way, haven't been a problem since Abisko.
Compared to Te Araroa, river crossing were straight forward and not a single time did I feel uncomfortable. Unlike when crossing bridges in Norway. Some of them are a real disgrace. Outright dangerous and not what you expect from one of the richest countries.
While crossing these bridges, the remoteness of the trail, mainly during the last nine days, is something that crossed my mind. What if I fell off the bridge into the glacial water? With the poor weather and no possibility for a rescue by helicopter, it might or possibly have taken more than a day for help to arrive. An unpleasant thought.
Yet: this remoteness, the open landscape, the sheer size of the area, the views, the people, when there were (their helpfulness and their stories), the Cloud Berries made it a great experience so far. Also thanks to my extremely forgiving body. It's an amazing job it is doing.
So what's next. Tomorrow I will do another rest day, checking out Saltstraumen.
On Monday it is time to resume my hike and will cross the arctic circle a few days later. From there it's another few days to Umbukta, where I will hitch a ride to Mo I Rana for resupply.
So far I hiked 1000 kilometers and, weather permitting, I hope to walk another 500 kilometers, which will take me roughly halfway across Scandinavia.
Sorjushytte to Sulitjelma (and a hitch to Naurstad)
A clear, cold night - a wet tent. Still, I am positively surprised that low clouds are not dominating the sky this morning.
I leave early once more. Starting my day with a climb over easy going rocks and scree and snow fields. Soon enough I reach the highest point of today. A bit over 1000 meters. The views are wonderful once more.
Slowly, I start the long descent towards Sulitjelma, which is at 200 meters. It's seems much shorter than I was expecting and by 11:00 I'm licking on a chocolate ice cream, considering all my options.
Sulitjelma, a skiing town, is like Celerina during off-season: dead.
There's a hotel and not much else. A campground in the middle of nowhere, too. But I don't feel like camping.
Fauske, the nearest larger town has no suitable place to stay either. I try Bodo. Nothing that catches my intention.
Then I try airbnb and find a reasonably priced accommodation in Naurstad. On a fjord. Looks nice. Just, how to get there? An option is public transportation but it would take ages. So I throw out my thumb and it doesn't take long I'm on my way to Fauske. I learn a lot about the mining history of Sulitjelma from the friendly driver, who drops me at the edge of town. After a 30 minutes wait two young workers take me all the way to the Naurstad intersection, from where it's am easy hitch to Anne-Lise's lovely place. A bit far away from everything but going from complete remoteness directly into into a big city might have been too much for my brain to process.
Still, later that day, when my host decides to head to Northern Norway's largest shopping center, I use the chance and join her. She gives me a great tour around Bodo, passing the airport and the aviation museum.
With bags full of groceries and some stuff, with which I can hopefully fix my sandals we return home. Now it's finally time relax and enjoy the comfort of a real house.
Arasjahka to Sorjushytte
With the days getting shorter rapidly (roughly 30 minutes every day), I currently start my days more or less with sunrise. Today, the rising sun paints the mountain tops in a blood red. The spectacle only last for a blink of a second before clouds moving in front of the sun end it abruptly. These clouds bring rain shortly after. It doesn't last long luckily. At Staloluoktastugorna I leave Padjelantaleden - a hiking trail leading through Padjelanta National Park - after following it for the last 40 kilometers. Initially still a good trail, it gets fainter and rockier as I approach the border. At Sarasjaurestugan, I have wonderful chat with the hut warden. I am intrigued by the fact that he has been here since mid-July. Nonstop. No signal, no shower, basically no contact to the rest of the world. If I recall correctly, he hosted 13 guests only during the last five weeks. Corona...
Somehow it's something I would love to do once in my life. Disconnect from the hustle and bustle.
After an hour I continue my hike. Another 10 kilometers Sorjushytte. Another border crossing. Another broken bridge. Slowly it's getting ridiculous. This is not what I expect from a country like Norway. Anyway, I am more worried about all the snow ahead of me. Snowfields, which I have to pass tomorrow. And from experience I know, a snowfield at the wrong place can ruin a day. The tricky section is not long though. 10 kilometers. Then I will reach the road taking me down to Sulitjelma. I hope right in time for a late lunch.
