Day 57 – Teachings Of The Road

I would discard this post if you feel reading ramblings a waste of time and would prefer to read the day to day adventure.  This is a post of something learnt.  Something I think is important in making sense of the distance, the act and the currents experienced.  Probably best read with a something that makes you feel nebulous

There’s a certain loneliness to running.  Be it road or mountain, every step is yours.  Every view, sensation & thought are yours and yours alone and to expect others to understand is like explaining to someone a colour without a frame of reference.  I typically run trails.  I head off on routes that are less used to get a sense of what a place is really about.  To get a sense of what I’m about.

Here’s the learning…

The mountains and trails are kind.  Nature is kind.  She provides you with distractions a plenty, typically when you need them the most.  The road has no such remorse.  It seems to provide little solice, little respite and gives a sense of the relentless march of man to make progress.  The view at either side changes so subtly.  Blink and you’ll miss it.  Occasionally there is respite.  Respite provided by nature.  The road has no room for such sentiments.  The road is where you truly learn who you ar and what you are made of.  In the mountains, there are many places to hide.  Many places to shift your attention to.  Many places to avoid confronting those thoughts that you hide away.

Head to the mountains for solice.  Head to the road for learning of a different kind.

In reality, I’m enjoying the running.  The effort.  The burning in my legs.  The ache of the hips.  The heaviness of limbs.  The cold on my hands.  I’m discovering a few truths about myself.  My ability to whittle and moan when the need to do so isn’t there.  My ability to torture myself with ideas of resting early, with decisions I should have made with the hindsight of new information, the places I should have stopped for food or rest.

All the while I tell myself that these actions, these words are pointless.  You have been in more pain, lower in energy and far colder.  So what is this need to speak out about the most insignificant of things?

Simple… Acknowledgment.  Acknowledgement of a pain, tiredness, hunger.  I am not a martyr to a cause.  I’m simply experiencing what it is to run free.  Any provisos, any rules, any restrictions are there by my creation and not that of any other. I am my own god, demon and master, but with this thought the ‘I’ sceases to exist.

What we call ā€™Iā€™ is just a swinging door, which moves when we inhale and when we exhale.  The world has its own magic (Shinryu Suzuki).

These thoughts aren’t quite fully formed and a bit nebulous for some, but they’ve bounced backwards and forwards in my mind over the last few days and in sharing, acknowledgment is achieved.

I always felt road running was ridiculous. Why would you run on road when you have trail?  I have said ‘in the mountains and on the trail there is no place to hide’ but as I travel I discover there is.  I’m sure I’ll find places to hide on the long road ahead but for now, the road is exposing.  Laying bare for me to see and learn…


Days 53 To 57 – Can’t Count, Subtleties, Small Kindness

You’ll notice I can’t count.  Day 49 dirt happen.  I thought it did, but looking at it all and reading my journal, it didnt, so here’s the pictures from the last 5 days followed by words.  Words worthy of maybe a chocolate digestive, dunked for 3 seconds in a large hot chocolate šŸ˜‰

Day 5312am

I’m awake. Thirsty and overly warm. The fire had gone out ages ago but the cabin retained the heat too well. I take off a layer, get out of the liner and have a drink. ‘Hope this water is ok now it’s been boiled’. I try to go back to sleep but struggle to fall back into a nice deep sleep. I get what I can and at 5am, when the alarm goes, I’m up. Pitch black engulfs me and the interior of the cabin. I use my phone to provide enough light to light my spirits stove and make coffee from what remains of my water. While it boils I work out how far it is till I reach JokkMokk… 22km left

3 hours I set as a deadline. I still have food left. About 800g and I need to find some water from somewhere. The map shows a stream that runs under the road but with the lack of proper rain, it’s gonna be slow flowing and stinking of sulfur. 7:10am and all’s packed, I’m out the front door and heading down the road. The stream appears and its flowing but the smell of sulfur is obvious. I mask it with a couple of scoops of tailwind and move off. The road is quieter today…

‘Oh! It’s Saturday. Everyone’s doing non driving things.’

I pass several parked cars and assume they are walking dogs or hunting since it’s hunting season here. I pass an interestingly decorated dam and then a sign…

Jokkmokk 8km.

