Pictures first, words later. Lots has happened and at the same time nothing has happened. The 150km of the last 3 days came, not easy but not hard. The temperature today is below zero and every minute stationary is energy wasted on staying warm. My commitment got tested and I found I am prepared to face anything, including the chance of bankruptcy without even blinking. This journey will not get easier…
Finally warming up a bit after an hour of struggling to get warm, and yes…
I skipped a bit of the story because this part will be one of those memorable ones. Lying down in an old wooden shack, lined with polyester curtains, small Perspex windows on each side, nails as hanging hooks on both sides, 4 separate wasps nests, a small broken office chair and a ladder used to prop up a makeshift table, made of an old metal tray. I lie upon a folding bed, covered in a sleeping mat and two different rugs. I arrived at around 3, 3:30, having covered 27 before the temperature dropped and the heavens opened up. It’s strange how the temperature drops so much before it rains here. I’ve never noticed it before, but thinking back, the same has happened on most rainy days. Waterproofs on, I was still getting cold fast. I took the easy option and spotted a shack in the woods beside the road. By shack, I am describing a small wooden shed. Around a meter and half in width, 7′ in length, and just high enough to stand up in. The road leading here felt easier than other days. Legs worked as they should. The odd complain was banished with a handful of sweets. My next destination was drawing nearer and nearer. The road seemingly busier than the previous road and with more drivers reluctant to move aside slightly as they passed. A couple of close calls as cars overtook cars on the opposite side of the road making me jump a little as I looked to see a car apparently veering in my direction. The sun was out and it was warm. Warm enough for bare feet and the strange looks off passing drivers. I had just purchased a new set of headphones. The cheapest I could find to fill the gap that a lack of music leaves me. I paid cash having visited the bank and exchanged all my Norwegian money for Swedish money. The bag I’ve used since the start of the trip now starting to show its age with a couple of sizeable holes. The cashier joined in with my laughter at the state of it. A small piece of diamond had been inserted into her tooth. I never did understand the need to accessories teeth. I guess it would be a similar urge to tattoos and piercing but still seemed odd to me. I left the hotel to get here, having asked the kind lady that worked there were I could exchange my money having finished my last coffee. Packing seems to be getting easier and I can reduce the space my stuff takes each time I repack. I felt a little groggy though, despite the coffees with breakfast. I could get to sleep in the comfort of the hotel room. Maybe the bed was too soft, or there was too much light from outside (the first town on the trip with street lighting!) or maybe it was too warm… Either way, I didn’t manage to fall asleep until passed midnight, where I’d usually be fast asleep and having gone to sleep around 7 or 8. It could also be the lack of physical activity or the amount of food I ate. Haven’t a clue, but I was glad I purchase those headphones as I ran. The kms passed quickly.
But what of the shack I’m in? It sits in the middle of marshland, around 100m from the road. There is a clear set of trod in the surrounding woods and one meanders its way here, providing access passed a deep boggy section with a single piece of two by four. I sat in here wandering about who used it and when, but then the cold turned to that unbearable burning and the need to get warm took over. Right now, I’m contemplating an early night. The sun is still up, but maybe I can get an early start tomorrow and the rain will have stopped. Would be good to have a brisk, sunny autumn day or two.
The night was surprisingly warm and unsurprisingly noisy. The rain bombarded the shack and at time sounded like I was being buried alive under a thousand peddles. It stopped at around 3am…
There’s that blooming time again. Maybe I need a head torch and to start super early each day?
Occasionally, the sound of a passing car could just be picked out amongst the rains percussive onslaught. I wake feeling rested but hiding from the cold. My sleeping bag is at its temperature limit. In fact most of what I have are being used at their limit. I seem to be getting used it to though. It feels no colder now than in the early stages of this journey. I collected some water by squeezing a patch of super saturated sphagnum moss. Unsurprisingly, the water was a delightful shade of brown. The water boiled, a coffee made and the excess acting as a heater in my water bottle. Breakfast comprises of a couple of pieces of cake and a coffee. Equipment will be packed, gloves put on and the distance between me and Glommerträsk shortened. I should really stop typing and musing. Musing equals cold hands and feet, which before you’ve dealt with the section of bog you need to get out of isn’t a good thing.
As predicted, the bogs got tackled and Glommerträsk appeared ahead. An extra couple of kilometres and I was at the shop. I got 500g of barley, an adventure sausage, some Swedish (original) Nutella type spread, small cup cakes, a bag of fruit sweets, some of the nice rye bread (with added chia seeds!), the world’s smallest avocado, and a small chocolate milkshake. £15 it came too!? I’m amazed how expensive even the cheapest things are. Still. There is enough barley to last 3 days, the spread will last a few days and all I need to get at the next shop stop is some protein (I think I’ll go with soya!) and maybe something small as a treat. The biggest gap in food is approaching and I’d like to be ready for it physically. Once food was purchased and a light lunch of bread, adventure sausage, cup cakes and chocolate milk was eaten, I was off. If gotten cold again and needed to move with purpose to raise my body temperature. Didn’t take long. Just a few minutes of slow running. The only. Running that seems to happen at the moment.
The distance between me and Norsjö shrank by the hour. My pace faster than I realised. A quick break at the river, lying and eating on a set of concrete blocks that looked like curbs. I nearly stopped there. Perfect camping location with water, flat dry dirt amongst the trees and plenty of space away from the road. It was only 2pm though! I could get closer to Norsjö, so I left. Run one song, walk the next.
I saw fewer cars on this road and unsurprisingly I saw no one walking. Only a frog at the side of the road.
My Achilles ache. Seems to happen when I wear my neoprene socks and sandals as a combination. For a few kilometres I ran barefoot to try and give them some relief. I decided to put the sandals back on once my feet started to get cold.
Another river passed, except with nowhere to camp. A spot near a quarry was ditched for a spot in the woods, about 50m from running water, which is where I type these words. A meal of bread, adventure sausage, boiled barley, coconut oil and some nut spread and it’s time to get in the sleeping bag and warm up, or more accurately stay warm. The temperature is likely to drop fast with the clear sky above.
Sixty days??!! I can’t believe I’ve been at this for 60 days! Doesn’t feel that long and seems like it’s the way I should have been living all along. Stress is gone. Problems arise and solutions seems simple, straight forward and consequences are accepted as a matter of fact and without complaint. Last night the sky was crystal clear. I woke at 10pm, thirsty and knowing I had to wander towards the stream for water. I got out, sandals on and wandered off. I mused whether this would be like the last trip for water in the woods as I did. Stop!
Water had just touched my feet which meant I was off by 3m and heading straight into the bog. I turned 90° and headed to the stream. Water bottle filled, I headed back wandering how difficult it would be to find my tent with only the torch on my phone for light. I look up and the stars are incredible. A million points of light all shining down with no other light source to be seen. I get to my tent, please with the directness of the line I took and get my camera out. I take 2 pictures. One straight up and the other at a slight angle. Back in to bed before I get too cold and I drifted back to sleep. In the morning I wake, decide I want more sleep, sleep till around 7 then check me camera. ‘No way!?’ Comes out of my mouth as on one of the pictures, the sky has a stripe of green through it. I’d taken a picture of the aurora and not even seen it myself. Next time, I’ll make sure ther are less trees in the way.
I pack up and head off, a breakfast of coffee, cup cakes, a slice of bread and nut spread (I think this should come with a health warning just based on its sugar content!). A late start but I already know I’m heading for a restsplats 45km along the road. I set off, wandering how far I actually am from Norsjö. 13km says the sign after about 40mins of walking. My left quad feels a little sore. Maybe a slight pull from a misstep the day before. Doesn’t really matter. Still going to cover that 45km today. I reach the small village at the junction for Norsjö. A coach passes me, pulls up on the left and there are lots of people milling round. It’s a petrol station that I didn’t know was here! That’s 5km in to Norsjö saved if it’s open. I get there, go in and it’s rammed with people. I buy some crisps. I miss the crunch and texture of proper food, a bar of chocolate and a small bag of sweet. A chocolate milkshake makes its way into my hand and I pay, leaving to eat. A 20minute break after only covering 15km seems a little extravagant but I don’t notice. Sweets in hand, I bin the rubbish and leave. Running feels good and the sun is shining.
The kilometres don’t come easy today, but at the same time… The don’t come hard either. They just happen at a steady and almost metronomic pace of 8min/km, unless it’s a downhill. Then the pace rises, peaking at 6min/km.
I keep plodding, singing the songs I know, some dancing on the road, a break next to a small lake, some stretching while I wait for my water to boil and then more running. It’s approaching 4pm and I push a little more. I think there’s 5km left and I need to get there in 30mins to stop for 4. A sign ahead…
I increase my pace. The ache in my Achilles, the quad all seem to vanish and I arrive. I notice the toilets! Remember the missed opportunity of a warm night and a dry tent. I wander to the river, sit and eat the rest of the adventure sausage, some coconut oil and drink my water. I head back to the toilets and get some water for dinner and checkout the disabled toilet. It’s cleaner than the other, seemingly unused and warm! Decision made. A warm night and an early start are the plan. They are checked regularly. Everyday at 7am and I plan to leave at 6am. That give me an hour for the person to arrive early and if I get up earlier, I can make a breakfast in the warmth and enjoy it in the light of the rising sun. Another 40 or more kilometres tomorrow, with a rest at Lyckselle. Maybe even a coffee and some electricity theft is in order. The next gap will take 3-4 days to cover with no sign of any respite till I reach a small village with a shop. Right now, I’m sat outside in my sleeping bag, a fresh, warm meal to my left and a slowly darkening sky above. Time to eat and go brush up on my hobo skills and prepare for an extremely warm evening.
Well, I’m in. Door locked, tent stretched out so it dries (I really need to figure out a way to reduce the amount of condensation that forms in it) and I’m in my sleeping bag ready to sleep. Alarm set for 3am. Early enough, I think, to possibly catch the aurora again. It’s already looking pitch black outside, but I’m not heading out since there is a group of people camped out in their vans. Instead I’m having my usual early night and questioning how much sleep I’ll actually get…