Day 49 – Eat & Dry

I woke up, ate food, went back to bed, woke up, ate food.  This was pretty much the day, except I fitted in downloading maps of Sweden and working ot a rough route south.  Some big gaps without food still but it’s road and the surface predictable.  The adventure is there and I’m sure I’ll miss the beauty of the trails but that’s the best part of it.  I’ll return to them later and with all possibilities, return stronger.

Days 50 To 53 – Temptation, Road, Shack

I seem to have misplaced day 49 somewhere but I’ll look at my journal and work out what happened.  Everything blends into one big moment in my head, but here’s the last 

Day 50 – Temptations

Woke up early. In fact, I could really sleep, so out of bed early, breakfast made (a delightful mix of muesli, crisp bread and boiled eggs, all enriched with lashings of butter) and maps downloaded. Then began the task of packing…

On the whole, an easy thing but when you spread your stuff out across an entire room, the problem is always where to start. ‘I’m stuck here till the dude returns since I need a thicker roll mat. I can feel the cold coming through my super thin one.’

The dudes and dudette arrive, the have breakfast, and main dude informs me that the Kungsleaden boats will be there for another 7 days! Temptation is upon me in the form of galcier formed, sedimentary and metamorphic mountains. Distances checked, route plotted, then a search for potential food once I leave the trail at a place called Kvikkjokk…

‘Arse! I’d be back at square one with over 100km to cover with little to no food. Kvikkjokk fjallstation is gonna be shut when I get there.’

No decision needed in the end… Three things we need to survive, food, water and shelter and I value each of them. Even though my level of comfort or requirements may have dropped quite low. Then I remember my tin of fruit salad!

Time to eat from fruit before sandalling up and leaving. The STF dudes are busily cleaning and sorting around me, the two German girls (I’m assuming the nationality based on the language used) who haven’t left their room since they arrived are still in their room and I’m getting that feeling of time being wasted. I’m about to leave with a sense of having a very long road ahead of me… The distance still makes no sense but I’m not sure it ever will or even has to.
I bid dude farewell after a cup of coffee, purchase and cutting down of a foam mat. Outside is Matt, the main dude who let me in to the Fjellstation and gave me all the info. He asks me what I’m going to do and I say that if I take the Kungsleaden I would end up arriving when they shut Kvikkjokk…

‘I can call the if you want?’

Without thinking or even hesitating my reply is…

‘No, it’s ok,thank you. I think I’d like to see some of the cities in Sweden. I’ve seen the mountains and lakes but nothing of its people or places.’

I pause…

The urge to look around to see who just spoke was huge?! Did I just say I’d like to see some of the cities instead of the mountains?

‘Oh yes, Jokkmokk is a beautiful place to visit along with some of the other towns on your way.’

I can hear that other accusing voice…

‘You’ve changed!’

I bid him fair well and turns out he lives close to the trail I’m going to be taking later on, I say that it would be great to meet up again and ask him to contact me nearer the time because I’ll get there and move one without a reminder.

I run off down the road and head out towards Porjus, chuckling that he also knew someone I met in the lakes whilst supporting a BG round and then the day after whilst up on Pillar. What a small world that someone I met in England would be saying hello via a new person that I meet!

The kms passed by easily enough…

10km, 20km, 30km gone. The view of the lake ever changing, the rocky cliff to my left ever daunting. I pass 2 parking spots with the traditional Scandinavian toilets, several waterfalls and rivers passing under the road and filling the lake. The bones of an Elk at the road side and a handful of cars. With luck I will be finished by 5 and sat with a cool drink of water, some more food and the warm, pleasant glow in my legs that tells me they’ve been used today.
I run along the road, passed tunnels that go deep into the mountains on the left, past a large dam which spans the lake to the right and surprisingly passed a herd of reindeer. They were just ambling along the road and only moved a couple of meters of it when I reached them. I see a sign that says ‘food, hotel, petrol and toilets 1km’. I laugh at the reality of having carried 3 days of food with me and here’s somewhere to get food from at the 50km mark. I reach 50km just before 5 and carry on walking, looking for a place to camp. The dense forests either side are filled with rocks and on steep slopes making any possibility of pitching a tent zero. I also need water. Water to drink and water to cook with. I walk on, waiting for the road to get closer to the lake and it does.

‘Bingo!’

Amongst an outcrop of scotch pine, a space that looks ideal. I walk to it. There are signs that it’s been used in the past, which suits me. Tent goes up and I wander down to the lake and collect some water using one of my unused dry bags. I wander back and drink a bottle full straight away, another bottle full stored for later and then it’s time to boil some water for food. Half goes into a delightful mix of oats, rice and a spaghetti bolognese ration pack and the rest is used to make a batch of porridge for the morning (porridge made out of muesli but who cares!).

I have a quick self assess and my legs and feet feel used, shoulders feel like they’ve carried a good 15kg over 50km and there’s that nice inner calm that comes from the endorphine release during a run. Today felt good because of the constant 1km progress reminders spray painted on the floor. 

Day 51 – Road

The air was super damp and as a result so was my tent and the sleeping bag. In fact anything that was outside the tent was coated in a layer of water. It hasn’t rained though. The height and surrounding mountains had conspired to place my tent at exactly the right altitude to be in a thick bank of clouds. Towel out and everything was being dried, and by everything I mean my tent. I’d made my breakfast the night before so now, it was time to eat it. Still in my sleeping bag and lying down, I ate. The first breakfast whilst on the move and solo.  

