I woke at about 5 the next morning, desperate to go to the loo. Nothing unusual about that, only this morning it was pouring with rain. I tried lying there for as long as I could, in the hope that the rain would stop, but it didn’t. Half an hour later, I couldn’t wait any longer. So, waterproofs had to be donned – overtrousers and jacket – and I had to go out and get really wet. Not the most pleasant experience. And of course I then came back to the tent with a load of wet stuff.
Still, I managed to go back to sleep until it was time to get up and get ready for the off.
It was still raining a bit when it came to packing everything away and this was another test for the Enan. Could I pack whilst sitting inside, like I could in my Voyager? The answer was a definite ‘Yes’. Impressive.
But the best thing for me was being able to take the inner out, dry, and put that away in a separate bag while leaving the outer up. I’ve never had an outer-pitching-first tent before and it was a bit of a revelation for me. I was now getting very fond of this tent….
Anyway it was seriously cloudy and damp then this morning and for the first time this trip, I set off with full waterproofs on.
We were now heading off back towards the path we came out on.
The clouds were lowering and we were climbing again.
At one point, we found what we thought was a moose antler.
The temperature was a lot cooler than when we crossed the saddle at Sahkok a few days ago, and as we approached it I almost thought it was going to turn a bit sleety. The big snow bank we’d crossed before, was definitely harder and more icy, so this time we picked our way around the edge as much as possible, where it wasn’t so steep.
I didn’t like to take my camera out in the rain this day so the photos are a bit thin on the ground, I’m afraid.
We dropped back down the other side of the saddle, checking our route often, as visibility was not so good. The rocks underfoot were now very greasy with the wet but despite being really careful, at one point I suddenly found myself on the deck. I’d landed on my left side, with my head slightly lower than my feet. I could neither get up easily or even undo my hip belt, for some reason, but James came back to help me. I was somewhat bruised and it also served to remind me how important it is to have both your hip belt and chest strap undone when crossing awkward rivers. Imagine trying to undo those under water.
Anyway, we crossed the wide, glacier fed river with no problem, before once again arriving at the, ‘White water! White water! Very dangerous!’ river. Thankfully, still with a good snow bridge, we negotiated our way across. This time though, there were quite a lot of red marks on it. We decided it probably wasn’t blood though, but some kind of algae….
I took a few photos of the snow bridge this time.
The next river was also still filled with snow
and before we knew it, we’d lost a bit more height, turned a corner, and were once more looking over the Parek bog.
By now, the rain was a bit on and off, but not enough off to take waterproofs off.
We found a spot for the night not too far away from the river between the two lakes, which we needed to cross to get back onto the boggy section.
James made sure that his spot was comfy enough for a good night’s sleep.
Putting the tent up, I fell in love with it even more. The outer went up and then I put the dry inner inside! Brilliant!
Lying in bed, listening to the rain overnight, I began to wonder if we should have crossed the next river before making camp that evening.
I had another sopping wet toileting experience in the early hours – at the same time checking the stream we were camped next to, making sure it wasn’t overflowing – and we once again breakfasted and packed up in heavy rain.
Making our way to the river, through the trees, was even wetter. The ground was covered in streams we’d not noticed before and the foliage constantly dripped more water onto us.
When we finally reached the ford, I didn’t even recognise it. All the stones and triangles of wood were now so far under water they couldn’t be seen and I’m sure it had got wider as well.
I can’t say I was that happy at the thought of crossing it. Short of camping there for a couple of nights though, ’till the weather changed, we didn’t really have a lot of choice.
I muttered things about being washed away and drowning, while James appeared calm and started giving me orders like,
“Right. Take your trousers off…”
We crossed together and it seemed to go on forever. I remember getting half way across and thinking that it still stretched off into the distance. Up to our waists most of the way across, I was thankful that the current between the two lakes was quite gentle.
The other side was finally reached, safe and sound. I didn’t take any photos, but James took a couple, looking back at the water we’d just negotiated.
As we continued on our way, across the Parek bog and back through the forest to the same spot as we’d camped on the first night, the sun came out briefly – just disappearing again and dumping more rain on us as we started to make camp.
It proved to be an eventful night. An organised gang of Arctic Voles ambushed us from all directions. Rat sized, they made my flesh crawl. I’d rather have had a bear wander through camp.
James managed to trap one under his pan at one point – but it escaped – but when we finally retired to bed, the onslaught really began.
I was initially rudely awoken in the early hours by a loud crunching noise near my right ear. As I looked, and saw the two holes that had been eaten in the tent inner, I think I screamed.
I then saw a rat through the thin yellow fabric, running round and round in between the inner and the outer.
The only thing for it, was to stay awake all night, chasing them away every time they came near. Much easier said than done. I awoke again, a couple of hours later, to more munching sounds as they industriously made the holes in the tent even bigger.
It was a bit like a cross between a Stephen King horror movie and a National Lampoon comedy.
The night seemed to last an eternity and when I packed away in the morning, I found a bag inside the inner which had been chewed…….I couldn’t even bear to think about what that meant.
It was still drizzling when we finally set off for Kvikkjokk. The four miles passed quickly and when we got back to the hostel, we paid for a shower each, and a delicious lunch, before starting our long journey home.
The trip had been a magnificent experience and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world; many thanks have to go to James for organising the whole thing.
I can well understand why people return to the area time and time again, and when I got home Geoff decided that he really fancied an arctic trek too, so we’ve already booked some flights to Kiruna for next summer.
Can’t wait 🙂
James’ version of Part Six can be read here.