Summary: After flying from Bangkok, I went 200km north of the arctic circle to hike the Kungsleden train through a deserted Lapland, sleeping under rocks or in huts that I found along the way. I also ended up hiking off-track to the top of Kebnekaise, Sweden’s highest mountain. After that, I hitch hiked about 300km through Norrbotten to go back to Kitkiöjärvi to see it in summer and say hi to some people who I had gotten to meet during winter.
My flight from Bangkok left really early in the morning, so I decided to sleep by the airport in style: I hanged my hammock between 2 palm trees that I found just outside the airport… Hahaha It was sooo funny you should have seen the people’s faces when they saw me just chilling and sleeping in my hammock in the shadow under the coconut trees 🙂 Oh, and in the middle of the night I went into the airport to edit the Island Hopping @ Thailand video in one of these telephone/internet mini-computers…
Anyway, a few hours after I got to Stockholm I was already on the night train heading towards dream land… Which for me is Lapland. I wanted to hike the Kungsleden trail starting at Abisko, 200km north of the Arctic Circle. I’d found out about it during the previous winter on my Lapland Adventure… And I knew that I would come back in summer to have a go at it… I say “have a go” because I was no prepared at all for it since I had just flown from Thailand! I didn’t have a tent or anything waterproof, and neither a sleeping bag! Luckily for me, there was a small shop at Abisko… Well, after looking at the prices, I didn’t feel that lucky. So I bought 2 items that were in extreme offer: A sleeping bag for 9-year-old kids and some warm tights. Oh, and some nuts and dry fruits for food.
Right from the start at 5pm, it became very clear that I was going to have many romantic and close moments with mosquito, as there were at least 10-20 of them flying around me at any given time. Luckily for me, I had some mosquito-repellent lotion left from Thailand, and in I also found a jacket that someone had left behind hanged on a tree. The trek was amazing… I was hiking through rivers, forests (only at the start), eroded mountains and more important, through complete emptiness… I was like in a trance, going through time and space without anything that could stop me… Or so I thought, until it started raining and I realized that I was completely knackered (“very tired” in English slang). The worst, is that I seemed to be in the middle of nowhere, with the next huts being a couple of hours walk away (oh, and they costed 40€/night).
And then, the miracle happened: I found a huge rock lying on 3 smaller rocks in a way that there was a space under it that provided shelter from the rain and wind… So I slid under it (with some difficulty as the ceiling was about 40cm high!) and somehow managed to scatter the few clothes that I had over the floor as to create an insulation layer. Then, I completely opened the infant-sleeping-bag so as to use it as a blanket. I was so pleased and even hopeful that the mosquitoes had stopped chasing me for a while, but they I started hearing them coming closer and closer. Oh man, I was very lucky to still have my hammock with me… My original plan was so sleep in it, but seeing that there was not a single tree around, I had to give it another use. So I wrapped myself around it and put my cap on as to create an empty space between my face and the surface of the hammock invaded by mosquitoes.
I woke up shivering a couple of hours later (as I don’t have a watch/telephone, I had no clue of what time it was… Not that I cared anyway 😛 ), wishing that the wind would not move the rock because I would definitely get crushed my it and it would be the end of me. And as the rain got replaced by a soft drizzle, I kept walking. The landscapes were incredible… I could see the reflection of mountains on the lake’s surface, and the combination of colors despite the deem light made me feel like I was on another planet.
I saw some reindeers running around, and a while later I met some guy hiking in the opposite direction who explained me that the Sami people were gathering the reindeers to mark them during that week. It sounds like science fiction, gathering a huge herd of reindeers spread all over the vast immensity of Lapland, but somehow they manage to.
That morning I walked and walked, and sometime in the mid-morning it started pouring with rain. I felt like such a tourist, trekking with my sport shoes and soaking wet clothes 🙂 But at least, like this I didn’t have to take anything off to cross the rivers. And yes the water was very cold!
I had started the hike feeling already slightly sick, and it only got worse that morning, until I was sure that I had fever. Imagine the combination of fever, extreme tiredness, being soaked and cold and marching through the emptiness of valleys with a constant wind going through your clothes´layers… Well yes, it was tough but it was fun. But by 1pm I was feeling like a zombie… I knew that there was a cabin lodge nearby and it seemed like it was the only option since I had fever and I was half-frozen… Upon knocking on the door I asked where the showers were, and the guy pointed towards the waterfall, because there were no showers in the house. That didn’t stop it from being crazy expensive (40Eur)even though you sleep in a 4 person room and it basically has 0 services! I was so pissed off, but I was exhausted and I went for it. I got asked about my hike and I replied that I had started the previous afternoon at Abisko and that I had slept under a rock and I got some really funny faces… Because I had walked 50km in 20 hours!!!!! Which probably also explains the way I was feeling 🙂
Anyway, I slept 17hours (not a spelling mistake) in a row, and started hiking the next day when I woke up. This time with an amazing weather, and a friend that I’d met in the hut. And it was an amazing day. Towards the afternoon, I saw some rain at the end of the valley advancing in my direction… It looked like I had 10 minutes or so until it would start pouring with rain… So I started jogging because I knew that I would find an uninhabited hut soon. And indeed, I entered it just as it started raining… A while later a 50-year-old Swedish couple entered it too, seeking shelter from the rain. We had a good talk in Swedish and then he proposed to turn on the chimney. I laughed in my head because I thought that it would be impossible to do a fire there since there were only a couple of very thick logs and a piece of bark. But within 5 minutes the stove was smoking hot, and I inquired how he’d managed. (I used this technique many other times around Scandinavia after he told me how to do it). So basically, you parallelly put 2 big wood logs in the stove, and some bark between them. The birch (björk träd in Swedish) bark burns amazingly good by the way! After that, you should put some smaller pieces of wood on top of the bark, light the bark and that’s it! That simple yet effective.
