Day 29 – Question

I’ve managed to do nothing more than adapt my pack.  It is too small to accommodate everything I need, as minimal as it may appear, along with the food I need.  

A couple of hours of stitching and new straps are added, new loops added for some compression cord and the ability to free up space in the pack for food.  Not the best sewing, but adequate.  Yet, as I place each stitch I think of a few days ago.  Days filled with what I thought was excruciating pain.  Pain so intense that I was tempted, even though only slightly tempted, to stop.  To say no more.

Question is why didn’t I?

What is t that’s driven me passed that point and was that a defining moment in setting my mind and resolution in concrete.  I can only see the journey ahead.  No points along it.  No final destination and no solution to the potential problems that lie ahead.  An odd mindset to be in.  So sure of the journey but unsure of the path.  

For now, I’ll leave the thoughts to swirl around, sink into and  rise from the subconscious, and wait for the trigger.  The external input that catalysed a chain of thoughts that lead to an answer.

I also have to say thanks.  A word that never seems to hold the import that it should.  Over used, under valued and in now way adequate to describe the sense of gratitude and the humbling that it entails.   Thanks to all for the support you show, for a fool hardy idea, the gamble of a lifetime and the pursuit of a simple act…

The act of showing that we should lead by example as apposed to through flamboyant and well crafted words.  

So from the depths of my soul and with every word that flows from mind to fingers and onto the screen, I thank you.
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Day 27 & 28 – Fuel, No Fuel

I’m sat in a hostle and partly feeling guilty for it.  I will be here another two nights. But the reason and thought process behind it is intriguing me.  I argued that I was being weak and seeking comfort because of it.  Turns out, after a few things caught my attention and I did a little maths, the argument was pointless.
Day 27 started with some food.  In fact, I ended day 26 and proceeded to eat 3 bowls of muesli (make with watery powdered milk) and then a ration pack.  The last that I carried.  I my head, I had eaten like a king but day 27 proved otherwise.

I started by running.  The trail ran downhill so it seemed the sensible thing to let gravity do most of the work.  The trail flattened.  I still trundled on, taking a very short break to eat a small handfull of bilberries, taking a picture of the beautiful lake and mountains and carrying on.  Then the first hill…

My legs felt like lead.  They felt tired on the down hill and flat but I had to pause on an uphill that was no more than 30m.  Then the next uphill followed by a flat section and I had to pause again.  I felt drained.  As though I had run 100km and this was the low point where I realise I didn’t fuel enough for the last hour.  The desperation shuffle was engaged, but even this pathetic and last resort running was difficult to maintain.   I reach halfway and the trail markings magically change colour.

Gone is the splats of red paint interspersed with the occasions red T, only to be replaced by splats of blue and white and more finger posts that I have ever seen, pointing in every which direction and leading to anything from a bench to a shelter.

I follow in the hope that it’s the right trail.  I know Abisko is east and the trail is heading east, so I follow it.  Every few minutes my brain screams at me for sleep.  I drink the last of my Tailwind.  ‘I just need sugar’ I tell myself,  but after a good glug there is still nothing there but the urgent need to sleep.   I plan to stop of a suitable spot appears off the trail.  

‘That bit there’ I tell myself, but on arriving it is an area of muddy wetness.  Then a sign… Abisko 13km.

I keep moving.  A mistake as I start to feel that odd wobbly state that only comes from severe fatigue, but I step on and with each step feel more and more uncoordinated.  More tailwind drunk.  Still refusing to stop.  There’s 5k left… Keep moving even if a walk.  

The trail become a thin single track with vegetation that threatens to takebakc the land.  My sandal… The right sandal connects squarely with a rock hidden amongst the foliage.  A pain that I thought I’d left behind burns through my right leg and I stumble for a few steps…

I walk with a limp for a few steps, breathing deeply…

I walk without the limp…

I swear at myself for the carelessness…

I start to run again.  Purposefully focusing on relaxing my right leg and foot.  I still want to stop and sleep.   A nice deep sleep for just a few minutes.  A sign ahead says ‘Abisko Touriststation 4km’

I run passed in disbelief!!  

