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 😉


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.

Oh…

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.

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