Kungsleden Part 2: Wrath of the Arctic Winds
Have you ever wanted to know what it's like to sleep in a leaking tent in the Arctic wilderness, whilst ferocious winds rage around you, so strong they not only permanently bend the poles of your tent but also force it into collapsing on your face at 4am, waking you up to the sensation of suffocating? No? Well neither had I, but life has a funny way of opening our eyes to new experiences... After this particularly delightful experience, I like to think that my mission of testing myself and pushing my boundaries is one step closer to being accomplished!
It's only been a few days since my last blog post but, as I'm currently spending the day holed up in a mountain station, I decided to seize the opportunity (and free wifi) to post a quick update. You may be wondering why I'm choosing to sit in the warmth and shelter of a mountain station, as opposed to battling my way through the wind-stricken wilderness that awaits me outside... Well, there's electricity and running water for starters! Then there's the small matter of trying to organise a replacement tent, ideally one that doesn't try to kill me in the middle of the night. The final reason (and one not to be underestimated) is that tomorrow morning I can treat myself to a birthday breakfast in the station restaurant, thereby avoiding porridge on my birthday! It was an easy decision once this final factor was taken into account.
Collapsing tent aside, the last few days have been sensational. On the whole, I've continued to be reasonably lucky with the weather and, with the exception of some severe winds, it's all been very pleasant! For the first day and a half I continued through the dramatic, mountainous valleys that have become so familiar over the last week, interrupted by the occasional crossing of a perilous suspension bridge (I will never be fully comfortable crossing these; bridges are not supposed to bounce like that).
The landscape around me then made quite a drastic change. Gone was the feeling of constantly being closed in by mountain walls on either side; now the country was opening up as I climbed up vast, windswept hillsides and crossed barren mountain plateaus. Staying true to the saying "what must goes up must come down", I have also had some interesting descents, several of which proved more challenging than the ascents!
This week hasn't all been walking: I've also enjoyed some respite in the form of boat crossings and a bus trip. The first of the two boat trips was a 6.30am river crossing. After sleeping through my alarm, I managed to miraculously have breakfast, pack up camp and be on the boat with a minute to spare! Once I'd had time to catch my breath I was able to take in the beauty of the frosty morning: a few sun-tinted clouds were dispersed across the wintery blue sky and a fine layer of mist hung over the still water.
Finally, to contradict how I concluded my last blog... It transpires headtorches are needed after all! It is finally starting to get fully dark at night, even if just for a few hours, and I can happily report that the last few evenings have brought with them some spectacular sunsets.