By 8:30, everything was packed up, having got it as dry as I could, and there was a faint promise of sunshine and some blue skies. The only problem was, the cloud bank didn’t evaporate. Instead it rose up and covered the sunshine and blue skies. The lake sported it’s very one line of cloud and the air was quite humid and still. I decided it was a day for little running and more walking. A rest day of sorts and set a time limit of 5pm for the end of the day. No distance marking either today. Music would be the time keeper. 2 albums passed, I paused and ate a couple of thinly sliced rye bread. Another 2 and the same. My digestive system disagreed with this normal phase of eating! It gurgled and churned and made running without potential accident impossible, but when surrounded by thick woods, the emergencies could be dealt with easy enough.

The third stop involved muesli. Around 400ml of muesli (obviously it’s not a liquid food stuffs but that’s how much of my 600ml cup it filled), and it went down a treat. Legs were feeling leaden and ached here and there. My shin muscle was complaining, which worried me as it was the source of my injury. It got squeezed and I went on. Then, without any real reason, the temperature dropped real quickly! I looked around for some kind of demonic apparition but all I could see was trees and the steam from my own breath. It seemed odd, but I just made sure I moved more.  

The muesli kicked in and an extremely short spurt of running and it was time again to look for a sleeping spot. This is were the problem of the woods has become worse…

Spruce trees have a tendency to grow ridiculously densely and where there were no spruce, the ground was that now familiar bog. I found one spot but it was just as wet as a bog and the idea of all that moisture evaporating and seeping into all my kit wasn’t particularly appealing, even with the lake being so close to this spot. I decided, 39km wasn’t far enough for the day and carried on. A car ahead turned down a dirt track…

Result! This usually means good ground and a clearing, which it did and the clearing was filled with typically Sweden houses. A bit further along, the road went over a river. I spot the worse looking clearing ever, wander in and pitch up. Then… The sound of a gunshot fills the sky!

I check the terrain around me and there’s no way an animal can get near my tent from any direction other than the road, so I just sit, cooking an interesting mix of pasta and rice carbonara and hope that no shots are fired this way. I don’t hear any more shots, no footsteps and only the sound of the river…

That is until a car drives by. The closer I’ve been getting to Porjus, the more cars go by. All give a huge amount of space as they pass! I think I must have put on a massive amount of weight, since they all drive way over to the other side. I say thanks (Takk) to each one, and make an effort to move aside, although with the steep banks on either side of the road, this amounts to move a foot away from it. 

Tomorrow, I’ll head towards Porjus, with the intention of arriving there in two days. Big towns mean no camp spots and I don’t fancy looking for a place to sleep in the dark, or missing the shop’s opening hours. I’ll head into Porjus, grab food and proceed onwards to Jokkmokk, eating most of the way.

Day 52

Just after I leave, about 5km away, I find a bunch of great camp spots. 15km away a well used spot with fire pits and a lake. Perfect for camping and clearly well used. I have a break. Dig out the salt liquorice I got from Ritsem and fill the bag with water. The salt was a little too much last time I ate them and I just wanted liquorice. Salt washed off and they were devoured in one foul swoop. I set an alarm for 12 o’clock and set off again. Found water, just before. Sat at the road side. Prepared a lunch of chicken and pesto pasta rice carbonara. Tasted ok, but I’m tired of these dried meals. Would be great to get some cheese, bread and tomatoes at Porjus.  

My shins ached from yesterday more than any other part of my body. I used the bamboo came I seem to be pointlessly carrying to roll the muscles and they felt better. Bag repacked and I set off. 15 more kilometres would make it 40 something for the day and leave a gentle 15km for tomorrow morning. I set off and realise that running, the desperation shuffle version of running as apposed to full on sprinting, felt fine. Surprising after 45km average per day since I left Ritsem.

Still I bumbled on, even running some of the hills. I seem to loose track of things. Before I know it, it’s 2:30, I’ve reached the point that if decided to stop at and it has a handy nature reserve with toilets too!  

I find a shack, fire pit in the middle and from the looks of it, a place for local youths to come along to, have a fire, some food and drink. The white walls are covered in people’s names and atypical childish graffiti. 

I decide to wander off, further down the road and away from the possibility of people arriving. Then I stop…

I wander back and decide to explore the small trails that snake around the lake. Fire place after fire place I find a good spot but in full view of the house adjacent to the me. I wander up and into the woods. No far. Just a few meters and find a reasonable spot. I can still hear cars as they pass on the road, but I’m out of view, it’s 3pm and I’m done for the day. The food I’ve eaten has stayed in, digestive system realising that maybe digestion is a good thing for our survival. I’ll have a meal soon, write some words in my journal and then get me to sleep. Tomorrow, I will be in a town. Tomorrow I will buy enough food for just one day and head to Jokkmokk, a mere 47km from Porjus.

Feels good to be making better progress and to know that there is food that isn’t a simple shade of brown.

Day 53

18km till Porjus! Can you see the focus here?

The morning is yet another damp one. I’m hoping for a breezy but sunny day to appear soon so that I can get the damp out of my kit. I think the crack in my foot is starting to heal under the barrage of compede plasters I’ve been using on it. They just refuse to stick for very long.  