For now, I pitched my tent right in front of the hut. While the hut is unlocked, they ask hikers not to use it. I respect it. I need to dry my tent anyway. Let's just hope it's not a rainy night.
Karsajaure to Arasjahka
The last few kilometers yesterday gave me an idea what to expect today: nice trails and good weather. Therefore I can't wait hitting the trail, which will pass through Padjelanta National Park.
It's surprisingly rocky though, the first two kilometers. The rocks then are giving way to a wonderfully easy going trail. However, I don't make it far. Not Cloud Berries this time. The view. Spectacular. Overlooking the foggy flat below, with snow covered mountain in the background. Something to remember. I savour the moment before heading down towards the flat. Lots of boardwalk. The frost covering them makes them slippery. Luckily the sun is heating up the ground quickly.
Perfect conditions for hiking. Even the bridges don't look like they want to kill me.
By 13:00h, with 25 kilometers covered already, I pass Laddajakkastugan, a big hut complex. A helicopter is dropping or picking up something or someone. I'm too far away. Yet the sweet, sweet smell of Jet A1 fuel enters my noise. Lovely! (only aviation lovers will understand ;)
My legs feel like rockets today and fly up the 300 vertical meters to Parka Boarkka and down on the other side. Going so fast is taking its toll just a bit later. Going gets hard from one second to the other. With now burning legs I reach Arasluoktastugorna, a Sami settlement, where I meet the hut warden. The first warden I see since Unna Allakas. I use the chance to buy some (ridiculously overpriced) reindeer meet and local bread. E1 is so remote that I kinda have to use every chance to get to know the local culture of the countries I hike.
Even on a great trail - after 40 kilometers it is game over and I pitch my tent shortly after leaving Arasluoktastugorna. With black clouds now hanging low over me and a fresh breeze from the west, suddenly I feel cold. Instead of enjoying my dinner (consisting of reindeer meet, bread, 300 grams pasta and 100 grams chocolate - I still feel hungry though while writing this) outside, I choose to eat inside. A bit of a unworthy ending of an otherwise wonderful day.
Addendum: I was a bit early with writing the last sentence. Already in my sleeping bag, listening to music, the sun makes as quick, dramatic appearance just before disappearing again behind the mountain moments later. Happy End!
Ravddajavvre to Karsajaure
The 20 meters morning walk to the toilet... That feeling in my knees. Like bone on bone. Not pleasant at all. Yesterday has been a hard day.
Later than usual, it is almost seven, I leave the hut. But not before checking on the girl. She seems alright. After seeing the huge serving she ate last night, she can't feel that bad anymore.
However, I don't come far. I decide to eat a healthy breakfast for once: Cloud Berries! As I am no hurry, I take my sweet time.
A lovely morning. No wind, not to cold and barely any mosquitoes. Maybe, my hope that some of them got blown to Murmansk by the strong westerly winds, might have come true. The trail is nice to walk with plenty of boardwalk across the numerous swamps. I feel dizzy. The Cloud Berries maybe? No, I don't think so. Luckily the trail is fool proof, not requiring much concentration. After I get rid of my rain jacket and long johns, I start feeling better. Maybe I was overheating a bit, without noticing.
The closer I get to Vajsaluokta, a hut with its own ferry terminal and helipad (it would be one of my bail out points) the trail becomes a rougher. Strange. They usually improve the closer they get to huts.
From a save distance, I watch the 11:50 ferry service across Akkajaure to Ritsem picking up some hikers. For me it's no ferry but rather a climb up to Karsajaure. Not before making use of the signal, checking weather (which looks okay for the next three days) and updates the loved ones.
The climb is less steep than it looks on the map (usually it's the opposite. These Scandinavian topo maps make the impression terrain is flat but is far from it in reality) along a wonderful trail. Well marked, well visible path. A rarity. The view back towards the lake are fantastic. Going goes surprisingly well until close to my overnight spot, when everything seems to start aching at the same time.
You might think: why did he walk 45 kilometers that first day from Abisko ? No wonder he is suffering now.