‘That was no way just 1km!? For fucks sake!?’

I carry on, refusing to pause for more than a few seconds. The trail drops and skirts the lake.  It’s a huge lake.  Bigger than the man made monstrosity at Altevashytta, and it is surrounded by big peaks.  I try to run but the legs refuse and the run is a walk.  

A huge river courses below as I cross a bridge and I am at my destination.  5km earlier I battled with myself.  I’ll have a rest day tomorrow was the thought that started the battle.

‘You’re wanting a rest day because your just being soft.  You can’t really afford it and your still moving so you don’t really need it.’

‘But you feel wobbly as and if you’re not careful, you’ll gg injured by doing something stupid.  The next leg is long and remote.  Take longer and you’re gonna run out of food and be in the shit’

‘You just need to eat and you can do that today.  It’s not that late and the shops only 2.5km away from where you’re planning on stopping.   You’ll be screwed if you stop inside.  Camp!’

‘I can’t sort my kit in the tent, or stay as warm, or sort leg.  Two nights is one whole day of rest.  Then can sort kit and pick up parcel from shop without rushing’

This went on for the entire 5km, then when I entered the hostle, asked the price, I began to fill in the information sheet they wanted filling.

I struggle to hold the pen.  I struggle to move my arm and write my name.  Tiredness washes over me and I have to really focus just to finish the small amount of writing they’ve requested.

‘I’ll stay two nights please’

I feel less guilt having struggled to write.  I pay… More than I can afford and begin to think things through having purchased some food.

So far I’ve consumed 17 ration packs (500 calories each), eaten two 500g packs of nuts (2000 calories each), eaten around 3000 calories over two days of rest, eaten one small bowl of rice and 4 small bowls of porridge (each around 150 calories) whilst travelling 756km over 27 days.  On top of this there’s been 3000 calories of tailwind.  That’s a total of 16,250calories, which is 601 calories per day, including the 3 days of rest I’ve had so far.

No wait!  Tuuka gave me a couple of meals that were all together 600 calories so the total calories per day is actually 624 calories per day. ūüėā

Today I ran to the shop and back with food, had to return because I needed my passport to collect my parcel, then returned again because, as I got back to the hostle I could feel the fatigue taking hold and that need to sleep again, so decided an extra night was needed.

Now… If Bruce Fordyce read those, he may just slap his open palm to his head!

I realise something is missing.

My bank card is missing.

‘For fucks sake’ is uttered allowed.  My recently picked up Tailwind is dumped at the hostle and I am running back to the shop, searching the trail ahead for signs of my card.

Every wet stone reflects the green of the leaves and I hope it’s my card, but none of them are.  I reache the shop and ask the attendant if I left my card.

He says no and ass for details on my card while he opens the till.

There’s my card.  He’s holding my card I his hand.  He hands me my card and after thanking him I breaths huge sigh of relief.  Someone had found the card in the village and taken it to the shop.  I thanks them again and leave, running back to the hostle.  9 miles I’ve run, and when filling out another forms he same fatigue is there.  I am now a member of the STF because I’ve stayed three nights, or stowaway I will stay three nights.  Whether it is enough or not, I have to move on after.  Time isn’t a problem but funds are going to run out faster the more I have to stop, which means come December time, I will have a new problem to solve.  But that is all it will be…

A proble that will have a simple solution.
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Day 26 – Warning

I wake to the sound of the wind scrabbling at the edge of the cabin.  I’m glad I chose to sleep inside, as the tent would have struggled to cope.  The clouds had moved in and shrouded everything in mist.

‘There is snow… On the mountain’ remarked the cabin attendant.