There’s a routine to the mornings now. Wake, eat, wipe down all tent surfaces, dry the inner using a quick burn on the spirit stove, pack and leave. I’m amazed by the amount of heat the tiniest bit of alcohol kicks out and at the same time overly conscious that I’m in a bag that will burn faster than rocket fuel of I’m careless with it, but needs must. All my food has been eaten. I made a conscious effort of eating all but an emergency portion of rice and some powdered carbonara sauce. The pack will be its lightest since leaving Abisko over a week ago. There’s another tent near the shelter that fills me with questions. I’m curious about where the person or persons came from, where they are heading and how far they’ve come. I’ve also realised that wandering off and hiding in the woods may not have been essential. Still, had a reasonable (and ridiculously long) nights sleep. Should make it to Porjus in around 4 hours today and going to try and work out how to change my walking gait to help my shin muscles. Time to pack and hit the road…

I ran along the road trying to imagine what it would be like to have the reindeer herders still here. Their tents scattered on the marshes and wandered about how they carried everything and coped with the constant wet ground. The views where few, barred by the pine and spruce, but it was pleasant enough. Before long, I spot a car in the distance travelling parallel to me…
The main road! I can’t say I was ever as happy seeing a road before. I ran up the hill leading to it. ‘Porjus 6km, Jokkmokk 53km’ said the sign ahead. I turned right and begun the speedy march south. Intervals were called for to control the excitement. One song run, one song walk, and for a change the long Prog Rock tracks didn’t all fall on the runs when there was a hill. Around 10 I hit Porjus. A grill bar tempting me in, but I wanted the shop. Can’t afford such luxuries yet. I head a little along the road, walking slowly behind an old lady with a bike and some shopping bags. There’s the shop ahead. I cross the road and go in and first thing I see are biscuits!  

I buy some, then some ham, cheese, bread, dallas salad (a rather tasty mix of a white type creamy sauce, pineapple, Apple and chicory I think), chocolate, coffee, a standard sized (giant!!) pack of crisps, one beer, and some coconut butter! The last thing on that list was a reflex purchase… At 730cals per 100g it’s the most calorific item I saw and it works well in coffee and on bread.

I head out, sit in a bus shelter and start to eat. An old man asks me have I come and where I’m heading. I tell him, describing my route as he asked me to, and he says he can picture the end of my journey on a map, but can’t remember it’s name. I tell him but it falls on deaf ears. He wishes me luck and wanders off. I do the same, pack and wander out of Porjus heading south. 18km done so far and I will do a little more before I stop. The road meanders, I wander off it a couple of times to look at the gorge hidden in the trees. Once a raging torrent gouged the rock but now it is just a gentle trickle, having been dammed further up to provide electricity. Another dam and behind it the river bed lays dry. I’m struck by mans ability to hangs his landscape. The wild untamed north is no longer untamed, even though I’m still in Lapland, or at least the Swedish equivalent, Lapino.

Here I check the map. The road snakes. I take a direct route and head south west. Up a hill and towards the woods and at first it seems my way is barred. Then a trod. The faint sign of a deer footprint heading up the hill. I get on it and head up. It feels good to meander in the woods and off the road. I can feel the effort of it warming me up and my ice cold hands get a bit of colour back. The road appears ahead and I walk on to it. A rail crossing, thoughts of others ideas that the junctions of different transport methods could be the portals to other dimensions, intrigued by how close the railway is to the road and that there is no barrier between the two, and then a shack!

I stop. I look. I wander over. I look in…

A table, 3 benches, a wood burner, a bin on the wall and a box in the corner. I chance the door and it opens. I’m in. I’m in and I’m going to sleep here. It will be dark soon and there is no sign of anyone having been in this shack for some time.  

I check the map. I need water and there is no water near by. 500m away. A stream. I run off leaving everything behind. I veer into the woods of the dirt track, find the stream, collect some water. Water that I’m going to have to voile before drinking. I turn 180 and head back to the track…

Where did the track go?

Bog, then woods, then more bog, more woods, a clearing, power lines, bog…

I stop. I know I’m lost. The fact that I’m lost baffles me. I didn’t turn 180 is the obvious cause. I breath a deep breath in, hold it for a second and slowly let the breath out as silently as I can and I focus on listening…

There it is… The sound of car directly ahead of me. I now have a bearing and I head straight for it. Before long I see the train track and the road. I place a bet with my self that the shack is just a few meters to the right and if not… I’d get a plane back tomorrow. 

The shake is to the right and I emerge onto the train track about 10m from it. I run back, hoping my kit is still there and it is. Now I boil water, I eat ham, cheese and bread with Dallas salad. I drink a beer and I sleep. Tomorrow I will travel south again. I will search for wifi and check how McJob food I need before leaving Jokkmokk, making a note of all the places that I can get food from along the way. It looks like another gap between food places and the promise… The delightful promise of a heavy pack again. 

Days 42 To 48 – Mountains & Men

Before you read, here’s some pictures of the days that are described below.  They don’t do the terrain, conditions or beauty of the place justice but I don’t think anything other than the real thing ever would.



Day 42

Leaving Abisko felt good.  I couldn’t wait to get the tent setup, get in bed and sleep without anyone snoring or coughing or farting.  Obviously, I may do all these in my sleep but I’ve never woken myself up.

The trail was easy to follow and I already knew what to expect and that’s probably why it went by so quickly.  Before I knew t I was sat at AbiskoJaure, having a handful of walnuts and a drink of Tailwind.  A couple decided to check themselves out and preformed the odd ritual of straightening hats or headwear, checking make up and general preening behaviour, but what was odd is the fact that they did so over my head!  The girl, false eyelashes coated in a layer of mascara declare ‘looking goooooood’ and they both wandered off!

This was my signal to move on.  The trail to Unna Allakas strated well and became less and less used.  At one point I wanders through a deserted collection of huts and for some reason I felt the need to sneak my way through.  The trail climbed and the birch trees became more and more stunted until replaced by the dwarf variety and finally by grasses.  I had climbed above the tree line and I could see the incredible landscape around me.  All was coated in yellow, orange or red with the odd section of light green.  This land looks great with its autumn coat on.