I look at my phone for the time… 9:10am. I know I can get the 8km done in less than 50 monies so I pick up the pace and run on. I find a path adjacent to the road and use it. Maybe a mistake! The road is flat and this path is undulating pointlessly. Passed a man walking his dog, sporting a pair of radio cans that even the most hip of hipsters would be proud to wear. I look right and there’s the sign. ‘Welcome to Jokkmokk’

I check the time and I’ve arrived at 9:59. Now to find the local coop and buy food. Goggle tells me the next reliable food source (a shop) is 147km away. 4 days of food I need and four days I buy. I’m conscious that I have to up my calorie intake. Even at the 1600-2000 cals I’m not eating enough and Peter tells me the same when I chat to him via messages. Shopping in hand I head out, find a sheltered spot out of the bitterly cold wind and sit to sort out my food. Muesli with beetroot flakes, porridge oats, almonds, powdered milk, brown quick cook rice, chilli con carne and stroganoff sauces, adventure sausage and a huge block of cheese. It all needs sorting into bags and out of the bulky boxes.

I eat a separate piece of cooked meat (thing it was pork belly) and eat 2 vanilla custard doughnuts. I have 3 more left…

I walk, letting the food digest, passing a huge sign that tells me all about the polar circle and how the sun will be closest on the year 12,000! There’s a line across the ground and I assume it separates polar circle and no polar circle. Have no idea and there’s no internet to double check. Onwards I walk, still feeling ridiculously full. 14km later I take a break. The extra wait of the food combined with the 7km of non stop uphill have tired my legs. 10 more km max and the day is done. Another 42km done and 22 of the 147 put behind me. The clouds seem to be clearing too. I see patches of blue amongst them, but haven’t yet felt the warm of the sun beam through yet. Maybe the weather is changing, but I’m hoping for cloud cover this evening, or it will be a cold night.

I reached one more village before stopping. I found an old shack again and wandered in. If I slept diagonally, I’d fit. I shut its door and have a look at the condition of the floor. It’s covered in mouse droppings and has the familiar sent of mouse pee. I leave… Quickly.

I carry on and find a small track leading off the he road then following parallel to it. I keep walking, hoping to find a trod leading up into the woods but no luck. I decide that I will just pitch up on the tracks, and so I do. The road is next to me and the sound of cars is something I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to.

I could a meal of brown rice, with stroganoff sauce, chopped salami sausage (aka adventure sausage) and up the calorie content by adding 50g of coconut oil and some chopped up Gouda cheese. While I waited for the water to boil, I ate more adventure sausage, cheese and some rye bread I had left from the day before.  

(Now there’s a food description that might come close to one of Tolkien’s finest)

Now, I’m getting myself to sleep. My pack will need a slight reorganisation tomorrow since there is now more food to carry and I need to do something about my shoulder strap. It presses directly on the seam of my T-shirt and was causing me some agro today. Still, 46km done on a day I considered a rest day!! Need to reevaluate my idea of rest I think.  
 Day 54

Sleep? Who needs sleep? All through the night… Cars!

11 car with some bloke shouting Swedish at someone else who seemed to be agreeing. 1 and another car, 3 another.

I decided in not pitching that close to the road again. Then the thirst. No water anywhere near. Not even a puddle. I slept as best I could and knew today would have to be a rest day. Steady, eating and no real agenda.  

That’s exactly what it was. Walking at a steady pace I found water about 6km away, filled my bottle, filled my cup and made a coffee. Drank some, poured he rest away and carried on. It’s amazing what a lonely place a road is. Not a soul to meet or even exchange niceties with. Car after car, wave after wave, thanks after thanks as they all move aside to give me space as they passed. A white van waved enthusiastically and honked his horn. I waved back and then stared after it confused.

A break in the clouds and the warmth of the sun, two birds following in relay. Beautiful birds. Black heads, grey body and orange beneath their tales and wings. I know they aren’t following me. They follow each other to increase the chances of finding food. In the distance I see a make shift bench and the remains of a fire. Here I have lunch, fortified with coconut oil. A mug left behind serves as the perfect place for fresh coffee. The sun shines passed he clouds again and I take advantage. Sleeping bag out and opened and laid out on the dry floor to air. The down seems to be clumping and I could do with working out how to solve the problem for later. I pack up and move on, amused that my food weighs more than my kit.

