Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Northern Europa: The road walk


Glashaug church in Gartland
When I left to E1 I knew that a very long road walk was ahead of me. First I followed a pilgrimage trail to Gartland where there is this tiny wooden church - the Northernmost terminus of this pilgrimage running North from Trondheim. Pilgrimage trail sounds better than it was: The trail was basically following the main motorway E6. I had the choice to hike fast directly on the road or stay on the trail which was paralleling the road on overgrown or non existing tracks. I did not see a single pilgrim and I am not surprised about that: This is not a trail to recommend to anyone ...

Chocolate in a Norwegian supermarket - 10 NOK = 1 EUR
I spent a nice rest day in Grong in an old farmhouse that had been converted into a charming guesthouse. Much less charming were the prices in Norwegian supermarkets. Grong was my first big resupply in Norway and the prices were shocking: 6 EUR for a big chocolate bar - three times as much as in Germany.
And unfortunately my birthday turned out one of the worst days on this stretch: It was a very long hike along the busy motorway E6 - and I miscalculated the mileage. When I discovered at 4 pm that I had still 16 kilometres ahead of my mood dropped very low. But I had to make the miles to get to a gas station with supermarket to buy more food ...

The dreaded E6
I still made it to the supermarket before closing time but my birthday dinner was very frugal: crisp bread and cheese because everything else was too expensive ... I dragged myself on for another 4 kilometres away from the main road and then collapsed into my tent ... Not the nicest birthday I had ever had!
The next few days were a combination of the dreaded E6 and more quiet side roads. It was very hot and road walking hard on the feet but at least I made plenty of miles in short time. To kill time I counted traffic and found out that almost every fourth car was a motorhome or a car with a trailer. The E6 is the main road North and now was main holiday season!

Bridge under construction
I tried to avoid major highways whenever possible and was very happy to see that a forest road was parelleling highway 73 to Hattfjelldal on the other side of the river. Instead of walking 25 kilometres on a concrete highway I could cover the same distance on a forest road with no traffic and then return to the highway over a bridge. When I turned onto the forest road a handwritten sign warned me about something in Norwegian but I could not understand it and just hiked on. Strangely enough I encountered no car whatsoever on the forest road. After 25 kilometres I discovered why: the bridge was being reconstructed and not passable even for pedestrians ....

River too deep and swift to ford
I could already see Hattfjelldal on the other side but the river was too deep and too swift to cross. And the next bridge was 16 kilometres further down which meant a detour of 32 kilometres for me - with hardly any food left ... But I had no other choice and hiked on. After half an hour I came across a car parked on the side of the road - and its occupants turned out to be German tourists! They had come in from the other side and were heading to the bridge I was just coming from. After explaining the situation they agreed to turn back and take me with them - despite their car being completely full! The husband was driving, I rode shotgun and the wife was lying on top of the their mattresses in the back. Luckily there was no police car around! We even made it into Hattfjelldal 10 minutes before the supermarket closed and I could still do my resupply. I could not believe my luck!!!!

I returned to the E1 for a day fighting the horseflies. In order to have at least some peace and quiet during breaks I put plastic bags around my bare feet to keep them away ....
When I reached highway 73 a second time it was decision time again: I could either continue on the E1 which was now marked again or change to the Swedish side and hike the famous Kungsleden. By now I was so frustrated with the E1 in Norway and Norwegian prices that the choice was easy: I did one last 41 kilometre road walk to reach Hemavan and the Southern terminus of the Kungsleden.


Campsite during the road walk
The stretch between the two Kungsleden had been by far the worst part of the entire hike. I wondered whether it had been such a good idea to leave the E1 to hike on busy motorways but then Stine sent me an email. She had continued on the E1 through the swamps and wrote: "I think taking the pilgrims road was a good choice. The E1 route was ridiculous. 'How to take the worst route possible and may be risk death' should be its name...."
When I finally arrived in Hemavan for a rest day I was not exactly enthusiastic about the E1 any more and wondered if the rest of my hike would be as bad ....

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