I sat and ate some more walnuts with a small herd or reindeer close by.  I hadn’t been fuelling properly.  I’d just plodded on, running, walking and forgetting that I need the calories. Unna Allakas was the meal point but the hut was locked and I don’t have a key, so a meal here wasn’t going to happen. I left, heading to the next cabin at Cunojavri.  The 5km passed real quick, and with the group of 40 noisy school kids there I ate a meal and moved on. A nice flat spot of moss next to a stream, a view of mountain with an amazing glacier flowing down from its peaks, another quick meal and then sleep.

Day 43

6pm and my alarm went off.  Time to find a tent spot and it wasn’t long before I did.  Next to a river on a path of soft moss.  A brief glimpse of the sun, a few moments staring in awe at the glacier flowing out of the mountain to the east, another meal and straight into bed. 

Oddly, despite the good weather and being warm, I kept waking up every few hours.  I think this is the poor fuelling and pushing to almost 50km.  This made day 43 hard to begin with.  The section to Canhavagihytta was hard going.  The fact that it was almost entirely uphill and arrived at roughly 900m didn’t help but the tired legs from day 42 made the climbs painfully slow.

Once I got there, I stopped, ate breakfast, the butter, which is actually a block of coconut oil, a meal and some nuts, dried and warmed my feet and I debated whether I should stay.  The weather wasn’t great but it was turning very wet and to accompany the wet, very windy.  At 1pm I left.  The next section was non stop scramble and boulder hoping, and you never knew whether the rock you stepped on was in place solidly or you would end up teetering back wards and forward or from side to side.  More climbing, up passed 1000m and the terrain levelled out.  Huge craggy peaks and ridges on either side and the rain pouring diagnose into my face, assisted by the wind. 

The descent took me to a collection of round rocks. Rocks that resembled bubbles that had grown from the ground but never burst before they solidified.  On top of them, a myriad of other smaller rocks, all doing impossible balancing acts.  The trail dropped lower and I crossed a small concrete dam, then a bridge that was exposed on both sides but quite sturdy and finally I reach a rocky dirt track.  I follow it and it becomes the to of a huge rocky dam, climbs, descends and then climbs again before I find the trail, heading south towards the Swedish boarder.  Surprisingly the trail went higher.

As it passed 1000m I was in the clouds, following a trail with the painted stacks of rock when I could only see 3-4m ahead.  This was more luck and guess work than any kind of skill.  The climb seemed to go on forever, but then it reached a rocky plateau, meandered and then dropped out of the clouds.  Skoaddajavrihytta wasn’t far, but I didn’t dare hope it was close by.  I convinced my self the trail climbed over a hill and dropped to the big lake in the sitance but then suddenly…

A set of cabins appear ahead.  The sense of relief is immense.  At the heights the point, in the rain, wind and clouds, I realised that this wasn’t gonna get any better.  I’m heading into the most mountainous section of the route and I’m doing it at what is the end of autumn and the start of winter.  Thankfully, I have access to a fire so I can dry all my kit, since it’s soaked.  I’ve eaten some food, more than on any of the other days when moving from place to place and now I’m ready to sleep.

Day 44

The day started as always with an alarm. I looked out the window and all was shrouded in mist! ‘Crap! How the hell am I gonna nav in that?’

Then I touched the window and it turned out I couldn’t see because of the condensation on the window. I laughed but the reality wasn’t that much better. It still rained and visibility was still poor.

I needed to sleep so I did. I stayed in bed till 7, then slowly got everything ready. About an hour or so later I stepped outside. The weather was clearing, the views spectacular and I knew I had some climbing to get done. The scramble of yesterday seemed easy in comparison. Big boulders make for straight forward foot and hand placement, but today, the strange rounded rocks that I marvelled at yesterday, were the route. Up I climbed, following an invisible line marked periodically by red dots on rocks. This is the highest I’d passed through the mountains and the cold wind reminded me that winter is coming, and it’s coming fast. Wet feet, cold hands and still I moved on. I was going to have a shorter day today and get my head in gear. I needed information if I was going to change route and just run the continent. The descent was crazy! No trail to follow, steep and a mixture of jagged loose boulders and smooth round rocks, the scale of which has to be seen to be believed.

I drop down off the mountain and begin to follow a road. Ahead I spot a telephone mast on top of one of the many giant peaks. I message Peter and explain my thoughts.  

‘I hate to say it but maybe you should get on a road and head south to get ahead of winter’

I agree with him and feel a sense of relief. I know that I’m likely to be criticised for the decision, but really, to cover the route at the pace I needed to stay ahead of the weather and certain things need to be done different (‘all in the learning’ I hear the voice of Tom, the running hobo) This is another point that I came to terms with over the last two days…

This is a decision that has been difficult to accept as I open myself up to criticism, but the point is I know it’s the right decision. Earlier decisions have led to this point and the need to make this difficult decision, but that’s why we do these things… To learn from mistakes, to allow ourselves to accept failure and to use t as a spring bored, to evolve and become something new. The point of this adventure or the main purpose was to run the length of Europe. The more I followed the E1 and saw what is defined as a trail in these parts, the more I understood that the idea of following a set route between two points is just for racing or setting an FKT. I’m doing neither. I’m travelling, as minimalist as I can and as fast as conditions and terrain allow.

I may attempt the E1 another time, but for now, I’m content with running the length of Europe.

I have no idea if it’s been done before or not, I don’t know my route and I find this kind of exciting. So I’m sat filled with a mix

of emotions…

Disappointment from having to stop following the E1 and the potential of having let people down.