I spot the now familiar distance markers for the telecoms line below the ground, one every 500m. I use them to do 5km of intervals.

I realise that this sort of adventure is rather uninteresting to others. I’m just walking or running. I see vast areas of woodland that have been cleared and again marvel at mans ability to alter its surroundings but never be fully in control of it. I wander about stepping off the conveyor belt of the machine and how easy it would be. On simple act of defiance. Putting self above the self perpetuating myth of the machine.

Then I spot what looks like a set of abandoned buildings. I go over to explore. An old shop. An shops and possibly the owners house. A child’s swing, su bleached and rusting. A garden table and plastic chairs set out as though ready for an evening outside. I wander round to the back of the shop and see a board with a swastika and 666 spray painted on it and inside the result of people destroying what is clearly not theirs. I wander to the building that looks like it was once a home…

I open the door and inside is a set of wellies. Nearly placed. Waiting for the owner to return and use them on a rainy day. The place stinks of human waste and inside the living area there is evidence of it being used as a toilet and as a place to drink. It shows the darker side of human existence and seems to contrast massively with the well preened nature reserves further north. I leave. Slightly freaked out and wanting to find a spot for the eve. Early finish, away from the road and water was the promise. 

I follow the train track to a lake, I wander down an old dirt track and pitch my tent. I’m done for today. No point in going any further until tomorrow.  
Day 55

I woke before 5. Not sure I wanted to. Still, it was chilly so breakfast was eaten earlier that usual. The sky was clear but everything was super wet. The warmth of my body evaporating the moisture on the wet ground and filling the inside of my tent. It was Pete’s 1000th mile last night and I’m slightly disappointed to have missed it. It’s amusing watching someone who is generally clothed and shod, running completely naked and barefooted.

I looked at the lake and realised I couldn’t see it. A must hung above it and I could see the sky starting to turn orange as the sun made its rise, banishing the moon.

I walked back to the road and began to run. I reached Kabdalis fairly quickly and was amused by the appearance resembling the movie set of the grinch. Idilic wooden houses, flat patches of grass, most across the lake and the sun painting everything with a golden hue. I ran through the village and smiled at the sun. It shin through the pine and birch trees, casting long shadows and beams in the mist. It was going to be a warm day.

A bench ahead next to another small lake and I stop to take off the extra layers I had on. No point in sweating and making them damp too. Fish jump to the surface for food while I change to the sound of a stream near by. The beauty of it isn’t lost on me but it signifies drinking water more than a romantic pictorial landscape that one would normally imagine.  

Today is going to be a warm day.

I realised this morning that I have far too much food. Not a problem since I can just eat it all, but it weighs you down when running, puts extra strain on tendon and muscle and causes you to tire faster. ‘I could sit here for hours’ I muse. The sun is warming. Even with the sound of a dog barking incessantly in the distance, t is peaceful.

The extra layers are off, bag is repacked and it’s time to move again. A slow and insistent rhythm that chews up the distance between me and my end point. 
The first 25km went by quickly. Feet an legs felt fine but by 30km the extra weight of the food started to take its toll. Feet ached, legs felt heavy and it was a constant battle to get them moving. At 40km it was time to stop. Sandals off, Tabi socks off, feet up on the pack and I lay back eating almonds. I have around 10km before I reach a suitable camp spot (meaning a spot with access to water). I can walk t in 2 hours and possibly run it in less. The roads here are like a traditional roller coaster…

They go up then down then up then down and occasionally they go up for a few km before showing you a false summit and going up some more. On the plus side, it has been a pleasantly sunny day. Cold up until around midday, then warm and now becoming overcast enough to promise a warm evening. I’ve even had time to dry my tent and my sleeping bag. All thanks to the sun’s rays. Just 10 more kilometres…

Turns out it wasn’t just 10. It was less. 5km less.