Well, it was the weather forecast, which was scaring me a bit with wind, rain and low temperatures. Not the weather you want to cross E1's highest pass. 1200 meters here equal roughly 3000 above mean sea level meters in Switzerland. If I crossed Caihnavaggi a day later, there would have been snow up there, making an already tricky passage even more dangerous. So yeah, even though my body is aching, I'm happy with the way I hiked.
Speaking of dangerous: while climbing away from the lake I'm asking myself the question 'am I inclined to take more risks while on a through hike?' Obviously, doing a hike like this is always riskier than - let's say - sitting like a potato on the couch. What I mean is: would I risk things I wouldn't if I wasn't on a thru-hike? The answer is definitely yes. Like crossing that bridge. Never ever would I cross it while on a day hike. I would just turn around. Same goes for river crossings and other technically difficult sections like rock scrambling. On a thru-hike, turning around is extremely hard for me. The urge to continue is incredibly strong. In last week's case with the bridge, it would have meant a 100 kilometers back track to find an alternative route. It would need a lot for me to do that. Hence, the greater acceptance to risk.
Back to the topic: it's only 16:00h when I safely arrive at Karsajaure. Plenty of time to treat my feet a little while enjoying a spectacular view of Allak.
I should mention here that Ravddajavvre and Karsajaure are shelters intended for emergency only. There is plenty of space to pitch your tent though.
Sargga to Ravddajavvre
Mosquitoes or rain? What's worse? If you asked me this question two weeks weeks ago it would have been the mosquitoes - hands down. Now... After not seeing a mozzy in three days but spending these days hiking through driving rain, it's the rain - without a doubt.
On a serious note: rain and with all its consequences like high rivers, hypothermia etc. has a much bigger impact on the trail life than some mosquitoes, which are basically just a nuisance.
Anyway, after a cold, windy night I can't wait to hit the trail. My day starts with a few kilometers off trail walking. This time not as easy to navigate as yesterday, when I all I had to do was basically following a river.
Eventually, I rejoin the trail. Undulating terrain for most of the morning as the trail leads south and perpendicular to the rivers, which are flowing west to east. It's a constant up and down with four big rivers crossings. Tough work, slow going. Still, time is passing quickly and just past noon I approach Valldajahka. The last big river crossing today, probably the last one for the coming days as the most rivers should be bridged from now until Sulitjelma. Should...
I cross Valldajahka way further downstream than depicted on the map. Easy crossing. Saves me a 5 kilometer detour.
On the other side, plenty of ripe Cloud Berries are awaiting me. Well needed vitamin C after these rainy, cold and windy days. Eating all these delicious orange berries is slowing me down considerably. I'm like "I should really start walking again". 20 steps later: "Oh, look, Cloud Berries!" These berries really make me happy. I hope there are many more to eat.
Hard to believe, but I eventually make it to my today's overnight place. A tiny hut. A long day. At least the weather was quite friendly throughout the day.
I meet another hiker, who intended to walk the opposite direction but took an involuntary dip in one of the rivers yesterday and returned to the hut. Sleeping bag, clothes all wet. Feet full of blisters due to wet shoes and socks. I ask her if I can do anything for her. She just shakes her head. All she needs is rest. Poor girl. It happened to me before. Falling in a river. No fun, glad she's okay.
4km South of Baugevatnet to Sargga
Distance: 30km (maybe a bit less)
Somehow I ride through the stormy night. With the wind rocking my tent constantly, I barely fall asleep.
Weather wise, today is similar. Rain in the morning, improving towards the afternoon. It is much colder though, the snow down to roughly 1200 meters, which is 300 meters above my camping spot. So I am not surprised, when the odd snowflake appears between the rain drops.
Going is tough, not to say miserable - once more. I can't wait for sunny or at least dry days (let's be humble). Water from above, water from below. All these streams I need to wade are melting water. Yup, that is cold.
I cross Bavrojavrre via a natural dam. Only 20 meters are newly bridged. Until last year, rowboats were used to cover the gap. Quite cool, today, with 30 knots crosswind, I would have ended up in Murmansk with my boat.