Relief from being released from having to follow it, since I know that within 100km I have no way of continuing to follow it without adding 100s of km skirting around lakes (ferries no longer run between some points on the trail) and with no chance of food without huge detours. 

Excitement! I don’t know what’s coming. I don’t know the place names or the route I’m going to follow, but I do know that as I head to southern Sweden, I’ll be rejoining the E1 trail.

I’ve stood in front of 100s of pupils and said ‘if what you’re trying isn’t working, try something else!’ So now I think it’s time to listen to my own advice.  

To anyone disappointed in my decision I can only offer a shared sense of disappointment, since I’m know it’s the right decision, and I’ve made it at a point where I can change route. My shoulders are sore but I think I’m ready to take the criticism of early choices and decisions made. I did say, adventure for adventures sake, and chasing after a route like the E1 was unintentional marinaded in ego. The mountains deserve more than an ego driven activity. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I understand Tom J’s hashtag at a whole new level…

#servingtheapprenticeship 

So my plan is simple…

Step one, head back to Gautelishytta.

Step two, head to a place called Ritsem.

Step three, head to the furthest southern point of Europe.

Day 45

Today I met Bert. He was staying in one of the cabins and wandered in. A quick chat and it appeared he was heading towards Paurohytta, my original route and he also told me there’s a trail from Roys Vatn to Ritsem. So, my plan changed. I decided to follow the trail to Paurohytta, an unknown route which is longer, as apposed to going back on trails I’d been on. He set off before me, and since I had a bit of a damp and cold night I stayed in the cabin, ate one ration pack, drank 2 coffees and waited for my sleeping bag to dry. I caught him after about an hour of wandering along the trail. We chatted for a while along the trail and I stayed with him till we reached a hut at the half way point. A quick meal, some soup made of veg stock, a tea and it was time to move on again. I kept my own pace and arrived at Paurohytta by 3pm. It was great to run and the mountains ahead look incredible! Huge glaciers covers one of the mountains across the lake. The boat is there, although only one of them (we wandered over to check they were there and all that remains of the second boat is an oar).

Now it’s time to relax. Tomorrow, we’ll cross the lake in the boat and I’m so relieved I don’t have to swim!! After I reach Roys Vatn I’ll decide whether to keep going to Ritsem (around 60km in total) or stop and do the 40km trail to Ritsem the day after. I can’t really carry on the trail since the ferries, even the one at Ritsem that would take me across the lake, are closed for the winter season. It’ll be a blast on the roads, travelling from food source to food source and then rejoining the trail further south. Norway will be an adventure of the future, since there is an end to end challenge here. Something that’s going to become a bit of a hobby.

Bert was kind enough to share some of his food and in return I paid for the food he provided. We sat, chatted, discussed route options and whether there would be good or not. So now, I know where I’ll be in two days time but after that, it all depends on where the food is. I’ll hang on to my rations for a little longer instead of eating them. 8 ration packs left and around 250g of coconut oil at the moment. They would get me from here to the first major town along the road or with a little addition of some extra calories, get me from saltoluokta to kvikjokk, sticking to a trail that head due south. All is in the hands of the adventure gods.

Day 46

Another morning and a clear sky. The moon hung low over the glacier, high on top of be mountain, it’s light reflected in the lake we would have to cross today. We woke and avert made a huge breakfast of muesli, fruit and nuts, which I had some of too. Then it was a quick clean up and one to leave. We headed out along the shore of the lake, along the top of the rocks leading to the shortest gap between the two shores and arrived at the boat. In the water it went, I got in, I got out quickly.

There was a hole at the front and water was rushing in at a rate that would mean the slightest delay in crossing and we would be sunk. ‘Jesus tape’ sprung out of my mouth and the out of my pack. The underside of the the boat dried and gaffatape placed all over the crack in the hull. The boat returned to the water and the flow of water was far less. We both got in, aimed into the wind and Beet starts rowing. We reached be other shore fairly quickly and Bert decided he’d head back to collect the packs. He struggled with the oars, the part of the boat he insisted on calling the rows. I watched completely helpless, recording his passage across the small gap and he arrived at the other shore, put our packs into the boat and headed back. This bit was worrying. The front of the boat was loaded and it pointed downwards. If the boat filed with water, everything I needed to survive would be lost to the lake. Bert would also be wet and need help, but all this was pointless worry. He made good time and was at the shore in the blink of an eye. We then walked together, no rush to arrive at the hut and each doing his own thing. The views were amazing beneath a warm blue sky as we passed mountains and lakes. A quick break here and there, a stop for a speedy lunch and I decided to head on alone. The first 10km passed quickly but then the already poor trail markings became worse. It was like trying to spot a needle in a needle stack. Finding the route was more guess work and the trail seemed to be completely unused. More a product of people just making their own way through the damp miss covered rock fields than from lack of use, if truth be told. Eventually, with 2km to go there was a steep, rocky climb. It was more like a slab climbing session than walking or running. Trail marking non existent and I somehow managed to arrive at the lake. Across it, on the opposite shore I spot the hut!?  

‘How the hell have I ended up on the wrong side of the lake?!’ 

Baffled and annoyed I have to decide… Left round the lake or right round the lake?  

I head right, judging it to be the shortest distance and head off. Swear words start to trickle from my lips, falling on the moss covered ground as annoyance at the poorly marked trail, tiredness and the need to stop take hold. I look ahead and see more climbing to be done and suddenly there it is…

The cabin I was looking for!? 