I look behind me a there, coming out forge distant clouds is a mountain with a new coating of snow.  There is almost a taste of dread in the air…

‘You will go up, up and up.  1000m before you come down’

The words repeat on everyone’s heads.  It will be a wet day, a cold day and a windy day.  The route will climb up and out of the lake valley and over a mountain pass, before a short descent to the next cabin, Lappjordhytta.

I struggled to wake this morning, finding it difficult to sleep well.  This will slow me in the first hour or so.  I set off.  It is later than I would like, but earlier than the others.  I find the trail, follow it as best as I can, choosing better terrain when what I’m faced with involved wet feet.

A river crossing and wet feet are inevitable.  I simply walk through the river, the cold, clear waters filling my tabi socks and cooling my feet.  The rain falls past my head and to the ground and all around me the mountains wear their winter coats.  A dress rehearsal for their winter season.

More height is gained, a tent is passed, the occupant silhouetted against the side and the rhythm of moving takes over.  I drift away, simply responding to what is below my feet, arms tucked behind my back to maximise the warmth of what o wear.  There is no back up.  I can not add layer to stay warm if my body temperature drops.  

A snow flake drifts into my eyeline and floats slowly to the ground.  All around me snow falls the ground and I am now enveloped in the silence that is snow.  A Lappis village appears out of the mist, looking as though it is part of the mountain.  The bogs appear as expected.  I have reached 600-700m. Then the ground turns from bog to a thin layer of newly formed peat.  It is now 800m.

More snow passes me, and I pause.

The mountains are beautiful and I am lost.  I would say lost in though but there was only a stunned silence.  I was heading into a strong wind and from the appearance of the small valley, more snow, yet I stood still.


The call of a Ptarmign wakes me from my empty day dream.  An odd sound.  Like the sound of a wooden rattle.  Reindeer are climbing a ridge line ahead, the snow has stopped, the wind eased and the temperature rises.  I smile.  A tear wells up.  

I think I am extremely lucky, but then remember the work that went into getting here and the risk I have taken.  This is not a result of luck.  We create our ‘luck’ through a simple matter of choice. I chose to put myself here.  The sense of foreboding of th coming snow and inevitable cold of gaining another 100m vanishes.  The land is now jagged rock, snow and ice and still I move on.  

‘I will rest at the next hill top’ is the mantra.  It is a lie and I know it is yet I still utter the words aloud.  

The next hill top arrives and there is another looking in the distance.  I reach it, lacking in any energy. The angle of the slope changes and it is time to wander downhill.  The trail meanders, I lean forwards and let momentum increase my pace to a run.  

Suddenly I stop and drop to my knees.  There are berries here and I feel and uncontrollable urge to eat them.  I have my fill, I stand and I begin to run again.  I am expecting to run to the lake that reflects the light of the sun in the distance but there, directly in front of me is the hut!  

I have arrived faster thank thought.  Inside I find food and so I stay here tonight.  There is a small cabin that is out of the way.  The perfect place to hide, eat and sleep.

Tomorrow I will reach Abisko, collect new equipment, eat fresh food and get ready for the next section of the journey. A section that will prove even tougher than what I’ve travelled through already, and now, with the threat of an early winter. 

Day 25 – Sleep & Pondering


Last night I sat and listened.  The words just sounds, the gestures alien and still I watched and listened.  The light slowly faded, never reaching the point of utter darkness.  Their faces became lost in shadows and I imagined their expressions as they discussed late into the night.

A glow of orange.  A candle is lit. Then another and a third, casting a warm glow across their faces.  Their conversation rarely faltered and the age old game began.  To retire to sleep would mean defeat and besides… I was curious.

A large Easter egg sat atop a cupboard and I was intrigued as to what lay within.

They left, defeated by the one they thought strange.  Not through his actions or mannerisms, but by their judgement of his feet.  Stained brown from countless km in tannin rich bogs.  Their concern was written on their faces.

‘Your feet need to be washed or you will become ill’ one said

‘You would have no problems with your feet or leg if you wore shoes.  In winter I wear wool socks and in summer cotton.’

