Setting off from Kvikkjokk for the northern half of the Trail, felt totally different. Not only was Geoff finally starting to feel much better, our jumping forward had given us extra spare days. We were now planning two zero days at Saltoluokta and Salka, and had three more spare on top of those. The stress had gone. There were still 20 days of walking ahead of us, though, still a good chunk of the Trail to do!
Even the rain when we set off, didn’t dampen our spirits (gosh, I’m good….), and the forecast was actually looking quite reasonable for the foreseeable future.
We found a nice pitch just short of the Parte Hut and used the nearby trees as drying racks.
It was lovely to see the sun again the next morning. As we passed Parte we called in to drop some rubbish off (another useful function of the mountain huts) and chatted to the warden for a while. She was lovely and had obviously led a colourful life in the mountains.
The next day we had a boat to catch. Since we didn’t know what the terrain would be like, we allowed loads of time just in case, and got up at 5:30am. In the end, it was pretty easy going and we got to the river crossing 3 hours early. Plenty of time for a chill and a brew!
At the other side of the river is the Aktse Mountain Hut. We didn’t want to walk any further this night, so we decided to camp there. One of the reasons we normally avoided camping at a hut is because it costs you around £15 each for the night. You do get use of a kitchen and all the other facilities though, so I expect some people would think this money well spent.
We raided the hut shop for supplies for the next three days. The stock wasn’t too bad, so we set off in the morning feeling like we had plenty to eat.
There was another boat crossing this afternoon – at nearly 4km the longest one of the trip. As we crossed the high fell, there was a sign telling you to call and book your crossing before you lost mobile signal. There were 3 German guys there at the same time as us, so they booked us in when they rang.
Despite saying that we weren’t going to stay in any of the huts, before we left Kvikkjokk we had decided that we would give a couple of them a try. We decided it was a bit daft to be totally dogmatic and refuse to see what it was like.
Sitojaure – the hut at the far side of the lake – was the first one we stayed in. It was actually very pleasant. We were lucky enough to get a private dorm and a very sociable evening was passed in the kitchen, in the company of a group of mature students who were staying there on a uni residential trip.
Setting off the following morning, we had an easy climb followed by a huge, high valley to follow. The views were magnificent.
It was only a handful of miles now today, to deliver us to Saltoluokta Fjallstation. We had two nights booked there – a rest day and tasty food to look forward to!
Setting off again the next day, we started by catching the ferry across to Kebnats,
The ferry links up with the bus service running along the far side of the lake. The Kungsleden disappears here, to reappear 17 miles up the road, in the direction of Ritsem. It’s the accepted norm to use the bus rather than walk all that way up the road.
We got off the bus at Vakkotavare. As it was now lunchtime, and drizzling, we decided to use their kitchen to eat in before we set off walking. I also managed to find some tea bags in their shop. I’d nearly run out, so I was very pleased. I had to buy them individually though – they only had 16 so I bought them all…
We were now into the final section of the walk, with 13 days ahead of us until we reached Abisko. There would be no phone signal at all for this stretch and no nearby settlements you could divert to. There would be mountain huts every now and then but, other than the first and last days, we would always be at least 2 days walk from any roads or normal civilisation of any kind. Makes you realise that places like Black Sail or Skiddaw Youth Hostels in the Lakes – lovely though they are – are not really isolated at all!
Shortly after we’d pitched, three older, Swedish guys came along and stopped for a chat. They were just lovely to talk to. They obviously knew the area really well and had been backpacking here for many years.
*WARNING! UL-ERS MAY WANT TO LOOK AWAY UNTIL THE NEXT PHOTO!*
One of them asked me how much my pack weighed. I told him it was currently around 15 or 16kg, including three days’ worth of food and a litre of water.
“That’s good,” he replied, “I used to carry 20 to 24kg when I was younger, but now I’m 77, I find 16kg is about right.”
What a star, he really made me smile.
The next morning had another of those ascents that everyone talked about, but once again, it really wasn’t worth mentioning and didn’t last very long.
We had another pre-paid voucher to use for a night in a hut, and we’d been recommended Kaitum as another idyllic setting. Not as small and quiet as Teusajaure, but still with great views.
We also had a naked ‘wash’ here, in the river, and had to act all nonchalant when another guy turned up as well……’British Problems’!
There are no photos of that…
I did have a bit of a meltdown here about food. We needed to stock up for the next 2 days, and the shop was seriously low on stock. We could get breakfast and evening meals (although I was starting to get tired of both mash and noodles, and porridge without sugar), but were really struggling with snacks during the day. No biscuits, no big bars of chocolate, no sugar, no tortillas, no jam, no honey…. we were back on Ryvita and squeezy cheese, with a Special Treat of some Cup-a-Soups.
Talking to the hut warden, it was clear that the food situation was a genuine problem that they’d not had before. The Trail is becoming more popular, yet the Person On High in the STF who doles the food out to the shops, had not thought of this and no extra food was being sent out to them. And contrary to what we thought, the wardens are not in a position to order food – neither practically (they would need a satellite phone) nor are they allowed to. It is to be hoped that the STF will take a serious look at this before the next season.
Setting off the next morning, the heat had gone (thank goodness!) and the skies were all dramatic. We joined the Tjaktjajakka Valley for the next three days’ worth of walking.
We pitched about a mile short of the Singi Hut.
It rained heavily overnight, but by the time we’d had breakfast the next morning, it had all dried up again.
Hand washing facilities at the mountain huts:
It was in fact, very windy and rainy overnight. We did double peg the four guys at the rear of the tent, just in case, but it didn’t really need it. Nothing shifted at all!
Even though we’d dropped a bit lower again, the weather was generally feeling a bit colder. Each day now seemed to drop the temperature a notch and increase the cold, northerly winds. The sun might have have been shining the next morning, but it wasn’t having much of an impact.
Nicely warmed up, we continued on a short way, to our pitch for the night.
The next morning was cold, wet and windy.
It had been great. And we’d managed to do it and still be married at the end of it. There had been something so simple and calming about the whole thing – the daily routine of getting up, walking, putting the tent up, sleeping – far from being monotonous for that length of time, it had a secure feeling about it. Everyday problems were left at home, with hardly any thought given to them. I’d had some low moments thinking about the dogs, but even as regards them, I was secure in the knowledge that they were being well looked after.
But the adventure still had a couple of surprises left…