A while later another hiker called Thomas came in to dry his clothes. He was so much fun and we had some good laughs. He told me that he was going to climb Kebnekaise (Sweden’s highest mountain) the next day, and that there are only about 10 days per season with clear visibility from the top, so that he would have to be very very lucky to have a good weather. He showed me on the map the route that he was going to take, not following any path and simply going up across the mountain, following some valley. Somehow, the idea sounded tempting, but I wasn’t sure. He dried his clothes and then kept walking when the rain slowed down to put up his tent a few kilometres later, to wait for his friends so that they could all climb together the following morning. Anyway, after he left we all slept in that hut since it was free and the Swedish couple were too late to make it on time to the next one.
In the morning (after cutting some wood stored in the back of the hut to replace the one we’d used) I left. I could not believe how amazing the landscapes were in that good weather. The sun was shining up in the sky and I could only spot a few very light clouds… Thomas had gotten very lucky! I found his tent by a river, just where he showed me on the map. It looked like he was still sleeping but I had to let him know something… Despite not having any food left (im talking about 0 food left), the weather and the temptation for adventure had changed my plans into going up Kebnekaise by the route that Thomas had shown me on the map… so I woke him up and told him about it! XD hahah His friends hadn’t arrived yet so he could not leave then, but told me that they’d leave a while later when the other 3 arrived.
And off I was again, hiking on my own through the beauty of Lapland, this time just going across the land jumping from rock to rock and over rivers until I was high enough to cross some snow and pass some reindeers just chilling. I really felt like I was in the middle of a daring adventure, and it was awesome. As I climbed to higher and higher altitude there were less mosquitoes, and that’s why the reindeers were there. In total, it took me about 5-6 hours to get to the top. A couple of hundred meters from the top I finally saw groups of hiking people again, all of them following the marked trail. I was so happy that I had made it to the top without following a path that I rewarded myself with a nap in a tiny improvised rock shelter that I found, and went to the to when I woke up. the views were incredible. It was quite clear, and apparently I could see about 1/10 of Sweden’s area. I could see some glaciers nearby and it was incredible. But the best was when clouds started rising… I felt like I was flying. I stayed a while longer and then realized that the weather was changing and that soon there would be some rain. So I went down following the path this time until I found a refuge just when it started to rain. I stayed there quite a few hours… I didn’t feel like walking with rain, and it was nice and warm in my sleeping bag, talking with some other hikers and trying some of their food as I did not have any! And then I met Thomas and his friends and talked for a long while. Oh btw, I still need to call Anders, a guy from Stockholm that told me that he’d take me fishing one day!
I ended up leaving the hut at about midnight. But remember that the sun is still shining then! I met up some other guys and girls from my age and we had some really good fun sliding downhill on the snow. Anyway, fast forward a couple of days I found myself in Kiruna, wanting to go to Kitkiöjärvi, the village where I had stayed during winter. The problem, however, is that there were no buses to go there.
So I hitch hiked through Lapland… It wasn’t easy at all, since there are very few cars driving past those roads up in the north but I somehow managed… My last ride was one of the luckiest ones I’ve ever gotten… It was already 9 or 10 pm, and I was on the last straight until my destination. I only had about 60km left, on the same road. Some guy who picked me up had told me that there had been a fair in Pajala, so that maybe one of my friends would have attended it… I had been already waiting for maybe 40 minutes and I’d only seen 2 cars going past… lol. The guy who brought me there told me that if I would not find any I could always sleep at his second house just next to his for free… And his kids were telling me in Swedish that I should stay… Hahaha they were so funny every 2 minutes they were asking me to come play with them on the trampoline… But I had a task to do! And just when I was about to give up the miracle happened: Alfred, a guy that I’d met the previous winter in Kitkiöjärvi went past and recognized me! Him and his Thai wife had watched some of my pictures and videos of Thailand… And I was so extremely happy to see them again!
In my first night in Kitkiöjärvi I slept at captain Roman’s place… It was so cool to see him again!!!! I was so happy seeing once more familiar faces from friends!!! And even more so being Roman!! He cooks such nice and filling food, so much better than the one in so many of the restaurants I’ve been in. And it’s such tasty and REAL food!!! The next days I moved in to the old school to live there, and had a good time going around and seeing how summer had changed everything. I also went sailing with captain Roman a couple of times… I love it! Despite the lake not being huge, we always have some interesting conversations and I think that we learn a lot from each other… Or at least we learn to see things from different points of view. During the couple of days that I was there, I also helped to paint the school with some of the locals. Oh, and at Uve’s place I tried some of the best dried meat I’ve ever had… Dried reindeer-heart meat!! Uve and his wife are also such nice and welcoming people! They showed me a nest outside their home… Apparently, the same birds emigrate and then return from Africa, always coming back to put the nest in the same place… Isn’t THAT crazy????
After a few days, I hitch-hiked a bit more through Lapland and one night I ended un sleeping in a boat’s cabin. Actually, the boat had been taken out of the water and was just standing in a trailer 🙂 And since it looked like it had been there a couple of years, 1 more day did not seem to matter to me 🙂