‘You need shoes like these’ he takes off his shoe and flexes it to show me its quality.  I have no words to explain we are capable of more and that I have just travelled 24 days, with feet in sandals and my injury is from a fall.  Still…  They continue their conversation.  Laughter at stories they are telling before they even reach the middle of their sentences.  I catch the odd word, I glean meaning here and there, still I sit and listen.  Lost in the rhythm of their words and the flow of their language.
Then I realise it is night.  I have not seen stars for 24 days.  I have no seen the black of the night sky.  I step outside and search. The sky is too bright and the stars remain hidden.  A return to the warmth of the cabin and the realisation that the things you have missed are not as I expected.

I have no desire for comforts.  I have yet to utter the words ‘I’d love a nice warm bath’ but I still miss certain things.

I muss the darkness of the night.  I miss the brightness of the stars.  I miss being able to run with friends and others.  To experience is all well and good, but you will never be able to communicate the love, the freedoms, the delightful sense of insignificance that the wilderness brings.  It seems that I stare at the face of an old love but see facets that I never knew existed.  I fall in love anew each day.  Each mountain is the most beautiful I have ever seen.  Each river I cross the most spectacular, each lake the clearest, each stretch of cotton grass the most delicate and each berry the most delicious.

It is sad to think that we took to change her true face.  To bend her to our will and wants as apposed to allow her to just be.  To love like a mountain takes on a deeper meaning everyday I move amongst them. The path ahead grows more difficult.  I have alternatives to the route.  Ones that are safer and easier, but I find no temptation in them.  No desire to lessen the burden.  Only to move, to ponder, to record and one day to share this intense love with someone.  In person, experiencing the same moments as apposed to searching pointlessly for words to describe what it felt like and what it meant to stand, sit or lie for those brief moments.  The uncontrollable urge to pick berries.  The resultant blackening of the hands, the lingering sour taste and the satisfying sensation of having dined on such simple fair. 

But now I catch myself rambling in between sleep.  The thoughts are there, unplanned, lacking in premeditation and to some difficult to grasp in their nebulosity, but what are we if not a collection of our thoughts, experiences and the interactions with others?

My plans (if you can call then that’s) alter each day and now I am aiming at reaching Abisko in two days, allowing my body to absorb what I place into it, working on my leg and reworking my schedule.

A thought from days passed pops into my head!?!

‘I am hunting.  A creature moves ahead and each day I follow.  No footprints, only the prints of others following the same beast.  The only sign of its existence, a red mark on a tree or rock, sometimes easy to see and almost new, other times hidden beneath a layer of fauna or blasted away by the wind.  Still I hunt it each day with no hope of ever reaching it st the end of the day.  Eventually, after many steps I will find it.  Standing still.  Waiting knowingly.  Aware that even though I have finally reached it, I will never be able to capture it in its entirety.  Days will blend together, experiences will hide until a word or smell triggers their presence and the beast will continue to taunt others.  Daring them to give chase.’

For now I will continue to be a shadow.  Present when seen but leaving no trace of my passing.

Day 24 – Only So Many Times…

There’s only so many times I can say the following when describing the landscape…

Beautiful, increible, amazing, delightful, remote, hostile, breathtaking.

They all mean the same thing.  This place is beyond what I expected.  It fills my mind in such a way that there are no deep and meaningful insights into what I am doing.  Any attempt to thing things through gets over powered by one of my senses.  

I sit in the sun, having started in a mountain pass that was anything but sunny.  It rained and I wasn’t bothered.  It was cold and I wasn’t bothered.  I purposefully moved slowly as a rest day, having upped the distance to 35 then 43 the days before.  Today was a simple 32km, at a leisurely pace but I seem to have covered the most difficult part of the day an hour quicker than walking pace!

I arrived at a hut (Gaskahytta) found a bottle of cognac, half full, ate a lunch as I refuse to carry food on the day to Abisko, and then sat wasting time.  I leave and cover the distance an hour or so faster than I though I would!  

