Near the Top of the World

We got as far as Luleå in the last post. We continued on to Kiruna and from there to Nikkaluokta, which was to be our launching post for getting to/up Kebnekaise. There are a number of routes one can take to get into Kebnekaise, but we wanted somewhere that wasn’t going to take a week to do, given we only had 2 weeks of holiday. We didn’t spend really any time in Kiruna, as we arrived on a Sunday afternoon and struggled to find anywhere to get dinner or even buy groceries as everything closed quite early, and it seemed like quite a small town. But the most dominant thing there, in my mind at least, is the huge iron mine, which you can take tours into (we unfortunately missed out as these were, surprisingly, booked well in advance). So we headed instead into the starting area for where we would hike to Kebnekaise.

It wasn’t really warm, maybe 10 or 12 degrees, but also not cold. It was a bit drizzly when we started, however this worked to our advantage as the super bomber mosquitoes bite through everything here, EXCEPT rain clothes. So we wore our rain clothes pretty much the whole time.

Rain clothes

Essential mosquito-proof rain clothes.

Fox

A sly fox was slinking around the car park before we left, obviously hunting for some scraps.

We got ready, packing everything we needed for a few days out and about into our backpacks, tying up hiking boots and clumping around a few steps to get used to them again. And before I knew it we were ready to go.
 
I always find, at the start of a hike, everything feels quite good and comfortable, and it is only after you have walked a way that all the small niggling things start to annoy you, like the stone in your boot that you knew you should have stopped and shaken out as soon as you felt it, or the awkward way your top is tucked in (yes tucked in!) and how it bunches up under the waist straps of your pack. Or how heavy your pack is (did I really need my WHOLE bottle of contact lens solution? Really?). Clearly, it had been a while since we set out on such a walk. It was only 18km, which in the grand scheme of things is not so far really, and this hike was relatively flat, but it had been about 2 years since our last hike and I guess I got older and less fit…
 
Luckily, the scenery was pretty amazing, and you simply can’t focus on the mosquitoes and discomfort for long. The landscape this far north was really different compared to what I have seen in Sweden so far. I keep saying to friends that Sweden looks the same everywhere you go, but I have to admit, once you drive 1000km (or more) things start to change.
Scenery.

On the way to Kebnekaise.

 

Mountains.

Mountains, but not Kebnekaise.

 We walked for a good few hours. The track was a bit like a highway. Clearly we were not the only ones with the idea of taking this path. There were also choppers flying over head which we simply put down to tourists, but we later learned were also to do with the recovery/clean up of an airforce plane crash on Kebnekaise earlier in the year. So it was not quite the peaceful experience we were used to in NZ when we headed out hiking. On the other hand, we had been warned that this was an extremely popular hike to do, so it was hardly a surprise.

 
We got near to to the base hut (mini hotel) near the foot of Kebnekaise, and decided that rather than pay to stay surrounded by I would guess at least 100 other people, if not more, we would set up the tent that M had carried with him. Despite the fact we had just walked for almost 18km, M was not satisfied with the surroundings, and had me climbing around over the hills for at least another 30 minutes before the “right” spot became apparent (I think the “right” spot became apparent when I sat down and refused to go any further (also known as “throwing your toys” “having a tanty” “chucking a wobbly”…), and sent him off, to return and find me once he had located the “right” spot,”…). But I must admit, it was pretty awesome.
Tent

The “right” spot.

Did I mention we have a small tent? It is supposed to be a 2 man tent. Well, in this case, 2 man means that M and I must empty our backpacks, lay the packs flat no the floor (there is no little shelter part on the front of the tent), put our sleeping rolls over the top of the packs, the sleeping rolls overlap each other at the feet cos there is not enough space to be side by side, and then spend the night saying “roll” as one or the other of us wants to roll over. Or sleep with our shoulders overlapping each other. Which is ok with me as long as I’m on the top side! Our boots get tucked very carefully into the front of the tent so they don’t get wet inside, and that’s home!

M is always on dinner duty when we do things like this. I am not much of a cook, or much of a night person, whereas he is good at both. In return, I always do breakfast duty, which might not seem like a fair trade, but if you ever see M in the morning, you will know he is happy with this deal. Maybe I should say, if you are ever forced to eat my cooking…? Dinner is never a very fancy affair in these situations, because neither of us want to carry much on our backs, so we had good old macaroni pasta, with some pesto mixed in. On any other day, I would say this is a terrible meal, but after being outdoors and walking and chaffing your hips on your pack’s waist strap, and (re) discovering walking with 15 kg on your back actually is harder than just jogging the 18km, this seemed like tasty stuff to me!

Dinner

Mmmm, dinner!

Next morning we woke up early – it was hard not to sleeping in a bright orange tent when the sun doesn’t really go down all night. But it’s really cool! I love the whole super long days/almost no night thing (as I sit here writing this we are very close to the super long night no day thing and I really really don’t like this part!). We both stay awake reading until we can’t stay awake any more (I am always the first to fall asleep).  But sadly, it was misty and still drizzly and it didn’t look like it was going to lift anytime soon. So we asked people we passed on the track a few times, did they know the weather forecast for the day. But no, it was due to stay overcast and foggy for the next few days. Darn! There is simply no point (in my opinion at least) in hiking up some big fat old mountain that you can’t see on the way up, can’t see the view at the top, and can’t see coming back down. So disappointing. We waited all day, as long as we could possibly wait. It is a 10 hour return trip to do Kebnekaise in a day, so by early afternoon we realised we had missed our window, and decided to make the walk back out. We had weighed up the options – wait another day, another 2 days, another 3 days? It sounded like the fog was in for the long haul, so we decided not to waste precious holiday time, and enjoy ourselves and the rest of the sites Sweden had to offer.

Rainbow

A rainbow in the drizzle, what a view!

  

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