Day 37 – Lacking In Adventure

Well…

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…

Wind

Cost

Trail markings

Rocks

Reindeer

Cairns

Marshes

Tunnel

Deafening noise

Sea

Lake

Eagle

Bilberries

Rivers

Streams

Hills

Rain

Bogs

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

Snow

The Lappis nestled in the side of mountains

Unbearable self created heat

The touch of butterflies

Lonesome bees on mountain flowers

Tiredness

Pause

Frustration 

A day on a mountain, racing the river

Something new that was hidden

Wise words from another

Learning patience…

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Day 36 – Searching For Answers

Turns out the frustration, the anger, the rage…

All stem from fear and doubt.

Fear that my location, my route and the time of year mean that I will face a beast that bares icy teeth, and doubt.  Doubt that I am the right person for this task I’ve set.  

Then I watch a short film… Listen to the words of Johanna Nordblad… Think about what she has achieved and her words…

‘There is no place for fear, no place for panic and no place for mistakes’

And then more words…

‘There is nothing like taking a walk to make up your mind.  Or for making you accept an obvious solution, however challenging it might be’ Frederick Gros, Philosophy of walking

A few pieces of a bigger puzzle slot into place…

I need to harden my resol….

No I don’t. To harden is to become rigid, single minded.  I need to let go.  I need to allow events to take place and observe them.  Open and with a plasticity of mind that allow me to respond as needed.  I need to get myself in the cold for the next few days and get used….

No I don’t!  I need to be prepared for the changing conditions.  The loss of light, the need for a minimum pace through the  mountain passes.  

But there is no escape from the conditions once I am up there…  Lady winter cares nothing for my existence.

There is no room for fear, panic or mistakes.  I have no need to doubt myself.  I haven’t lost control because the control I had was an illusion that I created myself, to allow some sort of comfort, when in actuality, the mountains have been the controlling factor.  They decided the conditions, the terrain and the sources of food and water.  I just decided when to start and when to stop.  Nothing more and nothing less.

So, a promise and decision , from a mind that takes promises and decision seriously.  Gives them more importance than maybe they should have…

My goal is to let go.  Not to create the illusion of having released myself from the need for control but to truly let go and be.  Present in each moment, blending time passed into a palimpsest of experience.

No room for fear, no room for panic and no room for mistakes.  

Day 35 – Delays = Decisions 

There’s a few bits to this adventure that have come to light.

The trail further south of me (around 250km south) needs the assiatance of ferries to complete.  Then the section after is an unmarked route, i.e there is no route but a suggested set of huts that allow someone to walk around 10-15km and have somewhere for shelter.  The last bit of these nuggets of info is that the seasons for walking in the mountains is at an end.

I’ve looked at the surrounding mountains everyday and the snow they proudly disabled is gone for now.  Only those sections, earned through years of cold remain.  But speaking to those arriving from the south, the mountains are cold, I will have to deal with ice and the likelihood is that I will see the Sun, but only on rare occasions.

So the decisions are all caused by delay.  It’s like a bit of a self perpetuating cycle.  The early decision, led to delay, which have in turn, fed the need for decision and so on.

My plan is simple…

Have some plans, with the intention of abandoning them, twisting them and redesigning them as things happen.  There is no sign of the tent yet so gathering information and resources is all I can do.

Next time… I may decide differently, but for now, I sit content with the decisions, acknowledge the frustration as a readiness to continue and smile at the fact that I made the decision to start this journey, even though it feels stalled.  

Now, I’m going to attempt the impossible…

Shaving my head, with the cheapest of razors, with out the aid of a mirror!!

Day 34 – Who Needs A Schedule 

It appears that there are a myriad of people on different adventures here.  Some small, some large, but all just that bit beyond what someone has done before for an adventure.

One such person is Jacob, from Germany and on his way to Nordkapp.  Luckily for me, he followed he earlier section of my route.  Why so this lucky?

He has maps!!! 