I talk to a lady from Switzerland about her  journey.  She asks about mine. 

I tell her where I started and when.

Her eyes nearly pop out of her head.  She asks about today’s trek and I tell her I came from Vuomahytta.  She asks when I left.  Again I tell her and am treated by the same startled, frog eyed fish look.

This happens again when she asks of my plans for the next day.

To me, I am going slow.  To others, I seem to be flying around these fells and other than a healing leg, all feels relaxed and well.  Yesterday and the day o reached Kautokeino are the only days I ended with the feeling of having pushed myself.

What is stranger is that my life as a teacher feels like a distant memory.  As though this has been my life for as long as I can remember.  What a life it would be if we had no need to be a cog in another’s machine?

Day 23 – Waffles

I started early again and as always it was cold.  Not as cold as the clear skied nights but cold.  My legs felt heavy and tired.  There seemed to be no fuel in the tank.  I promised myself a stop and some food at the next hill top, but never stopped.  I ate small handfuls of berries as I went.  They did let seem to do anything.  Still I kept moving determined to get the first 25km done in under 7 hours.

‘Abisko in 3 days’

The trail climbed as it had on previous days but today I had to stop and rest frequently.  I knew I had a steep climb ahead but had no concept of how far.  They I reach a river and see the trail climb steeply from it.  It is time to eat something.  I have 7 ration packs so can spare one.

‘Abisko in 3 days’

I use the wood I collected two days ago to warm some water.  The cold wind means the water is not even tepid when I run out of wood but I make a meal anyway.  Crunchy, salty and fuel regardless of the odd combination of couscous and oriental chicken.  I am getting dangerously cold and I have a wide river to cross.  I step from rock to rock, avoiding the inevitable need to go into the water.  The water burn my feet and makes my legs ache.  I am across and need to move fast so that I can warm up.  I start the climb and push as though in a race.

‘Abisko in 3 days’

The climb plateaus, climbs one last time and ahead I see the hut and the longest descent I have ever seen!  I run.  My quads start to burn and still I run downhill.  A woodland section, meandering, avoiding fallen trees, checking for trail markings and out into the open.  The cabin is ahead.  I have arrived ahead of my planned time.  

I enter the cabin and as always look for food.  I find waffle batter mix, wine, J√§germei√üter, tea, crisp bread, porridge and mash potatoe.  I take it and promise myself some alcohol and waffles if I can make the next 18km in less than 6 hours. 18 of almost constant uphill, climbing to around 800m.

‘Abisko in 3 days’

The climb begins after a river crossing.  I am even given a choice…

Wet feet or head to the bridge and add on 2km.

I pick wet feet.  They are already wet from the bogs.  I wander across, lose my balance, create enough circular motion to allow my additional food to swing around and smack me on the side of the head.  The river gets deeper but I am across, and after a wrong turn I regain the trail.  It climbs and the 14km of uphill begins.

‘Abisko in 3 days’

It seems like I’ve been climbing for hours, unable to see far in the birch woodland and wandering how long before I reach the cabin.  I climb and get above the tree line.  Still no cabin and my leg is hurting after a collision with a branch and an unfortunate twist of my foot that had me at a standstill from the pain.  I am tired.  I am hungry. I am getting cold.

‘Abisko in 3 days’

I set a time… 7pm and I stop, eat and sleep.  I eat some crisp bread and move on, pushing with the renews energy that a quick rest provides.  I swear at the rain and the hill and hold no hope of seeing a chain once I reach its brow.

‘Abisko in 3 days’

To my surprise I see the cabins.  The exhilaration of reaching the end of day takes over and I run.  Fire is made, kettleIs on and I settle down for the eve.  

Tomorrow, a new mantra…

‘Abisko in 2 days’

Day 22 – Unlearning

Cold.  Bitter cold.  Burning, bitter cold.

