Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Northern Europe: Nordkalottleden 2

Finnish huts
For a couple of days the Nordkalottleden took me through Finland - where the huts were completely free! Plenty of Finnish hikers were trying to climb Halti from here, with more than 1,300 metres Finnlands highest mountain. Because the huts were occupied by Finnish hikers and the weather still good I continued camping. But even there I had company: Reindeer are roaming free here but some of the animals have bells around their necks. When I woke up in the morning because of bell ringing my first thought  was always: Cows! Some areas were almost overgrazed by reindeer - and smelled accordingly ....

Water here was barely knee deep
Because the Nordkalottleden is  not quite as popular as the Kungsleden there is less infrastructure. The trail is pretty well marked (depending on the country with cairns or posts or markers), but there is not much "trail" - and there are less bridges. I had to ford several streams - nothing difficult at all this summer with record temperatures and hardly any rain. Water was hardly up the the knees for me but Rainer who had been here in early June had big problems. It took me a while to figure the best shoe solution. Being an ultralight hiker I just carry one pair of shoes. Fording barefoot is way too dangerous, therefore my shoes get wet at every stream crossing which leads to foot problems on the long run. In the end I found the perfect solution: I forded in shoes without socks and put on waterproof socks AFTER the ford. This way my wet shoes did not affect the skin on my feet which stayed dry.

In Reisadalen
Biggest highlight on this stretch was the Reisadalen, where the river has cut a deep valley into the mountains. The Nordkalottleden follows the river down in the valley where a specific microclimate made me walk through enormous ferns. Raspberries were abundant and lots of fishermen spend their holidays here. As a downside of this noisy motorboats cruise up and down the river delivering and picking up tourists. I even met some Finnish guys who came here for packrafting - but I felt pity for them because they had to haul in all their equipment over the mountains .... Reisadalen is directly on the E1 route which makes a big detour to go through that valley. You could have taken a more direct shortcut but I have not regretted coming the long way.
 
Snow mobile skipping
Nordkalottleden ends in Kautokeino, the heartland of the Sami people. There is even a Sami university here. I rented a cabin on a campground for a relaxing rest day. When walking to the campground in the outskirts of Kautokeino I came across a rather unusual sports event: The annual snow mobile skipping contest! If you drive a snow mobile at high speed it even runs over water - which was done here over the week end. The noise and the exhaust fumes were incredible, but everyone seemed to have fun. I watched the event from a road brigde and decided that this sport is definitely not for me - I would probably sink immediately .....