Of course when you book a ‘cheaper’ flight to somewhere, you don’t always get to go the most direct route. Three flights it took us to get to Lulea – Manchester to Oslo, Oslo to Stockholm then Stockholm to Lulea. None of them were much more than an hour long though, so we still arrived early evening.
The logistics of having to buy gas before the next leg of our journey meant that we had to spend two nights here, so the following day we explored the town, trying on loads of Fjallraven trousers in the two big outdoor shops. I also had a good look at every different model of Osprey rucksack I could find – after all I might be thinking of purchasing another….
We still only ended up buying gas though!
Having set the alarm for 6am, we caught the 8am train for a two hour journey to Murjek.
From Murjek, we had another four hours on a bus to finally get us to Kvikkjokk, our jumping off point for Sarek, and being mid afternoon by then, we didn’t plan on walking very far to our first camp.
Just over two miles got us to a nice enough spot. Some mosquitoes about, but nowhere near as bad as last time I was here in 2015, with James.
We had a variety of possible routes planned, all around a particular circuit. Plenty of slack in the plans meant that in theory, anything could easily be altered, depending on how fast/slow we were moving or how hard/easy the terrain was.
Since being rather poorly a few weeks back however, with suspected Lyme Disease, I was still having the occasional Difficult Day, so principally to cater for me we turned the trip into more of a Slackpack than a Mega Challenge, ending up doing essentially two ‘out and back’ trips rather than the original circuit taking in the bush whacking jungle of either the Rapa Valley or the Gallakjahka Valley.
We’d started our route out of Kvikkjokk on the Kungsleden, but hadn’t gone far today before we turned off and left it for a few days, seeking out the wilder terrain of Sarek itself.
It was warm and the mosquitoes were out in force. Paramo jackets were very useful as a bit of armour, but our Mosiguard repellent (all natural, not Deet) is surprisingly good. We’ve used it successfully for many years.
The trail took us through a forest, past the two lakes of Unna Dahta and Stuor Dahta, but the water was hardly ever visible, due to the denseness of the vegetation.
You certainly don’t rush anywhere around here, constantly having to be aware of where you’re placing your feet. Tree roots and boulders abound.
Eventually reaching the Boarek bogland by mid-afternoon, we started to look for a decent pitch for the night.
Amazing views and a fresh breeze – the mosquitoes were in abeyance.
A lively wind overnight heralded a bit of a change to the weather. Cooler and more comfortable. Fresh snow on the distant high tops.
It’s a good three miles across the bog, before arriving at the first big river crossing.
The crossing is actually where two lakes join and, although wide, thankfully doesn’t have too much of a current.
Once on the other side, we were back in trees again. Slowly climbing through them, we by-passed the Sami village of Boarek. Once again, the vegetation is so dense that you can hardly see any of the settlement, or even any paths through to it. We did, however, suddenly come across a sign fastened to a pole.
Not knowing anything about Alex Hamberg, we read it then walked on by, musing at how few people would be likely to be passing here over the next few days anyway. Probably only two or three each day I suspect!
We continued on our way, slowly climbing, now over completely trackless terrain above the Sami settlement.
We were initially aiming for the river of Gasskagarsajagasj, hoping to find an easy way across.
Wandering up and down, an easy crossing was not immediately obvious, so we decided to follow it up higher where we could see snow. Maybe there would be a snowbridge. Sure enough there was and, crossing it, we noticed plenty of reindeer poo. Obviously it was their way over the river as well!
The weather was getting wilder and wetter by now, so we decided to stop for the day. Our normal pitching routine is to do the tent outer together, then Geoff does the inner and starts to sort stuff inside while I go and filter all the water we need for the night and the next morning.
I couldn’t see any easy way down to the river for water, but found a tiny pool in the rocks at the side. That would have to do.
Well, it wasn’t the best night’s sleep – the weather had been wilder than a wild thing! The tent had taken a battering, but had stood up well to it all – as it should have done of course. Morning brought another grey day with more fresh snow dusted on the tops, but at least the wind had dropped a lot.
A group of reindeer appeared. Maybe they wanted to cross the river and we were in the way! Geoff crept outside to try and capture some photos.
The light wasn’t so good.
We breakfasted, then re-crossed the river and went back in search of the sun.
This time when passing the sign about visiting the research cabin of Axel Hamberg, we decided to go and see what it was all about.
Apparently, this man had been a professor at Uppsala University, studying glaciology, geology and all sorts of other related things, including meteorology. In 1895 he had built a cabin in Boarek and spent 36 years there, scientifically exploring the high alpine area of Sarek. Since then, the Sami people – along with other scientists connected with Laponia Heritage – have looked after his research cabin, keeping it in pristine condition. This was the first time it had ever been open to the public.
We followed the arrow into the trees, found a group of people sat around a campfire, and were given a lovely, warm welcome. One of the guys was actually living in the cabin for the few days they were all there, the others were camping. We were shown around.
It was absolutely wonderful inside.
We were then invited by the Sami couple from Boarek who were there, to join them all for coffee and cinnamon buns. What a privilege. A space was created around the fire and a reindeer skin was placed on the ground for us to sit on. Coffee and buns were served, and we stayed there for about an hour discussing all sorts – from Sarek, to weather, to families, to Brexit and everything in between. Amazing. It was definitely a highlight of the trip.
All too soon, it was time to move on.
Back over the first river crossing again before finding a very mosquito-ey pitch for the night, a couple of miles further on.
Geoff’s ramblings about the first part of our trip, are here.