Weather improves as does my mood. Especially, after crossing the damaged bridge, the hiker warned me of yesterday. Crossing was borderline to reckless. While climbing the timber ladder to the bridge, the ladder partially collapses. Even though I was expecting it, I am still take off guard. Still, I manage to reach the wobbly bridge, which I cross on my knees, bright blue glacial water below. Slow and steady I make my way across. With a bit of adrenaline and the sun, going gets easier along several lakes. There's even some beach walk. Oh, how I miss it... Shortly after crossing Svartijahka on a much safer (Swedish) bridge, I check the map and decide to skirt around Svartitjahkka (a mountain) on the south side instead of the north. Saves me a kilometer or two and I feel like some off trail walking anyway. 6 kilometers without looking for a poorly marked trail but plotting your own route through the terrain. A nice change.
Weather deteriorates quickly and when I spot a shelter on Grensleden (another trail) I decide to call it a day. The shelter is extremely basic. 3 walls, 1 open side. It's rocking back and forth whenever a gust hits the structure. But it does its job just fine. Gives me desperately needed shelter from the wind and the rain.
Abisko to Aksoluoppal
There's not much to say about the trail. Mostly straightforward, especially in the beginning, when E1 and Kungsleden (a popular long distance hike) share the same path. A bit more slow going as the day proceeds.
I leave early for two reasons: one is the weather forecast, which predicts rain for the afternoon, the other is, I need to keep going. Besides my pack, with more than 20kg way too heavy, I also start to overthink, putting even more pressure on my shoulders. That is why I get up at four, stuffing a Müesli into my mouth (despite not being really hungry) and start walking at half past four. With my brain cells still occupied thinking about the border crossing, the upcoming bad weather and the rock fields, time flies. After walking five hours non-stop, I force myself to take a short break. Mosquitoes make it not exactly a relaxing break.
With the wind picking up, my second stop three hours later is much more enjoyable. The views are much better, too.
Soon afterwards, just as I am crossing the border, a shower passes through. A sign for me to look for a campspot, which I find close to Cunojavri Hut, right after crossing another not very trustworthy looking bridge.
Timing is great. As soon as I finish my dinner, it starts raining again.
Zero Day Abisko
Not much to write today, really. Taking it easy, recharging my and my device's batteries, eating a lot and reading the trail notes for the upcoming days, trying to mentally prepare myself Feeling slightly anxious about the border crossing tomorrow as well as the remoteness as I do not know what to expect during the next 300km, which I hope to cover in 10 days.
Other than that, I try to distract myself by exploring the very tiny village and writing postcards. Well, and of course I am looking forward to my second sauna visit tonight.
Palnostugan Hut to Abisko
Right after finishing my yesterday's blog, a Swedish hiker, tramping around the area for the last month, enters the hut. What followed were lovely hut talks until late in the evening (it is easy to forget the time when the sun sets so late (around 23:00h)). I was feeling like a sponge, soaking up all the interesting information and also found out the fish I enjoyed the other day was an arctic char.
This morning I leave early. My goal: reaching Abisko at 14:00h, right in time for check-in at the hostel. The Holzhackerweg continues until I cross a highway. Still, the views of Torneträsk and plenty of blueberries make it an enjoyable walk.
After crossing a highway , going gets easier and historic as I follow a WW2 defense line, protecting the ore railway from the Nazis. A lot of board walk makes me feel like a train as well.
Eventually, the trail descends to Torneträsk, the views fantastic. I take a loooong break, soaking up the scenery, which reminds me of New Zealand's South Island. From there it's only a few more steps to my hostel. It's getting touristy and it suddenly feels somewhat strange to be back in civilization. The uneasy feeling of not belonging here but rather out in the wild. An ever-returning change I encounter on my hikes.
Still, after taking a long hot shower, slipping into my freshly washed clothes and some ice cream, I feel quite comfortable.
The rest of the day (yes, I checked in just before two) is spent with buying and organizing supply for the next 12 days, eating and a sauna visit - my first one!
Salvasskardet to Palnostugan Hut
Rain the whole night. Not heavy, more like drizzle. Without the wind, the sound of the droplets on my tent are calming and I have a really good sleep.
