Days 50 To 53 – Temptation, Road, Shack

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

Day 50 – Temptations

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘I can call the if you want?’

Without thinking or even hesitating my reply is…

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

I pause…

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

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

I can hear that other accusing voice…

‘You’ve changed!’

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

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

The kms passed by easily enough…

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

‘Bingo!’

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

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

Day 51 – Road

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 52

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 53

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where did the track go?

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

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

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

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

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4 thoughts on “Days 50 To 53 – Temptation, Road, Shack

  1. Brilliant write up Aleks. Sounds like you got a good rhythm going now. I can feel the momentum in your stride bruv. Fingers crossed for you buddy. Looking forward to the next update

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