After 4km a sign told me there’s a picnic spot in 1km. These can have places to camp hidden around them and they have toilets. I stop there and decide an early dinner is in order. A delicious rice noodle stroganoff beef raman is created and takes me pack to the days when I used to spend hours, with my friend Adam, climbing at Wirksworth climbing wall with a cheeky beef and tomato pot middle as a mid session snack. I clear up, use the disabled toilet and am sorely tempted to keep the door locked and sleep in there the night. It’s clean, it’s warm and has both toilet and drinking water easily at hand. I decide not to in case someone who needs a disabled toilet arrives. A path wanders off into the woods and so do I. A fallen tree is clambered over, and then another. As if by magic the perfect river side camp spot appears. The ground is rocky and pegs don’t like going in, but rocks make a reasonable solution and the tent is up. I could cover another 10km before I’d have to stop, but that’s one of the limiting factors of self supported running in these parts. Good camp spots are hard to find when you need them. So have eaten an early dinner, a lunch, a brunch and a breakfast, I settle down. The noise of cars drowned out by the soothing sound of the rushing river water. The sky developing a light coating of clouds, keeping that promise of a warm night alive. How far I travel tomorrow depends on what is at the next town in 10km. It would be good to have a plan of action before arriving at Arvidsjaura, 55km away.
Day 56

Yep. It was a damp morning. I peaked out the tent and the river was shrouded in mist. I’d gotten a bit cold in the night too, which is more down to the dampness of my sleeping bag. I packed up and headed to the toilets and the promise of warmth. Straight to the disabled one, in and lock the door. The warmth was delightful. I draped my sleeping bag above the heater in there and ate a hand full of almonds and a slice of cheese. I feel a bit off today. Almost like its the day after a night out drinking. My legs feel heavy and running is a big effort.

12km later and I arrived at Monkosel, which promised food and a cafe. No sign of either and the place is so peaceful I feel I have to sneak through the outskirts of it. I head to Arvidsjaura and there’s a little shack type building just say there. I go have a look inside…

Empty. Abandoned in appearance. I try the door…

It opens and so I go in. There are plug sockets on the walls, a sink, some tables and chairs, a heater and lights. Now I wish I’d carried on and slept here, but that’s a bit stupid since I had no idea it was here at all. I plug in my phone, spare battery and camera charger and sit on the floor. I want to be out of sight of the cars driving passed since this thing is open for all to look in to. A second breakfast of muesli. The beetroot flakes and small coco nibs really do taste good today! Bag is packed and all I’m doing is stealing electricity. As soon as I leave I need to find water and make sure I drink more today. I don’t plan on reaching Arvidsjaura today, but around 10 tomorrow. I need to get some idea of distances and food for the next section. Would be good to actually carry just what I need and get rid of the extra weight that’s food. Who knows? I might be able to run from place to place and treat Sweden like a long distance buffet.


Before I forget…

I saw a house that had two emus in their back garden! Not exactly the kind of pet or livestock I expected to see this far north!! The temptation to get closer for a look was quashed by the two dogs that were sat staring at me, waiting for me to make a move before they unleashed a barrage of barks.

The cabin was left behind. I can truly say that on several occasions I wanted to go back. There’s no point in sugar coating today with nice words… It was just a plain old hard slog. Every step was laborious. Hips ached, Achilles ached, knee ached, head ached and all because I was tired. I just kept stepping forwards. I remembered the times when is been more tired and kept trying to workout my average mileage since leaving Ritsem. 

‘Did I really run LeJog? Did I ever actually do days that were more than 30miles?’

I knew the answer was yes but for the life of me, right now, I have no idea how I did! Then another hill ahead…

The hills here, unlike any I’ve come across (other than those in the Lake District or Scottish highlands) go on forever it seems. At times a hill would be avoided by the road and then for around 3-5km the road would climb steadily. Two days ago, I took it as a challenge and ran a few. Today, I nearly crumbled.

‘I can just get on a bus and go home. Would be nice to be able to stop. Not sure why you’re even suggesting it cos you know you’re not gonna quite unless something serious happens, so just stop being a prize twat and get up this hill’

And I did. I picked up the cadence and stood up straight. I used my shoulders to help power my legs. I loosened my hips by doing my best salsa walk and I kept stepping. The the sign said ‘Arvidsjaura 20’

Finally!?! I wandered over to a shed type building at the side of the road, had a nosey inside (I did this earlier with a strange building that was built no more than a meter of the ground. It was some kind of water reservoir. Like a building that housed a big well) and then sat outside on the most comfortable spot I could find…

Right on the big chunks of granite gravel. I ate cheese, almonds and just sat with my legs on my pack. From this point every km was a bonus. Time to look for a camp site.