It's a comparably late start into day 18 again. Again because of the rain, which I am waiting to end.
Once it does, I follow the gravel road for a wee bit, which turns into an ATV track and eventually disappears all together. It is a very shallow climb on a nice trail, allowing me to keep the pace high. At one point, I start feeling my left shin. Not hurting, just a vastly familiar one, which I had the first time on Te Araroa. At that time, I didn't give it any attention, which resulted in a week long break.
I've gotten wiser in the meantime. So I reduce my pace significantly and continue slow paced over a very wet high plain. The feeling in my shin disappears as quickly as it showed up. Still, I will keep an eye on it.
The shallow climb and the flat follows a steep descent towards lake Torneträsk, spectacular views and a great trail make for a pleasant hike. At least until I cross into Sweden, where going gets significantly rougher. After another 2 kilometers, I reach Palnostugan Hut. Should I stay or should I continue. A very familiar question. At 14:30 it is somewhat early to stop. On the other hand, after most huts in Norway are closed, I don't have many hut experiences yet. There is also no need to rush.
So I opt for the lazy day and make myself comfortable in the hut, which offers a lovely view over Torneträsk.
Sweden: today is the first time I really am in this country. 2 years ago I've flown into Stockholm on an observer flight. At Arlanda Airport, I walked once around the aircraft, before flying back to Zurich. The second time was a few days ago, when I briefly cut the corner in Norway and hiked through Sweden for an hour or so. As you can see, until now I never had the pleasure to enjoy this country. But this is about to change.
Geibbaluobbalat to Salvasskardet
After a lot of text yesterday, I will keep it short today. Not much to write anyway.
It's stormy and rainy outside. I don't feel like leaving my tent. So I sleep in (well I call sleep in) until 7, when the rain finally stops.
The first 3 hours are mostly over rocks, the descent to Gaskashytte over grass. My feet and knees are greatful.
From Gaskashytte it is mainly through wetlands. Rough track in the beginning, getting quite flat later on. Plenty of boardwalks help to improve the hiking experience, which I somewhat need, as it is raining again. Quite heavily at times. My first rainy day on E1. I've nearly forgotten what a huge impact the weather has on my spirit.
The last few kilometers to a road I walk together with a fisherman, doing a bit of smalltalk to distract myself from the rain. By the time I reach the road, which I follow for 30 minutes, I feel uncomfortably cold. Luckily the rain stops shortly just before crossing the Altevatn dam. I use the chance to pitch my tent shortly after the dam. Not in the mood to continue further. The camping spot is surprisingly nice though. With lovely views a up and down the valley.
Jalggohas to Geibbaluobbalat
While hiking yesterday, I decided to take it slower for the coming four days. I might be able to make it to Abisko in 3 days. However, with regards to the next 300km section from Abisko to Sulitjelma, I want to give my body the chance to regenerate before starting this next section (I will additionally take a zero day in Abisko). 300km is a long distance and a lot of food to carry and I'm currently quite nervous to be honest. Never have I hiked such a remote section.
But let's focus on today. Where should I start? So much to tell.
Maybe early in the morning. 2:15 to be precisely. I have to take a leak. I know nothing special. Luckily, most mosquitoes are fast asleep and it's when I open my tent that I get blown away by a fantastic morning sky. Over the past few years I have seen a fair amount of spectacular skies and this one ranks up very high. One to remember. Satisfied and with an empty bladder I go back to sleep.
The day starts with a swamp crossing. Yeah, exactly the way I like it... The trail gets nice to walk to very soon afterwards. Many reindeer cross my path this morning. Somehow I find them cute, with their tail pointing skywards. Yesterday, I was whistling the Top Gun soundtrack during the final kilometers. Today, the melody is completely gone. I cannot recall it. It drives me nuts. Well, compared to my Lunas breaking apart, my hiking poles losing parts and my matress in self deflating mode, this is a little problem.