Clear skies and the height combined meant that the ground, air and water I wandered through were cold.  After an hour my toes burnt and I knew I was walking as though my feet were solid blocks. 

A quick stop, tabi socks on and I started off again.  I can’t say how long it took for the burning sensation to be replaced by warmth, but it did, and just as I was starting to warm in the sun’s light I approached the biggest peak in the area and quickly snuck into its shadow.

The temperature difference was impressive.  Huge sheets of snow clung to the side of slopes and the ground frozen as though the summer sun was powerless here.  It truly felt like entering anther world, enhanced by the yellow cairn marking the border between Norway and Finland.  

I catch the bottom of my right sandal on a rock along the trail.

Pain.  Burning pain.  Debilitating burning pain.

I breath deep, squeeze the muscles in my shin and then start to walk again.  It’s not often I catch my sandals on rocks and it’s not often that it hurts in anyway, but…

The sudden tightening of my leg muscles causes unbearable agony.

I tread more carefully, but regardless…

I slip.

An innocent looking rock was coated in a layer of ice and although the slip was small the same pain ignites in my leg.  I shout.

‘Oh!  Echo!’

I now distract myself my shouting loudly and listening to the echo return.  It works only in giving my leg time to settle.

I realise I’m getting colder.  My feet and hands are starting to burn despite my gloves.  The bog is frozen too, making it unexpectedly a dry feet moment.

Ahead I can see the edge of the mountains shadow.  I move faster, knowing that it will be warmer once I step out of the shadows, and as I do so, I am greeted by a gloriously warm sun, low in the sky and still slightly orange in colour.

The trail climbed and then the descent began.  I tried to run, but again caught my sandal and the pain erupted down my leg, stopping my in my tracks.

I feel my shin muscles and they are tight. I massage them until they loosen and breath through the ache of squeezing sore muscle willing them to relax.  I realise that my movements are anything but relaxed, resembling more a late stage sufferer of syphalis!

‘I need to move smooth, light and easy’

I try it.  Feet relaxed, legs relaxed, arms relaxed, moving as the terrain moves.

It works.  My leg pain eases and I am running again.  I breech a crest of a hill and there is Rostahytta, nestled next to a river and at the base of a beautiful mountain.

I run down to the cabin, open it and search for food.  I have food but it’s nice to get a surprise treat occasionally.  One cabin smells like fired fish, the other some kind of stew and the third smells unused.  The only thin I find is stock for a soup and coffee.

Is it and write in my journal before being joined by an elderly couple.  The lady speaks little Englaih but her husband begins a conversation.  The usual questions…
Where are you going, are you English, how long have you been on the trail?

I answer and he then tells me the following:

  • I will climb to past 1000m today before dropping down to D√¶rtahytta.
  • He has been fishing with his wife for the last 4 days.
  • They live in Tromso and must hike a little before the 75km drive home.
  • Once I pass Abisko I will get very tired from saying hello to all the people on the trail.

The last is amusing, and the first a challenge.  I ignored some 1000m peaks today and to know that I will climb that high just following the trail was almost a challenge.  

‘Get there before 4 and you can eat more’ I tell myself.

The trail from there rose out of the river valley and continues to rise, crossing rivers, skirting lakes and being most larger rocky expanses of land (they reminded me of the rocky sections on Scafell pike and Great Gable).

Then I see some people on the peak ahead, look down at the trail and when I look up…

They’re gone!

‘Hallucinating?  I can’t be halucinating? Maybe I am!’

I move with greater speed hoping his is the last section of climb and as I reach he climbs zenith, there… Ahead… Are a group of hikers.

‘Challenge is on!’

I move faster now, I run, I jump from rock to rock, staying smooth, light and easy, going with whatever the trail provides.

I pass three and say hello to each until the fourth exclaims ‘in… In…’

I finish off the sentence as I carry on running passed,

‘Sandals’ 

A rocky descent, a boggy plateau, a beautifully winding, steep and technical descent and then the home straight.  I can see the hut, it is 3:40 and I have 20mins to cover the mile of rough ground ahead.