It turns out that part of my route is not a set trail, it is unmarked and just an advised route.  One that depends on ferries that stopped running a few days ago.

On my original schedule, this wouldn’t even be an issue.   The schedule would have got me there on time, but things change so, in a few hundred km I have to follow the line that gives the best progress based on two simple things… 

Easy to follow balanced with shortest distance to the marked section of the E1.

I even managed to get a run in.  A short one, involving standing in the river, standing in the waves blowing in off the lake and enjoying some truly delightful single tracks in the autumn woodlands that cover this part of the world.


And then there’s the memory…

The memory of runnig 10km to try and find a bank card, binned somewhere near Bridgwater and only realising after having covered 15km to get to a cafe.  I did it again…

Ran, checked my pocket before heading for a post run drink and it was gone!  The term balls was uttered, but I knew all I had to do was retrace my route, which is did gladly, and there it was.  On some boards across a boggy area, waiting.


Only had to run 1km and it made the beer taste that little bit nicer.

Day 33 – Lady Winter

Word of warning… This is just the cathartic act of complaining, giving the anger and frustration a voice and coming to terms with the possibilities that lie ahead and would rather be avoided. An acknowledgement that the level of discomfort or comfort is likely to be more challenging than it has been and I need to get my mind sharpened, honed and ready so that fear, self doubt and indecision aren’t there to cripple me when I need to act with a natural fluidity that is likely to allow me to make progress and learn.

 Everyday I look at the peaks around me.  Everyday they gain a layer of snow.

Everyday I make a note of the time the sun sets.  Everyday the amount of sunlight decreases.

Everyday I make a note of the temperature.  Everyday the temperature drops lower and lower.

This is not a complaint.

Lady Witner is coming.  She has already started to take back her lands.  Further to the north, she has all but reclaimed what is hers, here in the Arctic circle.  At my current lattitude, winter arrives in late September and early October.  The E1 is not a route that was planned to head south as quickly, or by the shortest distance possible.  I’ve studied all the maps here that show my route.  The route head up, reaches 800m and meanders only really losing 200m at the very most. The height at which is see snow around me.  A line that is dictated by the climate and is dropping lower with each passing day.

I feel an uncontrollable sense of frustration and with it anger.  Anger that is slowly smouldering into rage.  The longer I am stuck to this location the deeper the rage becomes.  It effects my body language, my demeanour and my tolerance of others around me.  I appreciate I can rest, I can lay down energy reserves, I can deal with injuries, but what I can’t do is get ahead of Lady Winter.  She’s coming, she doesn’t care that I am here, she has no consciousness to register her effect on progress and really she’s nothing more than a shift in the Earth’s position in relation to the Sun.  

This is not a complaint.

By putting these word in front of me, I can come to terms with the reality of winter in the Arctic circle.  Progress that will be even slower than it has been.  The need for more food to be carried.  The increased probability that this venture will fail.  The anger gets a chance to morph into a something else, since it is the increased challenge and the demand that the level of comfort is lowered even further than it has been until I arrived here.

Until the tent arrives I’m going to regret the decision to wait for it as apposed to leave without one, travelling lighter and in theory quicker.  I know it sounds stupid, dangerous, careless, but to me, the wait here is stupid, dangerous in the long term and careless.  I should have listened to my instincts and ordered a spare tent pole, carrying it as a back up.  I shouldn’t have stood on the rock that pitied to be sloppier than expected, leading to an injury that effected my progress and I shouldn’t have stopped here.  

This is not a complaint, but an acknowledgment of frustration so that it doesn’t consume me and blind me to what I need to focus on.  Staying in the present, keeping my mind ready for what is coming and preparing for the worse possible scenario… Slow progress and winter in the mountains.  

But then, here’s the problem… I’m not letting go and allowing thing to happen as they need to.  Too focused on leaving.  Too focused on getting to the finish and not enough focus on being patient and having faith that all is in hand.

The question I should be asking is how long am I prepared to wait?