I was too far south, my view blocked by glacial shaped rock mounds and that why I didn’t see it. I ran to the cabin, the normal routine of hunt for food, fire and boil water kicked in and I could see a trail marking I should have followed. I wandered if Bert would have the same problems navigating…

14 years he’s hiked in Norway and has the experience of the land I lack. If he finds the hut easy then I have some learning to do.

An hour later, he arrives, annoyed and tired. He had the same problems as I did.

This place (RoysVatn) has a sauna!?!

I’d got it ready and I spend about 5minutes in there before feeling like I was about to explode and ran out, to the river and a icy dip and wash! I amused myself sitting in the toilet that was purposefully aimed at the view scored the lake and then after eating went to sleep. A day that took more from me than I realised, having an unquenchable thirst and falling asleep at 7pm?!

Day 47

I woke early, the sun was beginning to paint the sky as it headed upwards and it was time to get up. Bert ate the same large muesli breakfast and shared some pumpernickel bread with me. I stashed some away for later. I have around 200km to run before a guaranteed food source and only 5 ration packs left. Ritsem should have food but the hut may be shut. I’ll find out in 45km if there is food and if not, there will be some serious road running to be done before I reach food. Glad I know I can cover the distance on only 700cal per day!?

Turns out that the flat route was actually rather hilly and tough! Felt great running down out of the mountains, meandering through the birch forest and reaching the 20km point. ‘This is the flat section. Should be easy’ were my thoughts based on what Bert had described the route as.

It was big and marshy to start and then began the hills. Nothing too big but repeatedly going up 50-100m and then descending again into marshy rejoins. At 30km I could feel the lack of calories. I tried to use music to get me to sip Tailwind regularly but the amount of concentration needed to follow the trail meant that I still ended up not having as many calories as I should. I sat at a shelter, head down, eyes closed and wandered how the hell I was going to get 200km from here!?

If there was no food at Ristem then I would have a grad total of 600cals per day. The Kungsleaden would also be a definite no go because of the lack of information. So I moved on, slower than I think I’ve moved so far, each step down or up hill feeling like they’re were on the steepest hill possible. I would walk… I would crawl, since the pace I was keeping was no more than a crawl, until around 7, when the light would be fading and find a spot to camp on.  

The views where incredible as always and I could see rain heading my way across the lake. It had arrived earlier, but the fatigue meant it didn’t really register until now. Movement in the valley below!!

Elk! 3 of them. One large one and two smaller ones and they’ve heard my grumblings, because they were moving away. Just 10m away too!! They were bigger than I expected and amongst the dwarf birch they looked like Giants.

I decided it was time to stop. Stop on a positive note having finally seen the elk, I set up camp, ate sparingly (roughly 25g of coconut oil and one ration pack) and went to sleep. I was less than 5km from Ritsem, but the light was fading fast and I was tiring more with every step.

Day 48

I woke early as always and stayed in bed till 7. A bite of coconut oil and I got out, packed away everything and some time after 8, I left, heading for Ritsem. The trail was no different but luckily is covered all of the major climbs, which meant an easier start to the day. Then I saw it in the distance. A collection of caravans, a telephone mast and a hand full of wooden cabins. I ran down, hoping that the STF hut, where I’d find the shop, was still open. If starved myself the previous day just in case it wasn’t. I ran off the trail and onto the road, then made a turn up a hill to the STF fjallstation. A dog!!

‘There’s people here so I can ask about food.’

The dog began to bark and the owner, a young lad, pops out, apologises about the young dog and tells me the shop is officially closed but I can get some food if I need and stay the night. Result!

I buy a meal, a sit and eat it, chatting with him about his trip along the length of Sweden last year, he asks about my timing.

‘The snow will arrive soon and even Germany can be very cold in the winter’

I explain that originally my plan was to be further with at this point and I will just have to make do and get extra as I need it. Then I buy more food for the next section. A long section of road.  

The Kungsleaden would be a risk. The boats that are used to cross the 2 big lakes may not be there. There’s no exact date when they will be moved away for storage, but it is any time now so I can take the risk of not being able to continue on the trail, create more delay by making my own route up on a landscape that makes it almost impossible in places to pass, or I could take a route guaranteed to be open…

The road.

But I have food for the next 200km, know that the going will be easier, food along the route more likely and that I can continue south. The rest of today, I’ll be eating, sleeping and drying my kit, ready to begin my assault of the roads. I’ve covered 205km in one week, taking the total distance travelled to 940km. I’m conscious that I need to get my weekly average closer to 350km, and hopefully, the predictable surface of the road will allow the break in my foot pad to heal. I’ve carried that injury from before Nedrefoss, so it would be good to have it heal and stay healed. The trails can wait for a while.  

Day 42 – Predicting The Future

I would like to share the following as I sit here on day 41…

I will see no one as I travel south in the most round about way you can imagine.

I will make my own trail where non exists, or I will develop the ability to walk on water.

I will get tired, I may experience aches and pains (not sure what the difference is but a phrase that’s used often) and I will eat way more than you think is possible.

I will love every minute of it.  I will miscommunicate the actuallity of doing this.  I have no way to convey the ease or difficulties of following this trail.

I will get cold, I will warm up, I will get wet and I will be dry.

Most importantly, I won’t be feeling any hardship.  No matter what I put, people expect it to be hard and really, if you think about it, it’s not that hard.  Just takes a long time.  I got sucked into this hardship mentality, the feeling sorry for yourself and placing ones lower lip so far down that it collects the dirt at your feet.

This isn’t hardship.  This is living.  This is experiencing a level of life that is challenging yet deeply comforting.  I won’t feel the pain you would after a hard race, because I won’t push that hard.  I will always keep a little back.