Eventually, I descend back into birch and pine forest. Plenty of cloud- and blueberry. I simply can't resist. The trail still quite nice. At one point I take a little shortcut by fording Divielva river instead of taking the bridge. Saves me 2 kilometers. After 20 minutes through pine forest I rejoin the trail right at the sign pointing towards Vuomahytta. Perfect! So I follow the clearly visible trail. No markings and it is not following Anjajohka, which it is supposed to. Strange. At least I'm heading into the right direction. The trail gets fainter and fainter and is basically invisible when crossing the numerous wetlands. It is sheer luck I always find back to the trail. At this point I am sure, it's the wrong or an old trail. There is even a pile of boardwalk stacked up next to the trail. The prints of the boardwalk are still visible in the mud. From a navigational perspective, it is the most challenging part of E1 so far. While navigating through the birch forest, I remember the Top Gun melody again. This gives me peace of mind. Roughly 4 kilometers later, I rejoin the correct trail. While initially nice to walk, it quickly turns into a piece of shit. Muddy as and extremely slow going for over an hour. A shameful trail.
Much later than I intended, I pass by Vuomahytta. The lovely hut wardens explain me a new trail is in the planning, hence the current one is not maintained anymore...
One of the but wardens ask me 'Do you fish?' 'No' 'But you eat fish?' 'Yes!' So away he goes and returns with a 1 kg fish filet. It is Arctic something. Very tasty. He caught plenty this morning and would like to give me one. It would be delicious, with no bones. Perfect to fry or boil.
With the fish attached to my pack and my brain cells working out a way to cook this massive piece of fish in my tiny pot, I walk another kilometer to a small tarn, pitch my tent and eat the best tasting fish soup ever.
Cievccascahca to Jalggohas
Today's no different. Just a bit earlier than usual as some strong gusts rock my tent and wake me up from my bad sleep. As my tent is not like such a Hilleberg-tank-tent and rather prone to strong winds, I decide to get up at 4 am already. At 4:35 I am on my way.
The trail: a typical hiking trail with a bit of everything. Rivers, rocks, snow and grass. Sometimes easy to walk, sometimes not. Especially the rock hopping is cumbersome.
The weather: cold, cloudy and windy in the morning. Sunny in the afternoon. Like so often since I started at the Nordkapp.
Excitement of the day: I want to finally have a look into an official Norwegian hut, as most of them are locked because of Corona. I do so at Rostahytte, which is open, only to be scared away by an angry hut warden...
My evening routine is way more relaxed and flexible. What always comes first though is pitching the tent. Never know when the rain suddenly starts or a mosquitoe invasion (like today) taking place. On this trip, I'm really into listening to music once I'm in the tent. Half of the day I'm looking forward to the moment I can turn on the music. Who knows, maybe it is something I need to counter the solitude and silence I'm experiencing at the moment.
Kilpisjarvi to Cievccascahca
Fog is engulfing the campsite, when I leave it, continuing along the road direction north. After a few 100 meters, I'm back on the hiking track, which climbs steeply, taking me out of the fog quickly. The views are gorgeous and I taking photos is an acceptable excuse to take it slowly. I definitely feel my heavy backpack.
Soon the trail descends back into the valley. A typical "Holzhackerweg" (the closest word I can think of in English is "lumberjack track"), how I call these kind of tracks. Slow going, rough, no flow. Every step needs to be placed carefully.
Eventually, I reach the 3-country-border (Sweden, Finland and Norway), with great views of the mountains, where I am about to head into.
Luckily every Holzhackerweg eventually ends. Otherwise, I would have given up on hiking a long time ago. This one ends right at the Finnish-Norwegian border. Coincidence? I don't think so...
From there hiking is pure pleasure. A nice trail, with boardwalks across swamps, climbing higher and higher, sometimes descending steeply into a gully. On the way I meet two women from Switzerland. The elderly ladies hiking from Kilpisjarvi to Abisko as well. They take it a bit slower than I though.
The trail is climbing further and further. While briefly crossing through Sweden, dark clouds ahead of me are building up quickly. Together with my now tired legs it's time to find a suitable camp spot. Not too easy at 900 meters above sea level, where rocks are dominant. I find something acceptable to pitch my tent right in time before the first rain drops knock on my tent.
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.