15 minutes later I arrive. 

I have a double portion of food and coffee in front if me, realise I have left my journal behind at the last cabin (only a day in it so never mind… I will rewrite t all) and I have the afternoon and evening of beautiful blue skies and sunshine to enjoy.  

It feels good to have rediscovered why I ever ran barefooted.  As if by magic my leg feels far better in the later parts of today than it has in what feels like weeks.  Tomorrow I will see how it feels before continuing further towards Abisko.

Day 21 – Resignation

Morning

Three times I woke in the night.

Three times I clutched my leg, unable to ease the burning pain.

A split second thought about staying till tomorrow.

It passes, the pain remains, I fall back to sleep as the pain reaches a low.

It is 34km to Rhostahytta, and only 14 to Gappohytta.  These distances are small.  These distances are achievable.  These distances will be paid for by pain, joy and awe.

The air is cooler today.  The sun hidden behind a thick blanket of clouds, close enough that I can reach out and touch.  It is time for coffee, to clean and to move on.

Afternoon

Just after 1pm I reach Goskahytta. Not sure why the time matters in the slightest.  The trail here climbed out of the valley around Goldajavri and up towards the mountains.

The peaks I was in admiration of grew closer and closer as the trail snakes it’s way south west.  A steep descent into a dry river bed, with signs of the rivers true power and nature etched on the face of each beautifully carved rock.  A hello to a group of hikers and a steep climb out and along to the next climb.  Up it went.  Slow and meandering, whilst I wandered how best to describe the landscape I move through.  Beautiful is too common placed, magnificent full of grandiose without substance, incredible a word best used to describe the forces that formed this place.

I drop down into another small river bed, with only the smallest of streams exiting the small lake.  It’s power is such that along its path are plunge pool after plunge pool, all filled with crystal clear cyan coloured liquid.  The smile I’ve worn all day widens.  The knowledge the hut is near doesn’t solicit the same increase in pace.  I wish to stand here and admire.

I contemplate a quick swim, imagining the fun it would be to slide along the waterfall and fall into the pool below.  It would be foolish to do so in such a cold wind and at this altitude, so instead I collect water.

I reach the hut after a few 100m and enter.  Inside I find some porridge and a can of stew.  I make a meal of the stew and have th porridge as a sweet treat, sweetened using the raspberry jam I find, along with some butter for richness.

I take only what I need, some soya mince and couscous, leaving everything else.  I debate moving on and decide to stay for one evening.  The leg is sore after a jolt on a downhill and I would prefer it fixed sooner and spend more time on the trail than heal slower and less time here.  I’m quickly joined by a Canadian philosophy lecturer who is exploring Northern Norway and a family (I assume they’re a family!  A husband and wife joined by a father/father in law) from Switzerland, on their way to the tripoint and then Kilipisj√Ęrvi on a boat.  

Evening 

The fire is on, people are sat either chatting or lost in their thoughts.  I’ve worked on the tendons and muscles in my leg, loosening the muscles as best as I can.  I’ve realised that I need to moisturised my feet!  The cool and arid air dries the skin and makes it easier for cracks to appears.  By cut toe is all but healed and the small nick to the ball of my right foot is healing well.  My pack is ready to go and all I have to do is clean the mess I create before I leave in the morning.  An early start is needed to cover the distance to D√¶rtahytta.

I realise that others will view my mental state or emotional state with a perception other than what it is.  I may get angry, be in pain or even sad through loneliness. This means nothing as below all this is a simple and nourishing joy.  The joy that comes from a confidence in ones ability to survive.  The ‘dark places’ are truly places of metamorphosis.  We enter and leave with either subtle or profound changes to our nature or resolve.  Their is now a greediness to my actions.  Greedy to place my feet on new ground everyday, to see new sites and to feed on the sensations my body receives and brain translates.  The land is rich in all things and I am greedy for its fruits. 

