Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Northern Europe: Kungsleden 1

Rainer and I in Hemavan
When I had already given up on having a great hike things changed unexpectedly. Hemavan is the Northern terminus of the Kungsleden and I had booked myself into the mountain station there. Via Facebook a southbound E1 hiker, Rainer had contacted me and we agreed to meet in Hemavan. I was a bit skeptical whom I would meet there ... I was in my room when Rainer sent me a text message announcing that he had arrived and was setting up his tent outside. When I saw him and his tent, I immediately knew that we would get along very well: He turned out to be an ultralighter like me. In fact, his pack was even lighter than mine! My base weight was around 5,5 kg and his only 4,5 kg! We then both indulged into the hostel's fabulous AYCE dinner buffet and Rainer prepared a pancake breakfast for me on the day I left. We both had the same sense of humour and chatted for hours!

Fire regulations at a camp site
I had new shoes from Germany sent to me to Hemavan and was more than happy when they were actually handed over to me in the post office! When  I left Rainer and Hemavan smoke hung in the air from a forest fire far away. Due to the unusual hot and lasting summer weather Sweden was suffering from a multitude of fires all over the country resulting in various fire bans. I was very lucky on this hike that I was always ahead of the fires. In Central Sweden where I had hiked one month earlier the use of any stove was forbidden now. Here in Northern Sweden open fire was forbidden but I could still use my gas canister camping stove on a fire resistant surface.

My first campsite on the Kungsleden
During most of my hike on the Kungsleden it was hot, hot, hot! This felt more like Arizona than like Northern Sweden. Day temperatures rose to above 30 degrees Celsius. That far North in summer the sun hardly sets at night so from 4 am on I was roasting in my tent like in a sauna! And because I was now hiking up in the mountains there was absolutely no tree cover and therefore no shade! The Southern part of the Kungsleden is the least popular because it is still fairly close to civilisation but the increase of hiker numbers was still tremendous. Every day I saw dozens of hikers from all over the world and chatted with many of them.

 My last resupply before a long stretch with no supermarket was the small shop in Ammarnäs. I arrived well before closing time and was shocked to see that the doors were locked! A sign in Swedish said "Closed because of a power outage". My heart sank! I sat down in front of the shop and realised that the owner was letting small groups of customers in - including me! It was a bit spooky to go shopping in total darkness but with the help of the flashlight in my smartphone I could find all the products I needed. Of course the checkout point didn't work either and the prices could not be scanned via barcode. Therefore the owner would "estimate" the price and type them into a pocket calculator ...Unfortunately due to the power cut I could not recharge my phone but at least I had food ... The further North I got the more spectacular the scenery became - but new "obstacles" turned up!

Rowing boats on the Kungsleden
Along the Kungsleden several lakes and rivers are in the way. For the shortes passages rowing boats are provided. Usually there are three boats. If only on boat is on your shore side, you have to row three times to leave at least on boat on each side. When I reached the first lake crossing late in the evening there were two boats on my side (good!), but also plenty of people camping there (not so good) and watching my first experiments in rowing (bad!). I had never ever been rowing before and instinctively I tried to paddle - which of course does not work in a rowing boat ... An older couple was desperately pointing to the landing place on the other side because they thought that I had not seen. I knew full well where I should be rowing to, but alas I had no clue how to handle a rowing boat. After I had made several full circles even the old couple gave up on me and went to bed. It took me 45 minutes to cross 350 metres ... After that I did not make any further attempt to row and just took the expensive motorboats ...

Kvikkjock mountain station
Because a storm was predicted I spent two half rest days at Kvikkjock mountain station enjoying an AYCE dinner and breakfast. With all the good food this hike started to turn into a luxury trip....
This station is located next to huge rapids which were so loud that I had to close the windows for sleeping. I could notice the big difference in the river before and after the storm! After Kvikkjock the most popular part of the Kungsleden started. Every day I met more and more hikers most of which were going Southbound. This sounds worse than it was because the boat schedules led to "waves" of hikers. For hours I did not meet anyone and then I passed 30 hikers within half an hour ....

No comments: