Sunday, 22 September 2019

Kungsleden, part 1. Hemavan to Kvikkjokk.

It's late in the day and overcast as we disembark from our flight to the tiny town of Hemavan. 

We unwrap our rucsacs and pack the flight bags and a couple of spare shirts into a parcel to mail to our final destination, five weeks away. Then we set off up the road to the small shopping centre. But there's a power cut, so not only are we unable to post the parcel, we can't buy gas. First hiccup. In the end we buy gas from the nearby STF hostel and Chrissie persuades the security guard, who hails the lady from the post shop, who in turn guesses the weight of the parcel and sells the required number of stamps. Then, we're off...

... to our first camp, not too far up the trail.

I awake in the morning to realise I've developed a cold. Bugger!

We pass our first STF hut and progress up the spectacular glacial valley of Syterskalet.

The valley is long, but we eventually hit a pass at its head and emerge onto a wide open landscape and our next camp.

As we set off again I wash my snotty hankie in a stream and attach it to my pack, hoping it will dry. My new, dry one is sopping within the hour. Fortunately I have two others. This scene is to be repeated over the next few days as my nose continues to run and drip. But the weather is dry, if dull, and the scenery breathtaking.

We cross an archipelago of small islands, scattered across the lake of Tarnasjon, via seven bridges...

...before camping by the shore on a delightful summer evening.

We stop at the Tarnasjo hut to resupply. It becomes apparent that no remote hut has the stock the STF claim on their comprehensive website. Sometimes it's no sweet stuff, sometimes nothing for lunch. This becomes a problem as our journey progresses.

Leaving the hut we climb over a moorland area, filled with lakes, before reaching  a high pass to camp. The weather deteriorates.

We drop down to the Serve hut and buy snacks. The warden forecasts poor weather for a week! We find a signpost on the trail. It tells us Ammarnas (the first village we'll encounter since Hemavan) is 25 km via the Kungsleden, over a mountain, but 20 along the valley. After some discussion, in light of the poor weather, we choose the shorter option, wondering if we might make the village that afternoon. This proves to be a BIG MISTAKE. The level route along the valley is some of the hardest walking we've ever encountered (including the Lake Superior Trail, which is a whole other story). The undergrowth is dense and the frequent boardwalks, are covered in slimy vegetation remains, making them so slippy we just can't stride out. The 20 km takes us an afternoon and a morning before we emerge into Ammarnas and a hostel.

We wash all our clothes and fill the room with drying laundry. Beer is welcome.

We decide to take a zero day and pig out on the hostel's breakfast buffet, cooking dinner in the self catering kitchen. There's a supermarket in the village which allows for sensible resupplying.

So, on day 8 of our trip we set out again. It's a fine, sunny morning as we trek down a few miles of tarmac. Heading uphill it begins to rain. The trail is flooded as we trudge into the mist. I feel crap. A heavy load? Tiredness? Maybe the lingering effects of my cold? At times like this Chrissie's resilience shines through. We pitch the tent in pouring rain in a just-big-enough space in the forest. As I settle into the dry, sorting our gear (my regular duty) Chrissie filters water (her regular duty). We're 2 miles short of our intended camp for the day. The first time we've been behind schedule. We both know the knock-on effect this will have. We don't want to use up all our spare days yet. We need regular zero days. We have flights booked for our return home. With hindsight our trip should've been open ended, but we already had the pups in kennels for five weeks. Longer seemed unthinkable. I'm knackered but Supergirl returns with a plan.

After some discussion, upset and tears, we agree to return to Ammarnas in the morning and aim to travel via buses to Kvikkjokk, nominally the halfway point of the Kungsleden. Fortunately, we have a good 4G and can see that this will take two days of travelling with an overnight in the town of Jokkmokk. We also reckon that, if we take another day off at Kvikkjokk STF, this should jump us past this spell of bad weather, as well as giving me time to recover.

We're back in Ammarnas by early afternoon and find another hostel with a room. I now have a nasty cough. Feeling low, I consider going home, but Chrissie pulls me round again and we double check bus times, eat a brilliant burger and chips in a cafe, and book rooms in Jokkmokk and Kvikkjokk.

We're up for the 7 am bus to Sorsele.

Ironically, it's a gorgeous morning. We've a five hour wait in Sorsele before the bus to Jokkmokk. We make good use of the supermarket by the bus station, breakfasting and lunching in the sun.

The STF hostel in Jokkmokk is a delight and we find a superb pizza (and beer) before settling for the night.

Next morning we enjoy another fab buffet breakfast, chatting with Swedes and a German guy at our table, sharing travel tales. The bus to Kivikkjokk is not until 3 ish so we repack our sacks, ruthlessly junking stuff we feel we don't need. Shampoo, baby wipes and extra Mosiguard are donated to the warden to go in her "help yourself" box. Leaving our sacks at the hostel we take a walk around Jokkmokk and lunch in a cafe.

And, after a couple of hours on a bus, we're on familiar ground again at Kvikkjokk STF. We were last here in 2017.

We spend a day and two nights chilling, cooking, chatting with fellow travellers and preparing for the rest of our journey. I'm still coughing but, life is good.

More to come in part 2...

Posted By Blogger to Far not fast on 9/21/2019 05:44:00 pm

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  1. Both of you are pretty amazing. Shame about your cold Geoff. Excellent photos. stunning scenery.


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