Day 20 – Return To The Mountains

I woke early.  I wished to remain in bed.  This was the briefest of moments as I quickly began to plan the day.  Coffee was made, the section of the route with distances written down, the first and most painful step of the day made and equipment laid out ready for sorting and packing.

I’ve managed to cover 20 days of wilderness with just 3 guaranteed food stops with just 10 ration packs, 3 of which I still have, yet I seem to have purchased enough food to last me more than the 7-8 days this section will take!  This is what happens when you listen to the concerns of others that are seeing just a snapshot of what you have done.

Today, I have eaten 3 meals and I can’t really say I feel any better for it.  Why 3 meals? 

So I can at least use the additional calories and nutrition to rebuild the damaged section of my leg.  Not sure it will make any difference but it does solve the problem of fitting it all into my pack.

Finding the start of the trail was a little tricky… Everytime I found it, it placed me back on the road so I decided to stick to the road and head to section that crosses the road and heads towards Norway.  The landscape still brings me joy to behold.  Even after 20 days of being amongst the mountains, lakes, marshes and forests on a daily basis, they still hold their lure.  

The trail was easy to follow and climbed out from Kilipisjarvi before reaching a peak and diving back into a valley.  Ahead where some of the most incredible mountains and ridges I have ever seen!

Around 3km from Goldahytta I went off route to see why two people where repeatedly having their picture taken around a block of yellow painted cement.

‘Hi hi!’

‘Hey’ I replied

I looked at the block.  Above it a plaque that simply said ‘Suomi 1926’

I looked at the two guys stood there…

‘Where are you from?’

‘England.  Erm… What is this thing?’

‘You don’t know what this is?’

‘Nope’

‘It’s a tripoint’

‘What’s a tripoint?’

‘You really don’t know??  It’s a rare point on the planet where three countries intersect.  Here is Suomi, on the left Sweden and on the right Norway.’

I was suddenly amused by the fact that by walking round the block you went back one hour and then forward again by an hour. The jolly German, the chatty one sporting a bright yellow tshirt, proceded to take a photo of me on all sides of the monument.  It’s interesting how we give such things the amount of importance that we do.  The jolly Getmans explained to me that they are travelling around to go to a few of these places in Scandinavia, having got a boat here to avoid walking!

At that point I bid then fair well and off I went, which is where I am now.  My day today ends early at Goldahytta, just outside of Finalnd and in Norway.

Day 19 – All About The Tape & Washing Up Liquid

The Knights that go Ni have gone on their merry way home via Sweden and I am left with good memories and a traditional Finnish knife, put together by Tuuka, the generous.  

I’ve purchased my food for the next 8 days, busily storing electricity in every battery and device I carry and washing in the hope that the fire this eve will dry my clothes before tomorrow.  

Now I’m busy working out the problem of an inflamed tendon on my lower shin and learning all sorts of crazy ways to use tape and trying to get the tendon to move as freely as possible so I can start to make less painful progress.

I may start up a cheap Scandinavian running holiday business on my return.  This place can be reached easily, the traditional cabin I sit in will easily sleep 4 minimum and has everything you need, with the highest mountain in Finland only 55km away, with 4 huts along the route.  It is a wanderous part of the world that more should visit.  We can learn lots of people who are shaped by their landscape, as apposed to those that shape their landscape to suit them.

The next stage will be Abisko, 185km of mountain wilderness with the promise of new kit at the end.  

In terms of kit, my waterproofs are still working great, my tshirt is still in one piece (although to call it white is a little bit of a lie), my tent…

Well, my tent outer has two holes, the inner has more than two holes and generally it can be pitched so that you can get in, but you shouldn’t expect to be able to sit up in it unless you have an upper body that is less than 1.5′ in length.  My leggings are starting to wear through in the crotch area, which could prove embarrassing!

I can’t wait till my injury is healed and I can actually start to physically push myself.