A friend once said ‘you bring a deep sense of joy to running, but you should remember to hold a little back’

Raj… Thanks for the reminder.  I always have kept a little back but your words ring in my ears when I see a tough section of trail and the urge is to battle it.  Instead, I go with it.  Roll with its punches, slide along its contours and move as though we are connected in some deep way. 

Hopefully as you read this I will be looking upon a landscape that is seldom touched by man.  A landscape that shapes those who tread upon it.  A landscape that is neither loving or hostile, but simply is what it is.  A state that maybe I’ll reach by the time I finish, warts and all.  

Have an fantastic week and remember…

#RunningSucks
On a more philosophical note…

We are all capable of things beyond our grasps and the only thing that places them there, is our choice to deny ourselves the chance.

Can’t remember if I read that or thought it but there it is.  Some words of motivation for those that feel they need a push😉

Day 38, 39, 40 – Nothing To See Here

Nothing to see here…

An obvious lie.  There’s several mountains to visit, a huge lake to explore, a myriad of trails to follow and more view than you can shake a stick at.  I also appear to be writing from the future since day 40hasnt even arrived yet.  

I seem to have allowed myself to wallow in frustration for a few days.  It’ll be nearly 14 days of waiting by the time I leave but I seem to feel ok about it, despite rants galore!  All of it is down to perspective and the simple act of emptying a mind through movement. 

Yesterday I ran the first 14km of my route out of here, arrived at AbiskoJuare, stopped for a few seconds, breathed, turned around and ran back.  The injury to the shin was still stuck in my brain.  My shin muscle contract involuntarily, keeping my footat a rigid 90°, and I could feel the muscle tiring and starting to stiffen up.  The trail itself was an intoxicating mix of colours and smells.  Birch, pine, aniseed, mud. All made each breath a delight.  The focus was simple…

Relax.  Cadence, breathing, silent, springy.  First the right leg relaxed and allowed the foot to recoil like a spring, then the legs lifted the feet, avoiding pushing off and then it was there.  A gentle loping.  Picking spots in the distance for each foot fall and then like a game of wham-a-mole, slapping my feet on each and every spot.  I saw hikers and runners and I must have been smiling, because I was greeted with smiles.n

I stopped by the river, listening to it roar in my ears and remove the background noise and smells of people.  Then I finished the run back to the hostel.  My legs felt used.  I didn’t feel like I’d gone particularly fast, but when I look at the tracked run I find nearly 1000m of climb. Amusing…

That’s in the first 14km since the route was uphill one way and down the other.  It felt good to have the endorphins rushing around in my blood.  The rest of the day would involved watching time pass.  Some food, some drink, then sleep.

Today, after two coffees, I ran the same trail.  Faster and shorter.  Finding that place between a love for running and hating running.  Focused on breathing deep, on landing lightly and on the feeling that you are floating effortlessly along.  A breakfast, shower, some food, some drink, watching traditional Lappis chanting, a speech in Swedish about Abisko National park and a conversation with the old fella I share my room with.

It seems that the young all believe their journey is the longest and the toughest, where as the old simply recount tales of their adventures in the mountains.  Those in the middle ask the question, stare in disbelief and then wander away, at a loss for words.

Tomorrow will be a simple day.  All will be washed, dried and packed.  My room booked for Monday as a precaution against a tent that doesn’t materialise and so that I can check the tent before leaving.  I know after just 4km I will again be alone.  No social media, no contact with the outside world and ahead will be the last 1270km of Norway.

Realistically, a trip that should have taken 7 months max, is likely to take longer.  I was 8 days behind schedule on arriving and now nearly 14 days have passed as I’ve sat waiting.  There’s still a part of me that wanders if the wait was necessary. There’s a part that wanders about the adventure ahead as the regular ferry services that link parts of the trail are shut down and I will not pay £80 per ferry crossing.

And I get to repeatedly face the only thing I seem to be genuinely and irrationally scared off…

Deep water in shape of river crossings and marshes!! I’ve crossed a fair few deep patches of water so far and on the wider ones I could feel the need to get out building.  I even had a break on one of the more recent crossing, squatted on a rock while I got my head together for the last bit.  Odd what we get scared of!!

If all goes well, the tracker will turn on on Tuesday and the 7 days stint in the wilds of Norway will start.  A new tent, some fetching Swedish wool long johns, a pair of woolly mittens (which are called hand shoes in Gemrnay! 😂) and some nice warm neoprene tabi socks for those high mountain passes that insist on ice and snow to be present.

So until I begin to move towards that end post, skirting the base of Mount Etna as I reach the final 50km of the E1, here’s to being intelligent enough to realise that really, info think about it for just a second …

I really have no reason complain.

Day 38 – Thougts

I sat and thought a bit last night…

Thoughts that followed frustration at things that should really have not been a source of frustration. 

The first was as follows…

You’re frustrated but you know you will collect and leave regardless.  You won’t delay your progress south any longer so is the frustration actually rather misplaced and misfelt?  An answer that I am intrigued by.  Can you be calm yet frustrated?   A kind of serene anger that just needs a quick outburst and is then gone, leaving behind the commitment to what is being done or achieved.

The second is different…

Something is different about my mentality.  The few days of true wilderness, whether alone or not, has forged something deep within my psyche that I didn’t think was possible.  The greed for solitude in the mountains burns bright and the need for comfort is dim.

The final part is stranger…

I am consumed by a need to get closer to the end of this trail.  Contemplations of changing the route have occurred.  I’ve discussed it with Pete, Guido and Steve, but I know that deep down…  Deeper than the greed for solitude, is a fire so bright that it threatens to over take sensibility.  This feeling… This burning will not change until I am at the sign that points North and says ‘E1.  Norway ->’
The distance would be and is irrelevant.  I touched the start of the trail, and regardless, I will touch the end.  Obstacles are appearing on a daily basis, the seasons change, but still I need to move forwards.  Step after step, breath after breath.

It is how we were made.  He ability to move and express our true selves through the movement.  A characteristic that I seem to hold in high regard.  

All of the above are words before a moment of true clarity…

I tried to get in a hammock.  Somewhat effected by the alcohol coursing through my veins I just got in the hammock.

I am on the floor.  I am laughing out loud.    I return to the hammock, slower… More aware… and I realise something…

Something that pretty obvious.

We wander through our lives, busily blinded by what is there for us to have.  The sense of peace and a joy found in nature.  We just muffle its song with our devices and actions.  I lie on the hammock. I stare at the yellowing birch leaves above and I feel the need to remain  there.  I sleep.  Out in the open, in only what I have on and it feels strangely good.  The cold is comforting, the breeze a gentle whispered lullaby.  This is what I have denied myself in my decisions.  The simplicity of nature. 

Day 37 – Lacking In Adventure

Well…

Since I’m distinctly not adventuring in the hardcore Discovery Channel, look at my rippling muscles sense of the word, I thought I’d see what I remember of the journey to its current state of purgatory…

Summarised in as few words as possible…

Wind

Cost

Trail markings

Rocks

Reindeer

Cairns

Marshes

Tunnel

Deafening noise

Sea

Lake

Eagle

Bilberries

Rivers

Streams

Hills

Rain

Bogs

Spate, all is in spate

Trail, a visible trail

Lost, Tears & Relief

Acceptance & Reset

Solo, Running, Singing, Hopeful

Disappointment, resignation, continuation

Avoiding disaster x2

Communing with a stag

A niggle, a trail from dreams

Pasta saves the day

Loneliness born from pain

Blinding pain, stubbornness

A breakfast of milk powder and rapeseed oil

Friendship of the Knights, generosity of the Finnish

History in Lapland 

First touches of Autumn

A moment behind a waterfall

In the frozen shadows of mountains

A land carved by ice and moulded by water

Oil for cooking, not for the body!

The first contact with the ignorant

The hidden touch of man

Snow

The Lappis nestled in the side of mountains

Unbearable self created heat

The touch of butterflies

Lonesome bees on mountain flowers

Tiredness

Pause

Frustration 

A day on a mountain, racing the river

Something new that was hidden

Wise words from another

Learning patience…

Day 36 – Searching For Answers

Turns out the frustration, the anger, the rage…

All stem from fear and doubt.

Fear that my location, my route and the time of year mean that I will face a beast that bares icy teeth, and doubt.  Doubt that I am the right person for this task I’ve set.  

Then I watch a short film… Listen to the words of Johanna Nordblad… Think about what she has achieved and her words…

‘There is no place for fear, no place for panic and no place for mistakes’

And then more words…

‘There is nothing like taking a walk to make up your mind.  Or for making you accept an obvious solution, however challenging it might be’ Frederick Gros, Philosophy of walking

A few pieces of a bigger puzzle slot into place…

I need to harden my resol….

No I don’t. To harden is to become rigid, single minded.  I need to let go.  I need to allow events to take place and observe them.  Open and with a plasticity of mind that allow me to respond as needed.  I need to get myself in the cold for the next few days and get used….

No I don’t!  I need to be prepared for the changing conditions.  The loss of light, the need for a minimum pace through the  mountain passes.  

But there is no escape from the conditions once I am up there…  Lady winter cares nothing for my existence.

There is no room for fear, panic or mistakes.  I have no need to doubt myself.  I haven’t lost control because the control I had was an illusion that I created myself, to allow some sort of comfort, when in actuality, the mountains have been the controlling factor.  They decided the conditions, the terrain and the sources of food and water.  I just decided when to start and when to stop.  Nothing more and nothing less.

So, a promise and decision , from a mind that takes promises and decision seriously.  Gives them more importance than maybe they should have…

My goal is to let go.  Not to create the illusion of having released myself from the need for control but to truly let go and be.  Present in each moment, blending time passed into a palimpsest of experience.

No room for fear, no room for panic and no room for mistakes.  

Day 35 – Delays = Decisions 

There’s a few bits to this adventure that have come to light.

The trail further south of me (around 250km south) needs the assiatance of ferries to complete.  Then the section after is an unmarked route, i.e there is no route but a suggested set of huts that allow someone to walk around 10-15km and have somewhere for shelter.  The last bit of these nuggets of info is that the seasons for walking in the mountains is at an end.

I’ve looked at the surrounding mountains everyday and the snow they proudly disabled is gone for now.  Only those sections, earned through years of cold remain.  But speaking to those arriving from the south, the mountains are cold, I will have to deal with ice and the likelihood is that I will see the Sun, but only on rare occasions.

So the decisions are all caused by delay.  It’s like a bit of a self perpetuating cycle.  The early decision, led to delay, which have in turn, fed the need for decision and so on.

My plan is simple…

Have some plans, with the intention of abandoning them, twisting them and redesigning them as things happen.  There is no sign of the tent yet so gathering information and resources is all I can do.

Next time… I may decide differently, but for now, I sit content with the decisions, acknowledge the frustration as a readiness to continue and smile at the fact that I made the decision to start this journey, even though it feels stalled.  

Now, I’m going to attempt the impossible…

Shaving my head, with the cheapest of razors, with out the aid of a mirror!!