At its root m, this rant is about control…  Or the sensation that you are not in control and the other question I should be asking is what level of control or out of controlness  should I have or be willing to live with? 

Day 31 – Desire 

Not a long post…  Not long at all…

But for days I have sat and wandered, so with a warming drink, be it cafinated or containing alcohol, I hope you enjoy these few words.

For days I’ve look at her.  From a far.  Studying.  Learning every curve.  Appreciating the details of every flaw.

For days I’ve wandered what it would be to spend a few minutes with her.  Maybe an hour.  Stolen moments.  Moments that will be mine and hers.

Yet everytime there has been opportunity to approach.  Nothing between us but space.  Yet each time… Each passing moment… I’ve turned away before taking the first step.

She is not beyond my reach.  She has no favourites, no preconceived idea of who she would provide those special moments to.  She has no interest or even any knowledge of my existence, yet I still stand, still sit and pine for her.  Her curved and undulations.  The world see from her perspective, and the moments where words are not needed.

Maybe tomorrow…

Maybe tomorrow I will take that first difficult step.  Move forwards.  Closer to her.  Maybe tomorrow I will feel the freedom she can provide and with her look upon the world with fresh eyes.  Maybe tomorrow I will follow her delicate lines, from toe to crown, and discover a secret or two, embrace her presence and stature for brief moments.  Moments that will feel like an eternity of freedom and comfort.  Her embrace wrapping around my every being as I take in the world with greedy eyes.

Tomorrow I will sit with Nuolja.  Not unique in our union, but still moments to cherish, for I love her like a mountain. 

Day 31 – Expectations

A rambling post aiming to do nothin other than to put thoughts into words.  A post worthy of a digestive biscuit or two, a dark roast coffee or an ale of equality dark tones to be enjoyed slowly in the hope that the ramblings that follow make sense, touch a chord or even stir an emotion.
A word often used in teaching….

Expectations.

Defined as a strong belief that something will happen or be the case or mathematically speaking, an expected value.  In teaching it refers to what a teacher or member of staff wants to see from the behaviour and attitude of a student and now, knowing how long I am to stay static…  Pinned to this location until certain events take place, I find that I am reevaluating my expectations of what this adventure would be.

I expected physical hardship, mental challenges based on those you would expect of endurance events and the continual act of showing resilience.  The reality is something else.  I’m struggling to grasp exactly what the reality of it is.  The aspects I expected are there, as accent notes found in the scent chord of a fine perfume, but the base nite is allusive.  Each time I feel like I have a grasp of it or I detect it’s true shape and colour, it seems to vanish.  A shadow without a light source is just another section of the darkness.  

Being static, I feel like I’m getting further and further away from the ghost I’ve been chasing.  I make plans in my head about what I will do to redeem my loss of distance, to payback the pause in motion and to ‘bridge the gap’ (a buzz term in teaching at the moment) between my expectations and the reality of what I amwandering  through.

You might notice…  You might not…

That I didn’t use the word what lies ahead.  This is an odd thing to me.  I understand the concept but to experience it and find yourself separated from the crowds around you because of it is strange.  I don’t seem to be able to see the future of this… This beast of stupidity cultivation. 

I can only focus on now.

‘When will you finish?’ 

A question thrown at me when anyone finds out what I am doing.

‘Seven months was the plan so February’ 

But as I speak the words I feel like I should stop.  The real answer is ‘when I reach the post in Saracusa that points north and boldly proclaims the direction and distance to Nordkapp’

But I feel like time is slipping away, and by that I mean that I am delaying the final act of this story.  Decision to rest, to wait for equipment, to divert for food…

All are robbing me and others of the next page of the story…  A doorbell ringing when you are in the midst of a sentence.  An alarm clock buzzin when you are about to see the final act of a dream.

I question whether I could have done this better and the answer is yes, although by changing any aspect of the initial choice, the other parameters alter so the circumstances would all be different, and in this fact lies the truth that the question ‘could I have done this better?’ becomes irrelevant in some way.