This is kind of tricky when there is an increase in the number of houses and when the rest of the land seems to be dense spruce forests.

‘Holy shit I need a pee!! Where did that come from?’

I run into the woods and have a pee, taking note of the clearing just through the woods.

‘Ooh, berries!’

I pick some, eat them, then head to the road just up ahead that looks like it may lead to the clearing. It did, there was water next to an ideal spot and I managed to cook food without the need of my spirit burner. With the fire out, food having been eaten (for those interested… Rice stroganoff with almonds and cheese), I get in bed. The open landscape means a breeze. A breeze that might help keep the moisture in the tent to a minimum and the trees shield me from the worst of the noise coming from the road.

Tomorrow I’ll get to Arvidsjaura, get fresh food and possibly even have a day off to plan the next few steps. I need to sort a kit drop too since the crotch of my leggings are starting to wear through.

 Be a tad embarrassing if the old fella ends up dropping out whilst running through Sweden!
Day 57
The dampness got upgraded and a deluge bathed Red the tent. So much so that she decided that she’d leak along the seems. A slightly worrying thing that I may be able to sort with a tiny bit of wax or some seam tape. I need to rest today and leave Arvidjaura tomorrow is the thought of the day. I delay leaving as log as I can, sharing my semi waterproof shelter with two wasps. There are subtleties in the landscape, flora and fauna here. The wasps are more black than yellow. The forests are old and gradually become more spruce than pine, imperceptibly changing from one species to the next. I learnt that the strange hair like substance that hangs from the branches of pine and spruce is called witch hair, a type of lichen, and the fallen pines provide habitat for a rare fungus that resides here. The water is different too. More tannin stained and rich with iron, leaving behind a red residue where ever it runs.

I pack the tent. All hope of trying to dry it abandoned and the hope of drying it in a room at Arvidsjaura the one thing that keeps me from moaning at no one. I catch myself talking to myself!

‘We need to get the next 16km done and then get inside where it’s warm and eat, but there is no we is there matey boy cos you… DONT EXIST?!’

Tent away, breakfast already gone and bag packed. I hit the road with a loud ‘I’m on the road agaieeeen’ and start the downhill…

The downhill was short lived. It’s uphill for the next 3km. I walk, mimicking the hardest fell runners I’ve seen. Hands tucked behind my buttocks and back straight. A car pulls up ahead. 

‘What’s this dude doing? Maybe a pee break? In the rain too.’

A fella pops out. Baseball cap on head, white hair coming out of the sides and a short white beard. ‘Morn’ I shout out and ‘morning’ is reply. I reach him and he asks if I’d like a lift to Arvidsjaura. He’d seen me as he was driving south, turned around and headed back to offer me a lift. I explain that for me, my challenge will end when I take a lift from anyone, thank him repeatedly for his incredible kindness and bid him good day. He smiles a knowing smile, get in his car with his three huskies and turns on the engine. I start to run again since it’s downhill and here his car turn around and start to drive passed. I wave at him, a huge grin on my face from his kindness. He waves and honks his horn, vanishing into the mist created by the fine rain. I want to buy him a drink to say thanks, except I’m likely never to see him again. His kindness seems to give me the boost I need and I run some more. I pass Akavarre, I see a sign for Arvidsjaura and know I’m not far. Phone out…

A signal. Time to book a hotel or hostel room. First port of call is the shop for food. Then to check in and finally, eat, sort and plan.

That’s where the day ends. I’m likely to eat food, have a sauna, a wash, dry everything that got wet and sit planning my route south. I have a hankering after the sea.

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.


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…


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…

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 šŸ˜‰

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 90Ā°, 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 Ā£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! šŸ˜‚) 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


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…



Trail markings






Deafening noise










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


The Lappis nestled in the side of mountains

Unbearable self created heat

The touch of butterflies

Lonesome bees on mountain flowers




A day on a mountain, racing the river

Something new that was hidden

Wise words from another

Learning patience…