The real question is ‘does this match my expectations?’

In a classroom environment or when discussing the niceties of a gourmet meal served in exquisitely oppulent settings, then I guess you would be able to answer that question.  Here… Now… With all that has happened (admittedly, on the grand scale of things and the importance of events to the larger societal picture, not much has happened and no lives or civilisation saved) I find it difficult to say yes or no.

My expectation of myself where wrong.  I am not an adventurer.  I am no Bear Grylls or Indiana Jones.  I am definitely no Sean Conway!!  I am just a man who travels.  I look at the portrayal of the adventures of others and I compare mine to theirs.  Mine has been an awakening and gradually, although I can’t admit to having got there yet, a letting go.  A releasing of tension.

I actually feel like I have closed my eyes, spread my arms either side of me and lent back…  Hoping that there is something there to land on and at present I am still falling.  Relaxation comes as I fall, but I come to my senses and intense up, fearful of what may come at any moment.  Maybe this is what others who have decided to step off the wheel, to remove themselves as the cog in another’s machine have felt or experienced.  I can’t say for sure, because experience is deeply distinctive to the individual. 

All I can say is that I can feel the pull of the machine when I stop.  I feel it sinking it’s virus deep into my programming, demanding that I return and play my part.  We, us humans, have created such a perfect machine that it has the ability to hide its imperfections and make those who seek a different path feel they have done wrong or that there is no other path.  An illusion so perfect and so ingrained into our psyche that breaking free brings with it the praise of tigers who do and the justification of self not to.

The greatest illusion created by man is the illusion of money.  An illusion so intriquette that it strives to implicitly devalue all else.

So, I will sit and ponder that last few days and try and make sense of what it is that drive me, what is is that lies deep within this experience, the base note to the perfume of adventure, because it feels that within that backbone lies the reason to my greed.  A greed to feel the wind, rain, hail and snow in my face, the cold waters, dust and mud on my feet and the light of each new sunrise on my skin.

And here I leave my ramble…

It is just that.  A diary entry of someone who has had conversations with others who feel the need to escape the machine but when given the choice of the red or blue pill, they stumble, their words become a stutter and they pick the safer option…

To remain static is safe.  To lean back and fall blindly into motion is not.
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Day 30 – Surprise

The decision was made… Sort tent out before leaving.  Now I just sit and wait for an email.  

I will either be staying longer, or I will go with the broken tent for the next 2000km, which would mean being ruled by the conditions and huts.

Then a conversation with Pete…

Peter – There is a picture of your todger on Dropbox. I was just showing the father in law the pic’s.  Haha

Me – Is there? I’ve not had it out.  

Peter – Oh yes you have.

Me – Which picture?? 😂

Peter – Washing your socks in the sink.

Then I just laugh lots.  Enough to cry!   

Needless to say, I had no idea my nether regions had been digitised or that I’d placed it in the Dropbox folder.  I’d shared the Dropbox with a couple of people, so I quickly deleted it.  Then carried on laughing.

On a side note, Jan the German and Magnus the Swiss have both moved on.  Magnus continues to follow his route through the Swedish mountains and Jan has made the decision to follow a different route to the E1, because it makes the situation with food simpler.  

As an after thought or aside, I know this route can be done far faster, self supported, than I will do it in.  So many days or hours wasted.  First making sure Sophie was going to survive, then making the decision to stop on that slippy rock, then this decision to sort out the tent.  All seems like time wasted, but all is a result of decisions made and decisions are what defines us.  Or more to the point, our steadfastness in following through and sticking to decision made is what defines us. 

Day 29 – Question

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

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

Question is why didn’t I?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I walk without the limp…

I swear at myself for the carelessness…

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

I run passed in disbelief!!  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘I’ll stay two nights please’

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

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

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

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

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

I realise something is missing.

My bank card is missing.

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

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

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

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

A proble that will have a simple solution.
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